Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion

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She ascended the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1702, at age thirty-seven, Britain’s last Stuart monarch, and five years later united two of her realms, England and Scotland, as a sovereign state, creating the Kingdom of Great Britain. She had a history of personal misfortune, overcoming ill health (she suffered from crippling arthritis; by the time she became Queen she was a virtual invalid) and living through seventeen miscarriages, stillbirths, and premature births in seventeen years. By the end of her comparatively short twelve-year reign, Britain had emerged as a great power; the succession of outstanding victories won by her general, John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, had humbled France and laid the foundations for Britain’s future naval and colonial supremacy.

While the Queen’s military was performing dazzling exploits on the continent, her own attention—indeed her realm—rested on a more intimate conflict: the female friendship on which her happiness had for decades depended and which became for her a source of utter torment.

At the core of Anne Somerset’s riveting new biography, published to great acclaim in England (“Definitive”—London Evening Standard; “Wonderfully pacy and absorbing”—Daily Mail), is a portrait of this deeply emotional, complex bond between two very different women: Queen Anne—reserved, stolid, shrewd; and Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, wife of the Queen’s great general—beautiful, willful, outspoken, whose acerbic wit was equally matched by her fearsome temper.
           
Against a fraught background—the revolution that deposed Anne’s father, James II, and brought her to power . . . religious differences (she was born Protestant—her parents’ conversion to Catholicism had grave implications—and she grew up so suspicious of the Roman church that she considered its doctrines “wicked and dangerous”) . . . violently partisan politics (Whigs versus Tories) . . . a war with France that lasted for almost her entire reign . . . the constant threat of foreign invasion and civil war—the  much-admired historian, author of Elizabeth I (“Exhilarating”—The Spectator; “Ample, stylish, eloquent”—The Washington Post Book World), tells the extraordinary story of how Sarah goaded and provoked the Queen beyond endurance, and, after the withdrawal of Anne’s favor, how her replacement, Sarah’s cousin, the feline Abigail Masham, became the ubiquitous royal confidante and, so Sarah whispered to growing scandal, the object of the Queen's sexual infatuation.

To write this remarkably rich and passionate biography, Somerset, winner of the Elizabeth Longford Prize for Historical Biography, has made use of royal archives, parliamentary records, personal correspondence and previously unpublished material.

Queen Anne is history on a large scale—a revelation of a centuries-overlooked monarch.
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About the author

Anne Somerset was born in London and graduated from King’s College, London. She is the author of The Life and Times of King William IV, Ladies in Waiting and Elizabeth I. She has worked as a research assistant for several historians, among them Antonia Fraser. Somerset, the daughter of the 11th Duke of Beaufort, lives in London.




From the Hardcover edition.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Vintage
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Published on
Oct 15, 2013
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Pages
656
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ISBN
9780307962898
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Royalty
Biography & Autobiography / Women
History / Europe / Great Britain / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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An intimate, powerful, and inspiring memoir by the former First Lady of the United States
 
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The Affair of the Poisons, as it became known, was an extraordinary episode that took place in France during the reign of Louis XIV. When poisoning and black magic became widespread, arrests followed. Suspects included those among the highest ranks of society. Many were tortured and numerous executions resulted.

The 1676 torture and execution of the Marquise de Brinvilliers marked the start of the scandal which rocked the foundations of French society and sent shock waves through all of Europe. Convicted of conspiring with her adulterous lover to poison her father and brothers in order to secure the family fortune, the marquise was the first member of the noble class to fall.
In the French court of the period, where sexual affairs were numerous, ladies were not shy of seeking help from the murkier elements of the Parisian underworld, and fortune-tellers supplemented their dubious trade by selling poison.

It was not long before the authorities were led to believe that Louis XIV himself was at risk. With the police chief of Paris police alerted, every hint of danger was investigated. Rumors abounded and it was not long before the King ordered the setting up of a special commission to investigate the poisonings and bring offenders to justice. No one, the King decreed, no matter how grand, would be spared having to account for their conduct.

The royal court was soon thrown into disarray. The Mistress of the Robes and a distinguished general were among the early suspects. But they paled into insignificance when the King's mistress was incriminated. If, as was said, she had engaged in vile Satanic rituals and had sought to poison a rival for the King's affections, what was Louis XIV to do?

Anne Somerset has gone back to original sources, letters and earlier accounts of the affair. By the end of her account, she reaches firm conclusions on various crucial matters. The Affair of the Poisons is an enthralling account of a sometimes bizarre period in French history.

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