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.

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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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Features
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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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The true story for fans of the PBS Masterpiece series Victoria, this page-turning biography reveals the real woman behind the myth: a bold, glamorous, unbreakable queen—a Victoria for our times. Drawing on previously unpublished papers, this stunning new portrait is a story of love and heartbreak, of devotion and grief, of strength and resilience.

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
THE NEW YORK TIMES • ESQUIRE • THE CHICAGO PUBLIC LIBRARY

“Victoria the Queen, Julia Baird’s exquisitely wrought and meticulously researched biography, brushes the dusty myth off this extraordinary monarch.”—The New York Times Book Review (Editor’s Choice)

When Victoria was born, in 1819, the world was a very different place. Revolution would threaten many of Europe’s monarchies in the coming decades. In Britain, a generation of royals had indulged their whims at the public’s expense, and republican sentiment was growing. The Industrial Revolution was transforming the landscape, and the British Empire was commanding ever larger tracts of the globe. In a world where women were often powerless, during a century roiling with change, Victoria went on to rule the most powerful country on earth with a decisive hand.

Fifth in line to the throne at the time of her birth, Victoria was an ordinary woman thrust into an extraordinary role. As a girl, she defied her mother’s meddling and an adviser’s bullying, forging an iron will of her own. As a teenage queen, she eagerly grasped the crown and relished the freedom it brought her. At twenty, she fell passionately in love with Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, eventually giving birth to nine children. She loved sex and delighted in power. She was outspoken with her ministers, overstepping conventional boundaries and asserting her opinions. After the death of her adored Albert, she began a controversial, intimate relationship with her servant John Brown. She survived eight assassination attempts over the course of her lifetime. And as science, technology, and democracy were dramatically reshaping the world, Victoria was a symbol of steadfastness and security—queen of a quarter of the world’s population at the height of the British Empire’s reach.

Drawing on sources that include fresh revelations about Victoria’s relationship with John Brown, Julia Baird brings vividly to life the fascinating story of a woman who struggled with so many of the things we do today: balancing work and family, raising children, navigating marital strife, losing parents, combating anxiety and self-doubt, finding an identity, searching for meaning.
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Look for special features inside. Join the Random House Reader’s Circle for author chats and more.

Many are familiar with the story of the much-married King Henry VIII of England and the celebrated reign of his daughter, Elizabeth I. But it is often forgotten that the life of the first Tudor queen, Elizabeth of York, Henry’s mother and Elizabeth’s grandmother, spanned one of England’s most dramatic and perilous periods. Now New York Times bestselling author and acclaimed historian Alison Weir presents the first modern biography of this extraordinary woman, whose very existence united the realm and ensured the survival of the Plantagenet bloodline.
 
Her birth was greeted with as much pomp and ceremony as that of a male heir. The first child of King Edward IV, Elizabeth enjoyed all the glittering trappings of royalty. But after the death of her father; the disappearance and probable murder of her brothers—the Princes in the Tower; and the usurpation of the throne by her calculating uncle Richard III, Elizabeth found her world turned upside-down: She and her siblings were declared bastards.
 
As Richard’s wife, Anne Neville, was dying, there were murmurs that the king sought to marry his niece Elizabeth, knowing that most people believed her to be England’s rightful queen. Weir addresses Elizabeth’s possible role in this and her covert support for Henry Tudor, the exiled pretender who defeated Richard at the Battle of Bosworth and was crowned Henry VII, first sovereign of the House of Tudor. Elizabeth’s subsequent marriage to Henry united the houses of York and Lancaster and signaled the end of the Wars of the Roses. For centuries historians have asserted that, as queen, she was kept under Henry’s firm grasp, but Weir shows that Elizabeth proved to be a model consort—pious and generous—who enjoyed the confidence of her husband, exerted a tangible and beneficial influence, and was revered by her son, the future King Henry VIII.
 
Drawing from a rich trove of historical records, Weir gives a long overdue and much-deserved look at this unforgettable princess whose line descends to today’s British monarch—a woman who overcame tragedy and danger to become one of England’s most beloved consorts.

Praise for Elizabeth of York
 
“Weir tells Elizabeth’s story well. . . . She is a meticulous scholar. . . . Most important, Weir sincerely admires her subject, doing honor to an almost forgotten queen.”—The New York Times Book Review
 
“In [Alison] Weir’s skillful hands, Elizabeth of York returns to us, full-bodied and three-dimensional. This is a must-read for Tudor fans!”—Historical Novels Review
 
“This bracing biography reveals a woman of integrity, who . . . helped [her husband] lay strong groundwork for the success of the new Tudor dynasty. As always in a Weir book, the tenor of the times is drawn with great color and authenticity.”—Booklist
 
“Weir once again demonstrates that she is an outstanding portrayer of the Tudor era, giving us a fully realized biography of a remarkable woman.”—Huntington News
In 1688, the birth of a Prince of Wales ignited a family quarrel and a revolution. James II's drive towards Catholicism had alienated the nation and his two staunchly Protestant daughters by his first marriage, Mary and Anne. They are the 'ungrateful daughters' who usurped their father's crown and stole their brother's birthright.

Seven prominent men sent an invitation to William of Orange---James' nephew and son-in-law---to intervene in English affairs. But it was the women, Queen Mary Beatrice and her two stepdaughters, Mary and Anne, who played a key role in this drama. Jealous and resentful of her hated stepmother, Anne had written a series of malicious letters to her sister Mary in Holland, implying that the Queen's pregnancy was a hoax, a Catholic plot to deny Mary her rightful inheritance.

Betrayed by those he trusted, distraught at Anne's defection, James fled the kingdom. Even as the crown descended on her head, Mary knew she had incurred a father's curse. The sisters quarreled and were still not speaking to each other when Mary died tragically young. Anne did nothing to deserve her father's forgiveness, declaring her brother an outlaw with a price on his head.

Acclaimed historian Maureen Waller recreated the late Stuart era in a compelling narrative that highlights the influence of three women in one of the most momentous events in English history. Prompted by religious bigotry and the emotion that beset any family relationships, this palace coup changed the face of the monarchy, and signaled the end of a dynasty.

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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