When the future Queen Anne was born in February 1665, she was noted not to be a strong child. She suffered from a “defluxion in her eyes”, and she was sent abroad to France for treatment for this ailment. When she returned to England after the deaths of her grandmother and aunt, she appeared “very much improved both in her constitution and her personal accomplishments” and had “a healthful constitution of body.” Yet, she continued to suffer occasionally from problems with her eyes. In later life, she consulted oculists who recommended an eyewash of sulphur, turpentine, vivum and honey of roses.
The multiple miscarriages and stillbirths that Anne suffered throughout the years could have had several causes. Multiple miscarriages can sometimes be caused be rhesus incompatibility when the mother’s blood is rhesus negative, and the father’s blood is rhesus positive. Any child would be rhesus positive, and the mother responds to the rhesus factor of the child by forming antibodies, which fatally interacts with the child’s blood. However, this isn’t likely for Anne. Rhesus incompatibility usually does not affect the first pregnancy and then manifests itself in a second or third pregnancy. Then all pregnancies are likely to end in miscarriage. Anne’s second and third pregnancies produced living children. Another theory is that Anne lost her children as a result of intra-uterine growth retardation caused by an insufficiency of the placenta, which could be a consequence of Anne having Hughes Syndrome. This condition was only discovered recently and is thought to be responsible for one in five miscarriages. With the syndrome, the mother’s blood is loaded with antibodies which then overstimulate the immune system and leads to blood clotting. This thick blood cannot pass through the small blood vessels in the placenta, depriving the child of nutrients.
Anne’s body was naturally severely affected by the many pregnancies, and from 1691 on Anne began to suffer from frequent bouts of illness. That year she reported having a fever and became “so lame I cannot go without limping.” In 1692, she was suffering from “my old custom… of flushing so terribly after dinner.” She was also diagnosed with an attack of gout, although she suffered pain in several places, as opposed to one place usually with gout. She had pains in her hip, which rendered her unable to walk. In early 1695, she appeared to pregnant, but her due date came and went. She probably suffered from a hysterical pregnancy. In December 1696, Anne was described as being “ill of convulsion fits”, but she soon recovered. In October 1697, she was suffering from “vapours”, which could mean headaches or even depression. Anne wrote, “I am not quite rid of my vapours, nor I believe must never expect that happiness.” Just a short while later, she became ill with gout again, and she confessed, “My spirits… are indeed mightily sunk with this bad pain… Let people say what they will, it is impossible to help having the spleen when one is in such misery.” Gout returned in January 1699 and in 1700 her right hand was so painful that she could not write.
Shortly after the death of her son, the Duke of Gloucester, Anne fell ill with a fever and remained “much indisposed” for a time. She became seriously overweight and could no longer exercise. When she became Queen in 1702, she was “so lame” that it was feared that she could not go to the House of Lords. She would be no warrior Queen leading her people into battle but a mother of a nation – from a chair.1