Anne succeeded her cousin and brother-in-law William on 8 March 1702. By then, she was overweight and a semi-invalid; her body ravished by the many pregnancies she endured. Yet, Anne was ready to face the challenges ahead. She declared, “the true concern I have for our religion, for the laws and liberties of England, for the maintaining the succession to the Crown by the Protestant line and the government in Church and State as by law established, encourage me in this great undertaking.” Her coronation took place on St George’s Day, 23 April 1702. She was carried in a chair of rich crimson velvet from Westminster Hall to Westminster Abbey. She wore a robe of gold tissue under a crimson velvet mantle trimmed with ermine.
During Anne’s reign, England became embroiled in the War of the Spanish Succession after the childless death of King Charles II of Spain and fought against France and Spain with Austria and the Dutch Republic. Anne lived to see the signing of the peace treaty, which also recognised the Hanoverian succession.
England and Scotland became a union in 1707 and became a single Kingdom called Great Britain. Although the Scots did not appreciate it at the time, this probably prevented a succession crisis – as the Scots still favoured the Stuart succession, rather than the Hanoverian succession – and turned out to be a blessing. “We shall esteem it as the greatest glory of our reign… being fully persuaded it must prove the greatest happiness of our people.” Anne faced down her Catholic half-brother, James Francis Edward Stuart, who attempted to land in Scotland in 1708 and she was “much alarmed.” The death of her husband in October 1708 devastated Anne. Archbishop Sharp wrote, “We both wept at my first coming in. She is in a very disconsolate condition.” Anne wrote to her husband’s brother, the King of Denmark, “But I must confess to Your Majesty that the loss of such a husband, who loved me so dearly and so devotedly is too crushing for me to be able to bear it as I ought.”
Anne revived the practice of touching to cure scrofula (known as the King’s evil), which her brother-in-law had discontinued. The decision was quite popular and special ceremonies were held where Anne laid her hands on the sufferers. Her reign also saw the further development of the two-party system. Anne was inclined to favour the Tory party, while Sarah favoured the Whigs. Sarah constantly badgered Anne to appoint more Whigs, which would eventually lead to their falling out. Anne also became the last British sovereign to veto a parliamentary bill.
Without any surviving children, the succession was vested in Sophia of Hanover, the Protestant granddaughter of King James I, who was already well into her 70s, but very healthy. However, Anne refused to invite her, or her son and grandson, to England. Anne believed that Sophia’s presence in England would only be disruptive and any court Sophia set up would likely outshine her own.
Anne suffered from gout through much of 1713 and had “no great use of her legs.” By the end of December, Anne was vomiting and suffering from heart palpitations. She pulled through slowly but was far from well. Then Sophia died on 8 June 1714 after collapsing the gardens of Herrenhausen. Anne dismissed her death as “chipping porridge”, meaning of “no consequence.” The following month Anne herself became unwell. From the end of July, she was in low spirits, slept very little and had lost her appetite. She began to suffer from nosebleeds and trembling hands. She suffered a convulsion and could not speak for three hours. She had probably suffered a stroke. The rest of the day she drifted in and out of consciousness. Her head was shaved so that hot irons could be applied there. Garlic was placed on her feet, and her soles were blistered. On 31 July, she asked those present to pray for her. She died the following day at 7.30 in the morning. At the 2 in the afternoon, Sophia’s son was proclaimed King George I.
Anne was laid to rest in the Henry VII Chapel at Westminster Abbey, next to her husband as she had requested. Her physician wrote, “Sleep was never more welcome to a weary traveller than death was to her.” Great Britain had become one of the great powers during Queen Anne’s reign, yet she received little credit for this.1