The future Queen Anne was born on 6 February 1665 as the daughter of the future James II, then Duke of York, and his first wife, Anne Hyde. Her father’s brother, King Charles II, wrote to his sister Henrietta in France that Anne “despatched her business in little more than an hour.” The child was named Anne for her mother. None would have guessed that she would one day be Queen. At the moment of her birth, she had two surviving elder siblings – Mary and James.
The nursery was under the supervision of Lady Frances Villiers, but Anne was also allocated her own servants. By the age of 4, she had a dresser, three rockers, a seamstress, a page and a necessary woman. She was raised according to the times, and as such, saw very little of her parents. Of her father, she later said that he had always been, “very kind and tender towards her.” Nevertheless, she was always slightly scared of him. After Anne, four more siblings would follow, but only Mary and Anne would live to adulthood.
Anne too was not a healthy child. She was described as suffering from “a defluxion of the eyes”, for which she was sent abroad for treatment. She spent a year in France for treatment with her grandmother Henrietta Maria. After her death in September 1669, she was taken in by her aunt, Henrietta. After Henrietta’s sudden death the following year, Anne was escorted back to England. She would continue to suffer problems with her eyes, and she acquired a squint from all the treatments. On 31 March 1671, Anne lost her mother to breast cancer.
Anne was growing into a shy child, especially compared to her vivacious sister Mary. The Duchess of Marlborough recalled, “the Princess was so silent that she rarely spoke more than was necessary to answer a question.” Her father had turned to the Catholic faith, to the consternation of the people, as he was his brother’s heir. Anne was mostly unaware of the consequences at the time, as she was only around eight years old, but it would define her future relationship with him. Anne and Mary spent much of their time at Richmond under the care of Lady Frances Villiers. Both became fluent in French with instruction from a Frenchman, Peter de Laine. Yet, despite being heirs to the throne, their education focusses solely on “feminine” pursuits. Greater care was taken with her religious education, and both Mary and Anne were raised protestants upon the orders of the King. James resented this, but it was made clear that the children would be taken from him otherwise. Anne became a “true daughter of the Church of England.”
In September 1673, Anne’s father remarried to the 15-year-old Mary of Modena. Despite reservations, the two girls bonded with their new stepmother. Mary of Modena later said of Mary, “I love her as if she was my own daughter.” In time, this bond would disappear. In 1677, it was time for Anne’s sister Mary to marry, and on 4 November she married her Dutch first cousin, William of Orange. Upon being told she was to marry him, she “wept all that afternoon and the following day.” Just a few days after the wedding, Anne fell ill with smallpox. Anne’s life was feared for, and James came to visit her every day. It wasn’t until early December that Anne began to recover.
The following year, Anne was able to visit her sister Mary in The Hague. Anne was impressed by the cleanliness of the Dutch streets, and the visit was a great success. She returned to Catholic hysteria, and there were calls for her father to be sent abroad. Anne was supposed to accompany him, but fears over her religion were expressed, and she stayed behind. In early March 1679, James and his wife left England for Brussels. In 1680, a suitor appeared for Anne in the form of Prince George Ludwig of Hanover. He visited England and certainly met Anne several times. When he left England in 1681, nothing had been decided. Anne’s parents had been in Edinburgh for some time when Anne’s half-sister Isabella died, and Anne went to Edinburgh to hopefully be of some consolation. They were all allowed back to London in May 1683, and attention once again turned to finding a match for Anne.
Prince George Ludwig of Hanover had been betrothed to Sophia Dorothea of Celle and was now out of the question. Prince George of Denmark, the younger brother of King Christian V, was likely to meet all the requirements. It was agreed that George would live in England and so Anne would not need to live in a foreign country. George was asked to come to England at once, and he met Anne at St. James’s Palace where he ‘saluted her cheek” with a kiss. Over the next few days, Anne and George would get to know each other better. They married on 28 July 1683 at St. James’s Palace without pomp and ceremony. She was now a married woman.1