Story of England - S. B. Harding

Queen Anne, the Last of the Stuarts (1702-1714)


Dates of Anne's reign; influence of Lady Marlborough; rise of the Duke of Marlborough; his character and ability.

Origin of the War of the Spanish Succession; England's interest in it; where it was fought; the Battle of Blenheim; end of the war; England's gains by the treaty of Utrecht.

Union of England and Scotland; its terms; how shown on the flag.

Plans of the "Jacobites"; why they failed; death of Queen Anne; the Hanoverian House comes to the throne.

Queen Anne was a good-hearted woman, and was very devoted to the Church of England. But she was stupid and without ability to govern, and was always ruled by her favorites.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Queen Anne

From girlhood Anne was under the influence of a beautiful, ambitious, and high-tempered lady of the court, named Sarah Jennings. Lady Sarah married John Churchill, a handsome young man, of polished manners, who was as poor and ambitious as Sarah herself. It was through their influence that Anne deserted her father, at the time of the Revolution, and went over to the side of William and her sister Mary. Churchill also deserved well of William, because he led over his troops in James's army to William's side. After the Revolution was successful, William made him Earl of Marlborough; but William never fully trusted him, because he knew that the new Earl was often plotting with his old master.

In Queen Anne's reign Marlborough at once became the chief man in the government. In spite of his bad conduct in the past, and his greed for money, this was a fortunate thing for England. Marlborough was both the greatest statesman and the greatest general of his time. A great Frenchman said of Marlborough that "he never besieged a fortress that he did not take, never fought a battle that he did not win, and never carried on a negotiation that he did not bring to a successful close." One of his strong points in dealing with men was his unfailing politeness and his good temper. But the chief factor in Marlborough's rise was the fact that his wife, who was devoted to him, was the bosom friend and constant companion of the Queen. The result was that the richest positions and highest honors were given the Marlboroughs, including for him the title of Duke, and the chief command of the English forces.

England needed a general of great ability at this time, for she was once more at war with Louis XIV. of France—this time over the succession to the throne of Spain.

What difference, you may ask, did it make to England who became King of Spain? Ordinarily it made little difference. But now it happened that the chief claimant of the Spanish crown was the "Dauphin" of France—that is, the eldest son of Louis XIV.—and it would never do to permit France and Spain, with their vast colonies and dependencies, to become united under the same rule.

William III. had foreseen this difficulty, and had negotiated "partition treaties" by which Spain and the Spanish colonies were to go to an Austrian Prince, and the French Prince should receive only the Spanish possessions in Italy. This was unsatisfactory to the Spanish people; and when the King of Spain died, in 1700, he left a will giving his whole possessions, not to the Dauphin, but to the Dauphin's second  son. France would go, in the course of time, to the Dauphin's eldest  son, and thus the two countries would not have the same King, though they would be under the same family. It was thought that this would remove the objections of the other nations, but it did not.

Although Louis XIV. had signed the partition treaties, he decided to accept the inheritance offered by the Spanish King's will. He presented his little grandson to the French court, saying—

"Gentlemen, behold the King of Spain!"

He was also reported to have said that "the Pyrenees have ceased to exist." This meant that, thenceforth, Spain and France would be practically one country.

This arrangement disturbed what statesmen called "the balance of power" between the different countries, and Austria and the Dutch republic determined to resist it. The result was a great war, called the War of the Spanish Succession, which lasted for eleven years. It was fought all over western Europe, and in North America. At first the English people took little interest in the matter. But when James II. died, in France (in 1700), Louis XIV. broke his treaty with England by recognizing James's son ("the Pretender," as he was called) as King of England. A storm of indignation then broke out in England, and under Queen Anne that country became the leading member of the "Grand Alliance" against Louis XIV.

Marlborough became commander in chief of the English and Dutch forces, while the commander of the Austrian forces was Prince Eugene of Savoy. Eugene also was a great general, and the relations between two commanders were of the friendliest sort.

The greatest battle of this war was fought in Germany, on the river Danube (1704). A French army had passed through the Black Forest, and was marching down the valley of the Danube, to attack Vienna, the Austrian capital. Marlborough and Prince Eugene came up with them near the little village of Blenheim, and there the battle took place. Both sides fought bravely, but Marlborough and Eugene showed the greater skill and won the victory. In addition to the French who were slain or taken prisoners, thousands of their men were forced back into the river Danube and drowned. That night Marlborough wrote this hasty note to his beloved wife:

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

Medal in Celebration of Victory at Blenheim

"I have not time to say more than to beg that you will give my duty to the Queen, and let her know that her army has had a glorious victory. The French commander and two of his generals are prisoners, and are in my coach; and I am following the rest. The bearer of this letter will give you an account of what has passed."

The battle of Blenheim was indeed "a glorious victory." It not only saved Vienna from the French, but also restored the ancient fame of the English soldiers.

The war continued for some time after this. In its latter part the Tories, who were opposed to the war, got control of the government in England. Lady Marlborough, also, foolishly quarreled with the Queen. The result was that Marlborough was removed from his command, and then the war did not go so well for the allies.

At last, Louis XIV.—who was now nearing the close of his long reign—made peace. By the treaty of Utrecht (1713) the French Prince received Spain, with its colonies; but it was expressly agreed that France and Spain should never be united under the same King. The Austrians received most of the other Spanish possessions in Europe. England received the rocky fortress of Gibraltar, at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, which she had taken in the course of the war, and which she still retains. She also received Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and the Hudson Bay territory in America. Thus the War of the Spanish Succession not only saved her from having a Stuart King placed over her, but it marked a step in the building up of her colonial empire at the expense of France.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

View of Gibraltar

Another event of importance in this reign was the union of England and Scotland. Ever since the time when James I. came to the English throne—except for a short period of time under Cromwell—the two countries had been ruled by the same King, though they had kept their separate Parliaments, and were otherwise separate nations. In Queen Anne's reign, this arrangement was ended by an Act of Union (1707). This provided that one sovereign and one Parliament should rule the two countries under the name of "Great Britain." Scotland received a fair share of members in both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, but neither the Scottish law nor the established Presbyterian church of Scotland was to be changed.

The union of the two countries is indicated in the national flag. The flag of England was white, with a large upright red cross; the flag of Scotland was blue, with a diagonal white cross. In the new flag, the two crosses were united, and the corner of the flag in which the crosses were placed was called the "union." About a century later, Ireland was brought under the same Parliament with Great Britain, and its cross—a red diagonal—was then added to the flag. When a flag is made up of the union only, it is called a "union jack." The union jack, therefore, as it is now used by the British army, consists of a blue flag, bearing on it (1) an upright cross edged with white, (2) a diagonal white cross, and (3) a diagonal red cross.

[Illustration] from The Story of England by S. B. Harding

The Union Jack

As the reign of Anne came to a close, it looked as though the rule of a Stuart and a Catholic would be restored, after all. That this did not happen, says a modern writer, was "the greatest miracle in English history." All of the chief positions in the government were in the hands of the "Jacobites," or supporters of the line of James II.; and they were sending letters to the Pretender, and planning to make him King. But there was one difficulty—the fact that he was a Catholic. He was urged to give up his religion, or at any rate not to show himself openly a Catholic, but he refused.

"How could my subjects ever depend upon me, or be happy under me," he wrote, "if I should use such dishonesty to get myself amongst them?"

This refusal did credit to his heart, but it made the task of his friends very difficult. The final defeat of their plans was due to the facts, first, that Anne died suddenly, in 1714, before the Jacobites were quite ready; and second, that the Whig leaders acted promptly and decidedly, in forcing the Council to carry out the provisions of the Act of Settlement.

The Electress Sophia had died shortly before this, and the heir to the German territory of Hanover, as well as to the kingdom of Great Britain, was her son George. He was accordingly proclaimed at once, as King of Great Britain, under the name of George I., and quietly succeeded to the throne. In this way the house of Hanover, which has ruled Great Britain down to our own day, and has widely extended the British Empire, first secured the crown of the island kingdom.


  1. Find out what you can about Lady Marlborough and her connection with Queen Anne.
  2. Read an account of the great writers of Queen Anne's reign (Addison, Swift, Defoe, Pope).
  3. Was it better for England, in Anne's time, to be governed by the Whig party or the Tory party? Give your reasons.
  4. In what ways was it an advantage for England and Scotland to be under the same Parliament?
  5. Did William III. or Marlborough do more toward building up the British Empire? Give your reasons.