Tudors and Stuarts - M. B. Synge

Queen Anne and Marlborough

It is difficult to describe Anne's character, except by saying what she was not. She was not clever, she was not beautiful, she had no gifts of any kind; she had not behaved well to her father, nor to her sister. Her piety was mixed with superstition; her honesty was spoiled by obstinacy. She had no real independence of character, and always relied upon some one to think for her and decide for her. From childhood she had been entirely in the hands of a clever woman, Sarah Jennings, who married John Churchill—known to history as the first Duke of Marlborough.

William's death left Marlborough to carry out his policy. France was now more powerful than in the previous war, for Spain and Bavaria were joined in alliance with her. Against them were united Austria, Holland, the new kingdom of Prussia, a few other small German States such as Hanover, Portugal, the Duchy of Savoy (which furnished a great general, Eugene), and England (which furnished an army, much money, and Marlborough).

The war was fought in Italy, in Spain, in Germany, in Flanders, and on the sea. The hero of it was Marlborough. He had two great tasks—first, to keep the allies acting together; next, to defeat the French on the battlefield. He found the second task easier than the first. There was, in fact, only one of the allies with whom it was possible to act in harmony. That was Eugene of Savoy, with whom Marlborough struck up a great friendship.

The war was on a grand scale, for the opposing armies often numbered sixty thousand on each side. Of these, not more than about twelve thousand were Englishmen. Many were veterans who had gained experience in William's wars, but there were the usual supplies of raw recruits gathered from the gaols, pressed-men, bankrupts, and able-bodied men who had no lawful calling or occupation, or visible means of support." Yet out of such material Marlborough created the finest army of his age. As far as his means would allow, he looked after the welfare of his men, and his discipline and training enabled his troops to perform deeds that astonished his enemies.

War was declared in 1702. Marlborough drove back a great French army from the Lower Meuse, and took some strong fortresses. Early in 1704, in secret conjunction with Eugene, he devised the most daring and brilliant of his campaigns, that of Blenheim (August 13th, 1704).

Marlborough's fame was spread over Europe. The queen had already created him Duke of Marlborough after his first campaign. He now received further rewards, and began to build at Woodstock the great palace (Blenheim Palace) that still reminds us of his greatest victory. The very week before Blenheim was fought, Admiral Rooke also captured Gibraltar, and defeated soon after a French fleet that attempted to recover it. The importance of this great event was seen during the next hundred years, for it enabled British fleets to hold the Mediterranean.

Anne I of England


For the next six years Marlborough conducted great campaigns, chiefly in Flanders. He defeated the French at Ramillies (1706), Oudenarde (1708), and Malplaquet (1709). But the achievements of the war after 1709 brought no further advantage either to England or the Allies. At home the Tories were planning for the overthrow of the Whig party and of Marlborough himself. A new Parliament was elected, and this was strongly Tory, and Marlborough's power was over.

In 1713 the Peace of Utrecht was signed. England gained from France valuable lands in North America—Hudson's Bay, Newfoundland, and Nova Scotia, as well as St. Christopher in the Leeward Isles. From Spain she gained Gibraltar and Minorca, and—what must be read with shame, although it did not seem shameful to our ancestors—the monopoly of the slave trade to the Spanish colonies for thirty years. The French, too, were to expel the Pretender (the son of James II) from France.

The original cause of the war, the Spanish Succession, was settled by allowing Philip V to remain king: but Spain was only to keep her colonies, not her other possessions in Europe. A great part of the latter went to the Archduke, now Emperor of Austria.

The greatest political event of the reign of Anne was the Act of Union with Scotland.

In the last reign great jealousy existed between the two kingdoms. In matters of trade they were like two foreign countries, and thus the trading companies of the two countries came into conflict with one another.

In a few years, however, the Scots saw that they had more to gain in trade by a real union with England than they had to lose in independence. The Act of Union provided for forty-five Scottish members to sit in the House of Commons and sixteen peers in the House of Lords. The Scottish Church, which was Presbyterian, was to remain as it was, and Scottish laws which differed in several ways, from English, was also to remain unchanged. But trade was to be free between the two countries, and taxes and coins were to be the same in each country.

The last act in the drama of the Stuart period was now nearly over. It ended in a strangely dramatic scene. The queen herself was not only a Tory, but at heart a "Jacobite." If the Pretender had been a Protestant, there is no doubt she would have secured him as her successor, in spite of the Act of Settlement. The Tories opened negotiations with James, in the hope that he would declare himself a Protestant. To his honour, he refused, then and always.

Notwithstanding his refusal, the Jacobite minister, Bolingbroke, continued his plots. Harley, now Lord Oxford, was undecided, and it was therefore necessary to remove him. For a few days Bolingbroke was really Prime Minister. It looked as if he would bring about a Jacobite revolution, for he put Jacobites into office, and assured the Pretender of his support.

Suddenly, at the end of July, 1714, the queen had a fit of apoplexy; she lay speechless, and was evidently dying. The moment had come when a decisive blow must be struck either for James or George of Hanover. The Whigs were preparing to fight. The Cabinet met at Kensington. What they were going to do will, perhaps, never be known, But a strange scene is said to have taken place. The Whig Dukes of Argyle and Somerset availed themselves of their privilege as Privy Councillors, and appeared in the Council chamber. The Duke of Shrewsbury, an old and respected Whig, who had of late years joined the Tory governments of Anne, was present and welcomed them. They called the physicians, who declared the queen was dying. The Council resolved that Shrewsbury should be appointed Lord Treasurer, and took upon them to summon all the Privy Councillors, mostly Whigs, living in London. The dying queen consented to Shrewsbury's appointment, and Bolingbroke was baffled. The Whigs ordered four regiments to London, and equipped the fleet to protect the ports against Jacobite invasions. On August 1st the queen died.

George I was at once proclaimed. A Whig Government was formed, a new Whig Parliament was soon elected, and the Age of the Stuarts passed away.