Queen Anne

Published 16 Feb 2017

In any discussion of Queen Anne’s war, it is perhaps best to begin with an understanding of Queen Anne herself. In many ways, it is odd that she would ever have become queen at all. When Anne Stuart was born, her uncle Charles II was King of England. She was the second oldest of the king’s nieces; her sister Mary was the eldest. When Charles II died without heirs, the throne passed to his brother James II. The politics of England were odd at that time and though her parents were Catholic, the bishops of England insisted that Mary and Anne be raised at Protestants, setting Anne at odds with her family over religion. Before their father took the throne of England, James married his eldest daughter off to William of Orange, a Dutch Protestant. Anne was married to Prince George of Denmark in a move many hoped would create an Anglo-Danish alliance against William and the Dutch. The marriage was arranged with assistance from King Louis XIV of France (Blthye, 1998).

As a fairly distant relative to the royal line and a sickly female child, Anne was not educated in the manner befitting someone who would become the monarch. She was educated in music and literature, but history, civil law and military theory were not among the things that she was taught. By most accounts, the marriage between Prince George and Princess Anne was a loving one and they conceived more than a dozen children but none survived. It is believed that Anne’s many long-standing illnesses and her bout with small pox as a young woman may have contributed to the weakness and deaths of her children (Blythe, 1998). After her sister married William, Anne and Mary grew distant and Mary even snubbed her little sister while they were in mourning for their father (Bucholz, 1991).

James II tried to bring Catholic rule back to England and to rule without input from Parliament. For that, his daughters joined Parliament in opposing him in 1688 in the Glorious Revolution. The revolution changed Britain to a constitutional monarchy and made William and Mary is rulers (Blythe, 1998) Though William and Mary did not treat Anne well during their reign, she was named successor to the throne in 1702 when William died. In 1701, the English had agreed via treaty that if Anne died without heirs the throne of England would pass to the Hanover lineage, distant heirs to the throne in Germany. This angered some Scots who wanted the Stuart line to remain on the throne regardless of religion and thought that if and when Anne died, the throne should pass to her half brother James, another Stuart. To avoid further problems with the Scots, one of Anne’s first and most lasting acts as Queen was the Act of Union, uniting England and Scotland under one crown (Blythe, 1998). Anne would prove to be the last Stuart on the throne and was the first married woman to serve as Queen of England. She had 17 pregnancies, including 12 miscarriages and none of her children lived to adulthood. Her husband, Prince George, was an alcohol with breathing troubles and the royal family often travelled to Bath in an attempt to heal their various ills. Queen Anne was treated with the finest medical treatments of the day, including bleeding and burning with flat irons in an attempt to heal her. The final years of her reign were marked by the extreme illness of the Queen (Blythe, 1998).

When taking the throne of England, Anne had an axe to grind. The first queen born to an English mother and raised almost exclusively in Britain since Queen Elizabeth, she knew she had a lot to live up to. Additionally, Princess Anne had not been treated well by other royals and was looking forward to making those who had mistreated her, such as William and Mary, pay for their indiscretion (Bucholz, 1991). Though her sister and brother-in-law were dead, Anne desparately wanted the recognition they had failed to give her.

So it was that the Queen, who many called weak-willed and easily led, determined after the death of Charles II in Spain that France and Spain, sworn enemies of the British Empire, should not be allowed to come together under a common royal lineage. Inter-marrying among the nobles of Europe was common at that time and those in line for the throne in both France and Spain could also in theory be an heir to the throne in the other country. This seems to be the most obvious goal of Queen Anne’s War, avoid allowing one ruler to rule the huge colonial powers of Spain and France.

But dominance and colonization were also among the Queen’s goals. “In the War of the Spanish Succession and the ensuing negotiation of the several treaties signed at Utrecht on 11 April 1713, questions of trade and colonies were never far from the minds of French, British, and Dutch statesmen. Louis XIV himself went so far as to write in 1709 that the “object” of the war was “the trade of the Indies”.” (Miquelon 2001) At the beginning of the war, Spain and France were the powerhouses in colonization, especially in the Americas. Queen Anne’s War helped to give the British a major foothold in Canada and also re-wrote the makeup of the Caribbean islands.
Queen Anne decided that it was in her country’s best interest not to let the grandchildren of Louis XIV of France rule Spain and France under a united throne.. Allied with the Dutch, Anne determined that the war, in Europe known as the War of Spanish Succession, would not end with a united France and Spain. Whigs in Parliament were calling for the complete destruction of France and Queen Anne was among the most vocal supporters of the war effort (Bucholz, 1991). Almost as soon as the war was declared, the country was solidly behind its Queen and wanted nothing more than for her to crush their colonial rivals, Spain and France. In November, 1702, even graffiti artists expressed their support for the Queen and her war, writing, “As threatening Spain did to Eliza bow, So France and Spain shall do to Anna now” (Bucholz, 1991).

Queen Anne’s objective in the war was quite simple: prevent the French and Spanish from becoming long-term allies. With the death of Charles II of Spain, it was clear that the intermingled royal blood of France and Spain had left numerous heirs with claims to both thrones. England and most of Britain feared the results of a unified France and Spain, because of their colonial dominance and their access to trade around the world. Charles II named his closest relative in the female line, the man who would become Phillip V, heir to the throne. The Hapsburgs in Austria disputed this line of ascension, largely because Phillip was also the grandson of the French King Louis XIV. (“The Treaties…” 2002) If Charles Ii had reached back further in the royal lineage, he could have named one of the Austrian Hapsburgs as successor to the throne.

Of course, the immediate effect of the war was an alliance of Spain and France, but by 1706, and again in 1709, the French were suing for peace and Britain simply wasn’t listening. The queen also had other goals for the war. Louis XIV himself said the war was about trade and colonies (Rich, 1954). Her allies also had important goals. The Holy Roman Empire wanted the Hapsburgs to be named as the rightful heirs to the Spanish throne and Queen Anne wanted to make sure that no one would dispute the claim of the House of Hanover, the Protestants, as heirs to the British throne (Hill, 1973). She had no desire to see her half-brother, a Catholic on the throne of England. By the time the war was done, most of what Queen Anne wanted would come to true and her allies would be left with whatever leftovers the British happened to give them.

One of the first provisions of the treaty, though it is not spelled out quite that way, is to name Anne the rightful Queen of Britain and to acknowledge her lineage as the rightful heirs to the throne. This is done via the wording of the first article of the treat in which the two declare, “That there be an universal perpetual peace, and a true and sincere friendship, between the most Serene and most Potent Princess Anne, Queen of Great Britain, and the most Serene and most Potent Prince Lewis XIV, the most Christian King, and their Heirs and Successors, as also the Kingdoms, States, and Subjects of both, as well without as within Europe;” (“Treaty” 2001).
By acknowledging Queen Anne as the Queen of Britain and declaring a perpetual peace between the two nations, Louis XIV is giving credence to Anne Stuart’s claim that the House of Hanover is the legitimate heirs to the British throne and is in essence saying that his country will not dispute her claim to the throne. For Anne, who had been maligned by the Catholic royalty of Europe this was an important concession of the treaty (Bucholz, 1991). For Queen Anne, the acknowledgement from her peers in Europe that she was the supreme monarch of the British empire was every bit as important as the concessions in the New World and other colonial regions. The Queen preferred rules and regulations to the merchants’ concerns of worldwide trade and colonization.

In Articles 12 and 13 of the treaty, the French agree to grant Britain control of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, but retained for France the right to fish in the waters near Newfoundland and to erect small drying huts there to process the fish (“Treaty” 2001). For Queen Anne, this was something of an unexpected boon; for the Whigs, this was a small portion of the debt that France should have to pay to be granted peace.
The treaty further granted that Phillip V would indeed be acknowledged as the King of Spain, despite the objection of many of Britain’s allies. But to prevent a combining of France and Spain under one ruler ever, Phillip V had to renounce all claims for him and his descendants to the throne of France and Phillip’s family, the other grandsons of Louis XIV had to renounce all claims to the Spanish throne (“The Treaties” 2002). The series of treaties and renunciations of the end of the war is almost unheard of at other times in history. Emperor Karl IV had to renounce his claims to Spain and Spain have to cede territories to many of the Grand Alliance, including giving parts of Italy to Austria.

In short, the in-breeding among European nobles had left several people with indirect claims to the throne of more than one country. The Austrians had hoped to instill one of their own as King in Spain, gaining more power in the colonization process and access to the sea. In a concession to France, and because the Queen did not care if the Austrians were satisfied or not, Louis XIV’s grandson as allowed to take his place as the new King. But, the Queen did not want France and Spain to end up in the hands of a single ruler and did not want to offend Austria too much, so she added provisions for everyone to renounce their claims to everyone else’s throne. The legality of this maneuver is still debated by those who believe descendants of Phillip V should have a claim to the French throne even though the monarchy no longer exists.

Also important to the English queen, her war helped secure British control of the New World, striking back at the French foothold on North America and ushering in three decades of peace between Britain and France in Europe. The two countries divided and re-divided the colonies at a whim over the years and skirmishes were fought in the colonies during the 30-year peace, but both countries longed for and got peace in Europe.


  • Blythe, Richard. “Queen Anne Stuart” February, 1998. http://departments.kings.edu/womens_history/anne.html July 6, 2007.
  • Bucholz, R.O. “Nothing But Ceremony” Queen Anne and the Limitations of Royal Ritual, Journal of British Studies, July 1991, p. 288-323, < http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0021-9371%28199107%2930%3A3%3C288%3A%22BCQAA%3E2.0.CO%3B2-%23>, July 5, 2007.
  • Miquelon, Dale. “Envisioning the French Empire: Utrecht, 1711-1713” French Historical Studies, Vol. 24, No. 4. (Autumn, 2001). pp. 653-677
  • Rich, E. E. “The Hudson’s Bay Company and the Treaty of Utrecht” Cambridge Histroical Journal, Vol. 11, No. 2 (1954), pp. 183-203
  • “The Treaty of Utrecht”, 2004.
  • “The Treaties of Utrecht” , November 21, 2002.
Did it help you?