In this article we will discuss about the reign of Queen Anne (1702-14). After reading this article you will learn about: 1. Queen Anne’s Accession 2. Queen Anne and Scotland 3. Domestic History of the Reign of Queen Anne 4. Importance of the Reign of Queen Anne.


  1. Queen Anne’s Accession
  2. Queen Anne and Scotland
  3. Domestic History of the Reign of Queen Anne
  4. Importance of the Reign of Queen Anne

1. Queen Anne’s Accession:

Foreign Policy; On the death of William without a child, the Crown passed to Anne, the younger daughter of James II, according to the provisions of the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement. She had to bear the legacy of war left by William. For the greater part of her reign Anne was under the influence of the Churchills—Duke of Marlborough and his wife.

The head of the war ministry was Sidney Godolphin, who was the Prime Minister in all but name. Choice of ministers and determination of policy lay with Marlborough and Godolphin. The ministry began as mainly Tory but gradually became almost entirely Whig.


This was particularly because of the opposition of Marlborough to the traditional Tory policy and latter’s opposition to the policy of war which Marlborough supported. The War of the Spanish Succession on which England had embarked under William, was fought on four fronts.

The aim of England was clear enough. She want­ed to rescue Netherlands from French possession, to occupy the barrier fortresses. France had built up along the borders of Netherlands so that a dent in the French defences might be made. England also was determined to the union of the French and the Spanish Crowns in the same person and over and above to dislodge France from colonial, commercial and naval supremacy.

When Duke of Marlborough took command in 1702, the whole of the Spanish Netherlands were in possession of the French. Marlborough attacked the French in the Netherlands with a combined Anglo- Dutch army. His operations in the first two years, 1702 and 1703 were along the Rhine and the Meuse, and although he succeeded in holding the line, he could not make much advance.

In the mean time the position of the Emperor became very precarious. Prince Eugene of Savoy had been defeated by the French in Italy. On an appeal from the emperor and considering that Austria must be saved, Marlborough withdrew his army from the Rhine and the Meuse and proceeded towards the Danube.


In August 1704 Marlborough at the head of a combined army of the English, Dutch and Germans and joined by the Austrian army under Prince Eugene, defeated the (French army in the battle of Blenheim (August 13, 1704). Vienna was saved, and the myth of the invin­cibility of the French army was shattered. In the mean time the allies under Sir George Rooke carried the war into Spain and captured Gibraltar.

In 1706, Marlborough had another crushing vic­tory over the French in the battle of Ramillies (1706) as a result of which the French were driven out of the major part of the Spanish Netherlands. In the same year Prince Eugene defeated the French at Turin, and Italy was cleared of the French troops. But the allies met with a great reverse at Almamanza at the hands of the Spanish troops (1707).

In other theatres of war success attended the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene. In 1708 the French army was defeat­ed at their hands at Oudenarde. This was followed by another victory at Malplaquet in the next year (1709), by which Flanders was cleared of the French troops. In the naval warfare the English navy succeeded in bringing the Mediterranean under its control.

Be­sides Gibraltar, Minorca also was occupied by the English navy. The allied forces, however, could not make much headway against Spain. Apart from defeat at Almamanza, the allied forces met with reverses at Brihuega and Villa Visciosa (1710) and had to leave Spain. The War of the Spanish Succes­sion came to a close an 1718 due to a variety of factors.


In 1711, Joseph, Emperor of Austria died and Archduke Charles for whom Austria was fighting France and England and other allies were helping her, himself became successor to the Austrian throne.

To allow Austria to possess Spain was almost simi­larly undesirable from the point of European balance of power as allowing France to occupy Spain. Euro­pean allies, therefore, were not as eager as they had been so long to secure the Spanish throne for Austria.

Apart from this, there was change of the ministry in England. Already war had dragged on for long. Parties to the war had become weary. England and France signed the Treaty of Utrecht and ended hosti­lities between themselves. Other European powers signed two more treaties called the Treaties of Rastadt and Baden. These three treaties together is called the Treaty of Utrecht, 1713.

By the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht, the following arrangements were made:

England received Gibraltar, Minorca, Newfound land, Hudson Bay territories, Acadie, Kits, Nova- Scotia, etc. By a separate asiento, i.e. treaty, with Spain, England received the right to trade with Spa­nish America and also the right to supply slaves to the Spanish American colonies. France was obliged to recognise the Protestant Succession and Anne as the rightful Queen of England. The Jacobite pretender was expelled from France.

Austria had to give up her claims on the Spanish throne but she obtained Milan, Naples and the Spa­nish Netherlands, instead.

Spain accepted Philip of Anjou, Grandson of Louis XIV as her King Philip V on condition that the thrones of Spain and France were never to be united.

France retained her earlier conquests including had to recognise Queen Anne as the rightful Queen of England, Louis’ grandson was recognised as the king of Spain on condition that the two thrones of Spain and France should not be united.

Holland recovered the territories occupied by France and she was allowed to retain the line of fortresses as a barrier against attacks of France.

The importance of the Treaty of Utrecht insofar as England was concerned lay in her becoming the greatest naval power in the world. Possession of Gibraltar, Minorca, Kits, etc., gave her supremacy over the Mediterranean. Gibraltar and Minorca are the keys to the Mediterranean and Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, keys to the New World.

Occupation of Newfoundland and Hudson Bay territories gave her control over the way to America as also oppor­tunity to expansion in America. England achieved her objectives by this treaty. Compared to the gains of France, England emerged far superior politically commercially, as also in prestige.

Her object of maintaining the European balance of power by stop­ping the French aggression succeeded. This treaty while prevented the union of the thrones of Spain and France recognised the supremacy of France in Europe. For France was allowed to retain her earlier conquests, including Alsace.

The treaty by not re­turning many of the places which originally belong­ed to Austria while recognised France’s supremacy, accepted the hard truth that Austria was a decadent power. Louis XIV’s aim at becoming the dictator of Europe was frustrated and thus the balance of power was maintained.

The War of Spanish Succession was the first round of the conflict between England and France over commercial, colonial and naval rivalry. It ended in the defeat of France and the second round was to be fought in the mid-eighteenth century ending with the Peace of Paris, 1763.

The Treaty of Utrecht also arranged for the safety of Holland and she was made free of French domination. By a sepa­rate Asiento, i.e. Contract, England obtained, the privilege with Spain to supply slaves to the Spanish American colonies.

2. Queen Anne’s and Scotland:

James VI of Scotland ascended the English, throne in 1603, on the death of Queen Elizabeth, as James I. Ever since the two Houses of England and Scotland were united, but the union was not political but purely personal. Scotland retained her own Parliament.

Although James I sought to weld both the countries into a political union, the attempt did not succeed. From 1660 Scot­land even got her government separated from that of England. Under William III, Prince of Orange, the Darien scheme failed and the loss sustained by the Scottish merchants was rightly or wrongly attributed to the English jealousy, by the Scots.

The massacre of Glencoe was yet another reason for the Scottish displeasure at the English treatment of the Scots.

The lack of confidence of the Scots in the English government was all the more manifest in 1703 when the Scottish Parliament passed the Bill of Security by which it was provided that Queen Anne’s successor would not be accepted as the king of Scotland unless the commercial restrictions put on Scotland were re­moved and Scotland was placed on the same footing of equality with England.

The powers of the Crown were all assumed by the Scottish Parliament. The passing of the bill was regarded as good as rebellion. Scotland was put under a commercial boycott by England. Tension ran high and it seemed that hosti­lities between the two countries would begin. But at the last moment both sides agreed to a commission to settle the differences and to recommend the terms of union of the two countries.

On the basis of the re­commendation of this commission, the Act of Union (1707) was passed by which adequate representation was given to the Scots in the English Parliament and the separate Parliament in Scotland was abolished. The Scots were allowed to send forty-five members to the House of Commons and sixteen Peers to the House of Lords.

The name England was henceforth to be called Great Britain. In matters of trade and commerce England and Scotland were to be on the same footing of equality. Scottish laws as also the Scottish Church were to remain untouched.

The Act of Union opened a new chapter in the history of England. It made England more secure against any possible external danger and even against the possibility of Scotland being used by any pretender to the English throne or any rebel.

Scotland having been placed on the same footing in matters of trade and commerce found greater opportunities to make economic progress and become an equal partner with England in sharing the future power, prestige and glory of Great Britain.

3. Domestic History of the Reign of Queen Anne:

The reign of Queen Anne saw sharp conflict between the Whigs and the Tories on the policy of war as well as on the question of toleration. Queen Anne, as it has already been mentioned was under the influence of the Churchills. The Duke of Marlborough and the Duchess of Marlborough had a great in­fluence over the Queen and her government.

Marl­borough, although a Tory, did not see eye to eye with traditional policy of the Tory party. He was also opposed to the Tory party in its war policy. While the Tories wanted peace, Marlborough, like the Whigs wanted to continue the war begun under William. The Tories did not hesitate to carry on secret intrigues to reduce the influence of both Marl­borough and the Duchess of Marlborough.

This com­pelled Duke of Marlborough to depend on the Whig support, Gradually the ministry was composed of the Whigs only. But the Tories who were also not in favour of toleration to the Dissenters began both political and religious intrigues against the Duke of Marlborough and the Whigs.

They succeeded in poisoning the ears of the Queen. The long drawn war which led to heavy taxation made their task easier. Murmurs were heard against heavy taxation that the prolonged war necessitated.

At this juncture a Tory preacher Dr. Sacheverell in the course of his preachings denounced the Whigs and their policy of toleration towards the Dissenters as well as war. He was tried but this led to a terrible anti-Whig re­action.

The Queen under the circumstances dis­missed Marlborough as also her Whig ministers. A Tory ministry was formed and Harley and St. John stepped into the shoes of Marlborough and Godolphin. Not only that, Duke of Marlborough was dis­graced by open charges of corruption and defalca­tion.

The Tories were High Churchmen and would not tolerate the Dissenters. They passed the Occa­sional Conformity Act and Schism Act against them. By the former Act provision for punishing those Dissenters who would conform to the Test Act only for getting into employment but secretly remained members, of their own sect.

The latter Act prohibited Dissenters from establishing or maintaining any school privately or in the public.

St. John now, Viscount Bolingbroke, was against the Revolution Settlement. He was a supporter of the Stuarts and tried to place James II’s son known in history as the Old Pretender on the English throne. He made some progress in his intrigue to stop Hano­verian Succession under the provisions of the Act of Settlement of 1701.

Harley now Earl of Oxford was not willing to support Bolingbroke’s plan. The latter was got rid of by Earl of Oxford who persuaded the Queen to dismiss him. But hardly he was in full con­trol the Queen died frustrating all the plans of Bolingbroke (1714).

Sudden death of Anne saved the Hanoverian suc­cession. The Electress Sophia of Hanover had died shortly before the death of Anne. Her son George, Elector of Hanover was declared king of Britain as George I. On landing in England, the first thing that George I did was to install the Whigs in power. Bolingbroke fled, to France and joined the Old Pretender.

Anne was a very weak woman, “full of prejudices, fond of flattery, always governed blindly by some female favourite, and, as Swift bitterly observes, had not a stock of amity to serve above one object at a time”. Keightly says: she was a woman of narrow intellect, but of good intentions, a model of conjugal and maternal virtues.

4. Importance of the Reign of Queen Anne:

The reign of Queen Anne, like that of William III saw several constitutional improvements. Limitations put on the Prerogatives by the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement were now effective. End of religious persecution of the Non-conformists had come, which was initiated by the Act of Toleration.

The law of treason was improved and made certain and the liberty of the Press was completely estab­lished. The judges now for the first time became really independent as they were to retain their places during good behaviour and removable only in case of the commission of any act of misdemeanour or by an address of both Houses of Parliament.

Although the reign of Queen Anne was not a period of Cabinet government as is understood in modern times, it was, however, one in which the ministers and Parliament were progressively drawn closer to each other.

Again, though there was no single comprehensive Budget, yet presentation of each individual branch of revenue assumed the character of a national financial plan. It was during this-reign William Lowndes, Secretary to the Treasury, gave currency to the phrase ways and means, and it was during this reign the practice be­came permanent that no money can be voted for any purpose except on the motion of a minister.

The leading position in the Cabinet, in this way was associated with the Treasury and Lord Treasurer. Godolphin, Lord Treasurer of the period was occasionally referred to as Prime Minister.

Further, the repeal of the clause of the Act of Settlement prohibiting the office-bearers from sitting in the Commons enabled the ministers and the House of Com­mons to evolve a closer association which became the most fundamental characteristic of the English government. The result was that the ministers could continue to sit in the House of Commons. It was also the period which saw exacerbation of party feelings.

It was during the period of her rule that paper money, that most valuable aid to commerce, was introduced. The two great wars, particularly the War of Spanish Succession, had formed the army into a profession and also made apparent that Eng­land must at all times have in readiness for domestic or external defence and operation a trained, skilled, and disciplined standing army.

The establishment of a standing army dates from this period. The free Press now published accounts of events which were subjects of despatches to or from foreign ambassa­dors, except most confidential ones, were now gene­rally to be found in the columns of the new papers which appeared daily.

The reign of Queen Anne and the early part of succeeding one were the golden age of literary men if not of English literature. It was mainly due to the minister’s love and encouragement of literature and science. Sir Isaac Newton was the Master of the Mint and John Locke was a Trade Commissioner, Joseph Addison was a Secretary of State and Mathew Prior, an Envoy to the Court of France. Swift and others were promoted in their professions.

Isaac Newton was the foremost among the distinguished lights of the modern world in Mathematical and Astronomical science. A fit companion of Newton was John Locke who was one of the greatest philosophers and most powerful writers and original thinkers England has produced.

Such were the eminence of Newton and Locke that they divided between themselves the empire of human thought of the age and taught the world not only by their wisdom, by example of their high moral worth.

The greatest poet of the age next to Milton was Dry den, the Chaucer of the seventeenth century, who contributed much to the formation of the spirit and developing the maturity of English literature. The productions of Dryden were both numerous and diversified.

Besides many smaller poems which will fill several volumes, he wrote eight of considerable length, the most distinguished among them being ‘The Hind and, the Panther and Absalom and Achitophel. He produced a poetical version of Vergil and translations from Ovid, Theocritus, Horace, Lucretius, Juvenal and Persius.

During Queen Anne’s time the French language was much undervalued in England, and was seldom studied. At the court, however, the case was just the reverse, and in their private correspondence eminent men of the court there was much use of the French.

The national debt of the period showed a rapid increase, particularly due to war. It was £16,000,000 at the accession of Anne but in next twelve years it rose up to £69,000,000. Besides the expenses of the war, the high salaries of officials also was partially responsible for the great public expenditure during the period.

Besides literature, science and fine, arts, the period was distinguished by richer and statelier architectural productions of the period. The metropolis of the empire, i.e., London which had suffered badly from the Great Fire was replaced by a larger, richer and more magnificent London which was a triumph of English wealth, resources and enterprise.

Sir Christopher Wren was the celebrated architect of the period and his creative mind was behind the grandeur of the metropolis and the restored cathedral of St. Paul. He superintended the construction of fifty-one Churches in London which constitute the chief architectural ornaments of the metropolis.

The importance of Anne’s reign also lies in the success of England in the War of Spanish Succession which gave England supremacy over the Mediterra­nean, checkmated France, prevented the union of the Trench and the Spanish Crown’s and above all suc­cessfully terminate the first round of the commercial, colonial and naval rivalry between England and France, in favour of England by the Treaty of Utre­cht (1713).

In the continental polities England be­came the holder of the balance.

Lastly, it was during this reign that England and Scotland were united with adequate representation of the Scots to the English Parliament and the Scottish Parliament was abolished. The Scots were allowed to send forty-five members to the House of Commons and sixteen Peers to the House of Lords.

The name of England was henceforth substituted by that of Great Britain or United Kingdom with Eng­land and Scotland occupying the same footing of equality.