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Mrs Morley and her constant challenges,
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This review is from: Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion (Paperback)
This is a remarkable, pacey and informative account of an overlooked life and its many challenges that leaves the reader wholly in sympathy with its subject. Privately known as `Mrs Morley', her life was dominated by feuds of the State - with her father James II and Jacobites over the Protestant versus Catholic faiths; questions of succession at the waning of the Stuart era; constant acrimony and polarisation between Whigs and Tories. The author explains how, as queen, Anne tried to avoid being perceived as settling too much in any one political camp by appointing ministers from both. She lived through the reigns of her uncle, father, and then elder sister, Mary. There was the constant potential rivalry for her throne or succession from her half-brother, living outside Paris at Saint Germain-en-Laye (under the protection of her arch-enemy in the Wars of Succession, Louis XIV). She lived in a different age, one of sedan chairs, smallpox, and military campaigns that only took place between spring and autumn, and she even used to hold sessions where she touched her subjects smitten by scrofula. At any time she could dissolve Parliament for which only 10% of the electorate had the vote, and which met only five months a year. She found she could appoint peers en masse in order to bump up her strength for a critical vote in Parliament. Her reign saw many occurrences that defined the centuries to follow - the contested union with Scotland; emergence of the Bank of England; free press; the first daily newspaper, the Courant; an emerging national debt. It saw the rise of Churchill to become the Duke of Marlborough, the Battles of Blenheim and Ramillies, and the capture of Gibraltar. On a personal level, she suffered constant bullying from Sarah Churchill (`Mrs Freeman'), for a long time her best friend and confidant. She was surrounded by never-ending public squabbles over access to her confidence and the intricacies of close relationships, especially with Abigail Masham, nee Hill, a woman of her bedchamber. She underwent seventeen pregnancies, with no issue surviving beyond ten years, and suffered from physical health problems and obesity (she loved chocolates), all temporarily abated by visits to take the waters at Tunbridge Wells or Bath. Her loves were her horticulture, hunting, horses (she had a stud at Newmarket), and not least her husband (after whose death she mourned for two years).