The real story of Britain’s forgotten Queen

God save the Queen: Whig politician John Clerk said Anne was “the most despicable mortal I had ever seen”.

Olivia Colman has won a BAFTA for her portrayal of Queen Anne, an overlooked monarch who was often dismissed as fat, ugly and dull. Has history been unfair to Anne?

Amid the glamour of this year’s BAFTA awards, one film stood out. The Favourite won seven prizes, more than any other movie.

At the ceremony in London, Olivia Colman took the Best Actress award for her portrayal of the grumpy, ill Queen Anne. The part is widely expected to win her an Oscar later this month.

The Favourite depicts a power struggle between Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), Anne’s closest adviser and oldest friend, and chambermaid Abigail Hill (Emma Stone), who compete for Queen Anne’s attention.

Queen Anne reigned from 1702 to 1714. While Anne’s life was indeed marked by tragedy and illness, her reign was a time of great achievement for England.

The War of the Spanish Succession saw some of Britain’s greatest military victories over France, while the peace treaties that ended the war improved Britain’s reputation as the leading power in Europe.

In 1707, the Act of Union merged the kingdoms of England and Scotland, making Anne the first Queen of Great Britain.

But as for the passionate same-sex affairs depicted in The Favourite?

While the truth is lost to history, there was evidently a powerful bond between the Queen and her favourite, Sarah. Anne wrote to Sarah four times a day, and the Queen’s elder sister, Mary, disapproved of her “immoderate passion” for the Duchess.

The rest is history

The Favourite doesn’t strive for historical accuracy. It is zany and anachronistic. Should historical films always try to be true? Can we ever know the truth about history?

Most people know very little about Queen Anne, or only bad things. And yet so many of Britain’s defining features were shaped under her rule. How are historical reputations made? Does Anne deserve any less credit than Queen Victoria or Elizabeth I?

You Decide

  1. What makes a good monarch?

Activities

  1. Make a list of who you think are the best three monarchs in British history, with a few sentences justifying your decisions. Now, make a list of the three worst. Do your classmates have the same kings and queens in their lists?

Some People Say...

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

William Shakespeare

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
At the BAFTA awards ceremony on Sunday, The Favourite won seven awards including Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress for Rachel Weisz and Best British Film.
What do we not know?
Whether The Favourite will win any Oscars on Sunday, February 24. The Favourite and Roma have 10 nominations each.

Word Watch

Tragedy
Anne had 17 pregnancies, including many miscarriages and stillbirths. Several of her babies were born alive but died shortly after birth. One son, Richard, lived to the age of 11 but died of complications from a brain condition.
War of the Spanish Succession
In 1701, when Charles II of Spain died without an heir, war broke out in Europe over who should take over his lands. England joined an alliance to stop France from expanding across Europe.
Military
Related to the army and war.

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