Monday, 3 November 2008

Queen Anne - Part Three

Queen Anne Part Three

Princess Anne’s relationship with Sarah Jennings, the future Duchess of Marlborough would last into her middle age.

Sarah, a year younger than Anne’s fifteen year old stepmother, was the daughter of a landed gentleman and the young sister of Frances Jennings, a maid of honour, appointed to serve Anne’s mother.

At the age of twelve, Sarah, who would play such a crucial role in the Cinderella princess’s life, was appointed as one of her attendants. Years later Sara wrote: We had used to play together when she was a child and she even ten expressed a particular fondness for me. This inclination increased with our years. I was often at Court and the Princess always distinguished me by the pleasure she took to honour me, preferably to others, with her conversation and confidence. In all her parties for amusement, I was sure by her choice to be one.

Kneller’s portrait of the teenage Sarah reveals a pretty girl with an oval face, broad forehead, fair hairs and confident blue eyes. Yet no portrait could reveal her vivacity and charm.

It is not surprising that the motherless, Cinderella princess living in the shadow of her older, cleverer sister, Mary, and the daughters of her governess, Lady Frances Villiers, became deeply attached to Sarah.

Anne was pretty with plump features, re-brown hair and her mother’s elegant hands of which she was very proud. However, she was shy, easily ignored and all too aware of her short-comings – her poor education did nothing to boost her confidence. As Sarah said years later: Your Majesty has had the misfortune to be misinformed in general things even from twelve years old.

Undoubtedly, there was no reason to provide Anne and her sister with a better education because it was not unlikely that the Queen would provide an heir to the throne. In her day few women could read and write – perhaps as few as one in a hundred. For Anne it is likely that little more than dancing, drawing, French and music were required to prepare her for life at court. Her general education was neglected but not her religious education which was rigorous and founded her life long belief in the teachings of the Anglican faith.

Anne and Mary lived apart from the court at White hall and their indulgent Roman Catholic father and step-father. Expected to be virtuous, the sisters could not have been totally unaware of the licentiousness of their uncle’s court and that both their uncle, the king, and her father had acknowledged illegitimate children. Indeed, their governess, Lady Frances Villiers, wife of Colonel Villiers, the nephew of the ill-fated Duke of Buckingham, a favourite of James I and his son, Charles I, was the daughter of the king’s notorious mistress, Barbara Castlemaine.

Lax though King Charles II’s moral were he took some interest in Anne who would be one of the best guitar players at court. She also had a pleasing voice and he ordered the actress, Mrs Barry, to give Anne and Mary elocution lessons. These stood Anne in good stead when, as Queen, she addressed Parliament and no doubt when she and Mary took part in some of the masques and plays popular at Court.

However, ‘Cinderella’ and Mary grew up in the company of clerics and women, secluded from Whitehall with little to entertain them. One can imagine the boring conversations, stifling closets (small rooms) and endless card games. Sarah declared: I wished myself out of Court as much as I had desired to come into it before I knew what it was.

In spite of the boredom and whatever storms lay ahead, Anne dearly loved her sister. So much so that when Mary married her Dutch cousin, William of Orange, in 1677 and Anne lay sick of smallpox, her father, who visited her every day, ordered that she should not be told her sister had departed for the Continent. The charade went as far as messages purported to be from Mary asking about her health being delivered to Anne.

While Anne’s tutor fretted in case her fanatical Roman Catholic nurse influenced her while Anne was ill, as soon as she recovered, Anne had to cope with the death of her governess. Fortunately, she still had Sarah’s companionship and enjoyed the vast grounds of Richmond Palace, leased by the king for his nieces. However, this tranquillity would soon be disturbed by the so called ‘Popish Plot’. And it is not unreasonable to suppose that her mind would be occupied with thoughts of who she would marry.
Tangled Hearts set in Queen Anne's England received five star reviews and is available now.

Queen Anne - Part Two

Queen Anne – Part 2

Princess Anne’s mother died and her father, James, Duke of York, had taken the unpopular step of becoming a Roman Catholic. Her uncle, the childless King Charles II, knew politics demanded his heirs, Anne and her elder sister, Mary, be raised in the Protestant faith. He appointed Lady Frances Villiers, a committed Anglican, as their governess and leased Richmond palace to Frances and her husband.

The princesses benefited from country air and were privileged to live by the Thames in those days when, due to bad roads, the river was of great importance.

Anne’s indulgent father visited his daughters regularly, showered them with gifts and often stayed for several nights at Richmond Palace. Yet all was not well with the family. In 1673, due to the Test Act, which excluded anyone who did not take communion in the Anglican Church from public office, James was forced to resign as Lord High Admiral and to give up all his other official positions. In that age of fervent religious allegiances, I wonder what effect religious controversy and on Anne, a stubborn child.

What did Anne think when her father married fifteen year old Mary? History relates that James was captivated by his bride. Looking at a copy of her portrait, I’m not surprised. She was tall with a good figure, jet black hair, a fair skin and large eyes that her contemporaries at court described as ‘full of sweetness and light’. The proud bridegroom introduced his new wife to his daughters as a ‘playmate’ but Anne formed a bond, not with her stepmother, whose children would be raised in the Roman Catholic faith, but with vivacious Sarah Churchill, who would have such a profound influence on Anne’s life.

Motherless Anne, a Protestant ‘Cinderella’ of her times, has all the ingredients of a fictional heroine, but what would she make of her life? After all, she belonged to the tragic Stuart family.

It is in ‘Cinderella’s life and times that I have set my novel Tangled Hearts and am setting my new novel, Tangled Lives.

Rosemary Morris

Tangled Hearts available from, Amazon and in bookshops.

Queen Anne - Part One

My novel, Tangled Hearts, is set in the reign of Queen Anne a ‘Cinderella’ princess of little importance during her childhood.

At her birth, neither her uncle, Charles II, nor her father, James, Duke of York, imagined she would become the last of the Stuart monarchs. After all, Charles’ seven bastards proved his virility and there was every reason to believe he and his queen of three years would have legitimate heirs to the throne. And in the unlikely event of their not producing one, his brother and sister-in-law, James and Anne, had produced an elder brother and sister for the latest addition to their nursery, Baby Anne.

In those days infant mortality was high. The son ‘Cinderella’s’ mother carried when she married only lived for six months. But Anne and her older sister, Mary, survived the Great Plague which broke out in the year of her birth. The little princesses grew up in their nursery but their brother James, another brother and two little sisters died. One can imagine the effects of these deaths on ‘Cinderella’, a small girl with poor health whose weak eyes watered constantly.

Doubtless, it was with the best of intentions that with the consent of ‘Cinderella’s’ uncle, the king, her parents sent the four year old to her grandmother, widow of the executed Charles I, who now lived in France.

As I write, I have before me a portrait of Anne as a small girl painted by an unknown artist at the French Court. She is plump and adorable, dressed in brocade and playing with a King Charles spaniel. Her eyes are wary set in an oval face with a mouth shaped in a perfect cupid’s bow.

In 1699, after Anne’s grandmother died, the little girl passed into the care of her father’s sister, Henrietta Maria, Duchess of Orleans, whom Anne’s uncle, the King of England doted on. In 1670 five year old Anne had to cope with yet another death, this time that of her aunt, whose husband, younger brother of the French king, was suspected of poisoning her.

Anne returned to England, her eyes only slightly improved, to be reunited with her parents. By then her mother was unpopular because she had converted to the Church of Rome and her father, who in 1699, gave serious consideration to his salvation took Holy Communion from a papist priest. Her parents’ decisions would have a long term effect on the young princess Anne’s future.

Tangled Hearts set in Queen Anne’s England received five star reviews and is available now.

Labels: , , ,