40. Anne, A.D. 1702—1714
Queen Anne, the second daughter of James II., began to reign on the death of William III. She was a well-meaning woman, but very weak and silly; and any person who knew how to manage her could make her have no will of her own. The person who had always had such power over her has Sarah Jennings, a lady in her train, who had married an officer named John Churchill. As this gentleman had risen in the army, he proved to be one of the most able generals who ever lived. He was made a peer, and, step by step, came to be Duke of Marlborough. It was he and his wife who, being Whigs, had persuaded Anne to desert her father; and, now she was queen, she did just as they pleased. The duchess was mistress of the robes, and more queen at home than Anne was; and the duke commanded the army which was sent to fight against the French, to decide who should be king of Spain. An expedition was sent to Spain, which gained the rock of Gibraltar, and this has been kept by the English ever since.
Never were there greater victories than were gained by the English and German forces together, under the Duke of Marlborough and Prince Eugene of Savoy, who commanded the Emperor's armies. The first and greatest battle of them all was fought at Blenheim, in Bavaria, when the French were totally defeated, with great loss. Marlborough was rewarded by the queen and nation buying an estate for him, which was called Blenheim, where woods were planted so as to imitate the position of his army before the battle, and a grand house built and filled with pictures recording his adventures. The other battles were all in the Low Countries—at Ramillies, Oudenard, and Malplaquet. The city of Lisle was taken after a long siege, and not a summer went by without tidings coming of some great victory, and the queen going in a state coach to St. Paul's Cathedral to return thanks for it.
But all this glory of her husband made the Duchess of Marlborough more proud and overbearing. She thought the queen could not do without her, and so she left off taking any trouble to please her; nay, she would sometimes scold her more rudely than any real lady would do to any woman, however much below her in rank. Sometimes she brought the poor queen to tears; and on the day on which Anne went in state to St. Paul's, to return thanks for the victory of Oudenarde, she was seen to be crying all the way from St. James's Palace in her coach, with the six cream-colored horses, because the duchess had been scolding her for putting on her jewels in the way she liked best, instead of in the duchess's way.
Now, Duchess Sarah had brought to the palace, to help to wait on the queen, a poor cousin of her own, named Abigail Masham, a much more smooth and gentle person, but rather deceitful. When the mistress of the robes was unkind and insolent, the queen used to complain to Mrs. Masham; and by-and-by Abigail told her how to get free. There was a gentleman, well known to Mrs. Masham—Mr. Harley, a member of Parliament and a Tory, and she brought him in by the back stairs to see the queen, without the duchess knowing it. He undertook, if the queen would stand by him, to be her minister, and to turn out the Churchills and their Whig friends, send away the tyrant duchess, and make peace, so that the duke might not be wanted any more. In fact, the war had gone on quite long enough; the power of the King of France was broken, and he was an old man, whom it was cruel to press further; but this was not what Anne cared about so much as getting free of the duchess. There was great anger and indignation among all the Whigs at the breaking off the war in the midst of so much glory; and, besides, the nation did not keep its engagements to the others with whom it had allied itself. Marlborough himself was not treated as a man deserved who had won so much honor for his country, and he did not keep his health many years after his fall. Once, when he felt his mind getting weak, he looked up at his own picture at Blenheim, taken when he was one of the handsomest, most able, and active men in Europe, and said sadly, "Ah! that was a man."
Mr. Harley was made Earl of Oxford, and managed the queen's affairs for her. He and the Tories did not at all like the notion of the German family of Brunswick—Sophia and her son George—who were to reign next, and they allowed the queen to look towards her own family a little more. Her father had died in exile, but there remained the young brother whom she had disowned, and whom the French and the Jacobites called King James III. If he would have joined the English Church Anne would have gladly invited him, and many of the English would have owned him as the right king; but he was too honest to give up his faith, and the queen could do nothing for him.
Till her time the Scots—though since James I. they had been under the same king as England—had had a separate Parliament, Lords and Commons, who sat at Edinburgh; but in the reign of Queen Anne the Scottish Parliament was united to the English one, and the members of it had to come to Westminster. This made many Scotsmen so angry that they became Jacobites; but as every body knew that the queen was a gentle, well-meaning old lady, nobody wished to disturb her, and all was quiet as long as she lived, so that her reign was an unusually tranquil one at home, though there were such splendid victories abroad. It was a time, too, when there were almost as many able writers as in Queen Elizabeth's time. The two books written at that day, which you are most likely to have heard of, are Robinson Crusoe, written by Daniel Defoe, and Alexander Pope's translation of Homer's Iliad.
Anne's Tory friends did not make her happy; they used to quarrel among themselves and frightened her; and after one of their disputes she had an attack of apoplexy, and soon died of it, in the year 1714.
It was during Anne's reign that it became the fashion to drink tea and coffee. One was brought from China, and the other from Arabia, not very long before, and they were very dear indeed. The ladies used to drink tea out of little cups of egg-shell china, and the clever gentlemen, who were called the wits, used to meet and talk at coffeehouses, and read newspapers, and discuss plays and poems; also, the first magazine was then begun. It was called "The Spectator," and was managed by Mr. Addison. It came out once a week, and laughed at or blamed many of the foolish and mischievous habits of the time. Indeed it did much to draw people out of the bad ways that had come in with Charles II.