The Succession Crisis of Queen Anne


Anne was born in the reign of her uncle Charles II, who had no legitimate children – though it wasn’t for want of trying. Her father, the brother of Charles II and later to become James II, was first in line to the throne. His suspected Roman Catholicism was unpopular in England, and on Charles II’s instructions Anne was raised as an Anglican. Her father openly converted to Catholicism in 1675 and the scene was set for a massive political problem when he became king.

Anne (centre) and her sister Mary (left) with their parents, the Duke and Duchess of York, painted by Sir Peter Lely and Benedetto Gennari II

Anne (centre) and her sister Mary (left) with their parents, the Duke and Duchess of York, painted by Sir Peter Lely and Benedetto Gennari II. Their father went on to become James II and was extremely unpopular, given that he favoured a return to ‘absolute monarchy’ and was the first openly Catholic king of England in the post-Reformation period. Both of his daughters were raised in the Anglican faith.

  • Three years after he succeeded Charles, James was deposed in the “Glorious Revolution” of 1688.
  • Anne’s Dutch Protestant brother-in-law and cousin William III became joint monarch with his wife, Mary II
    • Mary II was Anne’s elder sister
      • William III and Mary II had no children
      • When Mary died of smallpox in 1694, William continued to reign alone.
        • Anne became his heir apparent, since any children he might have by another wife were assigned to a lower place in the line of succession, and the two reconciled publicly
          • He restored her previous honours
          • He allowed her to reside in St James’s Palace, and gave her Mary’s jewels
          • He excluded her from government and refrained from appointing her regent during his absences abroad
            • William III was succeeded by Anne upon his death in 1702.

When Queen Anne of Great Britain died in 1714, she was the last monarch of the House of Stuart which had succeeded the House of Tudor with the death of Elizabeth I in 1603.

Anne with her son Prince William, Duke of Gloucester, in a painting from the school of Sir Godfrey Kneller, circa 1694

Anne with her son Prince William, Duke of Gloucester, in a painting from the school of Sir Godfrey Kneller, c. 1694

  • Anne was plagued by ill health throughout her life.
    • From her thirties onwards, she grew increasingly lame and obese.
    • Despite seventeen pregnancies by her husband, Prince George of Denmark, she died without any surviving children and was the last monarch of the House of Stuart.
      • In early 1687, within a matter of days, Anne miscarried, her husband caught smallpox, and their two young daughters died of the same infection
      • All of Anne’s children died before age 12
      • This resulted in a succession crisis
      • The solution to this crisis was an Act of Parliament to ‘designate’ a Protestant successor
Child Birth Death Notes
Stillborn daughter 12 May 1684 in London
Mary 2 June 1685, Palace of Whitehall 8 February 1687, Windsor Castle Christened 2 June 1685 by the Bishop of London; styled “the Lady Mary”. Died of smallpox. Mary, Anne Sophia (Mary’s younger sister), and their father all becoming ill at Windsor Castle in early 1687
Anne Sophia 12 May 1686 at Windsor Castle 2 February 1687 at Windsor Castle or Whitehall Christened by the Bishop of Durham, with Lady Churchill one of the godmothers; styled “the Lady Anne Sophia”.
Miscarriage 21 January 1687
Stillborn son 22 October 1687, Whitehall Anne gave birth at seven months, but the baby “lay dead a full month within her”
Miscarriage 16 April 1688
Prince William, Duke of Gloucester 24 July 1689, Hampton Court Palace 30 July 1700, Windsor Castle
Mary 14 October 1690, St James’s Palace She was two months premature, and lived about two hours
George 17 April 1692, Syon House He lived a few minutes, just long enough to be baptised; styled “Lord George”
Stillborn daughter 23 March 1693, Berkeley House
Miscarriage 21 January 1694 Modern historians Edward Gregg and Alison Weir do not agree on whether it was a son or possibly a daughter. Contemporary chronicler Narcissus Luttrell wrote only that Anne “miscarried of a dead child”
Miscarried daughter 17 or 18 February 1696
Miscarriage 20 September 1696 Luttrell said Anne “miscarried of a son”. Dr Nathaniel Johnson told Theophilus Hastings, 7th Earl of Huntingdon, in a letter dated 24 October 1696, “Her Royal Highness miscarried of two children, the one of seven months’ growth, the other of two or three months, as her physicians and midwife judged: one was born the day after the other.” If so, the smaller foetus was probably a blighted twin or fetus papyraceus.
Miscarriage 25 March 1697
Miscarriage early December 1697 According to Saunière de L’Hermitage, the Dutch resident in London, Anne miscarried twins who were “too early to determine their sex”. Other sources say the pregnancy ended in a stillborn son, or “two male children, at least as far as could be recognised”
Stillborn son 15 September 1698, Windsor Castle James Vernon wrote to Charles Talbot, 1st Duke of Shrewsbury, that Anne’s physician thought the foetus “might have been dead 8 or 10 days”
Stillborn son 24 January 1700, St James’s Contemporary sources say Anne gave birth at seven and a half months, after the foetus had been dead for a month

Prince William, Duke of Gloucester

Prince William, Duke of Gloucester (24 July 1689 – 30 July 1700), was the son of Princess Anne, later Queen of England, Ireland and Scotland from 1702, and her husband, Prince George, Duke of Cumberland.

  • He was their only child to survive infancy.
  • Styled Duke of Gloucester, he was viewed by contemporaries as a Protestant champion because his birth seemed to cement the Protestant succession established in the “Glorious Revolution” that had deposed his Catholic grandfather James II the previous year.

Gloucester’s mother was estranged from her brother-in-law and cousin, William III, and her sister, Mary II, but supported links between them and her son. He grew close to his uncle William, who created him a Knight of the Garter, and his aunt Mary, who frequently sent him presents.

  • Gloucester’s precarious health was a constant source of worry to his mother.
  • His death, in 1700 at the age of eleven, precipitated a succession crisis as his mother was the only individual remaining in the Protestant line of succession established by the Bill of Rights 1689.
    • The ‘Tory-led’ English Parliament did not want the throne to revert to a Catholic
    • The Irish Parliament was filled with recently converted Anglicans and Whigs (liberals) and this was a concern
      • The Tories had recently lost control of the Irish Parliament and could not rely on its support
      • The Church of Ireland was in turmoil – fearing a Presbyterian take-over in Ulster
        • They also feared the climate of ‘free-thinking’ and the rise of non-conformist Protestant sects in Ireland
        • They were also very concerned that the vast majority of Irish Catholics, although militarily and politically defeated, remained loyal to the ‘old religion’ and dreamt of a Jacobite invasion, consequently leading to a return to power of the Catholic peers and bishops.

The Act of Settlement, 1701

The Act of Settlement, drawn up in 1701, settled the succession on Sophia of the Palatinate, Electress of Hanover, and the heirs of her body, barring any Roman Catholics or spouses of Roman Catholics from the succession.

  • This was a deliberate attempt to disinherit Anne’s nearest blood relation, the exiled Roman Catholic James Stuart (who would later be known as the ‘Old Pretender’), her half-brother, from inheriting the throne.
  • The Act of Settlement changed the course of British history and led to the Jacobite Revolt.
    • At the time of Anne’s death in August 1714, 68 descendants of the Stuart dynasty were alive
    • The first 55, being Roman Catholic, were excluded by the Act of Settlement
    • The succession thus fell to George Ludwig, Elector of Hanover, the eldest son of Electress Sophia (who had died a few months before), to the British throne
    • In total, the Act of Settlement listed the 68 potential claimants and barred 55 of them

Line of succession

To show how each person’s claim was derived, their ancestors back to King James I (and VI of Scotland) – the first to occupy both thrones – are listed, without numbers. Eligible Protestants according to the Act of Settlement are noted in italics.

James I and VI, King of England and Scotland (d. 1625)

Charles I, King of England and Scotland (beheaded in 1649)

James II and VII, King of England & Scotland (d. 1701)

Anne’s half-brother and first in line to the throne, James Francis Edward Stuart (later known as the Old Pretender and leader of the Jacobite Rebellion)

1: James Francis Edward Stuart (1688–1766): Claimant from 1701 in opposition to heir designate George I Louis, Elector of Hanover.
Henrietta of England (d. 1670)
2: Anne Marie, Queen of Sardinia (1669–1728)

3: Victor Amadeus, Prince of Piedmont (1699–1715)
4: Prince Charles Emmanuel of Savoy, future King Charles Emmanuel III of Sardinia (1701–1773)

Marie Adélaïde of Savoy (d. 1712)

5: Louis, Duke of Anjou, future King Louis XV of France (1710–1774)
Maria Luisa of Savoy (d. 1714)

6: Louis, Prince of Asturias, future King Louis of Spain (1707–1724)
7: Infante Philip of Spain (1712–1719)
8: Infante Ferdinand of Spain, future King Ferdinand VI of Spain (1713–1759)
Elizabeth of Bohemia (d. 1662)

Charles I Louis, Elector Palatine (d. 1680)
9: Elisabeth Charlotte, Dowager Duchess of Orléans (1652–1722)

10: Philippe d’Orléans, Duke of Orléans (1674–1723)

11: Louis d’Orléans, Duke of Chartres, future Duke of Orléans (1703–1752)
12: Marie Louise Élisabeth d’Orléans (1695–1719)
13: Louise Adélaïde d’Orléans (1698–1743)
14: Charlotte Aglaé d’Orléans (1700–1761)
15: Louise Élisabeth d’Orléans (1709–1742)
16: Élisabeth Charlotte, Duchess of Lorraine (1676–1744)

17: Prince Leopold Clement of Lorraine (1707–1723)
18: Prince Francis Stephen of Lorraine, future Holy Roman Emperor (1708–1765)
19: Prince Charles Alexander of Lorraine (1712–1780)
20: Princess Elisabeth Therese of Lorraine (1711–1741)
21: Princess Anne Charlotte of Lorraine (1714–1773)
Edward, Count Palatine of Simmern (d. 1663)

Louise Marie von Simmern (d. 1679)

22: Louis Otto, Prince of Salm (1674–1738)

23: Princess Dorothea of Salm (1702–1751)
24: Princess Elisabeth of Salm (1704–1739)
25: Princess Christine of Salm (1707–1775)
26: Eleonore Christine, Duchess of Ursel (1678–1757)
27: Anne Henriette, Dowager Princess of Condé (1648–1723)

Louis, Prince of Condé (d. 1710)

28: Louis Henri, Prince of Condé (1692–1740)
29: Charles, Count of Charolais (1700–1760)
30: Louis, Count of Clermont (1709–1771)
31: Marie Anne Éléonore, Mademoiselle de Bourbon (1690–1760)
32: Louise Elisabeth, Princess of Conti (1693–1775)
33: Louise Anne de Bourbon, mlle de Sens (1695–1758)
34: Marie Anne de Bourbon, mlle de Clermont (1697–1741)
35: Henriette Louise de Bourbon, mlle de Vermandois (1703–1772)
36: Élisabeth Alexandrine de Bourbon, mlle de Gex (1705–1765)
37: Marie Thérèse, Second Dowager Princess of Conti (1666–1732)

38: Louis Armand, Prince of Conti (1695–1727)
39: Marie Anne, Princess of Condé (1689–1720)
40: Louise Adelaide de Bourbon, mlle de la Roche-sur-Yon (1696–1750)
41: Louise Bénédicte, Duchess of Maine (1676–1753)

42: Louis Auguste, Prince of Dombes (1700–1755)
43: Louis Charles, Count of Eu (1701–1775)
44: Louise Françoise de Bourbon, mlle du Maine (1707–1743)
45: Marie Anne, Dowager Duchess of Vendôme (1678–1718)
46: Benedicta Henrietta, Dowager Duchess of Brunswick-Lüneburg (1652–1730)

Charlotte Felicity, Duchess of Modena (d. 1710)

47: Francesco d’Este, future Duke Francis III of Modena (1698–1780)
48: Giovanni Federigo d’Este (1700–1727)
49: Benedicta Ernestina d’Este (1697–1777)
50: Anna Amalia Josepha d’Este (1699–1778)
51: Enrichetta d’Este (1702–1777)
52: Henriette Maria, Duchess of Brunswick-Lüneburg (1672–1687)
         died at Paris on September 4, 1687
53: Wilhelmina Amalia, Holy Roman Empress (1673–1742)

54: Archduchess Maria Josefa of Austria (1699–1757)
55: Archduchess Maria Amalia of Austria (1701–1756)

The Jacobite cause had plenty of supporters:

No less than 55 Roman Catholic’s had a more senior lineage than the first potential Protestant successor at the death of Queen Anne. This had huge political implications for the future of the British monarchy.  

Sophia, Electress of Hanover (d. 1714) designated heir according to the Act of Settlement (1701)

George Ludwig, the first Protestant in succession to the British throne at the death of Queen Anne

56: George I Louis, Elector of Hanover (1660–1727)

57: George Augustus of Hanover, duke of Cambridge, future king George II (1683–1760)

58: Frederick Louis of Hanover, future prince of Wales (1707–1751)
59: Anne of Hanover (1709–1759)
60: Amelia of Hanover (1711–1786)
61: Caroline of Hanover (1713–1757)
62: Sophia Dorothea of Hanover (1687–1757)

63: Frederick of Prussia, future king of Prussia (1712–1786)
64: Wilhelmine of Prussia (1709–1758)
65: Maximilian William of Hanover (1666–1726)
66: Ernest Augustus of Hanover, future duke of York & Albany, future prince-bishop of Osnabrück (1674–1728)
Sophia Charlotte of Hanover (d. 1705)

68: Frederick William I, king in Prussia (1688–1740)

One thought on “The Succession Crisis of Queen Anne

  1. Very nice to see this interesting list here – such a good illustration of just how artificial teh Hanoverian succession must have felt both to Britons and otehr Europeans at a time when such genealogies were the stuff of everyday politics, and therefore much better known than we would assume nowadays. Allow me to suggest just a tiny correction – Henrietta Maria of Brunswick (or Hannover, as this is how her father had effectively been called duke of in his lifetime, and outside formal documents), whom you list as Nr. 52, was no longer alive in 1714, as she had already died at Paris on September 4, 1687 (cf. Detlev Schwennicke, Europäische Stammtafeln, Neue Folge, I.1, 25, or for example also the mention of this in her cousins letter of Sept.5, 1687 [Madame Palatine, Lettres françaises, ed. Dirk Van der Cruysse, Paris 1989, p.73f.]). The number of people whose birthright to teh British throne was better than George I’s in 1714 is therefore reduced to 54, unless of course one assumes that Princess Louise of Salm (born 1672, she was the elder sister of nr.26 and became a nun at Nancy; her date of death is uncertain, and I have seen her described as having died in 1707 or 1737, both without sources) was still alive at that time. Best wishes, Leonhard Horowski.


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