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Authors: 1796-1874 Agnes Strickland,1794-1875 Elizabeth Strickland,Rosalie Kaufman

Tags: #Queens -- Great Britain

Agnes Strickland's Queens of England (49 page)

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[A.D. 1712.] Nothing had given the queen so much trouble smce the death of the prince-consort as that of her beautiful sister, the Princess Louisa, which occurred suddenly at St. Germain. An account of this sad event is given in the story of Mary Beatrice of Modena.

Anne was ill herself in the autumn from intermittent fever, from which she never entirely recovered.

Dean Swift was anxious to become a bishop at this period, and applied for the see of Hereford, which Queen Anne was disposed to grant, because she had never heard of him as anything but a partisan of the church. But he and Lady Masham had been friends for a long time, and she had frequently warned him to destroy the witty, satirical, ofifensive articles he had shown her about her majesty, the Duchess of Somerset, and others. The queen knew nothing about these writings, but the Duchess of Somerset did, so she secured the aid of Dr. Sharpe, Arch-

bishop of York, to prevent the appointment. When her majesty consulted the archbishop on the subject, he startled her with this question: " Ought not your saa»d majesty to be first certain whether Dr. Swift is a Christian before he becomes a bishop?" The queen asked him what he could possibly mean, whereupon, having armed himself with " The Tale of a Tub," and other works of Swift, he handed them to her. She was amazed at what she read, and ashamed of the slanderous puns addressed to herself, for she had not suspected their existence. It is needless to add that Swift was not raised to the bishopric of England, but the following year he was appointed Dean of St. Patrick's in Ireland.

[A.D. 1713.] The treaty of peace that Queen Anne had so long and so earnestly desired was at last signed at Utrecht, and the French ambassador, Due d'Aumont, soon after arrived in London to confer with her majesty on this subject. He addressed the most flattering speeches to her, and presented her with the nine beautiful gray Flemish horses with which he had made his public entrance into the metropolis.

Parliament met soon after; and the queen's speech, announcing peace, after eleven years of warfare, was anxiously awaited. But she was too ill with gout, which had affected different parts of her body, to be able to appear in the house of lords until the ninth of April, and then her voice was painfully weak from her long suffering. Her majesty offered Louis IV. the Order of the Garter in honor of the signing of the peace; but the most interesting event to us of the present day connected with it is that the great composer, Handel, wrote his magnificent Jubilate to celebrate it.

As time went on the queen's health grew no better, and she was such an enormous eater that frequent attacks of

gout were the result, — particularly as she had grown so corpulent from her other disease, dropsy, that she could take no exercise, and had to be lowered and raised from one floor to another in the palace by means of a chair worked with pulleys and ropes. She was in constant dread lest her brother should land in England, or George of Hanover present himself at court to claim his place as her successor. She, therefore, wrote two letters, one to Princess Sophia, Dowager Electress of Brunswick, the other to George Augustus, Duke of Cambridge, setting forth the danger of such a proceeding, and appealing to their honor. As we know, her fears were groundless in that direction ; for the house of Hanover made no attempt to approach the shores of England, though there has been some dispute among historians as to their real intentions in this matter.

[A.D. 1714.] Queen Anne paid the ballad writer, Tom D'Urfey, a fee of fifty pounds for a verse he repeated one day while she was at dessert, that happened to tickle her fancy. As it refers to the Hanover succession, it is worth repeating: —

" The crown 's far too weighty

For shoulders of eighty; She could not sustain such a trophy.

Her hand, too, already

Has grown so unsteady

She can't hold a sceptre;

So Providence kept her Away — poor old Dowager Sophy !"

Certainly D'Urfey did not earn his fifty pounds for the literary merit of the verse, but perhaps it was because it possessed so little that it pleased the queen. The Electress Sophia of Hanover, about whom it was written, died before the end of the year, at the age of eighty-four.

Queen Arine witnessed several stormy scenes among

her ministers towards the end of July that caused her intense suffering. After each one she would sink into a swoon from exhaustion, and frequently said to her physician, Dr. Arbuthnot, "I shall never survive it." The councillors showed little consideration for her presence, and continued their quarrels, regardless of her ill health, though they must have seen the cruel effect. On the evening of July 29, there was to be another council meeting, which the sick queen dreaded more than all the others. When the hour drew near, Mrs. Danvers, one of the oldest ladies of the royal household, entered the presence chamber of Kensington Palace, and to her great surprise, beheld the queen standing before the clock with her eyes intently fixed on the dial plate. As her majesty had not for several months been able to move without assistance, Mrs. Danvers's surprise is early understood. She crossed the large room, the deep silence of which was only broken by the ticking of the clock, and approaching the queen, asked, " whether her majesty saw anything unusual there in the clock ? " Without answering, Queen Anne turned slowly and looked at the speaker, who was so terrified at the ghastly, troubled expression on her face that she screamed for help. The queen was carried to bed by the people who had hastened to the summons, and raved in delirium for many hours about " the Pretender."

Doctor Arbuthnot passed the night at her bedside, with several other court physicians, and the invalid rallied; but the news of her condition spread like wild-fire all over London ; and in the morning Dr Mead, a Whig politician, was summoned. As soon as he had seen the royal invalid, he demanded that " those who were in favor of the Protestant succession should at once send a bulletin of her majesty's symptoms to the Elector of Hanover's physicians, who would soon say how long Queen Anne had to live:

but he staked his professional reputation that her majesty would be no more long before such intelligence should be received." It has always been supposed that the peaceable proclamation of George I. was due to this physician's boldness.

But Queen Anne did not die quite as soon as Dr. Mead had predicted, which was within an hour, for she recovered consciousness and speech enough, after being bled a second time, to appoint the Duke of Shrewsbury prime minister.

He approached her bed, and asked her, " if she knew to whom she gave the white wand ?" — the insignia of office.

" Yes," replied the queen, " to the Duke of Shrewsbury; for God's sake, use it for the good of my people." Shortly after her mind began to wander again, and she frequently exclaimed in a piteous tone : " Oh, my brother! — oh, my poor brother!"

The privy council assembled at her bedside; but she never recovered consciousness sufficient to pray or to speak rationally, and they soon withdrew.

To prevent a disturbance in the city, the lord-mayor was ordered to be particularly watchful; trained troops were held in readiness to act at a moment's warning, and an extra guard was placed at the Tower. The Jacobite party held a meeting, but decided, after a great deal of consideration, that they could do nothing towards proclaiming the Chevalier de St. George.

Between seven and eight o'clock, on the morning of August I, 1714, Queen Anne expired, in the fiftieth year of her age, and the thirteenth of her reign. She died as her predecessor, William III., had done, on Sunday, and George I. was proclaimed king the same day. It must have been a bitter trial to the Jacobites to behold the Duke of Marl-

2^=1- m.


borough, who, after a voluntary exile, returned to London the Wednesday succeeding Queen Anne's death, and made a grand triumphal entr\-, attended by hundreds of gentlemen on horseback, some of the. nobility in coaches, and the city militia; but they had the satisfaction of seeing his own splendid carriage break down by Temple-Bar.

Queen Anne had done much good for her people, and no evil; and there never was a sovereign more deeply regretted. The Duchess of Marlborough wrote a most unjust, abusive description of her benefactress; but it is to be hoped our young readers will be able to form an estimate of her character for themselves.

Her remains were deposited in the vault on the south side of Henry VHI.'s Chapel, in Westminster, where lie Charles II., William III., and Prince George of Denmark. There was only one place left in this vault, and as soon as it received the last of the Stuart sovereigns it was bricked up. No monument nor tablet marks the resting-place of "good Queen Anne," though it seems as though the fondness of " the Bounty" deserved at least this trifling distinction from the Church of England,

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