A queen like no other, Anne ruled from 1702-1714, and although her rule was short lived, she caused quite the controversy in the kingdom. Whether it be speculation, or you’re trying to understand if The Favourite was based on true events, Anne’s sexuality is still much discussed for its scandal value. And why not? It’s not every day that a queen is thought to be anything other than straight, even if the history books have argued otherwise.
Anne was married to Prince George of Denmark, and as always happened, they aimed to have children. But where Anne differs from most monarchs, is that she had 17 pregnancies, all but five ending in miscarriages and none of her children living to adulthood. They died mainly due to disease that plagued Anne’s life too. This surely took its toll on Anne, who is said to have suffered from a depressive state for much of her rule.
It’s important to note, Anne’s rule came during the Glorious Revolution, the period where the country emerged from the rule of Oliver Cromwell, a boring Puritan who banned Christmas, fun and everything that sparks joy (not very Marie Kondo of him.) And after he’d been banished from the rule, it brought Charles the 2nd (Anne’s uncle), who reinstated all the happy affairs and loved a good party. The world was changing, it was becoming more progressive and the intense religious views that had plagued the land for centuries were going stale. Anne’s husband George died in 1708, leaving Anne a widow for most of her time on the throne.
And where Anne’s rule may be overshadowed by the likes of Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria, two powerful women, it doesn’t mean that she should be overwritten by the books. Queen Anne is speculated to have been bisexual, after a flurry of letters were shared between her and Sarah Churchill. During these letters, Anne wrote of Sarah seeing the insides of her heart and the two shared nicknames for each other that would make them equals in private chambers. It was said the two were inseparable, and that their letters showed nothing but utter devotion.
She also talks about missing Sarah when she wasn’t there or was away, writing how she wishes she could live in a cottage with her rather than reigning empress of the world without her. She also discussed the tender passion she had in correspondences. Sarah would later persuade Anne to burn her correspondence, so its unsure what Sarah’s letters entailed, and whether they would’ve shared an equal level of compassion, but its widely regarded that from Anne’s replies, that they were.
But the two women tragically felt out, when Abigail Masham became Anne’s new right-hand woman, and the letters shared between them, were used as threats by Sarah. Their ‘romance’ was over, but there were rumours spread, speculated from Sarah that Anne’s and Abigail’s relationship was both unnatural and involved dark deeds in the night.
It’s said their falling out was over politics, as Anne was a Tory and Sarah was a Whig. In The Favourite, both women seduce Anne in hopes of getting political gains. And in reality, where this is obviously dramatized for the telly, Sarah did want Anne to appoint more Whig representatives, and when Anne refused, it led to a heated falling out where Sarah threatened to expose Anne’s letters.
There was heavy gossip in the streets of London over Anne’s sexuality, and where the news was spread throughout the land, Anne grew ill and later died from complications of the conditions that had plagued her life.
Sarah Churchill went on to produce a thorough memoir of her experiences between the three, and an impressive lineage including Winston Churchill and Lady Diana Spencer. She became the richest woman in England, accumulating a wealth of 4 million pounds, equalling a modern-day equivalent to 1 billion pounds.
As with all queerness in the past, most historians continue to argue that Anne was simply just good friends with these women, and her letters were simply the writings at a time of revolution. But the influences the woman had in Anne’s life were hard to ignore. Her writings, nicknames, love, and compassion for these women brings a refreshing thought in LGBTQ+ history, even if some still choose to believe that her correspondences were strictly platonic.