19 January 2015

Today's Princesses: The Daughters of Queen Anne

Queen Anne as a child.
By Peter Lely via Wikipedia Commons
Because King Charles II had no legitimate children, his brother the Duke of York's daughters Mary and Anne were of keen dynastic importance to the royal House of Stuart. Older sister Mary was still childless at age 20 when 17-year-old Anne married Prince George of Denmark. Pregnant within a few months, Anne delivered a stillborn daughter in May 1684. Within the year, she was expecting again, and her first daughter Mary was born in June 1685 followed ten months later by Anne Sophia. The princess quickly conceived again. Now 20 years old, she was set to be the mother of Britain's Protestant future (See my post When Protestant Princesses Have Catholic Daddies.) Her two daughters and her soon-to-be-born child would secure the throne for another generation.

The year 1687 dawned with great hope. Within six weeks, all of those hopes were dashed. First Anne's infant was stillborn. Then, her husband and both of her daughters were struck down by smallpox. Still recovering from the pain and heartache of her childbed, Anne nursed them all herself. On February 2, nine-month-old Anne Sophia died. Six days later, little Mary slipped away too. She was not yet two years old. In the midst of this, Anne turned 21. At that tender age, she was already the mother of four dead children. Fortunately, George survived and despite their grief, they were able to conceive another child almost immediately, but that son was stillborn that fall. Five children dead by the end of the year. In 1688, the Year of the Glorious Revolution, which secured the throne for Protestants forever, also brought a miscarriage and another stillbirth.

In the next four years, Anne was finally delivered again of living children: William Henry, another Mary, and George. Neither Mary nor George lived beyond the day of their birth. Nine more stillborn babies followed. Six months after the last stillbirth, William Henry, just 11 years old, also died. It was two days after Anne and George's 17th wedding anniversary. They were the parents of 19 dead children.

Two years later, Anne became Queen. Upon her death, the throne shifted to the children of her next closest Protestant cousin, Electress Sophia of Hanover.

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