Lots of landmarks and businesses in Virginia Beach are named for Princess Anne, so I thought it was fitting to include a brief bio of our patron Princess.1
Anne wasn’t born a princess. She was never supposed to be Queen of England. She liked drinking. She liked music. She was fat. And she was the first Queen of a united Great Britain.
A Funny Looking Kid
Anne was born in 1665. Her parents were James, the arrogant, irritating younger brother of King Charles II, and Anne Hyde, the daughter of an earl.
Anne was a fugly kid. She was born with some kind of eye disorder that meant she always looked like she was crying.2 Her family sent her to see an eye doctor in France when she was 4, but nothing worked. Her eyes continued to water for the rest of her life. She had a bright red face that got redder when she was excited or embarrassed. Her parents weren’t around much, consigning her and her sister to be raised by governesses. When she was 6, her mother died. When she was 12, she caught smallpox, and carried its scars for the rest of her days.
It wasn’t the best start in life.
Nonetheless, while Anne was still young, her uncle the King came to the realization that he wouldn’t have any legitimate children of his own.3 That meant the succession would fall to her father James, and possibly Anne herself. Charles had sworn himself to the Anglican Church; James had very publicly converted to Catholicism with a wink and a pinky swear to not let his conversion affect his reign when he was King.
Hint: it did.
The English court in 1683 was a teeter-totter, swinging up and then swinging down in favor of Protestant this and Catholic that. As palace intrigues swirled around her, Anne’s uncle arranged a Protestant marriage for her with a Danish Prince. George was 12 years older and dull as paint. But he was kind to Anne, notoriously easy-going, and supported her publicly in everything she did. They were very happily married, except for one thing: children.
Poor Anne is famous among British queens for being pregnant 18 times. Her gynecological history is heartbreaking: out of 18 pregnancies, there were 8 miscarriages, 5 stillbirths, 2 dead within a week of birth, 2 dead of smallpox before age 2, and a single boy who died at age 11 in 1700. Her son George’s death would have momentous consequences for the English crown.
Cut It Out, James
As Anne came of age and set up her own household with her new husband, the ever murky world of English politics was getting worse. Most of this was because of her father James.
James was… special. He was a loving but distant father. He spent most of Anne’s early years wandering the Court of St James with his mistresses. His favorite hobbies were whoring and annoying his brother with Catholic plots.
Have you ever been told not to do something? After being forbidden, were you ever seized with the desire to do exactly the thing you were told not to?
Yeah. James felt the same way.
Charles told James not to enact pro-Catholic policies in England.
Parliament told James not to enact pro-Catholic policies in England.
William of Orange told James not to enact pro-Catholic policies in England.
Anne told James not to enact pro-Catholic policies in England.
Charles kicked it in 1685. James became King. James enacted pro-Catholic policies in England.
Like a 17th century episode of Quantum Leap, James was determined to hop into the quantum accelerator and turn back the clock to 1530. He was hell-bent on reversing the English Reformation.
After three years of this, Parliament had enough. Parliament and James’ son-in-law William of Orange engineered a “Glorious Revolution” in 1688 to get rid of the English King. James was kicked out, and his very Protestant daughter Mary and her Dutch husband were invited in.
I’ve put Glorious Revolution in quotes because a better description of 1688 is “carefully crafted invasion.” Today, if I told you that the President of the United States was leaving and would soon be replaced by a Dutchman offshore firing Tomahawk missiles, you’d say a coup had taken place.4 Anyway…
Anne was now two heartbeats away from the throne.
1 Nerd Note: I was so excited to write about Princess Anne, that I created a JSTOR account. 😀
2 Emson, H. E. “For The Want Of An Heir: The Obstetrical History Of Queen Anne.” BMJ: British Medical Journal, vol. 304, no. 6838, 1992, pp. 1365–1366. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/29715689.
3 But he did have bastards. So, so, so many bastards.
4 “The Glorious Revolution.” British History’s Biggest Fibs with Lucy Worsley, series 1, episode 2, BBC Four, Jan 2017. Youtube, https://youtu.be/QgOPIwh9ggI?t=1133.