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Queen Anne 17 Pregnancies but Still Childless

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 2 5

The Last of the Stuart Dynasty

Daughter of the Last Stuart King

Queen Anne, was the younger daughter of the last Stuart King of England, James II & VII.  James, who believed in the divine right of kings, was turfed out of the top job by his nephew and son-in-law William III of Orange, who invaded England from the Netherlands.

Anne, circa 1684

Understandably James took off, flat chat and it was most conveniently decided, that he had abdicated. Yet, all this kerfuffle simply came down to the fact, that he had produced a Catholic heir to the throne. After the shafting of King James, called the Glorious Revolution by some, Anne's older sister Mary and hubby William of Orange, came to the throne. Mary and Will, were actually first cousins. Cousin Will was generally judged to have been a fairly decent husband, as he only had one mistress! Mary however, had only one pregnancy, which ended in miscarriage and she never became pregnant again.

Anne Ascended the Throne

After the death of Mary and  later Will, Anne ascended the throne at the age of 37, as by the Bill of Rights she was the only person left in the line of succession. Anne however, had in 1683 at the age of 17, married Prince George of Denmark.

It seems the couple were happy, although George was not much of abrainstorm. Supposedly he was monumentally dull and only distinguished himself by his appetite for food and drink. He also had asthma and it was reported that it was only his breathing that convinced people he was still alive.

A Plethora of Pregnancies

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

Queen Anne's had 17, maybe 18, pregnancies,  11 miscarriages, various still births, infants who survived a couple of hours and two girls who seemed healthy enough but died of small pox while still young. Her longest surviving child, was Prince William, Duke of Gloucester, who died at the age of 11.

William, whose portrait is on show at the National Portrait Gallery in London, was a weak child with a large head. He suffered convulsions when he was 3 weeks old, suffered from a recurrent "ague", had difficulty walking, often stumbled and had problems getting up if he fell over. It is believed that he suffered some type of hydrocephalus (water on the brain). Anne also wrote in a letter about her son ' I can't brag of his beauty', so he was probably no oil painting either, poor lad.                                                                                                   Anne, circa 1684

Portrait by Edmund Lilly, c. 1698

Portrait of Anne's son, Prince Willaim, by Edmund Lilly, c. 1698
Strange Afflictions

Strange afflictions began to plague Anne, who had also become horribly obese with pains in her joints, referred to as 'gout', although probably arthritis (maybe lupus) and she found walking difficult. Anne also developed a 'red and spotted' face and 'did not look like the same person'. She was often carried around the court in a sedan chair and had her foot tied up in a 'nasty' bandage.

Reading about Queen Anne's medical care, I couldn't help but think, that perhaps the doctors may have polished off the poor woman before her time. Treatments included, inducing vomiting, cupping, putting garlic on her feet and shaving her head.

The constant grieving, combined with constant pregnancy is also staggering to comprehend. It is hoped, that perhaps Anne was able to find comfort in other joys, like the music composed for her birthday in 1711, by the great composer, Handel.

Overall, Queen Anne's life story was not only one blighted by tragedy and pain but one bolstered by resilience and the power of endurance.

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Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford - Queen Anne



Mar 18, 2012 9:20pm
It's amazing what people endured before they had all the medical and diagnostic advances we have today.
Mar 18, 2012 9:20pm
It's amazing what people endured before they had all the medical and diagnostic advances we have today.
Mar 18, 2012 9:27pm
Yes and imagine the resilience required to endure such tragedies!
May 15, 2012 9:26pm
What a fascinating article! I do not know how she survived all of that loss.
May 15, 2012 9:30pm
Yes, but I suppose in those days the life span was very short and children died very often. We are very lucky today in western countries, with our medical advances and clean water. Thanks for reading.
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  1. E M Emson For the Want of an Heir: the Obstetrical History of Qeen Anne. Britain: BMJ vol 304, 1992.

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