The last Stuart ruler, Anne was the first to rule over Great Britain, which was created when the Act of Union joined Scotland to England and Wales in 1707. Her reign, like that of William III, was one of transition to parliamentary government; Anne was, for example, the last English monarch to exercise (1707) the royal veto. Domestic and foreign affairs alike were dominated by the War of the Spanish Succession, known in America as Queen Anne's War (see French and Indian Wars). In the actual fighting on the Continent, Sarah Churchill's husband, the duke of Marlborough, won a series of spectacular victories. At home the costs of the fighting were an issue between the Tories, who were cool to the war, and the Whigs, who favored it.
Party lines were slowly hardening, but party government and ministerial responsibility were not yet established; intrigues and the favor of the queen still made and unmade cabinets, though the influence of public opinion, shaped by an increasingly powerful press and elections, was growing. Thus it was at least partly through the pressure of the Marlboroughs that Anne was induced, despite her Tory sympathies, to oust Tory ministers in favor of Whigs. The Marlboroughs were even able to force the dismissal of Robert Harley in 1708, though the scolding duchess had already lost much of her power to Anne's new favorite, the quiet Abigail Masham, kinswoman and friend of Harley.
When the unpopularity of the war and the furor over the prosecution of Henry Sacheverell showed the power of the Tories (who won the elections of 1710) and made the move feasible, Anne recalled Harley to power, and the Marlboroughs were dismissed. Harley, created earl of Oxford, was political leader until 1714, when he was replaced by his Tory colleague and rival, Viscount Bolingbroke (see St. John, Henry). Soon afterward the queen died, and Jacobite hopes were dashed by the succession of George I of the house of Hanover.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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