Every day we Annapolitans walk, drive by, work and play on hundreds of years of Western history. Our city is an old, old city and one that has played an important role in the life of our nation even before it was conceived. But how many of us know more about our rich heritage other than a few well-worn anecdotes? This Place Through Time is The Sound’s weekly feature that tells the story of our ancient city through the words and pictures of Annapolis’ own historians, one chapter at a time.
After Maryland’s capital moved to Anne Arundell Town in 1695, Governor Francis Nicholson renamed the town “Annapolis” – City of Anne. Who was the Anne whom Nicholson wished to honor with his choice of a new name? At the time, she was a woman of little significance: Anne Stuart, second daughter of King James II of England and wife of George, Prince of Denmark (m. 1683). But she was also next in line for the English throne. Barring her early death from accident or illness, she would be the next queen, and it was always useful to earn favor with one’s monarch.
Anne, who was born in 1665, was the fourth child of James, brother of King Charles II, and his wife Anne Hyde. She had four brothers and three sisters, but only Mary, second of the eight, and Anne lived beyond their fourth year. Mary and Anne were raised in the Church of England, apparently assuring the nation of a Protestant succession, despite the conversion of their father to the Roman Catholic faith. James became king when Charles died in 1685. But when James’s second wife, Mary of Modena, gave birth to a male heir in 1688, the prospect of another Catholic king placed the Protestant succession in jeopardy.
Threatened by both the birth and James’s increasingly authoritarian rule, leading Protestants turned to William of Orange, Stadtholder of five provinces of the Dutch Republic. Three circumstances favored William: he was married to Mary Stuart, James’s eldest daughter; his mother was a Stuart, sister of Charles II and James II; and he was a champion of the Protestant cause against Louis XIV, the Catholic king of France. William arrived in England at the head of a large army, quickly routed his father-in-law (who fled to France), and in 1689 was crowned England’s new ruler, with Mary as queen, after Parliament passed the Declaration of Right. William and Mary had no children, placing Anne next in line for the throne.
After Mary’s death in 1694, William ruled alone. When he was killed in a hunting accident in 1702, Anne became Queen of England at the age of thirty-seven. She ruled alone, with her husband as her consort. Almost immediately, the country was at war with Spain and France. Queen Anne s War, or the War of the Spanish Succession, which for England lasted from 1701 to 1713, made the nation a major military power under the leadership of John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, and affected policies at home and abroad through most of her reign.
Other events of Queen Anne’s reign shaped subsequent English and world history. During her rule, a two-party system emerged under the new, stronger parliamentary form of government. She also became queen of a much larger nation when England and Scotland united in 1707. Great Britain, as it was called, was at the heart of an empire whose power and influence expanded around the world during the next century.
Queen Anne is usually described as sickly, ill-favored in looks, and retiring by nature. She never gained the fame or notoriety of other British monarchs, perhaps because she was a woman of quiet, though indomitable, spirit, who was sorely tested by debilitating illnesses, seventeen pregnancies, the painful loss of all of her children, and an alcoholic husband whom she loved dearly.
Anne s legacy in Maryland was more personal and lasting, beginning with the naming of the colony’s capital in 1695. A year later, one of the city’s first streets was named Duke of Gloucester for her son, William, who died at the age of eleven in 1700. That year Annapolis honored her husband, Prince George of Denmark, with the naming of another major street. Of greater significance, in December 1708, Maryland’s General Assembly confirmed the Annapolis city charter granted in the queen’s name.
But the year 1708 was not a good one for Queen Anne. Her husband died that October, an event that very likely contributed to her worsening health. The last of the Stuarts to rule England, Queen Anne died in August 1714 at the age of forty-nine. She was laid to rest in Westminster Abbey.
With thanks to Ann Jensen for sharing her work on Queen Anne.
About the author:
Jean Russo is a native New Yorker who has lived in Maryland for many years. She has a Ph.D. in colonial history from The Johns Hopkins University, works part time for the Maryland State Archives and Historic Annapolis Foundation, and does volunteer and freelance work for most of the historical entities in town and in the Four Rivers Heritage Area. She is co-editor of Colonial Chesapeake Society and The Diary of William Faris . . . An Annapolis Silversmith. Ms. Russo is a founding member of the Annapolis History Consortium.
The Annapolis History Consortium is an informal organization of professional and amateur historians who meet about ten times a year to discuss issues, places, and events pertaining to area history. The more than one hundred members of the Consortium’s online group discuss issues and answer questions online.