Most Brits will be amazed that Queen Anne was bi-sexual or a lesbian who was forced to marry and produce an heir. Queen Anne was known for several intimate relationships with women, the best known affair being with Sarah Churchill. Yes, Winston Churchill could claim Sarah as an ancestor and the late Princess Diana could claim the same ties.
The Princess Anne
Anne never thought that she would be queen. Her older sister, Mary, became Queen Mary and she married William of Orange; heirs would surely follow. Anne and William died without heirs.
Anne became Queen of England, Scotland and Ireland on 8 March 1702. On 1 May 1707, under the Acts of Union, two of her realms, the kingdoms of England and Scotland, united as a single sovereign state known as Great Britain.
Homosexuality and Monarchs
Anne certainly loved women, but as in the case of most British monarchs, the notable exception being Queen Elizabeth I, kings and queens need to produce heirs. Anne married Prince George of Denmark and produced a male heir. It is interesting that James VI of Scotland, who became James I of England, was a notorious homosexual.
Queen Mary and William were not pleased with the obvious relationship between Princess Anne and Sarah. Queen Mary wanted to brand Sarah as a criminal and remove her from Anne’s household. Anne wrote to Sarah “I had rather live in a cottage with you than reign empress of the world without you.”
The Beginning of the Affair between Anne and Sarah
Princess Anne was a young girl and had a close relationship with her Lady of the Bedchamber, Mrs. Mary Cornwallis. She did, however, notice a beautiful thirteen- year-old pretty maid of Honour, Sarah Churchill, who came to serve her stepmother as a maid of honour.
Exile and Seduction
Anne’s father, King James II, was exiled to Europe in the 1680s. His eldest daughter Mary was placed on the throne, while his other daughter, Anne was with him in Europe.
Anne’s earliest surviving letters to Sarah date from 1683 when Sarah was 23 and Anne 18. They show their relationship in full bloom, with Anne begging Sarah, for example, not to leave London “in mere pity and compassion to poor me (who you say you love),” and then to return quickly: “Oh come to me tomorrow as soon as you can that I may cleave myself to you.”
By this time, Sarah was already married to John Churchill (later made Duke of Marlborough, partly thanks to the relationship between his wife and the Queen). John was sent to Denmark to escort Anne’s fiancé George back to England, but the young women’s marriages were not felt to impinge upon their vows of eternal fidelity to one another.
Anne and Sarah’s Women Fans
Anne received a letter from Frances Apsley that declared that she felt “more of love than any woman can for woman & more love than ever the constantest lover had for his mistress”
Sarah was adored by Anne Digby, Countess of Sunderland. Digby finished letters with words such as “I long to embrace you” or “I love you beyond expression.”
Husbands Ignore Such Female Passion
The aristocratic men of Anne’s era were mostly involved in business, men’s clubs, hunting and gambling. Marriages amongst the upper classes were often arranged for material gain. The understanding was that heirs were needed and each partner made a life of his or her own. Balls, parties and theatrical entertainment was a source of relief for bored upper class housewives. Homosexuality was widely recognized but most husbands did not take it seriously as they held the purse-strings and wives could be cut off from their children. Men thought of women loving women as an emotional outlet; they, after all, had the availability of mistresses.
Queen Anne and Sarah referred to each other by the names of Mrs. Morley and Mrs. Freeman. Ann wrote, “I hope I shall get a moment or two to be with my dear Mrs. Freeman, and that I may have one dear embrace, which I long for more than I can express.”
When the Loving Wanes
Sarah may have been the royal favourite but it seems that greed and ambition on Sarah’s part turned things sour. Sarah was pushy and sought to obtain positions for her friends. Queen Anne and Sarah backed different parties and had different religious convictions.
Who is Abigail Hill?
Abigail was Sarah’s cousin and served as Anne’s chambermaid. It came to Sarah’s knowledge that the Queen was spending two hours every day in private with Abigail. Sarah tried to put an end to the relationship by writing to the queen with concern that this affair would become public. Sarah even threatened the queen that she would include Anne’s letters to her in her memoirs.
Sarah Resorts to Blackmail
Sarah was clever when she asked the Queen to burn all her letters, but of course, Sarah held on to the queen’s love letters to her. Sarah’s blackmail was intended to allow her to keep her household posts and for Sarah’s friends to keep their public posts.
Just before Sarah was dismissed, she received an unexplained payment of £18,000 from the Queen’s Privy Purse, ostensibly as payment in arrears for a £2000 per annum income that had not previously been withdrawn. This was hush money.
This is an interesting look at women of power and their sexual and emotional needs. paula.