Who was Queen Anne? What was her role in the Treaty of Union?

Queen Anne (1665-1714) by Sir Godfrey Kneller
Queen Anne wasn't particularly ambitious or intellectual, but she was dutiful. Credit: National Trust Images

Queen Anne oversaw the Treaty of Union and the Acts of Union bringing England and Scotland together under a single parliament of Great Britain. She reigned from 1702 to 1714

The 18th century was a time of radical change across Britain. Advances in technology transformed the landscape, particularly across the north of England where canals and steam railways connected ever-expanding towns and cities, while coal mines and cotton mills dotted the elds and waterways. The gradual shift from rural to urban areas coincided with an almost doubling in the population.

‘Brandy Nan’

Charged with bringing the nation kicking and screaming into this brave new world, the century’s first new monarch, Anne I, was not particularly ambitious or intellectual, and the successes of her reign were the result of strong military and parliamentary leadership. Profiles of Anne have often portrayed her as weak and ineffective, something of a gambler and an alcoholic (she earned the cruel nickname ‘Brandy Nan’ in recognition of her tipple of choice), but there can be no doubting she was also a dutiful Queen, regularly attending cabinet and privy council meetings and being the last British monarch to veto an act of Parliament.

Treaty of Union and Acts of Union

The defining success of Anne’s brief reign is one of the few in which she did take an active role. The Treaty of Union in 1706 and the Acts of Union that followed brought England and Scotland together under a single parliament of Great Britain. Anne had encouraged political integration since the start of her reign and the parliaments of both countries obliged, with England enforcing the Settlement Act of 1701 north of the border and Scotland keen to access the empire’s lucrative foreign trade contacts.

Perhaps the most tragic element of Anne’s story was the lack of a surviving heir. She became pregnant at least 17 times over a 16-year period, although only ve lead to live births and just one survived infancy – Prince William, Duke of Gloucester, was 11 when he died in 1700.

As such, when Anne died of ill health on 1 August 1714, the royal House of Stuart ended with her. A life plagued by tragedy, rheumatism, gout, obesity and overindulgence was over; as her doctor John Arbuthnot noted sagely at the time, “I believe sleep was never more welcome to a weary traveller than death was to her.”

Key dates

  • 1702 – The world’s first daily newspaper, The Daily Courant, is published in London
  • 1706 – The Treaty of Union leads to the creation of Great Britain and a political unity between England, Wales and Scotland

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Queen Anne and the Union of England and Scotland