John-Paul Flintoff

How to choose a successor when both candidates are awful?

There were two possible successors. She hated them both

When Queen Anne was dying, the two likeliest successors to the throne were her younger half-brother, James Stuart, and a cousin, George of Hanover. For very good reasons, Anne was not keen on either, which made it so much easier for the people around her to push her towards making a decision that suited them.

James Stuart (left) and George of Hanover

James Stuart was the son of Anne’s father, James II, by his Catholic second wife. The prince was taken from England as a baby, when James fled from increasing anti-Catholic sentiment. (Anne, a child of James’s first marriage, was a young adult by then.) After James died, the prince was politely described at the French court as James III of England – but he was never crowned, and in England he was known as The Pretender. Since his father quit England, a law had been introduced preventing Catholics from taking the throne. But laws could always be repealed…

George of Hanover was a great-grandson of James I. He spoke no English. He was not Anglican, but Lutheran – and for many in England that was much better than being a Catholic. As a young man, George had visited England, where it was expected that he would propose marriage to Anne, then a young princess. But he didn’t, and we can only guess how much this might have hurt her…

If you were Anne, would you have favoured a) the successor whom you had wronged, or b) the successor who had wronged you?

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