Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of Queen Anne (1665 - 1714) 1705c.

Studio of Sir Godfrey Kneller Bt (1646-1723)

Portrait of Queen Anne (1665 - 1714), Studio of Sir Godfrey Kneller Bt
Oil on canvas
18th Century
50 x 40 inches 127 x 101.2 cm
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This formidable image of majesty is a highly accomplished studio version of Sir Godfrey Kneller's 1705 portrait of the Queen in coronation regalia. The full-length original hangs in the Queen Anne room at Warwick Castle, perhaps reflecting the fact that the contemporary Lord Brooke shared the Queen''s Tory politics.

Anne was not a promising subject for painters; by the date of her accession she was stout and lame, but Kneller achieves considerable dignity in his portraits of her by avoiding flattery. Whereas Dahl, her favourite painter was able to imply slender elegance in his portrait of her as Princess of Denmark (Private collection, New York; formerly Historical Portraits, London) and Edmund Lilly finds grace and drama in his coronation portrait (Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire) Kneller records honestly, and suggests the Queen''s forceful character through her blunt and uncompromising features. The accuracy of the likeness can be confirmed by comparison with her wax funeral effigy still preserved in Westminster Abbey. The accompanying regalia, the crown, orb and sceptre enforce the iconic impression.

The accession of Queen Anne in 1702 was seen by many as a moment of particular national pride and hope. Detractors of William III were swift to point out that she was an Englishwoman where he was a foreigner, and -which no English sovereign had been since Elizabeth I- the child of two native-born parents. She was also a Stuart, and the daughter of the abdicated James II. His death in the year previous to her accession, and the uncompromising Catholicism and alien upbringing of his heir James Stuart, made Anne an acceptable object for the loyalty of those who had been troubled by William''s legitimacy. As a focus for the nation, Anne's motive in choosing Semper Eadem, ''Always the same,'' as her motto is plain, since it was the regnal motto of Queen Elizabeth I. Until the Treaty of Urecht in 1711 her reign was characterised by comparable military achievements in the land victories of Marlborough and the naval triumphs of admirals such as Shovell.

Anne -whose sympathies had always lain with the Tory party- was also fondly remembered for supporting the Tory administration which lasted from 1711 until her death in 1714, the last such government, its adherents began to appreciate after its fall, that would hold office for fifty years. Parsimonious as Elizabeth, Anne resented the great expense of Marlborough's campaigns, and in this she was in accord with the Tory leaders. Equally, she found the Whig philosophy distasteful, with its encroachments on the prerogatives of the monarch, and was far more comfortable with the Tories'' absolute defence of Episcopacy and Monarchy. The affection and gratitude in which she was held after her death by these deposed ministers is shown by the monuments erected to her by them and by their children, such as that set up at Wimpole Hall by the 2nd Earl of Oxford, or the memorial that the 1st Earl Bathurst designed at Cirencester.

Queen Anne is well-known to have undergone seventeen pregnancies, of which only one produced a child who lived beyond infancy, and that child, William Duke of Gloucester, died tragically in 1700. It is unremarkable that this proved deleterious to her health - and to her peace of mind - but, curiously, this does not appear to be the principal cause of her infirmity. The Queen suffered periodic bouts of an incapacitating and acutely painful illness, unhelpfully diagnosed by contemporaries as ''gout'', a catch-all ailment embracing many varieties of bodily pain.

The result of this was that she was at times quite crippled. Famously she was carried in a chair to her Coronation in 1702 because she was unable to walk. In the same year she wrote that she would have come to town ''if I were able to stir, but when that will be God knows for my fever is not quite gone and I am still so lame I cannot go without limping.'' By 1703 she was still so lame that, in her words to the Duchess of Marlborough she could ''hardly walk the length of the room and that with two sticks.''

Bouts of illness recurred and it is scarcely surprising that she became an obese and valetudinarian figure. Whether or not she ever weighed the seventeen stone that tradition has ascribed to her cannot be known but from these later Kneller portraits one can see the particular effects of her suffering and illness. This, interestingly, has recently been diagnosed as a variant of the porphyria hereditary in the Stuart and Hanoverian families, which most famously accounted for the ''madness'' of King George III (Macalpine and Hunter George III and the Mad Business 1991).
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