The Lost Children of Queen Anne, Part 1


Anne, Princess of Denmark, circa 1684, painted by Willem Wissing and Jan van der Vaardt

In January 1687, Anne, Princess of Denmark and daughter of King James II, was the wife of Prince George of Denmark. She was the mother of two little girls, The Lady Mary, born 1685, and Lady Anne Sophia, born the previous year. Anne was in her fourth pregnancy, less than a year after the birth of Anne Sophia. A baby daughter had been stillborn in 1684, the year of the portrait above.

On January 21, 1687, three weeks into the new year, Anne suffered a miscarriage, the first of seven she would endure in her lifetime. A harbinger of sadness to come too soon.

Less than two weeks later her husband and children came down with smallpox. (1,2). Lady Anne Sophia died on February 2nd and was buried in Westminster Abbey two days later. The Lady Mary followed her, dying on February 8, and buried two days later in the abbey, joining their stillborn sister. (2)

The following October, on the 22nd, Anne suffered the second stillbirth of her life. That baby, a boy, was born at seven months but was thought to have died at least a month before. He was buried with his siblings in the vault of Mary, Queen of Scots, joining that queen, Arbella Stuart, Anne Hyde, Elizabeth of Bohemia, and eleven infants of James II. (2) The sight of all those tiny coffins must have been mind-numbing.

Anne had had a minor case of smallpox as a twelve-year-old and was one of approximately seven House of Stuart descendants of Charles I who had contracted it. Five of those members died from it. Her only son who lived past early childhood, William, Duke of Gloucester, has been said to have died of smallpox, “strep throat”, scarlet fever, and pneumonia.

Prince George, Anne’s consort, the first male royal consort, died in 1708. He’d suffered for years from asthma and some type of “dropsy”, known in modern terms as edema.

Modern science has looked back on Anne’s pregnancies and found signs of at least one medical condition which might have caused her repeated miscarriages and stillbirths.

Losing a child by miscarriage is harrowing enough, but to have lost five in approximately three years defies human comprehension. Unfortunately, a tragic pattern was established that would play out over Anne’s life.

  1. Milo Keynes, Smallpox and Queen Anne, Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Volume 90, January 1997, page 60.
  2. The Reverend Arthur P. Stanley, Dean of Westminster,  Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey (1869)

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