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By Justin McCarthy
feeble and colorless George of Denmark, a great many children–eighteen
or nineteen it is said–but most of them died in their very infancy,
and none lived to maturity. No succession therefore could take place,
but only an accession, and at such a crisis in the history of England
any deviation from the direct line must bring peril with it. At the
time when Queen Anne lay dying, it might have meant a new revolution
and another civil war.
While Anne lies on that which is soon to be her death—bed, let us take
a glance at the rival claimants of her crown, and the leading English
statesmen who were partisans on this side or on that, or who were still
hesitating about the side it would be, on the whole, most prudent and
profitable to choose.
The English Parliament had taken steps, immediately after the
Revolution of 1688, to prevent a restoration of the Stuart dynasty.
The Bill of Rights, passed in the first year of the reign of William
and Mary, declared that the crown of England should pass in the first
instance to the heirs of Mary, then to the Princess Anne, her sister,
and to the heirs of the Princess Anne, and after that to the heirs, if
any, of William, by any subsequent marriage. Mary, however, died
childless; William was sinking into years and in miserable health,
apparently only waiting and anxious for death, and it was clear that he
would not marry again. The only one of Anne’s many children who
approached maturity, the Duke of Gloucester, died just after his
eleventh birthday. The little duke was a pupil of Bishop Burnet, and
was a child of great promise. ‹4› Readers of fiction will remember
that Henry Esmond, in Thackeray’s novel, is described as having
obtained some distinction in his academical course, “his Latin poem on
the ’Death of the Duke of Gloucester,’ Princess Anne of Denmark’s son,
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