Poor old Queen Anne. Fat, lame, with an obstetric history that would break the hardest of hearts: seventeen pregnancies in seventeen years, sixteen of them resulting in miscarriages, still births or infant deaths. William, Duke of Gloucester, was the only child to survive its first birthday; the apple of his mother’s eye, hailed as the saviour of Protestant England, he was hydrocephalic and died of smallpox when he was just eleven. Anne knew tragedy in her life. And she had piles. How could you not feel sorry for her?
Quite easily, as Anne Somerset’s new biography demonstrates. The queen emerges from its pages not as a figure to be pitied, but as needy, spiteful and incapable of leadership, with an unerring knack of alienating the affections of everyone who knew her – not the kind of qualities one looks