Academic journal article Restoration and 18th Century Theatre Research

Queen Anne: Patroness of Arts

Academic journal article Restoration and 18th Century Theatre Research

Queen Anne: Patroness of Arts

Article excerpt

James Anderson Winn. Queen Anne: Patroness of Arts.

New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. xxi + 792 pp. $39.95 USD, £30.00 (hardback). ISBN 9780199372195.

Queen Anne has rarely been recognized as a champion of the arts. Readers of this journal are likely to think of her as continuing the pattern of her sister, Mary, in neglecting the arts, and, more specifically, the theatres. The subtitle of James Winn's new biography comes from an anonymous 1701 birthday ode. A central line throughout Winn's work is demonstrating the validity of the anonymous poet's claim for Anne. That line determines the methodology of Winn's work, which remains a biography of Anne, not a study of the arts in early eighteenth-century England. Winn's unique command of the sister arts of the period allows him to use fine art, music, and literature to explore the politics of the late Stuart world and the place of the arts in that world.

We know that Anne rarely attended the theatres, and that her poor health made it difficult for her to attend. What conclusions should be drawn from these familiar observations? Winn demonstrates that Anne did not share her sister's hostility to the theatres. He opens his study with the tenyear-old Anne performing in John Crowne's Calisto (1675) at court, in part to make the point that the arts were central to the education of the princess. The young Anne shared her uncle's enthusiasm for the theatre, participating in a number of court productions; Winn refers to her in the context of her and her uncle's shared interest in John Dryden's The Spanish Fryar (1680) as Charles II's "theatrical niece" (79). As Anne's health declined, she no longer attended the theatres, but she did command court performances for several of her birthdays. She encouraged reform of the theatres, but she did not share Jeremy Collier's fundamental distrust of the arts.

Winn's biography does make it clear that plays were not Anne's art form of choice. Her taste ran more toward music, including everything from the Protestant church music she supported in the Chapel Royal to the new Italian opera that began during her reign and was established by its end. …

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