A Royal for Rome? The last Stuart monarch's life unravelled

19 July 2017 | by Mark Lawson



Popular with modern dramatists is the game of imagining the royal history plays that Shakespeare never wrote. The subjects evaded him either because they would have been too dangerous – Howard Brenton’s Anne Boleyn – or due to the great chronicler of English monarchy being dead by the time the events occurred. In the latter category are Alan Bennett’s The Madness of George III, Mike Bartlett’s King Charles III and Helen Edmundson’s Queen Anne, premiered by the Royal Shakespeare Company two years ago and now revived in the London West End.

Edmundson’s title character, Anne Stuart (1665-1714), the daughter of James II, had a life unusually shaped by faith. As a young woman, her Protestant piety was much advertised in order to appease those who feared that her father’s monarchy was sliding back towards Rome: he framed, in 1687, an extended version of Charles II’s Declaration of Indulgence, which promoted tolerance towards Catholics and Dissenters.

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