Medallion with Queen Anne
This blue jasper medallion shows an image of Anne Stuart (1665-1714), who was queen of England from 1702 to 1714. 'Romantic friendships’ between young women were often encouraged during Queen Anne's lifetime as a form of preparation for heterosexual marriage but many continued throughout womens' lives. Queen Anne was particularly close to Sarah Churchill, the Duchess of Malborough, and she is thought to have had intimate relationships with several other women in her household. In 1702, when Anne’s only son William died, aged 11, she became Queen. She promptly promoted Sarah to the position of ‘first lady of the bedchamber’ so that they would have unrestricted access to each other. Their relationship began to breakdown after Sarah discovered Anne was spending two hours a day in private with her younger relative, Abigail Hill Masham. It is thought that Sarah instructed her secretary, Arthur Maynwaring, to author and circulate ballads and pamphlets which satirised the ‘sweet service’ and ‘dark Deeds at Night’ that Abigail allegedly provided to Anne. Professor Laura Gowing has highlighted how Queen Anne's relationships changed social attitudes towards lesbianism. She argues that 'the eroticization of female friendship shifted the way in which lesbianism was represented...Gossip about Queen Anne, Marie Antoinette or society women made it publicly clear that lesbian acts did not necessarily involve of the performance of 'female masculinity'.'