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Mrs. Morley and Mrs. Freeman

August 2, 2012

This is the story of a friendship.
Anne was the daughter of James II, known to many as Seamus a’ Chaca, or James the Shithead. It is not easy being one of royal lineage. You can never be sure who to trust. Anne, fortunately, found solace and honesty with her close friend and Lady of the Bedchamber, Sarah Churchill. In a world of intrigue, where one’s own family may be scheming against you (as Anne witnessed firsthand as her brother-in-law William of Orange deposed her father and assumed the throne), Anne was grateful for the honesty of her friend.
After William of Orange had taken the throne, sharing power with Anne’s sister, his wife, Mary II, Sarah fell from favor with the Royal Court, in part due to her influence over Anne and her promotion of Anne’s interests amongst the nobility. The King and especially the Queen demanded that Sarah be dismissed, but Anne stood by her friend, refusing the request. Mary replied by evicting Sarah from the court. The bond between the two friends was so powerful that Anne removed herself from the court as well and remained by the side of her friend.
A document surfaced that was allegedly signed by Sarah’s husband, the Duke of Marlborough, which was said to have been supportive of the now exiled James II, James the Shithead. The Duke was thrown into the tower of London. Sarah, who, unusually for the time, loved her husband, was thrown into a great despair. Anne remained beside her friend, strengthening the bonds between them. Of course the lives of royalty leave little room for friendship.
Mary II died of smallpox and Anne was restored to favor by her brother-in-law. William of Orange died eight years later after falling off of a horse. Anne was next in line and took the throne in 1702.
Sarah and Anne were such close friends that even after Anne’s ascension to the throne they still continued to call each other affectionate pet names. Anne was “Mrs. Morley” and Sarah “Mrs. Freeman”. Perhaps owing to this friendship, Sarah was awarded several nominal and well-paid positions in the Queen’s government, eventually becoming the most powerful woman in the country below Anne. Sarah’s husband was also awarded the Captain-Generalcy, mainly due to the connection his wife had to the Queen.
Shortly after her coronation, England was dragged into the War of Spanish Succession, with Sarah’s husband leading the troops of England, Austria and Holland against France and Spain.
Political tensions began to mount. The Whigs and the Tories were becoming increasingly polarized, with Anne coming down solidly on the side of the Tories and the Anglican Church, while Sarah and her husband identified more and more with the Whigs who were allied with Protestant Dissenters. The tension between the two friends grew.
The very honesty that Anne had loved about Sarah began to force them apart. Sarah was never one to keep quiet about her beliefs and she used every opportunity to influence the Queen to appoint people sympathetic to the Whigs to office. At the same time, Sarah avoided Anne more and more, seldom making appearances at the court. Anne became disenchanted with her brash, outspoken friend, and were it not for the Duke being embroiled in the War at the time, it is likely that Sarah and her husband would have been stripped of all nominal titles and accompanying pay, as indeed they later were when the friendship finally deteriorated beyond repair.
Anne turned to Abigail Hill for friendship, much to the dismay of Sarah. Abigail was Sarah’s cousin and was made Lady of the Bedchamber in 1704. Where Sarah had been outspoken and demanding, Abigail was demure and accommodating. Sarah grew so jealous over this friendship (she had been the one to first bring Abigail to Court) that in 1708 she appeared with a bawdy poem written by a Whig propagandist that alluded to a lesbian relationship between Anne and Abigail. Sarah, always more outspoken than she should be, wrote to Anne saying that her reputation had been sullied and that ‘a great passion for such a woman … strange and unaccountable’. Sarah was insistent and continued to question the friendship between the Queen and Abigail, calling for the dismissal of the Lady of the Bedchamber.
After Anne’s husband died in 1708, Sarah made another attempt to reclaim her influential position at the side of the Queen. She came to the Kensington Palace, and on the pretext of comforting her grieving friend she tried to remove Anne to St. James Palace. Anne refused. Sarah went too far and removed a painting of Anne’s deceased husband from her bedchamber and would not return it, claiming that the sight of such things would only agitate the Queen further.
Despite the fact that her husband had recently died and that the Whig party was gaining more power, threatening Anne’s, Sarah continued to berate the friendship between Abigail and Anne. As she had so many years before when defending Sarah from calls of dismissal, the Queen remained steadfastly by Abigail and wrote to the Duke of Marlborough, Sarah’s husband, asking that his wife ‘leave off teasing & tormenting me & behave herself with the decency she ought both to her friend and Queen’.
The friendship between Mrs. Morley and Mrs. Freeman was at an end, torn apart by politics and power.
On Maundy Thursday of 1710, Anne and Sarah saw each other for the last time. According to Sarah, the Queen was impassive and polite, saying, “Whatever you have to say you may put in writing” and “You said you desired no answer, and I shall give you none” and would say nothing else. She just kept repeating the same phrases. In January 1711, Sarah was forced to resign her court offices, and Abigail took over as Keeper of the Privy Purse.


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