For the average high-school student, seventeenth and eighteenth century history is not particularly interesting. Thus, to bring such an obscure time in history to life in order to make it appealing to teenagers—indeed, to make the personages and issues of the day relevant to the concerns of modern adolescents—is no small task.
This biography succeeds as a rich experience for young readers on several counts. It is, first of all, a fiercely honest account of a less-than-perfect person. Hodges treats Queen Anne with respect and admiration, but her appraisal is a truthful one. Anne was uneducated (as were most of the women of her day) and limited in terms of her intelligence. She made serious errors of judgment in trusting people who she thought were loyal friends. Examples of these poor decisions include maintaining a relationship with the duchess of Marlborough, Sarah Jennings Churchill, who only wanted to control Anne for power and wealth, and allowing Sarah’s husband, whom she made the earl of Marlborough, to lead the fight against France far too long at the expense of the country. She was married to a kind but dull and somewhat inept man, and Anne’s personal life was marred by the death of her children (none survived to continue the Stuart reign) and the intense guilt that she felt over abetting her father’s downfall. She was often ill, a condition exacerbated by her many childbirths, and had such poor vision that she could barely see....
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Hodges’ book is the only published biography of Queen Anne for young people. Indeed, even though the British monarch’s name lives on in Queen Anne’s lace, Queen Anne furniture, and Annapolis (the capital of Maryland, which was colonized when she was in power), she has been one of the least written about among all the British royalty. Therefore, this biography is an invaluable complement to the high-school history curriculum and a supplement to British history studies.
Even beyond its curricular usefulness, however, Lady Queen Anne is especially suitable for high-school students because it is an example of extraordinary scholarship. The book is thoroughly researched and well written. Hodges has learned her history well, and she has obviously traveled to the many sites mentioned throughout the text. She has saturated herself in the works of the poets, authors, diarists, artists, musicians, and scientists of the period, as attested by the bibliography at the end of the work. Many of the descriptions of London, of the various great events that were a part of Anne’s life, and of the political and religious conflicts of the period are culled from the words of the people who witnessed them. Hodges also uses such popular contemporary literature as nursery rhymes, many of which were circulated as political barbs in Anne’s time. Hodges only briefly covers the common people and their lives, but her vivid descriptions of London and the surrounding countryside give a sense of the city as it must have been. Hodges has done a remarkable job of organizing such a vast amount of historical and literary material and making it attractive to young people living so long after and so far from the events of the biography.