Anne of Denmark: Life Story

Chapter 14 : Decline

In 1615, a new young man came to the King’s notice, George Villiers. Somerset reacted badly, and took to complaining, criticising and quarrelling. James, who seems to have responded to angry jealousy with attempts to placate, assured Somerset that no-one would ever receive ‘the twentieth degree of your favour.’  This was not only from affection for Somerset, but also because James realised that his partiality was making him a laughing stock, and exposing himself to disrespect. ‘I shall carry that cross to the grave with me, for raising a man so high as might make one to presume to pierce my ears with such speeches.

Somerset, however, refused to heed the warnings, and his enemies sought to promote Villiers, asking Anne to recommend the young man. Anne, although she detested Somerset, did not want to make another rod for her own back, and she warned the courtiers, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, that they would rue the day they put forward another favourite.

‘You…know not what you do. I know your master better than you all….If this young man be once brought in, the first persons that he will plague must be you that labour for him, yea, I shall have my part also. The King will teach him to despise and hardly entreat us all.’  This was a sad indictment on her marriage after twenty-five years.

She was talked round, on the basis that Villiers was of a less arrogant nature than Somerset, and that even if he became as awful, it would take time. Being at the time on good terms with James, she agreed. On St George’s Day, after the festivities, she summoned Villiers to join the royal family and, taking Prince Charles’ sword, knelt before James and asked him to knight Villiers.

Anne’s influence also came to the fore a year or so later when Somerset sought a general pardon – this was a pardon for all crimes committed, wittingly or unwittingly, before a particular date. It did not necessarily pertain to any particular feeling of guilt, and many people received them. Anne, along with the Lord Chancellor, Lord Ellesmere, objected and Somerset did not receive it. Unfortunately for him, was shortly afterwards accused, along with his Countess and others, of the murder of his former friend, Sir Thomas Overbury.

This was the great cause célèbre of the Jacobean Court. Anne, surprisingly, supported the Somersets and her carriage was mobbed by an angry crowd when it was believed that the Countess was in it.

Anne did not accompany James to Scotland in the only return visit he made in early 1617 but remained in London, and met a number of Ambassadors. It was rumoured abroad that she strongly favoured a match for her son with a Catholic princess, whether from France or Spain. Her health was deteriorating. In late October 1617, it was reported that, although she believed herself to have gout, her doctors thought there were more serious problems with her overall health.

The Queen was still well enough to go out, and visited the Exchange in London (an early prototype of the shopping mall). She had hoped to go privately, but was recognised, and there was such a rush to see her that the doors had to be closed. She seems to have stopped going far from London – spending most of her time at Somerset House, now renamed Denmark House, and travelling (with the contents of twenty-eight coaches!) to Whitehall and Greenwich from time to time.

In summer 1618, Prince Charles wrote a rather curious letter to Villiers, who was now so far advanced into royal favour as to be Marquis of Buckingham. In it, he refers to his father’s desire that Charles would persuade Anne to make a will, leaving the Prince her jewels. Presumably, Charles had begun the subject, but by some misunderstanding, perhaps Anne objecting to being hurried out of the world, James then came to believe that Charles was demanding them jewellery as of right.

By November, Anne was frequently ill. James visited her fairly regularly, at Hampton Court where she was settled but did not stay long. Around Christmas, it was believed that her end was near, and there was already jostling for the grant of her lands.

On 1st March Prince Charles came to his mother, and she died early the next morning. The diagnosis was dropsy – swelling of the organs and limbs, often due to congestive heart failure.  James himself was too ill to come to London immediately, having had trouble with kidneystones.

Her funeral took place on Thursday 13th May at Westminster Abbey, and she was interred in the Henry VII Chapel. Prince Charles walked before the coffin, but, in accordance with custom, James did not attend. The Chief Mourner was the Countess of Arundel.


Anne is not widely known amongst the Queens Consort of Scotland and England, yet she lived in relative harmony with her husband, produced heirs for the kingdoms and enhanced the prestige of the court with her patronage of poets, architects and painters. The accounts of quarrels suggest that she was touchy, and perhaps of a jealous nature, but she was a faithful friend to those who gained her loyalty and was largely supportive of her husband.


The following sources were used in preparing 'Anne of Denmark: Life Story':

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de Lisle, Leanda, After Elizabeth: The death of Elizabeth and the coming of king James (United Kingdom: HarperPerennial, 2006)

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