Protecting England and its church: Lady Anne and the death of Charles Stuart

Heffernan, Troy (2016) Protecting England and its church: Lady Anne and the death of Charles Stuart. The Seventeenth Century, 31 (1). pp. 57-70. ISSN 0268-117X

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In 1666, the English physician Thomas Sydenham determined that patients with smallpox could remain contagious for 41 days, that apparent health was no indicator of contagiousness, and that children were the most susceptible of contracting the disease. Yet in 1677, when 12-year-old Lady Anne Stuart (later Queen Anne) contracted smallpox, only 21 days had passed when she was introduced to her 1-month-old stepbrother, Charles Stuart, heir to the throne and likely Catholic king. Charles Stuart subsequently contracted smallpox from Anne, and the infant died of the disease at a time of heightened paranoia regarding the succession of a Catholic heir. This paper assesses the motives, means, and opportunity that may have led to Anne’s meeting with her stepbrother. The intention is not to suggest or prove that a deliberate attempt was made to remove the Catholic heir, rather, the purpose is to explore the reasons, implications, and possibilities that such an act may have occurred. In a period that resounded with conspiracies and threats to the Protestant succession, Charles Stuart’s death, regardless of whether the infection was, or was not, caused with intent, demonstrates a reversal of common fears where the Catholic line was extinguished to the advantage of the Protestant succession. This paper examines Charles’s death and its implications against a background of contemporary medical knowledge, and while it does not suggest that there is unequivocal proof linking Anne as an unwitting agent in a conspiracy, the paper nonetheless assesses the body of evidence that links Anne to Charles Stuart’s death.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Submitted version deposited in accordance with the copyright policy of the Publisher.
Faculty / Department / School: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Arts and Communication
Date Deposited: 06 Jul 2016 05:16
Last Modified: 01 Sep 2017 02:42
Uncontrolled Keywords: Anne Stuart; Charles Stuart; biological warfare; religious history; English history
Fields of Research : 21 History and Archaeology > 2103 Historical Studies > 210305 British History
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1080/0268117X.2016.1142469

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