Lucy Worsley explores how Queen Anne's reputation and legacy have been marred by a sustained campaign of historical fibs. When Queen Anne came to the throne in 1702, England looked set to be dominated by France and Spain. But Anne fought bravely to help England become a leading European power. She also helped unite England and Scotland to create Great Britain.
Anne was shy and reclusive. At first, she was supported as queen by her childhood friend and 'favourite', Sarah Churchill. However, they increasingly clashed over personal tensions and politics.
When Sarah's cousin Abigail Masham became a lady-in-waiting, she began to replace Sarah in the queen's affections. In revenge, Sarah helped pen a bawdy ballad claiming Anne and Abigail performed 'dark deeds at night'. This led to endless rumours about Anne's sexuality that persist to this day.
In the end, Sarah was dismissed. Thirty years after Anne's death, Sarah took further revenge by publishing a tell-all story of her time as the queen's favourite. Her portrait of Anne, as a foolish and stubborn woman, has been taken on board by most historians. But Lucy finds it is full of fibs.
Hollywood used Sarah's version of history to create 2019's The Favourite, destroying Queen Anne's reputation for a whole new generation. Lucy reveals Anne to have been a smarter, more successful queen than history has ever acknowledged.