Queen Anne, the last of the reigning Stuart monarchs, is shown here as a young woman, shortly after her marriage to Prince George of Denmark. Her marriage was of huge importance to the survival of the Stuart dynasty. She was the only unmarried, legitimate, Protestant member of the royal family and because of the strong anti-Catholic feeling in Britain at the time, it was vital she marry and produce Protestant Stuart heirs. Her uncle Charles II had no legitimate children, her father (the future James VII and II) and step-mother were Catholic, and her sister Mary, who had recently married the Prince of Orange (the future joint-monarchs, William and Mary), was yet to produce children. Anne married George of Denmark in 1683, and of their many children, none survived into adulthood. She became queen in 1702, and at her death her Protestant cousin succeeded her as George I.
The court painter Willem Wissing painted this superb portrait after Anne’s marriage, and his studio assistant Jan van der Vaardt probably painted the draperies and the flowers. The design of the portrait is intended to flatter Anne by elongating her body, and her pose adds to the sense of grace and beauty. The dog at her feet, barking at her to catch her attention, is a King Charles spaniel, a breed that was popular with Charles II. This reminds us of Anne’s loyalty to her uncle, and in turn to the Stuart family that she was a member of.
The portrait will be on display in the exhibition Reformation to Revolution when the Portrait Gallery reopens on 1 December.