Portrait of Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (1660-1744), c. 1722
Maria Verelst (1680-1744)
Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (1660-1744)
But the relationship was an unequal one. Their characters were incompatible: Sarah, a voracious reader, was fiercely intelligent, whilst Anne had no particular intellectual ambitions. Further, although their affection was certainly mutual, Sarah never loved Anne in the way that she did her. And the result was tempestuous. Following William’s death and Anne’s subsequent coronation as queen on St George’s Day in 1702, Sarah became by far the most powerful of Anne’s advisors; in the words of her biographer, ‘those who wanted to access Anne had to go through Sarah first’. With this influence, she became increasingly self-confident and, convinced of her intellectual superiority, assertive, even domineering.
But, she also became complacent and failed to realise that she had come to be replaced in the Queen’s affections by Abigail Hill (c.1670-1734), a cousin of Sarah’s that she herself had introduced to the court. Following a series of bitter rows about Abigail Hill’s position, Sarah met Anne for the last time in 1710. They would from this point communicate only in writing.The portrayals of Sarah and Abigail in Yorgos Lanthimos’s film ‘The Favourite’ are played by Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone respectively, Queen Anne is played by Olivia Coleman.