A country bitterly divided between two political parties. Populist mobs rising in support of a reactionary rabble-rouser. Foreign interference in the political process. Strained relations between Britain and Europe. These are not recent headlines—they are from the year 1710, when Queen Anne ruled Britain.

In her engagingly written Backlash, Rachel Carnell tells the fascinating and entertaining account of the reign of Queen Anne and the true story behind the fall of the Whig government imaginatively depicted in the 2018 film The Favourite. As Carnell shows, the truth was significantly different—and in many ways more interesting—than what the film depicted.

The backlash began in 1709 when the Whigs arrested a popular female Tory political satirist and then impeached a provocative High Church clergyman for preaching a sermon repudiating the ideals of parliamentary monarchy and religious tolerance. The impeachment trial backfired, and mobs surged in the streets supporting the Tory preacher and threatening religious minorities. With charges dropped against the satirist, by 1710 she had written a best-selling sequel.

Queen Anne was careful and diligent in her monarchical duties. She tried to run a government balanced between the parties, but finally torn between the Whigs (including her longtime friends the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough) and the proto-Brexiteer Tories, she dissolved Parliament and called for elections. This brought in a majority for the Tories, who swiftly began passing reactionary legislation. While the Whigs would return to power after Anne’s death in 1714 and reverse the Tory policies, this little-known era offers an important historical perspective on the populist backlashes in the United States and United Kingdom today.

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