Who is the Favourite based on? And other 

questions about The favourite

Queen Anne in 1684 when she was still Princess of Denmark. Painted by Willem Wissing and Jan van der VaardtQueen Anne in 1684 when she was still Princess of Denmark.

Finally, the Favourite is available on Amazon Prime in my Country! I was waiting to see it for a while and was not disappointed. Funny, intriguing and sad at once. 

Two women feuding over the favour of Queen Anne of England. They use every means necessary to make each other look bad and win the Queen's affections. They both have their reasons and only one can prevail.

As always after watching a costume drama like this, it raised questions in my head. Here are some of the answers that I found.

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Who is Favourite based on?

Queen Anne in 1705, by Michael DahlQueen Anne in 1705, by Michael Dahl

The movie revolves around Queen Anne of England, Scotland, and Ireland and two of her ladies-in-waiting who are in a power struggle for the queens attention.

Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, knew Anne since she was a eight-year-old Princess.  

Abigail Hill, a cousin of Sarah, was given a position at court when Queen Anne was 39. Around that time Sarah and Anne's relationship became tence.

When does 'The Favourite' take place?

Anne (played by Olivia Colman) was Queen from 1702 until she died in 1714. Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) was already in her service when Anne was crowned. In fact, they knew each other for over 25 years by then, as Sarah entered court around 1673. This explains their familiar bond. Sarah is not scared of expressing her opinions to Anne. They did use the nicknames Mrs Freeman (Sarah) and Mrs Morley (Anne) log before Anne became queen.


Abigail Hill was appointed Lady of the Bedchamber to Anne in 1704. 

Abigail’s wedding to Samuel Masham was in 1707.

Sarah had to hand over the golden key, symbolising her authority within the royal household, in January 1711. She lost her positions as 'Mistress of the Robes' and 'Groom of the Stole'. She also lost the state funding for Blenheim Palace, which Anne gave to Sarah and her husband in 1705.

She and her husband left England and travelled the European court's until the death of Anne made it possible for them to return to England.

Knowing all this, the film roughly describes the period between 1704- and 1711.

Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, 
by Jervas ca.1700Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, by Jervas ca.1700

Where was Queen Anne's king?

Queen Anne and Prince George, by Charles Boit 1706Queen Anne and Prince George, by Charles Boit 1706

There was no King!

Queen Anne was married to George of Denmark on 28 July 1683. Anne became Queen on her own merits, and traditionally the Queen's husband is not called King. The English law does not allow the husband of a queen regnant to take the title of a king.

Queen Anne's Predecessor was William III of England (William of Orange). He married Anne's sister, Queen Mary II. William of Orange is a protestant. In 1688 he invades England to overthrow the Catholic King James. James was the father of Mary and Anne, but they both took William's side against their father. 

Willam and Mary became king and Queen of England. Mary because she is the oldest daughter of the former king. William because he threatened to leave England to the Catholics if he wasn't crowned King.  The couple dies childless, leaving Anne next in line to the throne. 

As opposed to William, Anne's husband George did not have the same rank and ambition as his brother-in-law. He received the title 'Consort of the Queen' when his wife was crowned.  He couldn't care less, as he was not interested in politics. George did support his wife on some occasions, and their marriage got close. Believably not in the least because they had to burry 18 children together. When George dies on 28 October 1708 Anne is heartbroken. The problems with the duchess are well underway by then and got worse when Sara told Anne how to mourn her husband. 

The movie focusses on the relationship between the three women. George is kept out of the movie altogether, though he was still alive. He dies in 1708.

Did Queen Anne really have 17 bunnies hopping around her bedroom?

Princess Anne and her only surviving child, Prince William the Duke of Gloucester, by Sir Godfrey Kneller ca. 1694Princess Anne and her only surviving child, Prince William the Duke of Gloucester, by Sir Godfrey Kneller ca. 1694

Probably not, as rabbits were not kept as pets in this period. Until the second world war rabbits were merely bred for their fur and meat and not as pets. 

The rabbits represent the children that Queen Anne lost.  

Anne was 18 years old when she got married, her husband George was 30. The wedding took place in July 1683. Their first daughter is born in May 1684, but she is stillborn. 

Anne gives birth or miscarries almost every year for the next 17 years. Some years she births and buries two children, with 1687 being the all-time low. That year Anne has a miscarriage in January. Her second and third daughter both died in February 1687 during a smallpox epidemic.  George is also infected, he recovers, both his daughters died. In October Anne gives birth to a stillborn son again. Four child burials in a single year, it is hard to imagine what that must have been like.

In 1700 Anne had her last stillborn son in January. In July of the same year Prince William, the only son that survived early childhood and reached the age of 11, dies 5 days after his birthday. As Anne did not have any surviving children left, this meant the end of the House of Stuart. A new royal house, the House of Hanover, took over after Anne's death in 1714.

What palace is the Favourite set in?

And can you visit them?

 The courtyard at Hampton Court Palace where one of the scenes of The Favourite was filmed

The palace where Queen Anne spend most of her time during her reign was Hampton Court Palace. She enjoyed hunting in the extensive palace grounds.

She also used the King's Apartments at Kensington Palace. Her husband Prince George of Denmark used the Queen’s Apartments. She was very fond of the orangery that she had commissioned there. When it was finished in 1705 she used it to host summer parties.

Most of the movie was filmed at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. This palace is where Elisabeth I, the virgin Queen, spent much of her childhood and heard about her ascension to the throne in 1558. The famous Rainbow Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I is displayed here in the Marble Hall. 

This Marble Hall was used to shoot the ball scene in The Favourite. The Queen arrives in her wheelchair and wants to leave very soon after, having witnessed Sarah's ridiculous dance.

The bedroom of Queen Anne, where most of the scenes take place, is, in fact, the King James Drawing Room. The room of Anne is the library. This is very convenient for the book-throwing scene and the scene where Abigail is spying on Sarah and the Queen from the gallery above. 

The secret hallways between the rooms are not real.

 The Marble Hall at Hatfield House. At the end of the room you can see the Rainbow Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I

The film 'The favourite' delivers gorgeous views of palace interiors. The wide-angle shots show the grandeur of the rooms and halls like the Long Gallery with its gold ceiling. 

Blenheim Palace can be visited online with a 360 degree virtual tour.  If you have a VR headset, you can really step inside the palace!

Did Queen Anne have lesbian relations with her maids of honour?

Although Anne was very close to her favourites, the relationships were presumably platonic. Anne was devoted to the Church of England and devoted to her husband Prince George of Denmark. The tales of the friendships of the Queen with Sarah and Abigail being more than probably originated by Sarah herself, trying to hurt the queen as she fell out of grace. 

The reason for the fall out between Queen Anne and Sarah was mainly caused by politics, not romance or passion. Sarah was a Whig and Anne was a Tory. This gap of insights became unbridgable during The War Of Spanish Succession which was a big drain on the Englisch economy. In the end, Queen Anne choose for peace, and the victorious Duke of Marlborough and his wife fell from grace.

What happened to Abigail and Sarah after Queen Anne's death?

Abigail Masham, Keeper of the Privy Purse  to Queen Anne of EnglandAbigail Masham

Abigail remained the Keeper of the Privy Purse until the death of Queen Anne on 1 August 1714 and then retired to the Masham family home at Otes in Essex. She had 5 children and died in 1734. You can find her grave in the churchyard of All Saints' Church in High Laver.

Sarah and her husband returned to England after Anne died. Conveniently, the Duke of Marlborough and the new King George I had fought together in the War of the Spanish Succession and were friends. He and Sarah were restored in their former station and moved back to Marlborough House. This house in London was built under the supervision of Sarah during the years when she was still in favour by Queen Anne. She also monitored the construction of Blenheim Palace again. She was buried in the tomb of Blenheim after she died on 18 October 1744, aged 84.

Is Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, related to Winston Churchill?

Diana, princess of Wales

Yes, the prime minister during World War 2, Winston Churchill, is a direct descendant of Sara and her husband. Winston's grandfather was John Winston Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough, His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was the 3rd son of the Duke, so did not inherit the Duchy. Winston was born in Blenheim Palace, the palace that Queen Anne built for Sarah in 1874. The Churchill family lived in Blenheim Palace for 300 years.

As you could have guessed from the name of Winston's father, Sarah is also an ancestor of Princess Diana. She was born Diana Spencer. 

Who is the Favourite based on?
And other questions about The favourite.

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