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Satire and the History Behind "The Favourite" Movie

Yorgos Lanthimos's film The Favourite received great acclaim when it was released in January 2019. Starring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz, it features the stormy lesbian relationship between Queen Anne, Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, and Queen Anne's favourte Abigail Masham. Although it is not a documentary film, much of its history about lesbianism in the court of Queen Anne is fairly accurate – or at least accurately reflects contemporary views about Queen Anne.

Such views are examplified in the 1708 satirical lampoon A New Ballad. To the Tune of Fair Rosamond, which I reproduce below. The song is an attack on Queen Anne’s ‘she-favourite’, Abigail Masham (née Hill). Abigail’s mother, Mary Jennings, was an aunt of Sarah Jennings, who married John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough. Through the influence of Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, Abigail was appointed a woman of the bedchamber to Queen Anne around 1704. In 1707 she privately married Samuel Masham, a groom of the bedchamber to Prince George of Denmark, Anne’s consort. By that time she had supplanted Sarah in the Queen’s favour. Sarah charged ‘that Mrs. MASHAM came often to the QUEEN when the PRINCE was asleep, and was generally two hours every day in private with her’ (see her Account of the Conduct of the Dowager Duchess of Marlborough (1742), p. 184).

Read entire article at Richard Norton