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About The Production (Cont'd)

The rule of Queen Anne was marked not only by the first modern worldwide war and the uniting of the United Kingdom, but also by the emergence of partisan politics, or what was called at the time "the rage of party," rife with vicious, personal in-fighting and ideological stand-offs. The Queen sat atop a constitutional monarchy, sharing power with an elected parliament made of Whigs and Tories beholden to their constituents. The Whigs, made up largely of landed aristocracy, supported the war and initially had the monarchy's support. The Tories-the opposition party-sought to bring the war, with all its mounting costs in blood and treasure, to an end.

Although both parties were of course entirely made up of men. Lanthimos' vision emphasizes the women in action and in control; while the flamboyantly rouged and blinged-out men are reactive. "I wanted to place the women into a conglomerate of men who have no direction and really don't know how to handle serious matters. The men may be greater in numbers but not in spirit," Lanthimos describes.

The Tory opposition leader was Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer, considered one of the modern world's first master practitioners of "spin." Though he would ultimately become Queen Anne's chief minister, in the film Harley finds his access to the Queen constantly blocked by Sarah. It is only the arrival of Abigail that reverses Harley's fortunes, allowing him to make his case that the war is a financial disaster.

In THE FAVOURITE Nicholas Hoult plays Harley, known for his roles in MAD MAX: FURY ROAD and X-MEN: APOCALYPSE. From the start, Hoult relished the idea that his character, the kind more often in the historical foreground, in fact gets relegated to a secondary position in the film, reliant on Sarah and then Abigail to gain influence with Anne.

"I love that the film is about the power and the love of three women-Rachel, Emma and Olivia's characters. Whose characters are actually much stronger than the male characters in many ways and certainly, in terms of appearance compared to these men running around in three inch heels, leggings and big wigs," muses Hoult.

Hoult notes that Lanthimos did not encourage extended research into the historical figures. "We all understood that we were taking our characters outside the confines of what is known about them," he says. Instead, going off his actions in the script, Hoult describes Harley as "quite manipulative," noting that "to get the Queen's ear, Harley has to weave his way in through an alliance with Abigail."

One historical reality that is reflected, albeit stylized, in the film is Harley's fondness for a flashy outfit. The extent of Harley's grandiosity took Hoult by surprise. He recalls, "Our makeup designer came to me early on and asked, 'has anyone spoken to you yet about your look for this film?' then she showed me photos. I had no idea! But I found it to be such a brilliant part of the character."

The ostentatious costumes did, however, challenge his castmates at times. Says Rachel Weisz, "Nick Hoult in his full makeup and wig and high heels looked like the most ravishing super model. My character really doesn't like Harley, and she's icy towards him, but if I looked at Nick, I would just melt. He looks incredibly funny and also very beautiful."

Harley's political rival is the most powerful politician of the day, Sidney Godolphin, 1st Earl of Godolphin, who served as First Lord of the Treasury under Queen Anne. Though a Tory by name, Godolphin aligned himself with the Whig leader John Churchill, The Duke of Marlborough, to find ways to fund England's war with France. Taking the role in THE FAVOURITE is the English actor James Smith, perhaps best known for the contemporary political satire IN THE LOOP.

At first, Smith dove into meticulous research, even visiting his Godolphin's childhood home in Cornwall. But he soon realized the investigation was not going where Lanthimos wanted to go. "On day one of rehearsals, I left all my research behind, because that's not how Yorgos works," he explains. Instead, Smith zeroed in on the themes of the script. "I felt the story to be a very human journey of a friendship which falls apart rather badly. Samuel Johnson once said 'A man does well to keep his friendships in good repair.' Keeping friendships in good repair is not necessarily easy and Anne and Sarah are tested, to the very nth degree of that idea," he says.

Unusual as Lanthimos' approach was to Smith, he says working with him was a kind of dream. "One of the qualities that I like about Yorgos is his benignity," he explains. "From day one, there was just a sense that all egos had been parked at the door. Yorgos is so calm and patient that he doesn't allow you to trade on your insecurities. Everyone is in the same boat, not just the actors but the wig department, sound, camera- everyone is treated as a total professional who knows their job, yet Yorgos wants to get something more out of you, something you didn't know you had. That is fascinating."

Godolphin's political ally, and Sarah's husband, is John Churchill, the Duke of Marlborough, a soldier and statesman whose influence spanned five monarchs, and who commanded English, Dutch and German forces in the war against France. Taking the role is Mark Gatiss, the British actor, comedian, screenwriter and novelist, renown for indelible roles on "Doctor Who," "Sherlock" and as Tycho Nestoris in HBO's "Game of Thrones."

Like Smith, Gatiss was drawn to Lanthimos' unorthodoxy. "In some ways, you had to unlearn things you've been doing for years," he describes of the set. "Yorgos always wanted to dig deeper and find something unusual and more contemporary in these characters than anyone else might have seen."

The historic Churchill married Sarah when she was still a teen, but later his wife's curiously tight bond with the Queen would prove to be of great advantage. Under her reign, Churchill amassed not only power, with Anne naming him to his dukedom, but a considerable fortune. The marriage especially fascinated Gatiss. "In the film, they are truly a power couple," he observes. "Sarah is effectively running the country, and brilliantly playing the game of dangling political favors, while John is conducting the war. John acknowledges that his wife is better than he is at politics and she's the more important one in this relationship."

Having worked with Weisz before, Gatiss says he knew she would "grab this role with both hands." He continues: "It just suits her down to the ground-this very funny, witty woman who is nevertheless absolutely ruthless. She also shows how difficult it must have been to be Sarah, the steeliness it required and the enormous skill of avoiding all these bear traps set for her."

Rounding out the male supporting cast is rising star Joe Alwyn as Samuel Masham, who is only too happy to allow Harley to broker his marriage to Abigail, finally affording Harley the access he's long pursued. For Abigail, the marriage is equally valuable, raising her rank, bringing her closer to her quest to fully unseat Lady Sarah as the Queen's favourite.

But Masham is led by unabashed desire. "There's an immediate physical lust and interest for Masham, and being obviously higher up rank, he expects he'll be the one in power in their courtship. But Abigail quickly subverts that idea," says Alwyn. "Her wit and her boldness catch him off guard. He's turned on by the playful banter and each scene is a power struggle to see who comes out on top. Everyone in this film is using one another, whether it's for power, position, influence or sex."

Though a relative newcomer to film sets, Alwyn was keenly aware that Lanthimos' approach was atypical. "As long as you come willing and open to play around and jump into his mad mind, that's all that you need to do," he summarizes.

To fill in smaller roles, casting director Dixie Chassay and her team took to the streets. "Yorgos likes to marry classically trained actors with people who have no experience. He finds the purity of their spontaneity very rewarding; it's something no one can recapture," Chassay explains.

Two of the film's principals-Mrs. Meg, played by Jennifer White and Sally, played by Lilly-Rose Stevens, as well as around 10 additional non-speaking ensemble roles-were cast from the street. "For each role we were looking for a great face that tells a story and exudes energy," Chassay says. "Each and every individual was chosen because they had a big story across their face."


"To be trapped in such close quarters only heightens the personal tensions." -- Ceci Dempsey, Producer

The kingdom and it denizens are part of a world in which the stark use of color, facial expressions, camera angles and visual contrasts are just as significant as the dialogue.

From the start, while honing the script with Tony McNamara, Lanthimos knew he wanted to use the Palace architecture as one uses the rooms in a bedroom farce, with a manic array of interconnections. "The way the Palace operated was really important to Yorgos visually and we used that in the storytelling," McNamara explains. "Yorgos liked the idea that everyone's rooms were connected and he liked the sense of Abigail starting downstairs and working her way up."

To portray the Palace, the production utilized Hatfield House, a Jacobean estate in Hertfordshire, England, on a parcel of land that has housed royals since the 15th Century. The present structure was built in 1611 by Robert Cecil, the Chief Minister to King James I, replete with grand staircases, capacious drawing rooms and crucially, elongated corridors that stretch for miles.

What mattered most to Lanthimos was that he had at his disposal the kind of oversized, echoing space where a person might feel insignificant, even lost. "From the beginning, I had this image of these lonely characters in these huge spaces," the director shares.

Within those huge rooms, Lanthimos worked closely with director of photography Robbie Ryan, whose recent works include AMERICAN HONEY, PHILOMENA and THE MEYEROWITZ STORIES. Shooting with the rich warmth of 35mm film, Ryan's camera is both intimate and dynamic, hovering over and among the characters, constantly exposing them from striking angles and unexpected perspectives. Going in, the director also knew exactly the style of lighting he wanted: basically none. "There were a couple of instances outside at night where we had to use lights so you could at least see something, but the rest we shot like all my films-with natural light," says Lanthimos. "What you see is what was there on the day and I like to welcome that as part of the film; when there are sunny days the scene is sunny, when there are gloomy days it's darker. We did use candlelight for all the night scenes. I also like it because it allows you the time to concentrate on the essence of the film-on the performances and the camera movement, which I find the most important part."

The cast was intrigued by just how intensely focused Ryan and Lanthimos were on placing the camera in unusual spots. Says Nicholas Hoult, "Robbie Ryan is a phenomenal DP, and Yorgos was always looking for different angles. The film was never shot in a conventional manner and you saw them constantly seeking out different ways to film. I think that's part of what makes Yorgos' films feel different, fresh and at times unsettling. People already know the shorthand of most films so I think audiences shut off very quickly when they know what's coming. With Yorgos, you don't."

The epic task of crafting the Royal Palace to match Lanthimos' mind's-eye vision fell to production designer Fiona Crombie (MACBETH). She was assured early on that design anachronisms were A-OK, indeed welcome if they supported the universe of the storytelling. "From the outset, I knew the design was to be its own thing and not at all concerned with what did or didn't exist. We wound up with a mix. Some things truly sit within the period and others step out of it," she explains.

"I feel that when you enter into the space of Anne just by virtue of her 17 rabbits, you're already dropped into a language and a world that is its own kind of gem," Crombie says. "So while we were mindful of furniture styles of the era, we were far more focused on looking for the shapes, structures and aesthetics that fit the characters."

One overriding concept was that the Palace is a bit of a playground for those allowed in. "You have scenes such as the game with the guy being pelted with blood oranges and the duck races and there's just a lot of excess and a feeling of we're doing this because we can," observes Crombie.

Another concept, mirroring the photography, Crombie kept in mind was fluidity. "The Queen's apartment often changes and we had no fixed rules such as this is where that chair goes. I really like this idea that's in the script that the Queen is carried on a sedan chair, so there's a natural mobility of objects wherever she goes. I didn't worry too much about explaining. For example, suddenly in the Great Hall there's a duck race with 30 benches. We don't need to know where 30 benches come from. Then next time we're there it's a ball and then all of a sudden it's Abigail's dinner and it flips again. There's that possibility of things changing from moment to moment."

The chequered black-and-white marble floor in Hatfield's Great Hall helped Crombie to develop the design palette for the film with a monochromatic field of golds, champagnes, pineapple and oak tones, an idea that came from costume designer Sandy Powell. "We were all delighted by the way that the costumes sit in this gold and wooden warm world," says Crombie.

Though the floors and walls were an inspiration, Crombie ended up altering Hatfield as it had never been before. "To create Queen Anne's room, we stripped out lots of incredible paintings, furniture and drapes so we could just put our own language into it."

She continues: "Of course, we were incredibly respectful. Everything in there is so precious and so beautifully created. One of the biggest challenges we had was all the candles because as you can imagine, there are very strict protocols about managing candles. So we had to use an enormous number of wax catchers. But the people who manage Hatfield were very supportive and we negotiated and negotiated and we wound up being able to do the vast majority of what we wanted to do."

Another challenge was crafting the "day spa" where Queen Anne lounges. "We built a massive mud bath for the Queen but just getting that huge tub into the building was an event," Crombie recalls. Throughout Crombie worked in synch with Ryan. "Part of the design was about supporting the movement of the camera, making sure Robbie had space to roam and push where he wanted. We felt that negative space was as important as the objects, so we aimed not to stack the rooms with things."

The film's use of wide angle lenses and 360-degree whip pans was especially rewarding for Crombie, as it gives a new perspective on her team's work. "A character will walk into a room and you get this ncredible wide shot-we're talking seeing from the floors to the ceilings to the corners," she says. "You see everything. It's been really satisfying."


THE FAVOURITE's costumes are inextricable from the overall design, merging with the sets and photography to add up to their own kind of world-building effect. Lanthimos collaborated with the legendary Sandy Powell, a three-time Oscar winner (for THE YOUNG VICTORIA, THE AVIATOR and SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE) and eleven-time nominee for Best Costumes.

Powell herself actually reached out to Ceci Dempsey after being told of the upcoming production by a friend. "I knew it was going to be period yet slightly off the wall and there was an element of stylization involved-all the things I love," Powell says. Lanthimos also intrigued her. "I knew Yorgos' work and when I thought of what Yorgos' take would be on a period film, I knew it would be completely different from anything I'd done," she explains.

Perhaps the biggest draw for Powell was the rarity of having a trio of female leads, each as infinitely complicated as the next, to create around. "It happens so rarely," she points out. "It hardly ever happens you get two female leads, let alone three."

Lanthimos handed her broad creative freedom. "Yorgos is a man of few words," Powell describes. "He doesn't give you a great deal in terms of description or how exactly he wants things. But he did give me a few broader guidelines and he provided visual references that were inspirations. "

Powell notes that the period itself, the turn of the 18th Century, is quite an obscure one in cinema, rarely ventured into and certainly not in millennial times, which also opened things up. "It gave me the opportunity to think of the costumes from scratch, since I couldn't rent costumes from costume houses. Everything had to be made. On the one hand, that was completely daunting because we had very little time. On the other, it was exciting because it meant we were able to invent an entire world and push things in terms of color and style in our own way."

Color became key to the design. While Powell stayed true to 18th Century silhouettes, color became her sandbox, and she played with a minimalist palette of visually stark neutrals and golds.

"There's something exhilarating about limiting the color palette. As much as I love color, this is the first time I've practically eliminated it from a film. In the palace scenes, we restricted the colors to blackand-white mostly, with some silvers and greys. The politicians, as is indicated in the script, are defined by their colors. The Tories are in red and the Whigs are in blue. But I dressed all of them in black and they just wear waistcoats in either the blue or the red."

Several period portraits of Queen Anne were available, but Powell put those images largely aside. "The closest costume I copied from my research are the Queen's robes of state that she wears while addressing Parliament. The shape and silhouette you see in the film is based off those courtly portraits," she elaborates, "but the details are still utterly made up and stylized."

When the Queen isn't addressing the government, she throws off her robes. "She's miserable, she's depressed, she's sick and getting worse. So consequently I've put her in a nightgown for the most of the film. It's what you do when you're ill and depressed; you don't get dressed and she's the Queen so she doesn't have to do anything she doesn't want to," Powell says.

Abigail has the film's most evolving wardrobe. Arriving at the palace in a faded, mud-plastered dress, she trades in her past for a kitchen servant's uniform. Then, says Powell, "in her mission to be upwardly mobile, she graduates to the Queen's maid so she gets another change of clothes and once she marries Masham, she really comes into money and her clothes get even finer. I really wanted to show her decorated and adorned at that point."

Her palette also shifts. "She moves from grey to black then to black-and-white and finally to all white. There's the idea that only rich people wear white, as they're the only ones who can afford to keep it clean. If you see someone dressed completely in white, they're most often wealthy," Powell observes. Meanwhile, it is the male characters who indulge themselves in finery and regalia, especially Nicholas Hoult's Harley. "Harley's the peacock, an utterly over- the-top, flamboyant dandy," comments Powell. "His dress is similar to all the men, but then I pushed the ruffles, frills and gave him lots of extra lace. Everything is a little bit bigger and more exaggerated. And since Nick is six-foot-two, with his three inch heels, he towers above everybody else, which only adds to the look."

Hair and Makeup Designer Nadia Stacey (THE SENSE OF AN ENDING) likewise found herself stepping into unexplored territory. "There's not a massive pool of research on this period to begin with as it doesn't often get done. And then Yorgos continually told us to forget the research, since he didn't care if a hairstyle was three years out of date," Stacey explains. "He wanted to play in such a way that you recognise this as being Queen Anne's court, but it's our own stylised version."

Stacey quickly discovered that Lanthimos prefers the natural messiness of life. "He doesn't like perfect hair with not a curl out of place; he would regularly take his finger and poke into my hairstyles. My team had to learn that if the actors were sweating, or backlighting made the hair go frizzy, not to rush in to fix it. When the wigs during the duck race were starting to move and all the hair was getting fuzzy, Yorgos said 'this is good, I like this.'"

Like Powell, Stacey used historically accurate silhouettes as a base, then played with palette, texture and details. To distinguish Tories from Whigs, she gave the conservative Whig men traditional bouffant wigs in natural hair colors, while the opposing Tories are in stark white wigs festooned with lovelocks--locks of hair tied onto the wigs in ribbons-and with faces in full powdered makeup.

In the 18th Century it was common for men, especially men of the upper crust, to work at exquisitely pale faces ornamented with ruby red lips and flushed cheeks. Stacy especially had fun with the heavily madeup Harley. "Nick didn't realize he was going to be in such a huge wig and extensive make-up, but he totally threw himself into it. The thing about Nick is that he looks so beautiful in makeup. He's this ridiculous character but he's striking," muses Stacey.

Stacy gave Harley a panoply of mouches, the popular beauty marks of the day. "Mouches came into fashion because the toxic, lead-based powder applied to faces left pockmarks, which led people to covering up their scars with patches that become more and more elaborate-- heart-shaped, moon-shaped, starshaped," she explains. "Mouches also were a secret language, a way of flirting in court. So one above your eye meant you're looking for a new friend; on the chin meant a kiss and nothing further; on your cheek, you were feeling bold. So we really played with that with Harley."

In pointed contrast to the men, the three main leads' faces are often nearly bare. "Our leading trio wear pretty much no makeup," Stacey explains, "and we were often asked to strip their minimal makeup back even more." The hairstyles of the day were also less extravagant for the women than the men. "It's probably the only period in history where the men were so much more adorned than the women," Stacey notes, "and we emphasized that."

Stacey's challenge in the women's hair was reflecting Abigail's rise and Sarah's concomitant fall. "Abigail wants to become Sarah, so she end ups with hair that Sarah would wear, as if to say, 'I've become you now.' Once she marries Masham, she comes into what we called her 'Lady' hair, with the classic shape of the time. It's a real 'I've arrived' moment for Abigail. And she flips places with Sarah who, after her accident, begins to break down. Sarah becomes a broken figure in terms of her looks."

All of the department heads came to relish the atmosphere on set. Says Ed Guiney, "With Yorgos, it is best to try to create an environment where he can work closely with the actors and key crew with a minimum of interference and a minimum of fuss. He likes a quiet, focused, low key work environment, and everyone thrived in that."

Still, even with the creatively electric atmosphere on set, no one quite knew what to expect. Because of the way Lanthimos plays so freely during the shoot, the final result is even more unpredictable than on most film sets. When photography wrapped, the storytelling work only intensified as Lanthimos collaborated with editor Yorgos Mavropsaridis (THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER) to sculpt the final cut. The pair has worked together since the very beginning of Lanthimos' career and has forged their own distinctive back-and-forth methodology of discovering the structure. "Through our many years of collaboration we have developed a very precise method of work," says Mavropsaridis. "During our common working experience, I have witnessed the formation of Yorgos' cinematic language and have grown to know it well. There is a language particular to each film-from KINETTA to THE FAVOURITE-but also one that is common to all of his work. Though THE FAVOURITE is a bigger-budget film, with certain already standardized procedures to be considered during post-production, we still managed to work using our own method."

Much of that method is beyond words as both undertake the intensive search for the film's final form. "Our first collaboration started on the 'mute' mode, but has since progressed enormously, though we still both prefer not to have to discuss much," Mavropsaridis explains. "During the shooting period I start exploring the material, with the aim of presenting him with an interpretation, a possibility of the many options still to be explored both in terms of the story and of the way of telling of the story."

The beginning is never straightforward but both have faith in the process. "Yorgos' first reaction is inevitably one of despair, but following our method then usually saves us," muses Mavropsaridis. "After his first shock, we start reconstructing the narrative. We take notes and he leaves me to work on these notes, as well as to follow whatever might arise in my long-formed editing synapses."

He continues: "Yorgos supplies me with music and new ideas until we are ready to screen it for friends and family, another procedure that helps us to find our way through this universe of possibilities. After our first screening, we go back again, this deconstructing what we have built so far, experimenting with new ideas and exploring other aesthetic and narrative possibilities."

Having been trained on an Old School machine, the Moviola, Mavropsaridis now embraces Avid Media Composer, which he calls "Moviola-friendly."

Both Lanthimos and Mavropsaridis know by instinct when the film is approaching its final stages. "There is a very delicate balance between form and content in the 'Lanthimic' world," Mavropsaridis describes. "So the process is about finding the balance, tone and stylistic preferences that most accurately communicate his intentions and are most true to his world. Serving this language is the main aim of the edit. Along the way, we find ideas that are innovative, others that are aborted, but we are always thinking about connecting with our imaginary viewer."

That connection is key to Mavropsaridis, right up to the last frame of the film. "As an editor I'm deeply interested in how the viewer will experience at the end of this film and what it will communicate to her. I'm certain the interpretations will be very unexpected," he says.

As to whether he has any, well, favorite moments, Mavropsaridis offers: "All the small bits and pieces of the film have both their rewards and their difficulties... in a way they are all my favorites!" Dempsey was enamored of how the final film balanced all three leads. "It is an incredible feat that Yorgos juggles all three of them so that they are each incredibly vivid."

Guiney found himself thinking not so much of the Stuart Period (1603-1714) as of 2018. "Often we imagine that those who lead us are less-flawed versions of ourselves. Absolutely vulnerable to the same jealousies, corruption and insecurities. I think what you see in this film are three powerful women behaving really intensely to each other with great feeling and in many ways with great integrity of feeling, even if it moves them towards behavior that's not always good. And that feels to me like something that we could see in the world today."

"For me it was never important to accurately show a particular time period or a certain court or even a specific country. I was interested in the characters and the position that they occupied in that society. A position of power of the selected few that could affect the lives of many other human beings. We were inspired by the real people and stories but largely reimagined them in order to make a film that hopefully alludes to similar issues that we all can identify with or recognize in our everyday contemporary lives," concludes Lanthimos.

THE FAVOURITE Historical Character Backstories Represented in the Film
Anne was born in 1665 under the reign of her Uncle, King Charles II. Her father James II, became King in 1685. Mary II, Anne's older sister, and Mary's husband, William III, became Queen & King in 1689. Mary died in 1694 and William remained King until his death in 1702.
Anne suffered from health problems throughout her life. She was sent to France at the age of three to seek medical treatment for an eye condition. By the time she became Queen in 1702, she was already stricken with gout, leading to a largely sedentary lifestyle and subsequent overall decline in her health.
When at Court, Anne was often carried in a sedan chair or had to use a wheelchair.
Anne faced upset and disruption in her life from a young age. Between 1669 and 1671, she lost three very close family members, her grandmother (Dowager Queen Henrietta Maria), aunt, and mother.
Anne and Sarah Jennings met in 1673 when Sarah, at age 13, entered the court of Anne's Father.
Anne and Sarah developed a close friendship in their youth; they invented "pet names" for themselves, Mrs. Morley (Anne) and Mrs. Freeman (Sarah), which they continued to use after Anne became Queen. They also wrote sentimental letters to each other - a selection of these letters remains at the British Library.
Sarah married John Churchill, 10 years her senior, in 1677.
In the early 1680's, Abigail Hill's father died after declaring bankruptcy and reducing his family to poor circumstances. Abigail was sent to work as a servant of Sir George, 4th Baronet Rivers.
Abigail's mother, Elizabeth Jennings, was Sarah's aunt. Sarah eventually learned of her cousin Abigail's misfortune and offered her employment in her own household at St Albans.
Abigail, on her father's side, was also a second cousin of Robert Harley, Earl of Oxford.
Anne married Prince George of Denmark in 1683 and Sarah was appointed as a Lady of the Bedchamber.
Anne had at least 17 pregnancies during her marriage. Most ended in miscarriages or stillbirths (some involving twins) and only 5 babies were born alive. All but one of these babies died in early infancy. The one child who lived for longer, Prince William, Duke of Gloucester, born 1689, was ill for much of his life and died at age 11 in 1700.
Anne became Queen in 1702 and Sarah was promptly made Mistress of the Robes, Groom of the Stole and Keeper of the Privy Purse (the highest offices in the Royal Court that could be held by a woman). John Churchill was given a Dukedom, the highest rank of aristocrat, as well as made General of the Army. John and Sarah became the Duke & Duchess of Marlborough.
Sarah rose to be one of the most influential women of her time through her close friendship with Queen Anne. Sarah's knowledge of government, and intimacy with the Queen, made her a powerful friend and a dangerous enemy. Leading public figures often turned their attentions to Sarah in the hope that she would influence Anne to comply with requests. Sarah was famous for telling Queen Anne exactly what she thought and did not offer her flattery.
Queen Anne gifted the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough a large piece of royal land in Oxfordshire (the old royal manor of Woodstock) and money to build a large new country house there, to be called Blenheim, following the Duke's victory at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704.
After a tenure of satisfactory service, Sarah brought Abigail to work for Anne, first as a form of maid in around 1700 and from 1702, once Anne became Queen, as a bedchamber woman.
As the Duke commanded troops in the War of the Spanish Succession, Sarah devoted much of her time to overseeing construction on Blenheim Palace, causing her to be regularly absent from Court.
In 1707, Abigail Hill was privately married in the Queen's presence to Samuel Masham, a gentleman of the Queen's Household. Abigail became Lady Masham.
Sarah found out about Abigail's marriage months after it occurred. She also discovered that Anne had been present and had given Abigail a dowry of £2000 from the Privy Purse. This proved Anne's duplicity to Sarah: as Keeper of the Privy Purse, Sarah had been unaware of the payment. From this, Sarah also learned that Abigail had, for some time, enjoyed considerable intimacy with Anne.
In 1710, at a final meeting, Sarah threatened to expose Anne's impassioned letters written to her.
In late 1710, Sarah was dismissed from her appointment at Court and asked to return her gold key - the symbol of her authority within the Royal household. Abigail Masham took her place as Keeper of the Privy Purse until 1714. Queen Anne awarded Abigail and Samuel aristocratic titles and they became Lord and Lady Masham.
In disgrace, the Marlboroughs left England and travelled in Europe. Given his success in the War, the Duke was a favorite among the German courts and the Holy Roman Empire so the family was received in those places with full honors.
Lord Godolphin, who served as Lord High Treasurer from Queen Anne's accession in 1702, was ejected from office in August 1710 and replaced by Robert Harley. Harley served until 1714.
Sarah and Anne never made up their differences or saw each other again.
Queen Anne died in 1714 at Kensington Palace.
When the Queen died in 1714 Abigail Masham lost her influence and lived out the rest of her life in obscurity. After a long illness she died in 1734 at the Masham's modest house in Essex. The title of 'Baron Masham' bestowed on Samuel by the Queen was inherited by his son but the title became extinct when the son died childless and bankrupt.
Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough went in to exile in Europe eventually returning to England at the time of Anne's death, living at Blenheim from 1719. She retained social and political influence throughout her life and died a very wealthy woman in 1744 at the age of 84. The Marlboroughs' descendants continue to carry the title of Duke. Blenheim is still their home.


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