In 1711, England is at war with France. Queen Anne is in frail health; she shows little interest in governing, preferring activities such as racing ducks and playing with her 17 rabbits, surrogates for the children she miscarried or lost in childhood. Her confidante, adviser, and furtive lover Sarah Churchill effectively rules the country through her influence over the Queen. Sarah’s efforts to control Anne are undermined by Robert Harley, the Leader of the Opposition, who as a landowner argues against a doubling of property taxes proposed to fund the war.
Abigail Hill, Sarah’s impoverished younger cousin, arrives in search of employment. Abigail’s standing has been tainted by her father, who gambled her away in a game of whist. Abigail is forced to do menial work as a scullery maid in the palace. After seeing the Queen’s gout, Abigail forages for herbs and applies them to the Queen’s inflamed legs. Sarah has Abigail whipped for entering the Queen’s bedroom without permission but relents and appoints her Lady of the Bedchamber after realising the herbs have helped the Queen. Harley asks Abigail to spy on Sarah and the Queen, hoping to circumvent Sarah’s authority. Abigail witnesses Sarah and the Queen having sex.
With Sarah focused on the war effort, Abigail kindles a friendship with Anne that becomes sexual. Sarah becomes aware of Abigail’s machinations and attempts to send her away. Abigail drugs Sarah’s tea, causing her to fall off her horse and be dragged unconscious on the ground. Sarah awakens in a brothel, battered from the fall. Anne, thinking Sarah has abandoned her to make her jealous, takes Abigail into her favour and allows her to marry Colonel Masham, reinstating Abigail’s noble standing.
When Sarah returns to court, she issues an ultimatum to Queen Anne: send Abigail away or Sarah will disclose her correspondence with Anne that details their sexual relationship. She tells Anne that Abigail does not love her and merely flatters her. Sarah, remorseful, burns the letters but Anne nevertheless sends her away from court. When Abigail, who has been promoted to Keeper of the Privy Purse, presents what she claims is evidence Sarah had been embezzling money, Anne exiles Sarah and her husband from Britain.
With Sarah gone and her position secure, Abigail begins to neglect and ignore Anne while indulging in court society and openly having affairs. One day, while lounging in the Queen’s chamber, Abigail abuses one of Anne’s rabbits. Anne, now very sick, is awakened by the animal’s distress cry. Anne forces herself out of bed and orders Abigail to massage her leg while gradually bearing down on Abigail’s head with her hand.
As you can see the painting is coming along really well. I tend to go from side to side, allowing the paint to dry completely.
My son came down today to social distance in the garden. It was lovely catching up, but not being able to give him a cuddle was hard. But we will get there.