As I mentioned before, my bedtime reading of late has been Churchill's "Marlborough: His Life and Times," and because I only read it at bedtime, and because the days have been long and consequently I fall to asleep quickly, I have been making my way very slowly. But, the other night I came across these two great quotes, in Volume III, in which Churchill is discussing the beginning of the political shifts and machinations in the fall and winter of 1709 that would lead eventually to the fall of the Whig government, and of Marlborough himself.
Queen Anne conceived herself as entirely within her rights in cleansing herself from the Whigs whom she detested, and also in punishing the two great super-Ministers [Marlborough and Godolphin] who had helped to force the Whigs upon her. In behaving thus the Queen violated every modern conception of the duties of a constitutional monarch, and also most of the canons of personal good faith. Nevertheless, neither she nor her subjects felt the same repugnance to these methods as we do to-day. Royal favour was like the weather. It was as useless to reproach Queen Anne with fickleness and inconstancy as it would be to accuse a twentieth-century electorate of these vices.
And, a few pages later:
No records are available of Harley's approaches to Somerset. But we know that the Queen - no doubt by Harley's guidance - began to show him exceptional favour from the end of 1709. She was repeatedly closeted with him. She listened with unwearied patience to all the advice he had to give. He basked resplendent in the royal grace. Godolphin wrote drily to Marlborough that Somerset seemed to be more hours each day with the Queen than away from her. Already because of his airs he was spoken of in the Court as "the Sovereign." We are witnessing an early eighteenth-century example of the process, familiar to twentieth-century democracy in every land, by which a pretentious, imposing mediocrity can be worked up into a national leader.