Favorite of Queen Anne of England
1670 – 1734 A.D.
Mrs. Masham’s name occupies a prominent place in the political writings which characterized the reign of Queen Anne. She was the daughter of Mr. Hill, a wealthy merchant of London, by reason of whose bankruptcy she was obliged to become the attendant of Lady Rivers. From this position she was advanced to the place of waiting maid to the princess Anne, and after her mistress ascended the throne gradually acquired considerable influence over her. She was not a woman of superior mind or attainments, but there were many points of sympathy between the queen and herself, which may account for the ascendancy of this favorite. She possessed great powers of mimicry, and considerable taste in music, of which latter accomplishment the queen was very fond.
In 1707, Abigail Hill married Mr. Masham, a man of ancient family, one of the pages of the court. This marriage was performed secretly, and in the presence of the queen. The Duchess of Marlborough, who had hitherto been a favorite of the queen, on learning these facts, gave way to such violence, that it severed finally the tie between herself and her sovereign; and in a short time she was deprived of all offices and dignities at court. One of her situations, that of the privy-seal, was given to Mrs. Masham.
Following upon this, Mrs. Masham leagued herself with the queen’s party, who were intriguing to remove the Duke of Marlborough and his adherents, and become an instrument in their hands. In 1711 a change of ministry took place, and Mr. Masham was raised to the peerage. Henceforth, Lady Masham became involved in all the intrigues of the court especially in those of the Tories in favor of the exiled House of Stuart, which she warmly advocated.
Mrs. Masham was plain in appearance, and delicate in health. One of her physical blemishes was a remarkably red nose, furnishing the wits of the day with a constant subject at which to level their shafts. After the death of the queen, she lived in great retirement, and died at an advanced age.
Reference: Woman: Her Position, Influence and Achievement Throughout the Civilized World. Designed and Arranged by William C. King. Published in 1900 by The King-Richardson Co. Copyright 1903 The King-Richardson Co.