George Frideric Handel is probably best known for his musical compositions Messiah (1741) and Water Music (1717). A lesser-known work of his dates from 1713—the cantata Ode for the Birthday of Queen Anne. It featured a libretto by English poet and Whig politician Ambrose Philips and celebrated both the February 6th birthday of Anne, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, as well as the 1712 signing of the Treaty of Utrecht, which ended the War of Spanish Succession and was negotiated by Anne's government. For that reason, the cantata styles Queen Anne as a peacemaker.
Anne was popular throughout her reign, in part because of her personal misfortunes. When she became monarch in 1707 at the age of 42, she was gout-ridden, obese, and in nearly constant pain. She had endured 17 pregnancies that resulted in either stillborn children or children who died by the age of four. On the 1st of August, 1714 she succumbed to Erysipelas, "St. Anthony's fire," a type of acute streptococcus bacterial infection, at the age of 48.
(Alto solo with solo trumpet over sustained strings)
Eternal source of light divine
With double warmth thy beams display
And with distinguish'd glory shine
To add a lustre to this day.
(Alto solo, then chorus with orchestra, sing "the chorus")
The day that gave great Anna birth
Who fix'd a lasting peace on earth.
(Soprano solo, then chorus with orchestra)
Let all the winged race with joy
Their wonted homage sweetly pay
Whilst towr'ing in the azure sky
They celebrate this happy day.
(Alto solo, then alto and solo with chorus and orchestra)
Let flocks and herds their fear forget
Lions and wolves refuse* their prey
And all in friendly consort meet
Made glad by this propitious day.
(Bass and alto duet, then chorus with orchestra)
Let rolling streams their gladness show
With gentle murmurs whilst they play
And in their wild meanders flow
Rejoicing in this blessed day.
(Soprano and alto duet with solo oboe and orchestra)
Kind Health descends on downy wings
Angels conduct her on the way.
T'our glorious Queen new life she brings
And swells our joys upon this day.
[Chorus repeated with Alto and soprano, then chorus with orchestra]
(Bass solo, then chorus with orchestra)
Let envy then conceal her head
And blasted faction glide away.
No more her hissing tongues we'll dread
Secure in this auspicious day.
(Alto solo then chorus with echo effects,solo trumpet and orchestra)
United nations shall combine
To distant climes their sound combine
That Anna's actions are divine
And this the most important day!
The Stuart Dynasty ended with Queen Ann's death; it began in 1688 when William of Orange of the Dutch Republic (Willem III van Oranje) became William III, King of England, Scotland, and Ireland, as joint monarch along with his English wife (and first cousin) Mary III. In English history, their ascension is referred to as the Glorious Revolution for it was basically a sort of bloodless coup: a faction of English Parliamentarians orchestrated the 1688 overthrow of King James II of England and the invitation to William and Mary to claim the throne. In 1707, upon William's death, Anne, Mary's younger and only living sibling, became sole monarch.
* "forget" in some libretti
Images: George Frideric Handel attributed to Balthasar Denner, c. 1726-1728, (National Portrait Gallery, London); Queen Anne by John Closterman, sometime between 1707 and 1711, (National Portrait Gallery, London).