By now, moviegoers are used to getting opulent biopics about British royalty every year, but The Favourite stands out as something completely different. Instead of lavish riches, The Favourite shows the dirt and grime of real life in the 18th century, and instead of only tense drama, The Favourite is packed with an endless supply of jokes. Since it doesn’t feel like any other period drama that has come before it, viewers will likely leave the theater wondering, is The Favourite historically accurate or just totally fabricated? It is actually a lot closer to reality than fans might think.
The Favourite tells the story of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) in 1708 Great Britain, and the two women in her court competing for her favor: the stern and already established Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) and the recently impoverished Abigail Hill (Emma Stone). So, were these real people, and did everything that happened in the movie actually occur back in the 1700s? Let’s clear some historical questions up:
Was Queen Anne real?
First things first, yes, Queen Anne really did rule Great Britain from 1707 to her death in 1714. It also seems like Olivia Colman’s portrayal of Queen Anne matches many accounts of her, which refer to her as a very emotional and stubborn ruler. She also did have gout, as portrayed in The Favourite, which rendered her lame in her later years and eventually compounded her death.
Were Sarah Churchill and Abigail Hill real?
Both of Queen Anne’s "favourites" were just as real as she was, and the movie actually seems to tell their stories pretty closely to historical accuracy as well. Sarah Churchill had been Anne’s closest friend since the two were children, and even after Anne became the Queen, Sarah never held her tongue around Anne. She is known to have wielded significant political sway over Anne, many citing Sarah’s influence as the reason why the traditionally Tory Queen Anne began to decide in favor of Whig proposal for a time, as Sarah was a Whig.
Abigail Hill was a real woman as well, and Sarah’s cousin, as portrayed in the movie. She lost her wealth and social standing due to her father’s gambling, and her cousin Sarah allowed her to work within Queen Anne’s court.
What about the love triangle? Was that real?
This part of the movie is not as easy to confirm. In the film, Sarah is not only Anne’s longtime friend, but also her secret lover, and Abigail eventually seduces Anne away from Sarah through sex as well. Though there did seem to be rumors at the time of something romantic going on between the queen and her two favorite women, it is impossible to know whether those rumors amounted to anything more than gossip. Anne was also married to Prince George of Denmark up until 1708, when she was devastated by his death, which was not mentioned in the movie.
And what about those bunnies?
Although Queen Anne’s 17 pet rabbits play a large and particularly emotional part in The Favourite, the actual Queen Anne did not have pet bunnies since they would be seen as a pest rather than a pet at the time. The 17 dead children or failed pregnancies that they represent, though, are sadly a real part of Queen Anne’s history.
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