There were two licensed theatre companies during the second half of the 17th century: the King’s Men at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and the Duke of York’s Company at the Dorset Garden Theatre. The two companies underwent various twists and turns in their fortunes during the following decades, although the Theatre Royal continued as a venue. At the end of the century a new company emerged, based at the Queen’s Theatre in the Haymarket and from 1711 it began staging operas by Handel.
Charles II and his brother James II kept tight control on newspapers and other publications during their reign. The London Gazette newspaper carried official news that was acceptable to the Crown. During the reign of William such controls fell by the wayside and the Licensing Act by which printed publications were controlled was allowed to lapse in 1695, marking the end of formal censorship by the state and church. Political and religious writing, especially by Dissenters, began to flourish in the form of pamphlets and newspapers, distributed and read in coffee houses and elsewhere. By the end of William’s reign the general public in London and around the country were well educated in both local and international matters and their opinions were often formed by what they read. Perhaps Britain’s earliest regular, independent daily newspaper was The Daily Courant, first published in Fleet Street in March 1702.
The royal charter that granted stationers monopoly on the ownership of printed works expired in 1695 and was not renewed. In order to encourage men of knowledge to create new works and thereby stimulate education Parliament decided to transfer copyright of printed works to authors rather than the publisher. The Copyright Act was passed in 1709.
When it became clear that a non-Anglican monarch would follow Queen Anne there was growing anxiety amongst Tories. In 1709 the cantankerous and secretly Jacobite clergyman Dr. Henry Sacheverell delivered a notorious sermon to the members of the Corporation of London at St. Paul’s Cathedral. It led to a trial of impeachment at Westminster and mob rioting in London.
Queen Anne was the last of the Stuart line of monarchs, ruling over a large empire. She primarily lived at Windsor Castle and the old Tudor St. James’s Palace, giving Kensington Palace to her husband. Anne died in 1714 and the crown passed smoothly to George, Elector of Hanover, who became King George I, the first of the Georgian dynasty.