It is the 18th Century and England is at war with France. Queen Anne’s, (Olivia Coleman), court is based in a Country House, presumably in Oxfordshire, as during the film a reference is made to the proximity of Blenheim Palace that is in the early stages of its construction.
Queen Anne shows the symptoms of Bulimia, she suffers from gout and gorges herself on copious amounts of cheese and other foods. Her court primarily consists of women, the Country House they live in is a matriarchal society, within which the women behave like the men of that time would do on their country estates. For example, They hunt and kill game. The women are also not averse to providing the Ambassadors of potential allies with sexual favours to gain their support against France.
Because of her illness Queen Anne becomes increasingly reliant on her Favourite, to act as her agent when dealing with matters of state, Lady Sarah, (Rachel Weisz), with whom the Queen has a lesbian affair,
The war with France at this time is not going well. This is manifest in antipathy between the landed gentry whose estates are funding the war and the merchants who are profiting from the war. England is divided, therefore the Queen seeks to heal this division by proposing to increase Land taxes. The leader of Her Majesty’s Parliamentary Opposition, Harley, (Nicholas Hault) is against increases in Land taxes. Therefore he exploits the relationship between the Queen and her Favourite to further this cause.
The content of the film continues along this line. The intrigue between the women heightens when it is supplemented with manipulatory stratagems devised by the women who would wish to become the Queen’s new Favourite.
The film gives insights into what would seem normal life for the servants who work in and around a Country House of the period…..