“The thunder had long grumbled in the air; and yet when the bolt fell, most of our party appeared as much surprised as if they had had no reason to expect it.” In those words, Henry St John, Viscount Bolingbroke, the Tory leader and philosopher of Queen Anne’s reign, described the confusion and passivity with which his party allowed itself to be destroyed when the long-foreseen death of the Queen in 1714 enabled the Whigs to execute a coup d’état, on the model of 1688, and implement the Hanoverian succession.

In the subsequent general election of 1715 the Tories were reduced to 215 seats (a tally their successors would covet today) and were excluded from government for the ensuing 68 years. Yet, only five years earlier, the Tories had won an historic landslide in the general election of 1710, securing 350 seats out of 558 – a second Cavalier Parliament.