Abigail Masham, Baroness Masham Biography

Abigail Masham, Baroness Masham of Otes, was an English courtier who rose to prominence with the help of her cousin, Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough. Initially appointed as the “Lady of the Bedchamber” to Queen Anne, Abigail’s warm nature and numerous abilities endeared her to the Queen, eventually making her a favorite and close friend. Following Sarah’s departure from the court, Abigail assumed the role of “Keeper of the Privy Purse.” However, after Queen Anne’s passing, she chose to retire from court life and lived a private existence until her death in 1734.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Abigail Hill
  • Died At Age: 64
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: 1st Baron Masham, Samuel Masham
    • Father: Francis Hill
    • Mother: Elizabeth Jennings
  • Born Country: England
  • Noblewomen
  • British Women
  • Died on: December 6, 1734
  • City: London, England

Childhood & Early Life

Abigail Hill was born in 1670 to Francis Hill and Elizabeth Hill (born Jennings). Her father, a merchant, faced financial ruin, forcing Abigail to work as a servant for Sir John Rivers of Kent. It was her cousin, Sarah, future Duchess of Marlborough, who helped the family out of pity, although they were not close. Sarah took Abigail under her own roof and later brought her to Queen Anne’s court.

Life at Queen Anne’s Court

Sarah and Queen Anne’s friendship gradually weakened due to Sarah’s personality and political affiliations. Sarah was a ‘Whig’ while Anne was a ‘Tory.’ This created an opportunity for Abigail to get close to the Queen. Some accused Abigail of plotting against her cousin, but others believed she gained importance due to the Queen’s need for a companion.

In 1707, Abigail married Samuel Masham, a gentleman she had met at the Queen’s household. The marriage was kept secret, but Queen Anne was present at the event. Sarah, upon discovering the marriage, felt betrayed and furious. She sent a letter to the Queen, criticizing Abigail’s education and claiming their close relationship was inappropriate.

Abigail’s close relationship with the Queen allowed her to influence important decisions. She helped her cousin, Robert Harley, maintain a good relationship with the Queen after he was dismissed from office. Abigail also inspired the Queen to dismiss her ministers and give her control over the “Privy Purse.”

Abigail played a role in her husband’s career development and helped him become Baron Masham. She used her influence with the Queen to have her cousin, Harley, removed from his position. However, upon Queen Anne’s death in 1714, Abigail’s life and influence at the court came to an end. She retired to her country house until her death in 1734.


There have been controversial discussions about whether Abigail manipulated her cousin and betrayed her to take her place at the court. Some accuse her of plotting and taking advantage of the Queen’s sensitivity, while others argue that Sarah’s fall from grace was her own fault. Rumors of a lesbian affair between Abigail and the Queen were likely the result of Sarah’s vengeful statements after being dismissed from the court.

Family & Personal Life

Abigail was married to Samuel Masham, 1st Baron Masham of Otes, and they had five children together. She was buried in the churchyard of ‘All Saints’ in High Laver village in Essex.

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