Early XVIII century. England, along with Austria, Prussia and other countries, leads an endless and exhausting war for the Spanish inheritance against the Franco-Spanish coalition. England is ruled by a weak-willed and compliant Queen Anne, who does not make decisions without consulting with those around her. In fact, the reins of government – in the hands of Lady Churchill, the Duchess of Marlborough. It is a woman of a solid mind, determined and courageous, experienced in palace intrigues. Her husband, the famous and greedy Marshal Marlborough, commands the British army and is not at all interested in ending the war, which drains the state treasury, but successfully fills his pockets.
The Marlboro Party, that is, the Whig party, is opposed by the Tory opposition. It is headed by Henry St. John, Viscount Bolinbrock, an enthusiastic political player who breathes full chest in the stormy parliamentary sessions, like an English sailor at sea. Until he was twenty-six, he thoughtlessly enjoyed life and spent his fortune until it was exhausted. To improve his affairs, he marries a charming woman with a million dowry and a million vagaries and flaws.
The conjugal life soon becomes unbearable, Bolinbrok leaves his wife and passionately takes a great interest in politics. His wife belongs to the Whig party. Naturally, he is adjacent to the Tory party. He speaks in the parliament with calls to conclude peace with France and publishes angry articles on corruption
Two years ago, this young provincial gentleman who was lost in London was about to rush into the Thames, because he did not have twenty-five guineas. Bolinbrock gives him two hundred guineas and saves him from ruin. Mesch hopes to give the queen a petition about the post at the court, and one day he almost succeeds in breaking through the crowd at the carriage, when a social dandy pushes him and snaps his nose. However, the petition is filed, and Meshem receives an invitation for an audience, but when he goes to the palace, the crew of the same dandy wears his only decent coat. It would seem that everything is lost, but unexpectedly he has a mysterious patron – he gets the queen’s page, then the rank of ensign of the Guards regiment and the hope for new benefits with the only condition – he should not marry.
Meanwhile, he is passionately in love with the charming Abigail, who served in the jewelry store until his master went bankrupt. Now she is promised a place at the court, and the promise also comes from the mysterious benefactress, who turns out to be the queen herself. However, the appointment depends on the all-powerful lady Marlboro. Naive Abigail hopes that Lady Marlborough will help her, since she is her relative, daughter of the unequal cousin Lady Marlborough. Bolinbrock explains to the girl that the cunning of the duchess has no limit. Bolinbrock, Meshem and Abigail conclude a defensive and offensive alliance against Lady Marlborough.
Bolinbrok expects that if Abigail gets a seat at the court, he will be able to influence the queen. Meshem’s duty is to submit to the Queen every day the newspaper “Fashionable People” – all other sources of information are excluded by the favorite. Meshem undertakes to transfer to the Queen the letters of the Marquis de Torcy, the envoy of Louis XVI, and the newspaper Examiner, with the unmasking article of Bolinbrock against the Marlborough Party. However, the Duchess intercepts “illegal investments” and scathingly informs Bolinbroka that he is in her hands – she bought up all his debt obligations for a song and intends to put him in jail. Bolinbrock admires that he has such a worthy opponent, and is going to strike another blow in the parliament.
In the meantime, Meshem meets his longtime abuser in the palace park and kills him in a duel. No one saw him, but he faces the death penalty in accordance with the strict law on duels. He must escape. Bolinkbrock manages to give the queen a note in which he cautiously recommends Abigail. The queen would like to draw closer to her girlfriend, but the duchess, fearing extraneous influence, convinces her of the undesirability of such an act. At the same time, she reports that she found a way to give the rank of captain to the diligent young man, whom the queen paid her favorable attention to, Meshhem. The Queen is pleased with the favorite and forgets about Abigail. The girl is in despair.
Bolinkbrough again smiles fortune – he becomes the heir of a huge fortune, because Meshem killed by dueling dandy – his cousin Richard, the embodiment of greed and insignificance, the most cruel of his creditors. Immediately repurchased debt obligations, Bolinbrock again owns the situation. He demands to punish the murderer severely, but as soon as he learns from Abigail that it is about Meshem, convinces her not to worry – he will try not to find him. At that moment, Meshem appears. He did not run at all, as the messenger caught up with the order for a new appointment. He is ordered to be with the queen. The mysterious patron sends him signs of a new rank – diamond points to the aglet bells. Abigail learns diamonds, which she herself sold to Lady Marlboro when she was in a jewelry store. The incognito of the patron is uncovered,
Abigail finds a place with the queen and immediately becomes her favorite. The Queen complains of Abigail for being unfree in everything and vaguely hints that she is carried away by a certain young officer. Nothing to know Abigail offers the Queen his help. Bolinbrock is finally admitted to the queen and tries to touch her with stories about the calamities of the people, about the privations and sacrifices caused by the war. She is frankly bored and revitalized only when she reports that the duchess is interested in continuing the war that keeps her husband in the army and allows her to indulge in sweet pleasures with Meshem. The Queen is furious. So Bolinbrock learns that she also loves Meshem.
The Duchess declares to Meshhem that she intends to give him an important assignment and asks her to come to her after the evening reception with the queen. Nenarokom it becomes known that it was Meshem who killed Richard Bolbrock. The queen also decides to make an appointment with Meshy and during the reception must submit a conventional sign: in the presence of guests, she complains about the heat and asks Meshhem for a glass of water. Bolinbrock informs the duchess that a certain noble lady is going to appoint a meeting to Meshe. In exchange for this information, he receives an invitation to the court for the Marquis de Torcy. The Duchess is unpleasantly intrigued. During the card game, to which the Marquis de Torsi is unexpectedly admitted, the queen asks Meshem to give her water. The Duchess is completely confused and makes a mistake after the mistake. She instead of Meshem serves a glass of water and tilts it on the queen’s dress. The Queen is angry, they exchange barbs. As a result – the resignation of the duchess. But she does not give up. Through her supporters, she manages to convince the queen that she loves not Meshem, but quite another. The Queen is ready to forgive her. Bolinbrock clears up another misconception. The Duchess swears to dishonor the queen. Meshem brings to the queen’s signature papers on the dissolution of the parliament and the appointment of Bolinbrock as minister. A terrible noise makes him hide on the balcony. The Duchess appears, accompanied by a crowd of courtiers and discovers Meshem in the queen’s private quarters. Abigail falls to her knees and asks for forgiveness for secretly accepting Mesham from the queen. Bolinbrock adds that the accused in the murder of Meshem came to say goodbye to his wife – Abigail Churchill. The queen, after a brief confusion, forgives Abigail and Meshem and announces the appointment of Bolinbrock as minister and the beginning of negotiations for peace with France. So the lord and lady of Marlborough are cast out, the world is enclosed – all thanks to a glass of water, as Bolinbrock says.