The Hanover Connection
In June 1701 Parliament hoped to resolve this problem by passing the Act of Settlement. It confirmed the provision of the Bill of Rights that no Catholic or person with a Catholic spouse could sit on the throne.
The Act also legislated that, to preserve the Protestant Succession in case neither Anne nor William had any more children, the Crown would pass at Anne’s death to a Protestant relation. This was Sophia, the electress of Hanover in Germany, the granddaughter of King James I by his daughter Queen Elizabeth I, and first cousin to King Charles II and King James II.
Sophia’s son King George I succeeded to the throne upon Queen Anne’s death in 1714, and his descendants, including the current Queen, have ruled Britain ever since – all because of a decision of Parliament in 1701 to alter the succession and to choose its own monarch.
Next in line to the throne
The Bill of Rights in 1689 had declared that William and Mary would be succeeded by Mary’s sister Anne, but it made no provision for the succession if Anne died childless.
William and Mary had no children, but the birth to Anne of a son – Prince William, the Duke of Gloucester – seemed to make the succession safe. But his death, aged 11 in 1700, changed that.
The English Parliament at Westminster eventually declared in the Act of Settlement 1701 that after Princess Anne – James II’s younger Protestant daughter – the succession would pass in the Protestant line to Sophia of Hanover and her heirs.
The Scottish Parliament chose to do nothing and it seemed as if they might well offer the Scottish crown to the exiled Stuarts.
Act of Union 1707
Until the early 17th century England and Scotland were two entirely independent kingdoms. This changed dramatically in 1603 on the death of Queen Elizabeth I of England. Because the Queen had died unmarried and childless, the English crown passed to the next available heir, her cousin King James VI, King of Scotland. England and Scotland now shared the same Monarch under what was known as a union of the crowns.
The idea of a union between England and Scotland was aired in February and March 1689 during the deliberations of the Convention Parliament in Edinburgh. King William III wrote to the Convention of his pleasure that so many of the Scots nobility and gentry favoured the proposal, especially since both nations shared the same landmass, language and attachment to the Protestant religion.
As a result of this encouragement, the Convention appointed commissioners to negotiate with the English but met with a wall of disinterest.
A proposal for union was made in the House of Lords in 1695, but that, too, received short shrift.
In Scotland, however, the case for union found much favour among the political elite during the 1690s, mainly because of the poor state of the economy.
In 1699, there were discussions between politicians in London and Edinburgh and the English side acknowledged that a union might be in both nations’ interest. The Scots hoped for a union of trade with vital access to English colonial markets.
By early 1700 these talks had hardened into a legislative proposal backed by the King. At Westminster a bill for negotiating a union passed the House of Lords, but was thrown out by the House of Commons. This example of continuing English inflexibility did little to dispel the intense anti-English attitudes that were rife in Scotland.
In February 1702 William III sent a message to both houses at Westminster urging consideration of “a firm and entire union” – a union of the two kingdoms with a single parliament.
King William III did not live to see his proposal take shape. Early in March he suffered complications after breaking his collarbone when he was thrown from his horse in Richmond Park. He died on 8 March 1702 and his sister-in-law, Princess Anne, became Queen.
However, Parliament appointed commissioners to negotiate a union between the two countries, and talks were scheduled for later in the year.
In November 1702 the union commissioners convened at the Cockpit, one of the government buildings in Whitehall. But it turned out to be pointless. The Whig politicians who had promoted the idea when King William III was alive were now out of power, and had been replaced by Tories who showed little interest in union with Presbyterian Scotland.
Trade, taxes and religion
An incorporating parliamentary union – meaning the Scots would give up their own parliament – was agreed in principle, as was the Hanoverian succession. But the English commissioners were unwilling to give Scotland access to trade with its colonies until other matters had been resolved.
They also expected the Scots to pay the same taxes as the English, but the former claimed poverty, and didn’t want England’s taxation system extended to Scotland.
Religion was a further, fundamental stumbling block. Should the Scottish Episcopalians be re-established as the Scottish national church? Should they be granted toleration – which they did not have currently? Should the Episcopalians be left unprotected and therefore dependent on the goodwill of the Presbyterian Kirk – the Church of Scotland?
Darien derails the talks
The talks eventually foundered on the question of whether the large numbers of Company of Scotland shareholders should be compensated by the English for losses incurred in the Darien scheme, an unsuccessful attempt by Scotland to establish a colony called – New Caledonia – in Panama in the 1690s.
The commission was adjourned on 3 February 1703 until October, but never reconvened.
Lord Godolphin, the Lord Treasurer – the Queen’s chief minister – and his colleagues in England had hoped that the succession issue had been settled as part of a union agreement. But the Scots remained uncommitted on this crucial matter.
Elections were held in Scotland during 1702, and the new Scottish Parliament assembled in Edinburgh on 6 May 1703 and quickly proved a fractious and unpredictable body.
The Duke of Queensberry, as Lord High Commissioner – the Queen’s personal representative to the Parliament of Scotland – led the Court (government) party, a minority administration, which struggled to steer a course between the opposition parties, the Cavalier (Episcopalian) and Country parties.
Parliament fails to co-operate
Queensberry’s priority was to get Scotland to help fund England’s war with France which had just recently begun. But the Scots were angry about English arrogance and obstruction during the recent union negotiations, especially over the vital issues of trade and the ill-fated Darien enterprise, and these increasingly stormy arguments dominated the proceedings.
There were repeated digressions from the all-important measures that were necessary to provide funds to fight France. Leading members of the opposition put forward legislation – an Act of Security – to preserve the Kirk, trade and the gains of the 1688 Revolution in Scotland. On 16 July the Earl of Roxburghe caused uproar when he proposed adding a distinctly anti-English clause to the Act of Security.
It specified that the Queen’s successor in Scotland would not be the same person as that in England, unless Scotland was guaranteed the independence of its Crown, the freedom and power of its Parliament, and the liberty of its religion and trade from outside intrusion.
Scotland was expressing its deepest anger about its negligent treatment in the 1690s by King William, and by the high-handed action of the English parliament in determining the succession in 1701 in the Act of Settlement without consulting the Scots.
Queensberry had now completely lost control of the Parliament.
Another clause was later added to the Act of Security stating that there should be no joint monarch unless Scotland was granted unrestricted access to English colonial trade. The Act was passed after nineteen stormy sittings on 13 August by a majority of fifty nine.
Westminster passes the Alien Act 1705
At Westminster on 29 November 1704, Lord Godolphin, the Lord High Treasurer, explained to the House of Lords why Queen Anne had approved the Scottish Act of Security – which preserved the Kirk, trade and the gains of the 1688 Revolution in Scotland.
He said the Act contained some undesirable elements, but it was essential that any Scottish threat to England’s safety should be neutralised.
The Tories wanted to censure Godolphin for allowing the Act to pass, but the Whigs said that would antagonise the Scots even more by implying that their legislature was inferior to the English. It was far better, they said, to bring union upon the Scots through economic pressure.
Over the next few days Godolphin was deep in negotiations with the dominant group of Whigs – known as the Junto Whigs – in the English House of Lords, the first step towards the conclusive negotiations of 1706.
Two new Bills
When the House of Lords resumed their deliberations on Scotland on 6 December, two bills were proposed by Lord Somers, one of the Junto leaders, with Godolphin’s support.
One offered fresh negotiations for a full incorporating union, with a single parliament and unified free trade area.
The other, an aliens bill, threatened that unless Scotland agreed to negotiate terms for union and accepted the Hanoverian succession by 25 December 1705, there would be a ban on the import of all Scottish staple products into England.
Scots would also lose the privileges of Englishmen under English law – thus endangering rights to any property they held in England.
Both bills became law early in 1705.
Negotiating the Articles of Union 1705 – 1706
The Scottish Parliament assembled in Edinburgh on 28 June 1705, but for nearly a month did nothing to consider the question. On 23 July Queen Anne impatiently urged the Duke of Argyll, the new Lord High Commissioner, to make progress. A week later, Lord High Treasurer, Godolphin, was speculating on having to take direct action to bring the Scots into line.
However, after seemingly endless manoeuvring during August, the Scottish Court party managed to obtain enough support from the Squadrone – a group of young Presbyterian Whig nobles – to secure the Scottish Parliament’s agreement for Scots participation in fresh negotiations for a union treaty.
Who should choose the new commissioners?
Having agreed to negotiate a treaty, the next task was to appoint the commissioners. Should they be chosen by parliament or the Monarch?
If chosen by parliament, the opposition would almost certainly be able to appoint many opponents of union who would try to sabotage negotiations.
On 1 September, one of the chief opposition figures, the Duke of Hamilton, having done his best to obstruct the introduction of a treaty act, proposed that the commissioners be nominated by the Monarch.
Stunned by Hamilton’s inexplicable behaviour, most of the opposition leaders left the chamber in dismay, and the motion was passed by eight votes.
Godolphin had at last secured what he needed, a treaty, plus the power to nominate the Scottish commissioners. But there was also the beginning of a political sea-change among the Scottish political elite.
The ruthless execution in March 1706 of Captain Green, whose English ship, the Worcester, had strayed into Scottish waters, showed how delicate the relationship was between England and Scotland.
If there was armed conflict, Scotland might well come off worse. The Duke of Hamilton admitted privately that “our independency is now a jest”, and that Scotland stood to gain more from a negotiated union than simple agreement on the succession, or war.
The 1706 negotiations
Negotiations between the English and Scottish commissioners were held at the Cockpit, one of the government buildings at Whitehall in London.
The commissioners did not carry out their negotiations face to face, but in separate rooms. They communicated their proposals to each other in writing. There was also a news blackout.
Business commenced on 22 April 1706 when Cowper, the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, presented the Scots with the proposal that:
“the two kingdoms of England and Scotland be forever united into one kingdom by the name of Great Britain; that the United Kingdom of Great Britain be represented by one and the same parliament; and that the succession to the Monarchy of Great Britain be vested in the House of Hanover.”
Agreement in just three days
Within three days, both sides had secured what they most wanted: England had a guarantee that the Hanoverian royal dynasty would succeed Queen Anne to the Scottish crown; and the Scots had their long sought-after access to English colonial markets as the route to an improved economy.
Speedy agreement on these fundamental points came about because much of the groundwork had been done during the preceding months in informal meetings.
Wide range of issues
The commissioners worked amicably through a wide range of issues with little difficulty: the union flag and the standardisation of weights, measures and coinage; the preservation of private rights, and of heritable offices and jurisdictions; and the number of Scottish peers and Members of Parliament to sit in Westminster.
Taxes and laws
The Scottish commissioners’ particular concern was taxation. Since the Scots could not afford to pay taxes at English levels they agreed a series of exemptions on taxable items such as paper, windows, coal, salt and malt.
It was also agreed that the fundamentals of Scottish civic society should be preserved including the legal system, and the rights and privileges of the Royal Burghs of Scotland.
The Scottish Kirk
There was, however, one highly sensitive area where the negotiators were not permitted: the Scottish Kirk or church. Any mention of it in the Articles of Union would almost certainly have meant that Tory supporters of the Church of England at Westminster would have blocked ratification of the treaty.
The Articles, constitution and trade
There were 25 Articles of Union which formed the basis of the two separate Acts of Union passed by the Parliaments at Westminster and in Edinburgh.
Those relating to the constitution were:
Article 1: From 1 May 1707 the kingdoms of Scotland and England were to be “united into one kingdom by the name of Great Britain”. The flags of St George and St Andrew were to be combined.
Article 2: The succession to the Monarchy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain was to pass to the Princess Sophia, the Dowager Electress of Hanover, and her heirs. All Catholics, and people marrying Catholics, would be excluded from the succession.
Article 3: The people of Great Britain were to be represented by one Parliament, known as the Parliament of Great Britain.
Article 22: Scottish representation at Westminster would be 16 Scottish peers in the Lords, and 45 MPs in the Commons. A separate Act of the Scottish Parliament would determine the method of election.
Article 23: Scottish and English peers were to have the same privileges. All peers of Scotland were to be deemed peers of Great Britain.
Article 24: The Great Seals of England and Scotland were to be replaced by a Great Seal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain. The Scottish crown jewels, parliamentary and other official records were to stay in Scotland.
Fixing the date for union
The commissioners’ final session took place on 11 July when they fixed 1 May 1707 as the date for the union.
The written Articles of Union with the commissioners’ personal seals, were presented to Queen Anne at St James’s Palace on 23 July 1706. The ceremony was witnessed by courtiers and foreign ambassadors.
The English copy of the Articles was presented by William Cowper, the Lord Keeper, and the Scottish copy by the Earl of Seafield, the Lord Chancellor of Scotland.
Cowper made a speech from memory which, was reported, as “miserably mangled”, before resorting to notes, while Seafield by all reports spoke fluently and without notes.
The Queen expressed her hope that the Articles would “meet with approbation in the parliaments of both kingdoms”, and urged the Scots to ratify them quickly.
Ratification, October 1706 – March 1707
In contrast to the abortive negotiations for union of 1702-3, the English this time had gone out of their way to accommodate Scottish demands, particularly over access to English trade.
Next the Scottish Parliament had to agree to the Articles of Union. This turned out to be arduous and was accomplished against a background of protest, often violent, in many parts of Scotland.
Support and opposition
The new session of the Scottish Parliament began on 3 October 1706. Its main business was to agree the Articles of Union.
Queensberry was appointed the Queen’s High Commissioner for the session and was responsible for a successful outcome. Honours, appointments, pensions and even arrears of pay and other expenses were distributed to clinch support from Scottish peers and MPs.
About 100 of the 227 members of the single-chamber Scottish Parliament were court supporters – on the side of the Queen and her government – and thus in favour of union.
For extra votes the court was able to rely on the 25 or so members of the Squadrone Volante led by the Marquess of Montrose and the Duke of Roxburghe.
Opponents of the court, generally known as the Country party, were a loose grouping of factions and individuals. They included leading anti-unionists, such as the Duke of Hamilton, Lord Belhaven and Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, who spoke forcefully and passionately against the union.
However, as Country party members were not ordered to attend and vote as was the case with the Court party, the latter was able to maintain a steady majority over its opponents.
Approval and royal assent
The 25th and last Article was approved on 14 January 1707. The next day the draft of an act for ratifying the Articles as “enlarged, explained and amended” was introduced.
On 16 January it was ordered that the Act for guaranteeing the Presbyterian Kirk be made part of the Act of Ratification.
The Act of Ratification was then put to a vote. In effect this was a final vote on the Articles of Union. The Court-Squadrone Volante majority achieved a comfortable 110 to the Country party’s 67 votes.
The Act was then touched with the royal sceptre by Queensberry, the usual manner of signifying the sovereign’s approval of acts of the Scottish Parliament.
Westminster debates the Articles
On 28 January 1707, 12 days after Edinburgh ratified the Articles of Union, the Queen formally presented them for ratification to Parliament at Westminster.
The House of Commons debated the Articles from 1 – 11th February 1707. Only two sittings of the committee of the whole house were needed to go through all 25 articles.
Concern that the Queen’s ministers were hurrying the proceedings for proper consideration provoked sarcastic shouts of “post-haste, post-haste!” from MPs.
Proceedings in the Lords began on 15 February, and the Tories, though no match for the combined forces of the Court and the Junto, were determined to dig in.
Although they generally favoured union, they found fault with many of the provisions, and voiced fears about the safety of the constitution and of the Church of England.
There were objections to almost every Article and votes were held on several but the opposition vote was never higher than twenty three. The House of Lords finished scrutinising the Articles on 27 February.
In the meantime, the House of Commons approved a bill to ratify the Articles. It was debated in the House of Lords on 1 March, which provided a further opportunity for Tory peers to debate the wisdom of confirming the Scottish Kirk Act as part of the Union.
A last-minute attempt to have the Act removed from the Treaty was unsuccessful, and on 6 March 1707 the Queen attended the House of Lords to give her assent to the English bill ratifying the Union.
The English Act of Union was now law. Technically it was dated the Act of Union 1706, as England still used the Julian calendar, who’s New Year’s Day was 25 March.
England and Scotland were now, as described in the Act, “United into One Kingdom”.
Developing the Hanoverian state
The Act of Union of 1707 merged England and Scotland into a single state of Great Britain and created a single Parliament at Westminster.
But little thought had been given to how the Union would actually work in practice, or how Scotland would be governed in its new relationship with England. This had to be worked out in practice in the decades that followed.
By the late 18th century a British identity had been forged in the wider world.
Any remaining tensions in the relationship between England and Scotland were overshadowed by differences with other parts of the empire.
Both the American Revolutionary War, which broke out in 1775, and perennially troubled Anglo-Irish relations, underlined the relative strength of Scottish loyalty to the Union.
Many of the harsh laws imposed on the Highlands in the aftermath of Culloden were repealed in the 1770s and 1780s.
Scotland was also becoming a fast-growing part of the British economy and contributing substantially to the state’s prosperity. Scotland’s traditional strength in textile production thrived enormously under boom-time conditions during the Napoleonic Wars.
A shift to the factory-based production of textiles from the late 18th century had spurred Scotland’s own industrial revolution, and began its transformation from a mainly agrarian and rural society to a mainly urban and industrial one.
The King returns to Scotland
At about the time the clearances (mass evictions and emigration of Highland populations) entered a new and more intense phase in the 1820s, the high point of what was known as Highlandism was reached when King George IV made a state visit to Scotland in August 1822.
This visit, the first by a British Monarch since King Charles II in 1650, was deliberately contrived to reaffirm the bond between the Scots and their Monarch, which had been challenged so repeatedly in the past.