What was the Act of Settlement?

In 1701 the English Parliament passed the Act of Settlement, but what was this act and why was it put into place?

Basically, the Act of Settlement was passed in 1701 to decide who would take the English and Irish crowns following Queen Anne. The issue arose because Queen Anne, and also her sister Queen Mary, failed to produce any surviving children to take the throne. The most logical heir would be James VIII & III, son of the deposed King James VII & II, but as a Catholic this was not an avenue the government wished to go down.

Instead, the Act of Settlement was passed. The act disqualified anyone who became a Roman Catholic, or who married one, from inheriting the throne and this removed a lot lines who were closely related to Queen Anne and the Stuart line. The Act also helped strengthen Parliament position by restricting the monarchs power. They are not allowed to leave the country without Parliaments approval, nor are they able to throw the country into war without Parliaments agreement. Eventually it was decided that Electress Sophia of Hanover, a granddaughter of James VI & I, would be next in line to the throne.

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Sophia of Hanover

 

With the Act in place everything was sorted, but then, unfortunately Sophia died just a couple of months before Queen Anne in 1714. So, the throne eventually passed to her son King George I, who was Queen Anne’s second cousin, and he became the first Hanoverian ruler of Britain.

The Act of Settlement was, in many ways, also a major cause of the Act of Union in 1707, which formed the Kingdom of Great Britain. Unhappy with the Act of Settlement Scotland passed the Act of Security in 1704, which gave them the right to choose their own successor to Queen Anne. England retaliated with the 1705 Alien Act which stated that if Scotland did not accept the Hanoverian succession, or begin proceedings on a union of parliaments, then Scottish imports to England would be banned and Scots living in England would be treated as aliens. Finally, in 1707 the Act of Union was agreed and Scotland and England joined to become Great Britain with Queen Anne as its monarch to be followed by the Hanoverian line.

Reporduktion des "Act of Settlement" im Leibniz-Saal des Niedersächsischen Landtages.
Act of Settlement

The Act of Settlement ran relative unaltered in its main parts until 2013. Here the Succession to the Crown Act altered some of the laws within the Act of Settlement. The 2103 act instigated absolute primogeniture for those born in the line of succession after 28th October 2011. This meant that the eldest child would be heir to the throne regardless of gender, whereas previously males were given preference. The act also ended the disqualification of a person who married a Roman Catholic. The act was brought into force on 26th March 2015. Interestingly though the provision of the Act of Settlement requiring the monarch to be a Protestant still remains.

Following the implementation of the Succession to the Crown Act we saw George Windsor, Earl of St Andrews restored to the line of succession after he married a Catholic in 1988 and he now sits in 34th place to the throne.

Hopefully this has helped explain the Act of Settlement for you all. As always if you enjoyed the post please like, comment, share and tweet.

All the best, K & D

George I – The First Hanoverian King

George I was King of Great Britain and Ireland from 1st August 1714 until his death on 11th June 1727 and was the first monarch from the House of Hanover. Before we look at George himself we need to first understand how exactly he came to become king.

When Queen Anne died in 1714 without heirs the throne of Great Britain would surely have gone to here nearest relative, James VIII & III. However, following the removal of his father James VII & II there were a number of acts passed that prevented James VIII & III from taking the throne.

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Queen Anne

Firstly in 1701 was the Act of Settlement. This prevented Catholics from the line of succession. The Act was put into place after William and Mary, as well as Anne herself, failed to produce any heirs and all the other members of the Stuart line were Roman Catholics. In 1700 Prince William, Duke of Gloucester, the only son of Anne to survive infancy, died aged only 11. His death destabilised the succession and ultimately led to the English parliament passing the Act of Settlement in 1701. Under the Act anyone who became a Roman Catholic or married a Roman Catholic was unable to inherit the throne. The Act was also used to reinforce the Bill of Rights (1689) and strengthen the principle that government was undertaken by constitutional advisers and not personal advisers chosen by the King or Queen.

Reproduktion des "Act of Settlement", der im Leineschloss in Hannover an Kurfürstenwitwe Sophie übergeben wurde. Mit dem "Act of Settlement" (dt. Grundordnung) schuf das englische Parlament 1701 eine neue Grundlage für die Thronfolge im Königreich England, die eine 123-jährige Personalunion (1714 - 1837) zwischen Hannover und Großbritannien begründete.
Act of Settlement 1701

This alone prevented James VIII & III from taking the throne but it did not guarantee the Hanoverian line would rule throughout Britain. In 1703 in response to the Act of Settlement, the Act of Security was approved by the Scottish parliament and was later ratified in 1704. This Act placed the power of appointing a successor to the Scottish throne in the hands of the Scottish parliament. The successor should be of the Royal line of Scotland, Protestant and not the same as the English successor unless various economic, political and religious conditions were met. The Scottish parliament were not happy that the English parliament had chosen Electress Sophia of Hanover as a successor without consulting them.

Finally in 1707 came the inauguration of the Treaty of Union which created the United Kingdom of Scotland, England and Wales. The Union mean the dissolution of the Scottish parliament and thus Act of Security was made invalid and there would be only one successor to the thrones of Scotland, England and Wales. This was decided to be Electress Sophia of Hanover who was the nearest relative to Queen Anne who was a protestant. By all rights it was her who should have followed Anne onto the throne but she unfortunately died a couple of months before Anne so her son George became King following Anne’s death.

Treaty_of_Union
Treaty of Union 1707

George I finally arrived in Britain in September 1714 after being forced to wait at the Hague while bad winds prevented passage. He arrived speaking only a few words of English with, it is said, 18 cooks and two mistresses, one very fat and the other tall and thin who became nicknamed ‘Elephant and Castle’ after an area in London. His coronation took place at Westminster Abbey on 20th October and was accompanied by rioting in over 20 towns in the South West of England disrupting and, in some cases, assaulting those celebrating and ransacking their properties.

With some Tories sympathetic to the Jacobites, George turned to the Whigs to form a government, and they were to dominate politics for the next generation. This led to many turning against George and fighting to get James VIII & III onto the throne in the early Jacobite uprisings of 1715 and 1719.

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King George I

In 1720 the South Sea Company, with heavy government, royal and aristocratic investment, collapsed. The resulting economic crisis made the king and his ministers extremely unpopular. Robert Walpole was left as the most important figure in the administration and in April 1721 was appointed first lord of the Treasury and in effect, ‘prime minister’. His ascendancy coincided with the decline of the political power of the monarchy and George became less and less involved in government.

George remained unpopular in England throughout his life, partly because of his inability to speak English but also because of the perceived greed of his mistresses and rumours concerning his treatment of his wife. He finally died on 11 June 1727 during a visit to Hanover and was succeeded by his son, George II.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this little insight into the first Hanoverian King of Britain. As always please like, share, tweet and comment.

All the best, K & D.