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.
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.
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