Day in History – May 1: Acts of Union 1707

The Acts of Union 1707 took effect on 1 May 1707, finally uniting the Kingdoms of England and Scotland into one, united country – Kingdom of Great Britain.

The Flag of Great Britain. Created by James VI and I, it symbolised the union of England and Scotland first under one Crown, and then as one country

The Flag of Great Britain. Created by James VI and I, it symbolised the union of England and Scotland first under one Crown, and then as one country

The counties were at the point de facto united for over a century, ever since James VI of Scotland ascended to the English Throne as James I on 24 March 1603, after the death of Elizabeth I. However, back then, the two countries merely entered into a Personal Union of Crowns – a situation when two or more countries share the same Monarch, while remaining, separate, sovereign states (not unlike, say, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom now).

There had been previous attempts at unification through the 17th century. Indeed, when James VI became King of England, he announced his intention to unite the two Kingdoms so that he wouldn’t be “guilty of bigamy”. He styled himself as King of Great Britain and declared the country should be viewed as “presently united, and as one realm and kingdom, and the subjects of both realms as one people’.

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Day in History – February 13: William and Mary are declared co-regnant Monarchs

On 13 February 1689, the Prince and Princess of Orange formally became the new King and Queen Regnant of England. Their official titles and styles upon accession were “By the Grace of God, King and Queen of England, Scotland, France and Ireland, Stadholther of the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, Prince of Orange, Count of Nassau, Defenders of the Faith, etc.”

William and Mary’s reign is unique because they were both co-regnant Monarchs with equal powers and prerogatives, and not a Monarch and his/her Consort. Before 1689, the closest precedent in England for such an unusual arrangement was the joint reign of Mary I of England and Philip of Spain. Back then, Mary I’s husband had been declared King of England with almost all the powers and prerogatives of a Monarch; it was actually an act of treason to deny his authority. William III also derived his powers from his wife and reigned jure uxoris (in right of the wife). However, there were important differences between William and Philip’s situation.

William III and Mary II of England, Scotland and Ireland

William III and Mary II of England, Scotland and Ireland

Philip could only reign for the duration of his wife’s reign: in case of her death or a divorce, his reign ended (he stopped being a King of England as soon as Mary I died and Elizabeth I ascended to the Throne). William was a reigning Monarch in his own right and would continue to rule until his death. The other difference was that Philip was not in command of the English Army; according to the marriage treaties, England was not bound to provide assistance for Philip’s wars (a condition that was quite futile because Mary I always supported her husband’s campaigns which eventually cost England the port Calais). William had all the powers and prerogatives an English Monarch could have. Perhaps more crucially, in the event Mary II predeceased him, his children from a possible subsequent marriage were given succession rights.

Now, a little information on how things came to that in the first place.

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