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 – March 24: James VI of Scotland Ascends to the English Throne

March 24 was a pivotal day in English and British monarchical history. Exactly 410 years ago, in 1603, Elizabeth I died and James VI of Scotland ascended to the English Throne as James I, creating Personal Union of Crowns of the Kingdoms of England and Scotland. A century later, on 1 May 1707, the Acts of Union were signed, officially uniting the Kingdoms of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain. The question of James VI’s accession will be discussed in this article, while the Act of Union – in a separate one to be published on May 1.

James VI and I of Scotland and England

James VI and I of Scotland and England

Elizabeth I’s death in 1603 marked the end of the House of Tudor which had ruled the Kingdom of England and its realms for 118 years, since Henry Tudor (Henry VII) defeated Richard III in the Battle of Bosworth Field. Elizabeth was childless and the last of Henry VIII’s legitimate children, so the line ended with her. She named as her successor her closest surviving male relative, James VI of Scotland. James VI was her second cousin once removed as both were descendants of Henry VII Tudor: Elizabeth was Henry VII’s granddaughter (Henry VII -> Henry VIII -> Elizabeth I), while James was his great-great-grandson through two lines (Henry VII -> Margaret Tudor -> James V of Scotland -> Mary, Queen of Scots -> James VI, and Henry VII -> Margaret Tudor -> Margaret Douglas -> Lord Darnley – James VI). James VI’s accession to the English Throne as James I met virtually no resistance, yet the interesting thins is the fact he wasn’t legally an Heir to the English Throne at all.

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Day in History: 130 years since the birth of Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone

Since Prince Philip became the oldest-ever British male royal yesterday, it is only appropriate we shall dedicate a post to a woman who was the longest-lived British Princess by blood.

Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone

Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone

At her death, Princess Alice was 97 years and 313 days old. Apart from being oldest British Princess by blood, she was also the last surviving grandchild of Queen Victoria. The Princess had lived through six reigns: born during the reign of her grandmother, Queen Victoria, she also saw five other Monarchs – Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII, George VI, and Elizabeth II – on the Throne.

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Prince Philip becomes the longest-lived male member of the British Royal Family

The Duke of Edinburgh

The Duke of Edinburgh

On 24 February 2013, Prince Philip became the oldest-ever British male royal.

The Duke of Edinburgh was born on  10 June 1921 and will turn 92 this year. His parents were the Prince and Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark. His mother, born Princess Alice of Battenberg, was a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of the United Kingdom. His father was a grandson of Christian IX of Denmark and a great-grandson of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. He had a distinguished naval career, including active service during World War II, before marrying Princess Elizabeth (now Elizabeth II) in 1947.

Prince Philip is also the longest serving royal consort in history, as well as the oldest spouse of a reigning British Monarch in history.

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Day in History – 20 February: Coronation of Edward VI

On 20 February 1547, the Coronation Ceremony of Edward VI took place in Westminster Abbey. The nine year old King was the only son of Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour. Edward VI’s coronation featured many new and unique aspects created or adapted specifically for him.

Edward VI of England

Edward VI of England

The pre-ceremonies actually started the day before. On the afternoon of Saturday the 19th February, the boy King processed out of the Tower of London. He was dressed in white velvet embroidered with silver thread and decorated with lovers’ knots made from pearls, diamonds and rubies. Even the horse he was riding was decorated: it was in crimson satin adorned with pearls. The procession consisted of the King’s messengers, the King’s gentlemen, his trumpeters, his chaplains and esquires of the body, all walking. Then came the nobility and members of the council along with foreign diplomats, followed by gentlemen ushers and Henry Grey, the Marquis of Dorset (the Constable of England) bearing the sword of state. Finally, there was the boy King himself escorted by the Duke of Somerset and followed by the Sir Anthony Browne (the King’s master of the horse), the henchmen, the Gentlemen of the Privy Chamber, the pensioners and the guard.

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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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Queen Beatrix’s Abdication: Changes and Traditions

With the announcement Her Majesty Queen Beatrix will formally abdicate, let’s have a look at the changed the Dutch Monarchy will undergo as an immediate result of the abdication.

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands

Her Majesty the Queen will sign the Instrument of Abdication at the Royal Palace, Amsterdam  on April 30, 2013 – the 33rd anniversary of her reign. Abdication itself is nothing new or unusual for the Dutch Royal Family; in fact, Her Majesty will be the third successive Dutch Monarch to voluntarily abdicate the Throne, following her grandmother, Queen Wilhelmina, and her mother, Queen Juliana.

The most obvious change is of course the fact the Netherlands will have a new Monarch – the first King in 122 years (Queen Beatrix had succeeded her mother, Queen Juliana, who herself had succeeded her own mother, Queen Wilhelmina). The current Prince of Orange will reign as King Willem-Alexander, and not King Willem IV as had been expected. His wife, Princess Maxima, will be his Queen– the first Dutch Queen Consort since Emma of Waldeck and Pyrmont.

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Prince Georg Friedrich and Princess Sophie Welcome Twin Sons

Prince Georg Friedrich and Princess Sophie

Prince Georg Friedrich and Princess Sophie

The Prince and Princess of Prussia are now proud parents of two boys. The twins were born on January 20 in Bremen, Germany. A statement released by Prince Georg Friedrich today announced the births with “great joy and gratitude”. The mother and children are all doing well.

The elder twin is named Carl Friedrich and the younger one – Louis Ferdinand. Carl Friedrich is the Heir Apparent to the headship of the House of Hohenzollern. The names have strong history in the family; it is also possible the eldest boy was named in honour of Karl Friedrich, Prince of Hohenzollern (head of the Princely House of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen). The younger boy is named after Prince Georg’s father – Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia.

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