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 – January 23: James Stewart is Murderd in the First Recorded Assassination by a Firearm

James Stewart, Earl of Moray

James Stewart, Earl of Moray

On January 23, 1570 the first recorded assassination by a firearm took place. The victim was James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray – the Regent for the infant James VI of Scotland.

James Moray was born in 1531 as the illegitimate son of James V of Scotland and his favourite mistress, Lady Margaret Erskine. Acknowledging out-of-wedlock children and granting them peerage titles was pretty common in the Scottish court of the time; indeed, one of James V’s half-brothers (the illegitimate son of James IV and Janet Kennedy) had held the title Earl of Moray in its 1st creation until his death in 1544. It wasn’t James V who granted his son titles though; Moray was created Earl of Moray and Earl of Mar in 1562 by his half-sister Mary, Queen of Scots.

Moray’s relationship with Mary was a complicated one. At first, they were reasonably close; James was fond of his sister and held a prominent place in the court. He also attended Mary’s first wedding to the Dauphin of France in 1559. However, James was a keen supporter of the Scottish Reformation while Mary was a devoted Catholic. At first, they managed to overcome those difficulties and Moray even became Mary’s chief advisor after her return from France in 1561. (more…)