The History of England

from Celts through 20th century

The Union between England and Scotland

Category: 18th century

Queen Mary IIMary II and William III had no surviving children, and William was succeeded by Queen Anne, Mary’s younger sister. The major event of Queen Anne’s reign was the formation of the Kingdom of Great Britain.

Early in the 18th cen­tury England and Scotland were ruled by the same mo­narch, but they remained two separate kingdoms. In 1707 the Kingdom of Great Britain was formed by the Act of Union between En­gland and Scotland. London, the biggest city in Britain, with a population of about half a million, became the capital of the entire island.

Great Britain from then on had a single Parliament and a single system of national administration and taxation. Even units of weights and measures were unified.

Queen AnneThe Union between England and Scotland skill­fully engineered in 1707, the most radical innovations in British political life, was a union of parliaments: for­ty-five Scottish members were added to the 513 mem­bers of the English House of Commons and sixteen Scottish peers to the House of Lords. After 1689 the case for a union was very strong indeed. England had adopt­ed the Hanoverian succession, the country had been involved in war with France and was fearful that there might be a Jacobite invasion through Scotland. By the union the English avoided the danger of a separate Scottish foreign policy. The Act of Union was intended to strengthen the country weakened with the War of the Spanish Succession.

The Scots obtained access to the English colonies. Scotland had long been dissatisfied with English indif­ference to her economic aspirations. Due to the Union of 1707 Scotland ceased to be “the wilderness to the English garden”. From a country poor in national re­sources and rich in native talent trained in one of the best educational systems of the time, the Scots invad­ed the English colonies and England itself. They be­came customs officers in Jamaica, doctors in London, and district magistrates in British India.

The basic principles of the Union were the protestant succession to a united monarchy, the establish­ment of a single state with one parliament and one executive, a common economic and fiscal system. While the Scots parted with their parliament and separate executive they kept their separate legal system, sepa­rate church, and separate educational system.

Since then the British has been proud of their go­vernment which combined monarchical (the heredita­ry ruler), aristocratic (the hereditary House of Lords), and democratic (the elected House of Commons) elements. The reign of Queen Anne had been marked by parlia­mentary elections that took place every three years.

Queen Anne had no surviving children. She was succeeded by her nearest Protestant relative, the elec­tor of Hanover, who came from Germany in 1714 and was accepted as King George I of Great Britain. A new era of British history began.

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