Union of the Crowns

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Union of the crowns)
Jump to: navigation, search
Documents relevant to personal
and legislative unions of the
countries of the United Kingdom
Treaty of Windsor 1175
Treaty of York 1237
Treaty of Perth 1266
Treaty of Montgomery 1267
Treaty of Aberconwy 1277
Statute of Rhuddlan 1284
Treaty of Edinburgh–N'hampton 1328
Treaty of Berwick 1357
Poynings' Law 1495
Laws in Wales Acts 1535–1542
Crown of Ireland Act 1542
Treaty of Edinburgh 1560
Union of the Crowns 1603
Union of England and Scotland Act 1603
Act of Settlement 1701
Act of Security 1704
Alien Act 1705
Treaty of Union 1706
Acts of Union 1707
Wales and Berwick Act 1746
Irish Constitution 1782
Acts of Union 1800
Government of Ireland Act 1920
Anglo-Irish Treaty 1921
Royal and Parliamentary Titles Act 1927
Ireland Act 1949
N. Ireland (Temporary Provisions) Act 1972
Northern Ireland Assembly 1973
N. Ireland Constitution Act 1973
Northern Ireland Act 1998
Government of Wales Act 1998
Scotland Act 1998
Government of Wales Act 2006
Scotland Act 2012
Edinburgh Agreement 2012

The Union of the Crowns (Scottish Gaelic: Aonadh nan Crùintean; Scots: Union o the Crouns) was the accession of James VI, King of Scots, to the thrones of England and Ireland, and the consequential unification for some purposes (such as overseas diplomacy) of the three realms under a single monarch on March 25th 1603. The Union of Crowns followed the death of Queen Elizabeth I of England—the last monarch of the Tudor dynasty,[1] who was James's unmarried and childless first cousin twice removed.

The Union was a personal or dynastic union, with the Crown of Scotland remaining both distinct and separate—despite James's best efforts to create a new "imperial" throne of "Great Britain". However, England and Scotland would continue to be sovereign states, sharing a monarch with Ireland (with an interregnum in the 1650s during the republican unitary state of the Commonwealth and the Protectorate), until the Acts of Union of 1707 during the reign of the last Stuart monarch, Queen Anne.[2]

Early unification[edit]

In August 1503, James IV, King of Scots, married Margaret Tudor, eldest daughter of Henry VII of England, and the spirit of the new age was celebrated by the poet William Dunbar in The Thistle and the Rose.[3] The marriage was the outcome of the Treaty of Perpetual Peace, concluded the previous year, which, in theory, ended centuries of Anglo-Scottish rivalry. The marriage merged the Stuarts with England's Tudor line of succession, despite the improbability of a Scottish prince acceding the English throne at the time. However, many on the English side were concerned by the dynastic implications of matrimony, including some Privy Councillors. In countering these fears Henry VII is reputed to have said:

The peace did not last in "perpetuity", it was disturbed in 1513 when Henry VIII, King of England and Lord of Ireland, who had succeeded his father four years before, declared war on France. In response France invoked the terms of the Auld Alliance, her ancient bond with Scotland. James duly invaded northern England leading to the Battle of Flodden.

In the decades that followed, England's relations with Scotland were turbulent. By the middle of Henry's reign, the problems of the royal succession, which seemed so unimportant in 1503, acquired ever bigger dimensions, when the question of Tudor fertility – or the lack thereof – entered directly into the political arena. The line of Margaret Tudor was excluded from the English succession, though, during the reign of Elizabeth I concerns were once again raised. In the last decade of her reign it was clear to all that James VI of Scotland, great-grandson of James IV and Margaret Tudor, was the only generally acceptable heir.

Accession of James VI[edit]

James VI of Scotland.
"England and Scotland with Minerva and Love" Allegorical work of the Union of the Crowns by Peter Paul Rubens.

From 1601, in the last years of Elizabeth I's life, certain English politicians, notably her chief minister Sir Robert Cecil,[4] maintained a secret correspondence with James to prepare in advance for a smooth succession. Cecil advised James not to press the matter of the succession upon the queen but simply to treat her with kindness and respect.[5] The approach proved effective: "I trust that you will not doubt," Elizabeth wrote to James, "but that your last letters are so acceptably taken as my thanks cannot be lacking for the same, but yield them you in grateful sort."[6] In March 1603, with the queen clearly dying, Cecil sent James a draft proclamation of his accession to the English throne. Strategic fortresses were put on alert, and London placed under guard. Elizabeth died in the early hours of 24 March. Within eight hours, James was proclaimed king in London, the news received without protest or disturbance.[7]

On 5 April 1603, James left Edinburgh for London, promising to return every three years (a promise he failed to keep, returning only once, in 1617, fourteen years after his initial departure),[8] and progressed slowly from town to town, in order to arrive in the capital after Elizabeth's funeral.[9] Local lords received James with lavish hospitality along the route; and James's new subjects flocked to see him, relieved above all that the succession had triggered neither unrest nor invasion.[10] As James entered London, he was mobbed. The crowds of people, one observer reported, were so great that "they covered the beauty of the fields; and so greedy were they to behold the King that they injured and hurt one another."[11] James's English coronation took place on 25 July, with elaborate allegories provided by dramatic poets such as Thomas Dekker and Ben Jonson, though the festivities had to be restricted because of an outbreak of the plague.[12] Nevertheless, all London turned out for the occasion: "The streets seemed paved with men," wrote Dekker. "Stalls instead of rich wares were set out with children, open casements filled up with women".[13]

Whatever residual fears many in England may have felt at the prospect of being ruled by a Scot, James's arrival aroused a mood of high expectation. The twilight years of Elizabeth had been a disappointment; and for a nation troubled for so many years by the question of succession, the new king was a family man who already had male heirs in the wing. But James's honeymoon was of very short duration; and his initial political actions were to do much to create the rather negative tone which was to turn a successful Scottish king into a disappointing English one. The greatest and most obvious of these was the question of his exact status and title. James intended to be King of Great Britain and Ireland. His first obstacle along this imperial road was the attitude of the English Parliament.

In his first speech to his southern assembly on 19 March 1603 James gave a clear statement of the royal manifesto;

[14]

Parliament may very well have rejected polygamy; but the marriage, if marriage it was, between the realms of England and Scotland was to be at best morganatic. James's ambitions were greeted with very little enthusiasm, as one by one MPs rushed to defend the ancient name and realm of England. All sorts of legal objections were raised: all laws would have to be renewed and all treaties renegotiated. For James, whose experience of parliaments was limited to the stage-managed and semi-feudal Scottish variety, the self-assurance — and obduracy — of the English version, which had long experience of upsetting monarchs, was an obvious shock. He decided to side-step the whole issue by unilaterally assuming the title of King of Great Britain by a Proclamation concerning the Kings Majesties Stile on 20 October 1604 announcing that he did "assume to Our selfe by the cleerenesse of our Right, The Name and Stile of KING OF GREAT BRITTAINE, FRANCE, AND IRELAND, DEFENDER OF THE FAITH, &c." .[15] This only deepened the offence. Even in Scotland there was little real enthusiasm for the project, though the two parliaments were eventually prodded into taking the whole matter 'under consideration'. Consider it they did for several years, never drawing the desired conclusion.

Opposition to the union[edit]

In Scotland there were early signs that many saw the risk of the "lesser being drawn by the greater", as Henry VII once predicted. An example before Scottish eyes was the case of Ireland, a kingdom in name, but – since 1601 – a subject nation in practice. John Russell, lawyer and writer, an initial enthusiast for 'the happie and blissed Unioun betuixt the tua ancienne realmes of Scotland and Ingland' was later to warn James:

These fears were echoed by the Scottish Parliament. Its members were telling the king that they were "confident" that his plans for an incorporating union would not prejudice the ancient laws and liberties of Scotland; for any such hurt would mean that "it culd no more be a frie monarchie". James attempted to reassure his new English subjects that the new union would be much like that between England and Wales, and that if Scotland should refuse "he would compel their assents, having a stronger party there than the opposite party of the mutineers". In June 1604 the two national parliaments passed acts appointing commissioners to explore the possibility of "a more perfect union". James closed the final session of his first parliament with a rebuke to his opponents in the House of Commons — "Here all things suspected...He merits to be buried in the bottom of the sea that shall but think of separation, where God had made such a Union".

The Union Commission made some limited progress, on discrete issues such as hostile border laws, trade and citizenship: the borders were to become the "middle shires". Free trade proved contentious, as did the issue of equal rights before the law. Fears were openly expressed in the Westminster Parliament that English jobs would be threatened by all the poor people of the realm of Scotland, who will "draw near to the Sonn, and flocking hither in such Multitudes, that death and dearth is very probable to ensue". The exact status of the post nati, those born after the Union of March 1603, was not decided by Parliament, but in the courts by Calvin's Case (1608), which extended property rights to all the King's subjects in English common law.

National animosity[edit]

Scottish aristocrats and other place seekers made their way to London, to compete for high positions in government. Several years later Sir Anthony Weldon was to write that

A wounding observation came in the comedy Eastward Ho, a collaboration between Ben Jonson, George Chapman and John Marston. In enthusing over the good life to be had in the colony of Virginia it is observed;

Anti-English satires proliferated, and in 1609 the king had an act passed, promising the direst penalties against the writers of "pasquillis, libellis, rymis, cockalanis, comedies and sicklyk occasiones whereby they slander and maligne and revile the estait and countrey of England..."

In October 1605 the Venetian ambassador in London noted "the question of the Union will, I am assured, be dropped; for His Majesty is now well aware that nothing can be effected, both sides displaying such obstinacy that an accommodation is impossible; and so his Majesty is resolved to abandon the question for the present, in hope that time may consume the ill-humours."

Symbols of the union[edit]

King James devised new coats of arms, a uniform coinage and the like. The creation of a national flag proved contentious, designs acceptable to one side typically offending the other. James finally proclaimed the new Union Flag on 12 April 1606: Scots who saw in it a St. George's Cross superimposed upon a St. Andrew's Saltire sought to create their own 'Scotch' design which saw the reverse superimposition take place. (This design was used in Scotland until 1707.) For years afterwards vessels of the two nations continued to fly their respective "flags", the royal proclamation notwithstanding. The Union Flag only entered into common use under Cromwell's Protectorate.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ John Daniel McVey. "The Union of The Crowns 1603 - 2003". Uotc.scran.ac.uk. Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  2. ^ David Lawrence Smith, A History of the Modern British Isles, 1603–1707: The Double Crown (1998), Chapter 2
  3. ^ Conlee, John (ed.) (2004). William Dunbar: The Complete Works. Kalamazoo, Michigan: Medieval Institute Publications. Retrieved 26 August 2007. 
  4. ^ James described Cecil as "king there in effect". Croft, p 48.
  5. ^ Cecil wrote that James should "secure the heart of the highest, to whose sex and quality nothing is so improper as either needless expostulations or over much curiosity in her own actions, the first showing unquietness in yourself, the second challenging some untimely interest in hers; both which are best forborne." Willson, pp 154–155.
  6. ^ Willson, p 155.
  7. ^ Croft, p 49; Willson, p 158.
  8. ^ Croft, p 49
  9. ^ Croft, p 49.
  10. ^ Croft, p 50.
  11. ^ Stewart, p 169.
  12. ^ Stewart, p 172.
  13. ^ Stewart, p 173.
  14. ^ James I, speech to the Westminster parliament, 19 March 1603, e.g. in King James VI and I: Political Writings, ed. Johann Sommerville, Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1995, 132–46, here 136.
  15. ^ Francois Velde. "Royal Arms, Styles, and Titles of Great Britain". Heraldica.org. Retrieved 2013-10-25. 

References and further reading[edit]

  • Brown, Keith M. (1994). "The vanishing emperor: British kingship and its decline, 1603–1707". In in Roger A. Mason (ed.),. Scots and Britons: Scottish Political Thought and the Union of 1603. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-42034-2. 
  • Croft, Pauline (2003). King James. Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-61395-3.
  • Ferguson, William (1977). Scotland's Relations with England: A Survey to 1707. Edinburgh: J. Donald. ISBN 0-85976-022-7. 
  • Galloway, Bruce (1986). The Union of England and Scotland, 1603–1608. Edinburgh: J. Donald. ISBN 0-85976-143-6. 
  • Galloway, Bruce, & Levack, Brian, ed., (1985) The Jacobean Union, Six tracts of 1604, Edinburgh, Scottish History Society. ISBN 0-906245-06-0
  • Lee, Maurice, Jr. (2003). The "Inevitable" Union and Other Essays on Early Modern Scotland. East Linton, East Lothian: Tuckwell Press. ISBN 1-86232-107-8. 
  • Marshall, T. (July 2005). "United We Stand?". BBC History magazine. 
  • Mason, Roger A. (ed.) (1987). Scotland and England, 1286–1815. Edinburgh: J. Donald. ISBN 0-85976-177-0. 
  • Stewart, Alan (2003). The Cradle King: A Life of James VI and I. London: Chatto & Windus. ISBN 0-7011-6984-2. 
  • Willson, David Harris ([1956] 1963 ed). King James VI & 1. London: Jonathan Cape Ltd. ISBN 0-224-60572-0.
  • Wormald, Jenny (1994). "The Union of 1603", in Scots and Britons, op cit.

External links[edit]