Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The Act of Union 1707: Religion

For a blog post explaining the economic foundations of Scotland's place in the United Kingdom, I was reading the Union with England Act 1707 - the "Act Ratifying and Approving the Treaty of Union of the Two Kingdoms of SCOTLAND and ENGLAND".

The Act also ratifies the Hanoverian Succession1 which (since the Act of Settlement 1701) excludes Catholics (or anybody who has married a Catholic) from inheriting the Crown. Given the Monarch's role as Supreme Governor of the Church of England this is unsurprising - but the stark language used is quite shocking to a contemporary reader
"II. That the Succession to the Monarchy of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and of the Dominions thereunto belonging after Her Most Sacred Majesty and in default of Issue of Her Majesty be, remain and continue to the Most Excellent Princess Sophia Electoress and Dutchess Dowager of Hanover and the Heirs of Her body being Protestants upon whom the Crown of England is settled by an Act of Parliament made in England in the twelth year of the Reign of His late Majesty King William the Third entituled An Act for the further Limitation of the Crown and better securing the Rights and Liberties of the Subject And that all Papists and persons marrying Papists shall be excluded from and for ever incapable to inherit possess or enjoy the Imperial Crown of Great Britain and the Dominions thereunto belonging or any part thereof And in every such case the Crown and Government shall from time to time descend to and be enjoyed by such person being a Protestant as should have inherited and enjoyed the same in case such Papists or person marrying a Papist was naturally dead according to the provision for the Descent of the Crown of England made by another Act of Parliament in England in the first year of the Reign of their late Majesties King William and Queen Mary entituled An Act declaring the Rights and Liberties of the Subject and settling the Succession of the Crown"
[There's a load more on  "securing the Protestant Religion and Presbyterian Church Government" in provision XXV]

This brought to mind the fact that in the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, there's evidence that Catholics were significantly more likely to vote Yes than Protestants - if you like, were more likely to vote to scrap this Act. I think few in Scotland will be surprised by this fact, but I suspect a good many don't understand the possible historical reasons why.

There may be other correlating factors (e.g that Catholics in Scotland may have a markedly different sage or socio-economic profile than Protestants), but it's at the very least interesting to note that religion is a better predictor of whether someone is likely to have voted Yes (or No) than either place of birth or gender.

1. When Queen Anne died in 1714 with no living children, this led to George I inheriting the Crown. Someone who knows their history tells me George I was 51st in line to the throne, after some 50 Catholic heirs who had been disbarred by parliament, and a great grandson of James VI/I

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