Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.

MAY 1st  

On this day in history in 1707, England and Scotland were united as The Kingdom of Great Britain.

England and Scotland had each led independent existences for centuries.  England had been formed from a union of minor kingdoms in the Tenth Century, while Scotland had been founded in 843 by Kenneth I, King of Scots.  

When James VI of Scots ascended the English throne as James I of England, he was monarch of two separate and independent states. James attempted to form a Union of his two kingdoms but was thwarted by The English Parliament and by his own ministers, particularly Francis Bacon.  

At the beginning of the Eighteenth Centuries, both kingdoms had pressing problems. England was at war with   France. The French king was scheming to place a Jacobite king on the Scottish throne, and England feared a backdoor invasion. Scotland was deprived of trade with The English Colonies, had lost half its liquid capital in he ill-fated Darien Scheme and was practically bankrupt. England would have liked to swallow up Scotland in an incorporative union. Scotland needed a free trade agreement on the style of The Auld Alliance between Scotland and France.  

Politicians on both sides of the border attempted to deal with their respective problems with petulant attacks on the other side and short-term solutions to long-term problems. This was to provide the basis of British diplomatic policy for centuries. 

In 1701, when the last of Queen Anne’s children died, The English Parliament passed the Act of Succession allowing the throne to pass to the House of Hannover after Anne’s death. The Scottish Parliament responded with The Act of Security, which provided for the Scottish Crown to pass along a different line, to be determined after Anne’s death.

The English Parliament intimidated Scotland with The Alien Act of 1705, threatening to confiscate property held by Scots in England unless Scotland accepted the Hanoverian Succession. Scotland passed The Wine Act, legalising the importation of wines and other commodities from England’s enemies. England passed the Black Cattle Act preventing Scottish drovers from bringing their herds over the border for sale. After Marlborough had defeated the French at Blenheim, and attack from the Continental enemies was forestalled for the time being, Marlborough was ordered to marshal his troops near the Scottish border, within reach of Edinburgh. 

In 1706, the Scottish Parliament appointed commissioners to negotiate a union. A hasty deal was done. The Scots accepted a ‘bribe’ of some £400,000 Sterling, to pay off debts and refund the shareholders of The Darien Scheme. The problems of separate churches and legal systems were dealt with by being left unresolved, for future generations to deal with. Each Parliament passed a separate Act of Union, Scotland’s Act being finalised in a cellar in Hollyrood Palace.  The Kingdom of Great Britain came into being on 1st May 1707.

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