Making the Act of Union
The union of the crowns had taken place in 1603, when Elizabeth I died and was succeeded by James VI of Scotland, who also became James I of England. From that point on the kingdoms of England and Scotland were ruled by a single monarch, but through separate governmental systems. The remoteness of Scotland from the centre of power in London meant that the king was an 'absentee' monarch.
- Absentee monarch
Monarch who is rarely or never in the country.
- Acts of Union 1707
Acts passed by the Scottish and English Parliaments to implement the Treaty of Union. Resulted in the formation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain.
- Union of the crowns 1603
Elizabeth I of England died in 1603 without an heir. Her cousin, King James VI of Scotland succeeded to the throne, becoming additionally James I of England and thus uniting the crowns.
- Download PDF (1.1MB)
Family tree of the English and Scottish royal dynasties.
• © Crown Copyright: UK Government Art Collection
This combination of a union of crowns and a separation of governments had been the cause of much difficulty between the two kingdoms during the course of the century, but for a long time it had seemed likely that the arrangement would continue. Even though long-term considerations, such as the declining state of Scotland's economy, were influencing opinion in favour of union, by the 1690s the chances of achieving this seemed remote.
However, in the early 1700s a unique set of events brought the two kingdoms together as a single state - the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain'. The immediate catalyst for these events was a succession crisis, triggered by the death in 1700 of an 11-year-old boy, Prince William, Duke of Gloucester.
This section begins with the succession crisis, continues by exploring in detail the negotiations that ultimately led to the Treaty of Union, and concludes with the ratification of the Treaty in 1707 by both the Scottish and English parliaments.