England and Scotland are forming the Kingdom of Great Britain (May 1, 1707) - History Key

England and Scotland are forming the Kingdom of Great Britain (May 1, 1707)

The Kingdom of Great Britain was founded due to the Acts of Union between England and Scotland. The union with Scotland was passed by the England Parliament in 1706 and the union with England was passed by the Scottish Parliament in 1707. By these acts, the two kingdoms were “United into one Kingdom by the name of Great Britain”.

Union hard to achieve

Portrait of James VI
Portrait of James VI © John de Critz/Image Source: Wikipedia

England and Scotland were two separate states for several centuries. Since 1603 they were under the same monarchs due to the “Union of the Crown” when James VI of Scotland becomes also James VI of England. Despite the fact that many attempts to unite the monarchs had been made in the past, this time the crown union proved to be a solid and temporary. After a few decades, two revolutions from both countries and international tensions made almost impossible for these two countries to unite.

Portrait of Queen Anne in 1702
Portrait of Queen Anne in 1702 © John Closterman
/Image Source: Wikipedia

However, both states started to realize that a union could offer mutual solutions to their main problems: England needed political safeguards against French attacks and Scotland needed economic security. These two solutions were quickly accepted by the commissioners delegated by Queen Anne. Many people thought that the negotiations between them would end in failure like before. Despite the distrust, after three months of negotiations (April – July 1706) commissioners had agreed on a detailed treaty.

Conditions were easily accepted by both states

In order to unite the two states, the acts had to be ratified by both Parliaments which happened within one year after the negotiations. On May 1, 1707 the new United Kingdom of Great Britain came into existence. It was a success because trade was free and equal throughout the kingdom. Also the taxation would become uniform after certain concessions. Therefore, England compensated Scotland with an equivalent of £400,000 because Scotland shared the responsibility for England’s national debt.

The parliaments of the two countries evolved differently. England had a bicameral parliament while Scotland’s had been unicameral, but after the Union the Westminster followed the English model. In interesting fact is that Scotland kept its independence to its legal and religious systems, but the coinage and the flag became one. Therefore, the red cross of St. George was combined with the Blue cross of St. Andrew forming the new flag of the “old union”.

A union that led to a greater union

In 1773, Samuel Johnson (lawyer) and James Boswell (nobleman) visited the islands of Scotland. They noted that Scotland became a nation where the wealth and commerce is hourly increasing and Glasgow had become one of the greatest cities of Britain. In 1800 another Act of Union appeared and was approved which meant the unification of the Kingdom of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland and created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Therefore the Union flag was created by combining the “old flag” with the red cross of St. Patrick of Ireland.
Recently, in 2007 was the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Act of Union between England and Scotland. In this memory, a two-pound coin was issued.

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