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Happy 315th Birthday to Great Britain (parliaments union day)

On May 1st of 1707 the Union of Parliaments act went into effect, joining the legislatures of Scotland and England. The crowns had already been united under one monarch in 1603, but it wasn't until 315 years ago today that the states were

"United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain"

Sounds nice on paper, but it mostly meant that the English occupation of Scotland was succeeding. You can sketch in some of the background and details from this short wikipedia article:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acts_of_Union_1707

When Rick mentions in his TV shows and guidebooks that it's a mistake to talk about Scottish castles when we really mean English castles built to hold down Scottish territory, this history is what he has in mind.
It is also what contemporary historians have in mind, partially, when they point out that anything the English did to their colonial subjects they had earlier done to their own.

Posted by
1892 posts

I should also mention that union with Ireland didn't actually happen legally until 1801, so the 1707 version of Great Britain was not the really Great version but just the nearly Great.

Parts of the Irish Parliament had been asking to be taken over the whole time but the English crown turned its head to pretend that it just didn't see. (The answers, my friends, were blowing in the wind. The answers were blowing in the wind.)

Posted by
1892 posts

Just as here in the USA we produce a lot of commemorative quarter dollar coins, in the UK the £ 2 coin has had dozens of special-occasion mintings, and for the 300th anniversary in 2007 they produced one for the Union of Parliaments, described as

"A design dividing the coin into four quarters, with a rose and a thistle occupying two of the quarters and a portcullis in each of the other two quarters. The whole design is overlaid with a linking jigsaw motif and surrounded by the dates "1707" and "2007", and the denomination "TWO POUNDS" "

https://onlinecoin.club/Coins/Country/United_Kingdom/Two_Pounds_2007_Act_of_Union/

Posted by
1345 posts

The Union of the Parliaments came about after a turbulent century following the union of the crowns. The 17th C was turbulent for most of Europe, religious war, the Thirty Years war in Germany, and you had the Wars of the Islands in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland.

Very, very few if any castles in Scotland were build by the English to hold the territory. That was Wales and the Edwardian Ring of castles around the modern county of Gwynedd. They were build for the same reasons castles were built in England, or in France. Control of the territory by the local rulers.

Now lets head to the 17th C. The wars of the 1640s and `1650s were devastating for all parts of these islands, and are considered the most deadly wars any of these nations has been involved in in the last 1000 years. The political situation was also shaky even when it was a time of peace. James VI/I had been a relatively good politician, probably one of the best politicians to sit on the throne of either Scotland or England, and had succeeded in England a good politician in Elizabeth I. Charles I was not, he was probably one of the worst politicians to sit on said thrones. His personal rule in the 1630s was disastrous. The 1649 - 60 Republic was always weak being based on the personality of one man, and the succession there led to a weak ruler with Richard Cromwell as Lord Protector.

Charles II on restoration was a better politician than his father and helped by the country being tired. However, he did not have legitimate children. This is probably because Queen Catherine had been rendered sterile by bad medical procedures when she miscarried. So the succession went to his brother, James. James VII/II was Catholic, something the protestant establishment in England and Scotland did not like, a truly dire politician, but he was also a Stuart so dynastic loyalty trumped this in Scotland.

When he was overthrown and the throne was gifted to William of Orange as he was married to James' daughter Mary problems came to a head. In short William was head of state of three countries, England, Scotland, and the Netherlands. Each had different political needs, but the Netherlands were at war with France. Now, who is Scotland's oldest ally? France. It was still trading with France. William banned this, without allowing Scotland to trade with England or the American colonies. Hence the disaster of the Darien scheme. He died childless, and none of Anne's children survived to adulthood.

So succession issue. England wanted a protestant monarch so passed the law sending the crown to the House of Hannover. Scotland would have had the Stuarts back. Result? French forces north of the border. So Anne pushed for the union of the parliaments, bought about in part by bribes, famine, economic crash, and pure political need. Creating the name of Kingdom of Great Britain, the island Wales, Scotland, England, and Yorkshire sit on, distinguishing it from the French Duchy of Brittany, known at the time sometimes as 'Little Britain'. It was messy, it was not inevitable, and it was a result of 'if it could go wrong in the 17th C, it did, frequently'

Posted by
1345 posts

Oh, and a little aside, the Scottish Act was passed in 1707, the English one was passed in 1706. The English one was passed after the Scottish one.

Posted by
108 posts

it's a mistake to talk about Scottish castles when we really mean English castles built to hold down Scottish territory,

This is utter nonsense.

Posted by
1892 posts

Please blame me for the utter nonsense, not Rick's TV shows -- I'm probably mixing up my castles as clarified above.

Posted by
1345 posts

Did give me a chance to point out that from 1600 to 1752 England and Scotland spent three months out of every year in different years though.

Posted by
5669 posts

As for the castles being English and not Scottish I completely agree that that is a Wales thing. Think of the timing. Edward Longshanks may have been called the hammer of the Scotts, but it was another 400 years before his dream of having Scotland united with England would come to pass. And it was probably not quite how he would have envisioned it. But the Welsh lost their battle back when all the castles were effective military structures.

In Scotland the English did other things to maintain control. They built roads, bridges, forts and barracks so that they could move the military around the country and keep track of what was going on. On a fairly recent trip to Scotland I stopped and explored Ruthven Barracks. Take a look at the strategic location. It's smack dab in the middle of the route north--just off the A9! Visit Fort George outside of Inverness. It was built in the wake of Culloden to help subdue the Scots.

I mentioned bridges and roads and General Wade was the one that recommended them. The above mentioned Barracks were key. But you can still cross Wade Bridges. One of the bridges was in Aberfeldy. Looks like you can find many to them through this site.

There is so much history between England and Scotland. One of my favorite books is George MacDonald Fraser's Steel Bonnets. It give you a good history of the border country. If you prefer your history novel form check out PF Chisholm's series about Sir Robert Carey's adventures in the borders at the end of Queen Elizabeth's reign.

Ah, I could go on and on. But I will leave you with Nigel Tranter who wrote nearly 100 novels--most about Scottish historical figures.

Posted by
1345 posts

One thing to remember as well about castles, and this is why so many are in ruins in England, Wales, and Scotland, is the Wars of the Isles made them redundant. See the 1980s BBC drama 'By The Sword Divided' for details. Fortified houses and garrisons were the way forward, not just in these islands but across Europe and the rest of the world.

Posted by
108 posts

It was built in the wake of Culloden to help subdue the Scots.

Half of the army that beat the Scots at Culloden were Scots. Half of the rest were German. Like our royal family.

Posted by
1892 posts

I was also going to mention something about the year starting in March but you beat me to it --
so for those still following along on this thread here are a few descriptions, including its implications for colonial New England:

https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/manuscriptsandspecialcollections/researchguidance/datingdocuments/historicalandcivil.aspx

"[U]ntil 1751, the civil (and ecclesiastical and legal) year was considered in England and Wales to begin on Lady Day, the 25th of March. This can create ambiguity, because for dates between the 1st of January and the 25th of March the historical year does not match the civil year. 1752 was the first year in England and Wales, in which the civil or legal year began on 1st January. In Scotland, however, the New Year was celebrated on 1st January in 1600 for the first time, creating a discrepancy between the nations of Great Britain during the period 1600-1751."

https://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/colonial-new-england-new-year-started-march-25/

"Dates between Jan. 1 and March 25 were identified with a slash mark between the years that overlapped. Just as an example, records of the first parish in Brewster, Mass., show double dates: ’Eleazer Crosbeys Eunice baptized on Jan : 9 . 1731/2’ and ‘Jonathan Cobb admitted on March 19 . 1731/2.’ "

see also

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Style_and_New_Style_dates