scotland vs. england -- 9/29/14

Today's selection -- from A Short History of Europe by Gordon Kerr. Only days ago, the citizens of Scotland came close to voting their independence from England -- and with 45% of the vote cast for independence, the matter is still far from settled. Scotland has long bristled at its ties to England. It fought two nation-defining wars of independence against England, the first from 1296 to 1328 (in which William Wallace gained fame), and the second from 1332 to 1357, and retained its independence after each. However in 1603, James VI, Stuart king of Scotland, whose family had ruled Scotland for almost 200 years, was given the throne of England after a succession dispute since he was great-great-grandson of England's Henry VII. He immediately moved to England, the largest of his realms, only returning to Scotland once in 1617. He ruled as James I and is still famous for his sponsorship of the King James translation of the Bible. The Stuarts were enforcers of the state religion -- the Anglican church -- at a time when Protestantism was rising in both England and Scotland. The Stuart kings and queens ruled both independent kingdoms until the Act of Union in 1707 merged the two kingdoms into a new state, the Kingdom of Great Britain. The attempt of the Stuart king James II to reimpose Catholicism cost the Stuarts their dynasty:

"For some monarchs, absolutist ambitions brought dire consequences. In the case of the Stuarts in England and Scotland, they resulted in revolution, execution and, ultimately, the end of their dynasty. The crowns of England and Scotland had been united in 1603 on the death of Elizabeth I when the Stuart, James VI of Scotland, was offered the throne and also became James I of England. His son, Charles I (ruled 1625-49), made life and worship very difficult for the Protestants in Scotland and England -- Presbyterians and Puritans, respectively. His ill-considered attempt to impose the Anglican Prayerbook on the Scots resulted in them invading England. Then, as he tried to get Parliament to pay for an army to fight the Scots, they rebelled, issuing the Grand Remonstrance against him, condemning the policy that had led to this situation. Bloody civil war broke out in 1642 and Parliamentary troops, mostly Puritans, led by Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658), defeated Charles at the Battles of Marston Moor (1644) and Naseby (1645). Charles I was eventually captured and executed in 1649.

Execution of Charles I

"England became a republic for the only time in its history, with Oliver Cromwell as, effectively, head of state for the next 11 years. From 1653 to 1658, he was officially designated Lord Protector of England. On Cromwell's death, however, the Stuarts were restored in the shape of the former King's son, Charles II (ruled 1660-85). When Charles died, his brother, James II (ruled 1685-88) rapidly displayed that he had learned nothing from the problems encountered by their father. Indeed, he espoused the Catholic cause and even showed signs of wanting to reign as absolutely. It proved too much for the English who deposed James in a bloodless coup -- the Glorious Revolution -- and offered the throne to the Protestant Dutch aristocrat, William of Orange (ruled 1689-1702), James's son-in-law. In 1689, William and his wife, Mary (ruled 1689-94), became King and Queen of Great Britain after their acceptance of a Bill of Rights that, amongst other things, made the monarch subservient to the law of the land. Britain's future as a constitutional monarchy was secure and a model was created for the rest of Europe."


Gordon Kerr


A Short History of Europe: From Charlemagne to the Treaty of Lisbon


Oldcastle Books


Copyright Gordon Kerr 2010


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