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At the time of the succession of William III and Mary II Parliament passed the Bill of Rights that limited the power of the monarch/crown and officially barred Catholics from sitting on the throne. This ended over a century of religious battles over the throne. The Bill of Rights of 1689 established the powers of the Crown as well as its limit. “it hath been found by experience that it is inconsistent with the safety and welfare of this Protestant kingdom to be governed by a papist prince“; It was also established that William III and Mary II were named as the legal successors of James II-VII and it established the succession based on that fact. The throne would pass to the issue of William III and Mary II, then to her sister, Princess Anne of Denmark and her heirs and then finally, to any heirs of William III by a later marriage. The monarch was further required to swear a coronation oath to maintain the Protestant religion.

The Bill of Rights completed a process that had begun with the English Civil War of the 1640s which was a conflict over who would hold power, the Crown or Parliament. With the Bill of Rights it showed that Parliament held the majority of the power. The Crown still held some power and it would take many more years until it just became a ceremonial position. But that is the topic for another series. The major point in the theme of this series is that the monarch no longer controlled the legal succession to the crown and that power was now invested in Parliament.

Within 12 years Parliament would have to act once more to regulate and control the legal succession to the crown. In 1694 Queen Mary II died of smallpox at the age of 32. She did not have any issue. According to the Bill of Rights the next in line was her sister, Princess Anne, married to Prince George of Denmark. The pregnancies of Princess Anne is very sad. She had up to 18 miscarriages and of the births that lived only Prince William, Duke of Gloucester at the age of 11 caused a crisis in the succession. It would seem that Princess Anne would not have any more children, King William III was still unmarried after the death of Queen Mary II and this left the Catholic Prince of Wales, James Francis as the only hier to the throne. Since Catholics were barred from the throne by the Bill of Rights this made the Prince of Wales unacceptable.

To answer this problem Parliament issued the Act of Settlement which settled the throne of England and Scotland on a cousin of King James II-VII, Sophia, Electress of Hanover the closest Protestant relative, and her Protestant heirs. The Act bypassed not only the Prince of Wales and his future descendants but also the descendants of Princess Henriette-Anne, daughter of King Charles I of England and Scotland.

Anne succeeded King William III in 1702, and reigned until her death on 1 August 1714. Sophia of Hanover predeceased her by a few weeks, and so Sophia’s son, Georg-Ludwig, ascended the throne as the first British monarch of the House of Hanover. Although according to Parliament George I of Hanover was the legal successor to Queen Anne, there were supporters of the Prince of Wales, called Jacobites, who would not be silenced.