Act of Settlement 1701, Electress Sophia of Hanover, King James II-VII of England and Scotland, Mary II of England, Prince William Duke of Gloucester, Queen Anne of Great Britain, William III of England
When William III and Mary II ruled jointly any of their offspring would have inherited the throne. After William and Mary the next in line was Mary’s sister the Princess Anne, Duchess of Cumberland. In 1700 Princess Anne was married to Prince George of Denmark who was the younger son of King Frederick III of Denmark and Norway and Sophie Amalie of Brunswick-Lüneburg. His mother was the sister of Ernst-August, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, later Elector of Hanover. Prince George was therefore first cousin to King George I of Great Britain, Elector of Hanover his wife’s successor!
George and Anne were married on July 28, 1683 in the Chapel Royal at St James’s Palace, London, by Henry Compton, Bishop of London. The guests included King Charles II, Queen Catherine, and the Duke and Duchess of York. In England George remained HRH Prince George of Denmark and Nowray until April 10, 1689 when King William III raised his brother-in-law to the peerage by granting him the title Duke of Cumberland. Throughout their marriage they had 17 pregnancies with the majority of them being stillbirths or miscarriages. Two daughters, Mary and Anne-Sophia both lived for a year or so. Another daughter named Mary and a son named George lived only a short while after birth. The longest lived child of The Duke and Duchess of Cumberland, was HRH Prince William, Duke of Gloucester. His death in 1700 age of 11 created a crisis for the succession. Just prior to his death this was the succession to the Crown.
HM King William III of England and Scotland.
1. HRH Princess Anne, The Duchess of Cumberland
2. HRH Prince William, The Duke of Gloucester
3. HRH Prince James, The Prince of Wales *
4. HM Queen Anne Marie d’Orléans, Queen of Savoy *
5. HRH Prince Victor Amadeus of Savoy, Prince of Piedmont *
I only listed the first five. Those with the asterisk were not even in the line of succession at this time. Although the Act of Settlement was not the law of the land at this time all those would not have been acceptable due to being Catholic. I included them to show what the succession may have looked like had Catholics been allowed, and also to demonstrate that after the future Queen Anne and her son, the rest in line to the throne were Catholic. That is why Prince William, Duke of Gloucester’s death created a crisis for the throne. Although Prince James was technically still Prince of Wales, his title would not be attained until March 2, 1702 and his presence on the throne was not desired. If Catholics had been allowed to succeed to the throne the line of succession would have looked more like this:
1. HRH Prince James, the Prince of Wales
2. HRH Princess Anne, The Duchess of Cumberland
3. HRH Prince William, The Duke of Gloucester
4. HM Queen Anne Marie d’Orléans, Queen of Savoy
5. HRH Prince Victor Amadeus of Savoy, Prince of Piedmont
HSH Princess Sophia, Electress of Hanover was the closest Protestant and just prior to the Act becoming law she was around 150th in line to the throne.
On the day of William III’s death, March 8 1702, the line of succession to the English throne was determined by the Act of Settlement 1701 and his sister-in-law, Anne, second daughter of the deposed King James II-VII of England and Scotland (who had died September 16, 1701), assumed the throne as Queen Anne. Electress Sophia (age 70), five of her children (ages 35 to 41), and three legitimate grandchildren (ages 14 to 18) were alive. Although Sophia was in her seventy-first year, older than Anne by thirty-five years, she was very fit and healthy, and invested time and energy in securing the succession either for herself or her son.
1. HRH Princess Sophia, Electress of Hanover
2. HRH Prince George Louis, Elector of Hanover
3. HRH Prince George Augustus, Electoral Prince of Hanover
4. HRH Princess Sophia Dorothea of Hanover
5. HRH Prince Maximilian Wilhelm of Hanover
6. HRH Prince Christian Henry of Hanover
7. HRH Prince Ernest Augustus of Hanover
8. HRH Princess Sophia, Queen in Prussia
9. HRH Prince Frederick William of Prussia, Crown Prince of Prussia
The electress was eager to move to London, however, the proposal was denied, as such action would mortally offend Anne who was strongly opposed to a rival court in her kingdom. Anne might have been aware that Sophia, who was active and lively despite her old age, could cut a better figure than herself.
Although considerably older than Queen Anne, Sophia enjoyed much better health. According to the Countess of Bückeburg in a letter to Sophia’s niece, the Raugravine Luise, on the 5th of June 1714 Sophia felt ill after receiving an angry letter from Queen Anne. Two days later she was walking in the gardens of Herrenhausen when she ran to shelter from a sudden downpour of rain and collapsed and died, aged 83 a considerable advanced age for the era. Shortly, a little over a month later, in August, Queen Anne died at the age of 49. Had Anne died before June 1714, Sophia would have been the oldest person to ascend the British throne.
Upon Sophia’s death, her eldest son Elector Georg-Ludwig of Brunswick-Lüneburg (1660-1727) became heir presumptive in her place, and weeks later, succeeded Anne as King George I.