Act of Settlement of 1701, Act of Union of 1707, Citizenship, Ethnicity, Glorious Revolution, King Charles III of the United Kingdom, King George I of Great Britain, King George II of Great Britain, King George III of Great Britain, Sophia Naturalization Act of 1705
From The Emperor’s Desk: This entry is a bit longer than usual but instead of dividing this entry and belaboring my point i decided to post it in its entirety.
The German ancestry of the British Royal Family begins with the accession of Duke Georg Ludwig of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Imperial Elector of Hanover. But how did this German Prince come to succeed to the throne of Great Britain?
Following the Glorious Revolution of 1688 in which King James II-VII of England, Scotland and Ireland, was deposed, the line of succession to the English throne was governed by the Bill of Rights 1689, which declared that the flight of James II-VII from England to France during the revolution amounted to an abdication of the throne and that James’s daughter Queen Mary II and her husband/cousin, King William III (Willem III of Orange, who was also James’s nephew), were James’s successors.
The Bill of Rights also provided that the line of succession would go through Mary’s Protestant descendants by William and any possible future husband should she outlive him, then through Mary’s sister Anne and her Protestant descendants, and then to the Protestant descendants of William III by a possible later marriage should he outlive Mary. During the debate, the House of Lords had attempted to append Electress Sophia of Hanover and her descendants to the line of succession, but the amendment failed in the Commons.
Queen Mary II died childless in 1694, after which William III did not remarry. In 1700, Prince William, Duke of Gloucester, who was future Queen Anne’s only child to survive infancy, died of what may have been smallpox at the age of 11. Thus, Anne was left as the only person in line to the throne.
The Bill of Rights excluded Catholics from the throne, which ruled out James II and his children (as well as their descendants) sired after he converted to Catholicism in 1668. However, it did not provide for further succession after Anne. Parliament thus saw the need to settle the succession on Sophia and her descendants, and thereby guarantee the continuity of the Crown in the Protestant line.
With religion and lineage initially decided, the ascendancy of Willem of Orange in 1689 would also bring his partiality to his foreign favourites that followed. By 1701 English jealousy of foreigners was rampant, and action was considered necessary. It was considered necessary to create an Act of Parliament to settle the succession to the English throne.
The Act of Settlement
The Act of Settlement provided that the throne would pass to the Electress Sophia of Hanover – a granddaughter of James I-VI and a niece of King Charles I – and her descendants.
One the issues the Act of Settlement did not address was granting English citizenship to the Sovereign. The Act did address who can be a member of the Privy Council:
No foreigner (“no Person born out of the Kingdoms of England Scotland or Ireland or the Dominions thereunto belonging”), even if naturalised or made a denizen (unless born of English parents), can be a Privy Councillor or a member of either House of Parliament, or hold “any Office or Place of Trust, either Civill [sic] or Military, or to [sic] have any Grant of Lands, Tenements or Hereditaments from the Crown, to himself or to any other or others in Trust for him”.
Before I go further, let me define who or what is a British national. Over the many years there have been many Acts of Parliament that dealt with the subject and various related issues. I’m not going into all of them but I will mention a few of them.
Nationality is a legal identification of a person in international law, establishing the person as a subject, a national, of a sovereign state. It affords the state jurisdiction over the person and affords the person the protection of the state against other states.
The British Nationality Act 1948 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom on British nationality law which defined British nationality by creating the status of “Citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies” (CUKC) as the sole national citizenship of the United Kingdom and all of its colonies.
The British Nationality Act 1948 formed the basis of the United Kingdom’s nationality law until the British Nationality Act 1981, which came into force in 1983. Most of its provisions have been repealed or otherwise superseded by subsequent legislation, though parts remain in force.
British nationality law details the conditions by which a person is a national of the United Kingdom. The primary law governing these requirements is the British Nationality Act 1981, which came into force on January 1, 1983. Regulations apply to the British Islands (the UK itself and the Crown dependencies) as well as the 14 British Overseas Territories.
The Act of Parliament that did address the nationality of the English monarch and the English Royal Family was the Sophia Naturalization Act of 1705.
Prior to the Act of Union which United the Kingdoms of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain, each country had their own separate succession laws. Since the Sovereign of Ireland was always the Sovereign of England, Ireland followed England’s succession laws.
The Act for the Naturalization of the Most Excellent Princess Sophia, Electress and Duchess Dowager of Hanover, and the Issue of her Body was an Act of the Parliament of England (4 & 5 Ann. c. 16.) in 1705. It followed the Act of Settlement 1701, whereby Dowager Electress Sophia of Hanover and her Protestant descendants were declared to be in the line of succession to the throne (her son George I later became king).
Electress Sophia of Hanover, a granddaughter of James VI of Scotland and I of England, was not considered to be an Englishwoman as she had not been born in England. This Act naturalized her and “the issue of her body”, provided they were not Catholic, as English subjects. Any person born to a descendant of Sophia could also claim to be an English Subject (citizen) by being her descent of Sophia and to be the “issue of her body”.
In 1947, Prince Friedrich of Prussia succeeded in a claim to British citizenship under the Act, having renounced his German citizenship.
The Act was repealed by the British Nationality Act 1948. However, any non-Catholic descendant of the Electress born before the repealing statute was enacted had already automatically acquired the status of a British subject, so there are still people alive who can claim British nationality under the Sophia Naturalization Act.
Therefore, despite being born in Germany, technically the Holy Roman Empire at the time, King George I, King George II and Prince Frederick Louis, the Prince of Wales were all naturalized British Subjects.
However, for the sake of argument, let me say that these first three heads of the House of Hanover were ethnically German.
Now let me define ethnicity. An ethnicity or ethnic group is a grouping of people who identify with each other on the basis of shared attributes that distinguish them from other groups. Those attributes can include common sets of traditions, ancestry, language, history, society, nation, religion, or social treatment within their residing area. The term ethnicity is often used interchangeably with the term nation, particularly in cases of ethnic nationalism.
Ethnicity may be construed as an inherited or as a societally imposed construct. Ethnic membership tends to be defined by a shared cultural heritage, ancestry, origin myth, history, homeland, language, dialect, religion, mythology, folklore, ritual, cuisine, dressing style, art, or physical appearance. Ethnic groups may share a narrow or broad spectrum of genetic ancestry, depending on group identification, with many groups having mixed genetic ancestry. Ethnic groups often continue to speak related languages.
As previously mentioned the first three heads of the House of Hanover were ethnic Germans:
King George I of Great Britain: George was born on May 28, 1660 in the city of Hanover in the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg in the Holy Roman Empire.
King George II of Great Britain: George was born November 9, 1683 in the city of Hanover in the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg in the Holy Roman Empire.
Prince Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales and Duke of Edinburgh: Prince Frederick Louis was born on January 31, 1707 in the city of Hanover, in the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg in the Holy Roman Empire as Duke Friedrich Ludwig of Brunswick-Lüneburg.
However, the next monarch of Great Britain was different. He was born in the Kingdom of Great Britain.
King George III of Great Britain: George was born on June 4, 1738 at Norfolk House in St James’s Square, London, England in the Kingdom of Great Britain.
George III was the first monarch of the House of Hanover who—unlike his two predecessors, and his father—was born in Great Britain, spoke English as his first language, and never visited Hanover.
In my eyes and the legal definition of citizenship and ethnicity he meets the criteria for being British.
Again, I have to ask a question at what point does an individual, or a family, need to live in a certain country to be considered a national of that country and ethnically from that country?
Legally those born in a certain country are a citizen of that country. Forgetting for a moment that King George I, King George II and Prince Frederick Louis, the Prince of Wales were all naturalized British Subjects (citizens); but beginning with King George III he and all subsequent British Monarchs have been born and bread in the United Kingdom.
That’s seven generations of British monarchs born and raised in the United Kingdom. Certainly right now they can be considered British and not German both by the definition of legal citizenship and by the definition of ethnicity.
This is why I consider King Charles III as being 100% British. At least seven generations of his ancestors were born in the United Kingdom.
The closest ancestor that King Charles had that was born a German citizen was his paternal Great-great grandfather, Grand Duke Ludwig IV of Hesse and by Rhine. Ludwig was born on September 12th, 1837 at the Prinz-Karl-Palais in Darmstadt, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Hesse and by Rhine in the German Confederation.
Charles’ great grandmother, Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine, (Victoria Mountbatten, Marchioness of Milford Haven) was born in Windsor Castle. Her husband, and cousin once removed, Prince Louis of Battenberg (Louis Mountbatten, 1st Marquess of Milford Haven) was born in Austria.
Also remember the King’s maternal grandmother was Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon the daughter Claude Bowes-Lyon, the 14th Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne in the Peerage of Scotland, and his wife, Cecilia Cavendish-Bentinck. Her mother was descended from British prime minister William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland, and Governor-General of India Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, who was the elder brother of another prime minister, Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington.
This also gives Charles a considerable amount of Scottish and English ancestry.
In the future the German ancestry of the British Royal Family becomes even more distant and diluted. The Prince of Wales is the son of Lady Diana Spencer the daughter of John Spencer, 8th Earl Spencer. The Spencer family is an aristocratic family in the United Kingdom. From the 16th century, its members have held numerous titles including the dukedom of Marlborough, the earldoms of Sunderland and Spencer, and the Churchill barony. Prime Minister Winston Churchill was a member of the Spencer family.
The mother of the future King George VII, Catherine Middleton, brings a great deal of English blood into the Royal Family. The Princess of Wales is the eldest of three children born to Michael Middleton (b. 1949) and his wife, Carole (née Goldsmith; b. 1955). Tracing their origins back to the Tudor era, the Middleton family of Yorkshire of the late 18th century were recorded as owning property of the Rectory Manor of Wakefield. The land passed down to solicitor William Middleton who established the family law firm in Leeds which spanned five generations.
So you can see in the future of the British Monarchy, both short term and long term, the German ancestry of the British Royal Family will fade into the background.
To conclude though King Charles does have German ancestry (as well as Danish and Russian and Greek ancestry) but he is both legally and ethnically a quintessential British person.