Home > Great Britain > The Act of Settlement 1701: BBC – H2G2

The Act of Settlement 1701: BBC – H2G2


Today in History the Act of Settlement 1701 came into law forbidding any catholic being crowned king or queen. So it was a milestone in bigotry in an age alien now to us today. There have been attempts to change the law but as yet no sign of any dramatic changes:

The Act of Settlement, 1701, was introduced in the reign of William III, to provide for a stable executive branch to the British government.

The future Queen Anne was very sickly and had problems producing an heir. She had 17 pregnancies, but none of her children survived childhood. She also had Roman Catholic relatives, who would assume the throne before the Protestant Hanoverian line by order of succession. She would not sit on the throne herself if the traditional order of succession had been followed – William and Mary had seen to that. Uniquely in the history of the monarchy, the Crown was shared between William III and Mary II.

The Act was a last ditch attempt by Parliament to maintain the status quo, as there had been too much slaughter of one side or the other, ever since Henry VIII broke away from the Roman Catholic Church.

Today, it is probably the only remaining piece of anti-Catholic legislation of any note on the British statute books. Almost all of Britain’s anti-Catholic laws were repealed by the Relief Act of 1793, the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829, and the Removal of Clergy Disqualification Act of 2001.

In Britain the sovereign is the Chief Executive of the constitutional monarchy which governs the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Constitutional Monarchy being the name given to the partnership between the Crown and Parliament, in which the Crown has executive authority and Parliament has legislative authority. This arrangement was settled on when the monarchy was restored after the interregnum.

The Act of Settlement, 1701 has recently come under fire, because it ensures that only Protestant descendent of Princess Sophia (granddaughter of James VI and I of Scotland and England) can become the sovereign of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Legal challenges have been made by the national newspaper The Guardian and private members bills have been introduced in Parliament in an effort to repeal it.”

via BBC – h2g2 – The Act of Settlement 1701
– A695441
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