Hello, this is Michael Anthony, and you’re listening to British History 101, brought to you by Audible.com, the Internet’s leading provider of spoken-word entertainment. Get a FREE audiobook of your choice when you sign up today. Logon to Audible.com/British101 for details.
First off tonight, I’d like to apologize for not getting an episode out for on the Monday I said I would in the previous episode. There have been a few holdups, and I hate to not deliver on a promise. So again, I apologize.
Tonight, we will look at a topic that I’m willing to bet many people don’t think of often. To start our discussion off, I’ll ask a question that we’ll answer with this episode: What exactly makes the United Kingdom so united? To begin with, we’ll have to delve into a bit of genealogy. Bear with me! I know this type of material can get confusing and a bit tedious, but I’ve learned that if you try to focus on just the people we discuss – forgetting the rest of their families – it slowly comes together. Here we go!
One of the daughters of King Henry VII of England, the founder of the Tudor dynasty, was Margaret. This girl was married in 1503 to James IV, the King of Scotland, thus merging the Stuart and Tudor dynastic lines. For the purpose of our discussion, this becomes relevant in 1513, when Henry VIII went to war with France. At this, France invoked Auld Alliance agreement with Scotland, originally signed in 1295. As the Scottish had made this agreement with the French to back them against the English, King James invaded England from his northern kingdom. Not only was he defeated; James died during this invasion at the Battle of Flodden. Margaret’s side of the Tudor family was afterwards removed from the line of succession – even though she was the eldest daughter of Henry VII, if Henry VIII died without an heir, she would not be considered for the English throne.
Henry VIII may have been disappointed at what happened after the reign of his daughter Elizabeth, who we now know as Elizabeth I. As Elizabeth died in 1603 as the last Tudor with no heirs, the great-grandson of James IV and Margaret Tudor was the only real choice for the throne. This man was James VI, King of Scotland. Although his mother was a Tudor, Henry VIII may have been mollified a bit by the fact that James was from the line of Stuart kings.
For reference, I’ve included a link to a Tudor family tree on the blog; you can check it out and really see all the family connections I’m talking about.
When you stop by the British History 101 blog, I’d invite you to head over to Audible.com, the leading provider of spoken-word entertainment. They’ve got over 35,000 titles to choose from, and they can be played back anywhere that you listen to mp3s – just like British History 101. During the summer, I work at a factory in relative seclusion without much opportunity for conversation; listening to my iPod really made the day fly by, and once I found out about Audible I was able to listen to any book they had while I worked – which, for a person like me who wants to read more but can’t find the time, was a great opportunity. Logon to Audible.com/British101 for a FREE audiobook download of your choice when you sign up today. Again, visit Audible.com/British101 to get started on reading all those books you never find the time for!
Now then. As James VI was the only candidate up for being king, he ascended to the throne as James VI of Scotland and I of England. It was soon seen that James had ambitions to unite the two crowns he now held. He made his intentions clear when he spoke to Parliament in 1603:
“What God hath conjoined let no man separate. I am the husband and the whole isle is my lawful wife; I am the head and it is my body; I am the shepherd and it is my flock. I hope therefore that no man will think that I, a Christian King under the Gospel, should be a polygamist and husband to two wives; that I being the head should have a divided or monstrous body or that being the shepherd to so fair a flock should have my flock parted in two.” Thus, James wanted to be the king not of England and Scotland, but of a new empire – Great Britain. Previously, Scotland and England had been two completely different nations, each with their own monarchies and parliaments. However, anyone who’s seen the film Braveheart knows that the English had desired Scottish wealth for some time – William the Conqueror claimed he was lord of Scotland, Henry II forced William I of Scotland to acknowledge him as a superior ruler, and Edward I of England tried to choose a Scottish king himself. Thus, you can imagine the sentiment among the populations of both nations. Although James was welcomed by the English people at first, the honeymoon was soon over. Scotland as well had less than enthusiastic feelings about being ruled by the same man who ruled England. The parliaments of both nations agreed to appoint a commission to consider combining the two legislative bodies, but little came of it, and England and Scotland remained separate throughout several attempts to combine the two. In our discussion of the Order of the Thistle, we talked about James VII and the common date of 1687 as the founding year of that order – we can now safely say that many of his appointments to the Order were related to the efforts to combine England and Scotland. There are those people whose opinions can easily be swayed by the award of a knighthood! The most visible symbol of James’ desires was the first Union Flag, consisting of the English flag (the red cross of St. George) superimposed on top of the Scottish flag (the white saltire of St. Andrew on a blue background).
Scotland and England shared a monarch for over a century. However, it was not until the reign of Queen Anne that the two nations finally became one. The Acts of Union 1707 formally combined the parliaments of both nations – an event that would lead to trouble by the very nature of each constituent country’s parliament, as Scotland’s was unicameral while England’s was bicameral. While England promised to bring Scotland out of its recent financial troubles, it is interesting to see how money was handled. Twenty thousand pounds was used by the English to gain supporters in Scotland – in effect, Scottish legislators were bribed to go along with the offer. The poet Robert Burns would later say “We were bought and sold for English gold.” This sad sentiment was echoed by the tune ringing from the bells of St. Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh on the day the treaty was signed – Why Should I Be So Sad on My Wedding Day? Henceforth, Scotland would be ruled from London.
In 1999, Scotland witnessed an extraordinary event in its history – a Scottish Parliament was reestablished, holding devolved powers of government from Westminster. While not as powerful as that assembly which existed before 1707, the beginning of the new parliament marked an important milestone in political history for Scotland.
That’s all for this episode of British History 101. A transcript of this and previous episodes of the podcast is available at BritishHistory101.com. I apologize for some difficulties I’ve been having with the blog lately; for some reason, I can’t post audio files to the site, so for now you’ll find text only, until I can get the problem resolved. Be sure to place yourself on the Platial map while you’re there. Send questions, comments, rants, and raves to BritishHistory101@gmail.com. Our music tonight is “Straspey and Reels in G Minor,” performed by O Fickle Fortune on Magnatune’s album A Celebration of Robert Burns. Magnatune is an independent online record label that allows each of its artists to retain full rights to their work. Visit Magnatune.com for great music at low prices and check out the many wonderful artists hosted there. Until we meet again, thanks for listening, and have a great evening.