How England & Scotland became Great Britain
Sophie (age 7) and Ellie (age 5) tell the story of how England and Scotland became Great Britain in the Act of Union in 1707.----more----
England and Scotland had fought wars for hundreds of years. The Romans had built Hadrian’s Wall to keep the Picts out of Roman Britain. The English had later tried to conquer Scotland in the Wars of Scottish independence but had been stopped by William Wallace and Robert the Bruce. However, the wars between the two continued. Scotland even allied with England’s arch enemy France.
Everything changed with the death of the childless Queen Elizabeth. Her cousin, James, became King. He was already King of Scots. Now England and Scotland had the same King. However, that did not mean they became the same country. In fact the English were opposed to the very idea. So for the next hundred years the two countries had the same King or Queen but were ruled separately. However, the fighting did not stop. There was civil war in England and Scotland. Scottish armies crossed the border into England and English armies from England into Scotland. Peace eventually came. It was helped by the fact that both countries were Protestant.
However, Queen Anne did not have any children who lived. People in England were very worried that it would mean that her Catholic family would inherit the throne. So England passed a law saying that only Protestants could inherit the throne. That could mean that Scotland got a different King to England. The English were worried that this might mean Scotland would again ally with France and perhaps become Catholic again. The English proposed that England and Scotland become one country called Great Britain.
The Scots had a number of problems at this time. Firstly, they had lost lots of money in trying to make a colony in Central America. Secondly, there had been a famine in Scotland which had killed lots of people. People in Scotland were now poor. England also passed a law which would stop Scottish people owning property in England and trading with England without paying taxes. That would make things very difficult for Scotland.
People in the Scottish parliament decided that they would be better off if they joined with England. They carried on negotiating though. They got the English to agree that Scotland would have lower taxes than England, that they Scots could trade freely with England and with her colonies and that they could keep their own courts. The English agreed. The Scots then voted to join with England into one country called Great Britain. The English voted the same.
People in London celebrated. But there were no celebrations in Edinburgh.
The people in the Highlands of the Scotland still wanted to have a Catholic king. They did not feel like they got much from the Union of England and Scotland. They rebelled. But the lowland scots felt that the British Empire benefitted them them and they liked having a Protestant King. Over the next 300 year the Scots and English together defeated Napoleon, created an Empire and won two World Wars.
But Scots never forgot that they had had their own country. People still felt Scottish, even if they also felt British. Today some people in Scotland want Scotland to be its own country again.
I am aware that this history topic is quite contested and very relevant for politics today. We have done our very best to be impartial, factual and fair. Happy to receive any feedback either via twitter or facebook.
If you liked this episode then you might like our Wars of Scottish Independence series.
We have episodes on The Hammer of the Scots
On William Wallace
And on Robert the Bruce.
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