Act of Settlement 1701

The Act of Settlement is an Act of the Parliament of England that was passed in 1701[5] to settle the succession to the English and Irish crowns on Protestants only. This had the effect of deposing the descendants of Charles I (other than his Protestant granddaughter Princess (later Queen) Anne) as the next Protestant in line to the throne was the Electress Sophia of Hanover, a granddaughter of James VI and I. After her, the crowns would descend only to her non-Catholic heirs.

Act of Settlement[1]
Long titleAn Act for the further Limitation of the Crown and better securing the Rights and Liberties of the Subject
Citation12 and 13 Will 3 c. 2
Territorial extent
England and Ireland initially
Dates
Royal assent1701
Commencement1701
Other legislation
Amended by
Relates toBill of Rights 1689
Status: Amended
Text of statute as originally enacted
Revised text of statute as amended

The Act of Supremacy 1558 had confirmed the Church of England's independence from Roman Catholicism under the English monarch. One of the principal factors causing the political crisis known as the Glorious Revolution of 1688 was the perceived assaults made on the Church of England by King James II, a Roman Catholic. James was deposed in favour of his Protestant elder daughter Mary II and her husband William III. The need for the Act of Settlement was prompted by the failure of William and Mary, as well as that of Mary's Protestant sister  the future Queen Anne  to produce any surviving children, and by the perceived threat posed by the pretensions to the throne by remaining Roman Catholic members of the House of Stuart. The line founded by Sophia of Hanover was the most junior surviving one amongst the descendants of King James I,[6] but consisted of convinced Protestants willing to uphold the Church of England. As Sophia died on 8 June 1714, less than two months before the death of Queen Anne on 1 August 1714, it was Sophia's son who duly succeeded to the throne, as King George I, and started the Hanoverian dynasty in Britain.

Facsimile of the Act of Settlement sent to Electress Sophia of Hanover

The act played a key role in the formation of the Kingdom of Great Britain. England and Scotland had shared a monarch since 1603, but had remained separately governed countries. The Scottish parliament was more reluctant than the English to abandon the House of Stuart, members of which had been Scottish monarchs long before they became English ones.

Under the Act of Settlement anyone who became a Roman Catholic, or who married one, became disqualified to inherit the throne. The act also placed limits on both the role of foreigners in the British government and the power of the monarch with respect to the Parliament of England. Some of those provisions have been altered by subsequent legislation.

Along with the Bill of Rights 1689, the Act of Settlement remains today one of the main constitutional laws governing the succession not only to the throne of the United Kingdom, but to those of the other Commonwealth realms, whether by assumption or by patriation.[7] The Act of Settlement cannot be altered in any realm except by that realm's own parliament and, by convention, only with the consent of all the other realms, as it touches on the succession to the shared crown.[8]

Following the Perth Agreement in 2011, legislation amending the act came into effect across the Commonwealth realms on 26 March 2015, and removed the disqualification arising from marriage to a Roman Catholic. Other provisions of the amended act remain in effect.


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