Act of Settlement 1701

The Act of Settlement is an Act of the Parliament of England that settled the succession to the English and Irish crowns to only Protestants, which passed in 1701.[lower-alpha 2] More specifically, anyone who became a Roman Catholic, or who married one, became disqualified to inherit the throne. This had the effect of deposing the remaining descendants of Charles I, other than his Protestant granddaughter Anne, as the next Protestant in line to the throne was Sophia of Hanover, a granddaughter of James VI and I from his most junior surviving line,[lower-alpha 3] with the crowns descending only to her non-Catholic heirs. Sophia died shortly before the death of Queen Anne, and Sophia's son succeeded to the throne as King George I, starting the Hanoverian dynasty in Britain.

Act of Settlement[lower-alpha 1]
Act of Parliament
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
Royal assent12 June 1701[4]
Commencement6 February 1701
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Text of statute as originally enacted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 independence of the Church of England from Roman Catholicism under the English monarch. One of the principal factors which contributed to the Glorious Revolution was the perceived assaults made on the Church by King James II, a Roman Catholic, who was deposed in favour of his Protestant daughter Mary II and her husband William III. The need for this Act of Settlement was prompted by William and Mary, as well as that of Mary's Protestant sister  the future Queen Anne  being unable 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.

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 as, though England and Scotland had shared a monarch since 1603, they had remained separately governed countries, with the Act catalysing the Union of England and Scotland. However, the Parliament of Scotland was more reluctant to abandon the House of Stuart, members of which had been Scottish monarchs long before they became English. Moreover, 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, though 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.[5] 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.[6] On 26 March 2015, following the Perth Agreement, legislation amending the Act came into effect across the Commonwealth realms that removed the disqualification arising from marriage to a Roman Catholic and instituted absolute primogeniture.

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