The Birth of the United Kingdom

On 22 July 1706, the Treaty of Union was agreed between England and Scotland, and subsequently the national parliaments of both countries each passed an Act of Union on 1 May 1707, creating a single supreme parliament formally uniting both nations under a single monarchy and a single flag.

Although England and Scotland had been separate countries before 1707, the two countries had in fact enjoyed a single monarchy since 1603, when James I – James VI King of Scots – had inherited both thrones and left Edinburgh for London.

The political union of 1707 however created a single nation in every sense and thus was born the United Kingdom, which included England, Scotland, Wales and a century later, Ireland.

(Above) The 1707 Act of Union, which united the nations of England, Scotland and Wales and created the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom was to emerge as a global power with a huge empire, backed by a formidable navy.

The United Kingdom was to become the most powerful country in the world, dominating huge land masses on every continent, and soon to create from nothing countries such as the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

The Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, which saw the new United Kingdom give up in its attempts to prevent a French Bourbon King from taking the throne of Spain, gave the United Kingdom further territories in North America and Gibraltar in southern Spain.

(Above) The first flag of the new United Kingdom. The cross of St. Patrick was not added until 1801. 

The first monarch of the United Kingdom, Queen Anne, died without leaving an heir to the throne.

Thanks to the Act of Settlement, Anne’s closest living Protestant relative was summoned to the crown which happened to be the Elector of Hanover, who became King George I in 1714.

For the next two decades the United Kingdom remained stable and democracy flourished, with the Liberal and Conservative political parties being founded.

Shortly after the Austrian War of Secession in 1739, a group of Scottish patriots, called the Jacobites, launched a last attempt to place a member of the House of Stuart on the throne.

(Above) The redcoat soldiers of the United Kingdom defeat the Jacobites at the Battle of Culloden.

The Prince, Charles Edward, raised a Scottish army, captured Edinburgh, proclaimed his father King James III and marched south into England, coming within 100 miles of London, but retreated back to Scotland, unable to garner support in England.

In 1746 the Jacobites were defeated at the Battle of Culloden.

Not long after, another major war broke out on the Continent, called the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763), which involved all the major European powers of the time, causing over a million deaths.

The war raged not only in Europe but also around the world, causing Winston Churchill to describe it as the first ‘world war’.

France lost all its holdings in North America, and its navy was crippled.

The war also raged in India between the British and the French, with the British East India Company gaining control of the sub-continent.

The United Kingdom was now emerging as a formidable colonial power, with a world-wide empire backed by the world’s largest and most professional navy.

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