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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Church & State - The Act of Settlement

- Sophia of Hanover

I guess everyone's read about the possibility that a royal prince of England may marry a Catholic, and about of the Act of Settlement that would be invoked in such a case. It's kind of interesting from an historical standpoint ... Wikipedia says that not only did it limit the monarchy to non-Catholics, it essentially united Scotland, Wales, and England as Great Britain (The Acts of Union). Here's a little bit about the Act of Settlement from an article in this week's Tablet - ‘It would have been more honest to have called it the Dangerous Catholics Act’ by Tim Hames ......


[....] the Act of Settlement 1701. It is this archaic document that could oblige an heir or heir-presumptive to the throne to choose between their hearts and the crown that would otherwise be placed on their heads. Peter Phillips sits at some distance from the orb and sceptre (he is tenth in line, being the son of the Princess Royal) and if he has to renounce his highly improbable claim to become king in order to secure the hand of Ms Autumn Kelly then I do not think he will lose much sleep over the matter ......

The Act of Settlement was born of desperation as much as prejudice. The death of a much earlier Prince William, a sickly five-year-old, and the only one of the later Queen Anne’s vast number of unfortunate pregnancies to limp that far into life, suddenly created a succession vacuum ..... The strongest contender on the basis of blood was James Edward Stuart, son of the deposed James II, but a Parliament which had sanctioned the Glorious Revolution was not about to reverse it. Most of the other contenders for the throne who were less controversial were also either Catholics, suspected Catholics or married to Catholics who could not be relied upon to raise children in the Protestant faith. Hence the demand for an Act of Settlement. It would have been more honest, if rather ahead of its time, to have entitled it the Dangerous Catholics Act.

Not only was the Stuart family passed over but an astonishing 57 individuals with a stronger blood lineage were discarded so that Sophia, Electress of Hanover, could be established as the successor to Queen Anne. As luck would have it, however, Sophia died a few weeks before the incumbent monarch herself, so it was her son, a man who spoke no English, who had kept his own wife locked up for years, was implicit in the murder of her lover and whose son was barely on speaking terms with him, who was deemed the sort of ideal chap to become George I.

The law was not even well written or internally coherent. Only Catholics are barred from the throne or being married to those who sit on it. Prince William could marry a Moonie, a Scientologist or an out-and-out Satanist and that would be fine and dandy according to the statute book as long as they promised that any children from their union would be raised as Protestants ..... All of which is ridiculous as well as utterly offensive to many Catholics in this country .....


Kind of puts our own Church/State weirdities in perspective :-)


Blogger PrickliestPear said...

All of which is ridiculous as well as utterly offensive to many Catholics in this country.....

The ban on marrying Catholics is an anachronism, to be sure, but isn't that true of the very concept of hereditary monarchy? I find the whole idea rather offensive.

5:56 AM  
Anonymous Mike L said...

And yet, as much as I hate to admit it, the Catholic Church bans Catholics from marrying Protestants. Yes, it gives permission, and in these days pretty freely, but not so in the past. And even today there are some groups within the Catholic Church that do not consider "mixed" marriages full marriages. And yes, I find that very offensive.

I also remember when my step father's (who was not Catholic) brother got married my mother was told that she would be excommunicated if she attended the wedding at a Protestant church.

As Catholics, we have few laurals to rest on, and all to often a pointed finger curves back at us.

Then too, I wonder what they will think of our attitude a hundred years from now. I really don't think I wnat to know :-).

Mike L

6:57 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi PrickliestPear,

From an american pov, it's strange to see a country with a state religion and the monarch as the head of the church. I can't see a church/state combo ever happening here, but sometimes it seemed like Bush was trying to do just that :-)

10:31 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Hi Mike,

I think it's less weird for a religion to discriminate than a government - the government must represent everyone, no matter what their religion, or lack thereof. To combine the state and a certain religion is asking for inequalities.

10:34 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

Funny, just the other day, the columnist James Carroll ran the op-ed piece A Royal Anachronism on this very topic.

I've always admired the Anglican bishop and biblical scholar N.T. Wright. When you put up those posts about Benedict and the whole flap over the meaning of "subsists", you also put up a response by N.T. Wright to the whole controversy.

I was actually more stunned and disappointed over what Wright said (in support of the Act of Settlement) than I was surprised over what B16 said.

3:59 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Really, he was for it? I'll have to look up what he said. I was first disappointed in NT Wright when I saw he reads the scriptures as saying homosexuality is bad and was uninterested in alternate interpretations. Still, I like a lot of what he has to say.

5:02 PM  
Blogger cowboyangel said...

It wasn't that long ago that marrying a Catholic in this country (well, in Texas, at least) was a pretty bad thing for many protestants. My Baptist grandfather was disinherited by his family for marrying a Catholic woman. Probably didn't help that she was Mexican either. Only one of his sisters would ever have anything to do with him after that, my great aunt Chat. She was beloved by those on the Catholic side for many years after that. The rift still exists for the most part between the families.

The Brits. What are you going to do? I'm still trying to reconcile the whole monarchy thing with the Beatles and Pink Floyd.

3:32 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

The English :-)

7:30 PM  

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