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 :-)