As I get older I find myself pondering how I am likely to meet my maker. The obvious culprit at the moment is an angry looking mole on my left shoulder I call ‘Rapunzel’ - if the deadliness of a mole is measured solely on the length of the hair growing out of the middle of it then I really am well and truly fucked, my left bollock is due to start climbing any day now.
Dangerous moles are likely the only thing King William and I have in common. In early March 1702 the King died after he was thrown from his horse when it stumbled on a molehill while he was riding near Hampton Court. The king suffered a broken collar bone in the fall and died a few weeks later after bronchitis set in - centuries later, Orange Order aficionados in Scotland continue to loyally emulate their favoured king’s death by heroically smoking 40 fags a day.
That deadly mole became revered amongst Jacobites. A toast, ‘to the wee gentlemen in the velvet jacket’ became common place amongst Jacobite supporters, a nod to their underground assassin. It’s a toast I myself enjoy making at family occasions, not so much in recognition of the mole that felled the King, but more a nod to my granda who may be wee and blind but can rock a velvet jacket like nae body’s business.
William died with no direct heir to the throne. His wife Queen Mary - the eldest daughter of the deposed James VII of Scotland and II of England - died childless in 1692 and William never re-married. On his death the crown passed to Mary’s sister - James’s second daughter - Princess Anne. Despite giving birth eighteen times only one of Anne’s children, William Duke of Gloucester, survived into infancy. When he died aged 11 in July 1700 it created a succession crisis. Anne inherited the throne in 1702 aged 36 years old, this coupled with the fact she had been through childbirth more times than Maw Broon meant her chances of giving birth to an heir were minimal.
Not wanting to miss out on all this coordinated dying, the exiled King James died in France in September 1701. Immediately the French King Louis XIV proclaimed James’s son, James Francis Edward Stuart, King of Scotland, England and Ireland. As a Catholic, James’s only chance at winning back the crowns his father had lost would be through Jacobite rebellion, French invasion, or a penalty shoot-out.
The English addressed the succession crisis in the summer of 1701 by passing the ‘Act of Settlement’ which decreed that on Anne’s death, should she not produce a suitable heir, the crown would pass to Sophia Electress of the German province of Hanover. Sophia was the granddaughter of James VI and at the time of the Act of Settlement was 70 years old. In Scotland there was disbelief at the Act – they had never heard of anyone living to more than double their nation’s life expectancy.
It was decided the crowns of England, Scotland and Ireland would pass to Sophia’s 40-year-old son George – Sophia was on old woman, there was no point holding onto power in a desperately unbecoming manor, better to let her son Charles, sorry George, take the throne. George was destined to become King after Anne despite the fact there were 57 closer claims - only the board of directors at the Scottish Football Association would consider 58th choice good enough to get the job. The Act of Settlement was aptly named, it did exactly what it said on the tin, the English were literally willing to settle for any old prick as long as they were Protestant - this was also Rangers FC’s signing policy for a long time.
You might expect the arrival of a 40-year-old, non-English-speaking, unemployed, German guy would have 18th century Jacob Reece Mogg types up in arms singing ‘God deport the King’ encouraging George I to sling his European - probably over-regulated to the point of being straight – hook. But the Act passed, and the German Hanoverian line was embedded meaning Queen Anne would be the last of the Stuart monarchs.
Scotland had not been consulted on the Hanoverian succession, England had once again effectively chosen Scotland’s monarch for them. Since the Union of the Crowns in 1603 the Scottish Parliament had been notoriously easy to manipulate and control – thankfully those days are long behind us, the people of 21st century Scotland would never be naive enough to fall for bullshit vows from pig-copulating Prime Ministers, no Siree David – but the Act of Settlement presented the Scottish Parliament with an opportunity to finally take a stand. In return for Scotland’s support for the Hanoverian succession, several concessions would have to be met and Scotland’s independence and religious liberty respected.
A series of patriotic Acts were passed by the Scottish Parliament. These Acts ensured England could no longer go to war without the approval of the Scottish Parliament, and lifted the English embargo that had blocked vital trade between Scotland and France – Scottish people could finally enjoy red-wine with their haggis and heroin. Most significant of all was the 1703 ‘Act of Security’ which stated that Scotland was under no obligation to accept the Hanoverian line and could if it so pleased choose a separate monarch. The Act of Security raised the prospect of separate monarch in Scotland for the first time in 100 years – plans were put in place to make ‘Sir Andy Murray’ King of Scotland, the English however questioned the legitimacy of this choice insisting Sir Andy was British and not Scottish.
This Act of Security was problematic for England who were engaged in the ‘War of Spanish Succession’ against the French. It meant Scotland could quite conceivably reject the Hanoverian succession and offer the Scottish crown to the ancient Scottish Stuart family and the ousted James Edward Stuart ‘the Old Pretender’. England would then be faced with a Catholic monarch backed by French aggressors on its Northern border. Steps were immediately taken to ensure a full incorporating Union where the Scottish Parliament would become the Toad in the Westminster hole and a new ‘British Parliament’ created.
The English Parliament demanded the Scots send a delegation to negotiate an Incorporating Union by Christmas 1705. If they refused Scots living in England would be declared illegal aliens, Scottish estates in England would be seized, Scottish exports banned, and Scottish carriages turned into pumpkins. With the country on its knees economically after the Darien disaster and only 50 years after the country had been annexed by Oliver Cromwell, Scotland was left with little choice but to send a delegation.
An outline for the Treaty of Union was tabled in Whitehall in April 1706, it contained 25 Articles that had to be debated on and agreed by both Parliaments before the Act could be passed. The Treaty and its Articles were debated in the Scottish Parliament between October 1706 and January 1707.
There were four main parties debating the Treaty in the Scottish Parliament. The ‘Court Party’ were pro-Union and headed by the Duke of Argyll, the ‘Country Party’ headed by the Duke of Hamilton formed the main opposition and favoured a federal Union, the ‘Jacobites’ or ‘Cavaliers’ favoured full Independence and a separate monarch, while the final and smallest group the ‘New Party’ were made up of Presbyterians concerned that a Union would mean English Anglicanism being imposed upon them. Representing the Queen in proceedings was the Queen’s Commissioner, the Duke of Queensberry, a man more unpopular than cricket north of the border. To attend meetings of the Parliament Queensberry required a military escort to stop the baying Edinburgh mob from attacking him.
Anti-Union rallies were held everyday in Edinburgh and riots broke out across the country as one by one the 25 Articles of the Treaty of Union were ratified. Argyll was placed in charge of the numerous bribes required to ensure all the Articles made their way through the Scottish Parliament. Money, promises of high ranking positions of state, and peerages, were all exchanged for votes that would guarantee the Treaty of Union was passed.
In one final attempt to stop the Treaty from passing the opposing parties came together to table a National Protestation in early January 1707. They argued that no body of legislators had the right to bargain away the nation they represent or make it cease to exist. If the protestation was dismissed by the Parliament then all those who signed it would stage a mass-walkout. The Duke of Hamilton agreed to head up the protestation.
Inexplicably however on the day the Protestation was due to be tabled Hamilton refused to leave the house claiming he had toothache. Considering he was addressing the Scottish Parliament a house in which two thirds would have been enduring blistering hangovers and the other third likely still drunk, this was hardly an excuse, Hamilton was obviously stalling. He was eventually summoned and claimed that although he supported the protestation he would refuse to table it. The Duke of Hamilton had turned out to be about as trustworthy as a Russian Olympic delegate. Argyll had gotten to him, the final bribe needed to ensure the Treaty made its way successfully through the Scottish Parliament, there was no opposition left to overcome.
On the 16th of January 1707 the Act of Union was ratified, the Scottish Parliament had voted itself out of existence. Edinburgh’s Parliament was dissolved into Westminster and the last meeting of the Scottish Parliament was held on the 25th of March 1707. The Earl of Seaforth, High Commissioner of Scotland, famously touched the Treaty of Union with the sceptre of Scotland and uttered the famous words ‘now there’s the end of an auld song’.
Robert Burn’s summed up the Act of Union in his melancholy poem ‘Fareweel to a’ our Scottish Fame’ where he penned the now famous lines,
We're bought and sold for English gold--
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!
A parcel of rogues indeed, after the completion of the Union Queensberry was given a seat in the Lords, a handsome pension and made Duke of Dover. Argyll became the Duke of Greenwich, and Hamilton was made British Ambassador in France.
The Union had been completed in a matter of months all thanks to exceptional corruption and bribery. Which lends me to believe that if we really want a quick and favourable post-Brexit deal it’s time to start greasing the pockets of some Belgians. The moment when Theresa May finally hands over a fist full of Forth Bridges to that Jaude-Claude-Van-Junker lad I for one will wipe away a tear and whisper sweetly to myself, ‘Rule Britannia’.
Of course all of this is fake news - or at least I’m prepared to say it is if anyone is wiling to pay me enough to do so, it’s what my ancestors would have wanted.