The Jacobean Union: A Reconsideration of British Civil Policies under the Early Stuarts

The Jacobean Union: A Reconsideration of British Civil Policies under the Early Stuarts

The Jacobean Union: A Reconsideration of British Civil Policies under the Early Stuarts

The Jacobean Union: A Reconsideration of British Civil Policies under the Early Stuarts

Synopsis

Despite the failure of the Anglo-Scottish union negotiations in 1607, the early Stuart monarchs encouraged various civil policies aimed at fostering cooperation and unity among their three kingdoms. However, the opposition they faced from leading subjects frequently forced them to limit or retreat from British ventures.

Excerpt

On 19 October 1669, Charles II sent a letter to the Parliament of Scotland on the occasion of its first meeting in over seven years. The northern kingdom was then in a state of high tension resulting from years of religious divisions, anger over English regulations that restricted Scottish trading opportunities, and residual frustration from Scotland’s secondary position in the regal union that combined the English and Scottish crowns. In an effort to eliminate some of these problems, the king’s commissioner, the Earl of Lauderdale, read Charles’s latest proposal to the assembly: an amalgamating union between Scotland and England. As Charles related in his message:

For by the union of the hearts and hands of Our People, not only Our Throne shall be
strengthened, and they that have Peace and Love Setled amongst them forever, but
We shall have the Glory of Accomplishing what our Royal Grandfather King James,
of ever blessed Memory attempted as the greatest thing he could devise, and wherein
He, who was a Competent Judge, placed the Happiness of the Crown and Kingdoms,
and wherein he meant to have gloried as the chiefest action of his life.

Charles’s enthusiasm for this project has been called into question in some quarters, as it is suggested that union negotiations in 1669–1670 were really an effort to distract the rampantly Protestant Lauderdale from the king’s duplicitous treating with Louis XIV of France. Regardless, contemporary observers were mindful of the similarities that existed between the union being proposed and the work that had been done by the Anglo-Scottish commissioners of James VI/I, some sixty years earlier.

In some ways, Charles II’s invocation of his grandfather’s dream of a united Britain was rather surprising. James VI/I’s efforts to achieve comprehensive union between England and Scotland had failed within four years of his assumption of the English throne in 1603, and the two kingdoms remained separate and independent until 1707. While the idea . . .

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