A Brief History
Today, on September 18, 2014, Scotland is voting either yes or no on the topic of independence from Great Britain and the United Kingdom. Only a simple majority vote is needed, that means 50% + one person.
Update: As of July, 2020, Scotland is still part of the UK, although the Brexit fiasco looms over the union and the issue of the independence of Scotland is still a realistic possibility at some point.
Formally united in 1707 by the Act of Union which was ratified by both the English and Scottish parliaments, Scotland is now seeking to break that bond.
When asked what role the Queen would have in a new, independent Scotland, Alex Salmond, the First Minister of Scotland and proponent of the Yes Scotland campaign, said that Elizabeth II would automatically become Queen of Scotland, just as she is also Queen of Canada and Australia.
What many people do not know, however, is that there is another contender, one who in Scottish terms, might even have a better claim.
To understand this situation, one has to go back 413 years to when Queen Elizabeth I died. Without any children of her own, upon her death the English throne was given to a cousin who happened to also be King of Scotland. Though James Stuart called himself “King of Great Britain,” he was, in fact, king of two independent countries – Scotland and England. Of Scotland he was James VI; of England he was James I. This went well (relatively speaking) until 1688 when James II’s wife, Mary of Modena, gave birth to a son. By this time, Scotland and England were both primarily Protestant countries, and the birth of a Catholic heir was viewed as a threat. Unrests followed, and in what became known as the Glorious Revolution, James II was ousted from his throne by his Protestant son-in-law and daughter, William and Mary, and forced to live in exile in France. It was from there, that James II and his son, James Francis Edward Stuart, who became known as the “Old Pretender” would try to rouse up troops and the support of their followers, the Jacobites, to regain their thrones. Neither of them was successful.
The most success was experienced by the eldest son of the “Old Pretender,” Charles Edward Louis Stuart, who was appropriately called the “Young Pretender.” Also known as “Bonnie Prince Charlie,” he led the Jacobite Rising of 1745 in which Scottish highlanders and clans joined together to restore the Stuarts to the throne after it had been given to the Hanoverians. The Jacobites, however, were crushed by British troops at the Battle of Culloden near Inverness, Scotland. The reason the Hanoverians were in power was because during the reign of Queen Anne, another daughter of James II, the Act of Succession was passed in 1702 to ensure that no Catholic could ever inherit the throne of Great Britain. This effectively barred the remaining Stuart line from assuming power and gave it to their German cousins, instead. The “Young Pretender” had no surviving legitimate children, so at the death of his own younger brother, the Jacobite succession reverted to the descendents of Henrietta of England, a sister of James II, who had married into the French royal family.
The person who currently has the best Jacobite claim is Franz, Duke of Bavaria, head of the House of Wittelsbach. As such, he is known as King Francis II within the Jacobite community. He, himself, does not comment on his status and to date has not pursued his claim and is happy with his wiener dogs. In fact, at his recent 80th birthday celebration, 6 Dachshund kennel clubs paraded past him in his honor.
Whatever the outcome of the Scottish independence referendum, Scotland will most likely keep Elizabeth II as its Queen as there have been no rumors of plans to replace her. Of course, who is to say what might happen should a monarch who is less agreeable follow her?
What might change with a break from England would be the currency for Scotland and the design and name of the British flag, the Union Jack, which was the flags of both England and Scotland superimposed on one another. Everything else can be read in Alex Salmond’s 667-page publication titled “Scotland’s Future – Your Guide to an Independent Scotland,” in his words, the “most comprehensive blueprint for an independent country ever published.” 667 pages?! Now that is dedication and commitment to a cause. Halfway through, one is probably just about ready to give him any king or queen he wants.
Question for students (and subscribers): Should Scotland be independent? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
For another interesting event that happened on September 18, please see the History and Headlines article: “September 18, 2001: Terror by Mail – Will Your Next Piece of Mail Kill You? (The Anthrax Scare).”
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For more information, please see…
Cochrane, Alan. Scottish Independence: Yes or No (The Great Debate). The History Press, 2014.
Knox, William. Scottish History For Dummies. For Dummies, 2014.