I do not believe that the 1707 Treaty of Union was ever inevitable. This does not mean to say that I disapprove of it, or that I am predicting its demise, but I do consider its creation and continuance as a matter of choice. I do not agree that Scotland was forced into closer union with England through economic necessity. Nor do I believe that Scotland was ‘bought and sold for English gold’[1] by politicians lacking in political principles. It is my contention that the most significant factor behind the 1707 Treaty of Incorporating Union was the instability caused by regal union (the unification of the English and Scottish crowns in 1603), which increased dramatically when it became clear the Queen Anne (reigned from 1702) did not have an heir. The British Isles was plunged into a succession crisis.

As it became clear that Queen Anne would remain heirless, men in both the Scottish and English Parliaments sought a solution to that would best safeguard their respective kingdoms’ constitutional settlements established by the ‘Glorious’ Revolution of 1689. Not only was this dependent upon choosing a reliable and sympathetic sovereign, but also upon choosing and establishing the right grounds for their succession within a multi-kingdom framework that had threatened to undermine the political stability of the British Isles ever since 1603. Not only was the status quo not working, with regard to state and succession, but it was about to disappear altogether: Queen Anne had no successor. A choice lay before both the Scottish and English Parliaments, should they separate as kingdoms and chose their own heirs? Or, should they select the same heir and solidify their union. And, if so, under what terms?

The Treaty of Union itself cemented the succession of the House of Hanover before almost any other business.[2] To be sure, most of those entitled to inherit the thrones of Scotland and England had the misfortune to be either inconveniently Catholic or a member of the French royal family – mostly both. It is nearly always assumed that unless either England or Scotland wanted to restore the ousted Jacobite branch of the Stuart dynastyirrevocably tainted by Catholicism and Louis XIV style tyrannythat their only suitable successor was Sophia of Hanover and her descendants. But this is not necessarily true.

The closest Protestant descendant of James VI and I was, in fact, the promising young military officer Charles Louis Schomberg, Marquess of Harwich (b.1683). The Schombergs had an impeccably Protestant pedigree, fleeing to England after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. Harwich’s mother, Raugräfin Caroline Elizabeth (1659-1696) was the daughter of Karl Ludwig, Elector Palatine, grandson of James VI of Scotland and I of England. His father, Meinhard Schomberg duke of Leinster and third duke of Schomberg (1641-1719), a decorated military officer and an experienced political figure, was a close confident and ally of William (of Orange) III. So close and trusted in fact, that William placed him in charge when absent from the British Isles. Later, Meinhard was to be a pawn bearer at William’s funeral.[3] His son, Charles, potentially appears to be the perfect candidate. Furthermore, Schomberg also had three younger sisters, Ladies Caroline (b.1686), Frederica (b.1688) and Mary (b.1692), approaching marriageable age in a time of unromantic politically-strategic marriages. In 1705, as negotiations were under way for a treaty on the succession, Sophia of Hanover was sixty-third in line to the British throne; The Marquess of Harwich was eighteenth.[4] So, what about the Schombergs?

The short answer regarding the Schombergs and the early eighteenth-century ‘British’ succession crisis is that they were never seriously suggested. Ever since the Bill of Rights committee had suggested entailing the crown on to Sophia of Hanover as far back as 1689, it appears that the Hanoverian line had been collectively marked out as the most secure, and securely Protestant, route for the succession of the British monarchies.

The Schombergs, it seems, no matter how glorious their Revolutionary credentials were, remained tainted by illegitimacy. The Marquess of Harwich and his sisters owed their biologically ‘blue’ blood to their mother, but she herself was the daughter of Elector Karl Ludwig and his second wife, Marie Luise von Degenfield. The Elector’s first marriage, to Charlotte of Hesse-Kassel, was notoriously unhappy and the Electress herself openly stated that she had been forced into it against her will. In the event, however, Charlotte refused to acknowledge the marriage’s legal resolution. Many saw the union of Karl Ludwig and Marie Luise, therefore, as bigamous and nothing could be allowed to undermine the next dynasty that would sit on the respective thrones of the British Isles. The Hanoverian Succession and the Union of England and Scotland were secured during an era of European wars that were, for the most part, dynastic. In the shadow of the mid-seventeenth century civil wars, contemporaries in the British Isles remained sensitive to the possibility of further serious unrest and the spread of dynastic turmoil to their own shores.

Sadly, the promising young Marquess of Harwich died abroad in the autumn of 1713.[5] But there is no way that anybody in either Scotland or England in 1705 could have foreseen this. The only explanation for the Schomberg line of the British succession never having been seriously considered as an answer tothe early eighteenth-century succession question, was their challengeable legitimacy. The aversion of crisis took clear priority over any further revolutionary aims, zeal or ideals. It is the Schomberg’s absence from serious debate itself that is in fact the most illustrative of the wider issues at play. Clearly, the prime concern in 1705 was that the legitimacy of the British Isles’ next monarch would remain unchallenged and that their succession was established upon the most politically secure foundations possiblea unified British state.

[1] R. Burns, Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation [http://www.robertburns.org/works/344.shtml].

[2] The succession was settled in the second of the twenty five acts of union. See http://www.rahbarnes.demon.co.uk/Union/UnionWithEnglandAct.htm and http://www.rahbarnes.demon.co.uk/Union/UnionWithScotlandAct.htm.

[3] J. Childs, ‘Meinhard Schomberg, duke of Leinster and third duke of Schomberg, 1641-1719’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edition (2004) [www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/24825?docPos=3].

[4] Christopher Whatley claims that Sophia was 58th in line to the throne but on my count it is definitely 63rd. I would love to hear from anyone who can clear this up! See C. Whatley and D. Patrick, The Scots and the Union (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007 repr. 2011) p.2.

[5] London Gazette No. 5162 (October 6th 1713). Harwich is stated to have died of consumption.