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The United Kingdom

The Union Flag

The Union Flag (the Union Jack on sea when it flies on the jackstaff)

Many wild and tumultuous events contributed to the Act of Union of May 1st 1707, when the kingdoms of England and Scotland were united to become the United Kingdom of GREAT BRITAIN.

For two decades preceding the Union, Louis XIV’s despotic French state had pitilessly and methodically attacked other European peoples, even attacking Austria's allies when they were fighting desperately against the invasion of the Ottoman Turks in 1683. (Britain and Europe owe a tremendous debt to the Poles, Saxons, Serbs, Hapsburgs and Viennese who defeated the Ottoman Empire at the gates of Vienna on September 11th (9-11) 1683.)

As the 18th century began, French armies invaded the Low Countries; the deposed James II of England died; Louis recognized James’s son as James III of England and James VIII of Scotland, although William III was sitting on the English throne; French plans to invade England were revealed; and William died.

England faced the possibility of a Franco-Scottish alliance. The English Parliament had established the Protestant House of Hanover as heirs to the crown, but the Scottish Parliament had refused to support them, leaving the throne up in the air.

In 1704 and 1706, in campaigns so logistically and strategically brilliant they are studied today, John Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, led the Allies to victories over Franco-Spanish forces. As the war continued, the urge to unite Scotland and England grew stronger in both Scotland and England.

Yet many Scots and English resisted the idea.

They resisted union because or despite the fact that the people of Scotland and England were already quite close. A century earlier, In 1603, the crowns of England and Scotland had been united, and anyone born in Scotland became a full English citizen.

When Daniel Defoe arrived in Edinburgh to campaign for the Union, he reported, “There is an entire harmony in this country, consisting in universal discords.”

To secure union, England assured Scotland of representation at Westminster, welcomed trade on equal terms, gave Scots the right to retain their own legal system, and confirmed the security of the Protestant religion and Presbyterian Church in Scotland.

In January, Scotland’s Parliament agreed to the Act of Union. On May 1, 1707, three hundred years ago today, England’s Parliament agreed to the “beautiful idea” of the United Kingdom. The first Parliament of Great Britain met in Westminster on October 23, 1707. They included the people of Wales who had formed one kingdom with England since the end of the 13th century.

In 1800 the United Kingdom formed the kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In the 20th century, the Republic of Ireland was born and the sovereign state of the United Kingdom altered, becoming the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland

To an observer, the United Kingdom resembles a family of outstanding individuals. Their ingenuity has helped to create the modern world. Their enterprise planted freedom in America, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.