Act of Settlement 1700-1701

Act of Settlement 1700 – 1701

The connection between religion and state was assured using the act of settlement in 1700-1701 assuring that subject to an act of parliament there would be no catholic succession. This issue has continued to be a controversial issue, although now of course with a more definite separation between religion, the state and law, it can be seen as both a persecution and parliament endorsing religious prejudice, which indeed it is.

What was the Act of Settlement about?

The overthrow of the Catholic King James II and the new Protestant King William, was seen by many Whigs and Tories alike as a stop gap measure, awaiting the time when King James might be restored to the throne. They were suspicious of this new King, who, it seemed had little interest in Britain and little faith in it’s political ministers. The King was still head of Government but in order to succeed in his life’s work, i.e the overthrow of King Louis XIV of France, he needed both men and money. If William lost his war, the restoration of King James II, with the backing of the French, was inevitable.

It was to ensure that this did not happen that Parliament passed the Act of Settlement in 1701, to guard against the restoration of the old Stuart line. The Act of Settlement provided that the throne would pass to Sophie of Hanover, granddaughter of King James I and her Protestant descendants who had not married a Catholic.

Act of Settlement 1701document

Act of Settlement 1701document sent to Sophie of Hanover

Here in the National Archives link you can view the original recital of the legal document

History repeating itself

The catholic/protestant debate continues, and indeed it is only very recently that the dominance of the male line has been overturned, even now in a multi-cultural society there is much debate as to whether as defender of the faith the monarch is required to be a christian, never mind a catholic or a protestant. It is believed that Prince Charles, the current heir to the throne, prefers the title ‘defender of the faiths.’


You can reference more notes on the act of settlement here in the House of Parliament’s online library. It also references the Act of Union and proposals for change that are in hand to remove the religious bias.

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