The first business of the new parliament [1700] was to secure the course of the succession. Anne would of course follow William on the throne, but the last of her numerous children had just died, and the succession after her had been left indefinite. Parliament proceeded to pass the Act of Settlement, which nominated as Anne's heir the Electress Sophia of Hanover and her offspring. But the new Act of Succession or Act of Settlement included also a series of clauses dealing with constitutional matters which had been left over by the Bill of Rights. The king's dangerous control of the courts and judges was finally abolished by the enactment which made judges irremovable except on an address from both Houses.

Terms of the Act
In view of the prospect that the throne of England would be occupied by German princes, it was enacted that the sovereign must be not only a Protestant but a member of the Church of England; that he must not leave the country without consent of parliament; that England was not to be involved in war for the defence of foreign territories; and, finally, that only English-born subjects could be admitted to parliament, to public offices, civil or military, or to the Privy Council. The king's acceptance of the Act of Settlement had an extremely mollifying influence, which was shown by the resolutions of the Commons promising their support in his foreign policy.

The Kent petition
But in the meanwhile Louis had been helping William to convert the country by the openly aggressive character of his proceedings; and the popular conversion was hastened by the captious conduct of the Tories in parliament, who seemed more intent upon impeaching the Whig leaders than on considering national interests. From the county of Kent there came a petition which was practically a censure of the Tory majority and an expres­sion of confidence in the king. The indignant House treated this as a breach of privilege, and sent the gentlemen who had presented the petition into custody; but this, to the country, appeared only to be an interference with the right of petitioning, and a series of addresses after the Kentish model poured in.

A new Grand Alliance proposed
With his hands thus strengthened, and with Marlborough, who had at last been restored to his confidence, as his principal lieutenant both for diplomatic and for military purposes, William's negotiations for a new Grand Alliance progressed not unfavourably. But once again it was Louis who deliberately gave William the one thing that he most wanted. In September James II died at St Germain. By his deathbed Louis pledged himself to recognise young James Edward Stuart as king of England. James II was no sooner dead than Louis XIV publicly acknowledged King James III. Through that act the current of public opinion, already setting steadily in William's favour, became a rushing tide. William seized his moment and again dissolved the parliament.

The Jacobite threat
It was true that when the new assembly met there was a single-figure majority of nominal Tories in the Commons, but half the Tories themselves were already converts as far as the war was concerned. The new House not only pronounced it treason to hold commerce with the prince who now called himself James III, while outside the Jacobite circles he was known as the “Pretender" (a term properly applicable to any person claiming a title held de facto by somebody else). It also voted forty thousand men for the Army and the same number for the Navy. A clause was inserted in the terms of the Grand Alliance by which the allies undertook to make no treaty, with France until she gave England satisfaction on this head.

Death of William III
William's patience had won. A great coalition had been formed against Louis, in which England had at last become not merely an auxiliary but a principal. But it was left to another to carry on his work. William's health had always been feeble, and had constantly threatened to break down uncle the tremendous Strain of toil and responsibility. The shock of a fall from his horse and a broken collar-bone proved too much for his wrecked con­stitution. On March 9, 1702, Anne, the last of the Stuart sovereigns became Queen of England.

This article is excerpted from the book, 'A History of the British Nation', by AD Innes, published in 1912 by TC & EC Jack, London. I picked up this delightful tome at a second-hand bookstore in Calgary, Canada, some years ago. Since it is now more than 70 years since Mr Innes's death in 1938, we are able to share the complete text of this book with Britain Express readers. Some of the author's point of view may not be currently accepted by modern historians, but it is worth reading as a period piece of British attitudes at the time of writing.

History
Prehistory - Roman Britain - Dark Ages - Medieval Britain - The Tudor Era - The Stuarts - Georgian Britain - The Victorian Age