Skip to main content

Negotiations for Union 1702 - 03

In February 1702 William III sent a message to both houses at Westminster urging consideration of "a firm and intire union" - a union of the two kingdoms with a single parliament.

The King did not live to see his proposal take shape. Early in March he suffered complications after breaking his collarbone when he was thrown from his horse in Richmond Park. He died on 8 March 1702 and his sister-in-law, Princess Anne, became Queen.

However, both Parliaments appointed commissioners to negotiate a union between the two countries, and talks were scheduled for later in the year. In the meantime, a war had begun between Britain and France.

Talks about union

In November 1702 the union commissioners convened at the Cockpit, one of the government buildings in Whitehall. But it turned out to be pointless.

The Whig politicians who had promoted the idea when King William was alive were now out of power, and had been replaced by Tories who showed little interest in union with Presbyterian Scotland.

Trade, taxes and religion

An incorporating parliamentary union – meaning the Scots would give up their own parliament -  was agreed in principle, as was the Hanoverian succession. But the English commissioners were unwilling to give Scotland access to trade with the colonies until other matters had been resolved.

They also expected the Scots to pay the same taxes as the English, but the former claimed poverty, and didn't want England's taxation system extended to Scotland.

Religion was a further, fundamental stumbling block. Should the Scottish Episcopalians be re-established as the Scottish national church? Should they be granted toleration - which they did not have currently? Should the Episcopalians be left unprotected and therefore dependent on the goodwill of the Presbyterian Kirk – the church of Scotland?

Darien derails the talks

The talks eventually foundered on the question of whether the large numbers of Company of Scotland shareholders should be compensated by the English for losses incurred in the Darien scheme, an unsuccessful attempt by Scotland to establish a colony called - New Caledonia - in Panama in the 1690s.

The commission was adjourned on 3 February 1703 until October, but never reconvened.

Lord Godolphin, the Lord Treasurer - the Queen's chief minister - and his colleagues in England had hoped that the succession issue had been settled as part of a union agreement. But the Scots remained uncommitted on this crucial matter.


Hanoverian succession

The Act of Settlement was passed on 1701 which meant that, on the death of Queen Anne, the throne would pass to Sophia, the Dowager Electress of Hanover, and after her, her son George, the Elector of Hanover.


The permitting of religious faiths or practices, particularly those that differ from any state religion.