The future Queen Anne was very sickly and had problems producing an heir. She had 17 pregnancies, but none of her children survived childhood. She also had Roman Catholic relatives, who would assume the throne before the Protestant Hanoverian line by order of succession. She would not sit on the throne herself if the traditional order of succession had been followed - William and Mary had seen to that. Uniquely in the history of the monarchy, the Crown was shared between William III and Mary II.
The Act was a last ditch attempt by Parliament to maintain the status quo, as there had been too much slaughter of one side or the other, ever since Henry VIII broke away from the Roman Catholic Church.
Today, it is probably the only remaining piece of anti-Catholic legislation of any note on the British statute books. Almost all of Britain's anti-Catholic laws were repealed by the Relief Act of 1793, the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829, and the Removal of Clergy Disqualification Act of 2001.
In Britain the sovereign is the Chief Executive of the constitutional monarchy which governs the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Constitutional Monarchy being the name given to the partnership between the Crown and Parliament, in which the Crown has executive authority and Parliament has legislative authority. This arrangement was settled on when the monarchy was restored after the interregnum1.
The Act of Settlement, 1701 has recently come under fire, because it ensures that only Protestant descendent of Princess Sophia (granddaughter of James VI and I of Scotland and England) can become the sovereign of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Legal challenges have been made by the national newspaper The Guardian and private members bills have been introduced in Parliament in an effort to repeal it.
That all and every person and persons, who shall or may take or inherit the said Crown, by virtue of the limitation of this present act, and is, are or shall be reconciled to, or shall hold communion with, the See or Church of Rome, or shall profess the popish religion, or shall marry a papist, shall be subject to such incapacities.
- This makes the succession of Catholics, the illegitimate, or those who are adopted illegal.
That whosoever shall hereafter come to the possession of this Crown, shall join in communion with the Church of England, as by law established
- The sovereign of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland must join in communion with the Church of England.
... that every King and Queen of this Realm, who shall come to and succeed in the imperial Crown of this Kingdom, by virtue of this act, shall have the coronation oath administered to him, her or them, at their respective coronations, according to the act of Parliament made in the first year of the reign of His Majesty
- The sovereign of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland must promise to uphold Protestant succession.
... this nation be not obliged to engage in any war for the defence of any dominions or territories which do not belong to the Crown of England, without the consent of Parliament
- The sovereign of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland must not involve the country in wars to defend the territories of foreign monarchs.
... judges commissions be made quamdiu se bene gesserint, and their salaries ascertained and established
- The sovereign of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland should appoint no judges and that judges should receive fixed salaries.
That no pardon under the Great Seal of England be pleadable to an impeachment by the Commons in Parliament.
- Impeachment by the House of Commons is not subject to pardon under the Great Seal of England2.
It should be noted that many other nations in which the British sovereign is head of state have similar laws and that it may take legislation in up to 15 independent commonwealth countries to remove the burdens imposed by this act from the British sovereign.The Act of Settlement 1701
Related BBC Link
Does the Act of Settlement contravene the Declaration of Human Rights?