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The seventeenth century

When James I became the first English king of the Stuart dynasty; he was already king of Scotland, so the crowns of these two countries were united. Although their parliaments and administrative and judi­cial systems continued to be separate, their linguistic differences were lessened in this century. The kind of Middle English spoken in lowland Scotland had developed into a written language known as 'Scots'. However, the Scottish Protestant church adopted English rather than Scots bibles. This: and the glamour of the English court where the king now sat, caused modern English to become the written standard in Scotland as well.

In the sixteenth century religion and politics became inextricably linked. This link became even more intense in the seventeenth century. This was the context in which, during the century. Parliament established its supremacy over the monarchy in Britain. Anger grew in the country at the way that the Stuart monarchs raised money, especially because they did not get the agreement of the House of Commons to do so first. This was against ancient tradition. In addi­tion, ideological Protestantism, especially Puritanism, had grown in England. Puritans regarded many of the practices of the Anglican Church, and also its hierarchical structure, as immoral. Some of them thought the luxurious lifestyle of the king and his followers was immoral too. They were also fiercely anti-Catholic and suspicious of the apparent sympathy towards Catholicism of the Stuart monarchs.

This conflict led to the Civil War, which ended with complete victory for the parliamentary forces. The king (Charles I) was captured and became the first monarch in Europe lo be executed after a formal trial for crimes against his people. The leader of the parliamentary army, Oliver Cromwell, became 'Lord Protector' of a republic with a military government which, after he had brutally crushed resistance in Ireland, effectively encompassed the whole of the British Isles.

But when Cromwell died, he, his system of government, and the puritan ethics that went with it (theatres and other forms of amuse­ment had been banned) had become so unpopular that the son of the executed king was asked to return and take the throne. The Anglican Church was restored. However, the conflict between monarch and Parliament soon re-emerged. The monarch, James II, tried to give full rights to Catholics, and to promote them in his government.

The 'Glorious Revolution' ('glorious' because it was "bloodless) followed, in which Prince William of Orange, ruler of the Netherlands, and his Stuart wife Mary, accepted Parliament's invita­tion to become king and queen. In this way it was established that a monarch could rule only with the support of Parliament. Parliament immediately drew up a Bill of Rights, which limited some of the powers of the monarch (notably, the power to dismiss judges). It also allowed Dissenters (those who did not agree with the practices of Anglicanism) to practise their religion freely. This meant that the Presbyterian Church, to which the majority of the lowland Scottish belonged, was guaranteed its legality. However, Dissenters were not allowed to hold government posts or be Members of Parliament.

James II, meanwhile, had fled to Ireland. But the Catholic Irish army he gathered there was defeated. Laws were then passed forbid­ding Catholics to vote or even own land. In Ulster, in the north of the country, large numbers of fiercely anti-Catholic Scottish Presbyterians settled. The descendants of these people are still known today as Orangemen (after their patron William of Orange). They form one half of the tragic split in society in modern Northern Ireland, the other half being the 'native' Irish Catholics.


Date: 2015-12-11; view: 1379

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