The history of the English Crown up to the Union of the Crowns in 1603 is long and eventful. In the Dark Ages during the fifth and sixth centuries, communities of peoples in Britain inhabited homelands with ill-defined borders. Such communities were organised and led by chieftains or kings. Following the final withdrawal of the Roman legions from the provinces of Britannia in around 408 AD, these small kingdoms were left to preserve their own order and to deal with invaders and waves of migrant peoples such as the Pics from beyond Hadrian’s Wall.
The Scots from Ireland and Germanic tribes from the continent. King Arthur, a larger-than-life figure, has often been cited as a leader of one or more of these kingdoms during this period, although his name now tends to be used as a symbol of British resistance against invasion. The concept of a single ruler unifying different tribes based in England developed in the eighth and ninth centuries in figures such as Offa and Alfred the Great.Norman Conquest, the machinery of government developed further, producing long-lived national institutions including Parliament.
The Middle Ages saw several fierce contests for the Crown, culminating in the Hundred Years War. The conflict was finally ended with the advent of the Tudors. Tudors, the dynasty which produced some of England’s most successful rulers and a flourishing cultural Renaissance. The end of the Tudor line with the death of Queen Elizabeth I, the ‘Virgin Queen’ in 1603 brought about the Union of the Crowns with Scotland. Until 1603 the English and Scottish Crowns were separate, although links between the two were always close – members of the two Royal families intermarried on many occasions. Following the Accession of King James VI of Scotland (I of England) to the English Throne, a single monarch reigned in the United Kingdom. The last four hundred years have seen many changes in the nature of the Monarchy in the United Kingdom. From the end of the 17th century, monarchs lost executive power and they increasingly became subject to Parliament, resulting in today’s constitutional Monarchy under Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.
The Scottish Crown has a long and complex history. From a number of local rulers governing separate territories and peoples, a single king emerged by the beginning of the twelfth century to govern most of what is today’s Scotland. The thirteenth century was a time of instability for the Scottish Crown in the face of internal fighting and the Wars of Independence with England. A sense of nationhood and a stable monarchical succession began to develop from the fourteenth century onwards, culminating in the Stewart dynasty. In 1603 a member of this dynasty, King James VI, succeeded to the English Crown. The Union of the Crowns was followed by the Union of the Parliaments in 1707. Although a new Scottish Parliament now determines much of Scotland’s legislation, the two Crowns remain united under a single Sovereign, the present Queen.