The Kingdom of Great Britain came into being on 1 May 1707, as a result of the political union of the Kingdom of England (which included Wales) and the Kingdom of Scotland. The terms of the union had been negotiated the previous year, and laid out in the Treaty of Union. The parliaments of Scotland and of England then each ratified the treaty via respective Acts of Union. Ally separate states, England and Scotland had shared a monarch since 1603 when on the death of the childless Elizabeth I, James VI of Scotland also became James I of England, in an event known as the Union of the Crowns. Slightly more than one-hundred years later, the Treaty of Union enabled the two kingdoms to be combined into a single kingdom, merging the two parliaments into a single parliament of Great Britain. Queen Anne, who was reigning at the time of the union, had favoured deeper political integration between the two kingdoms and became the first monarch of Great Britain. The union was valuable to England’s security because Scotland relinquished first, the right to choose a different monarch on Anne’s death and second, the right to independently ally with a European power, which could then use Scotland as a base for the invasion of England.
Although now a single kingdom, certain aspects of the former independent kingdoms remained separate, as agreed in the terms in the Treaty of Union. Scottish and English law remained separate, as did the Presbyterian Church of Scotland and the Anglican Church of England. England and Scotland also continued to each have its own system of education.
The terms “United Kingdom” and “United Kingdom of Great Britain” were used in the Treaty of Union and the 1707 Acts of Union. However, the actual name of the new state was “Great Britain”.
The name “Great Britain” (then spelled “Great Brittaine”) was first used by James VI/I in October 1604, who indicated that henceforth he and his successors would be viewed as Kings of Great Britain, not Kings of England and Scotland.
The creation of Great Britain happened during the War of the Spanish Succession, in which just before his death in 1702 William III had reactivated the Grand Alliance against France. His successor, Anne, continued the war. The Duke of Marlborough won a series of brilliant victories over the French, England’s first major battlefield successes on the Continent since the Hundred Years War. France was nearly brought to its knees by 1709, when King Louis XIV made a desperate appeal to the French people. Afterwards, his general Marshal Villars managed to turn the tide in favour of France. A more peace-minded government came to power in Great Britain, and the treaties of Utrecht and Rastadt in 1713–1714 ended the war.
Queen Anne died in 1714, and the Elector of Hanover, George Louis, became king as George I (1714–1727). He paid more attention to Hanover and surrounded himself with Germans, making him an unpopular king. However he did build up the army and created a more stable political system in Britain and helped bring peace to northern Europe. Jacobite factions seeking a Stuart restoration remained strong; they instigated a revolt in 1715–1716. The son of James II planned to invade England, but before he could do so, John Erskine, Earl of Mar, launched an invasion from Scotland, which was easily defeated.
George II (1727–1760) enhanced the stability of the constitutional system, with a government run by Sir Robert Walpole during the period 1730–42. He built up the first British Empire, strengthening the colonies in the Caribbean and North America. In coalition with the rising power Prussia, defeated France in the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), and won full control of Canada.
George III reigned 1760–1820; he was born in Britain, never visited Hanover, and spoke English as his first language. Frequently reviled by Americans as a tyrant and the instigator of the American War of Independence, he was insane off and on after 1788 as his eldest son served as regent. The last king to dominate government and politics, his long reign is noted for losing the first British Empire with a loss in the American Revolutionary War (1783), as France sought revenge for its defeat in the Seven Years War by aiding the Americans. The reign was notable for the building of a second empire based in India, Asia and Africa, the beginnings of the industrial revolution that made Britain an economic powerhouse, and above all the life and death struggle with the French, the French Revolutionary Wars 1793–1802, ending in a draw and a short truce, and the epic Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815), ending with the decisive defeat of Napoleon. (Source Wikipidia)
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