Today, 414 years ago, Queen Elizabeth I of England died, allowing the Scottish King James VI to assume a personal union which led to his coronation as King of England and Scotland and would eventually lay the ground for the United Kingdom.
Elizabeth I was the Queen of England and Ireland and daughter of King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. Her brother, Edward VI, ruled after their father’s death until 1553, where he attempted to secure the monarchy for Lady Jane Seymour, an aristocrat with distant monarch relations. She is referred to as the nine-day Queen due to the fact that Elizabeth and older sister Mary where none too pleased about being bypassed by the throne. As such, the Catholic Mary took the throne back and ruled until 1558, during which time the protestant Elizabeth was imprisoned for a period.
Once her siblings where no longer of concern, the 25 year old Elizabeth took the throne, where she was to survive for 44 years, allowing the monarchy to enjoy a welcome period of stability. During her reign she encouraged a sense of national pride and identity and gained recognition as one of Britain’s greatest figures when the English defeated the Spanish Armada in 1588, as part of the Anglo-Spanish Wars of 1585-1604.
Her death in 1603 left the position of monarch open due to her lack of heirs, but the Scottish King James VI had links to the English throne allowing him to encompass it within his personal union, thus establishing the Jacobean era and establishing the throne of King of Great Britain and Ireland.
James was a largely successful King, advocating the eventual single parliament for the nation that would eventually arrive, however, he was also the subject of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot and was regularly in conflict with the English parliament.
His first born son and Prince of Wales, Henry Fredrick died in 1612, allowing his brother, Charles, to take the role as Heir. It would be King Charles I who, after ascending to the throne in 1625, would be executed in during the English Civil War, giving way to Oliver Cromwell who became Lord Protector before the eventual re-establishment of the monarchy under a constitutional system.
The union would be further entrenched over time, with the 1707 Act of Union bringing the independent nations together. Over time, Scottish nationalism has pushed for greater autonomy, as was seen in Ireland, culminating in the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence. Despite the overwhelming result, nationalist voices have continued to grow louder, especially in response to the result of the EU referendum. It remains to be seen whether the union will survive another decade, but certainly its origins can be traced for centuries.