Claim of Right

The historical consequence of the Glorious Revolution (1688) in England, Scotland and Wales (but not Ireland) was the elimination of the divine right of kings to rule (replaced by a parliament of public representatives). It was a vote against autocracy; that is, against monarchy, absolutism and dictatorship. It was also a mild mannered acknowledgement of the entitlement of religious freedom specifically for the Church of England (Protestantism and its various factions) and the Church of Rome (Catholicism) though the latter was relegated more to the level of tolerance and restriction only.

The Glorious Revolution marked the point in history when the character of the geographic globule called Great Britain was cemented. Monarchical privilege (supported by the further prerogative of divine right) was vanquished. In its place democracy began to evolve, first for the landed gentry (which itself had been sustained by primogeniture) and then for others (the Commoners).  It was later influential in the development of the United States of America. Overall the Glorious Revolution overcame the division between people based solely upon wealth (which had always been based primarily upon holdings of real property) and spiritual priority (which was fatefully removed from so-called monarchists and papists).

The landed gentry, or the gentry, is a largely historical British social class of landowners who could live entirely from rental income, or at least had a country estate. While distinct from, and socially below, the British peerage, their economic base in land was often similar, and some of the landed gentry were wealthier than some peers. Many gentry were close relatives of peers, and it was not uncommon for gentry to marry into peerage. It is the British element of the wider European class of gentry. With or without noble title, owning rural land estates often brought with it the legal rights of lord of the manor, and the less formal name or title of squire, in Scotland laird.

The Glorious Revolution is the term first used in 1689 to summarize events leading to the deposition of James II and VII of England, Ireland and Scotland in November 1688, and his replacement by his daughter Mary II and her husband and James’s nephew William III of Orange, de facto ruler of the Dutch Republic. Known as the Glorieuze Overtocht or Glorious Crossing in the Netherlands, it has been described both as the last successful invasion of England as well as an internal coup.

That for redress of all grievances and for the amending, strengthening and preserving of the laws, Parliaments ought to be frequently called and allowed to sit and the freedom of speech and debate secured to the members.
Claim of Right (1689)

The effect of the Claim of Right was to “bolster the position of parliament within the Scottish constitution at the expense of the royal prerogative”. It was affirmed by an Act of the Scottish Parliament of 1703 (Act Ratifieing the turning of the Meeting of the Estates in the year 1689, into a Parliament c. 3). The Act was retained by the Parliament of the United Kingdom after the Acts of Union 1707.

The Acts of Union (Scottish Gaelic: Achd an Aonaidh) were two Acts of Parliament: the Union with Scotland Act 1706 passed by the Parliament of England, and the Union with England Act 1707 passed by the Parliament of Scotland. They put into effect the terms of the Treaty of Union that had been agreed on 22 July 1706, following negotiation between commissioners representing the parliaments of the two countries. By the two Acts, the Kingdom of England and the Kingdom of Scotland—which at the time were separate states with separate legislatures, but with the same monarch—were, in the words of the Treaty, “United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain”.

Events going back to 1689 (Claim of Right) might not seem of any effect upon modern day proceedings. It was however recited as the basis of abuse of power in 2019 by England’s then Prime Minister Boris Johnson. It further highlighted the inutility of coalition with faded monarchical authority to promote the appearance of legitimacy.

In 2019, the Act was cited by MPs seeking a court ruling that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s September 2019 prorogation of Parliament was unlawful. The Court of Session Outer House judge, Lord Doherty found the claim was non-justiciable, and that if it was justiciable then there was no breach of the Claim of Right. The Inner House allowed the appeal, ruling the issue justiciable and the prorogation unlawful, since its true purpose was to “stymie Parliamentary scrutiny of government action”. However, it said this was not a consequence of peculiarities of Scots law or the Claim of Right.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s September 2019 prorogation of Parliament

On 28 August 2019, the Parliament of the United Kingdom was ordered to be prorogued by Queen Elizabeth II upon the advice of the Conservative prime minister, Boris Johnson; advice later ruled to be unlawful. The prorogation, or suspension, of Parliament was to be effective from between 9 and 12 September 2019 and last until the State Opening of Parliament on 14 October 2019; in the event, Parliament was suspended between 10 September and 24 September. Since Parliament was to be prorogued for five weeks and reconvene just 17 days before the United Kingdom’s scheduled departure from the European Union on 31 October 2019, the move was seen by many opposition politicians and political commentators as a controversial and unconstitutional attempt by the prime minister to avoid parliamentary scrutiny of the Government’s Brexit plans in those final weeks leading up to Brexit (withdrawal of the UK from the European Union). Johnson and his Government defended the prorogation of Parliament as a routine political process that ordinarily follows the selection of a new prime minister and would allow the Government to refocus on a legislative agenda.

There is a greater consequence of this historical regard; namely, the upshot is more than an esoteric legal analysis. It is a vivid reminder that the evolution of democracy has been hard won. People have lost their lives in the process.  It sadly illustrates the continued acceptability to many of the desirability of conflict, defeat and suppression in lieu of alliance and cooperation. Nonetheless the very landscape has been modified by the improvement. But we mustn’t forget that the effort and the journey were no picnic. Greed and prejudice survive underground to this day like rot and disease. Likewise however the enlargement of societal interests has provoked advances worldwide. The unity of interests is far more recuperative than disunity.

“At present a highway as smooth as any road in Middlesex ascends gently from the low country to the summit of the defile. White villas peep from the birch forest; and, on a fine summer day, there is scarcely a turn of the pass at which may not be seen some angler casting his fly on the foam of the river, some artist sketching a pinnacle of rock, or some party of pleasure banqueting on the turf in the fretwork of shade and sunshine. But, in the days of William the Third, Killiecrankie was mentioned with horror by the peaceful and industrious inhabitants of the Perthshire lowlands. It was deemed the most perilous of all those dark ravines through which the marauders of the hills were wont to sally forth. The sound, so musical to modern ears, of the river brawling round the mossy rocks and among the smooth pebbles, the dark masses of crag and verdure worthy of the pencil of Wilson, the fantastic peaks bathed, at sunrise and sunset, with light rich as that which glows on the canvass of Claude, suggested to our ancestors thoughts of murderous ambuscades and of bodies stripped, gashed, and abandoned to the birds of prey. ”

Excerpt From
The History of England, from the Accession of James II — Volume 3
Thomas Babington Macaulay