Following the Glorious Revolution, James II and his wife, Mary of Modena, fled to the continent in an attempt to escape capture from Anglo-Dutch forces. The 1689 Bill of Rights declared that this escape effectively amounted to an abdication of the throne. James’s daughter Mary II succeeded alongside her husband William III, Prince of Orange, re-establishing Protestant supremacy in Britain. The Bill of Rights also dictated that the line of succession would go through the Protestant descendants of William and Mary, then through her sister Anne’s children and so forth. There was talk of including another line, the Hanoverians, but this was deemed to be unnecessary at the time.
Over a decade later, however, the issue returned to the forefront of British politics. Having died without producing an heir in 1694, Mary II’s husband had never remarried and produced an heir of his own. In addition, Anne, by now 36, had recently lost her son William, Duke of Gloucester. This was the only successful pregnancy of Anne, who had suffered 12 miscarriages, as well as 4 other children who didn’t make it past infancy. Upon the death of William it became clear that the issue of succession needed to be reassessed to ensure James II and his Jacobite descendants didn’t try and reclaim the throne without resistance. In February 1701, Parliament established the Act of Settlement, coming into effect on the 17th June. This replaced the Bill of Rights by including the Hanoverian branch through Anne’s cousin Sophia.
Sophia of Hanover was the closest living Protestant relative to Anne and Mary II through her maternal line. Her mother, Elizabeth Stuart, Queen of Bohemia, was the eldest daughter of James I/VI. By the time of her becoming the heir assumptive of the British throne, however, Sophia was already in her 70s. She lived a long and healthy life given the time period, though not long enough to ever accede the throne. Within a matter of months after Sophia’s death, Anne herself died on the 1st August 1714. The throne thus went to Sophia’s successor, the little known Prince George Ludwig of Hanover. George was understandably an unknown figure in Britain, with few people having ever heard of him, even amongst the aristocracy and political establishment who helped secure his accession.
George’s accession was initially marked by widespread civil disobedience and in England and parts of Scotland. From the death of Anne until the summer of 1715, major rioting broke out across the country. The largest were the Coronation Riots in October 1714, and the Summer Riots of 1715, whereby Anglican traditionalists and Jacobite sympathisers attacked pro-Hanoverian meeting houses and churches. The riots were also in protest of the new Whig government, who, after winning the 1715 General Election overwhelmingly supported the new King. The riots occurred on symbolic days: the 28th May being George I’s birthday, the 29th being the Anniversary of the Restoration, and the 10th June being the birthday of James Francis Edward Stuart, the famed Jacobite Old Pretender. Order was finally re-established thanks to the passing of the Riot Act in August that year; and for the remainder of George’s reign, any civil disobedience in England at least was largely restrained.