Introduction: the 1723 Loyalty Oaths

The Oaths

The oaths themselves, as defined by the 1715 Oath Act comprised the oaths of allegiance, supremacy and abjuration (see Appendix 2). The latter was broadly the same as had been enshrined in previous Acts of William III and Queen Anne. These, in turn, had drawn heavily upon the text of the 1606 Jacobean loyalty oath. Thus the oath taker was to declare that ‘our Sovereign Lord King GEORGE is lawful and rightful King of this Realm’ and that he/she would ‘defend him to the utmost of my Power, against all traiterous Conspiracies and Attempts whatsoever ,which shall be made against his Person, Crown and Dignity’. The wording of the oath also expresses that the person swearing does ‘renounce, refuse, and abjure any Allegiance or Obedience’ to the Pretender. The Georgian Act went further than its immediate predecessors in resurrecting the most explicitly anti-Catholic elements of the 1606 oath, namely the declaration that ‘I A.B. do swear, that I do from my Heart abhor, detest and abjure, as impious and heretical, that damnable Doctrine and Position, That Princes excommunicated or deprived by the Pope... may be deposed or murthered by their Subjects’.55 This was followed by a statement that ‘no Foreign Prince, Person, Prelate, State or Potentate, hath or ought to have any Jurisdiction, Power, Superiority, Pre-eminence or Authority... within this Realm’. Such wording sought to foster and exploit anti-Catholic sentiment through its reminder of Britain’s protestant past, drawing links between the Pope, heresy and a potential foreign invasion. Moreover, it sought to construct a sense of a national protestant identity around a foreign monarch who had a poor command of the English language. However, as a profession of loyalty around which the population could rally the oaths have less of an immediate impact than the Association of 27 years earlier. Then, the men of England had pledged to ‘Unite, Associate and stand by each other, in revenging [the death of the King] upon his Enemies and their Adherents’.

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  1. Questier, ‘Loyalty, Religion and State Power’, 319-321. [back]