ScotWars - Scottish Military History and Re-enactment
MONK, General George, 1st Duke of Albemarle (1608-70)
George Monk is one of the enigmas of the Civil War period. Born a Royalist, the second son of a minor aristocratic Devon family and fighting on the King's side till his capture by the Parliamentary party at the Battle of Nantwich, be became one of Oliver Cromwell's most effective generals and his deputy in Scotland. Though courted by the King in exile, he served Cromwell with unwavering loyalty, publicly proclaiming his support for his son Richard on his accession as Protector in 1658. It was only in the face of chaos and extreme influence in the army that he secretly responded to approaches from Royalist leaders. Marching across the border from his camp at Coldstream on 1 January 1660, he became the most powerful man in England, securing the return of Parliamentary government and the restoration of the Stewart dynasty. Ironically his regiment, named the Coldstream Guards after this event, had been raised for him by Cromwell to fight Charles I in Scotland. The chief threat to the Commonwealth in 1650 had come not from the purely Royalist rising of Montrose (who had been executed by the Covenanters in May), but from those who supported some combination of Presbytery and/or King. Monk played only a minor part in the defeat of the Scottish army at Dunbar on 3 September 1650, but he led the successful sieges of Tantallon Castle and Blackness in early 1651. Promoted to commander-in-chief after Cromwell pursued the King across the border in August 1661, he completed the reduction of the Covenanters' political and military authority with the submission of Stirling and St Andrews and the conquest of Dundee, where responsibility for excessive brutality has been inconclusively attributed to him. Despatched north again in April 1654 to put down the rising led by Glencairn and Middleton, Monk was from then until the Restoration the lynchpin of English civil and military authority in Scotland, first as commander-in-chief and, after the Ordinance of Union and the establishment of the Scottish Council in 1655, as its most important member. Monk skilfully masterminded the military campaign in which the Royalists were driven into the Highlands and starved of supplies by ruthless destruction of their crops and pasture and of their natural supporters by a characteristic combination of conciliation and coercion. Securing the active help of Argyll, whose son supported the Royalists, was a vital step. Their decisive defeat at Dalnaspidal (Glengarry) was followed by the erection of a cordon of fortresses round the Highlands at Leith, Perth, Ayr, Inverlochy and Inverness. Solidly built and costing an estimated £100,000 each, they were invested with permanent English garrisons and symbolised the imposition of law and order. Instrument of Cromwell's policies and inheritor of many of the ideas of his predecessor Robert Lilburne, Monk nonetheless made his individual mark. He believed that the political and economic policies applied to Scotland should take into account the reasons for unrest, and he worked hard to reduce ill-judged instructions from London, particularly the high tax assessments and harsh penalties levied on leading Royalists. Although contemporary personal comments on 'honest general George'are favourable, even from many Scots, and although his numerous orders were given with 'such a grace and rigid gentleness', his government was always resented (despite its undoubted physical benefits). Created Duke of Albemarle at the Restoration, he continued to offer effective and versatile public service, both on land and sea, in his role of Lieutenant-General of the armed forces, and in his direction of the people of London during the Great Plague of 1665. He is buried in Westminster Abbey.

- Encyclopaedia of Scotland', edited by John & Julia Keay

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