ScotWars - Scottish Military History and Re-enactment
Background & Overview
Background & Overview

The Marquis of Montrose, one of Scotland’s most romantic historical figures, was the Kings Lieutenant and commander of the Royalist Army in Scotland during the Great Civil Wars that waged throughout Britain between 1644 and 1652. A poet as well as a great military leader, he was to pay with his life for the beliefs he held and his devotion to the Stuart cause.
A one time supporter of the Covenant cause and signatory of the National Covenant, Montrose believed that the aims of the Covenant had been achieved following the Bishop’s Wars of 1639/40 and subsequent withdrawal of the Common Prayer book. When the Solemn League and Covenant was drawn up in 1643 replacing the aims of the National Covenant he was disillusioned by it’s demands and wary of the ambition of it’s champion the Duke of Argyll. Withdrawing his support for the Covenanters he took up the Royalist cause and headed south to the court of Charles I.

He was at first treated with wariness but through his persistence was finally granted the Kings Commission. He returned to Scotland in 1644 without an army but intent on raising the country for the King. The task was enormous, he was perceived as a turncoat and mistrusted by many who could have supported him such as the Marquis of Huntly. What support he did raise also worked against him, for when he finally gathered his army it was made up of highlanders and Irish troops from Antrim, under the command of Alasdair MacDonald (MacColla) (However the latter was probably the real talent of the partnership). Lowland Scots feared and despised the highland and Irish Gaels. The Gaelic culture was alien to them and their fear of the propaganda image of marauding wild men (the Irish were in fact veteran troops who had been fighting on the continent) was a serious hindrance to the capturing of popular support.

Montrose successfully waged his campaign of war throughout 1644/45 winning victory after victory against superior odds. He constantly crossed and re-crossed Scotland outwitting his enemies whilst trying to raise the loyal clans that would provide him with sufficient forces to win the war as well as the battles. Following the Battle of Kilsyth, where once again the Royalist army had been victorious, Montrose finally believed that Scotland would now support the King and wrote to Charles assuring him that victory was theirs.
His optimism was premature, the surge of popular support failed to materialise, instead much of his army melted away leaving barely 500 troops to march into the borders. At Philiphaugh the Royal Army was surprised by a Covenant army returning from England. The Irish regulars under the command of Manus O’Cahan fought valiantly to the death, those few accepting quarter were soon executed, the army was smashed! Montrose escaped but never again was he to come close to winning Scotland for the Royalist cause.

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