ScotWars - Scottish Military History and Re-enactment
The Scottish Covenanters


We have all seen those troops on the field of warre who wear blue bonnets,but who or what are they? I hope to give you a bit of information concerning our Parliamentarian allies, but later our New Model Army foes.

Two theories of Government.

There are two theories of Government which have obtained wider acceptanceand have come more generally into use than the others, although, as one regards one of them, it is only since the advent of Christianity that it has been largely adopted by nations in the regulation of their affairs.

The first theory, all true Kings are clothed with their function immediately by God. The right to govern and the qualifications for governing when employed in the state, is called the "Right Divine". When adopted in the church, it is termed "Apostolical Succession". The second theory states that the function of Government is not personal, but a social right. It is a right not lodged on an individual, nor on a class, but on society at large. Government in the whole body of the citizens and spiritual Government in the whole body of the faithful. Although the function of Government is the common right of all, it is possible only to a few who are selected by others.

The views of the second theory were an abomination to the Stuarts, especially the last four. They believed that all laws in the state, and all ordinances in the church must proceed from their will. All who opposed these views were enemies of the King and of God. The Stuarts would declare "Church and State, it is I".

The reformed Presbyterian Kirk of Scotland and the Stuarts therefore had an impossible gulf between them, the following statements were recorded in the works of the Covenanters.

1) The power of creating man a King is from the people. 2) If the King has not the consent of the people, he is an usurper, for all we know no external lawful calling that Kings now have to the crown, but only the call of the people.

Charles the first had abolished Parliament in England and Wales. He imposed taxes, he annulled charters in towns, he set up the Star Chamber and if any one hinted at resistance, even in a peaceable way, they were liable to fines or even imprisonment. Some had their ears cut off, their noses split or their cheek branded. Charles saw the Scots Kirk as a Kingdom, free and complete in itself, he also saw the church in Scotland as a place that indoctrinated the people. Charles saw himself as King of the whole of Britain and therefore he must put down the Kirk, otherwise he was not King at all.

Charles summoned Archbishop Laud to his aid, in England, Charles made his assault political, but in Scotland it must be ecclesiastical. Charles placed mitres on the heads of selected clergy and turned them into Bishops, he changed the communion table into an altar, he compiled a book for the ministers to pray by. He gave them surplices to wear and liturgies to chant. Above all he refused leave for the General Assembly to meet. This was the hinge of the conflict, the moderators chair of the General Assembly was the moral throne of Scotland, and Charles knew the power that it held.

The Scots assembled in the Greyfriars' Church of Edinburgh and swore the National Covenant (this was a document drawn up to unify opposition to new church innovations imposed by Charles, ED). The crowds assembled, overflowed into the church, some even signed the Covenant in their own blood. The date was the first of March 1638. Charles, upon hearing of it said "I have no more power in Scotland than the Doge of Venice".

In 1641 Charles appended his signature to a document that bound it's subscribers to maintain and defend three things: 1) The independence of the throne 2) The freedom of the Kirk. 3) The liberty of the nation.

Charles army had retreated Southwards across the border with it's tail between it's legs. Roused by the example the Scot's had set, the English people demanded their civil rights and religious liberties. In 1642 the English Civil War was under way.

The covenanters recognised their own battle being fought on English soil. In 1643 the Solemn League and Covenant was drawn up.In a nutshell it was thus: 1) Religion in it's Protestant form. 2) The King as a constitutional monarch. 3) Liberty as the right of the nation. After being signed by the General Assembly, it was carried to London and was sworn by the two Houses of Parliament, the Westminster Assembly and the Scottish Commissioners. The King now had two enemies to contend with.

During the War there were mixed fortunes for the covenanting Army,it was successful with the Parliamentarians at Marston Moor in 1644, disaster being thwarted by the stand of Lord Lindsay's brigade. However, in Scotland it suffered at the hands of Montrose's Army at Tippemuir, Aberdeen, Inverlochy and Auldearn. However at Philliphaugh on September 13th, the covenanters defeated Montrose under the command of David Leslie, who had been at Marston Moor. Montrose himself escaped, but was never a threat again.

In 1646 Charles surrendered to the Scots Army besieging Newark, he was taken to Newcastle, where he refused to promise the Scots to accept Presbyterianism as the official English religion. The Scots eventually handed over Charles to the English Parliament and the rest, as they say, is history. However before Charles' execution, he had told the Scots that he would establish a Presbyterian system for three years. The Scots Parliament wrote to Westminster demanding that Englishmen should take the Presbyterian covenant and that new talks should start with Charles. During the second Civil Warre, a Scottish Army massed at Dumfries, the English expected an invasion, and it came. The Scottish Army, eventually exhausted, surrendered their foote at Warrington. The horse later surrendered at Uttoxeter. In October, Cromwell was in Scotland and made peace with Argyll. After Charles' execution in 1649, Charles' son was proclaimed King Charles the second by the Scots. On May the first, 1650, Charles signed the treaty of Breda, it was an agreement that neither party intended to keep. Charles would regain his throne and the Scots would use him as a figurehead. Montrose entered the scene again and landed with a small army at Kirkwall, on the 23rd of March, 1650. He was defeated and later executed at Edinburgh.

The third Civil Warre was not due to an invasion by the Scots Army. The English decided to invade Scotland, to stop any Scottish offensive. Cromwell's Army advance via York and Durham and eventually Cromwell's Army was out manoeuvred by the Scottish commander Sir David Leslie, who had fought for Parliament at Marston Moor. Cromwell retreated to Dunbar, Leslie was persuaded to change his strong position, and the Scots paid a heavy price with a great defeat. It was one of the most decisive victories of the Civil Warres. Charles was crowned King at Scone on January the first 1651, and began to stir up the old Royalists.

Eventually an invasion of England by the Scots and various English Royalists, with Charles at the Armies head, was defeated at Worcester, near where it had all started at Powick Bridge in 1642. Charles fled to the continent until the Restoration, however, Charles, like his father before him, found that the Kirk could be a thorn in his side. Firstly, came the Act of Supremacy, which returned to the "Right Divine" problem once again. This was followed by the Act Recissory, which annulled all the Parliaments and the General Assembly. These were followed by executions and the abolition of Presbyterianism, four hundred ministers were ejected. There followed executions of men and women alike, these dark days for the covenanters would continue until 1688 and the "Glorious Revolution". It was the price they paid for trying to restore Charles to his throne. Maybe they should have stayed with their first allies! The moral must surely reflect the saying about"not changing horses mid-stream!"

By Ian Gray, Alone for Parliament in Merthyr Parish
This is part of a compilation of articles that have appeared in the "Mercurius Politicus", which is the Regimental newsletter of Sgt. Maj. Gen. James Carr, hys Regiment of Foote. Carr's Regiment are the oldest continuing Parliamentarian Regiment in the Sealed Knot. The "Mercurius Politicus" has been issued for over 25 years. Further details can be obtained from the Editor, Pete Minall Full credit is given to both the author, Ian Gray and to the Mercurius Politicus.

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