ScotWars - Scottish Military History and Re-enactment
Cromwellian Scotland
In the wake of the crushing defeat at Dunbar on 3 September 1650, Scotland south of the Forth stood on the brink of anarchy. On the following day, both the town council and Kirk sessions of Edinburgh fled the capital, many sailing across to Fife or northwards to Dundee; the ministers retreated into the Castle, their churches being taken over as ammunition stores and stables by the Cromwellian army. By December, when the Castle was surrendered almost without a fight, the national disgrace seemed complete: the Maiden Castle, as it had long been called, was dubbed the 'Prostitute Whore'; some royalists urged the King to abandon Scotland south of the Forth (as well as England and Ireland) to the English and retreat, like Robert Bruce, into the northern heartland. When he was crowned at Scone on 1 January 1651, on a makeshift wooden platform inside the church, Charles II had to subscribe the Covenants again and endure a sermon telling him that he 'hath not absolute power to do what he pleaseth'. His inheritance was a kingdom truncated as it had not been for three and a half centuries.'

During the first half of 1651, Cromwell suffered a prolonged illness and, as a result, his campaign temporarily lost its momentum. It was in this period that the relations between Resolutioners and Protesters in the Kirk reached breaking point. At a General Assembly which met at St Andrews and Dundee in July, the majority party attempted to exclude the minority; twenty ministers handed in a protestation and withdrew.' The revolution which had begun amidst the orchestrated fervour of the Glasgow Assembly in 1638 had ended in a self-induced partition of the Church. It was a miniature walk-out by comparison with others in the history of the Church of Scotland, but it was a split which was never really healed: rival assemblies and presbyteries contested each other's authority throughout the 165Os, jostled for the favour of the occupying power and despised it when it was given. Each would expect restoration to favour in 1660 and, once disappointed, would find new issues to reopen old wounds. For the moment clerical bickering was overtaken by events. A few days later, Cromwell's army crossed the Forth and inflicted a sharp defeat on a mixed bag of pressed townsmen and Highlanders at Inverkeithing on the 20th; by 2 August it had traversed Fife and captured Perth. With their supply lines to the north now cut and men deserting by the thousand, the King and an army of 13,000 left their base at Stirling, embarking on a desperate gamble. Slipping past the English garrison deployed thinly across the south of Scotland, it set off at a fast pace on the long road to Worcester, where Cromwell finally caught up with it on 3 September. About 2,000 Scots were killed and over 10,000 taken prisoner, including almost all the Scottish leaders. Charles, his legendary luck never more with him than now, escaped to France - the first Stewart pretender 'over the water', in public the symbol of a lost Scottish independence but in private swearing that he would rather be hanged than return to Scotland.

In Scotland, the English campaign, now led by Monck, continued relentlessly. Stirling surrendered on 14 August and with it the public records of Scotland fell into English hands; the regalia escaped their grasp, buried under a church floor at Kinneff near Dunnottar. The Committee of Estates and the Resolutioner-dominated Commission of the General Assembly, which had been left in joint charge of the running of the country, were taken prisoner at Alyth on the 28th; they ended up in London, along with the captives from Worcester. Dundee was taken by storm on 1 September, with about 1,000 deaths including, it was alleged, some 200 women and children, in the twenty-four hours of pillage that followed. ' Other burghs surrendered to the inevitable: St Andrew offered £500 sterling as a 'gratuity' to Monck's army and Aberdeen, which staged a banquet for their conquerors, escaped with a fine of £1,000. By the end of 1651, a chain of English garrisons along the east coast stretching from Edinburgh to Orkney had been established; and, with the surrender of the last royalist force, under the command of Balcarres and Huntly in December, active resistance was at an end in the north-east and in the central Highlands. Only the 'pestiferous burden' of the 'wilde Highlanders' in the west remained. The Cromwellian conquest was virtually complete; the peace could begin.

Cromwellian Scotland The first instinct of the English Commonwealth regime was annexation. Six days after the battle of Worcester, a committee of the Rump parliament was set up to draft a bill declaring 'the right of this Commonwealth to so much of Scotland as is now under [its] forces'. It resulted in a bill 'asserting the right of England to Scotland'. By December, an alternative was devised, bearing in mind 'the good of this island', in which Scotland was to he incorporated into 'the free state and Commonwealth of England'. This was the 'Tender of Union', proclaimed in a bizarre, peculiarly English ceremony at the Edinburgh Mercat Cross on 4 February 1652: eight trumpeters sounded a fanfare, and one of them acted as a town crier 'crying thrie Oyessis'. Three days later, in another symbolic but no less comic ritual, the King's arms were hauled down from the Mercat Cross and ceremonially hanged from the public gallows. Ultimately twenty-nine out of thirty-one shires and forty-four of the fifty-eight royal burghs did assent to the Tender and subscribed the oath that 'Scotland be incorporated into and made one Commonwealth with England'.'

This was a kind of union, at least to English eyes; Sir Edwin Sandys, who had wrecked James VI's scheme in the English parliamentary session of 1606-7 in favour of his own notion of a 'perfect union', might well have approved it. The Scottish Estates were swept away along with the monarchy; no institution could meet except with the sanction of the enlarged Westminster parliament. But the bill itself became stuck in the log-jam of acrimony which overtook the Rump; another bill, presented to its successor. the Barebones parliament, in October 1653, fell when it was dissolved. Until 1657, the union rested on an Ordinance of Union passed by the Council of State in April 1654 under the authority of the Instrument of Government. The invitation into this 'happy union' was, however, not to a Great Britain but to the 'Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland'. The central irony of the 1650s is that although Scotland was for the first time offered free trade and governed under distinctively Anglo-Scottish institutions - a separate Council for Scotland was set up in 1657 - it was not as part of an avowedly British union, for that was still seen as an unwelcome reminder of the Stewart monarchy.

The uneasy ménage a trois of the three ex-kingdoms can be illustrated by the curious history of the union flag, which had fallen into disuse after 1625. In 1654 it was revived, but again quartered - with 1st and 4th England, 2nd Scotland and an Irish harp (which had, oddly, been devised by Henry VIII) as 3rd. The result smacked too much of political incorporation (which indeed Cromwellian union was) and it was replaced by the Union flag of 1606, with the crosses of St George and St Andrew melded and the Irish harp placed incongruously as an inescutcheon in the centre. In administrative and practical terms, union could hardly have been more rigorous or complete; yet it lacked the essential ingredient of a nation state - symbols through which consent could be expressed.

The army of occupation was never less than 10,000 men. Its grip over the country was built up steadily. By late 1651 passes were needed t o move from one part of the country to another. Firearms were restricted, except under licence - Cameron of Lochiel, who could issue licences to his kinsmen recruited large numbers of 'Camerons', for a price. The traditional device of Stewart kings, of making Highland chiefs responsible for the good behaviour of their own clansmen, was used again, but to greater effect than ever before. What made Cromwellian policy more effective was the creation of large garrisons at strategic sites. Citadels were built at Ayr, Perth and Leith, as well as twenty smaller forts as far apart as Orkney and Stornoway, but the most important were the two large strongpoints in the Highlands, at Inverlochy and Inverness. The investment in men and money was enormous: the citadel at Inverness, begun in 1652 and built with stone shipped from as far away as Aberdeen, was still unfinished in 1655, although it had already cost over 550,000 sterling. The 1,000-strong garrison at Inverlochy was in place by 1654; it stood at the centre of a new administrative district of Lochaber which combined three of the remotest and most lawless shires in the country. By 1655 it was boasted that 'a man may ride all over Scotland with &lo0 in his pocket, which lie could not have done these five hundred years'. It was a claim which was exaggerated only slightly: certainly it had taken Cromwell's army to settle the disruption inflicted on the west by the abolition of the Lordship of the Isles 160 years before.

The main weakness of the formidable apparatus of military occupation and civil administration established by the Cromwellian regime was its cost. In the 1630s Charles 1's various taxes had cost Scotland about £17,000 sterling per annum. In 1656 the civil list alone cost £25,000. On top of that Scotland had to meet a monthly assessment of £10,000, although its reduction to £6,000 in 1657 was an acknowledgement of the impossible weight of this burden. The total amount of taxation was not less than £90,000 a year, to which should be added the annual revenue from the excise, which in 1659 produced £45,000. It was little wonder that the Scots in the first Restoration parliament happily committed themselves to a mere £40,000 per annum, which left that government always desperately short of cash. It was not enough in the 1650s - there was an annual deficit of £130,OOO. It was the first time - but not the last - that a London government sought to justify its benevolent treatment of Scotland by pointing to the shortfall between what it raised and what it spent there.'

Pacification had come only after a serious royalist revolt in the Highlands in 1653-4, which coincided with the First Dutch War (1652-4). In reality, the revolt was fragmented and riven with internal disputes - like many risings of the 'loyal clans'. It was also afflicted by quarrelling between the Highlanders who made up the bulk of the army and the Lowland officers and nobles in nominal command of men whom they thought no better than 'a pack of thieves and robbers'. The result was a succession of duels: Glengarry, a MacDonald chief, and Sir George Monro, a Lowland officer, quarreled even over the weapons to use in their duel. The hostility between its leaders - the two Lowland lords, Glencairn and Balcarres, and Middleton, the bluff Lowland soldier officially appointed by Charles who arrived in early 1654, nine months after the outbreak of the revolt - was matched by the marginal and ambivalent support which it attracted amongst many of the clans. It was the story of the 1745 rising before its time. In terms of military tactics, there was no repeat of the 'glorious year' of 1644-5 or of the Highland charge; the royalist tactics were to harry, spoil and burn and by 1655 they were beginning to have a counter-productive effect for Middleton found it difficult to recruit in the Highlands, even when he threatened to 'kill, burn, hang and destroy all before him'. The highlight of the revolt was not the Highland charge but the forced march: Monck's forces, critically short of cavalry, regularly made between twelve and twenty miles a day, complete with baggage train, across difficult terrain. The revolt lasted for sixteen months and eventually collapsed only because of its inner contradictions and the peace made between the Protectorate and the Dutch in April 1654 which, Middleton maintained, 'did strike all dead'.

The Glencairn rising was an important harbinger, not only of the confused loyalties at work in the Highlands and elsewhere in Scotland during the 1650s but also over the next century. It exposed the calculated loyalty of many of the clans to the Stewart monarchy but it also revealed the desperate measures to which many of the nobility and lairds, faced with mounting debts, had been driven by the Cromwellian regime. It also showed a vital difference in the attitudes of the ministers towards the Stewarts: the Protesters condemned the rising and the Resolutioners conducted public prayers for the King throughout it. This was why a company of soldiers broke up the Resolutioner Assembly at Edinburgh in July 1653 and escorted the ministers at gunpoint out of the burgh. It was the only overt interference with the courts of the Church during the occupation; unlike sheriff courts which fell under the order banning all courts deriving from 'Charles Stuart', Kirk sessions continued to meet, neither recognised nor sanctioned by the regime. In other respects, the rising was a significant turning-point. Coupled with the arrival in 1655 of an Irish peer, Lord Broghill, as President of the new Council in Scotland, it recast the politics of the Cromwellian Union. Broghill, one of the Protestant 'new English' of the Elizabethan and early Stuart plantations, had long experience of drawing together the natural rulers - a process which had begun in Ireland as early as 1649." 'The regime would begin to woo back the men of property, or at least the lairds, and the two clerical parties would increasingly vie with each other for the favours of the regime, even to the extent of appointing rival permanent agents in Lvndon.

In its first months in power the attitude of the Commonwealth had been clear: to destroy the influence of the nobility who had organised invasions of England in 1648 and 1651 and to promote 'the meaner sort'. At first it had seemed that both planks of the policy might quickly be effected: those nobles not already in exile or languishing in English prisons were deprived of their offices and harried for debt; free elections were re-established in most burghs in 1652. Sheriff courts, with a mixed bag of political opportunists and collaborators appointed as deputes, began to operate again and burgh courts, with their accustomed magistrates, resumed control. Local barony courts and heritable jurisdictions, which had not operated since 1651, were formally abolished in 1651. The Glencairn rising had been a serious check in this process. Burghs elections were suspended in 1653 and not resumed until October 1655. Scots law, with all its overlapping jurisdictions, was a Gordian knot that was not easily unpicked into its different parts. The re-establishment of JPs came only in 1656; it was a further stage in the implementation of justice and one of the first gestures of the regime towards the men of property. The price paid for it was a flood of witchcraft prosecutions, instigated by the new JPs: between 1657 and 1659 there were 102 witchcraft trials - a prelude to the 600 cases which clogged the courts in 1661-2.'' The Scottish 'gentry' proved reluctant to act o u t the parts the English regime had cast for them. As for the nobility, it seems doubtful that many of the studied concessions of 1655-9 reached them. The well-known obituary notice written by Baillie:

Our noble families are almost gone; Lennox hes little in Scotland unsold; Hamilton's estate . . . is sold . . . the Gordons are gone; the Douglases little better; Eglinton and Glencairn on the point of breaking; many of our chief families states are crashing."

was made; as late as 1658. It was the reaction of the nobility against their plight which more than any other factor coloured the nature of the Restoration in 1660.

Scotland, under the terms of the Cromwellian Union, had been given thirty seats in the Westminster parliament. The arrangements - for half of the seats went to English army officers - illustrate both the mixture of coercion and consent with which the regime operated in Scotland and the xenophobia which Scots MPs experienced at Westminster. By turn patronised and despised as no better than Jamaica or 'at best' a province, the Scots were largely ignored, except for repeated motions from English members to exclude them." After the death of Oliver Cromwell in 1658 and the rapid eclipse of the administration of his son, Richard, in 1659 the restored Rump parliament briefly considered a bill for a fuller union but ran out of time. When General Monck marched south in the winter of 1659-60 to reconcile the Westminster parliament to a restoration of Charles 11, he took with him petitions of the commissioners of shires and burghs to maintain the union, but on better terms for Scotland. The case went virtually unheard and when parliament was dissolved in March 1660, writs for its next meeting did not include Scotland or Ireland. Scotland had regained its independence, but by default and perhaps against the wishes of some sections of Scottish opinion. On 14 May Charles was proclaimed King of all three of his kingdoms in Edinburgh, amidst wild rejoicing; his first proclamation as King of Scots, made three months later, ordered a recall of the Committee of Estates. On 14 May, while artillery rounds were being fired from Edinburgh Castle, one of the cannoneers who had objected to the celebrations was blown up. He was the first casualty of the Restoration settlement.

- Michael Lynch 'SCOTLAND - A New History'

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