Guide to Scotland
   Gateway to the British Isles since 1996
A Brief History of Scotland

Presented by Peter N. Williams, Ph.D.

Chapter 5: The Two Crowns

Montrose then marched on Aberdeen, a fat city to be plundered by the Highlanders and Irish mercenaries at will. Next, enlisting the help of the Macleans and Macdonalds, he sacked Inverary and routed the Campbells and a small force of Covenanters at Inverlochy. Writing to Charles of his successes, he then took Dundee, defeated another force at Auldearn and again at Kilsyth to occupy Glasgow.

The Royalists in England were not faring so well. Cromwell's rag-tag armies had now become the well-trained, well-armed New Model Army (nicknamed "the Roundheads"). Following their success at Marston Moor, they won a second smashing victory over Charles at Naseby. Next, they turned towards Scotland and stopped the string of successes of Montrose and his Highlanders at Philiphaugh. Then, in May 1646, news came of the King's surrender to the Scottish forces at Newark. There was little left for Montrose but to take ship for Norway and his followers went back to their homes. The victorious Scottish army, after having turned Charles over to the English Parliamentary Commissioners, also returned north of the border. Everything seemed settled.

However, the perverse tides of Scottish history have never flowed that smoothly. Despite their military successes, the Covenanters were not happy with the situation. There was little likelihood that Cromwell would establish Presbytery in England. Perhaps Charles would have been their best chance after all. So, at the end of 1647, an agreement was made between the Scottish Parliament and the king, whereby he would give Presbyterianism a three-year trial in England in return for an army to help him fight against the Parliamentarians. Charles's joy at this unexpected help soon turned to grief. The army, led by the Duke of Hamilton, duly came south. It was utterly defeated by Cromwell at Preston, its leader executed and its followers dispersed.

Events then heated up in Scotland. The more extreme Covenanters, dissatisfied at lack of progress in furthering their ambitions in England, marched on Edinburgh and overthrew the more moderate government, leaving their leader Argyll as virtual master of the country. Cromwell came to Edinburgh to receive a hero's welcome, but the news of the unprecedented execution of Charles, a few days later, sent a tidal wave of dismay over much of Scotland. After all, the unfortunate man had been king of their country, too. And regicide was still an act against God. Taking immediate action, Argyll continued the strange alliance of King and Covenanter by having the 18 year-old Prince Charles proclaimed King at Edinburgh.

To further complicate matters, Montrose returned from exile to raise another army in support of the new king. He should have left things alone, for with his band of local recruits and Irish mercenaries, he was betrayed by "one of his auld acqeuntance" and easily defeated. Such was the complicated state of affairs in the mish-mash of divided loyalties in Scotland. Montrose was hanged and quartered as a traitor to the King he had served so loyally.

In 1650, Charles II duly arrived in Scotland to claim his Kingdom. He must have known that this was totally unacceptable to Oliver Cromwell, who had assumed the title of Lord Protector. Cromwell invaded Scotland, defeated the Scots under General Leslie and marched on Edinburgh. The Covenanters, no doubt trusting that God would preserve their cause would not admit defeat and on New Year's Day, 1651 they crowned Charles II at Scone and raised a sizable army to defend him.

Again, it was the Highlanders who composed the bulk of this army and it was the Highlanders who were again slaughtered. At Inverkeithing, after the Lowland cavalry had fled, the MacLeans stood and fought the English army to the last man. They lost 760 out of 800 clansmen in another lost cause. Cromwell now occupied all of Scotland south of the Firth of Forth. He then departed to deal with the Scottish army that been looking for support in England, leaving General Monk in charge. Cromwell caught up with the Scottish army at Worcester on September 3, 1651. He destroyed it. A few days earlier, Monk had captured the Committee of the Estates, (the remnant of the Scottish Parliament and had occupied Dundee). The continent now became a refuge for yet another Scottish monarch, as Charles II fled to France. He returned nine years later.

While the king in exile "went on his travels," as he put it, Cromwell was setting up an efficient system of government in both kingdoms. A Treaty of Union in 1652 had united Scotland with England and made it part of the Commonwealth. It had also abolished the monarchy. Though he established an efficient and orderly regime, the unpopular, Puritanical Cromwell was a harsh and ruthless ruler. When he died in 1658, the country was ready for a return to good old-fashioned monarchy.

At the request of General Monk, Charles II came back to claim his throne. Alas, like his father before him, he had little interest in Scotland, preferring to govern it through a Privy Council situated in Edinburgh and a Secretary at London. He also considered Presbytery "not a religion for gentlemen." It is a constant source of astonishment to the modern reader that Charles knew so little about how deeply the roots of Presbyterianism had been planted in Scotland and how strongly the Covenanters would fight attempts to return Scotland to the episcopacy. His years in exile had taught him very little.

In 1649, as King of Scotland, Charles signed two Covenants merely to secure his own coronation. When he restored James VI's method of himself choosing the Committee of Articles, he had the intention, not only of strengthening his position in relation to Parliament, but also of bringing back the bishops and restoring the system of patronage that chose ministers. All ministers chosen since 1649 were required to resign and to reapply for their posts from the bishops and lairds. One third of all Scottish ministers refused and held services in defiance of the law. Troops were sent to enforce the regulations but made the Calvinist Covenanters even more eager to serve their God in their own way. In 1679, claiming to be obeying a command from on high, they murdered Archbishop Sharp.

The government intervened to bring the rebels to heel. An army was sent to deal with them under the command of James, Duke of Monmouth (an illegitimate son of the King). He defeated the Covenanters at Bothwell Brig and dealt severely with the survivors. The reactions and counter-reactions that followed gave the 1680's the title "The Killing Time." The troubles continued when Charles died in 1685 to be succeeded by his brother James VII (James II of England) an openly avowed Catholic. He was welcomed in the Highlands, ever true to the legitimate monarch. Thus, the seeds were sown for the Jacobite opposition that blossomed under the next king, the Dutchman William of Orange.

Showing all the signs that he was infected with "the Scottish curse," James VII showed that he had learned nothing from the unfortunate experiences of his predecessors in trying to turn back the clock in matters of religion. His attempts at using the royal prerogative to accord complete toleration to all his subjects, Catholics, Covenanters and Quakers alike may sound like enlightened policy to us, but at the time, in an age of intolerance, it only deepened suspicion of his motives. Opposition to his rule grew rapidly. It was aided by Protestant forces in Holland, where his son-in-law, William of Orange, had his eyes on the thrones of England and Scotland.

Chapter 6: The Stuart Cause