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

In contrast to the poorly prepared, poorly led and poorly motivated armies of the English king in the early summer of 1639, the Scots had great numbers of experienced soldiers returning from overseas campaigns. They had a worthy general, Alexander Leslie, who had commanded the army of the Swedes after the death of Gustavus Adolphus. The First Bishop's War, as it was called, was settled, most unwillingly by Charles (who had no other choice), by the Pacification of Berwick, by which the King agreed to refer all disputed questions to the General Assembly or to Parliament.

The Scottish Parliament wasted no time in abolishing the episcopacy and freeing itself from the King's control. When it took measures to weaken the Committee of Articles by which Charles had tried to control it, the king again foolishly took up arms and the Second Bishop's War began. Without an effective army, Charles was forced to summon the English Parliament to beg for funds. When it met, it did nothing to please the King: the famous Long Parliament impeached and executed two of his chief supporters, Strafford and Laud. Civil War threatened in England.

Charles went off to Scotland again to try to gain support against his own Parliament. In the land that he had hitherto so blatantly antagonized, he distributed titles freely and reluctantly agreed to accept the decisions of the General Assembly and the Scottish Parliament. He had no choice. In England, where he had more support from the landed gentry, his obstinacy in resisting the Long Parliament and his stubborn insistance on Divine Right created the conditions for the outbreak of Civil War in 1642.

At first, Scotland had no wish to get involved. The desires of the Covenanters were theological, not political. There was also a split developing between the extremists, who viewed practically anything at all of piety as "popery," and the moderates, led by Montrose, who reaffirmed both a belief in the Covenant and loyalty to the King. Charles, meanwhile, had gathered enough supporters to gain many early victories against the forces of Parliament, who were mainly, untrained levies from the shires. Again, Scotland was seen as a source of aid, but this time, it was the English Parliament, and not the king, that made the request.

Because the Covenanters wanted to establish presbytery in Ireland and England, the offer from the English Parliament was too good to refuse. In the agreement known as the Solemn League and Covenant, signed in the autumn of 1643, the Scottish army was to attack the forces of Charles in England. In return, they would receive not only 30,000 pounds a month, but also the agreement that there would be "a reformation of religion in the Kingdoms of England and Ireland in doctrine, worship and government." One term of the agreement was that popery and prelacy were to be completely extirpated from the whole realm.

The conditions of the agreement now had to be imposed upon the English Church. Accordingly, the Westminster Assembly was summoned to establish uniformity of worship in Scotland, England (and Wales) and Ireland. The task was much easier in Scotland, where even to this day, the Westminster Confession of Faith continues to serve as the basis for Presbyterian worship. It was not as easy to implement in England and almost impossible in Ireland. However, a good beginning was the heavy defeat of the Royalist forces at Marston Moor by the parliamentary army under Oliver Cromwell. The defeat had been greatly augmented by a large force of disciplined and well-armed Scotsmen.

Then an about face took place. Montrose had been greatly disturbed by the forces of extremism. The ancient theory of Divine Right of Kings was being severely tested. And, in the Highlands of Scotland, Presbytery did not run deep. The powerful Lord, aided by many in Ireland and a few loyalists from the Lowlands, raised an army of Highlanders to win Scotland for the King. The nationalist spirit was still beating in some Scottish hearts after all, and Montrose's army, without cavalry and with no artillery, managed to completely rout an army of Covenanters led by Lord Elcho at Tippermuir.

Chapter 5: The Two Crowns Continued