How to use Timeline

You can move up and down the timeline using the date bands: the bottom band moves you along centuries quickly and the middle bank moves along decades. Click on individual events to see more details and description.

Timeline of Scottish History

A timeline of events in Scottish History!. Scroll through a growing chronology of events and click on them for more details and links


The reign of Charles I. opened with every sign of the tempests which were to follow.  England and Scotland were both seething with religious fears and hatreds.  Both parties in England, Puritans and Anglicans, could be satisfied with nothing less than complete domination.  In England the extreme Puritans, with their yearning after the Genevan presbyterian discipline, had been threatening civil war even under Elizabeth.  James had treated them with a high hand and a proud heart.  Under Charles, wedded to a “Jezebel,” a Catholic wife, Henrietta Maria, the Puritan hatred of such prelates as Laud expressed itself in threats of murder; while heavy fines and cruel mutilations were inflicted by the party in power.  The Protestant panic, the fear of a violent restoration of Catholicism in Scotland, never slumbered.  In Scotland Catholics were at this time bitterly persecuted, and believed that a presbyterian general massacre of them all was being organised.  By the people the Anglican bishops and the prayer-book were as much detested as priests and the Mass.  When Charles placed six prelates on his Privy Council, and recognised the Archbishop of St Andrews, Spottiswoode, as first in precedence among his subjects, the nobles were angry and jealous.  Charles would not do away with the infatuated Articles of Perth.  James, as he used to say, had “governed Scotland by the pen” through his Privy Council.  Charles knew much less than James of the temper of the Scots, among whom he had never come since his infancy, and his Privy Council with six bishops was apt to be even more than commonly subservient.

In Scotland as in England the expenses of national defence were a cause of anger; and the mismanagement of military affairs by the king’s favourite, Buckingham, increased the irritation.  It was brought to a head in Scotland by the “Act of Revocation,” under which all Church lands and Crown lands bestowed since 1542 were to be restored to the Crown.  This Act once more united in opposition the nobles and the preachers; since 1596 they had not been in harmony.  In 1587, as we saw, James VI. had annexed much of the old ecclesiastical property to the Crown; but he had granted most of it to nobles and barons as “temporal lordships.”  Now, by Charles, the temporal lords who held such lands were menaced, the judges (“Lords of Session”) who would have defended their interests were removed from the Privy Council (March 1626), and, in August, the temporal lords remonstrated with the king through deputations.

In fact, they took little harm—redeeming their holdings at the rate of ten years’ purchase.  The main result was that landowners were empowered to buy the tithes on their own lands from the multitude of “titulars of tithes” (1629) who had rapaciously and oppressively extorted these tenths of the harvest every year.  The ministers had a safe provision at last, secured on the tithes, in Scotland styled “teinds,” but this did not reconcile most of them to bishops and to the Articles of Perth.  Several of the bishops were, in fact, “latitudinarian” or “Arminian” in doctrine, wanderers from the severity of Knox and Calvin.  With them began, perhaps, the “Moderatism” which later invaded the Kirk; though their ideal slumbered during the civil war, to awaken again, with the teaching of Archbishop Leighton, under the Restoration.  Meanwhile the nobles and gentry had been alarmed and mulcted, and were ready to join hands with the Kirk in its day of resistance.

In June 1633 Charles at last visited his ancient kingdom, accompanied by Laud.  His subjects were alarmed and horrified by the sight of prelates in lawn sleeves, candles in chapel, and even a tapestry showing the crucifixion.  To this the bishops are said to have bowed,—plain idolatry.  In the Parliament of June 18 the eight representatives of each Estate, who were practically all-powerful as Lords of the Articles, were chosen, not from each Estate by its own members, but on a method instituted, or rather revived, by James VI. in 1609.  The nobles made the choice from the bishops, the bishops from the nobles, and the elected sixteen from the barons and burghers.  The twenty-four were all thus episcopally minded: they drew up the bills, and the bills were voted on without debate.  The grant of supply made in these circumstances was liberal, and James’s ecclesiastical legislation, including the sanction of the “rags of Rome” worn by the bishops, was ratified.  Remonstrances from the ministers of the old Kirk party were disregarded; and—the thin end of the wedge—the English Liturgy was introduced in the Royal Chapel of Holyrood and in that of St Salvator’s College, St Andrews, where it has been read once, on a funeral occasion, in recent years.

In 1634-35, on the information of Archbishop Spottiswoode, Lord Balmerino was tried for treason because he possessed a supplication or petition which the Lords of the minority, in the late Parliament, had drawn up but had not presented.  He was found guilty, but spared: the proceeding showed of what nature the bishops were, and alienated and alarmed the populace and the nobles and gentry.  A remonstrance in a manly spirit by Drummond of Hawthornden, the poet, was disregarded.

In 1635 Charles authorised a Book of Canons, heralding the imposition of a Liturgy, which scarcely varied, and when it varied was thought to differ for the worse, from that of the Church of England.  By these canons, the most nakedly despotic of innovations, the preachers could not use their sword of excommunication without the assent of the Bishops.  James VI. had ever regarded with horror and dread the licence of “conceived prayers,” spoken by the minister, and believed to be extemporary or directly inspired.  There is an old story that one minister prayed that James might break his leg: certainly prayers for “sanctified plagues” on that prince were publicly offered, at the will of the minister.  Even a very firm Presbyterian, the Laird of Brodie, when he had once heard the Anglican service in London, confided to his journal that he had suffered much from the nonsense of “conceived prayers.”  They were a dangerous weapon, in Charles’s opinion: he was determined to abolish them, rather that he might be free from the agitation of the pulpit than for reasons of ritual, and to proclaim his own headship of the Kirk of “King Christ.”

This, in the opinion of the great majority of the preachers and populace, was flat blasphemy, an assumption of “the Crown Honours of Christ.”  The Liturgy was “an ill-mumbled Mass,” the Mass was idolatry, and idolatry was a capital offence.  However strange these convictions may appear, they were essential parts of the national belief.  Yet, with the most extreme folly, Charles, acting like Henry VIII. as his own Pope, thrust the canons and this Liturgy upon the Kirk and country.  No sentimental arguments can palliate such open tyranny.

The Liturgy was to be used in St Giles’ Church, the town kirk of Edinburgh (cleansed and restored by Charles himself), on July 23, 1637.  The result was a furious brawl, begun by the women, of all presbyterians the fiercest, and, it was said, by men disguised as women.  A gentleman was struck on the ear by a woman for the offence of saying “Amen,” and the famous Jenny Geddes is traditionally reported to have thrown her stool at the Dean’s head.  The service was interrupted, the Bishop was the mark of stones, and “the Bishops’ War,” the Civil War, began in this brawl.  James VI., being on the spot, had thoroughly quieted Edinburgh after a more serious riot, on December 17, 1596.  But Charles was far away; the city had not to fear the loss of the Court and its custom, as on the earlier occasion (the removal of the Council to Linlithgow in October 1637 was a trifle), and the Council had to face a storm of petitions from all classes of the community.  Their prayer was that the Liturgy should be withdrawn.  From the country, multitudes of all classes flocked into Edinburgh and formed themselves into a committee of public safety, “The Four Tables,” containing sixteen persons.

The Tables now demanded the removal of the bishops from the Privy Council (December 21, 1637).  The question was: Who were to govern the country, the Council or the Tables?  The logic of the Presbyterians was not always consistent.  The king must not force the Liturgy on them, but later, their quarrel with him was that he would not, at their desire, force the absence of the Liturgy on England.  If the king had the right to inflict Presbyterianism on England, he had the right to thrust the Liturgy on Scotland: of course he had neither one right nor the other.  On February 19, 1638, Charles’s proclamation, refusing the prayers of the supplication of December, was read at Stirling.  Nobles and people replied with protestations to every royal proclamation.  Foremost on the popular side was the young Earl of Montrose: “you will not rest,” said Rothes, a more sober leader, “till you be lifted up above the lave in three fathoms of rope.”  Rothes was a true prophet; but Montrose did not die for the cause that did “his green unknowing youth engage.”

The Presbyterians now desired yearly General Assemblies (of which James VI. had unlawfully robbed the Kirk); the enforcement of an old brief-lived system of restrictions (caveats) on the bishops; the abolition of the Articles of Perth; and, as always, of the Liturgy.  If he granted all this Charles might have had trouble with the preachers, as James VI. had of old.  Yet the demands were constitutional; and in Charles’s position he would have done well to assent.  He was obstinate in refusal.

The Scots now “fell upon the consideration of a band of union to be made legally,” says Rothes, their leader, the chief of the House of Leslie (the family of Norman Leslie, the slayer of Cardinal Beaton).  Now a “band” of this kind could not, by old Scots law, be legally made; such bands, like those for the murder of Riccio and of Darnley, and for many other enterprises, were not smiled upon by the law.  But, in 1581, as we saw, James VI. had signed a covenant against popery; its tenor was imitated in that of 1638, and there was added “a general band for the maintenance of true religion” (Presbyterianism) “and of the King’s person.”  That part of the band was scarcely kept when the Covenanting army surrendered Charles to the English.  They had vowed, in their band, to “stand to the defence of our dread Sovereign the King’s Majesty, his person and authority.”  They kept this vow by hanging men who held the king’s commission.  The words as to defending the king’s authority were followed by “in the defence and preservation of the aforesaid true religion.”  This appears to mean that only a presbyterian king is to be defended.  In any case the preachers assumed the right to interpret the Covenant, which finally led to the conquest of Scotland by Cromwell.  As the Covenant was made between God and the Covenanters, on ancient Hebrew precedent it was declared to be binding on all succeeding generations.  Had Scotland resisted tyranny without this would-be biblical pettifogging Covenant, her condition would have been the more gracious.  The signing of the band began at Edinburgh in Greyfriars’ Churchyard on February 28, 1638.

This Covenant was a most potent instrument for the day, but the fruits thereof were blood and tears and desolation: for fifty-one years common-sense did not come to her own again.  In 1689 the Covenant was silently dropped, when the Kirk was restored.

This two-edged insatiable sword was drawn: great multitudes signed with enthusiasm, and they who would not sign were, of course, persecuted.  As they said, “it looked not like a thing approved of God, which was begun and carried on with fury and madness, and obtruded on people with threatenings, tearing of clothes, and drawing of blood.”  Resistance to the king—if need were, armed resistance—was necessary, was laudable, but the terms of the Covenant were, in the highest degree impolitic and unstatesmanlike.  The country was handed over to the preachers; the Scots, as their great leader Argyll was to discover, were “distracted men in distracted times.”

Charles wavered and sent down the Marquis of Hamilton to represent his waverings.  The Marquis was as unsettled as his predecessor, Arran, in the minority of Queen Mary.  He dared not promulgate the proclamations; he dared not risk civil war; he knew that Charles, who said he was ready, was unprepared in his mutinous English kingdom.  He granted, at last, a General Assembly and a free Parliament, and produced another Covenant, “the King’s Covenant,” which of course failed to thwart that of the country.

The Assembly, at Glasgow (November 21, 1638), including noblemen and gentlemen as elders, was necessarily revolutionary, and needlessly riotous and profane.  It arraigned and condemned the bishops in their absence.  Hamilton, as Royal Commissioner, dissolved the Assembly, which continued to sit.  The meeting was in the Cathedral, where, says a sincere Covenanter, Baillie, whose letters are a valuable source, “our rascals, without shame, in great numbers, made din and clamour.”  All the unconstitutional ecclesiastical legislation of the last forty years was rescinded,—as all the new presbyterian legislation was to be rescinded at the Restoration.  Some bishops were excommunicated, the rest were deposed.  The press was put under the censorship of the fanatical lawyer, Johnston of Waristoun, clerk of the Assembly.

On December 20 the Assembly, which sat on after Hamilton dissolved it, broke up.  Among the Covenanters were to be reckoned the Earl of Argyll (later the only Marquis of his House), and the Earl, later Marquis, of Montrose.  They did not stand long together.  The Scottish Revolution produced no man at once great and successful, but, in Montrose, it had one man of genius who gave his life for honour’s sake; in Argyll, an astute man, not physically courageous, whose “timidity in the field was equalled by his timidity in the Council,” says Mr Gardiner.

In spring (1639) war began.  Charles was to move in force on the Border; the fleet was to watch the coasts; Hamilton, with some 5000 men, was to join hands with Huntly (both men were wavering and incompetent); Antrim, from north Ireland, was to attack and contain Argyll; Ruthven was to hold Edinburgh Castle.  But Alexander Leslie took that castle for the Covenanters; they took Dumbarton; they fortified Leith; Argyll ravaged Huntly’s lands; Montrose and Leslie occupied Aberdeen; and their party, in circumstances supposed to be discreditable to Montrose, carried Huntly to Edinburgh.  (The evidence is confused.  Was Huntly unwilling to go?  Charles (York, April 23, 1639) calls him “feeble and false.”  Mr Gardiner says that, in this case, and in this alone, Montrose stooped to a mean action.)  Hamilton merely dawdled and did nothing: Montrose had entered Aberdeen (June 19), and then came news of negotiations between the king and the Covenanters.

As Charles approached from the south, Alexander Leslie, a Continental veteran (very many of the Covenant’s officers were Dugald Dalgettys from the foreign wars), occupied Dunse Law, with a numerous army in great difficulties as to supplies.  “A natural mind might despair,” wrote Waristoun, who “was brought low before God indeed.”  Leslie was in a strait; but, on the other side, so was Charles, for a reconnaissance of Leslie’s position was repulsed; the king lacked money and supplies; neither side was of a high fighting heart; and offers to negotiate came from the king, informally.  The Scots sent in “a supplication,” and on June 18 signed a treaty which was a mere futile truce.  There were to be a new Assembly, and a new Parliament in August and September.

Charles should have fought: if he fell he would fall with honour; and if he survived defeat “all England behoved to have risen in revenge,” says the Covenanting letter-writer, Baillie, later Principal of Glasgow University.  The Covenanters at this time could not have invaded England, could not have supported themselves if they did, and were far from being harmonious among themselves.  The defeat of Charles at this moment would have aroused English pride and united the country.  Charles set out from Berwick for London on July 29, leaving many fresh causes of quarrel behind him.

Charles supposed that he was merely “giving way for the present” when he accepted the ratification by the new Assembly of all the Acts of that of 1638.  He never had a later chance to recover his ground.  The new Assembly made the Privy Council pass an Act rendering signature of the Covenant compulsory on all men: “the new freedom is worse than the old slavery,” a looker-on remarked.  The Parliament discussed the method of electing the Lords of the Articles—a method which, in fact, though of prime importance, had varied and continued to vary in practice.  Argyll protested that the constitutional course was for each Estate to elect its own members.  Montrose was already suspected of being influenced by Charles.  Charles refused to call Episcopacy unlawful, or to rescind the old Acts establishing it.  Traquair, as Commissioner, dissolved the Parliament; later Charles refused to meet envoys sent from Scotland, who were actually trying, as their party also tried, to gain French mediation or assistance,—help from “idolaters”!

In spring 1640 the Scots, by an instrument called “The Blind Band,” imposed taxation for military purposes; while Charles in England called The Short Parliament to provide Supply.  The Parliament refused and was prorogued; words used by Strafford about the use of the army in Ireland to suppress Scotland were hoarded up against him.  The Scots Parliament, though the king had prorogued it, met in June, despite the opposition of Montrose.  The Parliament, when it ceased to meet, appointed a Standing Committee of some forty members of all ranks, including Montrose and his friends Lord Napier and Stirling of Keir.  Argyll refused to be a member, but acted on a commission of fire and sword “to root out of the country” the northern recusants against the Covenant.  It was now that Argyll burned Lord Ogilvy’s Bonny House of Airlie and Forthes; the cattle were driven into his own country; all this against, and perhaps in consequence of, the intercession of Ogilvy’s friend and neighbour, Montrose.

Meanwhile the Scots were intriguing with discontented English peers, who could only give sympathy; Saville, however, forged a letter from six of them inviting a Scottish invasion.  There was a movement for making Argyll practically Dictator in the North; Montrose thwarted it, and in August, while Charles with a reluctant and disorderly force was marching on York Montrose at Cumbernauld, the house of the Earl of Wigtoun made a secret band with the Earls Marischal, Wigtoun, Home, Atholl, Mar, Perth, Boyd, Galloway, and others, for their mutual defence against the scheme of dictatorship for Argyll.  On August 20 Montrose, the foremost, forded Tweed, and led his regiment into England.  On August 30, almost unopposed, the Scots entered Newcastle, having routed a force which met them at Newburn-on-Tyne.

They again pressed their demands on the king; simultaneously twelve English peers petitioned for a parliament and the trial of the king’s Ministers.  Charles gave way.  At Ripon Scottish and English commissioners met; the Scots received “brotherly assistance” in money and supplies (a daily £850), and stayed where they were; while the Long Parliament met in November, and in April 1641 condemned the great Strafford: Laud soon shared his doom.  On August 10 the demands of the Scots were granted: as a sympathetic historian writes, they had lived for a year at free quarters, “and recrossed the Border with the handsome sum of £200,000 to their credit.”

During the absence of the army the Kirk exhibited symptoms not favourable to its own peace.  Amateur theologians held private religious gatherings, which, it was feared, tended towards the heresy of the English Independents and to the “break up of the whole Kirk,” some of whose representatives forbade these conventicles, while “the rigid sort” asserted that the conventiclers “were esteemed the godly of the land.”  An Act of the General Assembly was passed against the meetings; we observe that here are the beginnings of strife between the most godly and the rather moderately pious.

The secret of Montrose’s Cumbernauld band had come to light after November 1640: nothing worse, at the moment, befell than the burning of the band by the Committee of Estates, to whom Argyll referred the matter.  On May 21, 1641, the Committee was disturbed, for Montrose was collecting evidence as to the words and deeds of Argyll when he used his commission of fire and sword at the Bonny House of Airlie and in other places.  Montrose had spoken of the matter to a preacher, he to another, and the news reached the Committee.  Montrose had learned from a prisoner of Argyll, Stewart the younger of Ladywell, that Argyll had held counsels to discuss the deposition of the king.  Ladywell produced to the Committee his written statement that Argyll had spoken before him of these consultations of lawyers and divines.  He was placed in the castle, and was so worked on that he “cleared” Argyll and confessed that, advised by Montrose, he had reported Argyll’s remarks to the king.  Papers with hints and names in cypher were found in possession of the messenger.

The whole affair is enigmatic; in any case Ladywell was hanged for “leasing-making” (spreading false reports), an offence not previously capital, and Montrose with his friends was imprisoned in the castle.  Doubtless he had meant to accuse Argyll before Parliament of treason.  On July 27, 1641, being arraigned before Parliament, he said, “My resolution is to carry with me fidelity and honour to the grave.”  He lay in prison when the king, vainly hoping for support against the English Parliament, visited Edinburgh (August 14-November 17, 1641).

Charles was now servile to his Scottish Parliament, accepting an Act by which it must consent to his nominations of officers of State.  Hamilton with his brother, Lanark, had courted the alliance and lived in the intimacy of Argyll.  On October 12 Charles told the House “a very strange story.”  On the previous day Hamilton had asked leave to retire from Court, in fear of his enemies.  On the day of the king’s speaking, Hamilton, Argyll, and Lanark had actually retired.  On October 22, from their retreat, the brothers said that they had heard of a conspiracy, by nobles and others in the king’s favour, to cut their throats.  The evidence is very confused and contradictory: Hamilton and Argyll were said to have collected a force of 5000 men in the town, and, on October 5, such a gathering was denounced in a proclamation.  Charles in vain asked for a public inquiry into the affair before the whole House.  He now raised some of his opponents a step in the peerage: Argyll became a marquis, and Montrose was released from prison.  On October 28 Charles announced the untoward news of an Irish rising and massacre.  He was, of course, accused of having caused it, and the massacre was in turn the cause of, or pretext for, the shooting and hanging of Irish prisoners—men and women—in Scotland during the civil war.  On November 18 he left Scotland for ever.

The events in England of the spring in 1642, the attempted arrest of the five members (January 4), the retreat of the queen to France, Charles’s retiral to York, indicated civil war, and the king set up his standard at Nottingham on August 22.  The Covenanters had received from Charles all that they asked; they had no quarrel with him, but they argued that if he were victorious in England he would use his strength and withdraw his concessions to Scotland.

Sir Walter Scott “leaves it to casuists to decide whether one contracting party is justified in breaking a solemn treaty upon the suspicion that in future contingencies it might be infringed by the other.”  He suggests that to the needy nobles and Dugald Dalgettys of the Covenant “the good pay and free quarters” and “handsome sums” of England were an irresistible temptation, while the preachers thought they would be allowed to set up “the golden candlestick” of presbytery in England (‘Legend of Montrose,’ chapter i.)  Of the two the preachers were the more grievously disappointed.

A General Assembly of July-August 1642 was, as usual, concerned with politics, for politics and religion were inextricably intermixed.  The Assembly appointed a Standing Commission to represent it, and the powers of the Commission were of so high a strain that “to some it is terrible already,” says the Covenanting letter-writer Baillie.  A letter from the Kirk was carried to the English Parliament which acquiesced in the abolition of Episcopacy.  In November 1642 the English Parliament, unsuccessful in war, appealed to Scotland for armed aid; in December Charles took the same course.

The Commission of the General Assembly, and the body of administrators called Conservators of the Peace, overpowered the Privy Council, put down a petition of Montrose’s party (who declared that they were bound by the Covenant to defend the king), and would obviously arm on the side of the English Parliament if England would adopt Presbyterian government.  They held a Convention of the Estates (June 22, 1643); they discovered a Popish plot for an attack on Argyll’s country by the Macdonalds in Ireland, once driven from Kintyre by the Campbells, and now to be led by young Colkitto.  While thus excited, they received in the General Assembly (August 7) a deputation from the English Parliament; and now was framed a new band between the English Parliament and Scotland.  It was an alliance, “The Solemn League and Covenant,” by which Episcopacy was to be abolished and religion established “according to the Word of God.”  To the Covenanters this phrase meant that England would establish Presbyterianism, but they were disappointed.  The ideas of the Independents, such as Cromwell, were almost as much opposed to presbytery as to episcopacy, and though the Covenanters took the pay and fought the battles of the Parliament against their king, they never received what they had meant to stipulate for,—the establishment of presbytery in England.  Far from that, Cromwell, like James VI., was to deprive them of their ecclesiastical palladium, the General Assembly.

Foreseeing nothing, the Scots were delighted when the English accepted the new band.  Their army, under Alexander Leslie (Earl of Leven), now too old for his post, crossed Tweed in January 1644.  They might never have crossed had Charles, in the autumn of 1643, listened to Montrose and allowed him to attack the Covenanters in Scotland.  In December 1643, Hamilton and Lanark, who had opposed Montrose’s views and confirmed the king in his waverings, came to him at Oxford.  Montrose refused to serve with them, rather he would go abroad; and Hamilton was imprisoned on charges of treason: in fact, he had been double-minded, inconstant, and incompetent.  Montrose’s scheme implied clan warfare, the use of exiled Macdonalds, who were Catholics, against the Campbells.  The obvious objections were very strong; but “needs must when the devil drives”: the Hanoverian kings employed foreign soldiers against their subjects in 1715 and 1745; but the Macdonalds were subjects of King Charles.

Hamilton’s brother, Lanark, escaped, and now frankly joined the Covenanters.  Montrose was promoted to a Marquisate, and received the Royal Commission as Lieutenant-General (February 1644), which alienated old Huntly, chief of the Gordons, who now and again divided and paralysed that gallant clan.  Montrose rode north, where, in February 1644, old Leslie, with twenty regiments of foot, three thousand horse, and many guns, was besieging Newcastle.  With him was the prototype of Scott’s Dugald Dalgetty, Sir James Turner, who records examples of Leslie’s senile incompetency.  Leslie, at least, forced the Marquis of Newcastle to a retreat, and a movement of Montrose on Dumfries was paralysed by the cowardice or imbecility of the Scottish magnates on the western Border.  He returned, took Morpeth, was summoned by Prince Rupert, and reached him the day after the disaster of Marston Moor (July 2, 1644), from which Buccleuch’s Covenanting regiment ran without stroke of sword, while Alexander Leslie also fled, carrying news of his own defeat.  It appears that the Scottish horse, under David Leslie, were at Marston Moor, as always, the pick of their army.

Rupert took over Montrose’s men, and the great Marquis, disguised as a groom, rode hard to the house of a kinsman, near Tay, between Perth and Dunkeld.  Alone and comfortless, in a little wood, Montrose met a man who was carrying the Fiery Cross, and summoning the country to resist the Irish Scots of Alastair Macdonald (Colkitto), who had landed with a force of 1500 musketeers in Argyll, and was believed to be descending on Atholl, pursued by Seaforth and Argyll, and faced by the men of Badenoch.  The two armies {181} were confronting each other when Montrose, in plaid and kilt, approached Colkitto and showed him his commission.  Instantly the two opposed forces combined into one, and with 2500 men, some armed with bows and arrows, and others having only one charge for each musket, Montrose began his year of victories.

The temptation to describe in detail his extraordinary series of successes and of unexampled marches over snow-clad and pathless mountains must be resisted.  The mobility and daring of Montrose’s irregular and capricious levies, with his own versatile military genius and the heroic valour of Colkitto, enabled him to defeat a large Covenanting force at Tippermuir, near Perth: here he had but his 2500 men (September 1); to repeat his victory at Aberdeen {182} (September 13), to evade and discourage Argyll, who retired to Inveraray; to winter in and ravage Argyll’s country, and to turn on his tracks from a northern retreat and destroy the Campbells at Inverlochy, where Argyll looked on from his galley (February 2, 1645).

General Baillie, a trained soldier, took the command of the Covenanting levies and regular troops (“Red coats”), and nearly surprised Montrose in Dundee.  By a retreat showing even more genius than his victories, he escaped, appeared on the north-east coast, and scattered a Covenanting force under Hurry, at Auldearn, near Inverness (May 9, 1645).

Such victories as Montrose’s were more than counterbalanced by Cromwell’s defeat of Rupert and Charles at Naseby (June 14, 1645); while presbytery suffered a blow from Cromwell’s demand, that the English Parliament should grant “freedom of conscience,” not for Anglican or Catholic, of course, but for religions non-Presbyterian.  The “bloody sectaries,” as the Presbyterians called Cromwell’s Independents, were now masters of the field: never would the blue banner of the Covenant be set up south of Tweed.

Meanwhile General Baillie marched against Montrose, who outmanœuvred him all over the eastern Highlands, and finally gave him battle at Alford on the Don.  Montrose had not here Colkitto and the western clans, but his Gordon horse, his Irish, the Farquharsons, and the Badenoch men were triumphantly successful.  Unfortunately, Lord Gordon was slain: he alone could bring out and lead the clan of Huntly.  Only by joining hands with Charles could Montrose do anything decisive.  The king, hoping for no more than a death in the field “with honour and a good conscience,” pushed as far north as Doncaster, where he was between Poyntz’s army and a great cavalry force, led by David Leslie, from Hereford, to launch against Montrose.  The hero snatched a final victory.  He had but a hundred horse, but he had Colkitto and the flower of the fighting clans, including the invincible Macleans.  Baillie, in command of new levies of some 10,000 men, was thwarted by a committee of Argyll and other noble amateurs.  He met the enemy south of Forth, at Kilsyth, between Stirling and Glasgow.  The fiery Argyll made Baillie desert an admirable position—Montrose was on the plain, Baillie was on the heights—and expose his flank by a march across Montrose’s front.  The Macleans and Macdonalds, on the lower slope of the hill, without orders, saw their chance, and racing up a difficult glen, plunged into the Covenanting flank.  Meanwhile the more advanced part of the Covenanting force were driving back some Gordons from a hill on Montrose’s left, who were rescued by a desperate charge of Aboyne’s handful of horse among the red coats; Airlie charged with the Ogilvies; the advanced force of the Covenant was routed, and the Macleans and Macdonalds completed the work they had begun (August 15).  Few of the unmounted Covenanters escaped from Kilsyth; and Argyll, taking boat in the Forth, hurried to Newcastle, where David Leslie, coming north, obtained infantry regiments to back his 4000 cavalry.

In a year Montrose, with forces so irregular and so apt to go home after every battle, had actually cleared militant Covenanters out of Scotland.  But the end had come.  He would not permit the sack of Glasgow.  Three thousand clansmen left him; Colkitto went away to harry Kintyre.  Aboyne and the Gordons rode home on some private pique; and Montrose relied on men whom he had already proved to be broken reeds, the Homes and Kers (Roxburgh) of the Border, and the futile and timid Traquair.  When he came among them they forsook him and fled; on September 10, at Kelso, Sir Robert Spottiswoode recognised the desertion and the danger.

Meanwhile Leslie, with an overpowering force of seasoned soldiers, horse and foot, marched with Argyll, not to Edinburgh, but down Gala to Tweed; while Montrose had withdrawn from Kelso, up Ettrick to Philiphaugh, on the left of Ettrick, within a mile of Selkirk.  He had but 500 Irish, who entrenched themselves, and an uncertain number of mounted Border lairds with their servants and tenants.  Charteris of Hempsfield, who had been scouting, reported that Leslie was but two or three miles distant, at Sunderland Hall, where Tweed and Ettrick meet; but the news was not carried to Montrose, who lay at Selkirk.  At breakfast, on September 13, Montrose learned that Leslie was attacking.  What followed is uncertain in its details.  A so-called “contemporary ballad” is incredibly impossible in its anachronisms, and is modern.  In this egregious doggerel we are told that a veteran who had fought at Solway Moss a century earlier, and at “cursed Dunbar” a few years later (or under Edward I.?), advised Leslie to make a turning movement behind Linglie Hill.  This is not evidence.  Though Leslie may have made such a movement, he describes his victory as very easy: and so it should have been, as Montrose had only the remnant of his Antrim men and a rabble of reluctant Border recruits.

A news letter from Haddington, of September 16, represents the Cavaliers as making a good fight.  The mounted Border lairds galloped away.  Most of the Irish fell fighting: the rest were massacred, whether after promise of quarter or not is disputed.  Their captured women were hanged in cold blood some months later.  Montrose, the Napiers, and some forty horse either cut their way through or evaded Leslie’s overpowering cavalry, and galloped across the hills of Yarrow to the Tweed.  He had lost only the remnant of his Scoto-Irish; but the Gordons, when Montrose was presently menacing Glasgow, were held back by Huntly, and Colkitto pursued his private adventures.  Montrose had been deserted by the clans, and lured to ruin by the perfidious promises of the Border lords and lairds.  The aim of his strategy had been to relieve the Royalists of England by a diversion that would deprive the Parliamentarians of their paid Scottish allies, and what man might do Montrose had done.

After his first victory Montrose, an excommunicated man, fought under an offer of £1500 for his murder, and the Covenanters welcomed the assassin of his friend, Lord Kilpont.

The result of Montrose’s victories was hostility between the Covenanting army in England and the English, who regarded them as expensive and inefficient.  Indeed, they seldom, save for the command of David Leslie, displayed military qualities, and later, were invariably defeated when they encountered the English under Cromwell and Lambert.

Montrose never slew a prisoner, but the Convention at St Andrews, in November 1645, sentenced to death their Cavalier prisoners (Lord Ogilvy escaped disguised in his sister’s dress), and they ordered the hanging of captives and of the women who had accompanied the Irish.  “It was certain of the clergy who pressed for the extremest measures.” {186a}   They had revived the barbarous belief, retained in the law of ancient Greece, that the land had been polluted by, and must be cleansed by, blood, under penalty of divine wrath.  As even the Covenanting Baillie wrote, “to this day no man in England has been executed for bearing arms against the Parliament.”  The preachers argued that to keep the promises of quarter which had been given to the prisoners was “to violate the oath of the Covenant.” {186b}

The prime object of the English opponents of the king was now “to hustle the Scots out of England.” {187}  Meanwhile Charles, not captured but hopeless, was negotiating with all the parties, and ready to yield on every point except that of forcing presbytery on England—a matter which, said Montereuil, the French ambassador, “did not concern them but their neighbours.”  Charles finally trusted the Scots with his person, and the question is, had he or had he not assurance that he would be well received?  If he had any assurance it was merely verbal, “a shadow of a security,” wrote Montereuil.  Charles was valuable to the Scots only as a pledge for the payment of their arrears of wages.  There was much chicanery and shuffling on both sides, and probably there were misconceptions on both sides.  A letter of Montereuil (April 26, 1646) convinced Charles that he might trust the Scots; they verbally promised “safety, honour, and conscience,” but refused to sign a copy of their words.  Charles trusted them, rode out of Oxford, joined them at Southwell, and, says Sir James Turner, who was present, was commanded by Lothian to sign the Covenant, and “barbarously used.”  They took Charles to Newcastle, denying their assurance to him.  “With unblushing falsehood,” says Mr Gardiner, they in other respects lied to the English Parliament.  On May 19 Charles bade Montrose leave the country, which he succeeded in doing, despite the treacherous endeavours of his enemies to detain him till his day of safety (August 31) was passed.

The Scots of the army were in a quandary.  The preachers, their masters, would not permit them to bring to Scotland an uncovenanted king.  They could not stay penniless in England.  For £200,000 down and a promise, never kept, of a similar sum later, they left Charles in English hands, with some assurances for his safety, and early in February 1647 crossed Tweed with their thirty-six cartloads of money.  The act was hateful to very many Scots, but the Estates, under the command of the preachers, had refused to let the king, while uncovenanted, cross into his native kingdom, and to bring him meant war with England.  But that must ensue in any case.  The hope of making England presbyterian, as under the Solemn League and Covenant, had already perished.

Leslie, with the part of the army still kept up, chased Colkitto, and, at Dunavertie, under the influence of Nevoy, a preacher, put 300 Irish prisoners to the sword.

The parties in Scotland were now: (1) the Kirk, Argyll, the two Leslies, and most of the Commons; (2) Hamilton, Lanark, and Lauderdale, who had no longer anything to fear, as regards their estates, from Charles or from bishops, and who were ashamed of his surrender to the English; (3) Royalists in general.  With Charles (December 27, 1647) in his prison at Carisbrooke, Lauderdale, Loudoun, and Lanark made a secret treaty, The Engagement, which they buried in the garden, for if it were discovered the Independents of the army would have attacked Scotland.

An Assembly of the Scots Estates on March 3, 1648, had a large majority of nobles, gentry, and many burgesses in favour of aiding the captive king; on the other side Argyll was backed by the omnipotent Commission of the General Assembly, and by the full force of prayers and sermons.  The letter-writer, Baillie, now deemed “that it were for the good of the world that churchmen did meddle with ecclesiastical affairs only.”  The Engagers insisted on establishing presbytery in England, which neither satisfied the Kirk nor the Cavaliers and Independents.  Nothing more futile could have been devised.

The Estates, in May, began to raise an army; the preachers denounced them: there was a battle between armed communicants of the preachers’ party and the soldiers of the State at Mauchline.  Invading England on July 8, Hamilton had Lambert and Cromwell to face him, and left Argyll, the preachers, and their “slashing communicants” in his rear.  Lanark had vainly urged that the west country fanatics should be crushed before the Border was crossed.  By a march worthy of Montrose across the fells into Lanarkshire, Cromwell reached Preston; cut in between the northern parts of Hamilton’s army; defeated the English Royalists and Langdale, and cut to pieces or captured the Scots, disunited as their generals were, at Wigan and Warrington (August 17-19).  Hamilton was taken and was decapitated later.  The force that recrossed the Border consisted of such mounted men as escaped, with the detachment of Monro which had not joined Hamilton.

The godly in Scotland rejoiced at the defeat of their army: the levies of the western shires of Ayr, Renfrew, and Lanark occupied Edinburgh: Argyll and the Kirk party were masters, and when Cromwell arrived in Edinburgh early in October he was entertained at dinner by Argyll.  The left wing of the Covenant was now allied with the Independents—the deadly foes of presbytery!  To the ordinary mind this looks like a new breach of the Covenant, that impossible treaty with Omnipotence.  Charles had written that the divisions of parties were probably “God’s way to punish them for their many rebellions and perfidies.”  The punishment was now beginning in earnest, and the alliance of extreme Covenanters with “bloody sectaries” could not be maintained.  Yet historians admire the statesmanship of Argyll!

If the edge which the sword of the Covenant turned against the English enemies of presbytery were blunted, the edge that smote Covenanters less extreme than Argyll and the preachers was whetted afresh.  In the Estates of January 5, 1649, Argyll, whose party had a large majority, and the fanatical Johnston of Waristoun (who made private covenants with Jehovah) demanded disenabling Acts against all who had in any degree been tainted by the Engagement for the rescue of the king.  The Engagers were divided into four “Classes,” who were rendered incapable by “The Act of Classes” of holding any office, civil or military.  This Act deprived the country of the services of thousands of men, just at the moment when the English army, the Independents, Argyll’s allies, were holding the Trial of Charles I.; and, in defiance of timid remonstrances from the Scottish Commissioners in England, cut off “that comely head” (January 30, 1649), which meant war with Scotland.

Print Email