Cromwell at Dunbar 1886 by Andrew Carrick Gow 1848-1920
The signs of conflict had been there for all to see in the final years of the reign of James VI but he had wise enough to back down and so avoid conflict with his opponents in Scotland. His successor ,Charles I had no such restraint and his reign from 1625 onwards was a countdown to the catastrophe of the years following 1640 with its prolonged bouts of conflict and devastation. Not intended for the throne, Charles I was propelled there by the death of his elder brother, despite being ill prepared and unsuitable for the role. Scotland was heavily involved in these conflicts suffering in consequence hugh losses in terms of population and resources. The first outbreak of fighting was provoked by Charles I’s insistence that the Scottish Presbyterian Church adopt bishop’s and the English Book of Common Prayer in a resistance that coalized round the signing of a document known as the National Covenant. From this Charles’s opponents were given the name Covenanters and in what became known as the First and Second Bishop’s Wars from 1638 – 1641 they crushed the Royalist forces winning effective control of Scotland from Charles I. This ended the first phase of Scottish participation in the wars which continued with Charles I’s war from 1642 with the English Parliament in what became known as the English Civil War (1642 – 1646). At first keeping out of this conflict by late 1643 the Scottish Parliament and the Covenanting movement had been made significant offers by an increasingly desperate English Parliament to intervene against Charles I. The result was an agreement between the two Parliaments known as the Solemn League and Covenant. This produced the second phase of the conflict when a Scottish Army of 20000 entered the North of England in January 1644 and after joining with the English Parliamentary forces decisively defeated a Royalist Army at the Battle of Marston Moor in June 1644. This second phase ended with Charles I’s surrender in May 1646 and the withdrawal of the Covenanting forces back to Scotland. The Third and last phase involved the Covenanters switching support to the Royalist camp which resulted in the defeat of the Royalist forces at Preston in 1648 and the full-scale invasion and conquest of Scotland by the New Modal Army under Oliver Cromwell in 1650 – 51.
The ferocious conflicts of the Covenanting period settled nothing and on Charles II’s restoration in 1660 they continued unabated though on a reduced scale and intensity. The newly restored Royalist regime immediately began to wage a campaign against the surviving elements of the Covenanting movement who fought back in kind by all means including full-scale risings in 1666, 1679, and as part of the general civil war in Scotland from 1689 – 90. From the hindsight of three hundred years it is clear that this period was an interval between the upheavals of the 1640’s and that of the Glorious Revolution with the consequent final defeat and expulsion of the Stuart dynasty.