Cromwellian Scotland, 1651-1660

Cromwellian Scotland, 1651-1660

Cromwellian Scotland, 1651-1660

Cromwellian Scotland, 1651-1660

Synopsis

The mid 17th century was one of the most dramatic and turbulent times in British history. It was an age when Scotland shaped and changed the face of Britain. From 1637 to 1660 the two countries were extremely close and their relationship underwent profound changes. Scotland went from being the ally of the English parliament in the early 1640s, to becoming a conquered province of England in 1651. Although later admitting to a full parliamentary union with England, Scotland remained under military occupation until 1660. The conquest of Scotland by the English army was the culmination of a long period of hostility between the two countries whose roots lie entangled in the years of political and military alliance of the early 1640s. The road to open war was marked not only by a breakdown in Anglo-Scottish relations, but also by a radical realignment of political power within each country. When the final breach came, it was as much a product of domestic relations as it was of international relations.

Excerpt

The capture of the Committee of Estates at Alyth and the defeat of Charles’s army at Worcester deprived Scotland, within the space of one week, of her central executive and of the main body of her fighting troops. In effect, she had lost both her government and her army, yet for some months she continued to put up military and political resistance to the English invader. Royalist levies remained active in the north under the Earl of Balcarres, the Marquis of Huntly and several of the lesser nobility and gentry; and a few fortified strongholds, namely the Bass Rock, Dumbarton, Dunnottar and Brodick Castles, held out against the English army. Stalwarts of the old kirk party régime attempted to assume the mantle of political authority. The Earl of Loudoun, backed by Argyle, tried to unite the scattered fragments of the nation’s political leadership by summoning first the Committee of Estates and then Parliament to meet in remote parts of the west and the Highlands. But the military and political arms of the Scottish resistance, never strong in themselves, failed to unite, and the superior might of the English army soon prevailed against its weaker opponents. By December 1651, although large areas of the Highlands remained unconquered, and three major fortresses still held out, the English were in control of the far north, the north-east, and the whole of Scotland south of the Tay.

The English army’s first priority, after Alured’s coup at Alyth, was to extend its control up the east coast of Scotland. On 30 August, after repeated summonses, St. Andrews was forced to surrender and its inhabitants fined £500 stg. for their former obstinacy. Two days later Dundee was taken by storm. The English had brought up guns and mortar pieces from Perth and on the night of 30 August these began playing against the town; but bad weather and the need to wait for reinforcements caused Monck to postpone an all-out assault on Dundee. Early in the morning of 1 September, however, the bombardment was resumed. For some hours the garrison retaliated, but around 11 o’clock the English entered the town through breaches in the fortifications on the east and west sides. The Scots sought refuge in the church, but were overtaken by the English, who killed at least 500 soldiers and townsmen, took another 500 prisoner, and seized many ships in the harbour. After the fall of Dundee the English soldiers were given leave to plunder the town for twenty-four hours, but despite Monck’s attempts to stop further . . .

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