Atlas of the English Civil War

By P. R. Newman | Go to book overview

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Scotland in 1639-1640 and the Bishops' Wars

The root cause of the armed confrontations between Charles I and part of his Scottish subjects lay in his policy of anglicisation and their fears that the union of the two crowns was leading them into subjugation. As early as 1637 there were hopes of a closer, parliamentary union, to offset the personal union represented by Charles, but internal divisions and contradictions led Scotland first to ally with Parliament in 1643, then to revert to loyalty to the Crown and, as a consequence, to end up as a military occupied country from 1651 until 1660. Nevertheless, Scottish resistance to the King encouraged that of Englishmen in 1642, as did the inability of the King effectively to counter Scottish insurgence. By February 1639 'hostilities' had begun in Scotland: at Inverness royalist arms supplies raised for the marquis of Huntly were seized, and shortly afterwards covenanting troops drove royalist forces off from Turriff. Aberdeen was surrendered to Montrose, a covenanting general, and only Threave and Caerlaverock Castles on the border remained in loyal hands. Charles intended to raise 30,000 men to take into Scotland, but recruiting was slow, and he was advised to wait a year. Despite the advice, Charles was determined to invade Scotland, and to send the marquis of Hamilton by sea to the Firth of Forth. Charles was at York on 30 March, whilst Hamilton lay at Yarmouth with 5,000 men ready to sail. He anchored before Leith on 1 May but the covenanters were obdurate, and the King hesitated in his plans. On 14 May he reached Newcastle, whilst Scottish royalists occupied Turriff and Aberdeen (the latter briefly). On the 30th Charles lay at Birks near Berwick with 20,000 men, with forward troops across the border at Duns. This manoeuvre caused the Covenanters to advance on Kelso, which they held on 3 June against a counterattack. Two days later the Scottish army came to Duns and offered to negotiate with Charles, who agreed, but away north Aberdeen was again occupied by royalist troops and had to be stormed by Montrose on 18 and 19 June. On the 18th, the two sides reached agreement at Berwick, termed a treaty but to all intents and purposes merely a truce. When the Short Parliament met on 13 April 1640 plans for the reduction of Scotland were laid before it. The Commons proved unwilling to be coerced into sanctioning further military efforts, and Parliament was dissolved on 5 May. Urged on by Strafford, Charles was bent upon the suppression of Scotland, raising a new army under the earl of Northumberland. Within Scotland, only Threave, Caerlaverock, Edinburgh and Dumbarton were in royalist hands, and on the day that the Short Parliament was dissolved covenanting troops entered Aberdeen, centre of royalist resistance. With the Scottish Parliament sitting against royal wishes, and forces being raised, Covenanters overran Atholl, Badenoch and Lochaber in June, causing Montrose, suspicious of the Covenanters' objectives, to side with the threatened royalist Lord Ogilvie.

Meanwhile the main Scottish army began to assemble on the border with England, and the invasion of England was decided upon on 3 August. This finally drove Montrose and other former Covenanters into open rift with their party, but too late to alter the course of events. On 20 August, as the King left London for the north, the Scottish army rolled across the border into Northumberland and came to Newburn on the Tyne on 27 August. Resistance from the English troops was patchy and ineffectual, and on 30 August Newcastle upon Tyne was occupied without difficulty by the Scottish army. In their rear, Dumbarton had fallen, Caerlaverock was undergoing vigorous siege, and in September Lord Ettrick was to surrender Edinburgh into covenanting hands. Helpless, Charles summoned a Great Council to York for 24 September, Parliament was summoned to meet on 3 November, and on 2 October negotiations began at Ripon with the Scots which were to lead to the Treaty of Ripon. By this, the Scots occupied Northumberland and Durham with a daily subsidy of £850 to support them until problems were finally hammered out with the sitting of Parliament in London.

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