Cromwellian Scotland

The national loss of memory with regard to Cromwell's involvement in Scotland during the 17th Century, applies not just to a single dramatic event but to a period of several years: Years during which an army led by Oliver Cromwell and representing the will of the English parliament, exercised an authority throughout Scotland which no English-based regime had ever achieved before.
Memory & History 

On the 1st of September 1651 Oliver Cromwell's forces were bombarding the walls of Dundee with heavy cannons. The walls were breached and the troops entered. Over 500 people were killed in the ensuing mayhem. The fatalities included troops who were garrisoning the town but also included innocent civilian inhabitants. The commander of Cromwell's forces in Scotland was General Monk. He had officially permitted 24 hours for the victors to indulge in pillaging. In the event, the violence and theft lasted for a further fortnight! Two years earlier, Cromwell's troops had entered the Irish town of Drogheda after a short but strenuously resisted siege. The fall of the town was accompanied by slaughter. Over three hundred years later, Drogheda holds a prominent position in the memory of the Irish people. Exactly what happened that day is still the subject of heated controversy. In contrast, the tragic events at Dundee during the same period seem to have been wiped from the collective memory of Scotland. And, even in the vicinity of Dundee, these events hold no place in local folklore. 

The national loss of memory with regard to Cromwell's involvement in Scotland during the 17th Century, applies not just to a single dramatic event but to a period of several years, during which an army led by Oliver Cromwell and representing the will of the English parliament, exercised an authority throughout Scotland which no English based regime had ever achieved before. Cromwell had risen to a position of power and influence during a conflict which is generally described as the 'English Civil War'. In fact the hostilities, which began in England, developed into a war which involved the three kingdoms - England, Ireland and Scotland. During this period of strife, English armies invaded Ireland and Scotland. Irish troops landed in Scotland, and Scottish forces launched invasions of both Ireland and England. At the same time, the settled inhabitants of all three countries engaged in conflict with each other. The complex military manoeuvrings during this period took place against an equally complex background of political and religious struggle. 

The roots of this conflict lie at the beginning of the 17th Century, when the ancient Scottish dynasty of the Stuarts inherited the throne of England. James VI of Scotland became James I of England. In 1603 his court transferred to London and he found himself king of England, Ireland and Scotland. The question with which he found himself faced, was how these three very different countries could be welded together into a stable political and economic unity. James was deemed to be a suitable candidate for the English throne because, in religion, he was a Protestant. But, the form of Protestantism which he assumed as an English monarch was critically different from the religious ideology of the Scottish noblemen who had exercised control over his upbringing back in Scotland. The English Reformation placed the monarch at the head of the church, giving him authority over all matters of worship. James and his Stuart successors would attempt, where they considered it possible, to pull together the many disparate parts of their realm by establishing uniformity in religious practice. In doing so, they sought to impose the Episcopalian Anglican model instituted by Henry VIII when he first broke away from the Roman Church. The monarch was at the head as God's appointed, with ultimate authority over church affairs and beneath him archbishops and bishops. 

King & Covenant 

Charles 1st followed his father James on the throne and like his father, as far as his Scottish subjects were concerned, was an absentee monarch. When he did intervene in his Scottish kingdom it had catastrophic results. In 1637 a new book of common prayer was introduced in a service in St Giles church in Edinburgh. The book was intended to standardise the manner of worship along Anglican lines. The independence of the Scottish Church was being threatened. A nation wide religious revolt ensued. A document was framed which asserted the right of the nation to religious self-determination. This was termed the 'National Covenant'. It was signed by representatives of a wide section of the populace. The king threatened to impose his will by coercive military action but was unable to move against a nation which was by now organised to resist the King's authority with force. In Scotland, the tension between the monarch and church culminated in open confrontation. In England, tension between parliament and monarch, flared into violent conflict. The English Civil War began in 1642. Initially Scotland stood on the sidelines, but in 1644, a Scottish army entered England and joined forces with Parliamentary troops. King Charles and his royalist forces were defeated by this combined force at the Battle of Marston Moor. 

By 1648 the king was in the custody of Parliamentarian forces. The position of the Covenanting Scots (i.e. those who adhered to the terms of the National Covenant) was not hostile to the institution of kingship, but sought a three way relationship between nation and king under God. Accordingly, the king was not seen as an intermediary between God and people. His authority was conditional upon his guaranteeing religious freedom. With the king now in a position of weakness, moderates among the Scots secretly negotiated with Charles for his acceptance of the terms of the National Covenant in return for Scottish support. A partial agreement was reached and a Scottish force entered England with the intention of freeing the king. This force got as far as Preston, where it met with heavy defeat. This defeat brought about the collapse of moderate Covenanting opinion in Scotland. John Nevay was minister of Newmilns and Chaplain to John Campbell, the 1st Earl of Loudoun. In an action known as the 'Whiggamore raid' he led a large band of radical Covenanters from Galloway, Ayrshire and Clydesdale in a march on Edinburgh. The most radical wing of the Covenanting movement now held power in the capital. 

Oliver Cromwell & Scotland 

In 1649 King Charles I was condemned to death and executed by order of the English parliament. In the past, English and Scottish kings had been removed from the position of power by violence but the process, however brutal involved the replacement of one monarch by another. The English parliament was now replacing a monarchy with a republic - a state without a king. This radically new state came to be called the 'Commonwealth'. In response to the death of Charles 1, the Scottish parliament declared Charles's son, King Charles II. On the 23rd of June 1650, while aboard a ship anchored off the north-east coast of Scotland, the new king signed the Covenant. In doing so he accepted limitations on his power where religious matters were concerned which his Scottish subjects desired. 

The Scottish parliament's action was seen by the English Parliamentarians as equivalent to a declaration of war. On June 22nd, Oliver Cromwell's army crossed the border into southern Scotland. The Scottish army which confronted the advancing English at Dunbar had been weakened by the removal of many good soldiers on grounds of religious inclination. Religious opinion rather than military skill was the primary qualification for inclusion in this 'purified' army. In the battle which took place, the Scottish army collapsed. In December 1650, Edinburgh surrendered to Cromwell's army. Cromwell's health lapsed and the momentum of the English advance was broken. This was a momentary pause. The advance recommenced with the Parliamentarian force crossing the Forth and attacking Inverkeithing in July 1651. Perth was reached in August and Stirling surrendered on the 14th of August. Before Cromwell reached Stirling, King Charles II with his army responded by launching a lightening counter invasion of England. This force reached as far south as Worcester, but here met with defeat. Charles escaped to the continent. In September, Dundee was taken by storm. The royalist supporters of the king in the north-east of Scotland were now surrendering. In February of 1652, at Edinburgh's Mercat Cross with trumpets blaring, the incorporation of Scotland into the Commonwealth, was announced. In 1653, Oliver Cromwell was appointed Lord Protector of the Commonwealth. 

Cromwell consolidated his grip on Scotland. A system of fortifications was eventually established, encompassing the entire country, including the Highlands and Islands. From Roman times, armies invading Scotland took steps to ensure the re-supply of their armies from the sea as they moved north. To this end, Cromwell had three citadels built, at Perth, Leith and Ayr. The citadel at Ayr was completed in 1654 and was manned by over one thousand troops. The army as a whole maintained forces of over ten thousand strong throughout the occupation. Sporadic unrest continued to occur during the period of Cromwellian occupation, particularly in the Highlands. In 1653, resistance escalated during what is known as the 'Glencairn Uprising'. Charles II had set up a court in exile in Holland. As tensions between England and Holland boiled over into open war, Charles saw an opportunity to give encouragement to those who may be inclined to engage in open action against the English occupation. William Cunningham, the 9th Earl of Glencairn was despatched by the king in order to take over the leadership of a developing revolt. As with the later military activities of the Jacobites, the heartland of the uprising was in the Highlands. But, Glencairn belonged to an old Lowland, Ayrshire family. Other Ayrshire noblemen felt sufficiently aggrieved by the Cromwellian occupation to identify themselves with the mounting resistance. The cause also attracted members of the old nobility of Galloway. One of these, the 4th Viscount Kenmure was among the leaders of the uprising. Raids were made from the security of the far north-west. One of these penetrated Dumfries and Galloway, reaching as far as Carlisle. Local uprisings took place across Scotland in an unpredictable manner which the occupying forces found difficult to contain. Colonel Robert Lilburne, acting commander in chief of Cromwell's forces in Scotland at the time, complained to the English parliament about lack of resources. Many Scots, including those in the Highlands found it difficult to commit themselves wholeheartedly to a struggle whose outcome was so uncertain. The hopes of the Royalists hinged on the direct support of Holland with a commitment of troops and supplies. This external intervention did not come about. Although there was widespread discontent with the regard to the English occupation, attempts by Royalist forces to secure revenue and commandeer resources from the populace, alienated an increasing section of Lowland Scotland. The irksome burden of high taxation under the Cromwellian administration was offset by the stability and law and order maintained by a large occupying force. In April 1654, General Monk returned to command in Scotland after the distraction of the war with Holland. Extra resources were directed north. By the middle of 1655, the uprising had petered out. Sympathisers and supporters of the uprising were penalised in a variety of ways. In Galloway, Viscount Kenmore lost his ancestral estates while the Earl of Galloway was subject to a fine. McDowell of French was imprisoned in England. 

The Cromwellian administration consolidated itself. Civic 'normallity' was gradually reinstated with local government at Burgh level re-established and local dispensation of law reintroduced with appointment of Justices of the Peace. The Scottish nobility had proved themselves, in the eyes of the occupying administration, to be dangerous opponents of the republican Commonwealth. The traditional rights and privileges of this class were eroded by legislation. Oliver Cromwell died in 1658. His regime was maintained with his son in command but this government crumbled in the following year. In 1659, General Monk, the arch-opponent of the Royalist cause in Scotland, marched south to London in order to recommend the return of Charles II to the throne of the three kingdoms. On the 14th of May 1660, eight years after the absorption of Scotland into the republican Commonwealth had been formally announced, Charles II was proclaimed King at Edinburgh's Mercat Cross with bells ringing, trumpets playing and cannons firing. 
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