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19 September 2014
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The Covenant and the Cromwellian Conquest (II)

Oliver Cromwell

The Engagement and the Rule of the Saints (1647-1650)
In 1647 most of the Scots nobilty split ranks with the Kirk and agreed to fight for Charles I against the English Parliament in an agreement known as the Engagement. Scottish society was torn over the issue. The Kirk openly preached against anyone joining the Engagers' army, whilst the nobles made ready for war. A depleted Scots army invaded England in 1648 only to be defeated by Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army.

The defeat of the Nobles elevated the radical Presbyterians of the Kirk to power, and, in what became known as the Rule of the Saints, they set about creating their vision of a godly society. Tight social discipline was imposed, adultery was to be punishable by death, nobles were humiliated before Kirk sessions for their moral lapses, and those who had supported the Engagement were excluded from office, parliament and the army.

This triumph, however, was completely over-shadowed by a cataclysmic event - the execution of Charles I by Cromwell in 1649. The Scottish Parliament was forced to act - Charles, despite all his faults, had been a Scottish Stewart King. They appointed his son, Charles II, as King of Scotland, England and Ireland on condition he accepted the Covenant, which Charles II had no option but to agree to. At last the Scots Kirk had got what it wanted - a covenanted king.

Scotland Conquered (1651-1650)
From Cromwell’s point of view his English republic was in danger. He begged the Scots to reconsider - they wouldn't and he invaded. The Scots fought well initially, cornering Cromwell at Dunbar, but, urged on by their ministers (the political commissars of their day), they descended from their commanding position and were massacred. Within a year Scotland was conquered, its parliament was abolished and the Scots were forced into an incorporating union with England. Scotland became an occupied country with Cromwellian citadels imposed on Ayr, Leith, Perth, Inverness and Inverlochy. It was the first time in history that the nation of Scotland had been conquered.

The situation wasn't to last. The Parliamentary Union of 1652 and the birth of Commonwealth of Scotland, England and Ireland brought an uneasy peace which people accepted for purely practical reasons. However, when Cromwell died and the republic fell apart, few in Scotland opposed the Restoration of Charles II.


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