Saturday, August 19

The Earl of Argyll

The Marquess Archibald Campbell, Earl of Argyll (1598-1661) defied Oliver Cromwell’s English Protectorate and invited the exiled Charles II to return to Scotland to receive his crown on this day in 1650. A Scots Presbyterian, Argyll was the leader of the Covenanters, and at the onset of the first phase of the English Revolution, he had forced King Charles I to submit to the demands of the Scottish Parliament--so his role in reestablishing the monarchy was seen as more than a little ironic.

The Covenanters had long been devoted to maintaining Presbyterianism as the faith of Scotland. As a consequence they were largely responsible for establishing the supremacy of Parliament over the monarchy. In reality though, the Covenanters were merely following an old Scottish tradition dating back to the Arbroath Declaration of 1320. Other early covenants--the written documents which bound them to their sacred cause--had been signed as recently as 1557 and 1581 by King James.

When Charles I came to the throne in 1625, he was immediately opposed by the Scottish bourgeoisie because of his policy of oppressive taxation and by the Scottish nobility because of his attempts to impose the Anglican church on Scotland. In 1638 the old covenant of 1581 was revived, and its signatories added a vow to protect the Reformation in their land. Charles, fearing a revolution, convened a General Assembly of Scotland in November 1638. Consisting exclusively of Covenanters, the assembly defied royal authority and abolished the Anglican episcopacy. The resulting First Bishops War (1639) was settled by referring the dispute to another General Assembly and to a new Scottish Parliament. But the new assembly reaffirmed the decisions of its predecessor, and a Second Bishops War resulted during which Charles was defeated at Newburn.

Similar conflicts led the English Parliament to join the Scots in their opposition to Charles, and the Solemn League and Covenant was adopted by the two parliaments in 1643 launching a united civil war between Royalists and Parliamentarians across the boundaries of the two nations. During the First Civil War (1642-46) the Covenanters fought side by side with the Parliamentarians. Eventually, Charles surrendered to the Covenanters in 1646. But because he still refused to subscribe to the Solemn League and Covenant, he was turned over to the English.

After the king's execution in 1649, the Scots increasingly became alarmed by the tyrannical ambitions of the English. During what was known as the Second Civil War--the Parliamentarian leader Oliver Cromwell brutally conquered Scotland. As a consequence, Argyll, brought Charles II to Scotland and crowned him king of Scotland at Scone.

Then, irony on top of irony, Charles II turned on the man most responsible for his restoration. In 1660, Argyll was arrested on a charge of having collaborated with the Cromwell in the infamous invasion of Scotland. Though the charges were patently false, Argyll was tried by the Scottish Parliament and was convicted and beheaded.

3 comments:

Lawrence Underwood said...

Ah, the intricate and fascinating history of Scotland. Given the Scot blood in my veins it is no wonder that I am a living contradiction.

Suzi said...

This really helps me understand the snarl of that very important period--I had never quite gotten all the facts straight. This is so simply stated. Thank you.

Brian said...

My ancestor, Duncan Campbell of Auchinbreck, led the Covenanters against the Royalists under Montrose in lieu of Lord Campbell, his cousin. Poor Duncan was outmaneuvered and defeated, and then had his head chopped off by an angry Lord Montrose! I love the history of the Scots, but sometimes I have to shake my head.