Charles II King of Scotland (
February 1649 – September 1651)
The end of the
Bishops Wars afforded the
Scots the opportunity to step aside and avoid becoming
involved in the English Civil War that had broken out. But
their wishes were disappointed when the Parliamentary
party in England approached the Scots for military aid in
their war with King Charles I. From this was born the
second great Covenant so dear to the staunch Presbyterians
– the Solemn League and
Covenant of 1643. This gave military aid in return for
a commitment to extend the Presbyterian religion
throughout Great Britain. The English saw the Solemn
League and Covenant as a treaty with a hefty price
tag, but as they were desperate for military help against
Charles I they acceded to the monetary and religious
demands. By 1648 however, the Parliamentary forces had
gained control in England and no longer needed Scottish
support. With their dreams of extending Christ`s Kingdom
broken, the Scots stepped aside from the basically English
war and King Charles was handed over to the Parliamentary
Army . There followed the ill advised
Engagement and retribution at
the battle of Preston that put
paid to any hopes of restoring the King`s authority. He
was soon tried and executed on 30 January 1649* thereby
creating a new problem for the Scots who
resented the execution of
of note that in England the majority of the people did not
desire the King`s death, however, the majority were
prepared to accept it. People were shocked and even
publicly spoke against it but absolutely no one risked
their life to rescue him. In a final irony Charles I was
laid to rest in St George`s Chapel, Windsor in a
vault containing the coffins of Henry VIII and Jane
Seymour (his third wife). There was a space for Katherine
Parr, his widow, but she had remarried and was buried
elsewhere. Into this space was placed Charles I.
Thus together lay the King who created the Church of
England and broke from Rome, largely to satisfy his
sensual tastes. And his companion a King who died because
of his dedication to the Anglican faith. They jointly
shared a belief in Divine Right.
important constitutional events took place at this time
which laid the foundations for the Glorious Revolution of
1688. On 4 January 1649 the English House of Commons had
convened a High Court of Justice to try the king, and had
issued three resolutions :
he people under God are the original
source of all just power;
the House of Commons exercise that
the laws enacted by the Commons bind
all citizens alike.
Scottish Parliament also passed an act requiring the King
and successors to subscribe to the Covenants, and to seek
uniformity of religion (Presbytery) in the three kingdoms.
The break with England and the
Commonwealth soon came. On the morning of Charles`
execution Parliament had hurriedly passed an act
prohibiting the proclamation of a successor. On 5 Feb 1649
Scotland in defiance of the act declared his son, Charles
II, the lawful heir to the thrones of Great Britain,
France and Ireland.
Against this background, a delegation of the Commission of
the Kirk was sent in 1650 to see Charles, Prince of Wales,
at Breda in Holland and invited his return to Scotland.
On 2 June 1650 Charles II and his entourage embarked for
Scotland and landed on Speyside on 23 June. Charles soon
found that he might be king but he did not have any real
power. The Presbyterian zealots in power forced
Charles to sign a declaration at Dunfermline on 16 August
1650, which greatly humbled him for:
father`s opposition to the `Worke of God` and to the
idolatry, especially by his mother in the royal household.
Acknowledged that he had no ulterior motives in signing
the Covenant and would have no
friends but Covenanters.
the Irish Treaty.
And that he
trading by sea.
promote the Covenant in England and Ireland.
an Act of Oblivion except for all who obstructed the
Reformation, traitors and regicides.
advise the well affected English to help the Covenanters
in preference to the Sectaries.
relatively short period as King can hardly be called rule
as he was dominated by the strict Presbyterians then in
power. It is, however, an important period because it set
the scene for the King`s revenge when he returned to all
three thrones in 1660.
Politically there was no way that the English
Parliamentarians could stand by and watch the threat of
renewed Civil War grow.
Inevitably there began the relatively short lived
Anglo Scottish war – the Scots fighting for their new
King, Charles II, against the English Parliamentary Party
with Cromwell as commander of their armies. The awesome
power of Cromwell`s New Army, its discipline and the
generalship of its commander were soon displayed at the
battle of Dunbar on 3 September
1650. Stories are told that on hearing of the
defeat of the Covenanter army Charles fell to his
knees in thanksgiving ; another tale relates that he
threw his cap into the air for joy. The stories
reflect the resentment and dislike that had built up in
the young king for the Scots. It did little to help the
situation that Robert Douglas, Moderator of the General
Assembly had the insensitivity to imply that the defeat at
Dunbar was due to the guilt of the royal family and that a
new day of `humiliation` should be kept. Notably he
made no reference to the Act of Classes that the
Covenanter leaders had pushed through parliament, and the
purging of the 3000 or so alleged malignants from their
own army just before it clashed with Cromwell at Dunbar.
further publicly humiliated when a declaration was issued
that listed a range of causes for the defeat,
– The manifest
provocations of the Kings house, which we fear are not
thoroughly repented of,..
– The bringing home with the
King a great many malignants, and endeavouring to
keep some of them about him,..
– Not purging the King`s
family from malignant and profane men,
On 26 September the Estates
enacted that some twenty two named persons in the King`s
household were to leave the country within 24 hours. The
King attempted to pare the list down asking for about nine
names to be reconsidered; but the Estates were
intransigent This may well have been the last straw for
Charles as about one thirty in the afternoon of Friday, 4
October, he and a small party went out as if going
hawking. This was the `Start`, a dash for the Highlands
where it was hoped there would be royalist supporters. It
came to naught and Charles was returned to Perth on 6
October, chastened and very bitter.
Division soon developed among
the Presbyterians themselves and the moderate faction, who
were more supportive of the King, regained
power. The coronation of Charles was at Scone on 1 January
1651 and he had a short period of rule which focussed
almost entirely on preparing for war against Cromwell and
his armies encamped on the doorstep. The Scottish army
finally made a dash south in the expectation that royalist
supporters in the west of England would join them. The
armies and generalship of Cromwell were, however, far too
strong and the Scots were annihilated at
Worcester on 3 September 1651.
Charles fled into exile. A remark he made to the Dean of
Tuam was ominous for future relations
The Scots have dealt very ill
with me – very ill.
The English calendar was still not reformed. The month
date was ten days behind the continent and the year
began on March 25th. By the European calendar
Charles I died on 9th February 1649 , and by English
dating 30 January 1648. To add confusion most modern
historians accept the year in this period as starting on
1st January (which was celebrated as New Year) thus the
generally used date is 30 January 1649.