The Three Kingdoms and The Third Civil War, Part Two – Scotland, 1650-52: Dunbar & Worcester

The Royalist General Tam Dalyell swore never to cut his beard until a Stuart was back on the throne again. Tam’s beard grew down to his girdle before this happened. He lived in the house pictured above, The Binns, Linlithgow, where the Dalyell family still live today. Visitors to the house can see the actual comb that Tam used to keep his long beard from tangling. A recently-deceased descendent and namesake became a Westminster MP and ‘Father of the House of Commons’. He was a fierce opponent of the reinstatement of the Scottish Parliament.

The Fate of the Earl of Montrose, April-May 1650:

At the beginning of the new decade, with Oliver Cromwell wintering in Ireland, together with a significant portion of the parliamentarian army, from the middle of January onwards the Rump became ever more fearful that the Scots were about to take up arms once more for the man they had proclaimed King Charles II. The Scottish Parliament was then sitting at Edinburgh, where it received a message from its emissary to the young Charles Stuart in Jersey. This told them that ‘the king would treat with their commissioners at Breda’, so that they immediately began preparing their instructions.The ‘young pretender’, as the Rump called him, had been in Jersey since the previous September, but in mid-February he sailed for France where he spent three weeks conferring with his mother at Beauvais before returning to Breda, where he would later treat with the Scottish parliament’s commissioners. That body was divided between two main ‘parties’; the representatives of the strict ‘Kirk party’, who were dubious about negotiating with him at all, the more flexible politicians led by Argyll, who saw the advantage of his ‘return’ to Scotland, at least as a figurehead. But Charles himself had recently commissioned his father’s champion and Argyll’s ‘enemy’, Montrose, to embark on the first stage of the enterprise to retake all three of the Stuart kingdoms. Not only did the Kirk party insist on the young king signing both the Scottish National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant, but Argyll also insisted that he should order Montrose to stand down and leave Scotland. The Earl (or Marquess) of Montrose, having left Scotland on Charles I’s orders in 1646, had returned in the service of Charles II by raising an army of mainly Danish, Swedish, Dutch and German mercenaries, no more than twelve hundred in total, and landing them on Orkney in the middle of March. There he found a letter waiting for him from from the king, written in January, directing him to go ahead with the campaign, despite Charles’ negotiations with the Covenanters, in order to help him wring concessions from the Kirk party.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 002-2-1.jpg

Accordingly, Montrose landed his small force on the mainland in mid-April, hoping to augment his army by recruiting from the Highland clans that had fought for his father before, but morale had been so sapped by defeat in the Second Civil War that very few joined. Also, as Clarendon recorded, the Marquess of Argyll was vigilant enough to observe the movements of the man he considered to be his foremost enemy. He received information about Montrose’s arrival in the Highlands, and of the smallness of the force which he had brought with him. The Scots’ parliament were alarmed by the news of Montrose’s landing and changed course to organising forces to send out to stop him before he could be reinforced by others. So he was left with the six hundred Dutch and German troops under ‘a company of good officers’. Although he chose advantageous ground on which to make his stand, he was defeated at Carbisdale on 27 April by vastly superior numbers under David Leslie. Montrose marched into a trap skilfully set for him by Archibald Strachan and the Covenanting cavalry. His common soldiers, being nearly all foreigners, responded to losing the first hundred of their number by throwing down their arms and some were drowned in trying to escape. Seeing that all was lost, Montrose threw away his ribbon and George cross (he was a knight of the garter) and exchanged his clothes with ‘a fellow of the country’. According to Clarendon, having gone two or three miles on foot, he hid in the house of a gentleman for the next two days, while the majority of the other officers were taken prisoner before the Marquess was himself captured a week after the battle. The foreign troops were transported back to their own countries. Montrose and the remaining prisoners were handed over to David Leslie, carrying them in triumph to Edinburgh. Whereas Leslie treated the Marquess ‘with great insolence’, Montrose behaved throughout with dignity,

… such as became a great man; his countenance serene and cheerful, as one that was superior to all those reproaches, which they had prepared the people to pour out upon him in all the places through which he was to pass. … When he came to one of the gates of Edinburgh, he was met by some of the magistrates, to whom he was delivered, and by them presently put in a new cart, purposely made, in which there was a high chair or bench, upon which he sat, that the people might have a full view of him, being bound with a chord drawn over his breast and shoulders, and fastened through holes made in the cart … the streets and windows being full of people to behold the triumph over a person whose name had made them tremble some few years before, and into whose hands the magistrates of that place had, upon their knees, delivered the keys of the city. In this manner he was carried to the common gaol, where he was received and treated as a common malefactor.

Presbyterian ministers then came to the gaol, obstensibly offering to intercede with the Kirk upon his repentance, and to pray with him. But, understanding that they meant to torment him with virulent condemnation, he desired them ‘to spare their pains, and to leave him to his devotions’. He told them that…

he was so far from being troubled that his four limbs were to be hanged in four cities of the kingdom, that he heartily wished that he had flesh enough to be sent to every city in Christendom, as a testimony to the cause for which he suffered.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 003-1.jpg
Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon, who wrote the account of Montrose’s capture & execution.

The next day, 21 May, they executed every part of that barbarous sentence. He prayed ‘that they might not betray’ the young Charles Stuart as they had done his father. As a last ‘act of their tyranny’, the hangman then brought the book that had been published containing the details of his ‘heroic actions’, tied in a small chord which was placed around his neck. He ‘thanked them for it’ and said that he was pleased that it should be there; and was prouder of wearing it than he had been of the garter. He was publicly hanged and quartered, dying with a bravery that moved the onlookers, and five of his leading officers were executed over the course of the next month. Charles came to terms with the commissioners at Breda on 1 May, when he had not yet heard of Montrose’s defeat, but without gaining any guarantee of his safety. He wrote a public letter to the Earl on 3 May, ordering him to lay down his arms and leave Scotland, and a private one two days later, promising to protect his interests and hoping to employ him again soon. He then wrote to the Scottish parliament on the 8th, informing it that Montrose had been told to disband and asking that his forces should be allowed to leave Scotland unharmed, but the next day, still unaware of the defeat at Carbisdale, he wrote privately to Montrose again, telling him to remain in arms in case his treaty with the parliament should fall through.

Cromwell’s Return, the King’s Landing & Fairfax’s ‘Retreat’:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 012.jpg
Oliver Cromwell, by an unknown artist, c. 1650.

Cromwell landed at Bristol late in May, and parliament greeted his arrival with a grant of lands worth two thousand five hundred pounds a year, having already given him the use of St James’ House, the Cockpit and Spring Gardens. Many MPs, councillors, and officers came out to meet him at Windsor and many volleys were fired in his honour, but this company was nothing to the great crowds that gathered on Hounslow Heath to welcome him next day. Sir Thomas Fairfax was among those who greeted him, the mutual warmth and regard born of long comradeship in arms still undimmed, but Fairfax had had still stronger reasons for welcoming him home. Leading politicians were already persuaded that the safest way of countering the Scottish threat, and on 12th June Fairfax accepted command of it, with Cromwell as his lieutenant-general. But in Fairfax’s mind it was one thing to defend English territory and quite another to take the initiative in attacking an old ally, and when the Council of State formally voted on the 20th to invade Scotland, he decided to resign his commission. He took the view that England and Scotland were still mutually bound by the Solemn League and Covenant and though the Scottish ‘engagers’ had broken that bond by invading England in 1648, the Edinburgh parliament had subsequently disowned Hamilton’s ‘enterprise’.

Sir Thomas Fairfax

But Fairfax’s commitment to the Commonwealth had been in doubt since the trial of Charles I, when his wife (a Scottish presbyterian) had, ‘notoriously’, interrupted the proceedings to express his disaffection towards them. He himself had added to these doubts by refusing to formally take the Engagement and by not taking up his seat as an MP, to which he had been elected early in 1649. The House appointed a powerful committee which included Cromwell, in an attempt to overcome his scruples about carrying the war into Scotland, and it strove to to persuade him to accept the command. Fairfax reaffirmed his his ‘duty and affection’ to the parliamentarian cause, he resisted the committee’s arguments partly by pleading his ‘debilities both in body and mind’. According to his own memoirs, written after the Restoration, Charles II had tried in vain to tempt him with the earldom of Essex, ten thousand pounds a year in land, and whatever office he might choose, but Fairfax was not to take up the king’s cause until the Commonwealth was collapsing from within. Still only thirty-eight, he retired to Yorkshire to cultivate his garden.

Meanwhile, the king had set sail early in June in a warship provided by the Prince of Orange, the ‘young pretender’ eventually received an account of the details of Montrose’s defeat from the Scots’ parliamentary commissioners before he embarked from Holland. It contained no apology for the affront and indignity to himself by his servant’s execution, but included an assurance that the proceeding against the late marquis of Mountrose had been for his service. Even those at the exiled king’s court who had been most opposed to Argyll and his faction were nevertheless relieved that he had rid them of a far more dangerous enemy and they persuaded Charles that he might sooner take revenge on that people by temporarily complying with them, than by continuing to remain in exile and thereby facilitating their ‘absolute dominion’ in his Scottish kingdom and their tyranny over his faithful subjects there. It is clear that, to some extent, he publicly disowned the responsibility for Montrose’s efforts on his behalf after so strongly encouraging them. was thus persuaded to follow his ‘former resolution’ before he had been distracted in favour of the Irish option, and therefore embarked for Scotland. Before he was admitted to his father’s country of birth, Charles did sign both Covenants, recognised the supreme authority of the Kirk in spiritual, and of the parliament in secular matters, and agreed to disown Ormond and his Irish ‘rebels’ and their treaty if and when the parliament should require. His agreement with the Scots now formed the basis of what became known as the Treaty of Breda.

The Battles, Sieges and key places of the Civil Wars in Scotland

Charles only signed the final concessions shortly before his little flotilla, which had been hunted by the the English fleet, arrived in the Moray Forth on Midsummer’s Eve at the end of June 1650. Dismay at the terms he had agreed to was not confined to the old royalists such as Hyde, Hopton, Nicholas and Cottington, for his mother, who had been so keen on a Scottish alliance, and Rupert’s circle felt it too. Whether Charles, when he arrived in Edinburgh, observed Montrose’s severed head impaled on a spike in the Tolbooth is not recorded. He received a genuinely warm welcome from the common people of Scotland, but he was soon in bitter dispute with the parliament and the Kirk over the many old royalists he had brought with him as part of his household, and he was eventually forced to dismiss them. Charles was once more proclaimed King, this time in person, in July. The Scottish parliament had only just passed an act of levy for the recruiting of an army of over thirty-six thousand men, in addition to the few thousands that David Leslie already had under arms. It was a huge target for a small population, and one which was destined to be easily missed. But to the English Parliament it now seemed only a question of time before a Scottish army once again invaded England and it was decided that the New Model should immediately mount its own invasion of Scotland to pre-empt Charles. A significant proportion of the army was still serving in Ireland, and the demands of garrisoning England against Royalist risings meant that some new regiments had to be raised.

Cromwell’s Invasion of Scotland:

On 28 June, the day on which he received his formal commission to succeed Fairfax as Lord General, Cromwell marched north with five thousand horse and ten thousand foot, the vast majority of them veterans. His attacking force consisted of eight regiments apiece of cavalry and infantry. By the time it crossed the Tweed on 22 July, Leslie had raised his army to almost the same level, and Leslie was a far better general than Hamilton had been, probably the best that Cromwell had ever confronted. Though Leven, now about seventy, was still nominally commander-in-chief, Leslie was in actual control of operations. For all the English parliament’s superior resources, they were severely stretched across the three kingdoms. With Leslie’s forces increasing rapidly, a very testing time lay ahead for Cromwell, who pressed parliament to augment his own army to twenty-five thosand, but it was well into 1651 before it reached twenty thousand. The Scots were deployed in an exceptionally strong position between Edinburgh and Leith, and Leslie’s strategy was to leave Cromwell free to advance to it unopposed, having stripped the intervening territory of all provisions that his troops might need. This ‘scorched earth’ policy, coming on top of the impressment of all men of military age, inflicted great hardship on the Lowlanders and made them doubly hostile to the invaders; nor were they mollified by Cromwell’s repeated proclamations forbidding his men to lay hands on their persons or property.

In apalling weather conditions the New Model Retreated to Musselburgh and then to Dunbar, where it could be supplied by sea. But these were inadequate, and their transport from the shore was impeded by persistently wet weather. Nevertheless, Cromwell did his best to bring the Scots into open battle. After re-provisioning at Dunbar, Cromwell made contact with a Scottish army in excess of twenty thousand men under David Leslie on 29 July and he advanced upon Leslie’s lines. He bombarded Leith furiously, and even temporarily captured Arthur’s Seat, but after his wet and weary men had stood in battle order all night, he withdrew them to their camp at Musselborough. It was a fighting withdrawal, with the Scots harrying the rearguard and attacking the English army’s headquarters at Musselburgh. Their first night’s rest there was broken by a bold attack of fifteen troops of Leslie’s horse, which were beaten off only with some difficulty. Already, between four and five thousand of Cromwell’s troops were sick, and it was imperative that he bring about a battle before his army wasted away. While the Lord General’s army was shrinking, Leslie’s troops were being continually reinforced, so that they soon outnumbered Cromwell’s force by two to one.

Above: Cromwell’s Bible from the London Museum. It was bound in leather, with large metal clasps, and was well-used. Cromwell wrote his nameinside the cover. It was small enough to be carried on campaigns and into battle. We know that he read his bible every day, even in the battlefields. In Scotland, he disputed the interpretations of it held by the strict Presbyterian ministers who controlled both the politicians and the armies.

Cromwell’s attitude towards his Scottish adversaries was markedly different from the one he had shown to the Irish. The Scots’ lowlanders were fellow-protestants, if rather bigoted, and many of them had fought side-by-side with Cromwell’s own troopers at Marston Moor. But in Cromwell’s mind the two people’s had one thing in common: both were being driven to fight for a bad cause by their clergy. In a war of words with the kirkmen which had begun with the long manifesto in the name of his army when it first crossed the border, he published a famous address to the General Assembly of the Kirk from Musselborough on 3 August. He accused the ministers of claiming infallibility in interpreting the word of God, and teaching the people that the Covenant bound them to fight on their side in the present war. It was, of course, a highly partisan document, but it is expressive of his own convictions:

Your own guilt is too much for you: bring not therefore upon yourselves the blood of innocent men, deceived with pretences of king and Covenant, from whose eyes you hide a better knowledge … Is it therefore infallibly agreeable to the Word of God, all that you say? I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken … There may be … a carnal confidence upon mistaken and misapplied concepts, which may be called spiritual drunkenness. There may be a Covenant made with death and hell.

Smouldering with indignation, the kirkmen demanded of him, Would you have us to be sceptics in our religion? Their view, repeated again and again, was simply that Cromwell had signed the Covenant and was now breaking it. But Cromwell was not their only problem and his challenge to do battle on 29 July coincided with with an unofficial visit to the Scottish army by the king himself. Charles was joyously welcomed by both officers and men, so warmly indeed that the Kirk party were thoroughly dismayed. They feared that a war for God and the Covenant would degenerate into a secular war for the king, with a consequent dimunition in their own influence. They warned Charles that his continuing presence would discourage the godly and incur the wrath of God, who was jealous of any rivalry to his own glory. They put strong pressure on him to leave, which he reluctantly did on 2 August, and concluding that there were too many ‘malignants’ in Leslie’s camp, they persuaded the Committee of Estates to carry out a purge which rapidly removed about eighty officers and four thousand men. As well as reducing the army’s strength, this also damaged the morale of the Scottish army, roused the young king’s deep resentment and it widened the rift in the Covenanters’ ranks between the fanatical clergy-dominated wing and the moderate, aristocratic one led by Argyll.

The Battle of Dunbar, September 1650:

Above: A contemporary plan of the battle of Dunbar, 1650, showing on the right Cromwell’s camp by the town of Dunbar; in the centre lies Broxburn House where Cromwell planned his surprise night attack.
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 001-4.jpg

Throughout August Cromwell tried intermittently to bring Leslie to a decisive engagement, but he always failed. Leslie was also under pressure both from the politicians in Edinburgh and the Presbyterian chaplains in the army, but he steadfastly resisted them both. He reckoned that the toll that dysentery and camp fever were taking of the English army, combined with the problems of supplying it by sea, would force Cromwell back across the border before the winter set in. Although Cromwell had been reinforced, sickness and desertion had reduced his effective strength to about eleven thousand by the end of August, and despite the purge, Leslie still had at least twice as many in the field. Even so, the result of the purges was that the Scots’ army, although large, was an unwieldy and amateurish force compared with Cromwell’s seasoned New Model professionals. He therefore decided to advance in an attempt to turn the right flank of the Scots’ army, but Leslie was equal to this manoeuvre, so that the New Model was forced to return to Dunbar on 1 September, with the Scots harassing his rearguard. At Dunbar, Cromwell was able to take possession of the supplies that had been shipped from Berwick, but Leslie believed he had him cornered. The Scottish army then advanced and deployed on a strong position on Doon Hill, effectively also cutting off the land route back to Berwick at Cockburnspath for the parliamentarian troops. Cromwell would either have to evacuate his army by sea or fight his way out of encirclement. Equally, Leslie would have to attack if he was to prevent his prey slipping away on board the English fleet.

Above: The scene of the battlefield today, with Bass Rock and the Firth of Forth in distance.

The Scots’ deployment extended inland from the coast for over three thousand yards (2,740 metres) with the majority of their troops positioned on the forward slope of Doon Hill. On 2nd, Cromwell wrote to Haselrig, governor of Newcastle, warning him to muster all the troops he could against a possible defeat and a subsequent Scottish invasion:

We are here upon a an engagement very difficult. The enemy hath blocked up our way at the pass at Copperspath (Cockburnspath), through which we cannot get without almost a miracle. He lieth so much upon the hills that we know not how to come that way without great difficulty; and our lying here daily consumeth our men who fall sick beyond imagination.

But though defeat was a contingency against which it was his duty to provide, Cromwell’s mind was all on battle, and he never despaired of victory. Leslie, with his two to one superiority (slightly more than that in infantry, slightly less in cavalry), did not conceive that the English would attempt any more than to make their escape with as few losses as possible, and he felt confirmed in this expectation when Cromwell put five hundred of his sickest men on shipboard; he thought that the English were evacuating all their infantry. He came down fom Doon Hill on 2nd September and formed a battle-front about a mile long, mostly behind the shallow ravine of the Spott Burn, but stretching right across the Berwick road. He needed no persuading to give battle now and his move brought the English lines within range of his artillery, also giving his men some relief from the bitter winds and rain that swept Doon Hill. Cromwell led his senior officers on a mounted reconnaisance of the Scottish position late that afternoon, and after reconnoitring the Scots’ position later that evening, Cromwell and Lambert judged it vulnerable, and a council of war held on the night of 2nd-3rd September approved orders for an early assault the next morning. But whereas most of the Scots’ cavalry were allowed to unsaddle their horses and the musketeers to extinguish their matches, and many of their offices went off to houses or tents behind the lines for rest, the English regiments stayed at the ready, and Cromwell rode around them all night, checking their positions and giving them encouragement.

The battlefield at Dunbar lies just to the south of the town and can be approached via the A1 road, which cuts along the Lammermuir Hills as they run down to the coast.

Between five and six o’ clock, Lambert, with six regiments of horse, opened a the battle with an assault on the the Scots holding the pass at Cockburnspath and Monck, with three regiments of foot, charged the Scottish right, surprising them. Nevertheless, the Scots resisted fiercely, but despite a strong cavalry counter-attack, they cleared after an hour’s fighting. In the general engagement that followed, the infantry battle played at least as important a role as the early cavalry action. Attacking against such heavy odds, the English foot were at first repulsed, but they rallied and drove the Scots back at push of pike over a distance of of three quarters of a mile. When the Covenanters finally cracked and began to throw down their arms, Cromwell arrived with a reserve of horse and foot, which cut through the enemy right and began to roll up their line. They were, in his words, made by the Lord of Hosts as stubble to their swords. The centre and left of Leslie’s army then disintegrated in surrender or full flight and the Horse of the New Model set off in pursuit. As the sun rose over the sea, Cromwell shouted, “Now let God arise, and his enemies shall be shattered”. He had never fought a finer battle, though Lambert also derved the credit that Cromwell himself gave him. They had faced possible destruction together, but it was the Covenanting army that was all but destroyed. With three thousand Scots killed and over ten thousand captured, of Leslie’s army only about four thousand men, mainly cavalry, subsequently rallied to him. For Cromwell, Dunbar was a very special providencial action, and he was anxious that his masters at Westminster should see it as such, and be worthy of it, as he wrote to the Speaker the next day:

We that serve you beg of you not to own us, but God alone; we pray you own his people more and more, for they are the chariots and horsemen of Israel. Disown yourselves, but own your authority, and improve it to curb the proud and the insolent … relieve the oppressed, hear the groans of the poor prisoners in England, be pleased to reform the abuses of all profession; and if there be anyone that makes many poor to make a few rich, that suits not a Commonwealth.

The officer entrusted with the dispatch was Major White of the General’s own regiment of horse, who in 1647 had been expelled from the General Council for his extreme Leveller opinions and in 1649 had been employed to negotiate with the Oxfordshire mutineers. The House heard his account of the great victory with understandable enthusiasm and relief. It made some response to Cromwell’s pleas, for it quickly passed an act repealing all laws that penalised non-attendance at the parish church, providing that all nonconformists engaged in some other form of worship on the Lord’s Day. Edinburgh learned of the disaster at Dunbar from the fleeing horsemen who sought shelter within its walls, and it reacted with panic. Leven and Leslie withdrew what was left of their army to Stirling, which also became a refuge for the Committee of Estates and the city fathers and many burghers of Edinburgh, as well as its bellicose presbyters. Cromwell sent Lambert to secure the city while Cromwell took Leith, vital for the safe landing of supplies and reinforcements, which despite its strong walls and thirty-seven cannon offered no resistance. On arriving in Edinburgh himself, Cromwell again sought to persuade the Scottish people that his quarrel was not with him, promising them protection of their persons and property, and freedom of trade and movement. The Castle still held out against him, but its garrison posed no threat while it was cut off from reinforcements. He treated its governor, Sir Walter Dundas, with courtesy, and he also sent Colonel Whalley to invite its refugee ministers to preach in the city churches with free passage. Many of the fugitive burghers also returned and economic life in the capital soon returned to normal.

Above: The Dunbar Medal – the victory medal. It was the first military medal to be given both to officers and men in the army. On the medal is the portrait of Oliver Cromwell, the date of the battle and the inscription, which was the battle cry of Cromwell’s soldiers.

After a week in Edinburgh, Cromwell set out for Stirling to tackle Leslie and the remnants of his army there. He summoned the town to surrender on 18 September. Leslie had no more than five thousand men, including the garrison, but he refused and Cromwell prepared to storm the town. But at the last minute he changed his mind and by the 21st he had returned to Edinburgh. An assault could have cost many lives, and with so much already gained he did not want to subject his own troops to major losses. It would also have been a major problem for him to garrison Stirling, since it could not have been supplied by sea. But given the conciliatory gestures he had already made in the wake of Dunbar, Cromwell may well have decided not to use further force out of a genuine desire to win over most of Scotland by persuasion. The internal divisions had been opened much wider by the dramatic defeat at Dunbar, so much so that he may also have judged that a potentially lengthy and bloody siege so late in the campaigning year was unnecessary and could well prove counter-productive to his aims of pre-empting a Scottish invasion of England. Leslie’s authority as lieutenant-general was seriously diminished and he had been much criticised for the defeat of his army, so much that he had tried to resign. But the Committee of Estates would not accept his resignation, chiefly because there was no suitable replacement for him. Some influential officers, including Colonel Archibald Strachan and Gilbert Ker, blamed him so much for the Dunbar débacle that they refused to take orders from him.

Early in September, the Committee of Estates had accepted an offer from the counties between the Firth of Clyde and the Solway Firth, which had come together to form the Western Association to raise more than their quota of new levies on condition that their men would constitute a virtually independent army. Glasgow and the south-west were the heartlands of militant, hard-line Presbyterianism, and many there looked to this new army to prevent the strict Covenanting cause from being taken over by engager-royalists. The Committee sent Strachan and Ker to command the Western Association army, but by doing so they alienated the nobles and greater lairds of the region, who looked upon themselves as its natural commanders. The new army was therefore staffed mainly by minor gentry and men of ‘middling sort’, and won the enthusiastic support of many ministers of the kirk. In addition, following Dunbar, Presbyterian officers and men in Leslie’s army left to join it without orders. But this was not simpy a matter of regional religious and cultural concern.

Charles, Argyll and the Kirk Party:

Meanwhile, Charles had been ‘induced’ by the Scottish parliament to publish a humiliating declaration on 16 August as a condition of receiving Scottish armed support; among other things that were distasteful to him, he was made to revoke the the peace that he himself had instructed Ormond to conclude with the Irish Confederates in 1649, and to acknowledge the exceeding great sinfulness and unlawfulness of treating with the bloody Irish rebels. He also had to humble himself before God for his mother’s ‘idolatory’ and his father’s sin in opposing the Covenant. These concessions left him wretched, and he wrote to his Secretary Nicholas on 3 September, asking that through him the Prince of Orange should have a boat lying ready off the nearest Scottish shore, in case he should decide to throw up the whole adventure. By that time, however, the Scots were seriously at war for him. The kirk party, which included important laymen as well as the majority of ministers from across the country, reacted to the Dunbar defeat by asserting that the Lord had withdrawn his presence from them because they had put too much trust in a prince who was not sincerely repentant of his parents’ sins and was intent on worldly, not godly ends. In their view neither the purging of the army nor the king’s oaths and affirmations had gone far enough.

Charles II was over six feet tall (unusual at that time), very dark and nicknamed ‘Black Boy’. He landed in Scotland in June 1650, invaded England in August 1651 and was defeated at the Battle of Worcester on 3 September.

Charles himself must have had mixed feelings when he heard of Leslie’s defeat. On the one hand it gravely diminished the chances of his being restored to the English throne by a Scottish army, but on the other it gave him hope of loosening the grip of the kirk party had put on him. He was in Perth with Argyll, who was striving to extend his influence over Charles, who nevertheless disliked and distracted the man who had become his ‘companion’. At this stage, however, the two needed each other, and on 24 September Charles agreed to make Argyll a duke and knight of the garter. A few days later, the Committee of Estates banished twenty-four members of the king’s household and replaced them with hard-line Covenanters. For Charles, this was the last straw, and he entered into a conspiracy with his northern royalist supporters to raise all their friends and clansmen north of the Tay, with the aim of seizing Perth and Dundee and making a platform for a general royalist rising. But the day before the coup was due to begin he told the Duke of Buckingham of it, who was so worried that he in turn told Wilmot. They persuaded Charles that the scheme was hopelessly rash, and he gave orders to cancel it. But these were received too late, and the Committee of Estates found out about it. Charles fled from Perth without knowing where he was headed. Colonel Montgomery and a troop of Covenanter cavalry caught up with him, hiding in Glen Cova, and took him back to Perth. He had to make his submission to the Committee of Estates, but the more sensible kirkmen realised that if they provoked their country’s king too far they would raise questions about their claim to be the conscience of that country. After this, Charles was permitted to attend all the meetings of the Committee.

The zealots of the Kirk, especially those who dominated the territory of the Western Association, increasingly questioned whether the they should be fighting for a king whose commitment to the Covenant and the protestant religion in any form was highly questionable. Some of them began to wonder whether Cromwell did not, in faith, represent a better cause than that of the Stuart; indeed, Strachan and Ker made contact with Cromwell during October, and would probably have entered into negotiation with him if it had not been vetoed by the leading political Covenanters. Cromwell himself, with nine thousand men, paid a three-day visit to Glasgow in mid-October, probably in the hope of convincing its citizens of his good intentions, as much as to demonstrate his power, but he had little success. On his return to Edinburgh, however, an important Remonstrance was published, addressed to the Committee of Estates, in the name of the gentlemen, commanders and ministers attending the forces in the west. It was to further widen the rift in Scottish politics, giving its name to the Remonstrants. It castigated the Edinburgh government for not sufficiently purging malignants from their armies and for seeking to impose an unrepentant king on an unwilling England in order to grow rich on its spoils. The main support for this deeply divisive document came from the clergy, especially those of the west and south-west, and from the burghers of Glasgow. But Argyll and other nobles, who wanted to bring the king ‘to heel’ rather than alienate him further, denounced it when it came before the Committee of Estates and it was eventually withdrawn by the Remonstrants themselves after it was also rejected, albeit reluctantly, by the Committee of the Kirk.

But the Remonstrants spoke for few people outside their own home territory. Most Scottish people deeply resented the presence of an English army on Scottish soil, and were ready to rally behind their Stuart monarch in affirming a united national interest. By late autumn Cromwell’s forces were being harrassed by a rising guerilla movement in the whole territory between Edinburgh, Glasgow and the border, and he felt obliged to tackle the unreduced strongholds which were sheltering it. He himself moved against Borthwick Castle, one of the strongest and strategically most important. On the instructions of the Committee of Estates, Colonel Ker of the Western Association was ordered to relieve it. Ker refused, openly stating that his unwillingness to fight for the king, and on 22 November Borthwick had to surrender. Cromwell and Lambert then launched a two-pronged attack into Western Association territory, perhaps as much to explore its army’s willingness to resist as to force a battle. Ker came upon Lambert’s cavalry force camped near Hamilton, and grossly underestimating its strength attempted a night attack, for which Lambert was thoroughly prepared. Next morning, 1st December, the rout of Ker’s force was completed and he himself was captured. Strachan tried and failed to rally his fleeing men, then gave himself up to Lambert. The Western Association army ceased to exist after just two months in the field, since most of its soldiers who had not been killed or captured, simply went home. The New Model had consolidated its military dominance in southern Scotland.

The ‘action’ now switched to the Scottish parliament, reassembled in Perth during Edinburgh’s occupation and dominated once more by Argyll and his party. It recognised that it was no longer possible to raise an army with any chance of of restoring the king unless it could draw on all who were prepared to fight for him, including royalist-engagers. If the Kirk as a body opposed it, it would probably face the same fate as Hamilton’s army in 1648. So in mid-December, the Scotttish parliament put intense pressure on the Commission of the Kirk, shorn now of the extremist Remonstrants, to pass a set of ‘Public Resolutions’ which countenanced the enlisting of repentant former enemies of the Covenant to help defend the Scottish kingdom against the invading English ‘sectaries’. Parliament then promptly ordered the raising of twenty-five new regiments, and to the consternation of the strict Kirkmen their colonels not only included former engagers but also declared royalists who had taken part in the king’s ‘Start’ and were not at all repentant. This aroused a series of protests during late December and January, not only from the Remonstrants, but also from a wider range of presbyteries, though still mainly in the south-west. The majority of more moderate ministers, however, were patriots enough to accept that the struggle had become primarily a national one, and that strict religious objectives must yield priority for a time to the prime necessity of driving out the English.

Cromwell scored some notable successes in his campaign in his campaign against the bigotry of the Scottish Presbyterians. Two influential members of the Committee of Estates, Alexander Joffray and Alexander Brodie, became converts to Independency. Another who was shaken by doubts as to the worth of the king’s cause, and also the authoritarian claims of the Kirk, was Walter Dundas, governor of Edinburgh Castle. Cromwell could not tolerate a hostile garrison in the capital indefinitely, but an attempt to mine the castle had run up against solid rock. Cromwell summoned it on 12 December, and it took only a brief bombardment to make Dundas sue for terms. He surrendered on the 24th. By then, Charles was benefiting from the changes in the Scottish political scene. The order banning the English royalists from his entourage was rescinded, and those who had been laying low in Scotland since the summer rejoined him. On New Year’s Day 1651 he was at last crowned King of Scotland in the little church at Scone. Argyll, the most powerful man in Scotland, placed the crown upon his head (shown below). He had to subscribe the Covenants once more and declare them sacred, and he did so with a convincing show of zeal, foreseeing no doubt that whether he won or lost the war ahead, there was little chance that he would be forced to uphold them for long.

In the right background of this picture, Charles II is crowned by the Marquess of Argyll at Scone in 1651. On the left foreground the king is being prepared for battle, with ‘Scotland’ presenting a pistol, and Ireland adusting his armour. A ‘kirkman’ is looking on.

The war marked time during the first half of 1651. The Scots had a whole new army to raise, equip and train, but Cromwell found himself unable to take advantage of their weakness. Defying a typically hard Scottish winter, he set out early in February to reduce Fife, but he was driven back by weather ‘so tempestuous with wind, hail, snow and rain’ that his troops could hardly find their way. On the march back to Edinburgh he fell seriously ill, through a combination of different ailments, brought on by exposure. His health fluctuated through March, his recovery being slow. On 12 April, he wrote to his wife, beginning with his thankfulness for being increased in strength in my outward man, but ending it with the admission: Truly, I am not able as yet to write much. I am wearied. He had a relapse towards the end of the month, and the Council of State in London was so concerned that they sent his two physicians northwards and ordered him to return. He was too wrapped up in the affairs of Scotland to leave his post and on 9 June the two doctors were able to report that his health was restored.

The Campaigns of 1651 – From Inverkeithing to Worcester:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 011-2.jpg
This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 011.jpg

The Scots were unable to take advantage of Cromwell’s incapitation due to their continuing political divisions. Their Perth parliament was prorogued by the Committee of Estates, which was dominated by the Kirk party, until 13 March. Then a newly-elected Committee of Estates, just as dominated by the Kirk party, kept it prorogued until 23 May. It is doubtful whether Leslie had as many as ten thousand men at Stirling at this time, and he was having great difficulty in provisioning them. A reinforced Cromwell would soon outnumber him comfortably. Finally, on 4 June, the Scottish parliament repealed the Act Of Classes, enabling those with a royalist past to be appointed as officers and commanders in the army. Cromwell took to the field at the end of June, intent on bringing Leslie to battle. First, however, he resumed his attempt to gain control of Fife, ‘the breadbasket of Scotland’, which he had had to abandon in February. He now made use of fifty flat-bottomed boats which he had had built, in order to transport four thousand men under Major General Overton across the Firth of Forth, with orders to secure and fortify the penninsula between there and the Firth of Tay. To distract attention from Overton’s operation, Cromwell marched against Leslie and took up battle stations opposite his defences, challenging him to come out and fight. When that failed to draw him out, Cromwell moved west to Glasgow and conducted forays into the territory in which the Scots were busy recruiting. This brought Leslie westwards to Kilsyth on 13 July, and focused his whole attention on Cromwell during during the next week, while the flatboats ferried the English forces over the Forth to North Queensferry.

Cromwell entrusted the operation to Lambert, now promoted to Lieutenant-General. When Leslie heard of it, belatedly, he sent Major-General Holborne with over four thousand men to oppose the move, but Lambert immediately forced a battle at Inverkeithing, only a mile or so from where he had just landed. After some preliminary skirmishing, the battle proper lasted for just a quarter of an hour, and for the Scots it was an utter rout. Their cavalry were put to flight and their infantry, mostly Highland clansmen, were cut down where they stood. About two thousand men were killed and fourteen hundred captured; only about a thousand got back to Stirling. Cromwell then brought his own forces back to Edinburgh and Leith, and then transported the greater part of them into Fife. He next marched not against Stirling, Leslie’s headquarters, but against Perth, the current seat of the Scottish government, far to the north-west. After Inverkeithing, Leslie’s demoralised men were deserting in droves, and Cromwell was deliberately leaving the way open for them to invade England. Now confident of complete military superiority, he was content to take the risk of fighting the decisive battle on English soil. Charles and Leslie realised that for them the risk was even greater. Argyll and Loudoun thought that invasion would be madness, but Charles feared that if he stayed in Scotland and suffered military defeat there, he would become the prisoner of The Kirk party once more. So he and his army set off southward from Sterling on 31 July, two days before Perth surrendered to Cromwell, on generous terms.

Charles and Leslie had little more than fourteen thousand men with them, when they took this audacious step of leaving Cromwell’s army in the field and marching south into England itself. They were so short of firearms that fifty or sixty archers had to make up the strength of each foot regiment. Nevertheless, they crossed the border in the first week of August 1651 in an attempt to raise a royalist rebellion, the main reason for Charles doing so being that once he had called his English supporters to arms, he could not, in all conscience, do anything else. The hope was that, once inside England, a nation of burning royalists would flock to his standard. But their response was all too disappointing, not that the entire country was so devoted to the new Commonwealth that rallying to Charles was under any circumstances unthinkable. It was rather that the armies of the republic were so obviously still formidable that it made no sense for anyone but the most blindly devoted royalist to hazard their safety by supporting so reckless a gamble. So the march down to Worcester was a lonely and exclusively Scottish business, and the Commonwealth’s local defences never showed any sign of cracking. Leslie led his army on long, rapid marches, in time to summon Carlisle on 6 August, but that well fortified city kept its gates shut against him. Scarcely any English came to him during his progress through Cumberland and Westmorland.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 002-3.jpg

One reason why the king received little support lay in the northerners’ detestation of the of Scotsmen, whose burdensome presence they had endured twice in the previous decade. To the Cumbrian countryfolk, they were alien, ill-disciplined plunderers. The gentry wanted better more than Charles could offer before they opened their estates to sequestration or confiscation for a third time. The reinstatement of a largely unknown and obviously opportunist king on the back of a Scottish army, with the Covenant and rigid Presbyterianism as part of the package was a prospect with little appeal. The Commonwealth also had an effective intelligence network to rely on. There had been a premature insurrection in Norfolk in December 1650 which was easily suppressed without a fight. The fiasco alerted the Council of State to a flimsy network of royalist conspirators over a much wider area of the country. The region of greatest danger lay in Lancashire and Cheshire, where the king’s supporters were directed by the Earl of Derby, then on the Isle of Man. But when one of them was captured, a string of arrests followed across and down the country. Derby did manage to muster fifteen hundred men in Lancashire and on Man to support the invasion, but before they could join it Colonel Robert Lilburne put them to rout at Wigan on 25 August, killing many and taking four hundred prisoners. The contingents of royalists who succeeded in joining the king’s army were numbered in scores rather than hundreds and the largest of them, sixty horse under Lord Talbot only arrived at Worcester. It is therefore seriously misleading to describe the campaigns of 1650-51 as the ‘Third Civil War’. This was essentially a war between Scots and royalists on one side and the English Commonwealth on the other, which was fought, with the notable exception of the Battle of Worcester, on Scottish soil.

Charles was intent on an advance by the western Pennine route into the Midlands, with London as his ultimate goal. After taking the surrender of Perth, Cromwell learnt that Charles had slipped past him and was marching rapidly down through England, trying to pick up reinforcements on the way. It was a critical moment for him. There was no army between the Scots and London, but Cromwell also learned that Charles was failing to gain recruits and that he was losing many Scots through desertion. Nonetheless, leaving Monck in charge of the five thousand troops he deemed necessary to keep Scotland quiet, Cromwell set off in pursuit, sending Lambert ahead with five regiments of Horse to join the troops of Colonel Rich and Major-General Harrison in the border country. He sent four thousand horse and dragoons to harrass the royal army’s eastern flank, and Lambert with a similar force to worry its rear. Both men moved swiftly; Harrison’s brigade was in Newcastle by 5 August, the day the Scots crossed the border, and Lambert’s were in Penrith on the 9th. Cromwell had to move more slowly with his main body of about ten thousand men, since most were infantry, but he rode somewhat ahead of them and reached the Tyne by the 12th. He did not have to worry about Yorkshire, for Fairfax came out of retirement to raise the county against the king. Meanwhile, Monck and his lieutenants had secured all of Scotland south of a line drawn through Perth, except for the isolated strongholds of Bass Rock and Dunfermline Castle.

Although Charles pushed steadily southwards, the north-western counties failed to rise in his support as he had hoped, and his army was being constantly harried by Lambert and Harrison. Cromwell had let the Scots go deep into the heart of England from which there would be no way back. On the way, the Scottish king summoned Shrewsbury, but its governor pointedly addressed his defiant reply to ‘the commander-in-chief of the Scottish army’. What had begun as a daring venture had become a steel trap closing fast on Charles Stuart. By the time he reached Worcester on 22 August, his dispirited and exhausted army was still being shadowed by Lambert’s reinforced troops shortly to be combined with another substantial parliamentarian army which had been moved north and west to join him. Since leaving Stirling, they had marched 330 miles in three weeks and a day. Charles had not wanted to stay in Worcester, but decided to pause his army there to allow for supporters to come down the Severn from Wales and other border areas which had previously stood by his father.

The Battle of Worcester, September 1651:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 003-2.jpg
The City of Worcester and the River Severn from the west bank in the early 1980s.

Charles also probably calculated that the city, with its fortifications and rivers as additional defences, was probably the safest place to await reinforcements, but again he was disappointed when only a few hundreds joined his cause. Ironically, the 22nd was nine years to the day after his father had his standard at Nottingham. Coincidentally, having taken the eastern route from Scotland, Cromwell marched into Nottingham on the very same day. With only 16,000 men, in the heart of largely hostile territory, the future did not look promising for Charles and Leslie. Lambert and Harrison made their rendezvous with Cromwell at Warwick on the 24th, and a few days later Cromwell halted his forced march at Evesham, just sixteen miles away, where he was reinforced by the trained bands of Essex and Suffolk. He was then able to muster some 31,000 Commonwealth troops in total faced a royalist-Scottish army of a little over half that number. On 28 August Lambert seized Upton Bridge, enabling the Parliamentarian troops to advance on both banks of the River Severn. Their combined forces continued to invest Worcester and Charles withdrew behind the River Teme. Cromwell was quite clear in his mind about what needed to be done, and he was determined to be quite ruthless in completely and finally destroying the royalist army. To accomplish this he must surround it and block every possible avenue of escape. He was strong enough to divide his army without either par being outnumbered if it had to fight on its own, butbut he knew he had to take Worcester’s defences seriously, for they had been strenuously improved during the twelve days that the royalist army had been there, and the rivers further complicated his plans.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 004.jpg
A great deal of the area of the battle is now obscured by subsequent building, as the OS map above shows, but a good view can still be gained from the Cathedral tower, from where Charles Stuart surveyed the battle. A visit to Powick Church is also worthwhile, for marks of musket balls can still be seen on its tower.

The subsequent battle took place in the fields north of Powick Bridge, in the bottom left corner of the map above. The Severn runs north-south through Worcester, but to the south of the city it is joined by the Teme. Cromwell planned to force a crossing of the Teme and to launch an attack on the city from the west, while a force under his own command attacked from the east. But Charles had stationed his army on the north bank of the Teme and had destroyed all the nearby bridges on both the Teme and the Severn. This put him at the apex of a triangle and, presumably, he was expecting to inflict heavy casualties on the parliamentarians who tried to cross the river to get at him. The Severn was swift-flowing, deep and forty yards across, and the Teme, although only ten feet wide, was also ten feet deep and fast-flowing. But Cromwell adapted his plan to accommodate a three-pronged attack. He spent several days collecting boats from up and down the river and, of course, they were there in abundance. Several of the largest of these were towed upstream to a point where they could be made into bridging pontoons. One of these was to be used to cross the Teme with eleven thousand men, the other to bridge the Severn below its junction with the Teme itself just to the west, thus maintaining communication between the two parliamentary forces. Their preparation took time, because the they needed to be piloted into place and then spanned with planks at just the right moment for the cavalry to ride across them. The third objective was Fort Royal, outside the east wall of the city, which formed the rear headquarters of the royalist position.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 009.jpg
Worcester, 1651, with Powick Bridge (bottom left) showing Fleetwood’s attack, and Red Hill (middle right), where Charles made his cavalry charge.

On 3 September, Charles Fleetwood led the southern Parliamentarian force, with some difficulty, across the Teme by the first pontoon and by the ford near the destroyed Powick Bridge. His men met considerable resistance from a royalist rearguard on the south bank where it fought a strong delaying action around Powick Church. The Lord General himself led his men across the bridge of boats over the Severn in the initial attack, timed to coincide with that of Fleetwood’s brigade over the Teme, upon the Scots’ position between the two rivers, and he was in the thick of the fighting. Miraculously, both ‘boatbridges’ seem to have held in place, though some of Fleetwood’s men appear to have swum across or forded higher up. Cromwell brought four regiments of horse and two of foot from the east bank of the Severn to Fleetwood’s support. All the regiments reached the meadows, and there, step by bloody step, they pushed the royalists back to St John’s. The Scots and their English ‘auxiliaries’ fought skilfully, as well as with the courage born of desperation, and Charles himself risked his life time and time again in encouraging them at the heart of the action. Charles seems to have continued to encourage his troops before ascending the cathedral tower to direct operations from that vantage point. Seeing Cromwell’s army in two sections, with no chance of joining up again quickly, and Cromwell himself pre-occupied with this action, Charles led an attack against the parliamentarian deployment on the east bank of the Severn. With every soldier he could collect at short notice, he delivered a tremendous blow on the troops Cromwell had not yet committed to battle, including the Cheshire and Essex militias. He swept all before him and reached the eminence known as Red Hill.

A mezzotint after original painting by Thomas Woodward, from the City of Worcester Museum, published in 1844.

With a less able opponent than Cromwell this counter-attack might have turned the battle, but Cromwell was not prepared to surrender the advantage he had gained in its first phase. Coming back across the bridge he hurled his troops into what he sensed was the key area of the fighting, and three hours of bitter combat followed. But then the royalist cavalry were broken by Cromwell’s regulars who had crossed the Severn first, although these contingents were supposed to come in on the second phase of the the attack. When Charles could no longer rally the Scottish cavalry to keep up their attack, the battle was decided. As darkness fell, the panic raced through the royalist ranks as what was left of the cavalry galloped off. Abandoned to their fate, the royalist infantry had no chance at all; many were taken prisoner, but most were killed before they surrendered. In some parts, however, the struggle went on well into the twilight with men still hacking at each other in the streets of the city. The battle was fully decided by 8 p.m., but the rounding-up of prisoners and the slaughter of fugitives went on until after midnight. By then, Charles had fled the field, but few others who managed to escape were able to reach safety. When they were counted the next day, the dead in and around the city numbered well over two thousand, and somewhere between six and seven thousand prisoners were taken. About three thousand cavalry escaped from the field, but many did not get home, because they had to evade the country folk all the way back to the border. Cromwell put the numbers of all the Commonwealth forces in the battle at under two hundred killed. The battle was a bloody catastrophe for the cavalier-Scottish troops, and a complete, devastating and final victory for the English Roundheads.

Cromwell’s Triumph & Charles’ Travels:

Cromwell returned to an even noisier London than had greeted his victorious Irish campaign. He was given a triumphal on 12 September, and the great cheering crowds that lined the streets testify to the very real popularity of his victory. Describing his conduct amid all the celebrations, Bulstrode Whitelocke wrote in his diary that:

He was affable and humble in his carriage, and in his discourses about the business of Scotland and of Worcester, he would seldom mention any thing of himself, but the gallantry of the officers and soldiers, and gave (as was due) all the glory of the action unto God.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 011-3.jpg

By contrast, Charles’ decisive defeat at Worcester on 3 September finished royalism as a military threat to the Commonwealth. The only royalist troops who got clean away were the king himself, Buckingham and Wilmot. The Scottish prisoners included the second Duke of Hamilton, who died of gangrene within a few days, Leslie and Lauderdale, who languished in prison until the Restoration, and Middleton, who escaped from the Tower. As for Charles’ own escape, the story of it became a legend, and it accreted a wealth of dubious detail, some of it contributed by Charles himself, who never tired of recounting it. Charles embarked on an extraordinary six-week flight from captivity, the bravest thing he would ever do. Disguised as a country yoeman, with his mane of black curls cropped short, his face darkened with nut juice to look more weather-beaten, and wearing a rough leather doublet, Charles outsmarted and outran his pursuers. Relying on a network of royalists in the West Country, many of them Catholics and therefore expert in concealment, Charles hid first in the Saffordshire woods around Boscobel House, the home of the Penderel brothers, to whom he was delivered by the Earl of Derby (before he himself was captured, court-martialled and subequently executed, despite Cromwell’s intervention on his behalf). Then, having failed to cross Severn in an attempt to get to Wales, Charles was first hidden in a hayloft and then walked in the rain back to Boscobel, where he slept exhausted in one of the great oaks in the park, while troopers searched the estate for him.

For royalist legend-makers it was a perfectly emblematic event and one which really happened: the young hope of the future safely cradled in the fatherly embrace of the ancient English tree from which countless English pubs have taken their name. There followed a ride across country disguised as ‘William Jackson’, the manservant of Jane Lane; failure to find a safe passage either from Bristol or Bridport in Dorset, where the quays and the taverns were crawling with Commonwealth soldiers about to be shipped to the Channel Islands; and then abortive wanderings along the south coast before finally finding a reliable ship, the Surprise, at Shoreham in Sussex. Although he was frequently recognised and had the (then) very large sum of a thousand pounds on his head, no-one betrayed him in the time between the battle and his sailing from Shoreham to Fécamp in mid-October. As Simon Schama has suggested, this was ‘astonishing’ considering his willingness to test the limits of his disguise by engaging in reckless banter about the rogue Charles Stuart. His near miraculous survival gave closetted ‘cavaliers’ an alternative narrative to develop in competition with, for them, the depressing record of ‘ironside’ invincibility. Charles’ escape, dependent as it was on so many helping hands, says something important about what Schama calls this very English revolution: that it lacked, perhaps providentially, those elements which made for the survival of republics – terror and paranoia. At the same time, it was becoming all too obvious that the Commonwealth was failing to to develop an independent republican culture to replace the banished monarchy.

Charles escapes with the remains of his army
Cromwell’s soldiers search for him near Boscobel House, Staffordshire. Charles hides in an oak tree, with Richard Penderel.
Disguised as a servant to Jane Lane, he travels to Bristol.
After many adventures, Charles reaches Shoreham, Sussex. A small ship smuggles him away to France.

These four pictures are taken from a contemporary ‘Broadside’ (news-sheet) which followed the adventures of Charles after the battle.

The ‘Settlement’ between England & Scotland:

Soon after he reached France the Duke of Orleans, the French king’s uncle, asked Charles if the rumour was true that he intended to return to Scotland. His response was that he would ‘rather have been hanged first’, and he never set in foot in his northern Kingdom again. His reaction was unkind to the thousands of Scots who had fought and died for him, but it is understandable, given his conflicts with the Kirk Party and the more extreme Presbyterian ministers. In due course, this was a vengeful attitude that would lead to the persecution of the Covenanters after his restoration to the crowns. But in 1651-2, there was soon nowhere in the kingdom to which he could have returned, given Monck’s impressive progress in the absence of Leslie’s army. Although there was still a large area of northern Scotland which was unaccounted for, the obstacles to tapping into the reserves of royalist sentiment in the Highlands were insurmountable. The magnates whom Charles had left in charge had either been captured or were in charge of areas which had no stomach for further fighting, like Gordon in his territory around Aberdeen. When Monck sent Okey with a body of cavalry to secure it, its council soon submitted. Its distinguished provost, Alexander Jaffray was one of Cromwell and Owen’s converts to Independency, and the Highland nobility remained at odds with the Lowland Covenanters. After Worcester, it was difficult to assemble any body or council that could speak as the government of Scotland and then to get such a body to speak with one voice. Of the uncaptured members of the Committee of Estates, Loudoun managed to bring together seven nobles, including Argyll, three lairds and three burgesses at Killin on 10 September, but the Clansmen would not attend or meet with them.

Argyll recognised the hopelessness of the situation and wrote to Monck on 15 October to propose peace negotiations. Huntly signed articles of surrender later in the month, while Monck and his subordinates encouraged the resumption of normal economic life in the Lowlands, including fishing, and most Scots welcomed this relief from the long rigours of war. The harvest had been poor, and the shortages of labour due to continual levies had created extensive shortages of food. The Rump had had no intention of annexing Scotland when it had sent Cromwell in 1650, but by the end of 1651 it had to do something to fill the political divisions created by the military, religious and political divisions there. After its rejoicings over Worcester, it gave a single reading to a bill asserting the right of England to Scotland, but the bill progressed no further. Instead of this, Scotland was to be incorporated int one commonwealth with England. Cromwell was largely resonsible for the change of policy, it is thought, opposing the many in England who favoured declaring a conquest, and making it one nation. A declaration outlining terms for a union of Scotland with England was prepared by the Council of State during early October, laid before parliament on the 23rd, and agreed to after two days’ debate, with minor amendments. It promised, in particular, that the Scots should have the same liberty of conscience in religion as the English had.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 003.jpg

The last royalist outposts in the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands surrendered before the end of the year. Scotland’s resistance had finally been broken by the beginning of 1652. The factional politics – Highland Catholics, Stuart loyalists, Covenanters and Republicans – left Scotland prey, eventually, to the Cromwellian forces. For the first time in their history, all of the British Isles were under the control of a single government. The process of attrition which had begun at Marston Moor and Naseby and continued at Preston and Dunbar was over. Stuart military power in Britain had been unequivocally crushed and nine years of outright, bloody civil war were finally at an end. In January 1652, the Rump dispatched eight commissioners to persuade the Scottish people and their parliament of the benefits of a union and to win their unforced assent to it. As might be expected, this faced a great deal of opposition, not only from those who prized Scottish independence, but also from remaining royalists and the clergy, who were against religious toleration. The English parliament could not ignore that a large part of the Scottish nation had recently been at war with them, and that resistance was still not over, but the process they set in motion was genuinely aimed at a real reconciliation between the two nations. However, F.D. Dow (1979) wrote that what in theory was to be a political merger … was in fact a take-over bid by the English, and that the period from January 1652 to April 1653 was one of the unremitting and successful efforts by the English to subordinate the Scots to their will. If this can be taken to be true, how far they ultimately succeeded can only be judged by the shape that the union eventually took.


Philip Warner (1973), Famous Battles of the Midlands. London: Fontana/ Collins.

David Smurthwaite (1984), The Ordnance Survey Complete Guide to the Battlefields of Britain. Exeter: Webb & Bower.

Simon Schama (2001), The Story of Britain: The British Wars, 1603-1776. London: BBC Worldwide.

Austin Woolrych (2004), Britain in Revolution, 1625-1660. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

G. Huehns (ed.) (1955), Clarendon: Selections from ‘The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars’. London: Oxford University Press.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: