Introduction

'Recover your pistoll' - a fully armed cuirassier, according to John Cruso, although copied from an earlier work by Wallhausen. At least one troop of Royalist cavalry was equipped in this manner at Megray Hill in 1639 - see commentary to Plate A.

In 1603 King James VI of Scotland succeeded the childless Queen Elizabeth I on the throne of England as James I. Thereafter, although frequently professing an intimate attachment to their ancient kingdom, both lie and his son King Charles I, who succeeded him in 1625, regarded themselves first and foremost as English monarchs. Scotland nevertheless still retained its own parliament, referred to as the Estates, and therefore its own quite separate system of government. Unfortunately, moves initiated by Charles I in 1633 with the aim of bringing both the Scottish church and legal system into line with English practice proved to be a disastrous mistake.

In 17th century Britain religion and politics were still inextricably mixed, and the monarchy's temporal and religious prerogatives were both the subject of passionate debate among the influential classes. Less than a century beforehand the struggle between Roman Catholic and Protestant had seen religious martyrs burned alive at the stake; and despite Elizabeth's generally successful establishment of the Anglican Protestant church of England created by her father Henry VIII, both her reign and that of James I were intermittently troubled by Roman Catholic conspiracies.

In England a strong dissenting or low-church movement (the Puritans) was hostile to what it saw as Charles' ambiguity towards Catholicism (his queen was a French Catholic), and suspicious of his rumoured future plans for meddling with the Protestant settlement. Simultaneously, on the political front, resentment was growing in both England and Scotland towards the King's autocratic style of rule, which tended to unite very diverse groups in at least temporary opposition to Charles, whatever their fundamental views of the monarchy itself. On his part, Charles was continually frustrated by the grudging and conditional grants of funds controlled by an English Parliament which was increasingly conscious of its own constitutional powers, and of which some influential members were leaders of the Puritan religious movement.

The dominant religious influence in Scotland was the Presbyterian church, whose austere Protestant liturgy and distrust of hierarchy was bound to present an obstacle to Charles'

ABOVE Turriff Kirk today, the scene of the first skirmishes in May 1639.

programme. This materialised in 1638 when the so-called National Covenant bound the Scots to oppose the King's initiatives and, by extension, the King himself. As Charles I very quickly discovered, lie had to deal not with a rebel faction but with a state which to all intents and purposes, if not in name, had become the Scots Republic.

This particular point should not perhaps be over-emphasized, since except in the heady days of 1639 the Scots army as a whole was notably apolitical. It is of course true that some individual officers were politically motivated, but 011 the whole the army was not a factional force. Its character was that of a national army, obedient to the Scots government of the day whatever its political complexion.

The Scottish national debate was further confused throughout this period by the coincidental outbreak in 1641 of a violent rebellion in Ireland. Early atrocities committed by the rebels against Scottish settler communities in Ulster put the Scots firmly in sympathy - in the Irish context - with the forces of the state, and Scots troops volunteered to serve there in the King's army. (This rebellion was very far from being a simple two-sided religious war; 011 the rebel side it would involve both a Confederacy led by the Papal Nuncio, Rinuccini, and an Anglo-Irish Protestant faction, fighting or allying with both Royalist and Parliamentarian English forces.)

ABOVE Turriff Kirk today, the scene of the first skirmishes in May 1639.

Brig o'Dee, Aberdeen, scene of fierce fighting on 18-19 June 1639. The Royalists occupied the bridge and the near bank of the river while the Covenanters were posted on the high ground in the distance. The bridge was eventually stormed after the defenders ran out of ammunition.

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