When Mary Queen of Scot's son, James VI
of Scotland became James I of England in 1603 his primary
goal was to realise the power of the Crown over the Church
in both ecclesiastic and politic matters. He failed to
convert the Scottish people to a religion bound to government
jurisdiction however, and it fell to his son, Charles I
to carry on his work.
Charles introduced The Book of Common Prayer
in 1637 to a largely hostile reaction which prompted the
Church to create the National Convenant in 1638, a document
that opposed The Book of Common Prayer which was displayed
and signed publically in Greyfriars
Charles I was toppled from the throne in
1643 following a bloody English Civil War and Oliver Cromwell
was made Lord Protector; his first task was to behead the
King and to establish a unified Presbyterian religion across
both England and Scotland.
The Solution was supported by the English
Parliamentarians anxious to ally Scottish Support against
the ongoing threat of the English Crown. The new doctrine
led to a period of relative calm and prosperity for the Scottish
Church under English rule.
This changed, however, when in 1658 Cromwell
died and Charles II took up the throne (1660) and his father’s
ambitions for Crown supremacy.
He soon passed Acts that would give him executive
powers in matters both Civil and Ecclesiastic. The Church
of Scotland rejected these statutes and so began a 28 year
long persecution for its members.
Charles II repudiated the National Covenant
in 1661 and formed the new church from his own bishops and
curates and 400 non-conformists were evicted from their parishes.
The attendance at the government appointed
Episcopal Services were scant however and eventually officially
treasonable; Preaching the services was regarded as a capital
offence. The King ordered the military persecution of non
attendees to counter this trend and in 1666 his soldiers
commenced an assault on villagers at Dalry in Galloway.
Civilian bystanders witnessed the branding
of an old man which led to a public uproar and the formation
of a large gathering of Covenanters who had flocked to the
The army of rebels marched via Lanark towards
Edinburgh but were met and soundly defeated by an army of
3000 led by General Tam Dalyell.
At least a hundred were killed on the battlefield
and 120 taken prisoner. The captives were taken back to Edinburgh
where they were tried and sentenced to public execution by
hanging. The multiple hangings were followed by dismemberment
– body parts were used as a warning to other local
In August 1670 the Conventicles or meetings
were outlawed and deemed a capital offence. As a result of
this care was taken to orchestrate them in secrecy, mostly
outdoors, with armed sentries anticipating possible combat.
The Presbyterians would hold huge secret
meeting in the hills in this way; often attended at a few
hours notice, the services would enable several ministers
to perform mass marriages and baptism.
The risks of attendance were always present
and the Covenanters were periodically captured and often
executed en route to or from the Conventicles, so proving
the devotion involved in exercising their religious right