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The 1639 and 1640 Bishops' Wars () were the first of the conflicts known collectively as the 1639 to 1653 Wars of the Three Kingdoms, which took place in
Scotland Scotland (, ) is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Covering the northern third of the island of Great Britain, mainland Scotland has a border with England to the southeast and is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the ...
, England and
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean, in north-western Europe. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George's Channel. Ireland is the seco ...
. Others include the Irish Confederate Wars, the
First First or 1st is the ordinal form of the number one (#1). First or 1st may also refer to: * World record, specifically the first instance of a particular achievement Arts and media Music * 1$T, American rapper, singer-songwriter, DJ, and re ...
and Second English Civil Wars, the
Anglo-Scottish war (1650–1652) The Anglo-Scottish war (1650–1652), also known as the Third Civil War, was the final conflict in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between shifting alliances of religious and political ...
, and the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. The wars originated in disputes over governance of the
Church of Scotland The Church of Scotland ( sco, The Kirk o Scotland; gd, Eaglais na h-Alba) is the national church in Scotland. The Church of Scotland was principally shaped by John Knox, in the Reformation of 1560, when it split from the Catholic Church an ...
or
kirk Kirk is a Scottish and former Northern English word meaning "church". It is often used specifically of the Church of Scotland. Many place names and personal names are also derived from it. Basic meaning and etymology As a common noun, ''kirk'' ...
that began in the 1580s, and came to a head when Charles I attempted to impose uniform practices on the kirk and the Church of England in 1637. These were opposed by most Scots, who supported a
Presbyterian Presbyterianism is a part of the Reformed tradition within Protestantism that broke from the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland by John Knox, who was a priest at St. Giles Cathedral (Church of Scotland). Presbyterian churches derive their n ...
church governed by ministers and elders. Signatories of the 1638
National Covenant The National Covenant () was an agreement signed by many people of Scotland during 1638, opposing the proposed reforms of the Church of Scotland (also known as '' The Kirk'') by King Charles I. The king's efforts to impose changes on the church ...
pledged to oppose such "innovations", and were collectively known as Covenanters. Although the Covenant made no reference to
Bishop A bishop is an ordained clergy member who is entrusted with a position of authority and oversight in a religious institution. In Christianity, bishops are normally responsible for the governance of dioceses. The role or office of bishop is ca ...
s, they were seen as instruments of royal control and in December were expelled by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. The origin of the term "Bishops Wars", this action gave a political dimension to a conflict previously focused on religious practice. After the Covenanters took control of government following the 1639 war, the Scottish Parliament passed a series of acts that amounted to a constitutional revolution, confirmed by victory in 1640. In order to protect that settlement, the Scots allied with sympathisers in
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean, in north-western Europe. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George's Channel. Ireland is the seco ...
and England, chiefly
Puritans The Puritans were English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries who sought to purify the Church of England of Roman Catholic practices, maintaining that the Church of England had not been fully reformed and should become more Protestant. ...
who objected to recent religious reforms, and wanted elections for a new Parliament of England, suspended since 1629. When Charles sought to reverse his defeat in 1640, the combination destabilised all three kingdoms, with the October 1641 Irish Rebellion followed by the First English Civil War in August 1642.


Background

The Protestant Reformation created a
Church of Scotland The Church of Scotland ( sco, The Kirk o Scotland; gd, Eaglais na h-Alba) is the national church in Scotland. The Church of Scotland was principally shaped by John Knox, in the Reformation of 1560, when it split from the Catholic Church an ...
, or 'The Kirk',
Presbyterian Presbyterianism is a part of the Reformed tradition within Protestantism that broke from the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland by John Knox, who was a priest at St. Giles Cathedral (Church of Scotland). Presbyterian churches derive their n ...
in structure, and
Calvinist Calvinism (also called the Reformed Tradition, Reformed Protestantism, Reformed Christianity, or simply Reformed) is a major branch of Protestantism that follows the theological tradition and forms of Christian practice set down by John C ...
in doctrine. While 'Presbyterian' and '
Episcopalian Anglicanism is a Western Christian tradition that has developed from the practices, liturgy, and identity of the Church of England following the English Reformation, in the context of the Protestant Reformation in Europe. It is one of the ...
' now implies differences in both governance and doctrine, this was not the case in the 17th century. Episcopalian structures were governed by bishops, usually appointed by the monarch, Presbyterian by
presbyters Presbyter () is an honorific title for Christian clergy. The word derives from the Greek ''presbyteros,'' which means elder or senior, although many in the Christian antiquity would understand ''presbyteros'' to refer to the bishop functioning a ...
, elected by ministers and elders. Arguments over the role of bishops were as much about politics and the power of the monarch as religious practice. The vast majority of Scots, whether Covenanter or
Royalist A royalist supports a particular monarch as head of state for a particular kingdom, or of a particular dynastic claim. In the abstract, this position is royalism. It is distinct from monarchism, which advocates a monarchical system of gover ...
, believed a 'well-ordered' monarchy was divinely mandated; they disagreed on what 'well-ordered' meant, and who held ultimate authority in clerical affairs. In general, Royalists viewed the monarch as head of both church and state, while Covenanters held this applied only to secular matters, and "Chryst Jesus...was King of the Kirk'. However, there were many other factors, including nationalist allegiance to the kirk, and individual motives were very complex; Montrose fought for the Covenant in 1639 and 1640, then became a Royalist, and switching sides was common throughout the period. When
James VI and I James VI and I (James Charles Stuart; 19 June 1566 – 27 March 1625) was King of Scotland as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the Scottish and English crowns on 24 March 1603 until hi ...
succeeded as king of England in 1603, he viewed a unified Church of Scotland and England as the first step in creating a centralised, Unionist state. This policy was adopted by his son, Charles I, but the two were very different in doctrine; many Scots, and English
Puritans The Puritans were English Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries who sought to purify the Church of England of Roman Catholic practices, maintaining that the Church of England had not been fully reformed and should become more Protestant. ...
, considered Charles'
reforms Reform ( lat, reformo) means the improvement or amendment of what is wrong, corrupt, unsatisfactory, etc. The use of the word in this way emerges in the late 18th century and is believed to originate from Christopher Wyvill's Association movement ...
to the Church of England as essentially Catholic. This mattered because fear of 'Popery' remained widespread, despite the fact that in Scotland it was restricted to parts of the aristocracy and the remote
Highlands and Islands The Highlands and Islands is an area of Scotland broadly covering the Scottish Highlands, plus Orkney, Shetland and Outer Hebrides (Western Isles). The Highlands and Islands are sometimes defined as the area to which the Crofters' Act of 1886 ...
. Scots fought in the
Thirty Years' War The Thirty Years' War was one of the longest and most destructive conflicts in European history, lasting from 1618 to 1648. Fought primarily in Central Europe, an estimated 4.5 to 8 million soldiers and civilians died as a result of battle ...
, one of the most destructive religious conflicts in European history, while Scotland had close economic and cultural links with the
Dutch Republic The United Provinces of the Netherlands, also known as the (Seven) United Provinces, officially as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands (Dutch: ''Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Nederlanden''), and commonly referred to in historiography ...
, then fighting for independence from Catholic Spain. In addition, many had been educated in French Calvinist universities, which were suppressed in the 1620s. A general perception Protestant Europe was under attack meant increased sensitivity to changes in church practice; in 1636, a new Book of Canons replaced John Knox's Book of Discipline and excommunicated anyone who denied the King's supremacy in church matters. When followed in 1637 by a new
Book of Common Prayer The ''Book of Common Prayer'' (BCP) is the name given to a number of related prayer books used in the Anglican Communion and by other Christianity, Christian churches historically related to Anglicanism. The original book, published in 1549 ...
, the result was anger and widespread rioting, said to have been set off with the throwing of a stool by Jenny Geddes during a service in St Giles Cathedral. More recently, historians like Mark Kishlansky have argued her protest was part of a series of planned and co-ordinated opposition to the Prayer book, whose origin was as much political as it was religious. In February 1638, representatives from all sections of Scottish society agreed a
National Covenant The National Covenant () was an agreement signed by many people of Scotland during 1638, opposing the proposed reforms of the Church of Scotland (also known as '' The Kirk'') by King Charles I. The king's efforts to impose changes on the church ...
, pledging resistance to liturgical 'innovations.' Support for the Covenant was widespread except in
Aberdeenshire Aberdeenshire ( sco, Aiberdeenshire; gd, Siorrachd Obar Dheathain) is one of the 32 council areas of Scotland. It takes its name from the County of Aberdeen which has substantially different boundaries. The Aberdeenshire Council area inclu ...
and Banff, heartland of Royalist and Episcopalian resistance for the next 60 years. The Marquess of Argyll and six other members of the
Scottish Privy Council The Privy Council of Scotland ( — 1 May 1708) was a body that advised the Scottish monarch. In the range of its functions the council was often more important than the Estates in the running the country. Its registers include a wide range of ...
backed the Covenant. Charles agreed to defer discussion of the new canons to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, but made it clear to his supporters he had no intention of making any concessions. Aware of this, when the Assembly gathered in
Glasgow Glasgow ( ; sco, Glesca or ; gd, Glaschu ) is the most populous city in Scotland and the fourth-most populous city in the United Kingdom, as well as being the 27th largest city by population in Europe. In 2020, it had an estimated po ...
in December it rejected the changes, expelled bishops from the kirk, and affirmed its right to meet annually, not just when the King agreed. The Marquis of Hamilton, a prominent Scottish nobleman and Charles' chief advisor on Scottish affairs, advised the king that there was now no alternative to war.


1639; First Bishops' War

Charles decided to re-assert his authority by force, but preferred to rely on his own financial resources, rather than recalling Parliament. An English army of 20,000 would advance on Edinburgh from the south, while an amphibious force of 5,000 under the Marquis of Hamilton landed in
Aberdeen Aberdeen (; sco, Aiberdeen ; gd, Obar Dheathain ; la, Aberdonia) is a city in North East Scotland, and is the third most populous city in the country. Aberdeen is one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas (as Aberdeen City), and ...
, where it would link up with Royalist troops led by the Marquess of Huntly. Lastly, an Irish army under the Earl of Antrim would invade western Scotland from Carrickfergus, where he would join forces with the MacDonalds and other Royalist clans. The plan was overly complex, and preparations were hampered by lack of funds, while many Englishmen were sympathetic to the Covenanter cause. The Scots quickly occupied
Dumbarton Dumbarton (; also sco, Dumbairton; ) is a town in West Dunbartonshire, Scotland, on the north bank of the River Clyde where the River Leven flows into the Clyde estuary. In 2006, it had an estimated population of 19,990. Dumbarton was the ca ...
, preventing any prospect of an Irish landing, while Montrose occupied Aberdeen in March, leaving Hamilton unable to disembark his troops. In April, Royalist leader Lord Banff re-occupied Aberdeen after two minor engagements; in one of these, the so-called Trot of Turriff, David Prat became the first casualty of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. The English army mustered at the border town of
Berwick-upon-Tweed Berwick-upon-Tweed (), sometimes known as Berwick-on-Tweed or simply Berwick, is a town and civil parish in Northumberland, England, south of the Anglo-Scottish border, and the northernmost town in England. The 2011 United Kingdom census rec ...
totalled some 15,000 men, but the vast majority were untrained conscripts from the Northern trained bands or militia, many armed only with bows and arrows. Charles unsuccessfully tried to compensate for this by recruiting foreign mercenaries from the Spanish Netherlands, exposing him to accusations of using foreign Catholics against his own subjects. A Scottish army of 16,500 men under the experienced veteran Alexander Leslie, camped a few miles away on the other side of the border near
Duns Duns may refer to: * Duns, Scottish Borders, a town in Berwickshire, Scotland ** Duns railway station ** Duns F.C., a football club ** Duns RFC, a rugby football club ** Battle of Duns, an engagement fought in 1372 * Duns Scotus ( 1265/66– ...
. Both sides included large numbers of professional soldiers who had served in the European wars, but the senior English commands went to Charles' favourites, who were largely inexperienced. Charles joined his troops at Berwick on 30 May, announcing he would not invade Scotland, as long as the Covenanter army remained ten miles north of the border. Leslie advanced to Kelso, within the ten mile limit, but neither side was anxious to fight; on 11 June, negotiations began that ended in the Pacification of Berwick on 19 June. This agreed to refer all disputed questions to the General Assembly, or
Parliament of Scotland The Parliament of Scotland ( sco, Pairlament o Scotland; gd, Pàrlamaid na h-Alba) was the legislature of the Kingdom of Scotland from the 13th century until 1707. The parliament evolved during the early 13th century from the king's council of ...
, for resolution. However, both sides viewed this as a truce, and continued preparations for another military confrontation. The only significant engagement of the war took place on 18 June, at the Battle of the Brig of Dee south of Aberdeen, between Royalist forces under Viscount Aboyne and Montrose. It resulted in a Covenanter victory, although casualties were minimal.


Interlude

The kirk's General Assembly met again in August 1639 and confirmed the decisions taken at Glasgow, which were then ratified by the Scottish Parliament. When Charles' representative, Lord Traquair, tried to suspend it, his action was declared illegal and Parliament continued to sit. A series of acts were passed which amounted to a constitutional revolution, including Tri-annual Parliaments, and making the Covenant compulsory for all holders of public office. His advisors convinced Charles the only way to finance a second war was to recall the English Parliament, and in December 1639, he issued writs for the first time since 1629.
Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford Thomas Wentworth, 1st Earl of Strafford, (13 April 1593 ( N.S.)12 May 1641), was an English statesman and a major figure in the period leading up to the English Civil War. He served in Parliament and was a supporter of King Charles I. From ...
, his most capable advisor and
Lord Deputy of Ireland The Lord Deputy was the representative of the monarch and head of the Irish executive under English rule, during the Lordship of Ireland and then the Kingdom of Ireland. He deputised prior to 1523 for the Viceroy of Ireland. The plural form is ' ...
also asked the
Parliament of Ireland The Parliament of Ireland ( ga, Parlaimint na hÉireann) was the legislature of the Lordship of Ireland, and later the Kingdom of Ireland, from 1297 until 1800. It was modelled on the Parliament of England and from 1537 comprised two chambe ...
for funds; in March, they approved an army of 9,000 to suppress the Covenanters, despite violent opposition from their co-religionists in Ulster. This is an example of how the Bishops Wars destabilised all three kingdoms. Charles hoped this would provide an example for the
Short Parliament The Short Parliament was a Parliament of England that was summoned by King Charles I of England on the 20th of February 1640 and sat from 13th of April to the 5th of May 1640. It was so called because of its short life of only three weeks. Af ...
, which assembled in April; however, led by
John Pym John Pym (20 May 1584 – 8 December 1643) was an English politician, who helped establish the foundations of Parliamentary democracy. One of the Five Members whose attempted arrest in January 1642 sparked the First English Civil War, his us ...
, Parliament demanded he address grievances like ship money before they would approve subsidies. After three weeks of stalemate. Charles dissolved Parliament; he would have to rely on his own resources to fund the war. Meanwhile, in January 1640 the Covenanter leaders mustered their regiments, and to secure their rear, occupied Aberdeen, centre of the Royalist north-east.


1640: Second Bishops' War

In June, the Scottish Parliament met in Edinburgh, and granted Argyll a commission of 'fire and sword' against Royalist areas in
Lochaber Lochaber ( ; gd, Loch Abar) is a name applied to a part of the Scottish Highlands. Historically, it was a provincial lordship consisting of the parishes of Kilmallie and Kilmonivaig, as they were before being reduced in extent by the creati ...
,
Badenoch Badenoch (from gd, Bàideanach, meaning "drowned land") is a traditional district which today forms part of Badenoch and Strathspey, an area of Highland Council, in Scotland, bounded on the north by the Monadhliath Mountains, on the east by ...
and
Rannoch Rannoch ( gd, Raineach or , meaning 'bracken') is an area of the Scottish Highlands between the A9 road, to the east, and the A82, to the west. The area is crossed from south to north by the West Highland railway line. Features of the area in ...
. A force of 5,000 conducted this campaign with great brutality, burning and looting across a large area, one of the most infamous acts being the destruction of Airlie Castle. By seizing Dumbarton Castle, they also prevented Strafford's Irish army from landing in Scotland, allowing them to focus on the threatened English invasion. The Scottish army was led by Alexander Leslie, an experienced veteran who had served with the
Swedes Swedes ( sv, svenskar) are a North Germanic ethnic group native to the Nordic region, primarily their nation state of Sweden, who share a common ancestry, culture, history and language. They mostly inhabit Sweden and the other Nordic countri ...
in the
Thirty Years' War The Thirty Years' War was one of the longest and most destructive conflicts in European history, lasting from 1618 to 1648. Fought primarily in Central Europe, an estimated 4.5 to 8 million soldiers and civilians died as a result of battle ...
. It consisted of around 20,000 well-equipped men, and possessed vastly superior artillery compared to its opponents. The English troops consisted largely of militia from Southern England, poorly-equipped, unpaid, and unenthusiastic about the war. On the march north, lack of supplies meant they looted the areas they passed through, creating widespread disorder; several units murdered officers suspected of being Catholics, then deserted. Lord Conway, the English commander in the north, focused on reinforcing
Berwick-upon-Tweed Berwick-upon-Tweed (), sometimes known as Berwick-on-Tweed or simply Berwick, is a town and civil parish in Northumberland, England, south of the Anglo-Scottish border, and the northernmost town in England. The 2011 United Kingdom census rec ...
, the usual starting point for invading England. On 17 August, cavalry units under Montrose crossed the
River Tweed The River Tweed, or Tweed Water ( gd, Abhainn Thuaidh, sco, Watter o Tweid, cy, Tuedd), is a river long that flows east across the Border region in Scotland and northern England. Tweed cloth derives its name from its association with the ...
, followed by the rest of Leslie's army. The Scots bypassed the town, and headed for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, centre of the coal trade with London, and a valuable bargaining point. On 28 August, the Scots forced a passage over the River Tyne at the Battle of Newburn; they still had to take Newcastle, but to Leslie's surprise, when they arrived on 30 August, Conway had withdrawn to
Durham Durham most commonly refers to: *Durham, England, a cathedral city and the county town of County Durham *County Durham, an English county *Durham County, North Carolina, a county in North Carolina, United States *Durham, North Carolina Durham ( ...
. One suggestion is he did not trust his ill-disciplined and mutinous troops, but morale in the rest of the army now collapsed, forcing Charles to make peace. The only other significant action of the war was the siege of Edinburgh Castle, held by the Royalist commander Sir Patrick Ruthven, who had previously served with Leslie in the Swedish army. Blockaded since the end of May, starvation forced him to surrender in September.


Aftermath

Under the truce negotiated in October 1640, the Scots were paid £850 per day and allowed to occupy
Northumberland Northumberland () is a county in Northern England, one of two counties in England which border with Scotland. Notable landmarks in the county include Alnwick Castle, Bamburgh Castle, Hadrian's Wall and Hexham Abbey. It is bordered by land on ...
and
County Durham County Durham ( ), officially simply Durham,UK General Acts 1997 c. 23Lieutenancies Act 1997 Schedule 1(3). From legislation.gov.uk, retrieved 6 April 2022. is a ceremonial county in North East England.North East Assembly About North East E ...
until peace terms had been finalised. Many believed this arrangement was secretly agreed between the Parliamentary opposition and the Scots, since it allowed them to maintain pressure on London by controlling the export of coal from Newcastle, while only Parliament could levy the taxes needed to pay the occupation costs. The so-called Long Parliament that assembled in November 1640 asserted its power by executing Strafford in May 1641 and the Scots finally evacuated Northern England after the Treaty of London was signed in August. While defeat forced Charles to call a Parliament he could not get rid of, the
Irish Rebellion of 1641 The Irish Rebellion of 1641 ( ga, Éirí Amach 1641) was an uprising by Irish Catholics in the Kingdom of Ireland, who wanted an end to anti-Catholic discrimination, greater Irish self-governance, and to partially or fully reverse the plantat ...
was arguably more significant in the struggle that led to war in August 1642. Both he and Parliament agreed on the need to suppress the revolt but neither trusted the other with control of the army raised to do so, and it was this tension that was the proximate cause of the
First English Civil War The First English Civil War took place in England and Wales from 1642 to 1646, and forms part of the 1639 to 1653 Wars of the Three Kingdoms. They include the Bishops' Wars, the Irish Confederate Wars, the Second English Civil War, the Ang ...
. Victory confirmed Covenanter control of government and kirk, and Scottish policy now focused on securing these achievements. The 1643 Solemn League and Covenant was driven by concern over the implications for Scotland if Parliament were defeated; like Charles, the Covenanters sought political power through the creation of a unified church of Scotland and England, only one that was Presbyterian, rather than Episcopalian. However, success in the Bishops Wars meant they overestimated their military capacity and ability to enforce this objective. Unlike Scotland, Presbyterians were a minority within the Church of England, while religious Independents opposed any state church, let alone one dictated by the Scots. One of their most prominent opponents was
Oliver Cromwell Oliver Cromwell (25 April 15993 September 1658) was an English politician and military officer who is widely regarded as one of the most important statesmen in English history. He came to prominence during the 1639 to 1651 Wars of the Three K ...
, who claimed he would fight rather than agree to such an outcome. Many of the political radicals known as the
Levellers The Levellers were a political movement active during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms who were committed to popular sovereignty, extended suffrage, equality before the law and religious tolerance. The hallmark of Leveller thought was its populis ...
, and much of the
New Model Army The New Model Army was a standing army formed in 1645 by the Parliamentarians during the First English Civil War, then disbanded after the Stuart Restoration in 1660. It differed from other armies employed in the 1639 to 1653 Wars of the Thr ...
, belonged to Independent congregations; by 1646, the Scots and their English allies viewed them as a greater threat than Charles. Defeat in the 1648 Second English Civil War resulted in his execution, while a failed invasion of England intended to restore his son in the
Anglo-Scottish war (1650–1652) The Anglo-Scottish war (1650–1652), also known as the Third Civil War, was the final conflict in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between shifting alliances of religious and political ...
was followed by Scotland's incorporation into the Commonwealth, a union made on English terms.


References


Sources

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Bibliography

* * * * * * * * * * * {{Kingdom of Scotland 1639 in Scotland 1640 in Scotland 17th-century military history of Scotland Church of Scotland Conflicts in 1639 Conflicts in 1640 Wars involving England Wars involving Scotland Wars of the Three Kingdoms