During the years between 1647 and 1651 the Covenanters were in control in Scotland, but also became divided because of a number of disagreements over their attitude to king Charles’ son, Charles II.
In 1645, Charles I had been finally defeated by Oliver Cromwell and became a prisoner of the English Parliament. On 26 December 1647 some of the Scottish nobles secretly visited Charles and promised that they would raise an army in Scotland to attack England if he would allow Presbyterianism to be set up for three years. This agreement, known as the Engagement, was agreed to by the Scottish Parliament, but the General Assembly weren’t happy with it. The army raised to fight the English was soon defeated at Preston in 1648.
Following this, the strict Covenanters gained control of Parliament and in January 1649 they passed the Act of Classes which removed those who had taken part in the Engagement from the army and from important jobs. A week later however, the English Parliament executed Charles I. Although the Covenanters had disagreed with Charles, they also disagreed with killing the king, and the Scottish Parliament immediately declared his son, Charles II, who was living in Holland, as the new king. Between the failure of the Engagement in 1648 and the Battle of Dunbar (see below) in 1650, the Covenanters were in control of the government of Scotland. Their rule showed a real concern for the poor and oppressed, and they passed strict laws against injustice and moral sins and witchcraft.
In June 1650, Charles signed the Solemn League and Covenant and landed in Scotland. The English immediately invaded and the Scottish army was soon defeated at Dunbar by Cromwell, who then captured Edinburgh. After this defeat the Parliament and General Assembly accepted the Public Resolutions which let people who had taken part in the Engagement back into the army to fight for Charles II. The Covenanters split into Resolutioners (who agreed with the Public Resolutions) and Protestors (who didn’t). The Resolutioners thought that Scotland’s problems were because of a lack of unity, but the Protestors thought that their problems were because they weren’t seeking Christ first and foremost.
On 1 January 1651, Charles II was crowned King of Scotland at Scone after accepting the covenants and agreeing to set up Presbyterianism. Although a large part of Scotland was in English control, the Scots then invaded England. Again, they were totally defeated. Charles II managed to escape to France.
BCW: The Engagement
Treaty of Breda
Battle of Dunbar
J. G. Vos, The Scottish Covenanters (Edinburgh, 1998 ), pp 61-72
E. N. Moore, Our Covenant Heritage (Ross-shire, 2000), pp 42-8.
I. B. Cowan, The Scottish Covenanters, 1660-1688 (London, 1976), pp 28-30.
David Stevenson, Revolution and Counter Revolution, 1644-51 (2nd edn, Edinburgh, 2003) pp 60-176.
John R. Young, ‘Kirk party (act. 1648–1651)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online edn, Oxford University Press, Oct 2009
K. D. Holfelder, ‘Guthrie, James (c.1612–1661)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004