Rebellions in Four Nations

Warlord Games English Civil Wars 1642-1652 Montrose Irish.

Catastrophe came about in 1637. King Charles I’s determination to enforce uniformity on his churches led him to strengthen the episcopal element in the kirk. At his much-delayed coronation in Scotland in 1633 he insisted that the Scottish bishops ape the English bishops he had brought with him. Moreover, the Englishmen were given precedence. To follow through this instruction in superiority, the king had his Scottish bishops draft a liturgy, a prayer book modelled on the alien English Book of Common Prayer. On 23 July 1637, this book was ready and was to be read from pulpits across Scotland. At St Giles, Edinburgh, the congregation was furious—to them this was a foreign doctrine at best, it was English at worst, and appeared to be popish. Folding stools were hurled at the dean. Crowds outside hammered on the doors. Across Scotland, ministers were attacked and churches stormed by angry men and women.

Charles’s response was to treat this as an unwarranted rebellion. Even his loyal minister, the earl of Traquair, tried to convince him that the prayer book was a mistake, but to little avail. The Scottish council was packed with Charles’s appointees, men with little personal authority or experience of government, there because Charles expected their elevation to power would ensure loyalty. As a result they had little sway with the wider political world and less with the Scottish people. Even if inexperienced in executive government, many had been wise enough to stay away from St Giles that Sunday, to avoid trouble and being associated with the prayer book.

As riots occurred across Scotland, members of the Council discussed the matter with leading opponents of the prayer book. Charles’s refusal to discuss the matter in any meaningful way drove opponents to present him with a Supplication and Complaint in October 1637, which put the blame on the Scottish bishops. Charles reacted by threatening to arrest the supplicants, and hoped to end criticism by claiming direct responsibility for the prayer book; he believed that they would shy away from attacking the monarch. Instead, by February 1638, a National Covenant had been drafted. This Covenant was a reference to the 1581 Confession of Faith, which bound Scotsmen and women and James VI together in defence of the kirk. The Covenant went further, asserting that the religious changes imposed by James VI and Charles I were illegal because they contravened the basis of the kirk. The National Covenant was first signed at Edinburgh and then circulated throughout Scotland for men and women to sign at their own church doors.

The Covenanters demanded a General Assembly and Charles acceded, expecting his agents to be able to influence the choice of representatives. He even ordered that the General Assembly should meet at Glasgow, that he thought would circumvent opposition. Charles was hopelessly out of touch and his agents were not in control. The General Assembly, which met in November 1638, rejected the prayer book and abolished the office of bishop. The king’s commissioner, the marquis of Hamilton, Traquair’s replacement, failed to influence the assembly, and when he attempted to end the session by storming out he ran into a locked door. Even after Hamilton had managed to leave, the debates continued. Charles’s reaction to his loss of control and influence was to prepare for war against his rebellious subjects.

By May 1639 an English and Welsh army gathered at the border. Elaborate plans for amphibious landings on the Scottish coast were drawn up and Hamilton prepared a fleet. In Ireland, where there was support for the Covenanters amongst the Presbyterian ministers in Ulster, Lord Deputy Wentworth imposed a series of oaths aimed at forcing Scots settlers to abjure the Covenant. At the same time, the marquis of Antrim, chief of the Clan MacDonald (known as MacDonnell in Ireland), proposed to take advantage of the situation. He offered to raise a clan army to invade western Scotland where his lost ancestral estates were situated and controlled by the Campbells. The Campbells, although led by the marquis of Argyll, a supporter of the king, were also associated with the Covenant through Argyll’s heir, Lord Lorne. Wentworth suspected Antrim’s motive and rejected the plan, preparing an Irish army instead, with Protestant officers and Catholic soldiers.

The first Bishop’s War in 1639 was short. The amphibious landings were abandoned. Attempts to land at Aberdeen were called off when the earl of Montrose and a Covenanter Army captured the town. At the eastern border on 4 June, a section of the king’s army was defeated in a skirmish near Kelso. This became something of a rout, and in its wake the Covenanters put forwards proposals for discussions. That summer a truce, the Pacification of Berwick, was negotiated, but all the while Charles I planned for war.

A new General Assembly of the kirk met in August and confirmed its predecessor’s work. Later that same month the Estates also assembled, and they too confirmed the actions of the General Assembly. The Estates had been effectively controlled by Covenanters who had minimised the role of the king in influencing the selections of members, and steps were taken towards further controlling the business of the sessions. By the beginning of 1640, both the king and the Covenanters were preparing for renewed war.

Charles sought to improve the financial support for his government and war effort. He planned a two-pronged approach. Wentworth summoned a Parliament in Dublin, that he expected to manipulate into voting four subsidies for the king. In April a Parliament would meet at Westminster and was expected to follow suit. In March 1640 the Dublin Parliament met and all went according to plan, but the Westminster Parliament refused to discuss finance unless a series of grievances was addressed. The grievances were bound up with the collection of taxation in the 1630s, religious issues, and the way in that the 1629 Parliament had been closed. When he failed to influence the Parliament at all, Charles dissolved it on 5 May.

Plans for war went forward, but opposition to the king had developed in the wake of the Parliament. Soldiers mustered for the army went on the rampage, destroying altar rails and religious images, and people across the country began to refuse to pay taxation. Support for the Scots was to be found across England, where people who objected to the religious reforms of Archbishop Laud refused to pay for them to be imposed in Scotland. In Ireland, many Scots in Ulster refused Wentworth’s oaths and left the country, leaving tracts of countryside untilled.

The war in the summer of 1640 saw the defeat of the king’s army at the Battle of Newburn and the occupation of northern England by the Covenanter Army. This time peace negotiations were conducted on the Scots’ terms. They demanded freedom for the kirk, but also wanted a Parliament at Westminster to confirm the terms. This gelled with calls within England and Wales for a new Parliament. With an army in occupation for that he was to provide pay, the king had no option but to accede. Parliament met on 3 November and the king’s few supporters were overwhelmed.

Three Parliaments now worked in opposition to the king. The Dublin Parliament had met in the summer and began to unravel the financial arrangements it had put in place in March. It then went on to question the relationship between itself and the lord deputy and even questioned its subordination to the Privy Council in London. Moreover, Irish and Scots politicians presented evidence about Wentworth’s government of Ireland and his planned invasion of Scotland. This was taken up by Westminster and in November Wentworth, now known as the earl of Strafford, was impeached and imprisoned along with Archbishop Laud.

As the Dublin Parliament began to deconstruct the government in Ireland, the Estates began to reduce the power of the king in Scottish government. The Westminster Parliament began to take apart the machinery of government that had sustained the Personal Rule. As well as impeaching Strafford and Laud, Parliament aimed its ire at ministers Lord Finch and Francis Windebank, who both fled to France to escape. Ship Money was abolished and forest fines were banned. Two acts prevented another period of Personal Rule: One established that there should be Parliaments at least every three years; the other made it impossible for Parliament to be dissolved without its own consent. In May 1641, against the background of a plot hatched amongst some of the king’s army officers, Strafford was executed. This effectively settled the issues raised by the Personal Rule, but Parliament presented the king with Ten Propositions demanding a further role in government by having the right to nominate ministers and to have a say in foreign policy.

The king went to Scotland in the summer months of 1641 to ratify the Treaty of London, which had ended the war, and also to ratify the acts passed in the Estates, which diminished his role in Scottish government. The Estates had passed a series of measures that had been the inspiration for the Westminster Parliament’s work during the spring. Charles also harboured hopes of nurturing a royalist party in Scotland that could overthrow the Covenanter government. The earl of Montrose, the Covenanter general, had become disillusioned with the Covenanter cause and had questioned the ambitions of the earl of Argyll (formerly Lord Lorne). By the time Charles went to Edinburgh, however, Montrose was imprisoned. An attempted coup d’état, known as the Incident, was exposed and Charles became implicated in it. With his attempts to overturn the Covenanter government in tatters, the king returned to London. Within days of his arrival news broke of a rebellion in Ireland.

The Irish Rebellion

In the wake of the successes at Edinburgh and Westminster, Catholic Irish and long-established English settler families began to press for similar changes at home. Autonomy for the Dublin Parliament was one aim, but others related to religious issues and the tenure rights of the Catholic population. Rights to practice their religion openly was a major demand and the king had tentatively suggested that it might be possible. The Catholic population too had insecure tenure on their estates having never been granted firm property rights because of their religion. These two issues were bound together and known as the Graces.

Given the king’s powerlessness, the Irish felt able to press their cause. Although the Scots had secured the safety of the kirk, however, and the Welsh and English had freed themselves from Laud’s reforms, religious rights for Catholics were not acceptable to the Protestant Parliaments in Edinburgh and Westminster. Frustrated groups began to discuss the possibility of a rising in Ireland, and exiled Irishmen became involved in these discussions. By October the discussions had crystallised into a plan to seize strongholds throughout Ulster and Dublin Castle.

On 22 October rebellion broke out, but although the forts in Ulster were captured by Sir Phelim O’Neill and others, Dublin remained in government hands. By November, rebellion had spread throughout Ireland and the Old English settlers had joined with the Catholic Irish rebels. The government forces managed to hold onto pockets around the Irish coast, but supplies and reinforcements were necessary if there was any possibility of remaining there. In Edinburgh and Westminster the governments began to discuss military and financial plans for reconquering Ireland. Whilst King Charles outwardly discussed these issues with the Westminster Parliament, he also plotted to seize prominent leaders. Charles was assured that there was now a significant group of M.P.s who supported him rather than his opponents.

In late November, after heated debate, Parliament had passed the Grand Remonstrance. This was a sort of petition that had set out the evils of the 1630s and the remedies that had been applied; finally, the remonstrance proposed further reforms. No sooner was this passed by the Commons than it was published. This broadcasting of Parliament’s position was disliked by many M.P.s. Christmastide 1641 was a period of riots in London and Westminster by mobs supporting the aims of the Grand Remonstrance, and in particular the removal of the bishops from the House of Lords in a move similar to the exclusion of bishops from Scottish government. On 5 January Charles marched into Westminster to arrest five leading M.P.s and Lord Mandeville. This coup d’état, like that in Scotland the previous October, failed (the proposed victims had fled), and it provoked continued rioting that in turn drove the king and his family out of the capital.

Over the next months Charles and Parliament grew further estranged, agreeing only on the need to fund the war against the Irish rebels. The raising of an army to fight in Ireland drove the final wedge between the king and Parliament, however. It was felt that the king, implicated in an army plot and two coup d’états, could not be trusted if given the military command. He suggested he would have to go to Ireland, especially as the rebels there claimed to have the king’s warrant for their rebellion. With the Militia Ordinance, Parliament took away the king’s military powers in March. In April the king responded by trying to seize the arsenal deposited at Hull during the Bishop’s War. He was denied entry into the city. In May Charles began the recreation of obsolete county-based commissions of array to regain control of the Trained Bands. Throughout the summer of 1642 both he and Parliament battled to raise armies, each hoping to overawe the other.

In Ireland the war had taken two turns of fortune. Money and troops had begun arriving in the spring. The marquis of Ormond took command of the English forces and began to make inroads into rebel territory in Leinster province. In eastern Ulster a Scottish army landed and took control of the region in May. As summer drew on, however, attention in England had turned inwards and the supply of resources to Ireland dried up as king and Parliament commandeered the money for their own use. War broke out in England and Wales in August.

Wars and Civil Wars, 1641–1653

War raged in the four nations for the next 11 years: In Ireland there was a constant state of war; in the other three nations war was more sporadic. Each war impinged on the others and all were closely related to the needs of Charles I, who sought to offset failure in one nation with success and resources from at least one of the others.

In England and Wales, the war that broke out in August 1642 began as both sides, royalists and parliamentarians, assembled field armies, first, to try and overawe their enemy, and then, second, to inflict military defeat in one cataclysmic battle. Neither scenario was to be enacted. By October the king had moved from his initial musters in the North Midlands towards London, whilst Parliament’s commander in chief, the earl of Essex, moved westwards from the East Midlands to stop him. Scouting techniques were so underdeveloped that the king got between the earl and London, and then the two armies bumped into each other whilst searching for quarters. On 23 October 1643, the first major battle of the war in England took place at Edgehill. Partly due to the inexperience within the two armies, the battle was drawn and the war had to take on a new complexion.

After the king failed to press his attack on London in mid-November, both sides now began a fight for territory and the resources to maintain a nationwide war. The winter was spent in regional battles as local commanders began to seize castles and towns in that to establish garrisons. By the spring, the king controlled much of the south-west and north-east of England and had a significant presence in both the North and South Midlands. The royalists also held onto the vast majority of Wales. Parliament controlled all major ports, the south-east and the Lancashire and Cheshire area, as well as significant Midland areas of England, and a good proportion of Pembrokeshire in Wales. The king believed himself to be in a strong position within the country and as such did not take the opportunity to negotiate the end of the war, which arose in spring 1643.

Attempts to dislodge the royalists from their strongholds in the north, the south-west, and the South Midlands failed in the summer of 1643. In the south-west, parliamentarian general Sir William Waller, who had met with great success at the end of 1642, was defeated at Rowton Down in July. The earl of Essex’s attempt to capture Oxford was curtailed in June, and that same month the earl of Newcastle defeated the Yorkshire parliamentarians Lord Fairfax and his son, Sir Thomas, and bottled them up in Hull. Both Parliament and the king sought outside help at this point. At first, Scotland remained aloof from the conflict in England and Wales. The Covenanters had offered to act as mediator but the king had rejected their approach. The leading parliamentarian, John Pym, had exploited the Scots’ fear of the Catholic forces in Ireland. He suggested that the king was negotiating with the Irish, and that there might be Irish landings on the Scottish coast as a result of such discussions. He also hinted that if the king, who appeared to have the upper hand in England and Wales, were to win, then he might turn on Scotland.

The Development of the Wars

In Ireland, stalemate had developed after the funding from across the Irish sea had dried up. The English and Scots forces held significant areas of territory in Ulster (in Down and Antrim), around Dublin in Leinster, and around Cork and Youghal in Munster. There were also a few garrisons in Connacht held by the English. The Irish meanwhile had unified their forces and their administration. Provincial armies had been created from the disparate forces and generals appointed. A government was formed with an executive, the Supreme Council, and a legislative, the General Assembly, which consisted of elected representatives of the shires and boroughs. Each county had a council of its own that sent representatives to provincial assemblies. Despite this organisation, resources were few and the Catholic Confederation of Kilkenny was unable to defeat the English or Scottish garrisons and armies.

Negotiations with the English began in 1643, with the aim of getting royal recognition for the Catholic religion and for the property rights of the Catholic peoples. The king’s representative, the earl of Ormond, was unwilling to make major concessions, but by September at least a cease-fire had been arranged. This Cessation allowed for the return home of the English forces sent to Ireland in 1642, and these men were co-opted as royalist forces. This in turn enabled Pym to show the Scots that he had been right about the suspected negotiations, and the Scots became convinced of the need to join the Westminster Parliament against the king. In 16 January 1644 the Army of the Solemn League and Covenant, named after the treaty between Edinburgh and Westminster, invaded north-east England. The English and Welsh people under the control of Parliament would fund the invading army and there would be consideration given to the creation of a Presbyterian church in England and Wales.

Even before the Scots crossed the border, the war had taken a different complexion. In September three royalist armies were weakened by fruitless attempts to capture the prominent parliamentarian strongholds of Hull, Gloucester, and Plymouth. Failure to capture any of them had wasted resources and reduced the numbers of effective soldiers through disease and injury. It took time to assemble the forces necessary to hold back the Scots, and in the end it was fruitless—defeat at the Battle of Selby on 11 April led to the collapse of the royalist hold on the north. The marquis of Newcastle and his once powerful army became bottled up in York. Royalist attempts to encroach on south-east England came to an end in the spring. Yet Parliament’s attempt to capture Oxford again failed and a series of campaigns followed in that both Sir William Waller and the earl of Essex were defeated by the king. Waller’s army had been caught in Oxfordshire and destroyed. Essex had marched off into royalist territory in the far west only to be trapped and defeated at Lostwithiel in Cornwall at the beginning of September. On 2 July, the Northern Army and a rescue force led to its aid by Prince Rupert were defeated at Marston moor near York. With this defeat the royalists lost control of the north.

The king’s victories in the south, and the failure of three combined parliamentarian armies to defeat him in the fall, temporarily offset the loss of the north. It also led to a false confidence that led some royalists to ridicule Parliament’s reorganisation of its war effort and the creation of one field army from the three assembled in the autumn. This New Model Army was created in early 1645, and in June it defeated the king at Naseby and then set about conquering the south-west. Together, it and the Northern Association Army won the war during the summer of 1645. During the ensuing autumn and winter the New Model and local forces ended royalist resistance in the south of England, whilst the Northern Association forces and the Scots cleared the north and North Midlands of major royalist strongholds. In Wales, Welsh parliamentarians cleared the south of the country whilst Lancashire and Cheshire parliamentarians captured central and northern royalist strongholds.

Fighting had broken out in Scotland during 1644. Alasdair MacColla had led a force of Irish and Highland troops from Ireland to the Western Isles in July 1644. The Catholic Confederation hoped that this force would oblige the Scots to withdraw forces from Ulster; the marquis of Ormond, who lent support to the expedition, hoped that the Scots would withdraw forces from England. MacColla, who was of the MacDonald clan, probably hoped for both, but also had an eye for regaining clan land lost to the Campbells. In August 1644 MacColla was joined by the earl of Montrose, by now a fully fledged royalist. Montrose had a commission to raise the loyal Scots against the Covenanter government. Together, the two commanders embarked on a campaign that over the next year saw them defeat all the home armies the Edinburgh government sent against them. At Kilsyth, on 15 August 1645, Montrose defeated the last of these armies and Scotland appeared to be his to command. He summoned the Estates to Glasgow and began to receive tributes from politicians. Ironically, it was to be one of the early aims of the war that was to defeat Montrose. A section of the Army of the Solemn League and Covenant did leave England. On 13 September David Leslie and a section of the Scots Horse caught Montrose’s men at Philliphaugh and destroyed them. The month-old royalist domination of Scotland was over: But guerrilla warfare was to continue in the country until 1647.

In Ireland, the king had sought a treaty not because he was able to accept any of the Confederation’s demands, but because he needed their military help. Ormond, part of the Protestant group that hitherto controlled Ireland’s political world, was unwilling personally to accept the freedom Catholics wanted for their faith. Charles sought to circumvent him by sending the earl of Glamorgan, a Welsh Catholic, to negotiate secretly with the Confederation. Glamorgan’s terms were more acceptable at Kilkenny, but a papal representative, Giovanni Battista Rinuccini, arrived just before the terms were agreed. He was wary about the secret nature of the discussions and urged holding out for public acknowledgement. Before he could renegotiate the treaty personally with Glamorgan, a copy of the secret treaty fell into enemy hands. Upon the Westminster Parliament’s horrified publication of the terms, Charles I repudiated them and Ormond arrested Glamorgan.

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