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Half Hangit Maggie


The Signing of the National Covenant in Greyfriar's Kirkyard 1638

THE COVENANTERS

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 Kirk.

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 cause.

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 Covenanters.

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 of freedom.





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