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
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
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.