Friday, 19 November 2010

Who's Who in Scottish Military History #3 - King Charles I

On this day in 1600 the man who would later become Charles I was born in Dunfermline. At the time no-one knew he would be the last king born in Scotland but three years later his father became James I of England and Ireland and they all moved to London.

Charles acceded to the throne in 1625 and then spent the next thirteen years alienating large swathes of his subjects with his high-handed rule. Charles firmly believed in the divine right of kings and tried to impose his views on the countries he ruled. In 1629 he dissolved the English Parliament after they continued to thwart his money raising schemes. At the same time he stirred up hostility in Ireland with his policy of protestant settlement in Ulster.

In 1633 he visited Scotland for the first time in thirty years to be crowned King of Scots and then tried to impose his high church Episcopalian views on the Calvinist Presbyterians. That went down so well that he managed to unite pretty much of the whole country against him and led to the signing of the National Covenant in 1638. The National Covenant had been signed by the great and the good of Scotland and it told Charles to keep his nose out of Church of Scotland affairs.

This was too much for Charles. He decided to send in an English army to suppress the rebellious Scots in what became known as the Bishops' Wars of 1639. This in turn annoyed his English subjects even more because they had to pay for it. The ins and outs of all the politics and battles over the next few years are too complicated for a blog post but basically it was the start of twenty-two years of war and rebellions in the British Isles.

Up until recently this was time was known as the English Civil War. It is now known as the Wars of The Three Kingdoms. It used to be convenient to lump all the conflicts together as one war but actually there were several separate wars taking place over that period across England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. There were Scots troops fighting in England and Ireland, against and then for the Royalist side. There were English and Irish troops fighting in Scotland and in the middle of all that we even managed to have our own Scottish Civil War running alongside the English Civil War.

At first Scotland was lucky to have had many experienced soldiers to call on. They had spent many years in Europe fighting as mercenaries in the Thirty Years War, and in the early years the Scots troops were amongst the most disciplined troops in the field; but in the end they were no match for the Parliamentarian New Model Army.

Thanks to his arrogance, ignorance and inflexibility the Stuart boy born on this date 410 years ago plunged his country of birth into years of bitter fighting, caused thousands of deaths and saw its independence removed under the rule of Cromwell's English Commonwealth.

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