The Covenanters were a Scottish
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 Presbyterian movement that played an important part in the history of Scotland
History of Scotland
The history of Scotland begins around 10,000 years ago, when humans first began to inhabit what is now Scotland after the end of the Devensian glaciation, the last ice age...

, and to a lesser extent in that of England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 and Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

, during the 17th century. Presbyterian denominations tracing their history to the Covenanters and often incorporating the name continue the ideas and traditions in Scotland and internationally.

They derive their name from the Scots
Scots language
Scots is the Germanic language variety spoken in Lowland Scotland and parts of Ulster . It is sometimes called Lowland Scots to distinguish it from Scottish Gaelic, the Celtic language variety spoken in most of the western Highlands and in the Hebrides.Since there are no universally accepted...

 term covenant for a band or legal document. There were two important covenants in Scottish history, the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant
Solemn League and Covenant
The Solemn League and Covenant was an agreement between the Scottish Covenanters and the leaders of the English Parliamentarians. It was agreed to in 1643, during the First English Civil War....



The Covenanters are so named because in a series of bands or covenants they bound themselves to maintain the Presbyterian doctrine and polity as the sole religion of their country. The first "godly band" of the Lords of the Congregation
Lords of the Congregation
The Lords of the Congregation were a group of Protestant Scottish nobles who in the mid-16th century favoured reformation of the church along Protestant principles and a Scottish-English alliance.- Historical events :...

 and their followers is dated December 1557; but more important is the covenant of 1581, drawn up by John Craig
John Craig (minister)
John Craig was a Scottish minister. He was originally a member of the Dominican Order, but was converted to the thinking of John Calvin, and joined with John Knox in Scotland....

 in consequence of the strenuous efforts that the Roman Catholics were making to regain their hold upon Scotland, and called the King's Confession or National Covenant. Based on the Confession of Faith of 1560, this document denounced the Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 and the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church in no measured terms. It was adopted by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
Church of Scotland
The Church of Scotland, known informally by its Scots language name, the Kirk, is a Presbyterian church, decisively shaped by the Scottish Reformation....

, signed by King James VI
James I of England
James VI and I was King of Scots as James VI from 24 July 1567 and King of England and Ireland as James I from the union of the English and Scottish crowns on 24 March 1603...

 and his household, and enjoined on persons of all ranks and classes, and was again subscribed in 1590 and 1596.

Upheaval and the Wars of the Three Kingdoms

In 1637, Scotland was in a state of turmoil. King Charles I
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

 and William Laud
William Laud
William Laud was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633 to 1645. One of the High Church Caroline divines, he opposed radical forms of Puritanism...

, Archbishop of Canterbury
Archbishop of Canterbury
The Archbishop of Canterbury is the senior bishop and principal leader of the Church of England, the symbolic head of the worldwide Anglican Communion, and the diocesan bishop of the Diocese of Canterbury. In his role as head of the Anglican Communion, the archbishop leads the third largest group...

, met with a reverse in their efforts to impose a new liturgy on the Scots. The new liturgy had been devised by a panel of Scottish bishops, including Archbishop Spottiswoode
John Spottiswoode
John Spottiswoode was an Archbishop of St Andrews, Primate of All Scotland and historian of Scotland.-Life:...

 of St. Andrews, but a riot against its use was orchestrated in St. Giles' Cathedral
St. Giles' Cathedral
St Giles' Cathedral, more properly termed the High Kirk of Edinburgh, is the principal place of worship of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh. Its distinctive crown steeple is a prominent feature of the city skyline, at about a third of the way down the Royal Mile which runs from the Castle to...

, Edinburgh, ostensibly started by Jenny Geddes
Jenny Geddes
Jenny Geddes was a Scottish market-trader in Edinburgh, who is alleged to have thrown her stool at the head of the minister in St Giles' Cathedral in objection to the first public use of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer in Scotland.The act is reputed to have sparked the riot which led to the...

. Fearing further measures on the part of the king, it occurred to Archibald Johnston (Lord Warriston) to revive the National Covenant of 1581.
Additional matter intended to suit the document to the special circumstances of the time was added, and the covenant was adopted and signed by a large gathering in the kirkyard
Greyfriars Kirkyard
Greyfriars Kirkyard is the graveyard surrounding Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh, Scotland. It is located at the southern edge of the Old Town, adjacent to George Heriot's School. Burials have been taking place since the late 16th century, and a number of notable Edinburgh residents are interred at...

 of Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a rural area...

, on 28 February 1638, after which copies were sent throughout the country for additional signatures. The subscribers engaged by oath to maintain religion in the state in which it existed in 1580, and to reject all innovations introduced since that time, while professed expressions of loyalty to the king were added. The year 1638 marked an apex of events for the Covenanters, for it was the time of broad confrontations with the established church backed by the monarchy. Confrontations occurred in several parts of Scotland, such as the one with the Bishops of Aberdeen by a high level assembly of Covenanters staging their operations from Muchalls Castle
Muchalls Castle
Muchalls Castle stands overlooking the North Sea in the countryside of Kincardine and Mearns, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The lower course is a well preserved double groined 13th century towerhouse structure, built by the Frasers of Muchalls. Upon this structure, the 17th century castle was begun by...

. The General Assembly of 1638 was composed of ardent Covenanters, and in 1640 the covenant was adopted by the Scottish Parliament
Scottish Parliament
The Scottish Parliament is the devolved national, unicameral legislature of Scotland, located in the Holyrood area of the capital, Edinburgh. The Parliament, informally referred to as "Holyrood", is a democratically elected body comprising 129 members known as Members of the Scottish Parliament...

, and its subscription was required from all citizens. Before this date, the Covenanters were usually referred to as Supplicants, but from about this time the former designation began to prevail. The Covenanters raised an army to resist Charles I's religious reforms, and defeated him in the Bishops Wars. The crisis that this caused to the Stuart monarchy helped to spark the Wars of the Three Kingdoms
Wars of the Three Kingdoms
The Wars of the Three Kingdoms formed an intertwined series of conflicts that took place in England, Ireland, and Scotland between 1639 and 1651 after these three countries had come under the "Personal Rule" of the same monarch...

, which included the English Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

, the Scottish Civil War
Scottish Civil War
Between 1644 and 1651 Scotland was involved the Wars of the Three Kingdoms during a period when a series of civil wars that were fought in Scotland, England and in Ireland...

 and Irish Confederate Wars
Irish Confederate Wars
This article is concerned with the military history of Ireland from 1641-53. For the political context of this conflict, see Confederate Ireland....


For the following ten years of civil war in Britain, the Covenanters were the de facto government of Scotland. In 1642, the Covenanters sent an army to Ulster
Ulster is one of the four provinces of Ireland, located in the north of the island. In ancient Ireland, it was one of the fifths ruled by a "king of over-kings" . Following the Norman invasion of Ireland, the ancient kingdoms were shired into a number of counties for administrative and judicial...

 in Ireland to protect the Scottish settlers there from the Irish Catholic rebels who had attacked them after the Irish Rebellion of 1641
Irish Rebellion of 1641
The Irish Rebellion of 1641 began as an attempted coup d'état by Irish Catholic gentry, who tried to seize control of the English administration in Ireland to force concessions for the Catholics living under English rule...

. The Scottish army remained in Ireland until the end of the civil wars, but was confined to its garrison around Carrickfergus
Carrickfergus , known locally and colloquially as "Carrick", is a large town in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It is located on the north shore of Belfast Lough, from Belfast. The town had a population of 27,201 at the 2001 Census and takes its name from Fergus Mór mac Eirc, the 6th century king...

 after its defeat at the Battle of Benburb
Battle of Benburb
The Battle of Benburb took place in 1646 during the Irish Confederate Wars, the Irish theatre of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. It was fought between the forces of Confederate Ireland under Owen Roe O'Neill and a Scottish Covenanter and Anglo-Irish army under Robert Monro...

 in 1646.
A further Covenanter military intervention began in 1643. The leaders of the English parliament, worsted in the English Civil War, implored the aid of the Scots, which was promised on condition that the Scottish system of church government was adopted in England. After some haggling, a document called the "Solemn League and Covenant
Solemn League and Covenant
The Solemn League and Covenant was an agreement between the Scottish Covenanters and the leaders of the English Parliamentarians. It was agreed to in 1643, during the First English Civil War....

" was drawn up. This was practically a treaty between England and Scotland for the preservation of the reformed religion in Scotland, the reformation of religion in England and Ireland "according to the word of God and the example of the best reformed churches" and the extirpation of popery and prelacy. It did not explicitly mention Presbyterianism, and included some ambiguous formulations that left the door open to independence. It was subscribed by many in both kingdoms and also in Ireland, and was approved by the English parliament, and with some slight modifications by the Westminster
Westminster is an area of central London, within the City of Westminster, England. It lies on the north bank of the River Thames, southwest of the City of London and southwest of Charing Cross...

 Assembly of Divines. This agreement meant that the Covenanters sent another army south to England to fight on the Parliamentarian side in the First English Civil War
First English Civil War
The First English Civil War began the series of three wars known as the English Civil War . "The English Civil War" was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations that took place between Parliamentarians and Royalists from 1642 until 1651, and includes the Second English Civil War and...

. The Scottish armies in England were instrumental in bringing about the victory of the English Parliament over the King.
In turn, this sparked the outbreak of the Scottish Civil War of 1644–47, as Scottish Royalist opponents of the Covenanters took up arms against them. Royalism was most common among Scottish Roman Catholics and Episcopalians
Scottish Episcopal Church
The Scottish Episcopal Church is a Christian church in Scotland, consisting of seven dioceses. Since the 17th century, it has had an identity distinct from the presbyterian Church of Scotland....

, who were opposed to the Covenanters' imposition of their religious settlement on the country. The covenanters' enemies, led by James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose
James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose
James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose was a Scottish nobleman and soldier, who initially joined the Covenanters in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, but subsequently supported King Charles I as the English Civil War developed...

, were aided by an Irish expeditionary force and Highland clans led by Alasdair MacColla
Alasdair MacColla
Alasdair Mac Colla was a Scottish soldier. His full name in Scottish Gaelic was Alasdair Mac Colla Chiotaich Mac Domhnuill . He is sometimes mistakenly referred to in English as "Collkitto", a nickname that properly belongs to his father. He fought in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, most notably...

 and won a series of victories over hastily raised Covenanter forces in 1644–45. However, the Scottish Royalists were ultimately defeated in September 1645, at the Battle of Philiphaugh
Battle of Philiphaugh
The Battle of Philiphaugh was fought on 13 September 1645 during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms near Selkirk in the Scottish Borders. The Royalist army of the Marquess of Montrose was destroyed by the Covenanter army of Sir David Leslie, restoring the power of the Committee of Estates.-Prelude:When...

, near Selkirk. The disaster at Philiphaugh was largely due to their own disunity and the return of the main Covenanter armies from England. The Scottish Civil War was a bitter episode in Scottish history, exposing the religious divisions between Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Catholics, political divisions between Royalists and Covenanters and cultural divisions between the Highlands and the Lowlands.

The end of the first civil wars in Scotland and England left the Covenanters hopeful that their Solemn League and Covenant would be implemented in the Three Kingdoms. However, Charles I refused to accept it when he surrendered himself to the Scots in 1646. He was taken to Newcastle, where several attempts were made to persuade him to take the Covenants. When this failed, he was handed over to the commissioners of Parliament in early 1647. However, many Covenanters, led by James Hamilton
James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Hamilton
General Sir James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Hamilton KG was a Scottish nobleman and influential Civil war military leader.-Young Arran:...

, were suspicious of their English allies' intentions and opened secret negotiations with Charles I. He made important concessions to them in the "Engagement
The Engagers were a faction of the Scottish Covenanters, who made "The Engagement" with King Charles I in December 1647 while he was imprisoned in Carisbrooke Castle by the English Parliamenterians after his defeat in the First Civil War....

" made with the Scots in December 1647. This was rejected by the militant Covenanters known as the Kirk Party
Kirk Party
The Kirk Party were a radical Presbyterian faction of the Scottish Covenanters during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. They came to the fore after the defeat of the Engagers faction in 1648 at the hands of Oliver Cromwell and the English Parliament...

, who wanted the King to endorse their agenda explicitly before an alliance could be reached. A Scottish army invaded England in support of the Engagement, but was routed at the Battle of Preston
Battle of Preston (1648)
The Battle of Preston , fought largely at Walton-le-Dale near Preston in Lancashire, resulted in a victory by the troops of Oliver Cromwell over the Royalists and Scots commanded by the Duke of Hamilton...

, leaving the Kirk Party
Kirk Party
The Kirk Party were a radical Presbyterian faction of the Scottish Covenanters during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. They came to the fore after the defeat of the Engagers faction in 1648 at the hands of Oliver Cromwell and the English Parliament...

 in the ascendant. The Westminster Confession of Faith
Westminster Confession of Faith
The Westminster Confession of Faith is a Reformed confession of faith, in the Calvinist theological tradition. Although drawn up by the 1646 Westminster Assembly, largely of the Church of England, it became and remains the 'subordinate standard' of doctrine in the Church of Scotland, and has been...

, which had been submitted for ratification in 1646, was in part adopted by act of the English parliament in 1648 as the Articles of Christian Religion, while in Scotland it was approved with minor reservations in August 1647 and ratified by the Scottish parliament in February 1649.

The Covenanters' insistence on dictating the future of both Scotland and England eventually led to all-out war with their erstwhile allies, the English Parliament, and to the Scots signing an alliance with Charles II
Charles II of England
Charles II was monarch of the three kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland.Charles II's father, King Charles I, was executed at Whitehall on 30 January 1649, at the climax of the English Civil War...

 known as the Treaty of Breda
Treaty of Breda (1650)
The Treaty of Breda was signed on 1 May 1650 between Charles II and the Scottish Covenanters during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.-Background:...

. Charles II, before landing in Scotland in June 1650, declared by a solemn oath his approbation of both covenants, and this was renewed on the occasion of his coronation at Scone in the following January.

However, the Covenanters were utterly defeated in the 1650–52 by the forces of the English Parliament under Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell was an English military and political leader who overthrew the English monarchy and temporarily turned England into a republican Commonwealth, and served as Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland....

. Scotland was occupied by the New Model Army
New Model Army
The New Model Army of England was formed in 1645 by the Parliamentarians in the English Civil War, and was disbanded in 1660 after the Restoration...

 and the Covenanters were sidelined. From 1638 to 1651 the Covenanters, led by Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll
Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll
Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll, 8th Earl of Argyll, chief of Clan Campbell, was the de facto head of government in Scotland during most of the conflict known as the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, also known as the British Civil War...

, had been the dominant party in Scotland, directing her policy both at home and abroad. Their power, however, which had been seriously weakened by Cromwell's victory at Dunbar
Battle of Dunbar (1650)
The Battle of Dunbar was a battle of the Third English Civil War. The English Parliamentarian forces under Oliver Cromwell defeated a Scottish army commanded by David Leslie which was loyal to King Charles II, who had been proclaimed King of Scots on 5 February 1649.-Background:The English...

 in September 1650, was practically destroyed after the Battle of Worcester
Battle of Worcester
The Battle of Worcester took place on 3 September 1651 at Worcester, England and was the final battle of the English Civil War. Oliver Cromwell and the Parliamentarians defeated the Royalist, predominantly Scottish, forces of King Charles II...

 and the English occupation of Scotland. Under Cromwell's Commonwealth, Scotland was annexed by England and the General Assembly of the Kirk lost all civil power.

Restoration and the "Killing Time"

Worse was to come for the Covenanters when Charles II was restored
English Restoration
The Restoration of the English monarchy began in 1660 when the English, Scottish and Irish monarchies were all restored under Charles II after the Interregnum that followed the Wars of the Three Kingdoms...

 nine years later. Firmly seated upon the throne, Charles renounced the covenants, which in 1662 were declared unlawful oaths, and were to be abjured by all persons holding public offices. Argyll himself was executed for treason, episcopacy was restored, James Sharp was appointed Archbishop of St Andrews
Archbishop of St Andrews
The Bishop of St. Andrews was the ecclesiastical head of the Diocese of St Andrews and then, as Archbishop of St Andrews , the Archdiocese of St Andrews.The name St Andrews is not the town or church's original name...

 and Primate of Scotland, the court of high commission was revived, and ministers who refused to recognize the authority of the bishops were expelled from their livings. Archbishop Sharp survived an assassination attempt in 1668 only to be killed by another group of Covenanters in 1679.

Following the restoration of Episcopacy rebel ministers began to preach at secret 'conventicles' in the fields, as a period of persecution began. Oppressive measures against these illegal field assemblies where attendance was made a capital offence led to an outbreak of armed rebellion in 1666, sparked off in Galloway. Advancing from the west towards Edinburgh, a small force of badly armed Covenanters was defeated at the Battle of Rullion Green
Battle of Rullion Green
The Battle of Rullion Green in the Pentland Hills, Scotland on 28 November 1666 was the culmination of the brief Pentland Rising . At least 3000 men of the Scottish Royal Army led by Tam Dalyell of the Binns opposed about 900 Covenanter rebels.The Pentland Rising was in the context of the...

 in the Pentland Hills
Pentland Hills
The Pentland Hills are a range of hills to the south-west of Edinburgh, Scotland. The range is around 20 miles in length, and runs south west from Edinburgh towards Biggar and the upper Clydesdale.Some of the peaks include:* Scald Law...

, a location which caused the whole tragic episode to be named – incorrectly – as the Pentland Rising. To quell unrest in south west Scotland, the government brought in 9,000 Highland
Scottish Highlands
The Highlands is an historic region of Scotland. The area is sometimes referred to as the "Scottish Highlands". It was culturally distinguishable from the Lowlands from the later Middle Ages into the modern period, when Lowland Scots replaced Scottish Gaelic throughout most of the Lowlands...

 soldiers, an "inhumane and barbarous Highland host" quartered on suspected Covenanters, and accused of many atrocities.

A further rebellion broke out in 1679, after the unexpected success of a group of covenanters, armed with pitch forks and the like, against government forces led by John Graham of Claverhouse at the Battle of Drumclog
Battle of Drumclog
The Battle of Drumclog was fought on 1 June 1679, between a group of Covenanters and the forces of John Graham of Claverhouse, at High Drumclog, in South Lanarkshire, Scotland.- The battle :...

. For a time the authorities looked in danger of losing control of the south-west of Scotland, as more and more people joined the rebel camp at Bothwell near Glasgow; but only a few weeks after Drumclog the rebels were defeated at the Battle of Bothwell Brig. In the weeks before the battle the Covenanters spent more time arguing among themselves than preparing for the inevitable counterstroke, which did much to contribute towards their downfall. Of 1,200 captured rebels taken to Edinburgh, some 400 were imprisoned in Greyfriars Kirkyard
Greyfriars Kirkyard
Greyfriars Kirkyard is the graveyard surrounding Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh, Scotland. It is located at the southern edge of the Old Town, adjacent to George Heriot's School. Burials have been taking place since the late 16th century, and a number of notable Edinburgh residents are interred at...

 over the winter months.

Inevitably the government behaved harshly at first towards some of those caught in arms. On the initiative of James, Duke of Monmouth, who led the king's army to victory at the Battle of Bothwell Brig, a more conciliatory policy was followed for a time, though this met with limited success.

Through the period of repression the Covenanters held their convictions with a zeal that persecution only intensified. For them it was a matter of belief. For the government, in contrast, the whole conventicle movement was seen as a problem of public order, which they attempted to deal with often using very inadequate resources. However, after the collapse of the 1679 rebellion a more dangerous element entered into the whole equation.

In 1680 a more extreme mood appeared among sections of the Covenanter underground, which found expression in a document known as the Sanquhar Declaration
Sanquhar Declaration
The Sanquhar Declaration is a speech read by Covenanter, Richard Cameron, accompanied by twenty armed men in the public square of Sanquhar, Scotland, in 1680, disavowing allegiance to Charles II and the government of Scotland, in the name of "true Protestant and Presbyterian interest", opposition...

. This was the manifesto of the followers of the Reverend Richard Cameron
Richard Cameron (religious leader)
Richard Cameron was a leader of the Presbyterians who resisted the Stuart monarchs in their attempts to control the affairs of the Church of Scotland, acting through Bishops. His followers took his name, the Cameronians, which ultimately formed the nucleus of the later Scottish regiment of the...

, soon to be known as the Cameronian
Cameronian was a name given to a section of the Scottish Covenanters who followed the teachings of Richard Cameron, and who were composed principally of those who signed the Sanquhar Declaration in 1680...

s. Hitherto, many in the Covenanter underground maintained an outward loyalty to the king, despite their opposition to the religious policy of his government. But the Cameronians took matters to a new height, renouncing their allegiance to Charles and denouncing his brother, James, as a papist. One extreme position inevitably led to another: the government in attempting to stamp out sedition authorized field executions without trial. This was the beginning of what Robert Wodrow
Robert Wodrow
Robert Wodrow , Scottish historian, was born at Glasgow, being a son of James Wodrow, professor of divinity.-Biography:Ordered as in the text above:...

 later called the Killing Time
The Killing Time
thumb|240px|[[Margaret Wilson |Margaret Wilson]], one of the 'Wigtown Martyrs', executed by drowning in the incoming tide of the Solway Firth ....

. Although this period was to become an important part of Covenanter martyrology, it was far less ferocious than the name implies. Cameron himself was killed in a clash with government forces in July 1680, but his followers, now a tiny part of the Covenanter movement, continued to exist. After the accession of James VII
James II of England
James II & VII was King of England and King of Ireland as James II and King of Scotland as James VII, from 6 February 1685. He was the last Catholic monarch to reign over the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, and Ireland...

 in 1685 the King issued a series of Letters of Indulgence allowing such "ousted ministers as had lived peaceably and orderly to return to their livings". This succeeded in luring many ministers away from the struggle, but those remaining became more determined. When William of Orange summoned a Convention of the Estates which met on 14 March 1689 in Edinburgh to consider whether Scotland should recognise him or James, forces of Cameronians arrived to bolster William's support. In the subsequent Jacobite Rising, the Cameronian Guard
26th Regiment of Foot
The 26th Regiment of Foot was a Scottish infantry regiment of the British Army, active from 1688 to 1881. Although the regiment took the name of its first colonel as The Earl of Angus's Regiment, it became popularly known as The Cameronians until 1751, when it was ranked as the 26th Foot...

 helped to defeat the Jacobite
Jacobitism was the political movement in Britain dedicated to the restoration of the Stuart kings to the thrones of England, Scotland, later the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the Kingdom of Ireland...

 Highlanders, particularly at the Battle of Dunkeld
Battle of Dunkeld
The Battle of Dunkeld was fought between Jacobite clans supporting the deposed king James VII of Scotland and a government regiment of covenanters supporting William of Orange, King of Scotland, in the streets around Dunkeld Cathedral, Dunkeld, Scotland, on 21 August 1689 and formed part of the...

. Although the Cameronians had helped to defend the Revolution, they were disappointed that their intolerant religious standard was not adopted by the new government. The binding obligation of the National Covenant (1640) and the Solemn League and Covenant (1644) was passed over since the acts of Parliament in favour of these had been rescinded by Charles and were not revived under William and Mary. For some of them even William of Orange was an "uncovenanted" King since he was head of the episcopal church in England. Perhaps 1000 people in the south-west made an issue of the failure to maintain the covenants and also, with some justification, viewed the new establishment as tainted by Erastianism
Thomas Erastus
Thomas Erastus was a Swiss physician and theologian best known for a posthumously published work in which he argued that the sins of Christians should be punished by the state, and not by the church withholding the sacraments...

. They formed the United Societies refusing to recognise the "usurped" established Church of Scotland.

Martyrs and memorials

Though the rebellion had ended and a degree of Presbyterian tolerance for other faiths had been suggested by thanks given for James's Indulgence of 1687, for allowing all "to serve God after their own way and manner", memories were now kept alive by monuments and tombstones at the many martyr
A martyr is somebody who suffers persecution and death for refusing to renounce, or accept, a belief or cause, usually religious.-Meaning:...

 graves across the south of Scotland, particularly the south west. "For the word of God and Scotland's work of Reformation. Scotland's heritage comes at a price which invokes our greatest heart felt thanks for the lives sacrificed on the anvil of persecution, when innocent blood stained the heather on our moors and ran down the gutters of our streets with sorrow and sighing beyond contemplation." Tombs are scattered around the moors and monuments were added later, for "if the authorities learnt that a murdered Covenanter had been given a decent burial, their bodies were usually disinterred and buried in places reserved in places for thieves and malcontents. Quite often the corpse was hanged or beheaded first", and burying the body in the kirkyard could result in another punitive death. In 1707 a monument was erected at Greyfriars Kirkyard
Greyfriars Kirkyard
Greyfriars Kirkyard is the graveyard surrounding Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh, Scotland. It is located at the southern edge of the Old Town, adjacent to George Heriot's School. Burials have been taking place since the late 16th century, and a number of notable Edinburgh residents are interred at...

 in Edinburgh, near the open ground known as the 'Covenanters' Prison', where some 1200 Covenanters were held captive after Bothwell.

The History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland from the Restoration to the Revolution by Robert Wodrow
Robert Wodrow
Robert Wodrow , Scottish historian, was born at Glasgow, being a son of James Wodrow, professor of divinity.-Biography:Ordered as in the text above:...

, published in 1721-1722, produced a detailed record and denounced the persecution of the Covenanters. This martyrology would be brought forward again when the Church of Scotland seemed to be suffering, as at the Disruption of 1843
Disruption of 1843
The Disruption of 1843 was a schism within the established Church of Scotland, in which 450 ministers of the Church broke away, over the issue of the Church's relationship with the State, to form the Free Church of Scotland...


The United Societies continued without preaching, sacraments, or government until they were joined by one ordained minister in 1706, then in 1743 the Reformed Presbytery was organised. Covenanters fleeing persecution had set up churches in Ireland and North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 and several small denominations were founded, including the Reformed Presbyterian Church (denominational group)
Reformed Presbyterian Church (denominational group)
The Reformed Presbyterian Church is a group of denominations following a form of Protestant Christianity related to Presbyterianism. Reformed Presbyterian congregations are found in several countries, including Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, France, United States of America,...


More recently the Covenanters have been portrayed by some historians as an early revolutionary movement, and the Cameronians as founding an internationalist radical
Radicalism (historical)
The term Radical was used during the late 18th century for proponents of the Radical Movement. It later became a general pejorative term for those favoring or seeking political reforms which include dramatic changes to the social order...

 left-wing tradition, with the result of a political storm in the Scottish Socialist Party
Scottish Socialist Party
The Scottish Socialist Party is a left-wing Scottish political party. Positioning itself significantly to the left of Scotland's centre-left parties, the SSP campaigns on a socialist economic platform and for Scottish independence....


From a religious perspective, "The king had been defeated in his attempt to dictate the religion of his subjects; Presbyterianism became the established religion. But it had been equally proved that the subjugation of the State to the Church, the supremacy, political as well as ecclesiastical, of the Kirk, was an impossibility. In this the Covenants had failed." While the exploits and their sufferings of these martyrs in the cause of religious dissent and scripture as the sole "infallible rule of faith and practice" are still remembered, often in a romantic light, their aim of denying the religious freedom they sought for themselves to other denominations is reflected in the terms of ministerial and Christian communion of some groups which include "an approbation of the faithful contendings of the martyrs of Jesus, especially in Scotland, against Paganism, Popery, Prelacy, Malignancy and Sectarianism."

See also

  • Scotland in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms
  • Religion in the United Kingdom
    Religion in the United Kingdom
    Religion in the United Kingdom and the states that pre-dated the UK, was dominated by forms of Christianity for over 1,400 years. Although a majority of citizens still identify with Christianity in many surveys, regular church attendance has fallen dramatically since the middle of the 20th century,...

  • Alexander Henderson (theologian)
    Alexander Henderson (theologian)
    Alexander Henderson was a Scottish theologian, and an important ecclesiastical statesman of his period. He is considered the second founder of the Reformed Church in Scotland, and its Presbyterian churches are largely indebted to him for the forms of their dogmas and organization.-Life:He was born...

  • Samuel Rutherford
    Samuel Rutherford
    Samuel Rutherford was a Scottish Presbyterian theologian and author, and one of the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly.-Life:...

  • The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
    The Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)
    The Cameronians was an infantry regiment of the British Army, the only regiment of rifles amongst the Scottish regiments of infantry...

  • Plantation of Ulster
    Plantation of Ulster
    The Plantation of Ulster was the organised colonisation of Ulster—a province of Ireland—by people from Great Britain. Private plantation by wealthy landowners began in 1606, while official plantation controlled by King James I of England and VI of Scotland began in 1609...

  • List of Presbyterian and Reformed denominations
  • Calvinist Wild Men
    Calvinist Wild Men
    Calvinist Wild Men is a derogatory term used within radical episcopalian circles to describe the Covenanters and their supporters whose revolt led to the Cromwellian interregnum....


  • Buckroyd, J. Church and State in Scotland, 1660-1681. 1980
  • Cowan, E. J. The Solemn League and Covenant, in Scotland and England, 1286-1815, ed. R. A. Mason, 1987.
  • Cowan, I. B. The Covenanters: a Revision Article' in The Scottish Historical Review, vol. 28, pp43–54, 1949.
  • Cowan, I. B. The Scottish Covenanters, 1660-1688, 1976
  • Donaldson, G. Scotland from James V to James VII, 1965
  • Fissel, M. C. The Bishops' Wars. Charles I's Campaigns against Scotland, 1638-1640, 1994
  • Hewison, J. K. The Covenanters, 2 vols. 1913.
  • Kiernan, V. G. A Banner with a Strange Device: the Later Covenanters, in History from Below, ed. K. Frantz, 1988.
  • Love, Dane. Scottish Kirkyards, 1989 (Robert Hale Publishers, London).
  • Mathieson, W. L. Politics and Religion: a Study in Scottish History from the Reformation to the Revolution, 2 vols, 1902.
  • Purves, Jock. Fair Sunshine. 1968
  • Scott, Sir Walter. The Tale Of Old Mortality, 1816.
  • Stevenson, D. The Scottish Revolution, 1637–1644, 1973.
  • Terry, C. S. The Pentland Rising and Rullion Green, 1905.
  • Wodrow, R
    Robert Wodrow
    Robert Wodrow , Scottish historian, was born at Glasgow, being a son of James Wodrow, professor of divinity.-Biography:Ordered as in the text above:...

    . The History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland from the Restoration to the Revolution, reissued as 4 vols., 1828–1830

External links

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