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Archibald Campbell, Marquis of Argyll 1598 - 1661

Updated Sunday, 7th January 2001

A Covenanter who was nevertheless happy to accept a title from Charles.

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Archibald Campbell

Archibald Campbell's career illustrates the way in which clan feuds influenced the conduct of the Civil War in Scotland. Patriarch of Scotland's premier clan, Campbell was also a cynical opportunist whose overt political ambition created divisions in the Covenanter ranks and caused former colleagues to take up arms for the King.

Campbell succeeded his father in 1638 and signed the National Covenant in the same year. He was a leading Covenanter during the Bishops Wars of 1639- 40 but this did not prevent him from accepting the title of Marquis from Charles in 1641 when he tried to buy favour with his Scottish opponents.

By this stage, other Covenanters such as Montrose were profoundly suspicious of 'King Campbell's' long term political motives which seemed to emphasise Campbell family advantage over defence of the Kirk. Convinced that Campbell intended to usurp Charles' authority, Montrose and others swung their support behind the King and raised a Royalist army to thwart Argyll's dynastic ambitions.

Montrose's Royalist army also included 2000 Irish troops provided by the Earl of Antrim, a MacDonnell who wished to extend his own influence in the western Highlands. In this way, clan rivalry mingled with political and religious concerns to give the Civil War in Scotland a particular intensity.

Campbell suffered while Montrose prospered during his 'Year of Miracles'. His worst reverse came in January-February 1645 when Montrose captured the Campbell family seat at Inverary, then inflicted a major defeat at Inverlochy in which 1500 Campbell men died. Argyll secured his revenge at Philiphaugh in September when Montrose's force was utterly destroyed and the MacDonald prisoners slaughtered by the Covenanters.

After supporting the Covenanter-Parliamentary cause throughout much of the 1640s, Campbell swung his support behind Charles II when he was proclaimed King of Scots. Hoping to extract concessions from the vulnerable prince, Campbell even placed the crown on his head at the coronation in Scone.

However, Royalist defeats at Dunbar and Worcester prompted a quick return to the Parliamentary ranks, and Campbell paid dearly for this disloyalty when Charles was restored in 1660. While Campbell was imprisoned and facing execution, the body of his great rival Montrose was being exhumed, embalmed and buried with full honours. Campbell was executed in Edinburgh in 1661 and his title of Marquis forfeited.

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