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Charles' response to the Covenant

Updated Sunday, 7th January 2001

There was no spirit of compromise in Charles' response to the Covenant

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Charles's reaction to the Scottish Covenant was typically high-handed: 'I will rather die than yield to these impertinent and damnable demands'- words he would come to regret. Charles regarded the Scottish 'Covenanters' as nothing more than terrorists - rebelling against their divinely sanctioned government.

As for this nonsense about religion, he saw it as a smokescreen. He could not accept an alternative viewpoint as in any way valid. 'The aim of these men is not Religion, as they falsely pretend and publish, but it is to shake all Monarchical Government, and to vilify our Regal Power, justly descended upon us over them.' 'Nothing', he believed- as many English Kings had done before him- 'can reduce that people but only force.'

Charles began preparing an invasionary force of 30,000 to slap down the Covenanters. He bought arms from Holland, mobilised the navy, and demanded soldiers from all the leading noblemen. However, the absence of a Parliament, which granted taxes, created problems for Charles and left him with little resources. He could just about govern, but he did not have the finances to fight a war.

The Covenanters were reluctantly coming to the same conclusion - only war could secure their religious and political rights from Charles's government. The traditional routes of diplomacy and negotiation would not work with such a King. They too began mobilising for war.

The Covenanters were fortunate in having Archibald Campbell, the Earl of Argyll, as their leader. As the chief of the great Campbell clan which controlled vast tracts of the Western Highlands, Argyll was the richest and most powerful nobleman in Scotland and had no hesitation about assuming leadership.

A small, ugly man, he was utterly charmless, but highly intelligent and committed to his cause. Above all, he was a convinced and devout Presbyterian who had nothing but contempt for the Laudian popery of the Anglican Church. And as with so many of the players in the War of the Three Kingdoms, Argyll believed utterly in his own rightness - that God had marked him out for great things. Under the command of a veteran of the Thirty Years War, Alexander Leslie, Argyll and the Covenanters started to enlist an army. The three kingdoms were beginning their descent into war.





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