Scotland's Story - H. E. Marshall

Charles I.—The King and the Covenant

As long as James VI. was King of Scotland only, he was guided and ruled a great deal by his nobles. But when he went to England, he found the people there ready to flatter him and to make much of him, and he soon became very proud and haughty, and tried to do exactly as he liked.

James had never cared for the Presbyterian Church, as the Church of Scotland was called, and when he went to England, he joined himself to the Episcopalian or English Church. Presbyterianism was no religion for a gentleman, he said. And all the rest of his life he tried to force the Scottish people to do as he had done, but they refused.

James only came back to Scotland once, after he became King of England. When he died, he was succeeded by his son Charles. Charles had been on the throne eight years before he visited Scotland. When he did come, however, the people welcomed him with joy, and he was crowned at Edinburgh with great pomp and ceremony.

But Charles was grave, unsmiling, and cold, such a King as the Scots had never had, so their gladness soon died away.

Immediately after his coronation a Parliament was held. Charles forced this Parliament to do as he wished, so that it was said that of the thirty-one acts passed, there were not three but were hurtful to the liberty of the people. And for the first time in all Scottish history, the King and his Parliament quarrelled.

Charles went back to England, and soon afterwards, with the help of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was called Laud, he made a new Prayer Book which, he said, all the Scottish churches must use. This Prayer Book was even more like the Roman Catholic Mass Book than the English Prayer Book, so that the people were full of fear and indignation. The King, they thought, was going to force them to be Roman Catholics again.

It was announced that the new Prayer Book would be used on 23rd July. All over the country, people crowded to the churches. They were quivering with anger and excitement; their freedom and religion seemed both to be in danger. For this was an act of tyranny. It was done by the order of the King and the English bishops, without consulting either the Scottish people or Parliament.

To the church of St. Giles in Edinburgh came bishops, judges, magistrates, and gentlemen, besides great numbers of the common people. The Dean entered, wearing a white surplice instead of the plain black gown which the Scottish ministers usually wore. He opened the new Prayer Book, which was large and full of pictures. That alone, to the stern Scottish Presbyterians, who hated all pictures and images, was a sin.

The Dean began to read, but hardly had he uttered a few words, when an old woman called Jenny Geddes, who sat near the pulpit, sprang up. 'Thou false thief,' she cried, 'wilt thou say Mass at my ear?' and with that she flung the stool, upon which she had been sitting, at the Dean's head.

In a moment, all was confusion. People rushed at the Dean and tore his white surplice from his shoulders. They beat him and ill treated him till he fled for his life.

The Bishop of Edinburgh got up into the pulpit and tried to speak to the people. They would not listen. 'A pope, a pope,' they cried, 'pull him down, stone him.'

Soldiers were at last sent for, and the church was cleared. The doors were locked and bolted, and the service was read to the few who were in favour of it, while the crowd without yelled and groaned, battered at the door, and threw stones at the windows.

For a month after this, there was no service of any kind held in the churches. Neither the new nor the old Prayer Book was allowed to be used. The churches stood desolate and empty. But the people had no thought of giving in. They begged Charles to take away the hated Prayer Book. But he would not.

Then the people rose as one man to resist. They drew up a paper called the National Covenant, in which they bound themselves to fight for their freedom of conscience. That is, for freedom to believe, and to do what they felt to be right in matters of religion.

On the first day of March 1638 A.D. in Greyfriars churchyard in Edinburgh, the National Covenant was first signed. The paper was spread out upon a flat gravestone, and noble after noble wrote his name. After them, came ministers, gentlemen, tradesmen, and people of all ranks, high and low. Never was there such excitement. Many wept as they wrote their names. Others cut themselves and signed in their own blood. Afterwards, noblemen and gentlemen carried copies of the Covenant with them all over the country, till thousands of names were added to the list.

The Covenanters, as these Protestants were now called, sent a letter to King Charles. They called it their Great Supplication. Supplication means humble prayer. It was sent back to them with the seal unbroken. The King had refused even to read it.

It was to be war then! The whole country was ready for it. In every town and village the rattle of fire arms and the tramp of men was heard, as the people gathered and drilled for the defence of their religion.

At last a great army was encamped upon a hill called Dunse Law. Their leader was Sir Alexander Leslie, a little, old, crooked soldier, with the heart of a giant and the courage of a lion. The sides of the hill were covered with wooden huts and with tents. Before the tent of each captain fluttered a banner, with the rampant lion of Scotland, and the motto, 'For Christ's Crown and Covenant.'

But after all, there was no fighting. At the last moment Charles gave way. He promised the Covenanters the freedom they asked, and they sent their soldiers to their homes again.


Front Matter

The Story of Prince Gathelus
A Fight with the Romans
The March of the Romans
The Story of Saint Columba
French and Scot Allies
The Last of the Picts
A Ploughman Wins a Battle
Macbeth and Three Sisters
The Murder of Banquo
Thane of Fife went to England
Birnam Wood at Dunsinane
Malcolm Canmore
Saint Margaret of Scotland
The Story of Pierce-Eye
Donald Bane and Duncan
Alexander I—The Fierce
Battle of the Standard
William I—the Lion
Alexander II
Alexander III is Crowned
The Taming of the Ravens
A Lady and a Brave Knight
How the King Rode Home
The Maid of Norway
The Siege of Berwick
The Last of Toom Tabard
Adventures of William Wallace
The Black Parliament of Ayr
The Battle of Stirling Bridge
The Battle of Falkirk
The Turning of a Loaf
How the Bruce Struck a Blow
How the King was Crowned
If at First you don't Succeed
The King Tries Again
The Fight at the Ford
The Bruce Escapes
The Taking of Perth
How Two Castles Were Won
Castle of Edinburgh is Taken
How de Bohun Met his Death
The Battle of Bannockburn
How the Scots Carried the War
The Heart of the King
The Story of Black Agnes
Battle of Neville's Cross
French/Scots War with England
The Battle of Otterburn
A Fearful Highland Tournament
The Duke of Rothesay
The Battle of Harlaw
The Scots in France
Beautiful Lady of the Garden
The Poet King
The Black Dinner
Fall of the Black Douglases
The Story of the Boyds
How a Mason Became an Earl
The Battle of Sauchieburn
A Great Sea Fight
The Thistle and Rose
Flodden Field
Fall of the Red Douglases
Story of Johnnie Armstrong
The Goodman of Ballengiech
King of the Commons
Mary Queen of Scots
Darnley and Rizzio
Mary and Bothwell
The Queen Made Prisoner
King's Men and Queen's Men
Death of Two Queens
New Scotland
The King and the Covenant
The Soldier Poet
How the Soldier Poet Died
For the Crown
How the King was Restored
The Church among the Hills
A Forlorn Hope
The Battle of Killiecrankie
Glen of Weeping
Fortune's Gilded Sails
How the Union Jack was Made
For the King over the Water
Story of Smugglers
Prince Charles Came Home
Wanderings of Prince Charles
A Greater Conqueror
God Save the King