Transcript for HoS 69

Last time, we had Charles II stepping aboard the good ship Naseby, sorry Royal Charles, on his way back to his three kingdoms, and everyone professed themselves to be jolly pleased to have him. Charles of course would pretend that he’d been king all along ever since dad lost his head in 1649. In England and Ireland of course this was demonstrable tripe, but in Scotland he was absolutely right – he’d been proclaimed king by parliament on 5th February 1649. Not that Charles would have put it that way – as far as he was concerned, the will of the people through parliament had nothing to do with it – he was king by God’s command.

Charles has quite a happy reputation in popular British history, and I’m not really qualified to judge but I think also in popular Scottish history – I use the phrase popular history since it has marked dissimilarities of course with actual history. The Ladybird book of Kings and queens does a pretty good job of representing the Tory view – Tory in this case meaning the original meaning, those who supported royal power

He was the exact opposite to Cromwell and the Puritans. He was witty, amusing and popular. He was also one of the cleverest kings ever to occupy the throne. He enjoyed music and dancing, and encouraged new theatres in which, for the first time, women appeared on the stage.

Well, I suspect Mr and Mrs Cromwell might present a happier picture of domestic harmony and family fun, but whatever. Larry Du Garde Peach might also have sung the story of Charles’ encouragement of science, which would be a momentous achievement.

But look, while we all like the Merry Monarch thing, let me say a couple of things. This was not always the case – the Whigs, including David Hume I might add, thought that, in summary, he sucked. Charles James Fox, a man with as strong an acquaintance with a good time as any merry monarch described him as ‘ a disgrace to the history of our country’;  one historian called him ‘the most criminal of all English Princes’. Just so you are aware, you know, that there’s more than one way of looking at the lad. Part of the controversy was a secret treaty with France, and a strong suspicion that Charles was in fact a poodle. Not because of his hair, but a poodle to the French sun king Louis XIV. The secret treaty promised Charles would convert to Catholicism and send 6,000 troops to help France conquer the Dutch republic – with whom England, Scotland and Ireland just happened to be allied at the time. Which could be described as anything on a scale of underhand to treasonous against his own people.

Anyway, the second point relates more directly to Scotland. Charles never went again to Scotland – after all he’d be fond of saying that he’d rather hang than go back given his negative experiences at the hands of the Covenanters. So Scotland wasn’t to get much sight of the merry monarch thing – we are back to the problems of an absentee king. What we would get a lot of was arbitrary government. Scotland’s finest, David Hume’s judgement – in a book called the history of England it has to be said, but with resonance in Scotland – was

‘negligent of the interest of the nation, careless of its glory, averse to its religion, jealous of its liberty, lavish of its treasure, sparing only of its blood’

It’s really only the last bit, sparing of its blood, that doesn’t ring true of this statement. There was to be plenty of blood flowing in Scotland.

Anyway, enough of this teasing. It is I think fair to say that at this early point Charles was most interested in getting his feet under the table of state and not causing too many waves; assuming he meant what he said in his Declaration of Breda about religious toleration, he was a good deal more tolerant than his Scottish, and indeed English parliaments were to prove. And so the initial group of ministers he recruited was reasonably balanced – though with one gaping hole. Ooh actually before introducing you to the new personnel of the good ship Scotland I should really ask the obvious question – why was this not the perfect time for the Union? After all, Charles’ grandad had been keen on the idea.




Well, reason number 1 was that it wasn’t popular in anyone’s mind as it happens. Actually, that’s the only reason we need on reflection. For Charles, the Union was now forever sullied by being a product of the commonwealth and Republicanism where the oiks got to drive the ship and we couldn’t have that. The English hated it because they claimed it cost them a bomb. And the Scots hated it because they claimed it relegated them to some ersatz principality and lost them political power and liberty. Plus ca change, eh?

Also, some suspect that Charles had a more positive reason for keeping the kingdoms all separate – or well, active reason might be better than positive. For some, Charles had in mind the idea that Scotland could prove to be a sandpit of ideas, a walled garden as it were where he could try out his experiments in absolutism; and if they worked, he could then use Scotland as a model of loyalty to wave in the faces of the Irish and English. Whether or not he went into the second half of his Scottish reign with this as a fully worked through policy might be giving his intelligence a bit much credit, but it certainly begins to look as though it turns out that way in practice.

In June, Charles invited Scottish nobles to come and see him, so the roads echoed with carriages and horses hooves as they beat a path to Whitehall. There, Charles asked them to advise him on how they should go about setting up a new government; duly a debate ensued wherein people mainly shouted at each other, but among all the arguing they finally agreed that the Committee of Estates of 1651 should be recalled and Charles thought that was a good idea and ordered it to be so. Though, significantly he did not want the kirk to be involved – so he ordered the General Assembly of the Kirk not to meet.

Then he set about choosing his administration, new personel, the dream team, a Carolingian management group. Charles’ chumps in exile got first dibs. Notably and primarily one Earl John Middleton, who we have met several times in this podcast, the king’s favourite military commander. He was appointed King`s Commissioner to parliament, and General of the Forces to be raised in Scotland. We know Middleton as a valiant soldier, and a hater of Presbyterians. Of his character beyond this, there is a certain level of disagreement. Here’s Edward Hyde – a political supporter, it has to be said:

As courtly a person as ever that nation bred, of great modesty, courage, and judgement, worthy of any trust

Good! Here’s Gilbert Burnet, a whig

‘He and his company were delivered up to so much excess, and such a madness of frolic and intemperance, that as Scotland had never seen anything like it’

So…not so good then

He was reputed to have a vile temper, to have been a cynical politician, aggressive, and a prodigious drinker. This second view has more of a Presbyterian bias; because Middletone of course was not a fan of Presbyterians, his boss was not a lover of the Covenant and both Middleton and Charles were lovers of bishops and the episcopy. This space is to be carefully watched. Alongside Middleton was his old partner in uprisings and Engagement – Earl of Glencairn, William Livingston, now made Chancellor of Scotland

In contrast to these fan boys of Bishops was a covenanter – the Earl of Lauderdale, our very own John Maitland about whom again we heard last week and who had re-ingratiated himself into those of Charles’ books that were labelled ‘Good’. By the way – there is, on the History of Scotland Website, a list of some names of key people so you can go and get them straight in your mind. That’s at the history of Lauderdale was made Secretary of State and that is a position with a crucial advantage of access to the king’s ear, that most critical of organs – though it meant he had to live mainly in London, to be close to said ear. Now Lauderdale has the bad luck to be followed in power by people who hated him; and has therefore been described by contemporaries Gilbert Burnet and Clarendon as a ruthless, selfish, and unprincipled politician whose sole aim was his own promotion and survival[1]. Samuel Pepys reported Lauderdale as saying

‘he had rather hear a cat mew than the best music in the world’

Which added to the general reputation of a boorish and uncultured man. However, part of those reputations was clearly false – here was a man of great intellect and learning, a clever strategist; and kinder interpretations emphasise a naturally tolerant and flexible politician; and a clever and decisive strategic thinker. Sadly though, there’s little doubt of his ruthlessness, capability and self interest, whether you think of him as pushed into his actions or devising them.

I’ll do one more; and by the way when you are visualising these folks you need to change your default image; we now seem to be into the spaniel era of fashion. Absurdly long wavy locks, the appearance of wigs and things. Just so you know. One of the things that people took agin Maitland was his physical characteristics, and unfair though that is of course there’s a portrait of him I’ve pit on t’internet, the history of for this episode; Ronald Hutton describes the image of him as of ‘bushy, ruddy hair (which gave him his nickname of John Red), fat jowls, pursed lips, and cold, heavy-lidded eyes’.

Lauderdale was not without support on the Privy Council; three ex covenanters were to join him there. The earls of Cassilis and Crawford were also ex covenanters. John Leslie, the earl of Rothes become President of the Council; he was an ex covenanter, but also an Engager who was, once more, captured at Worcester, and when released went to join Charles II on his return home.  There’s another interesting wrinkle about Rothes. As we have heard, many Scottish magnates and Clan chiefs were crippled by debt; Lauderdale was no exception. At the restoration he was penniless – and it was the Earl of Rothes who stepped in with a loan, which saved the bacon that was John Maitland. Now Lauderdale of course does jolly well from his favour from the king – over time he regained his family properties and more with additional gifts from a grateful king, so that by 1664 his status was assured as one of the magnates of south-eastern Scotland. But he carried an obligation with him for Rothes.

So the ministerial team was relatively balanced, a mix, on the face of it, of royalists and covenanters. One group was not represented – there were no Protesters, no representatives therefore of the Radical presbyterian opinion.  There was a reason for that – Charles blamed them for his humiliation and wouldn’t give them the rough end of a pineapple.

You might note that there is a significant name missing from this list, one which has filled our podcasts about the Scottish Revolution; that being Archibald Campbell, Marquess of Argyll, power broker of the Scottish revolution, hated agent of the government in the western Isles. Hated head of the hated clan Campbell. Well, hated if you were a MacDonald, or Macclean and such like; or a royalist, or an engager. So yes – maybe hated covers it.

Well, Archie was not worried by the fact he was seen as a bit of a collaborator with the Commonwealth; he’d sat as a Member of the Commonwealth parliament as it happens, MP for Aberdeen, although George Monk hadn’t trusted him as far as his could throw him. Anyway, the Head of the Hated Campbells saw no reason at all why his king shouldn’t welcome him with open arms; he still felt he could still make a useful contribution to society, still had something to say. And anyway, that nest wasn’t going to feather itself was it now? So he turned up at Whitehall to kiss the king’s hands,

thinking that he had been in no worse favour than the other noblemen who had been engag’d in the same party’

and anyway there’s been an amnesty signed by the king himself in 1651, and any collaboration with Crommers’ Commonwealth – he under compulsion like everyone else, innit guv? So he knocked on the doors and asked to be announced to the king. Off hurried the doorman.

Well a very nice man called Edward Walker re-appeared outside the doors and kindly escorted Argyll – to the Tower of London. And thence he was escorted, probably not that kindly, to Edinburgh castle. I’m going to jump ahead here, so sorry, to finish Archibald’s story off. He cooled his heels in the Scottish clink until his trial in February 1661. Well things went back and forth; as it happens Middleton was after his blood, for vengeance, and the case came before parliament where things got a bit sticky for Middleton, because it began to occur to everyone that if Argyll was executed for not rebelling against the Commonwealth then most of the people in the hall stood to be pulled apart by horses, or sent to the maiden or whatever. Punishing Argyll like this would seem to be making an uncomfortable example. So, A nice acquittal and a gentle pat on the bum seemed more appropriate. Middleton was not having it, and snarled at them all

we are all of us, or most, guilty, and the King may pitch on any he pleases to take his examples’

Essentially Middleton was suggesting, none too gently, that if an example was to be made, best it wasn’t any of them. All he got was side eye. Darn it barnet, thought Middleton, that slippery fishery Argyl was going to slip through the net.

Enter stage left, knock on the door – message for you sir! Whomever Middleton’s sweet Concord was, he brought letters that had been discovered from Argyll written during the Commonwealth to Colonel Robert Lilburne and George Monck – Commonwealth commanders – which clearly showed Argyll had been dobbing in royalist rebels to the Commonwealth. Queue Middleton, air punching, celebration boundary lap, bunting & jumping. Argyll was now doomed, Middleton had his man.

In May 1661, he come before the judgement of the Maiden, Scotland’s guillotine, much more efficient that all that hanging drawing and quartering. Despite his reputation as a coward, Argyll died well – giving a long lecturing speech, noting that

I resolve to disappoint many; for I came here not to justify myself, but the Lord who is holy

A reference to his feeling that Montrose had failed to acknowledge his god sufficiently at his leaving party. Having said that some observers felt he went on with his lecture a bit long, and frankly lost his audience. Not sure anyone actually shouted ‘get om with it’ but I suspect many were tempted. Finally the Maiden fell, and that which had been one was made 2. His body was sent home for burial, his head sent to a spike for the normal display until 1664, which is a long time to have a head hanging about; seriously past its sell by date I’d have thought.

Now his son, also, spookily, called Archibald Campbell had been a royalist, and part of the Glencairn rebellion. He’d spent most of the last 5 years in Edinburgh castle – where, just as a side note, he’d got on rather well with the prison governor and played bullets with him to pass the time. The game, should you decide to have a go, involved throwing cannon balls at each other – such fun. Well one hit Argyll on the head and he fell down, unconscious; Some bright spark suggested drilling a hole in his head, and everyone said yeah, why not so they did. And he was right as rain. Or well, some thought he was a bit irritable afterwards – which would seem reasonable. Also he started having a kip every afternoon for an hour, a habit he shares with two people who were never trepanned, Winston Churchill and me.

Campbell junior had already seen the king when his dad turned up at the royal doors, and accepted into the royal favour; but while he might have disagreed with his dad’s politics, the younger Campbell was still a good son, and anyway children are supposed to disagree with their parents’ politics aren’t they? Not necessarily I suppose. Anyway, he’d supported his father through the trial; but now faced ruin – because all Argyll’s estates were forfeit.  Now here’s the thing – we now have opposing conflicting forces; on the one hand, Middleton is gunning for the younger Campbell just as much as the elder; and plenty of other folk were thinking hmmmm…if those massive Campbell estates are broken up, a few crumbs might just fall into my pocket, and give it a few centuries and the tourist trade to Skye will be massive. On the other hand, the Campbells have been the governments bulwark in the highlands for yonks – what were they to do without it? For the next 2 years, Campbell Junior – let’s call him Argyll now – languished in jail while these forces slugged it out for supremacy.

One other bit of putting the old wrongs to right had gone on in January 1661 – the loser had become the winner. The Great Montrose was dug up – slightly messily it must be said, and put in a coffin under a velvet canopy and reverentially taken in a procession to the tollbooth. There they reunited body bones with skull, and with all reverence and ceremony Montrose at last reached his final resting place in honour.

Meanwhile, everyone was very pleased that Charles II was back on his throne. There were civic receptions, fireworks and bonafires, bells ringing, an effigy of Olly with the Devil after him was blown up on castle hill. Preachers were out spreading the word, and the Resolutioners, moderate Presbyterians you might say, were happy to preach about the sinfulness of rebellion and the absolute power of the king. Hopefully the Covenant would soon return. Along with this covenanted king, since Charles had of course signed the Covenant way back in the day, remember, though rumour were he had his toes crossed at the time. Highland eyes were smiling too; the Restoration quickly saw the Commonwealth garrisons that had been so effective in stopping raiding, withdrawn from the highlands; and the fall of the hated Campbell – have a I noted how hated the Campbells were? – had the Highland Chiefs and Clansmen reeling with delight. Who knows what anciently stolen land could be reclaimed? A new age of Gaelic glory appeared to beckon.

[1] Hutton, R John Maitland, ODNB

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