Transcript for HoS 73

So I left you at Drumlog, at a mass conventicle, and the Preacher has just dropped a bombshell – the Dragoons were on their way, and not because they were desperate to hear the sermon. Although they were on their mounts.

The Covenanters moved fast – rather than waiting for the axe to fall, one William Cleland drew up the conventiclers in an army formation of 200 on a hill, protected by a bog. The government Dragoons meanwhile arrived, but were frustrated – they could do no more than take pot shots, they could not get at them for the bog. Annoying. But it was more than frustrating when on their flank appeared 40 mounted Covenanters having ridden round said bog, and a happy day taking potshots turned into a rout, leaving 36 Dragoons dead on the field.

Well, an unexpected start to the Killing Times – not the right side doing the killing. The Covenanters then moved north and tried to enter Glasgow without success, and then set up shop to the east near Hamilton. And there they stayed, and conventiclers flocked to join them, until there were 6,000 gathered there. And they debated. The murder of James Sharp had shocked many; because for many, people like John Bafour were wildly extreme in their attitudes, and would never represent the mainstream presbyterian opinion. So they argued between themselves about what the future of the Covenant should be and how to achieve it; how to counteract Government policy. Three distinct groups emerged in the debate. The most extreme followed a preacher called Richard Cameron, whose name we heard last time, and would carry his name of Cameronians long after his death. They determined that the Solemn league must be relentlessly pursued, whatever the cost. A broader strand followed the arguments of John Welsh, and were much more prepared to compromise – even to the point of accepting indulged ministers re-instated by the government. The Third group was lead by Jon Blacadder, and advocated only passive resistance.

Elsewhere, while John Graham of Claverhouse and his bloodied dragoons retreated towards Edinburgh, it might be a good idea to put all of this is a British context. Because the heat was rising not just in Scotland, but in England too, where everyone’s head was exploding, and brans were dribbling from ears as everyone went into a right old panic. There were two themes really. One was a good old traditional ‘the papists are all out to kill us’ thing, and an utterly bizarre period between 1679 and 1681 where a thoroughly nasty man called Titus Oates constructed a popish plot to assassinate Charles II; for a while people actually believed him, innocent people were hauled into court. The madness reached its sticky fingers up to Scotland too – Argyle for example being given a special commission to seek out connected traitors in the Highlands. Meanwhile the leading English politician Shafestbury was leading a charge to have the Catholic James, Charles brother and heir, excluded from the line of succession. We are talking of the Exclusion crisis. Now Shaftesbury is important here; he is a magnificent speaker and also a passionate believer in toleration for nonconformists and an advocate of the power of parliament. From 1675 Shaftestbury had been worried about what Lauderdale was doing in Scotland, not just in repressing protestant dissidents, but in the brutal application of tyrannical royal power against them, and in the Highlands.

The Highland host of January 1678 lit his personal blue touch paper, and in March Shaftesbury attacked Lauderdale publicly in parliament – he accused him roundly of the violation of basic legal rights, the increasing centralisation of power in his hands, the employment of the highland host to crush and brutalise presbyterians. ‘Scotland’, he thundered

Hath outdone all the eastern and southern countries in having their lives, liberties and estates subjected to arbitrary will and pleasure of those that govern…till the pressure be fully taken off Scotland it is not possible to believe that good is meant to us here’

Essentially Shaftesbury had rumbled Charles and Lauderdale, that Scotland was to be the seedbed of royal power; And again, pressure came back to bear on Lauderdale; they wanted him fired from his post as exemplary punishment for exercising arbitrary royal power. Thereby, Shaftesbury hoped to cut the tendons of the king and prevent him employed the same tactics in England.







Pressure on Lauderdale in Scotland grew as well; for all his talents, Lauderdale had never managed to build a cohesive and supportive Pricy Council, a party around him – it’d all been me, me, me. And now more complaints came from the Scottish nobility to follow the Duke of Hamiltons’ earlier in the decade. The Earl of Casellis, presented a paper to London complaining of the illegality of the bond, the imposing of troops on citizens, the taking of free quarter or provisions for garrisons. Leading lawyers made argument that what the government was doing was against Scottish law and custom. Hamilton himself complained again in May to the king. To no avail, of course.

For Lauderdale to survive this new crisis, the rebellion needed to be crushed and order be restored. Just as the English feared Charles would use his Scottish militia against them, now it was the other way round; Charles sent his illegitimate son, James Scott, Duke of Monmouth north to take command. Now Monmouth already had bags of military experience – his arrival in Scotland was a sign of just how badly Charles and Lauderdale wanted this rebellion ended. After 3 weeks, Monmouth was ready to move, and 5,000 government troops advanced on Bothwell Bridge, where the Covenanters waited for them. Among the 6,000 Covenanters were two men you might have heard of before – David Hackson and John Balfour, also known as Burley, killer of James Sharp. David Hackson was among those who held the bridge against Monmouth’s better armed and better disciplined troops; until after an hour they were forced to withdraw for lack of ammunition and that was that for the Covenanters. Over a thousand were taken prisoner, and held for several  months on a field in Edinburgh to wait for their fate. Monmouth urged leniency and indeed Charles offered a further Act of Indulgence to try and ease religious tensions; and many of the captured Covenanters were released – but until 16 were executed, and 258 deported to the colonies.

Which is the first time I have said that – we are officially now in the period of deportation, though it’s worth saying that there had been many deportations in the civil wars. I assume they were deported under the rules of indentured servitude, but don’t quote me.  John Graham of Claverhouse descended on the south West looking for rebels, inflicted free quarter of troops on the inhabitants to make them feel the boot of power on their necks. Charles had authorised the use of torture for those who refused to inform on others, if Graham saw fit   – and Graham did indeed see fit.

John Balfour disappeared; it’s assumed he took a boat to Holland, but no one really knows how his life ended. David Hackson escaped also and met up with Richard Cameron, leader of these, the most extremist of the Covenanters. For another year they remained at large and absolutely unreconcilable; until famously in the town of Sanquhar in Galloway, Cameron issued his declaration. The declaration of Sanqhuar denounced Charles as tyrant and rejected his kingship. Unsurprisingly, the Council declared him a rebel, om account of the fact that he, you know, was a rebel, and put a price on his head. A month later in July Cameron’s luck ran out, he was tracked down and killed by government dragoons at Airds Moss near Cumnock. His head and hands were cut off, and paraded through Edinburgh. Worse awaited David Hackson; he was hanged, drawn and quartered at the Edinburgh Mercat cross.

The fall out of all of this though was not good for Lauderdale. The 1670s were a continual struggle for him to maintain his grip on power, and he loved his grip on power did Lauderdale, power really, really rang his bell and kept him warm at night. As resistance from parliament grew from 1674 he rather abandoned working with it and focussed hard on keeping his control of the source of all  good things – the king. Not only did he have to face resistance from the likes of Duke of Hamilton with his petitions to the king, others joined his side in the fight against Lauderdale too.  There’s a good example in John Hay, Earl of Tweeddale, who’s CV included fighting for Charles I, becoming an equally passionate Covenanter and fighting at Marston Moor against the king; but then becoming an Engager and fighting at Preston for Charles II; but to top it all, then served in the Commonwealth parliament. Seriously being involved in public life during the 17th century involved you in a series of twists and turns. He was a Privy Councillor under the Restoration, but found the repression of the Covenanters repellent, led attacks on Lauderdale in the 1674 parliament and found himself expelled from the Privy Council after Lauderdale had a word in his boss’s ear.

But the tides were rising around Lauderdale’s knees and there’s an English angle again. Scotland had been dragged into the Anglo Dutch war, and the resulting taxation to fund it also motivated Tweeddale and others to object to this war that was not in their interests. One such was James Drummond, Earl of Perth, previously a supporter of Lauderdale on the PC; and with him came Athol, also previously a supporter. And meanwhile in the Council around the king in London, Lauderdale had lost an ally when the Earl of Danby was voted off the PC by the Commons and concerns about the succession to the catholic Duke of York grew. But Charles still recognised Lauderdale’s value, and the harm to his power if he was forced to bow to parliament and remove him; so he showed his support openly and publicly -such as ostentatiously driving around Hyde Park with him. If you attack Lauderdale, you attack the king, was his message. Lauderdale survived once more.

From 1679 the blows fell harder – Danby fell from power, and then it was the outrage at the Highland Host and battle Bothwell Bridge; the furious reaction forced Charles to formally condemn the policies of repression, and try a pinch conciliation to calm the boiling broth –slightly loosening of the laws against conventicles in private houses. A little like his Dad, Charles though was in a tricky balancing act – because sure as eggs is eggs, toleration for non conformists got the Scottish Episcopalians up in arms.  Seriously, Lauderdale must have felt like Mr Incredible here, like the maid – every time he cleaned up, someone made another mess, there were multiple leaks in the dyke and what was pouring out was not water but Lauderdale’s political credibility. What was he going to do?

Well, one further throw of the dice presented itself. The waters rising around Charles were precipitated by his brother James, Duke of York, and the exclusion crisis. James had come out of the religious closet as a Catholic, and the Whigs as they were beginning to be called, wanted him excluded from the succession. Charles would prove a clever politician as it happens, but for the moment he needed little brother out of the way of the English political eye while he dealt with it.

Well, maybe a trip to Scotland would be the thing, and for Lauderdale this could be just the ticket; he felt he had a favour to pull in from York, because when he’d come out, Lauderdale had very publicly supported him. So, York coming to Scotland might be just what he needed.







Introducing for your delight and delectation, a new player on our stage – please give it up for James Duke of York, son of Charles I, younger bro of Charles II, heir to the thrones of Scotland, England and Ireland, about 47 years of age at this time and married to the devout Catholic, Mary of Modena. They have three daughters at this stage, one of whom would die distressingly young, the other two brought up Anglican, Mary and Anne; but no son as yet, which calmed the nerves of Protestants. He was a military man was James, or so he liked to consider himself; he’d fought in the French army, and written a work about his favourite French general, the Huguenot Count of Turenne; so keen was he on his hero, that he hardly mentioned himself at all which historians find a bit annoying. But a fascination with military detail, and I mean fine, fine detail would be a bit of a thing with James, and in it folks have discerned a tendency to be better at seeing the wood than he was for the trees. He was, as royal princes have a distressing tendency to be it has to be said, something of a lover of a bit of grandeur; he had a parallel household to the King’s, and didn’t hold back on the spending. This was not a man to worry about the price of the weekly groceries.

The other thing about James was of course the inconvenient thing that while being near the head of the largest protestant nation in Europe, he had converted to Catholicism, over time, resisting rather relentless evangelism from Mum but probably wobbled pretty firmly by 1673, though like a Weeble managing not to fall over, but by 1676 he had fallen completely into the arms of the old religion, and was officially recognised as such by the Pope. So – this was seen as something of a problem by many, and also James was developing a reputation as somewhat inflexible and evangelical about his religion. Charles recognised a certain lack of flexible diplomacy in his bro’, and during the long political religious crisis sent him first to Brussels to be out of the way. James remarked

‘If occasion were hoped, God would give me his grace to suffer death for the true Catholic religion as well as banishment

In the words of Scooby, R’oK. Anyway, as the Exclusion crisis blazed on in March 1679, James arrived Scotland, and Lauderdale hoped his saviour had come. Turned out he hadn’t, but that’s a plot spoiler.

James and Charles had more than one motivation for the trip. Taking him outside the public eye in England was one, but influencing England was a motivation in another way; They were keen to show the bolshy Whigs what a properly run country looked like, and how properly brought up subjects behaved. But overall – his remit was simply to make sure that Stewart rule in Scotland was safe, and that religious peace was achieved – although not at any cost to the Episcopalian church.

Achieving those plans did not include the continuation of Lauderdale’s increasingly fractious political system – the time had come for that to be reformed, and this message was brought home almost immediately the Duke of York arrived in the old country. Because the privy Council he put together ignored Lauderdale’s allegiances and rehabilitated many of his enemies; William Douglas the Earl of Queensberry was appointed to the Council, and set off climbing the ladder of nobility to marquis and then Duke; Rothes was made Chancellor, although he was not long for this earth; John Murray, the Earl of Athol, the erstwhile Lauderdale groupie,  followed a similar trajectory to Queensberry. The mongrel council as it was called presented a chance for a new start, drawing together folks from across the political divide.

It was most categorically not a new start for one of them though – Lauderdale. He was back in London when the news reached him about the composition of the new Council and he realised the arch diddler had been out diddled; his power was effectively history, although I think it took him til September 1680 to actually resign as secretary of State. By that time he’d suffered a stroke – in March 1680, and according to his biographer, the estimable Ronald Hutton, he became a valetudinarian, hanging around spa towns, Tunbridge Wells and Bath and the like. I did not know what valetudinarian meant – hypochondriac apparently, which will therefore allow me to update my Twitter profile, as valetudinarian. He died while having a purge in Tonbridge Wells in 1682 – I don’t really want to know any more about what a late 17th century medical purge might involve, there are some things I think best not investigated, and so if you know – please do not send me a postcard.

What do we say about the lad as he exits stage left pursued by a bear? To exercise the kind of control as did Lauderdale, for so long and in such turbulent times takes a certain talent, wit, flexibility, strength, intensity; but also ruthlessness, and in the way he managed his king and knifed colleagues that got in the way, dishonesty. Historian Laura Stewart points out that Lauderdale failed to build a collaborative Privy Council; and in the pursuit of power excluded men from the Council that had a real interest in reforming government administration and finance, such as one Robert Moray, and later founder of the Royal Society. Lauderdale’s 20 year rule as almost a king of Scotland built a habit of using military personnel to bypass civil office holders, revoking burgh charters to force compliance, and using violence repression. Although it might look like strength or at least brute strength, in fact the violence was a sign of weakness, failure to build loyalty, and local administration capable of governing effectively, therefore requiring violent repression from the centre, with spells of rather half hearted conciliation. Hutton concludes that

‘his career remains a classic illustration of the corrupting effects of power’.

Which is, you know, not entirely positive.

Anyway, so where are we? James Duke of York. Now, given Jimmy’s later crashing and burning, it’s easy to imagine, unless you are by nature a grieving Jacobite, that his time in control of Scotland would not be impressive – but if you were assuming that, you would be wrong – or at least wrong in some ways. The Duke of York was in Scotland just for a couple of years effectively, til 1682 – though he went back to England in the middle for a few months.

His arrival was greeted with some enthusiasm; I mean it’s always a little difficult to be clear with these things how much the enthusiasm was real, and how much looking out or number one, but by the looks of things the crowds that filled the streets of Edinburgh, and the bonfires that lit the skies were genuine expressions of happiness & joy. And one of the reasons was simple – this was like the Stewart monarchy coming home, and the loyalty to the ancient monarchy of the Scots ran deep despite Revolution and absence.  Or maybe because of absence who knows, it does, I am told, make the heart grow fonder. But anyway, the point for the current and future might be – stop messing with this exclusion stuff England – for us Scots the Stewart monarchy is here to stay.

In his first stint, then, to March 1680, York made himself pleasant to his people. I am reminded of the Gilbert & Sullivan song for some reason

And though I try to make myself as pleasant as I can, yet everybody says I am a disagreeable man, and I can’t think why

Although that’s totally irrelevant here, because people didn’t think he was disagreeable at all. Although he was not a fan of conciliation and the Third Indulgence that Monmouth had encouraged his Dad to issue York recognised that not making waves was the thing, so for a while the limited conciliation was continued. And it seemed to pay dividends, although the Bishops weren’t happy about it. Most of the moderate presbyterians seemed happy enough to go along with indulgence. The radical Cameronians weren’t, but then they weren’t happy to go along with anything really and suffered the consequences. So many were most content, and the London Gazette, noted that as far as they could tell the Scots were

So firmly united to the royal interest as he doubted not but the good condition of this kingdom would have very good influence on his majesties affairs in other dominions

Well, isn’t that spooky? Exactly what Charles and York were hoping for – a mirror of light held up in the face of the nasty English parliament.

However, you might remember that in the last episode we noted that the 1680s were remembered by the Presbyterian tradition as the Killing Times, so you might have expected things to go south. And they began to do so, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, the Bishops really were not happy with indulging the Presbyterians – so they wrote to Charles and sent a delegation. Meanwhile English politics came into it again. As the exclusion Crisis ramped up, York was now in direct competition with his brother Monmouth. In this rivalry, Monmouth had one big black mark – he was illegitimate – but one bight gold star – he was protestant. So since Monmouth had advocated the policy of leniency and conciliation in Scotland, York now wanted to go the other way to demonstrate the superiority of his commitment to royal and church authority, and social order.

As a result, persecution resumed in yet another swing of the pendulum. As one historian has noted though, the Cameronians hog the limelight of history because of the fuss they make and the pain they suffer – but they really were a small extreme by this stage. Michael Lynch warns us not to over emphasise the killing and persecution– he notes that compared to the persecution of say Quakers in England, the actual numbers are quite small.

None the less there is violent repression; and there is censorship too. Coffee house for example which then and now were scurrilous hotbeds of gossip and haunts of political ner’ do wells, were all forced to take a bond committing them to a £5000 fine if they let the wrong kind of newsheets circulate in their hallowed halls. We should do that again here, stop things like the Leicester Mercury spreading its outrageous sedition.

To deliver the royal agenda, York now felt he had to be physically part of the Privy Council. This was more complicated than it sounds – a Privy councillor have to take the oath of office and recognise the king as head of the church, which was not a runner for a devout Catholic, that was the Pope of course. But there is one rule for royalty and another for the rest of us – Charles made the problem go away, and gave him a doctor’s note to special exempt him from the rules. But it caused a ripple, and maybe the odd raspberry. And there was resistance out there – students had organised a pope burning session on Christmas day 1680 for example.  But in general support for York was as great as it had ever been, despite the slight tear in the force.

To get everyone in a sweet mood and oil the wheels of royal support, York then made a royal progress through central Scotland and there were great celebrations as he passed, large  numbers  came out to see him and send him on his way; at the end of May 1681 there were celebration in Edinburgh, a big public banquet, bonfires at 40 foot intervals in the streets; the message was one of great public support for the royal Stuart brothers.

The message was not lost in England; and the Scots were well aware that they were part of said message making, and setting an example to the English. So, it appears to be the Scots themselves who prevailed on Charles that he really ought to have a parliament while James was in town. The reason they gave was to

Contribute to the quiet and advantage of Scotland, but by running counter to that of England, be a check and a bar to such violent proceedings as hitherto distracted that nation

I think teacher’s Pet would be an appropriate name for said petitioners. When the calling of the 1681 parliament was announced for July, a Scottish newspaper reported that the parliament was

To be called in Scotland, by their good example to mother the English to a better compliance with the counsel

Elections went ahead, James expected a positive crowd, and so it appears no significant efforts were made by the crown to influence who was elected. As a result the parliament was not entirely composed of loyalists. An example of this came early. Charles appointed York as the King’s Commissioner for the parliament, therefore the man who would manage all the business through the Lords of the Articles and thence to parliament. But there were objectors – a group of 40 members no less, led by Hamilton, claimed this was impossible. York was catholic, and law dictated office holders must the protestants. Pressure was applied, Hamilton backed down, and business proceeded. But it was a warning.

To set against potential rebels York had staunch supporters whose names will no doubt appear again; George MacKenzie. George Gordon of Haddo, and MacKenzie of Tarbat. Plus, when York ordered the Bishops to jump, all they would ask was ‘how high, Sah?’ And to make sure the Bishops were aware of where their interests lay, further clampdowns of Conventicles were ordered; and as luck would have it, the leader of the Cameronians, Donald Cargill, was captured and along with 4 others, executed in Edinburgh, conveniently on just the day before parliament met. An execution or two is a great way to set the right tone. Maybe we should bring the custom back. Concentrates the mind and all that, and I have a few names in mind.

Parliament started with a love in; York read out what were Charles’ words essentially, that the king would maintain the laws and the Scottish  church against fanatics and separatists; and in return he expected parliament to be ‘rigorous in asserting his royal prerogative’. And parliament replied with ‘yup, we are up for that’. I paraphrase and indeed summarise, obviously. The gist of what they actually said can be gleaned from the words

We esteem our lives and fortunes to be best employed in the maintaining of the just rights and prerogatives of your majestie’s crown and monarchy

Though it must be noted they would pay more attention to the small print than this statement suggests.  But look, if your surname was Stuart, things were looking good.

Well, let us start though by considering the more troublesome and spikey members of parliament. Let me introduce you to James Dalrymple of Stair and Archibald Campbell, Earl of Argyle. You’ve all heard of Archie before and those cursed Campbells, but James Dalrymple probably not; he’s a staunch Covenanter who also refused in 1654 to sign an oath of allegiance to the Commonwealth. Despite that, he was cheerfully appointed with Cromwell’s approval to senior judicial positions, Oliver could be like that. But his motivations were very much those of a loyal covenanter, and he was a man of principle; he’d refused in 1662 to sign up to the declaration that the solemn league and covenant was illegal.

Anyway, so he and Argyle proposed in committee an act that would make holding public office dependant on signing the Confession of Faith of 1567. There are a whole load of things about this act, but essentially to summarise – it was heavily in favour of accepting that Jesus, not the king, was head of the church, and it would have given parliament considerable powers and eroded the royal supremacy. York said, hhmm…no don’t think so and dissolved the committee. Argyll though was now a man with a small target on his forehead. Which for York was a shame; because he’d had plans for our Archie, I terms of bringing the Highlands and Islands to heel; he’d have to think of another way. Because from now on if he so much as looked at someone in the wrong way – Argyll was coming down.

Well, things went better for York from then on; parliament passed an act guaranteeing the Stuart succession – and include the clause that it would be treason not act accordingly, whichever of the Stuart realm-portfolio that affected. Note bene, England – James Stuart, Catholic king of England – or civil war. Then a big one – an enormously significant act which would have had the Covenanters of 1640 spinning in their graves. The act grandly declared that

All government and jurisdictions…resided in his sacred majesty, his lawful heirs and successors

I mean whoa. The act was aimed at the Highlands and clans – the next stage in the long efforts to bring the clan chiefs into control of central authority. But the way it was worded did not restrict it to that – it effectively gave the king the right to bypass any governmental institutions – judges, magistrates, military personnel; and therefore completely by pass the rule of law and override civil administration. And Charles and York noticed, it didn’t escape their attention. They popped it into their mental back pocket and royal tool kit and it would not stay there for long, it would be used.

Then, parliament voted five years supply for armed forces to put down what it described as ‘rebellious commotions’; even better, it passed an act authorising collection of excise & customs for five years after the death of a king. So that’s neat; normal practice was that when a new monarch arrived they had to be granted the rights anew by parliament, a good negotiating tool for parliament. This now was a bit like having a get out of jail free card in Monopoly don’t you think? So no stressful first parliaments for the new kid on the block. Which is a funny expression by the way or at least I have always imagined it wrongly – an image of a small child, block, axe and executioner always springs to mind. Which is presumably not what is intended.

Anyway, enough of the random musings. Then parliament turned to troublesome Presbyterians and turned the screw just another notch – confirmed all laws in favour of episcopy, made landlords responsible for fines of their tenants if they attended illegal conventicles, and doubled fines.

The Act that proved most controversial though was the Act anent the Test; the act had to be sworn to basically by anyone in any position of authority or with voting rights, to cut a long story short – I am cutting a corner there, so don’t shout at me. The act required all laws against protestant and Catholic non conformers to be prosecuted, and that none of them could be employed in any public office – except, let it be noted, ‘the king’s lawful brothers and sons’. The deeply protestant Argyll shuddered at this point – surely the only necessary exemption was for York, not for any other Catholic king that might succeed?

Then holders had to

Affirm and swear that the king’s majesty is the only supreme governor of this realme in all causes as well ecclesiastical and civil

There’s more but you get the gist. You had to swear not to alter the established religion in any way, and especially to pay no heed to the National Covenant. The act required, in short, unconditional loyalty to the Monarch’s will.

Now there were plenty sitting there in parliament for whom this was all a bit much; one in particular said it went a long way towards making the monarch

Absolute, arbitrary and uncontrollable

For others, it didn’t really do the job of protecting established religion which was the aim of all this. And a passionate ex-covenanter James Dalrymple of Stair, saw in that an opportunity to subtly scupper the Test act, make it unusable. And his route was to have accepted in the act that the definition of the established religion was to be defined by the Confession of Faith of 1567. Well almost no one remembered what the 1567 Confession of Faith said in any detail, so it was waved through, fine, fine fine fine. Well – the Confession of Faith said that the head of the church was not, in fact, the king – but Jesus Christ. So at the heart of the Test Act was now a fatal contradiction.

So there was a lot of kerfuffle, on a few grounds to the Test Act. For some it was about the contradiction – how could you swear to something when it bound you to something undeliverable? Stair anyway objected to the unconditional loyalty the act required so despite his sneaky insertion of the Confession, refused to sign, and was stripped of his offices. Monmouth refused to sign, because the succession could only go through lawful heirs and he was illegitimate. Ha. So York had his rival stripped of his offices, and probably of all the royal victories of the 1681 parliament, and they were legion, that might have been the sweetest for him. Hamilton had qualms about swearing, but caved again, the earls of Haddington, Nithsdale, Sutherland and Cassellis all refused. Some Bishops refused because they saw it would divide protestants, and was against the idea of divine-right episcopy – because the divine right here resided with the king. And furthermore this meant a future Catholic could indeed change the form of religion as he chose.

Honestly it does sound like a bit of a mess. But if you happened to be the king or in favour, like George MacKenzie, of absolute royal power, it was something of a godsend; and although a clarification was issued to try to reassure some, it was also a rather useful way for Charles and York to carry out what was effectively a purge of both central and local government. Something like 50 officials refused the Test and lost their offices all over Scotland.

One big benefit was the use of the test to reclaim lost royal authority. So, the dominant power of the magnates and nobility was based on ancient royal rights – shrievalties, regalities, baronial courts and so on – which had over the years become heritable, and so out of royal control. Well if you now refused the Test, you lost these right – and as a result they could be re-distributed. Re-distributed to royalistfans – like John Graham of Claverhouse, the anti presbyterian; he got himself the shrievalty slap bang in the middle of presbyterian heartland, at Wigtown. Conversely, if Catholics lost their posts, the crown very cleverly maintained their power by appointing one of their clients to the position. The militia was purged, and the town councils were purged. It was all very handy indeed.

The most high-profile refusal though, was Archibald Campbell, Earl of Argyll. Now York and Charles were probably a bit ambivalent about Argyll. On the one hand, he was the most obvious choice for the upholder of royal law and order in the Highlands. But on the other – he wasn’t popular. Many had objected when he was welcomed back into the fold; as you might remember, many had hoped to profit from his Dad’s forfeiture of land – they hoped to sweep up a few acres. Argyll was considered too powerful, his estates too broad and bloated; and his acquisitiveness in the Highlands were legendary, and brought him many enemies their. If he took agin the crown, he could be a formidable adversary. So Argyll’s response to the Test was keenly looked for, given his family’s history of being strong supporters of the presbyterian settlement and covenant.

Well, at the council in November 1681 Argyll did indeed take the Test. He sort of mumbled something at the end, which escaped notice from most at the time, but some of the York fans on the Council noticed, and dobbed him in to York. And so James ordered him to take it again. And this time stand up straight, speak up, and make it clear with no additional mumbling stuff at the end. And d’you know what? Darn me if Argyll didn’t refuse. And tried to justify himself, writing a diatribe, saying surely no one could take a contradictory oath, and reserving his previous oath with the mumbled codicil, which appears to have been that he took the oath so far as it was

‘consistent with itself and the protestant religion’

Which obviously left an escape route through which you could drive a coach and eight; and the Council declared his explanation dangerous. There was nothing for it – Argyll had to be broken. He was arrested, and tried on 13th December 1681 – convicted and sentenced to be executed. When Charles got the news in England, one of the court remarked that

‘he knew not the Scots law, but by the law of England that explanation could not hang his dog’

Charles & York probably dithered; they didn’t necessarily see it in their interests to destroy Argyll, simply to strip him of some estates. But as luck would have it, Argyll forced the issue – by legging it. He escaped from Edinburgh castle, and made his way to the low countries. There to plan, and plot. And look for the opportunity to return. He was sentenced to death in his absence, and his lands forfeit. So you know, as fat as York and Charles were concerned it’s an ill wind that blows no body any good.

It did leave York with an issue though; how to manage the Highlands since his chief enforcer had flown? The result is rather interesting, and in many ways much more positive than the general run of the history of lowland-highland relationships. York established a Commission for Securing the Peace in the Highlands; and offered the clans and their chiefs a deal. Sign up for a bond that makes you responsible for keeping the peace and you’ll be directly involved in government.

Now this offer tied into a long term revolution which had been going on in the Highlands. To go back  a step – in crude summary, the power of highland chiefs had once rested on a system very different to the lowlands; all land was held by the chief on behalf of the whole clan, the chief had complete rights of jurisdiction and ability to tax his people at will, in return for protecting and enriching them. Horribly simplified summary but anyway. Since the days of James IV, Scottish monarchs had tried to undermine this; slowly bringing clan chiefs into the wider lowland social structure, getting them to hold land and rights by title from the crown, in the feudal tradition of the lowlands. This created the potential for confusion of course; by this tradition, all land was not held by the clan, but became a matter of private property. In the early days this hardly mattered and no one noticed; but as central government extended its power into the highlands, it would matter, more and more, as people of the clans thought they had rights of residence and access to land, which they would discover they did not.

Anyway, chronic debt on behalf of clan chiefs – and growing wealth of the tacksmen or the middling sort in Highland society that we might increasingly call ‘gentry’ – had led to a deeper transfer of land and rights. Chiefs increasingly sold off parcels of land to gentry to pay off creditors and maintain their lifestyle. So when York and the Commission for Securing Peace in the Highlands came round offering these bonds, this was for many of these gentry the first official and written recognition that they held their lands and rights by royal charter. So they signed up – with some enthusiasm; there was little of the reluctance and resistance similar bonds had generated in the lowlands. Not that it was all sweetness and light; the commission also imposed rules that have the feel of the Cromwellian Commonwealth policy about them too – a commission of Highland Judiciary ensured that no Highlander carrying arms was allowed to travel 7 miles from home without a pass; cattle raiding was severely curbed, and Inverlochy was garrisoned. But the Commission included 75 lairds and chiefs, rather than just the magnates.

For many of the Highland chiefs and gentry also, all of this was a very refreshing change in attitude from central government, away from all the militias and violence we have seen.

Now to be honest, this change in policy would not last many years; York’s policy was not the result of a change in attitude towards highland society or a desire for a new start, it was a matter of expediency. But it would yield fruit; both in the long process of the steady erosion of traditional clan society and the famous enclosures; but more immediately, as the laying of a fertile soil for Jacobitism in the highlands after the Revolution of 1688; the Campbell had been banished, and a partnership, for once, made with highland clans. And some of them would not forget.

So there we go, the history of the period in Scotland of James Duke of York, the future James VII of Scotland and II of England. It’s all a bit confusing to me, the completeness of the switch around from Scottish Revolution to the completeness of the triumph of Stuart Absolutism after the Restoration.

By way of leavening the bread, Tim Harris tells a funny story of how some saw all the fuss of the Test Act and the treatment of Argyll. The Boys of Heriot Hospital took a cynical view of the whole thing, and decided their guard dog should take the Test of Allegiance, and offered him a paper with the test written on it to read; when he refused it they covered it in butter but the dog just licked the butter off and refused to eat the test, so they tried it for treason, and with conscious irony found it guilty and ordered it to be Hanged like a Dog’. Arf, and if you will, arf. Meanwhile the students at the university demonstrated their contempt for the Test itself by burning an effigy of the pope clasping the act in one hand. The serious point of this story is that like the initial attempts of Argyll and Hamilton and their allies to undermine the parliament, there was an undercurrent of resistance, that ran like a hidden stream.

In March 1682 amidst celebrations and public declarations of loyalty, York set off for England. The Archbishop of St Andrews wrote to his opposite number in England, the ABC praising a Duke that

Looks on the enemies of the church as adversaries to the monarchy itself

The Scottish Council wrote to Charles II praising York’s

Kindess, justice, moderation and exemplary loyalty

Not only had York solidified royal power in Scotland; he had allowed Charles to use the example of Scotland in his fight back against the Whigs. The supporters of monarchy in England, the English Bishops and Torys had been heartened and restored by York’s performance; from here, an empowered Charles had remarkable success in fighting off the Exclusion crisis and the success of James was assured. There are plenty of examples in history where English politics have been deeply affected by Scotland – and here is another example, two peas in a pod you see.

While some, such as the Whig Bishop Gilbert Burnet, claimed York had been ‘hated more than ever’ after the 1681 parliament, it was more generally agreed that the Scots had declared York to be ‘Darling of the Age’. It had been a remarkably successful stint, though it might be said that the contract struck between York and Scotland was probably not understood in the same way on either side. For which there will later be trouble.

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