Transcript for HoS 74

So we’ve waved Jimmy good bye for the moment; tough it is – but it’s au revoir rather than adieu, since it is contended that James would remain very much in control of Scottish policy, though under the eye of big brother. It seems that a small, secret cabinet in Scotland, was established, kitchen cabinet maybe would be the modern word, which kept in constant direct contact with the Duke.

Anyway I face something of a narrative challenge; this episode could become a rather tiresome litany of the Killing Times, and lord knows we have had plenty of stories about repression of Presbyterians. There are two problems with this; firstly, hearing about misery can be intrinsically miserable and hey! We are here to have fun at the History of Scotland! Secondly, it does worry me that it gives something of a false impression as far as the whole picture is concerned; the attention of most of Scotland was probably elsewhere – episcopalianism would be strong and resilient north of the Tay as it comes to be challenged itself in a few years’ time, and so for many, repression did not touch them hard. The Highlands as per normal were more concentrated on their own affairs, and also on their own renewed repression. And the more extreme presbyerians, the Cameronians, or the Remnants as they became called after Bothwell Bridge, were a tiny part of the whole. The more moderate were able to work under the indulgences, albeit Covenanter traditions remained strong. So, all I’m saying is that let’s not get carried away with the Killing Times – OK?

So, in the interests of not getting carried away let’s talk about repression and torture then! Ok, just kiddin, but no let’s get it out of the way. The Remnant began to organise themselves into praying societies, and therefore began to be known as the Society People; and they were more than a bit in yer face quietism was not US; in December 1681 they drew up their ‘Apologetic Declaration of the True Presbyterians of the Church of Scotland,’ which condemned Charles II as a tyrant, and condemned the proceedings of the 1681 parliament also for good measure; it also expressed the desire of ridding themselves of tyranny – so I suppose ‘rebellious’ would also be an appropriate word.


The reaction is predictable and repression did indeed continue; John Graham of Claverhouse again stands accused by Presbyterians historians of billeting his dragoons, and using torture to help get confessions.

I should have a word though about John Graham, who in 1688 will be given the title of Viscount Dundee by James VII, and will be a famous figure in the Jacobite cause. Modern historians take a very much more balanced view of his activities during the Killing Times; close examination of the evidence and his letters suggests he was much more inclined to leniency, and his direct involvement in summary executions rare. Clearly, he was a strict disciplinarian, and had a hatred of disorder. But Magnus Linklater concludes that

close study of his life reveals a man guided rather by obedience to an unsatisfactory monarch than by any notably vindictive qualities.

However, the PC decided that normal civil authorities were to be behaving too feebly and so once more, the normal channels were by passed. As a result, the Earl of Linlithgow was given a commission to enforce the law. This rings true; so often with gentry and lairds in control, justice was much for sensitive and responsive to local issues.

In general then the repression of dissent continued; to give an idea of scale, it may be that during the 1680s something like 100 people were executed; there were significant fines levied on Merchants, and numbers of dissenters transported to the colonies – New Jersey and the Carolinas in particular; torture seems to have been used quite regularly, and was specifically authorised by Charles in 1684.

The British angle also intervened, in 1683 when a conspiracy was uncovered – a conspiracy to assassinate Charles and the Duke of York, and bring down the Stuart monarchy – it became known as the Rye House plot. A Number of Scottish Presbyterians in England were caught up in the net, including William Spence, William Carstares, and Robert Bailllie; in the absence of any real evidence against them,  all were deported to Scotland they could be held indefinitely because there was no law of habeas corpus in Scotland; and also torture was allowed – I read that the thumbscrew was used for the first time, and Tam Dayell has the dubious honour of being its inventor.

In Council, the Duke of Hamilton raged against the Council’s abuse of process and refused to be part of the interrogations.

At this rate they might, without accusers or witnesses, take any person off the street and torture him

He thundered. But his intervention was in vain; Some of the accused were put at liberty – but others like Robert Baillie executed. Spence fled to the Netherlands – where he joined Argyll in Exile. Which is a hint as to what follows. Argyll, exile, rebels.

For Presbyterian historians, this is a story of relentless rising repression. But a few points again to remind you it’s part of a specific narrative of the glorious restoration of the Covenanter cause with the Accession of William a few years in the future; the bigger picture, as noted earlier is more nuanced. Also it’s clear that many, Claverhouse included, this was as much about order as religion; he was heard to remark that

There were as many elephants and Crocodiles in Galloway as loyal or regular persons

But it is also a continuing story of a developing royal absolutism. You might remember that in the last episode we spoke of the act passed in 1681 which declared that

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

Which was tantamount to embedding absolutism in Scotland. Well, this is the payback time; the violent imposition of order was made easier because law and initiatives could be authorised through privy council and royal proclamation. Scotland’s political issues were both specific and peculiar to itself, in the strong survival of the Covenanting tradition; and at once part of a British monarchy’s problems; Charles was once more using Scotland to demonstrate to England what loyalty looked like; though England was learning the wrong lessons and being educated instead on the dangers of arbitrary government.

Charles’ supporters of course disagreed. Charles’ Lord Advocate MacKenzie was clear that York and Charles’ actions were justified because the dissenters had

Overturned the government and Laws…because the dissenters in Scotland were more bigoted to the Covenant, which is a constant fund for rebellion

Others held that it was not religion for which people were dealt with, but for treason; and adherence to the rule of law, or stability and order, became the justification. Episcopalians and the Bishops blamed the attempt at comprehension during the 1670s. As far as the Government’s supporters were concerned, the strategy was a success, and that uniformity was re-established. Mackenzie again proclaimed that:

Our monarchs derive not their rights from the people, but are absolute monarchs, deriving their royal authority immediately from God Almighty

All that Mackenzie said restricted the king, was that they could not repeal legislation without parliament, or change the succession. That will become relevant of course; MacKenzie’s view was that since as soon as one king died, the next immediately inherited – the king is dead long live the king sort of thing, the monarch never died – so no one, not king, not parliament could change the succession.

So the likes of MaKenzie celebrated and endorsed the absolutism of the Stuarts. But there were many also who, as Charles’ reign drew to an end, reflected that they were likely now to have an absolute monarch, with all power to change both the form of religion and legislate without restraint, who was also a Catholic.







The period following Lauderdale’s fall, was characterised by a certain amount of instability on the Council, and unfortunately factionalism rather grew than settled down. Hamilton remained an influential figure, partially restored to favour, in the sense that James liked him; Hamilton’s refusal to oppose James’ elevation to the Council despite his catholicism, had put him in good odour for the future. The big winner for a short while was one George Gordon of Haddo, whose promotion by Charles was meteoric – elevated to be Earl of Aberdeen. He appeared to be exactly the kind of person the Council needed – described by one contemporary as ‘ane indefatigable spirit for serious businesse’, and according to his biographer, the evidence bears that judgement out. And yet his face didn’t fit. Literally actually – he was accused of being ugly, Charles’ mistress of the time took agin him. But more, he was a laird and a lawyer; he was not born to the great families. Despite purging government of Lauderdale’s old supporters, including his brother, by 1684 Aberdeen was out; accused by Perth and Queensberry of being too lenient on the dissenters, dragged to London to pass his viva exam in front of Charles – and failing the test. And was out.

His effective successor, Queensberry, was also immediately guilty of falling out with his political ally the Earl of Perth, though Queensberry’s effectiveness at raising money preserved him while Charles remained; but in the end it would be Perth, and his brother in the Drummond family Earl Melfort who would end up in control when Charles died. Both of them were suspected of being Catholics – and indeed there is often no smoke without fire I am told, and so it was in this case; both of the Drummond boys would later announce their conversion to Catholicism. Perth replaced Aberdeen as Chancellor, and Melfort was made Secretary for Scotland in 1685, and therefore would be based in Whitehall, bending the new king’s ear for his bro’. Things always go well when brothers are in cahoots.

Through all this, Charles appeared to all to be in a fettle as fine as could be wished for. He was mid fifties, which is a few years before the prime of life which at the time of writing is 58, but at the time of listening will probably be 59, and he was hale and hearty. And as we all know Charles had an enquiring and active mind as well as an enquiring and active…um…personal life, full of energy. When he wasn’t establishing royal absolutism or signing secret treaties, he was noted for his love of science. I should have mentioned, among all the mayhem, that he of course as everyone knows was part of the establishment in 1660 of the Royal Society in England; but what you might not know is that it is in his reign that the Royal College of Physicians was established in Scotland in 1681 by a chap called Robert Sibbald. Sibbald seems to have turned to Science because he was sick to death of the factions he saw about him:

I preferred a quiet life, wherein I might not be engaged in factions of church or state. I fixed upon the study of medicine, whereon I might be of no faction and might be useful to my generation.

Well that is good advice, and science of course will prove to be famously free of faction. And I hope all of us can claim to be useful to our generations. I mean I haven’t yet, but I am planning to think about it soon. Maybe when I’ve finished the podcast, a notably hedonistic and chandelier swinging profession.

Michael Lynch remarks that, as elsewhere of course, this is an age of changing temper, where belief in witchcraft was waning, and that of science growing, despite the political chaos; 1667 is also the date of the establishment of the botanical gardens of Edinburgh, the Advocates Library will be set up; the Court of Judiciary was established in 1677 which would last well into the 19th century. Overseas trade was growing – Glasgow was becoming something of a Boom town, with soap works in 1667, sugar works in 1669, and a textiles manufactory in 1683. Scots were involved in new colonies established in New Jersey in 1682 and South Carolina in 1684. It’s also the time when the Royal Africa Company was established, though my understanding is that Scotland doesn’t get involved in the trade of enslaved people until after 1707.

So it’s a bit of a Jeykll and Hyde age; among all the violence in the Highlands earlier in the reign for example, yet some signs of greater integration between highlands and lowlands; for example with the cattle trade, which crossed boundaries. Castle mustering points like Crieff are examples – and a very lovely town Crieff is too, sitting there at the foot of the Central Highlands. It’s also a period where there is increasing integration between Scottish and English elites who shared a similar culture; the Countesses of Melville, Leven and Rothes persuade a leading artist, Jen Baptise de Medina to base himself in Scotland, the Countess of Lauderdale brought the Italian artist Gennari to paint her in Scotland. The Scottish aristocracy were confident of their culture, as influenced by Italy as was England; Scottish families increasingly sent their children to England to be educated, and sought marriage alliances with English nobility. They were drawn by the politics, excess and gaudy consumption of Charles Court. Not for nothing did they call him the king of bling. Well they didn’t but they would have done if the word had been invented.







I digress a bit, but it is nice to glance away for a moment from the politicking. Anyway what was I saying? Ah yes Charles, hale and hearty, liked a bit of Science and had spent many happy hours experimenting with mercury. Anyway, there he was.  Monday 2nd February 1685, up and out of bed bright and early, unusual for a notoriously bed loving king, and into his devotions in his closet – devotions in a religious sense of course. Coming out of his closet – everything changed. Charles collapsed in a violent fit and immediately it became clear this was serious So, just to make sure he didn’t survive, the medical profession leapt into action – he was purged, bled, blistered, cauterised; and then of course the absolute basic, red hot pokers applied to his shaved scalp – well we’ve all done that when we have a bad cold haven’t we?  58 different types of drugs were applied. By 5th, he was clearly at death’s door; and so appeared Father John Huddleston, the Catholic priest who’d helped Charles escape after Worcester. Charles was converted, blessed and shrived, and duly died the following day, 6th February. It appears the medical profession can breath a sigh of relief though; it could have been the mercury that killed him, despite the best efforts of his doctors, since he seems to have chronic kidney disease. So Doctors – you are off the hook. So that’s the end of the merry monarch who, to be honest, doesn’t seem to have been particularly merry from a perspective north of the border.


Well, Jimmy heard the news went straight to the Privy Council in England with tears in his eyes, hopefully not tears of joy, and gave a rather emotional speech promising to preserve the government and religion just as it was. if you happened to be looking closely, you might have noticed a slight elongation of his nose as he said it.  Now, Charles’s reign and the whig opposition to James, the rabid fear of popery, the plots and all that, meant people were a bit apprehensive about how the new King would be received. Well – they needn’t have worried. Just to give you an extremely insightful comparison here – it’s a bit like football isn’t it? You know when you get a new manager the new one is always going to be brill, the team play like demons for a while, the future is bright – we love a new face and we’d got bored of the old one. After the economically dire 1590s, even James I had beenreceived with enthusiasm, even though it was Good Queen Bess who’d shuffled off. So everyone professed themselves absolutely besides themselves with happiness – Callooh! Callay! They chortled in their joy. The people of Loughborough, just as one example,

Exceeded all others in their zeal at proclaiming the king, sacrificing several hogsheads to his majesties health

Go Loughborough on message as always.

In Scotland, the reception was the same with public rejoicing, loyal addresses from the burghs and all that; I mean there were some who seemed less than delighted – such as the Episcopalian minister who has beaten up for praying for the king in the heartlands of the radical south west; but they are a strange lot down there; everywhere else it was just happiness and light. And James felt confident that Scotland would prove his finest partner; after all, he had a successful time up there before, felt he knew the place and had friends, and it was steadfastly loyal. So his first parliament was up there in Scotland – pour encourager les autres as it were, to show England and Ireland what loyalty looked like.  And would you believe it, the parliament played its part to a tee. To a level that had presbyterian jaws dropping as it happens. Parliament voted excise to the crown for all time! So that’s the end of that bargaining chip then. It proclaimed James’ ‘sacred, supreme and absolute power and authority’ and made a gift of £216,000 Scots for the very year; it made it a treasonable offence to talk or write in defence of the Covenant. It was everything James could have dreamed of.

Now part of the reason for all this, was the history under Charles and the genuine commitment to monarchy as the guarantor of the social order and stability. But part of it was insecurity, especially the money grants; because the Scots knew that in all likelihood rebellion was heading their way. And so did the English.






In that regard, let’s hop off to the continent then, and follow the fortunes of two men – mainly Archibald Campbell, Earl of Argyll, but we’ll also cock an eye in the general direction of James Crofts, Duke of Monmouth, illegitimate son of Lucy Crofts and Charles II. Monmouth had been the darling of the Whigs in the exclusion crisis, good protestant that he was, and thought he had a real chance of succeeding to the throne instead of James; Lucy of course had claimed that she and Charles had really been married, and plenty were happy to believe her, rather than have a catholic on the throne. But By 1684, Monmouth had been deeply implicated in the Rye House plot and forced to jump ship to the low countries. There lived and ruled of course the real protestant darling and bulwark against French absolutism, William of Orange. Who would simply love to have a friend on the English throne to help him against the French. Or indeed – be on the English throne, given that his wife was Mary, daughter of James Duke of York. When James became king, he immediately tried to have Monmouth seized but Orange was no idiot – he tipped him the wink instead. So about this time, Monmouth began to think he was bored living the life of an exile, and maybe he should go on an adventure. So, in February 1684, he got in touch with some Scots.

So back to Archie Argyll. In 1681 he’d escaped and fled as we heard – but only as far as London initially; there he seems to have tried to hook up with English Whig radicals and see if something immediate could be done. He made contact with one Ann Smith. Ann’s life before her involvement with Argyll is little known; she seems in 1681 to have been middle aged with one son, and married to a wealthy sugar baker. She was a fervent Baptist was Ann, and a friend of a Cromwellian officer, Baptist, and rebel Major Abraham Holmes; and it seems to be through him that Ann came to harbour Argyll, at a house in Brentford. Ann had been radicalised by the exclusion crisis and its failure; and it clear from the beginning that she and Argyll shared a passion for the cause of Protestantism. Anyway, Argyll managed to meet the earl of Shaftesbury apparently, but it got out that he was around plotting rebellion; Ann appears in a government report as a ‘great fomentor of plots’.

So the English government started trying properly to hunt Argyll down and he, Ann, and her husband fled to the low countries, and stayed in a house in Utrecht. There Argyll did hook up with Scottish exiles, like John Cochrane and Patrick Hume of Polwarth; also around, and with money to fund rebellion, was James Dalrymple of Stair; Stair was the man you might remember, who’d tried to scupper the test act by inserting reference to the Confession of Faith. Anyway they began to plot.

This was not an easy process by all accounts, because they all had different objectives; Patrick Hume and his colleagues were keen on constitutional change, reversing the advances in royal power made by Charles II, determined to re-establish the parliamentary power which had characterised the Covenanter government. Argyll was not about this at all – what floated his boat was religion and the safety of the kirk, and the restoration of his position in the Highlands and Scottish society. He was perfectly content with royal power, as long as he was restored to his position as a feudal magnate under the king. Meanwhile the news from home was not good. John Murray, the Marquess of Atholl had been appointed king’s lieutenant of Argyll and led 1,000 troops into Argyll, where he was disarming and harassing the population and arresting leading members of the Campbell clan. Just in case, you know, Argyll decided to return.

So there’s a lot of argy bargy; and in fact throughout the exile, Argyll covered himself in little glory; it seemed obvious to Patrick Hume that he should coordinate with the Duke of Monmouth whose pecker was similarly raised now with thoughts of rebellion; but Argyll was jealous of the Duke, so was a nightmare to persuade. And he had no thought at all of what the objectives were and what was going to happen if his rebellion succeeded; all he could think about was his own personal restoration. This was unlikely to be a cause to raise Scotland’s passion and support – though maybe the defence of religion would be a popular cry. But eventually it was decided that yes, Argyll and Monmouth would work together.

The plan. Argyll would land in his highland homelands, where he confidently expected thousands to rally to the famous Campbell banners; Hume thought the home of radical Presbyterianism would be better, and maybe it would have been – but in Argyll’s favour, it might be noted that Galloway was festooned with Government soldiers, all busy doing their oppression thing. Anyway, so that was Argyll’s bit; Monmouth would at the same time land in the West of England and raise a storm there, the defence would be split, the country would rise in favour of the protestant prince and everyone, but everyone would live happily ever after. Except James. And Catholics.

Maybe none of it would have happened without Ann Smith – or at least her impact was huge. She was by this stage a rich widow, since Mr Smith had gone to the great sugar cone in the sky. And so she effectively bankrolled Argyll with £7,000, and also gave £1,000 to Monmouth. The Rebellion was launched – Argyll set sail for the highlands with a frigate, 300 men and loads of guns and ammo – and with Ann Smith’s son, as it happens.

Well, how often have you heard that pincher movements, coordinated attacks and all that came unstruck because the timing went all to poo? Well here we go again sadly; in closely coordinated landings, Argyll landed at Tobermoray on 11th May. Monmouth landed at Lyme Regis on 11th June. So…not that coordinated then.   Actually, Argyll, and bit like Montrose 30 years before, made landing at Orkney on 2nd May as he came. This was sporting of him; it gave the central government some warning of what was coming – and no one wants to win a rebellion by cheating do they?

Never mind; Argyl raised the fiery Cross on mull and sent the message out; I have to say that raising a fiery cross seems like an excellent and martial way to raise rebellion and I intend to find a way to use a fiery cross in my own personal life. Not sure how, maybe to Dylan Ap Dog when he’s over sniffing some sniff. Anyway, confidently the 300 men awaited the mighty torrent of Campbell clansmen to join the great crusade.

Sadly, the mighty torrent appeared to be more by way of a dribble. Still never mind – the Campbell heartlands, home to the Campbell clan for generations, would surely deliver on their loyalty. So Argyll spent some time working his way back to Campbell town by 20th May. He put out stirring proclamations – which basically focussed on ‘make me great again’ – I exaggerate for effect. Later he was pressured to give people some idea of what risking their lives in rebellion might gain; so Argyll’s banner read

For God and Religion against Poperie, Tyrrany, Arbitrary Government, and Erastianisme

As a piece of copyrighting, I think it leaves something to be desired. If there are any budding copywriters out there, I have a tip – erastianism doesn’t belong on any marketing material. Not even for a book on erastianism I would suggest. There’s little sex in Erastianism.






Argyll and his commanders then dithered, changing directions and objectives, and against them naval forces gathered and although he might now have 2000 men, Ann’s money was beginning to look like a poor investment. So they went for boldness – they would head for the western lowlands and the Presbyterians would come running. Into Renfrewshire they went and were met by hordes, forests, of…tumbleweed. Although he had built it, still they did not come.

It seems pretty clear Argyll was not the stuff of greatness; he was more than a little aware of his own social status, not a leader of men; and since his bump on the head from the cannon ball, if you remember that story a few episodes back, he came across as a bit eccentric. As Fountainhall wrote of him

‘Tho Argile was very witty in knacks, yet it was observed, he hes never been very solid  since his trepanning of his scull … he was so secretive he had neir 20 severall pockets, some very secret, in his coat and breeches’

In the Campbell lands, the issue seems to have been that the Marquis of Atholl had done his job too well; the quartering of troops and seizing of Campbell clan leaders had ripped the rebellious life from the Campbell heartlands. Elsewhere in the highlands, often Campbell leadership had been won on the back of debts, and they were not loved landlords. And Argyll’s promise that if they risked their lives and rebelled he’d see them right on their debts was neither trusted, nor did it build a picture of a better world, or stir the blood – I mean it’s hardly the stuff of les Miserables is not? In the Lowlands similarly, the experience of more than a decade of military repression had taken its toll.

It was enough. Argyll’s bedraggled army disintegrated. The man himself disguised himself and, armed with three loaded pistols, attempted to make his way back to the highlands, but on his way a weaver thought he looked like a rebel, and arrested him. When people heard, the final nail was driven firmly into the coffin of Argyll’s swashbuckling reputation, as one wrote, the

‘dulnesse and sillinesse of the manner of his taking is very odd’ for ‘ever on reputed Argile valiant and wit’

On 12th June, Argyll founds himself in Edinburgh Castle, wondering where it had all gone wrong. He was gobsmacked at the failure since he’d assumed God’s providence would make it a shoe-in since clearly God couldn’t be a Catholic. So he blamed everyone else, essentially – he’d failed ‘More by friend’s fraud’ he moaned; but in the end regretfully concluded that it was a combination of  God’s fault really, and maybe a bit of his own:

It seemeth, the Lord thought me not fit to be an instrument of his work

Monmouth’s rebellion was still marching on towards the battle of Sedgemoor, but even if the outcome was to bring James’ throne thundering down, it would have been too late for Argyll because on the 30th June, Argyll went to his death on the scaffold, his life ended by the Maiden. There are a couple of legends related about said execution, which are rather neat. The first is that when Argyll approached the maiden, he saw that it was a bit wonky. So he got tools brought, measured it up and had it set straight before making his speech. It’s the soet of thing my Dad would have done. I like this story for the sang froid, obviously; but also because of the thought of prisoners being able to carry out a spot of DIY because I know for sure that no engine of destruction subject to my level of DIY would ever be capable of taking anyone’s life. Sadly the story seems to be untrue; instead, the sight horrified him, and he asked to be blindfolded.

The other story is more macabre; when the Maiden severed his neck, as the blood spurted out in a cascade, the body gave a massive spasm and leapt upright, blood flying everywhere, until the executioner rugby tackled it to the ground. Yuck really.

As he waited for execution, incidentally, Argyll had written to those he loved – like his wife for example; but his longest letter was reserved for Ann Smith. He wrote that her concern for him is ‘a Cross greater than I can express’, thanked her for all her ‘kindness to all saints’, and declared that he left the world in hope of glory. Ann Smith was nothing daunted, and was caught in another conspiracy in 1686; for which though she received a pardon, and dropped out of history. We do not know what happened to her son.

It would be not many days before, on 6th July, Monmouth’s army met its defeat at Sedgemoor. On 15th July, the Duke was famously beheaded by Jack Ketch. So famous indeed that the Hangman in Punch and Judy was named after him. Mr Ketch took five blows to finish Monmouth’s life, in the middle of which the poor man was seen to raise his head in agony.

Retribution on the rebels in England is legendary, with Judge Jeffries, the bloody assizes with 320 executions and 800 transportations. Retribution in Scotland was little better. 292 Suspected rebels were brought to the Scottish Council, 177 of whom were transported to New Jersey, 49 of whom had their ears cut. In Argyllshire, Athol vented his rage on Clan Campbell, when 23 who had surrendered on promise of mercy were butchered and the countryside around burned.

The rebellion was over. James VII of Scotland’s proclamation announced official days of thanksgiving for the country’s deliverance from foul rebellion and disorder, and advised people to feel free

To use all lawful demonstrations of joy and gladness

In Edinburgh they obliged, and people were happy, the day was spent with

Preaching in the forenoon, and bells cannons and bonfires in the afternoon

James VII and II was now firmly established on his thrones all dangers banished, and basking in the good will and favour of his people. It appeared that no distant cloud threatened the blue sky of his coming reign.

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