1638 Covenant

(The following compilation is the result of a query from Wendy (Mackay) Sibley who was looking for more infomation on the Covenant. To answer her question I asked for help from the Scottish Clans Newsgroup. I felt the answers I received would be of interest to other readers)

Sheila Mackay Viemeister writes:

From the 1911 edition of Britannica -
"In 1637 Scotland was in a state of turmoil. Charles I and Archbishop Laud had just met with a reverse in their efforts to impose the Englishliturgy upon the Scots; and fearing further measures on the part of the king, it occurred to Archibald Johnston, Lord Warriston, to revive the National Covenant of 1581. Additional matter intended to suit the special circumstances of the time was added, and the Covenant was adopted and signed by a large gathering in Greyfriars Churchyard, Edinburgh, on the 28th of Feb 1638, after which copies were sent throughout the country for additional signatures. The subscribers engaged by oath to maintain all religion in the state in which it existed in 1580, and to reject all innovations introduced since that time, while professed expressions of loyalty to the king were added."

I believe that Ian Grimble touches on this period in his books on the Mackays.


David Thorpe writes:

The concept of the Covenant was a contract between God and the people. It much appealed to Scottish presbyterians who believed in Calvin's theory of a predestined elect. Covenants were subscribed in Scotland in 1557 and in 1581, but the one that caused most of the trouble and an awful lot of bloodshed and death was the National Covenant of 1638 which presumed a direct Scottish relationship with God without the interference of king, pope or bishop. 300,000 Scots signed the covenant which didn't go down at all well with Charles I, but he couldn't do an awful lot about it as he soon had other matters to deal with which culminated in his having his head chopped off in 1649. Charles II actually signed the Covenant in 1650 in order to curry favour with the Scots and have himself crowned at Scone in 1651, but after the Restoration he reneged on this and restored episcopacy. This led to mass rebellion on the part of the Covenanters, particularly in Glasgow and the south west, and their perceived "treason" was savagely put down by the Government, with some 18,000 people estimated to have died during "The Killing Time" which was particularly bad between 1680 and 1685.


J Ferg writes:

The covenant sought to guarantee the Scots the rights to practice their own religion, maintain their customs and laws, and have a voice in the governance of their realm. King Charles Stuart of England and Scotland was considerably more English than Scottish in manners (and his father, James I, had never looked back to Scotland after leaving to assume the throne of England). In practice, the covenant became a tool of tyrannical Presbyterian preachers and of Archibald Campbell, who sought to set himself up as a defacto king of Scotland. Several prominent early promoters and adherents of the National Covenant eventually chose to support King Charles I against the self styled Covenanters who were by the 1640's wooing Cromwell. An excellent historical novel of the period is the "Montrose Omnibus" (three novels combined actually) by Nigel Tranter about James Graeme of Montrose. [online book service]


Lesley Robertson writes:

Religion - (very) anti-Catholic and (very) Protestant.

This is lifted from the "Skyelander" site:
"1638 The National Covenant. A Protestant (mostly Lowland, later called Presbyterian) movement forms. The National Covenant. - Charles regards protests against the prayer book as treason, forcing Scots to choose between their church and the King. A "Covenant", swearing to resist these changes to the death, is signed in Greyfriars Church in Edinburgh. The covenant is accepted by thousands of Scots."

This was actually the second Covenant. Many of the Covenanters were "freedom fighters" or 'terrorists", depending whose side you were one.

You'll find what I consider one of the best sites for Scottish history here:


Cameron writes:

For an easy to read datailed story of this period try Nigel Tranters 'The Montrose Omnibus'. This will tell you all you want to know . You can purchase from Amazon.com [online book service]. You are welcome to visit my Scottish History web page at ;


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