In the final in the English Civil War series of articles, Myra King looks at how the English Civil War progressed, finally leading to King Charles I being put on trial by Oliver Cromwell’s government.

In this series on the English Civil War, we have previously considered the Divine Right of Kings, and Henry VIII and bloody religious change, how the Gunpowder Plot may have been a Protestant-led conspiracy, and Scotland and the lead up to the English Civil War.



“I desire you would use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me... Warts and everything,”


These were the words of Puritan leader Oliver Cromwell. This inspired the saying, “Warts and All,” meaning taking the bad with the good. Which, when looking at Cromwell, that is exactly what you have to do. Despite having no military and political training he was quickly promoted to one of the principal commanders of the Parliamentary army. He had the support of most of those in the towns and cities, while nobility and landowners backed King Charles I.

Each side gathered more supporters and more hatred until eventually tensions rose too high and complaints were too grievous.

In August 1642, in the town of Nottingham, war was declared against the King who had, one too many times, raised his royal standard and declared his intent to rule England however he saw fit.

Cromwell at the Battle of Naseby, 1645. By Charles Landseer.

Cromwell at the Battle of Naseby, 1645. By Charles Landseer.


There were only three major battles in the English Civil War: Edge Hill (1642), Marston Moor (1644) and Naseby (1645).

The battle of Edge Hill has the interesting ability to claim no victor. Both sides cried that they were winners but neither really won. The following year saw many more small engagements; the Cavaliers won more often than not. But these battles were not big enough to dent the Parliamentarian army nor make any hedge way to winning the war.

Although it did give Dr William Harvey the ability to camp on the battlefields and study the anatomy of the dead. It is thanks to the fallen soldiers and the brave doctor that we know that blood circulates through the body in a continuous loop. It was at the second major battle, Marston Moor, that the tide began to turn against the King. The Cavalier army had set up camp on a field just west of York. With only an hour left of sunlight, Prince Rupert and the rest of the dukes, settled down to dinner and expected to hunker down for the night once it was done. To them, it seemed preposterous that the Parliamentarians would attack them with the dark night so imminent. This decision proved Royalist stupidity or it showed that Parliamentarians did not practice gentlemanly war.

Either way, before the aristocracy was done with their leg of lamb, the Parliamentarians attacked. The unprepared Cavaliers were slaughtered where they stood. This was the first true victory for the Parliamentarian Roundheads.

Charles had officially lost the north of England.

But the fatal blow came in June 1645 when Cromwell desecrated any hope of victory for the Royalists. They were beaten and broken at the battle of Naseby.

They did not recover and the entire cause was lost.

Charles, ever the sneak, decided to surrender himself to the Scottish rather than Parliament. He was banking on the shaky alliance between Cromwell and the Scots collapsing under this new deceit. He did not bank on the idea that the Scottish were just as sneaky. They simply sold Charles to Parliament for £400,000 in January 1647.

Although, that brought its own problems. What on earth was parliament supposed to do with a defeated king?

Luckily for them, King Charles paved the road to doom all on his own.



The song “Rule Britannia” was performed for the first time on August 1, 1740, one hundred years after Charles’s defeat. But the chorus of this patriotic song might as well have been written as the wretched king walked the land.

“Rule Britannia!

Britannia rule the waves!

Britons never, never, never shall be slaves!”


The English had had enough.

They were done with their tyrant kings who seemed to serve only themselves. The first Civil War had proved how quickly and effectively the people would take up arms against the king.

They would no longer be slaves!

But in November 1647, Charles escaped from Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight. He ran back to the Scots and begged them for an army. This led to the second Civil War. Unfortunately for Charlie, he was easily defeated.

One has to wonder why this was. Were the Scots purposely leading him to his downfall or were they simply just not all that interested in winning, since this would mean continual war with the English? Or was it a simple case of the angry English having so much firepower that the mighty Scots were no match?

Whatever it was, the result was that Charles, now twice defeated, had proved that he could not be trusted. He was tried at Westminster Hall in January 1649. He was found guilty of the crime of “traitorously and maliciously” levying war against Parliament and the people.



He was executed on January 30, 1649. A king finally cut down for his crimes against England.

It was, of course, the most controversial trial of the century. There were no laws for the trial of a monarch. The English had to bring in a Dutch lawyer who based his work on ancient Roman law. This law stated that a military body (i.e. Parliament) could legally overthrow a tyrant (now you know why so many Roman emperors met their end at the hands of the Praetorian Guard!).

During the trial, Charles refused to recognize the legality of the court. He also refused to take off his hat as a sign of respect to the judges. We assume that he was aiming for an air of royal pride. In reality, all it did was confirm to the judges that Charles was arrogant and dangerous. He was executed on a cold Tuesday afternoon. He had been allowed a last walk through St. James’ Park with his dog. His last meal was a paltry slice of bread and glass of wine. His executioner refused the job at the last moment. And so did his replacement. And his replacement. And also his replacement. And then his replacement. Eventually someone was found and offered £100 for the job. A hefty salary, almost one hundred times the original payment. At 2pm, Charles was led to the block. He wore two shirts as he didn’t want the cold to make him shiver and have that misconstrued as fear.

Once he was dead, spectators stole his blood in superstitious belief of its healing qualities.

On February 6, 1649, the monarchy of England - something that had existed since just after the Roman period - was abolished.

The Civil War was not so much a war as it was a revolution. The beaten masses rose up as one against their tyrannical leader. Some would say that Charles was simply replaced by another tyrant as Oliver Cromwell became Lord Protector. Although the Puritan Cromwell abolished Christmas, sport and theatre, he was an extremely popular leader within his own time. He ruled England well and took it from strength to strength. Unfortunately he never had the foresight to lay down a constitution so that his ideas of government, which served the country well, were preserved. These ideas went to the grave with him. Without their Lord Protector, England was simply lost.

Although they had fought a war in order to abolish the monarchy, within years of Cromwell’s death, England invited the royal family back.

Charles’s eldest son, Charles II, became king under one condition: Parliament had the most say in every decision.


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Slimy Stuarts by Terry Deary

British History by Miles Kelly

AuthorGeorge Levrier-Jones

In the latest in the English Civil War series of articles, Myra King looks at how a change imposed by King Charles I and the strength of Scotland put Charles in a position so weak that it would lead to war.

In this series on the English Civil War, we have previously considered the Divine Right of Kings, and Henry VIII and bloody religious change, and how the Gunpowder Plot may have been a Protestant-led conspiracy.



On July 23, 1637 Jenny Geddes threw a chair at a church minister’s head and started the English Civil War.

Edinburgh Minister Dean Hannay condemned himself by attempting to read the new English Prayer Book. This not only angered the congregation but instigated flying furniture. Jenny Geddes screamed, “Villain, dost thou say mass at my lug?” She then continued to curse him with colic and threw the three legged stool she was sitting on. This act started a riot and more chairs were soon thrown. Riots spread so quickly throughout Edinburgh that ministers were forced to arm themselves before service. In one church, the minister actually pointed a gun to his congregation while reciting the Lord’s Prayer. It was the only thing that kept his head from connecting with a chair.

King Charles I by Anthony van Dyck. 1636.

King Charles I by Anthony van Dyck. 1636.

Flying furniture, riots and guns may seem a complete over-reaction to a simple prayer book but it was, in fact, quite small compared to what that prayer book stood for. Throughout England, the spread of Protestantism meant only one thing - bloodshed! Torture, murder, mass genocide and other horrific crimes filled the land simply because the monarch decided on a different strand of Christianity. But England had always been conquered and plagued by whatever faction was strongest. Romans, Vikings, Saxons, Angles and Normans had all arrived and changed whatever they felt like - this almost always being religion and how the country was run. The monarchs were simply children of their culture.

This was not the case in Scotland however. The Picts, natives of the area we now know as Scotland, were not the people to tangle with. After England fell to the Romans, the Legions marched into Pict territory, expecting to conquer it. They came, they saw, but they most certainly did not conquer. Rather, they got slaughtered. That was the Roman introduction to Scotland. And it did not go much smoother for anybody else. The Scottish were a formidable enemy. When King James I inherited the English throne, he took the tumultuous Stuart Dynasty down to London and for the first time in centuries kept Scotland and England in a peaceful, productive truce. But the decades of peace did not soften the Bonnie Scots. When King Charles I began his campaign to bring religious change to Scotland after he ascended the throne in 1625, he expected that change would be as easy as it had been in England in prior years. He was to be in for a surprise.



The Scottish knew the history of English religious genocide and they refused to go the same way. And so, when the prayer book entered their churches, the Scottish rose up as one to stop the start of a genocide. Charles I, although King of the Scots, could not control them from London and so declared war on his own people. Unfortunately he could not raise the funds or an adequate army within England. Charles, like his father, believed that he could run his kingdoms without Parliament and so didn’t call Parliamentary sessions. This meant that he could not get funding or command the armies that he needed. The men he could rally were poorly trained, under fed and improperly attired. The Scottish army was the complete opposite. There were a few minor battles between the English and the Scottish, but neither side really wanted to fight, and finally Charles agreed to a general assembly to discuss disputed topics. Without Charles’s permission, however, Scotland abolished his religion and declared itself free from royal control. Charles was furious and immediately brought back Parliament in order to raise funds for a real army and a real war.

This government, known as the ‘Short Parliament’, refused to do Charles’s bidding until he sorted out their grievances. He refused and dismissed the Parliament after only a few weeks. While Charlie was battling his government, the Scottish army crossed the River Tweed into England. The English army retreated, leaving the whole of Northumberland and County Durham, regions in the far north of England, to the Scots.

Have you noticed the strangest part of all of this? Charles was king of England, and so had to pay for the English army. But Charles was also King of Scotland, and so had to pay for the Scottish army too. This man was such an incompetent leader that he was literally paying to go to war with himself. This only gets worse with his decision to leave the two English counties in Scottish hands in order to pay the Scottish off for attacking the two counties. Up to his eyeballs in debt, Charlie reconvened Parliament in order to raise the funds he could not obtain. This government, known as the ‘Long Parliament’, attacked Charles’s advisers and actually executed his chief supporters. This showed the king that the English Parliament was most certainly not his friend. Luckily for him though, he had another government that he could turn to. And so he went up to Scotland in 1641 to give titles to the two Scottish leaders who invaded England. Interestingly, he gave them titles for fighting against him. This action won him favor with the Scottish but he was in no way their beloved king; in fact they made sure that Charlie boy accepted every one of their decisions without complaint. He was their king in name only.

This did not agree with a man who believed in ‘The Divine Rights of Kings’ and he took his frustrations out on the English. One hundred years before, Charles would have been able to do as he pleased. But too much abuse of power from his predecessors, coupled with the knowledge that the Scottish controlled their King’s strings, had made the English strong.

And just like Jenny Geddes, they were about to throw a chair.


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Slimy Stuarts by Terry Deary

British History by Miles Kelly


In this series on the English Civil War, Myra King follows up on her articles about the Divine Right of Kings, and Henry VIII and bloody religious change, by telling us about the Gunpowder Plot. Was it really carried out by Guy Fawkes or was there a conspiracy led by somebody who thought that King James I was too tolerant towards Catholics?


“Remember, remember the fifth of November, the gunfire treason and plot. I see no reason why the gunfire treason should ever be forgot,”


I do.

On November 5, 1605, Guy Fawkes and his twelve co-conspirators put the final nail in the Catholic coffin. Their idea had been to use thirty-six barrels of gunpowder to blow the British Parliament sky high. Their plan was to kill the king, kidnap his nine-year-old daughter, force her into Catholicism, and crown her their dummy queen. The king, James I, had caused great disappointment in the tiny Catholic community by refusing to reinstate the old denomination. Under James I’s predecessor, Elizabeth I, Catholics had lived safely enough but had been fined for practicing their illegal religion. James had abolished these fines, creating a more tolerant kingdom. But juggling all the different strands of Christianity eventually became too much for the king and he abandoned his tolerant attitude. Catholics, as well as Puritans, were to be fined for practicing anything but Protestantism. They were now also banned from obtaining degrees, holding certain jobs, and sitting in parliament. Sure, they were the minority, and if they really wanted, Catholics could practice in secret, but there would always be troublemakers. Thirteen to be exact.

A depiction of plotter Guy Fawkes from "Guy Fawkes - The Fifth of November a Prelude in One Act." The play was performed in 1793 at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London.

A depiction of plotter Guy Fawkes from "Guy Fawkes - The Fifth of November a Prelude in One Act." The play was performed in 1793 at the Theatre Royal, Haymarket, London.


According to legend, the plotters rented a house next to parliament and carried thirty-six barrels of gunpowder down to the cellar where the explosives expert, Guy Fawkes, was waiting to light the fuse and send the building to that great fireworks display on the other side. But as luck would have it, the cellar was searched the night before and our pyrotechnist was found. He was tortured and confessed the whole plot. He and his cohorts were then executed.

That is the famous version of the story. Many modern historians believe it to be far more sinister than that though.

Firstly, let us go back to James’s predecessor, Elizabeth. The Tudor lady wasn’t necessarily queenly material. In fact she had a foul temper and very bad manners. But something she did have was the knowledge to put others in charge of areas she knew nothing about. One such man was Robert Cecil, her chief advisor. Cecil was a brilliant politician (but not in the utterly-useless-but-hides-it-well way); he knew how to run a kingdom like a well-oiled machine. England was the envy of Europe under his (er, Elizabeth’s) reign.

Cecil had the grave misfortune of outliving Elizabeth though, and this meant that he had to mold himself to the new king. Unlike Lizzie, James had always been heir to a throne, therefore always groomed for a life of leadership. As an already ruling king of Scotland, James arrived with no need for advisers either. Cecil had to retreat to the shadows, but James’s tolerant attitude to Catholics was more than Cecil could bear. Unlike the new king, Cecil knew of the violent religious history of England and he knew that it was just a matter of time before all hell broke loose in the kingdom. Religious freedom could not be allowed, as the extremists would always take it too far. And Guy Fawkes proved Cecil’s fear.


The information surrounding the gunpowder plot does not add up however. How would known Catholics have been able to rent a house right next to parliament? That was illegal. How would they have even gotten the barrels of gunpowder into parliament? Surely they couldn't have just walked in. CCTV didn't exist yet but the idea of having no security at parliament is absolutely ridiculous. Not to mention, from where did they get this gunpowder? The only people to sell gunpowder would have been the government. Why would the government have sold thirty-six barrels of gunpowder to known Catholics? Unless the government - most notably William Cecil - wanted these Catholics to have gunpowder. It was no secret that King James was terrified for his safety. As the only heir of Mary, Queen of Scots, he had seen his fair share of death threats and even a kidnapping. So what would happen if somebody decided to use that fear against him? Could Cecil have orchestrated the entire plot in order to demonstrate how dangerous and untrustworthy Catholics were? Could he have hired the thirteen men, given them the idea of the plot and the gunpowder, and then simply waited for the end result? Cecil was no longer in charge, so if he wanted something done, he would have to find another way to do it. It is at least very suspicious that Cecil constantly talked about the danger of Catholicism, ‘miraculously’ the king was almost killed by Catholics, and suddenly Cecil’s word was law... Could he have staged it all?



The most damning of all the evidence is, I think, the ‘Monteagle Letter.’ One of the plotters, Francis Tresham, was a cousin with a man named Lord Monteagle. On October 26 a mysterious stranger came through the night bringing a letter to the Lord’s home. A letter with a very dark message. It was a warning to Monteagle that under no circumstances was he to go to Parliament on November 5. It simply, and without embarrassment, stated that parliament would receive a blow and all present would be killed. This letter was personally addressed to Monteagle but instead of reading it in private as protocol dictated, he had his servant read it out loud. Why was this done? And how, oh how, did Monteagle just magically have a letter delivered by a servant who could actually read? That alone is a bit of magic as this was a time when only the wealthy could read. Was the “servant” put in place to read aloud so that Monteagle had a witness? Does this mean Monteagle knew what the letter contained? Well, it is rather interesting when you take Monteagle’s next action on board... The Lord then took the letter straight to (surprise, surprise) William Cecil. Why him? Cecil then ordered a search of parliament and, low and behold, Guy Fawkes was found.

Tresham appears with more conspiracy later in the plot. Technically it is his fault the co-conspirators were caught. But while Guy Fawkes and the rest of the plotters were tortured to reveal information and then hanged, drawn and quartered, Tresham was simply locked in the Tower of London. Why? He was also locked in the cell by himself and was later found dead. Official records state he was poisoned. Who had poisoned him and why? Tresham obviously had vital information that spared him the wrack and the noose, but ultimately cost him his life. Was that information the damning truth of the so-called gunpowder plot?

Whether you believe the gunpowder plot was an inside job or you believe it truly was just another act of religious hatred, the fact still remains that this plot showed the scary depth of religious hatred and lack of love for the monarch. The gunpowder plot was just one more step closer to a war against the king and all who stood for him.


We continue our story of the English Civil War and problems with King Charles I here.


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In this article, Chris Marsh continues his tale of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms in Scotland, and concludes with the legendary Battle of Inverlochy.


At the end of the last post, we left Montrose and Alasdair and their small army marching away from Inverary in mid-January 1645. A force of some 3,000 men, they were laden with booty and the principal township of the lands of Clan Campbell sat a smoking ruin behind them.

This small Royalist army, fighting to secure Scotland for King Charles I, had won two of the six victories that they were ultimately to secure, but the circumstances in which they now found themselves could scarcely be less favorable. They were deep in the hostile territory of Argyll in the depths of winter. The Marquis of Argyll, Chief of Clan Campbell and de facto head of Scotland’s covenanting government was assembling strong forces to attack them and avenge this assault on his home territory and, equally importantly, his personal political status.

Additionally, but probably unbeknownst to Montrose, General William Baillie had been newly appointed as the commander in chief of the government forces. An old soldier of Gustavus Adolphus and veteran of Marston Moor, Baillie was his own man and did not hesitate in refusing to take instructions from Argyll when they met to discuss the pursuit of the Royalist army. Although he did transfer to the Earl’s command some 1,100 of his regular troops, Baillie now sat in Perth with a sizeable force thus constituting a significant but unknown threat to the eastern flank of Montrose’s route north.

The Old Inverlochy Castle, with Ben Nevis in the background. Source: DJ Macpherson, from 2008.

The Old Inverlochy Castle, with Ben Nevis in the background. Source: DJ Macpherson, from 2008.

The whole campaign, this famous Year of Victories, is often presented as a random perambulation of epic marches over snow-bound mountain passes punctuated by spectacular military victories with perhaps insufficient effort taken to understand the aims and purpose of the King’s Captain-General.

And it is at this point that we might more closely examine the situation in which he found himself and the options that were open to him, all seen within the context of what it was he was trying to achieve.

In England, the King’s army under Prince Rupert had suffered a heavy defeat at Marston Moor the previous summer but was still in the field and final victory remained possible. Ultimately the field actions which would determine the winner in the struggle between the King and his parliaments would be fought in the southern Kingdom. Montrose, therefore, had to first win Scotland for his King then take his army south to join with Rupert and defeat the army of the English Parliament. Only then could Charles be restored to the unified throne.



All of this was still a long way off. The immediate task facing Montrose was to defeat conclusively the various armies of the Scottish covenanting parliament.  As he marched his army north from Argyll negotiating the comb-fretted difficulties of the landscape of the west highland coast where the land was punctuated by deep sea lochs and boats were a scarcity, he would have been considering how best to achieve this goal.

Within a week they had made it to Inverlochy in the friendly territory of Lochaber where, as they rested, they were joined by further reinforcements as various clan chiefs, pushed off the fence of vacillation by the outcome of the remarkable attack on Inveraray now, rallied to the King’s standard.

However, much of Scotland was still hostile territory for the King’s army. In the far north at Inverness, the Earl of Seaforth, Clan Chief of the MacKenzies, who like many powerful men in Scotland had for long avoided full commitment to either cause had recently declared against the King. It was likely that he would soon be heading south down the Great Glen at the head of another sizeable force, bent on the destruction of Montrose’s command. By now Montrose would be aware of Baillie’s army positioned to the east in Perth and confirmation was also received that the Earl of Argyll approached from the south with the remainder of his Clan Campbell’s soldiery as well as the 1,100 hundred men supplied by Baillie.

Positioned thus between three hostile forces, each of which matched or exceeded his own in size, he probably determined that the best course of action was to seek out Clan Gordon in the north east. The Gordons were second only in size and martial strength to the Campbells. And alone among the highland clans they had a measurable element of mounted men at their disposal. The Marquis of Huntly, Chief of Clan Gordon, had hitherto declined to declare support for his beleaguered monarch. Partly through resentment that Montrose had been given the royal commission in the first place, a rank which diminished his own of Lieutenancy of the North, and partly also due to previous disagreements between the two men during the Bishops Wars half a dozen years previously.

Nonetheless, in Montrose’s eyes, despite his victories at the Battles of Tippermuir and Justice Mills and the recent outstanding success in sacking Inverary, the struggle in Scotland now required the input of the Gordons if it were to be ultimately successful. And it was this challenge of persuading Huntly to throw in his lot with his King which would have pre-occupied Montrose’s mind as he led his army up the Great Glen where they overnighted at Kilcumin (now Fort Augustus) on the evening of January 31.



Events, however, were about to overtake him and his plans for sweet-talking the Marquis of Huntly would have to be shelved forthwith. Firstly a messenger arrived at their camp confirming that the Earl of Seaforth had assembled some five thousand men, Mackenzies and Frasers mostly but also two regiments of regular soldiery. Presently, some thirty miles away, they were about to march directly down the Great Glen to engage him. As he weighed up the implications of this news another messenger arrived. He had been sent north from Lochaber by the Chief of the Camerons of Lochiel and advised that the Earl of Argyll had arrived at Inverlochy, thirty odd miles to the south, with over three thousand men and was on the point of heading up the Great Glen to find and engage Montrose.

So what now for the King’s Captain-General? A numerically superior force approached from the north, with another heading up from the south similar in size to his own and hell-bent on revenge. Baillie’s army blocked the route east, and to the west there was only the winter-gripped barrenness of the highland seaboard.

Negotiations with Huntly and the work of increasing the size of the King’s army would now have to wait as the fate of the royalist army, with it, the King’s cause in Scotland, and perhaps throughout the three kingdoms, was now threatened with disastrous defeat.

Stood around the campfire on that winter’s evening, Montrose, Alasdair MacColla and the principal clan chiefs now discussed their options. Seaforth’s force was perhaps twice their size, but the caliber of much of that they knew to be questionable. But Argyll’s assembly of Clan Campbell’s finest fighting stock, notwithstanding the losses suffered in the attack on Inverary, was a different matter altogether and included the 1,100 regulars handed over by Baillie. And even if Montrose were to engage and defeat Seaforth, Argyll’s men would still need to be faced in turn. Furthermore it was clear that as this force had made their way north they had taken time to burn and pillage through the territory of any believed to be in sympathy with Montrose. Men who stood with him now were moved to protect their own lands.

Thus the decision as to their next move made itself. Once victorious over Argyll they could then march to Gordon country, with a greater likelihood of success in persuading them to join forces.



However, to simply turn about and head back down the glen to attack Argyll was to invite defeat. It would require a different approach if their unlikely record of success was to be maintained. And so in the dark of the following morning, Friday January 31, Montrose and his army of three thousand men embarked on that legendary flank march which has been deemed one of the great exploits of arms in the history of the British Isles. With the Great Glen carving a gash from south east to north west, they disappeared south east up the rocky course of the little River Tarff and disappeared into the mountains.

Over the next thirty-six hours they covered over thirty miles in weather as unkind as the Scottish winter can deliver, as Argyll and Seaforth’s scouts combed the Great Glen fruitlessly. Late on the Saturday evening they crossed over the northern buttress of Ben Nevis’ long slope and looked down upon the dark mass of Inverlochy Castle with the many camp fires of Clan Campbell dotted around it. The surprise was complete. Montrose, who had been confirmed at Loch Ness not two days before, now stood at the head of his army ready to attack them.

Argyll himself, recently injured in a horse fall and with little stomach for pitched battle, conferred full authority on his kinsman Duncan Auchenbreck, who he had, to be truthful, recalled from Ireland specifically to lead this army. And the Chief of Clan Campbell was rowed out to his waiting galley which sat at anchor safely out on Lich Linnhie.

Both armies lined up in battle order and waited out the remainder of the freezing night. As soon as there was deemed to be enough light to fight by, Alasdair, at Montrose’s direction led the two flanks of Irishmen forward. When they were close to the enemy they fired their muskets, then followed up with sword and dirk. In just a few minutes the enemy flanks were in disarray and the center quickly followed suit with many of the regular troops fleeing the field. At this point Montrose took the royalist center forward and completed the rout.

Inverlochy was to be one of the bloodiest battles fought on Scottish soil, and as is so often the case in such circumstances, the majority of the slaughter was carried out on a terrified and defeated rabble as they fled the field. About 1,800 men of Argyll’s force met their end, some as far away as ten miles from the battlefield.

This success following so close on from the triumph of the raid on Inveraray would have been more than Montrose could have hoped for just two months previously. In the immediate aftermath of the fight he wrote a comprehensive dispatch to his King detailing the recent successes and anticipating, not without some cause, ultimate victory.


This article was written by Chris Marsh, who blogs at


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In this article, Myra King follows up on her article about the Divine Right of Kings, by telling us about religious conflict in Henry VIII’s England. As we will see, this conflict would continue to simmer beneath the surface well into the 1600s; indeed, it would be a major factor in the English Civil War.


Once upon a time in a land far, far away, a regal king met the woman of his dreams. He instantly knew he had to marry her and make her his Queen. The only problem with this plan… He was already married.

When Henry VIII came across Anne Boleyn, he was already in his fourteenth year of marriage to Catherine of Aragon. Divorce was the only option. Unfortunately the pope refused to grant him one. After nearly seven years of fighting the Vatican, Henry got his Tudor breeches in a twist and decided to break away from the Roman Catholic Church. He established the Church of England, making himself the leader and instated the newly formed denomination, Protestantism. This was no simple decision as Catholicism had been the official religion of England since the Romans had brought it over one thousand years earlier. The people of England had had their faith ripped out from underneath them and they had no way to fight it. Henry’s decision to break with Rome did not end at the peaceful renaming of churches. Henry introduced an act called “The Reformation” and that was far from peaceful. Thomas Cromwell and Henry’s goons ransacked over eight hundred monasteries, literally stripping them of everything from their lead roofs, to their golden candlesticks and valuable books. The lucky monks were thrown into the street. The rest were executed for refusing to comply. The reformation brought in a ton of gold for Henry and a ton of misery for everyone else. Many of those who revolted against this act were murdered. Not only the rebellious men, but their wives and even small children were left swinging from ropes.

A strange fruit left to rot in the fields. 

King Henry VIII of England by Lucas Horenbout (c. 1526)

King Henry VIII of England by Lucas Horenbout (c. 1526)

It wasn’t only the peasants who met their untimely deaths in the reformation. Several of Henry’s own politicians were sent for the chop. Not to mention the fact that women were subjected to torture on the rack. An act unheard of before the tyrant Henry and his church.

There was nothing peaceful about this religious change. Many suffered at the newborn hands of the Church of England. This was the start of the religious wars that would plague the country for over a century. The people of England now became the unfortunate pawns in this genocide. And they had no way to fight back.



In 1547, Henry finally succumbed to whatever ailment had killed him (it is heavily debated), leaving his nine-year-old son, Edward VI, as king. Edward, having been born and bred a Protestant, kept the kingdom as his father had left it. But Edward was a sickly boy and at the tender age of fifteen he was dead and buried. This left his elder sister, Mary I, as queen. Mary’s bloodlust and stupidity is almost stomach turning. Her first act as queen was to undo the reformation and return England to the Vatican. Bad idea. By this point, the Church of England was the only religion the young English knew. They had been schooled by Henry and Edward to read the bible, now Mary burned them for it. They had been taught that prayers were private, and the vanity and abuse of the Catholic Church were not their god’s doing. Mary burned them for questioning the Vatican. Mary’s second mistake was to marry her cousin, Philip of Spain. He was a money and power hungry Catholic who was anything but popular among the English. Mary had been warned by her government that marriage to Philip would be political suicide. But she did not heed their warning. And so, Philip brought his hand in marriage as well as his need to conquer an unconquerable land – France.

England owned one town in France, Calais, a town close to England on the French coast. Philip wanted more. Mary’s government begged her not to go to war with the French. England was in trouble, you see; it had done nothing but rain during Mary’s reign. The crops were ruined. There would be no food for the following year. England needed her money in order to buy food from the French. They couldn’t use that money for war. Mary would not listen though. England not only lost the war with France, but also Calais – a town that could have produced food for them.



In Mary’s five short years as Queen she undid the horror that her father had done; all Henry VIII’s crimes against his people had been for nothing. She burned every Protestant she could find in a land completely Protestant. She married an unpopular fool and sent her army to their deaths to do his bidding. She lost French territory. She did nothing as her country flooded and starved to death. She earned herself the nickname “Bloody Mary” and is known as the most useless monarch England has ever had. All in the name of religion. Once again, the English people were the wretched victims of a monarch’s unholy obsession with their own religious ideas. More than three hundred Protestants were burned at the stake so that she could purge the country of the religion her father had killed nearly fifty-seven thousand people to introduce.

Mary died childless in 1558, leaving her half-sister as queen. Elizabeth quickly changed the country back to Protestantism. And the only people who needed to fear the stake were the corrupt Catholic priests. No one mourned for them; no one mourned the loss of Catholicism. Her memory lives on as one of the greatest leaders in English history; she has no connection to religious genocide. Her father and sister live in infamy as atrocious monarchs hated by the people. And besides their laughable marriages, all they are known for is the suffering their religious beliefs caused. Could it be a coincidence that one is adored while the other two are abhorred?

Elizabeth died childless in 1603 and left the throne to her cousin’s son, the king of Scotland – James VI of Scotland. England’s first fear was that the Catholic king would bring his dreaded religion to England and that there would be a repeat of Mary’s or Henry’s reign. Luckily James had some smarts and left his religion in Edinburgh castle. He became James I of England and brought with him, not one, but two sons. This officially ended the Tudor dynasty and the fears of succession that Henry’s questionable virility and his childless children brought to the table. James walked a fine line though. He believed in the Divine Right of Kings that meant he answered to no one but his god. He believed it was his right to do and say whatever he wanted. The English soon got a tad sick of this behavior. He must have known the dangerous dance he was partaking in. After two cruel monarchs who hid behind the thin guise of religion to commit their atrocities, religion was now top of the suspicion list. Every pro-Catholic move James made, he put his life on the line. Equally, every anti-Catholic move he made he put himself and his family in danger.

If James wasn’t aware of the danger he was in, the Gunpowder plot definitely showed him.

I don’t think James I ever failed to remember the 5th of November.

And that's for next time...


The next article in the series is on King James I and a conspiracy related to the Gunpowder Plot. Click here to read it!


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  • Who’s Who in British History by Juliet Gardiner
  • British History by Miles Kelly
  • Slimy Stuarts by Terry Deary
  • Terrible Tudors by Terry Deary

In the first of a new series, Myra King starts to tell the story of the English Civil War.


“Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?

With silver bells and cockleshells and pretty maids all in a row.”

Sound like a sweet, children’s rhyme? Well it’s not.

It actually refers to Queen Mary I of England. A woman so violent and psychologically imbalanced she earned herself the name, Bloody Mary. This queen, the first child and eldest daughter of King Henry VIII, had the strange idea that her God was punishing her with infertility because she was too tolerant of Protestants. This was an unfortunate belief as her father, 40 years before, believed his God was punishing him with infertility because England was not Protestant. And so, Henry broke away from the Roman Catholic Church and changed the religion of the England. This might not sound catastrophic, but in an era when science and reason barely existed, belief in the church was all these people had. And Henry took it away from them. He replaced it with a church that saw him as the unquestioned leader. This tyrannical leader then burned monasteries, killed monks, stole their gold and hanged all those who questioned him.

Queen Mary I of England

Queen Mary I of England

Henry earned himself two of his own nursery rhymes, “Little Jack Horner” and “Old Mother Hubbard.” Once again, this might not seem important, but this shows us the turning tide of public opinion towards monarchs. Throughout the history of England, the question of who reigned had always been more important than how they reigned. The law called “The Divine Right of Kings” meant that the monarch was seen as God’s choice; he was a chosen person to rule over their land. Therefore, who were the commoners to question who ruled? A king was a king was a king was a king. If he wasn’t a good one, hopefully the next one would be better. And that was the end of it. The common man had no say.

Or did he?

Henry VIII destroyed his reign and the love of his people by gutting England of its long standing religion; of putting wives aside, or worse, killing them; of starving the nation for his wars; of murdering all those who opposed him. The people remember him by mocking him in rhyme. His son, and successor, did not rule for long enough to live in infamy. But his daughter, Mary, will always be remembered as the blood-thirsty, psychopath she was.

The poem, “Mary, quite contrary,” refers to Mary’s garden that in reality was the growing graveyard her religious genocide caused. Mary, unlike most of the rest of England, had never abandoned Catholicism. Upon her disastrous marriage and second phantom pregnancy, the Queen decided that England would once again be Catholic, and all Protestants should be tortured and burned. Silverbells, Cockleshells and Pretty Maids were all torture devices used heavily in her reign. Mary earned herself even more rhymes: Ladybird, Ladybird, Three Blind Mice, and Goosy Goosy Gander, as well as a handful that have not survived into modern times. Despite their sweet words, these rhymes depict the hell that Mary brought to the realm. More hated than her father had ever been, Mary lives on despite her death four hundred years ago. Although, only children, their mothers and pre-school teachers still speak of her. Rhyming happily to a poem forged in the blood and torture of the Protestants she destroyed.

Henry and Mary serve to prove the changing opinions of the English people. Their chosen monarch could be evil, they now saw. Their chosen monarch could be cruel and unjust; their policies wrong; their beliefs and rules could be against the wishes of England.

Common men of the past had quietly accepted their kings without complaint. But those kings had abused their people. Those kings had destroyed the trust put in to them.

And so when James I and his son, Charles I, insisted on the law of the Divine Right of Kings despite England not wanting that law, England no longer wanted their Kings.


You can read Myra’s first series of articles on the Wars of the Roses by clicking here.



  • Who's who in British History by Juliet Gardiner
  • British History by Miles Kelly