British Civil Wars

(1.1.4) British Civil Wars - Volume 1 Episode 4 - The Scottish Covenanters

Things get messy back in Scotland as Charles deals with the fallout of the Common Prayerbook in his own inimitable fashion, whilst a solemn promise is read aloud in Edinburgh.


Writer and Presenter: Fiona Barnett @stitchthisfiona

Producer: Emily Benita @BenitaEmily

Technical Producer and Sound Engineer: Ali Alnajjar @Alithelampie

Historical Consultant: Mary Jacobs @msmaryjacobs

Music Composer and Performer: Harry Harris @CmonHarris

A huge, highly-caffeinated thank you to our Patreons, ScaryBiscuits, Tom Vickers and Tom Wein.


Not to suggest that we might have peaked too soon, but the events of Episode 4 - particularly the signing of the National Covenant and the Glasgow Assembly - are probably my favourite in Volume I. If part of the fun of history is seeing how people from the past acted similarly to how we act today (which it is for me), then the Glasgow Assembly is the epitome of pedantic bureaucracy. I don’t want to be constantly drawing comparisons between the events of the past “foreshadowing” events of the present - because there’s quite enough of that going on at the moment, and the link is almost always a bit more tenuous than it looks - but it’s nice to know that people four centuries ago also spent most of a week arguing about who ought to take the minutes for their meetings.

Aside from that, this is also where we see the first bit of fighting going on. After the episode went to press, I discovered that the death toll for the First and Second Bishops’ Wars is estimated to be round about 500 people in total. For two “wars” of several months’ length apiece, that’s tiny. For comparison, in the Battle of Edgehill, the first proper battle of the British Civil Wars in 1642, 500 men died on each side. In a single day. I guess it’s better to start small.



Argyll (Archibald Campbell, Marquis of Argyll) - 1607-1661. Leader of the Scottish Covenanters, and chief of the Campbell clan. Nemesis of Montrose, both politically and militarily. Ultimately beheaded by Charles II for being too close to the English interregnum regime. His head ended up on the same spike that Montrose’s had been impaled on.

Charles I - 1600-1649; King of England, Scotland and Ireland, 1625-1649. Leader of the Royalist (Cavalier) faction; ultimately beheaded for treason.

Hamilton (James Hamilton, Earl of Hamilton) - 1606-1649. A personal friend of Charles I, he tried to mediate between Charles and Argyll. Both Royalist and Covenanter sides mistrusted his motives, and few of his attempts at negotiation had any success. Eventually captured, tried, and executed by the English Parliamentarians.

Henderson (Alexander Henderson) - 1583-1646. Scottish churchman and leading Covenanter, who was largely responsible for drafting the National Covenant. Elected moderator of the Glasgow Assembly in 1638. Considered as influential as John Knox in steering the course of Presbyterianism in Scotland.

Huntly (George Gordon, Marquess of Huntly) - 1592-1649. Royalist commander who fought in the Scottish Highlands before being imprisoned in Edinburgh castle. In the Civil War he fought for Charles, although not very effectively. He was beheaded as a traitor in Edinburgh by the Covenanters in 1649.

Laud (Archbishop William Laud) - 1573-1645. English Privy Councillor from 1627, Bishop of London from 1628, and Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633. Steered Charles’s religious policy during the 1630s, which made him increasingly unpopular.

Leslie (Alexander Leslie, Earl of Leven) - 1580-1661. An experienced Scottish soldier who served in the Thirty Years’ War and returned to to command the Covenanter army in the Bishops’ Wars and the Civil Wars. Arrested by English Parliamentarians in 1651 and held prisoner until 1654, after which he retired to his estate in Fife.

Loudoun (John Campbell, Earl of Loudoun) - 1598-1662. Leading Covenanter and opponent of the Book of Common Prayer, he was a member of the Glasgow Assembly and very influential in the negotiations between the Covenanters and Charles. In the Civil Wars proper, he was a major mediator between the King and the Scottish parliament.

Montrose (James Graham, Marquis of Montrose) - 1612-1650. A signatory of the National Covenant, but ultimately one of Charles’s most effective military leaders in the civil wars. Hanged and beheaded by the Covenanters in 1651. After the restoration of Charles II, he was remembered as a folk hero and martyr.

Rothes (John Leslie, Earl of Rothes) - 1600-1641. A leading Covenanter and opponent of the Book of Common Prayer, he was a member of the Glasgow Assembly and very influential in the negotiations between the Covenanters and Charles. After the pacification of Scotland in 1641 (oh yes, that’ll happen soon), he remained in Charles’s court, and died of consumption in 1641.

Traquair (John Stewart, Lord Traquair) - ??-1659. Scottish Privy Councillor who was Deputy Treasurer of Scotland 1630-1636, and Treasurer 1636-1641. Nominally a Royalist, his dealings with both Royalists and Covenanters meant that nobody really trusted him, and from 1640 onwards he didn’t have much influence.

Wentworth (Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford from 1640) - 1593-1641. An MP from 1614, Wentworth became Lord President of the North in 1628. After that he was appointed to the Privy Council, and rose in the ranks, becoming Lord Deputy of Ireland, and then returning to help Charles in the Bishops’ War.


  • Buchan, John. Montrose. London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, Ltd., 1928; and electronic edition, Perennial Press, 2015.

  • Fissel, Mark. The Bishops’ Wars. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

  • Henderson, J. M. “An ‘Advertistment’ About the Service Book, 1637”, The Scottish Historical Review 23 no. 91 (1926) 199-204.

  • Mitchison, Rosalind. A History of Scotland. 2nd edn. Bristol: Methuen & Co. Ltd., 1982

  • Plant, David. The BCW Project: British Civil Wars, Commonwealth & Protectorate 1638-1660. <>

  • Purkiss, Diane. The English Civil War: A People’s History. London: Harper Perennial, 2006.

  • Roberts, John L. Clan, King and Covenant: History of the Highland Clans from the Civil War to the Glencoe Massacre. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000.

  • Royle, Trevor. Civil War: The War of the Three Kingdoms 1638-1660. London: Abacus, 2004.

  • Stevenson, David. The Scottish Revolution 1637-1644: The Triumph of the Covenanters. Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers, 2003.

  • Stewart, Laura A. M. Rethinking the Scottish Revolution: Covenanted Scotland 1637-1651. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

  • Waurechen, Sarah. “Covenanter Propaganda and Conceptualizations of the Public During the Bishops’ Wars, 1638-1640”, The Historical Journal 32 no. 1 (2009) 63-86.

  • Wedgwood, C. V. The King’s Peace 1637-1641. London: Collins, 1955.

  • Wedgwood, C. V. Thomas Wentworth: First Earl of Strafford, 1593-1641: A Revaluation. London: Jonathan Cape, 1961.

(1.1.5) British Civil Wars - Volume 1 Episode 5 - Plantations and Confederates

(1.1.i) British Civil Wars - Volume 1 Bonus 1 - Hamilton And Montrose