God's Chosen People A History of Scotland


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God's Chosen People

The story of the Covenanters, whose profound religious beliefs were declared in the National Covenant of 1638 - a document that licensed revolution.


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For almost 20 years in the 17th century,

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this island was the most secure prison in the entire British Isles.

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Welcome to the Bass Rock, in the Firth of Forth.

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Welcome to Scotland's Alcatraz.

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There was no escape from the Bass.

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Its cells were home to the country's most dangerous men,

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men whose religious beliefs threatened the stability of Britain itself.

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Their radical vision was declared in a document called the National Covenant.

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The National Covenant would unseat kings,

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license revolution, cost tens of thousands of Scots their lives.

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It started the Civil War that would cost King Charles I his head.

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He struggled to erase the Covenant from history, but to tell the truth,

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there was never any chance that he would succeed.

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After all, he was only a king.

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And the National Covenant was a contract between Scotland and God.

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In 1633, King Charles I came here, to Edinburgh, for his coronation.

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It was a visit he would really rather not have made.

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He had been king for eight years now,

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and if the Scots had agreed to his frequent demands

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that the Scottish Crown Jewels be sent to London, this trip really wouldn't have been necessary.

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But the Scots had said no. Several times. So here he was.

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It was his first visit to Scotland in 30 years.

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Scotland had missed their king.

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They'd missed his father James as well.

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After all, the Stuart dynasty might now be in charge

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of all three kingdoms, but it was Scotland that they came from.

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And now, here Charles was, processing down the Royal Mile towards his palace at Holyrood.

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The crowds were cheering.

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The Scots were pleased to see him.

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Because they hadn't seen him before.

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Charles was ignorant of everything that mattered to his Scottish subjects.

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Especially the Presbyterian kirk.

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It might have helped to meet some of its members. Someone, for instance,

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like Archibald Johnston of Warriston,

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a deeply religious young lawyer.

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Warriston was as sure as his fellow Presbyterians

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that the Scottish church was the closest to perfection on Earth.

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But equally certain that it was still sinful, because it was made of human beings, and humans fall short.

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King Jesus is the perfect one.

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King Jesus supplies the grace and mercy that we lack.

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King Charles, on the other hand, chose his first visit to Scotland

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to show that grace was not his strong point.

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The Scots had made plans for the coronation, but Charles rewrote them.

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He would not be visiting Scone with its charmless and poky chapel.

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He would have the service here, in Holyrood Abbey, with suitable pomp.

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And the coronation service would be Anglican,

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conducted by an English priest.

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A Scottish minister simply wouldn't do.

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Clumsy.

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But Charles sincerely believed he was God's anointed king.

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He sincerely believed that his church, the Anglican church, worshipped God correctly.

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And that the Presbyterian church did not.

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A shiver ran down the spines of Scotland's Presbyterians.

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The King had forced change on their church once before.

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Charles' father had imposed bishops on them,

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but to the Presbyterians, every soul was equal.

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Bishops were distasteful.

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The King's task was to defend the church, not define it.

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But it would take more than courage to say no to the King.

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Warriston kept a diary...

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a window into the mind of a man who would do just that.

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So, this is all diary in here?

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It certainly is.

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-It's fair to say he liked taking notes!

-He wrote all the time.

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He wrote when he was in church, he wrote when he was on horseback,

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he wrote and he wrote and he wrote.

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What kind of man is revealed in these pages?

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A fiery, fanatical, energetic, zealous man at the forefront of the revolution.

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Royal authority, it's not something we take very seriously, but in the 17th century,

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you thought God's authority came down through royalty,

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came down through the people to whom royalty delegated their powers.

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If the King tells you to do something, and you are studying your bible,

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and this great feeling is washing through you in prayer, you have the courage to say no to the King,

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even if that leads you to the gallows or the headsman's axe.

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The King provided the Presbyterians with many things to say no to.

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Charles ordered the conversion of Edinburgh's high kirk, St Giles, into an Anglican-style cathedral.

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He appointed new bishops.

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And then, three years after his troubling visit, a rumour came to Warriston's ears.

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The King intended to introduce an Anglican service book in Scotland.

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Scots tended to look down their noses at the English Reformation.

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Technically, both Anglicans and Presbyterians were Protestant,

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both had rejected the Catholic church and the powers of the Pope who led it,

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but as far as the Presbyterians were concerned, all the English had done

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was swap the Pope for their own King.

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In due course, in 1637, the prayer book arrived.

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It was an Anglican prayer book with superficial tweaks.

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The presiding minister was called a Presbyter, but the words he spoke were priestly.

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Popish, to Presbyterian ears.

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Warriston went to a meeting to discuss the prayer book at the end of May.

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When he got home he wrote in his diary that it was the very image of the Beast.

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The 23rd July, 1637 was the day appointed

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for the first use, throughout Scotland, of Charles' new prayer book.

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The Bishop of Brechin had no trouble at all when he conducted the service,

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but the Bishop of Brechin delivered the service

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with a pair of loaded pistols on either side of the service book.

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In Edinburgh, the presiding Bishop and his Dean took no such precautions.

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They were beaten up.

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The new prayer book was ripped to shreds and the Dean had to hide in the clock tower.

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Later, the carriage in which the Bishop and the Dean tried to make their escape

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was rocked, rolled and overturned.

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The rioting lasted for hours, until nightfall.

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In due course, the riots became a revolt.

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Charles had no idea how serious things were getting in Scotland.

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His advisers kept the truth under their flamboyant hats.

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The Scots had formed an alternative government.

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Warriston was appointed as its secretary.

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They wanted a useful Scottish king, who would visit Scotland

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more than once a decade, who understood the Presbyterian kirk.

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They wanted everything that Charles was not.

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So Warriston made a suggestion.

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They should rewrite him.

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This was their rewritten king, the National Covenant of 1638,

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drafted by Warriston with the help of the leading minister of the day, Alexander Henderson.

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It was addressed to an idealised Charles I who already understood his duties as a Presbyterian king.

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It was addressed, in other words, to a king who didn't exist.

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In carefully respectful terms, it attacked all the changes

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that Charles had made, and everything he stood for.

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It demanded a monarchy limited by a constitution, limited in power.

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Limited by laws.

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The Covenant was a contract between three parties -

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the King, whose task was defence of the Presbyterian kirk, the people, and God himself.

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It was called the Covenant as a reference to the Old Testament,

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to the Covenant made by God with his chosen people.

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In the Old Testament, the chosen people had been the Jews.

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But it was and is an article of Christian faith that the coming of Christ,

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and his death on the cross, had changed the Covenant.

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God's chosen people now were Christians.

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The National Covenant of 1638 went a bit further.

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God's chosen people were the faithful members of the most perfect church on the face of the Earth,

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the Scottish Presbyterian kirk.

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A meeting was scheduled here, at Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh, for the 28th February, 1638.

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The Covenant was signed by 3,250 people.

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Warriston signed it himself, and in his diary that evening he wrote,

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"This is the glorious marriage day of the Kingdom with God."

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Copies were sent to every parish in Scotland.

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One Sunday in March, Warriston took his family to a kirk south-west of Edinburgh.

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It was a chance to see how the Covenant was being received outside the city.

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The minister explained the Covenant.

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The congregation sat unmoved.

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Then the minister asked them to stand and swear their Covenant to the Almighty God.

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The congregation rose to their feet.

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They raised their hands. They broke down, they wept, they testified.

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The minister was almost suffocated by his own tears.

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They swore their Covenant with God.

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And after 15 minutes, they fell down on their knees and prayed.

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Warriston was stunned.

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"Lord," he wrote, "let me never forget my part in this.

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"There is a very near parallel between Israel and this church,

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"for we are the only two nations sworn unto the Lord.

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"Our Scots kirk in its rediscovered perfection will be a pattern for other nations.

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"We shall extend the royal prerogative of King Jesus the Son of God above all others,

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"perhaps extend his kingdom throughout the Earth."

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The enthusiasm was national in scale.

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At the very least, 60% of Scotland's million people promised themselves to God,

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and believed that God made them a promise in return.

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They were his chosen people.

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And it was indeed the people who signed.

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They weren't even used to holding pens.

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Now they were signing a document of national significance.

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This was a new world where a king like Charles I could soon find it hard to breathe.

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But not all the signatures were freely given.

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Failure to sign the Covenant was considered sinful.

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Dubious. Popish.

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And what if God was watching, and saw that you had failed to sign?

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Not all the signatures were shaky for lack of practice.

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But once they'd signed, whatever their reasons, then they'd made an oath, a contract, a promise to God.

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Impossible to unmake.

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Impossible to untake.

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A heavy weight on any conscience, a terrible weight for any nation to inflict upon itself.

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A constant pressure towards extremism, fundamentalism, madness.

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It took a year for Charles to realise how far

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his Scottish subjects had gone beyond mere disobedience.

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They would have to be brought to heel. Charles began preparing for war.

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Other Kings of England would have turned to Parliament for money,

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but the English Parliament had shown insufficient sympathy with Charles' belief that his rule was absolute,

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so he hadn't called them for ten years.

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The alternative was war on the never-never.

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Charles began looking for someone to borrow from.

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The Scots raised an army of fervent Covenanters,

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led by expert soldiers who had returned home from foreign wars.

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Charles raised the military equivalent of a tickling stick.

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He lost. Twice.

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By September of 1640, he was shamed and mired in debt.

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He had to call the English Parliament.

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And the English Parliament was full of Protestants

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who wanted the same things as the Scots - limits to his power.

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They didn't understand that he was God's anointed, trying to save their souls.

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Charles declared war on Parliament in August, 1642.

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The English Civil War had begun.

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Warriston had prayed for a chance to extend the power of King Jesus beyond Scotland's borders.

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The English Civil War was a regrettable blood bath, of course, but it was also an opportunity.

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For the first year, the Scots took no part.

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Charles and his Royalist army secured victory after victory.

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And in the autumn of 1643, England's Parliament sent agents north to Scotland, to ask for help.

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The National Covenant had been for Scotland alone.

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The Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 would go much further.

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I wasn't expecting to see this in the form of a little hardback book.

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Unlike the National Covenant, Solemn Leagues actually tend to be printed.

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They are normally a plain printed book that is signed up to.

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-We have these lovely engravings here.

-What do they tell us?

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One of my favourite illustrations is this one here.

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It shows how the Covenant is more radical than that of 1638.

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There's no wishy-washy stuff from bishops here.

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It's the extirpation of popery, prelacy, that is bishops.

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And here we have these bishops, prelates, deans, deacons,

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all being cast out of the church, being insulted as they go.

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-Something as benign as a chorister is an evil that has to be extirpated?

-Oh, yes, of course.

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This expanded Covenant closed a simple deal.

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In return for their military assistance, the Scots required

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the establishment in both England and Ireland of a Presbyterian kirk, modelled after Scotland's very own.

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Plus expenses. The royal prerogative of King Jesus would extend through all three kingdoms.

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Now the Scots had something serious to fight for.

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They happily sent an army of 20,000 men south, complete with ministers and a battle cry.

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King Jesus.

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In July, at the battle of Marston Moor in Yorkshire,

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they won the first of many victories over Charles' army.

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The Scots had turned the tide.

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Charles would never have the upper hand again.

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Two years later, Charles sent his sons Charles and James to France, for safety,

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and surrendered to the Scots.

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He was taken to Newcastle.

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Alexander Henderson and Warriston, the Covenant's co-authors,

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were sent to persuade him to sign the Covenant.

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There were two paths open to Charles.

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On the one side, a long life as a Covenanted king, limited by laws, but the country's leader still.

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On the other, more war, more loss of life.

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The faint hope of victory for absolute monarchy.

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They got down on their knees and begged Charles to sign the Covenant, accept a kingship limited by laws,

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agree to establish in all three kingdoms a Presbyterian church of which he was in no sense a head.

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They were asking for peace, of course, but they were also asking him to reject his God, to reject his

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entire understanding of himself, his duties, his place on Earth.

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The King could not say yes. It was a syllable too far.

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He did not sign the Covenant.

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The Scots handed the King over to the English Parliament.

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But in his own mind, he was still King by God's grace.

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It would be sinful simply to accept his fate.

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Secretly, he made contact with the nobles of the country that his dynasty had been born in.

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Scotland's nobles had signed the Covenant, but it was Charles' hope

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that their loyalty to his family would prove stronger.

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And he was proved right. The nobles agreed to fight for him again, provided that if they won,

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he would adopt the Covenant and the Presbyterian kirk for a three-year trial period in all his kingdoms.

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The nobles took their secret deal to the rest of the Covenanters.

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And the very idea split the movement in two.

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For the ordinary folk who made up the majority of the movement, the Covenant was everything.

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This talk of three-year trials was nonsense.

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They would not fight for the vague promises of an uncovenanted king.

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They became known as the Protesters.

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The appeals of the Protesters fell on deaf ears.

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The nobles marched south to fight for Charles.

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And at Preston, they were defeated utterly by an army led by a former gentleman farmer, Oliver Cromwell.

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For the Protesters, this was no more than God's judgement.

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God did not want the nobles to run the country.

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The Protesters seized the capital and purged the ungodly nobles from power.

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Warriston joined them.

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Now the Protesters were the heart of the Covenanting movement, God's people.

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And a government as well.

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This was the Rule of the Saints.

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They packed the governing session of the kirk with their members.

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They seized control of public conduct.

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Backsliders and opponents would be executed.

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No sin would go unpunished.

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There were floggings, ears nailed to posts, holes bored in tongues.

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The Rule of the Saints marked the high point of the Covenant's power.

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Covenanters in later years would remember it as the golden age.

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But there was no way the Rule of the Saints could ever have lasted.

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It was only possible while certain things remained undecided.

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Such as the fate of the King.

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By December of 1648, Cromwell had become the leader of a faction

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that controlled the English Parliament behind the scenes.

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All those who might have defended the King were purged from Parliament, and an act was passed.

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The King would be prosecuted for treason.

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The trial began on the 20th January, 1649.

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Charles refused to defend himself.

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He refused to recognise the jurisdiction of the court, or the logic of the charge itself.

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But this was the new world, where kings found it hard to breathe.

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On the 30th January, 1649, they cut off his head.

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When the King's head fell, the old world ceased to be.

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It went mad.

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The people were horrified by what Cromwell's faction had done.

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So the English Parliament abolished monarchy.

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If there was no king, there was no crime.

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They had beheaded a nobody.

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No-one had asked the Scots if they wanted their king beheaded.

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Their Covenant needed a king, like King David in the Bible.

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Their Covenant needed his signature.

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A dead king could sign nothing.

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So within a week of the King's execution, they declared his son Charles king instead.

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The 20-year-old Charles returned from France to take the throne.

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It was imperative that he sign the Covenant.

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His ship arrived in the mouth of the Spey, in the north east, in June.

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It anchored, and before he had had a chance to set foot on land, commissioners went on board,

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presented him with a copy of the Covenant, and required his signature.

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He signed.

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Because he had to.

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But in Cromwell's world, there could be no kings.

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As long as there were kings, he was a regicide, a king killer.

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Which meant that Cromwell had a bone or two to pick with the Scots.

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In July of 1650, Cromwell came north.

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At first, his campaign went badly.

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He was forced back to Dunbar, his back to the sea.

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One last push would secure his total defeat.

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The Protesters mustered their army in Leith.

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It was more than double the size of Cromwell's force.

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The godliest of the godly, Warriston amongst them, chose this moment

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to insist that the army be purged of its ungodly elements.

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The ungodly elements, by and large, tended to be

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the professional soldiers on whom the army's success had depended.

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"God can do much with a few," said Warriston. He was right.

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But God chose to do it for the other side.

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One morning in September, Cromwell broke out of Dunbar at dawn,

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killed 4,000, took 10,000 prisoner,

0:26:120:26:15

and put the rest of the Covenanting army to flight.

0:26:150:26:18

It became one of Cromwell's most famous victories.

0:26:180:26:22

It made him seem, at last, like a possible leader, not just of an army, but of the country itself.

0:26:220:26:29

The very next day, the kirk session and the town council fled from Edinburgh.

0:26:310:26:36

The Rule of the Saints was over.

0:26:360:26:39

The young King Charles fled to France, and the English Parliament declared the birth of a new country.

0:26:390:26:45

The Great Britain of the Stuarts, the Union of the Crowns, was gone,

0:26:470:26:52

replaced by the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

0:26:520:26:56

Behind the pleasant title was a brutal union of conquest,

0:27:040:27:08

secured by pillage, massacre, and the presence in Scotland

0:27:080:27:12

of an English army of occupation, 10,000 strong.

0:27:120:27:16

In 1653, Cromwell became something called Lord Protector.

0:27:230:27:28

Not a king, but still addressed as "Your Highness" by those who served him.

0:27:280:27:32

Behind his back, people called him a tyrant and usurper.

0:27:320:27:37

For four years, Warriston held himself aloof from the new regime.

0:27:370:27:41

But in the end, his ambition required him to collaborate.

0:27:410:27:45

He could not bear being unimportant.

0:27:450:27:47

In 1657, Cromwell made him the Lord Clerk Register,

0:27:470:27:52

chief record keeper of the Scottish government, and gave him a position on the English Council of State.

0:27:520:27:58

It was a dream of power.

0:28:010:28:03

And a nightmare of betrayal.

0:28:030:28:06

Just what was Warriston loyal to now, apart from himself?

0:28:060:28:10

It was hard to say.

0:28:130:28:15

The Covenant hung over his head as much as anybody's, but there was no king.

0:28:150:28:20

There was someone who looked and behaved increasingly like one.

0:28:200:28:23

But that was Cromwell.

0:28:230:28:25

He began to look like a king reflected in a wicked mirror, ugly, ill-favoured.

0:28:250:28:30

A tyrant with a bloodstained chin.

0:28:300:28:33

Warriston went on with his daily regime of prayer, manufacturing certainty as best he could.

0:28:330:28:39

Then Cromwell died.

0:28:430:28:45

His unreal regime died with him.

0:28:480:28:51

Now the Commonwealth was headless.

0:28:510:28:54

But there was a head available.

0:28:540:28:56

It belonged to Charles II.

0:28:570:29:00

On May 8th, 1660, the English Parliament proclaimed Charles II King of England.

0:29:090:29:15

The Scottish parliament did likewise one week later.

0:29:180:29:22

There were scenes of wild celebration in Edinburgh,

0:29:220:29:26

toasts drunk, glasses shattered, cannons fired.

0:29:260:29:30

The joy was hysterical.

0:29:320:29:34

11 years of guilt unleashed.

0:29:340:29:37

Warriston felt the future tighten around his neck, and fled to Europe.

0:29:370:29:43

The brief and ugly experiment was over.

0:29:590:30:01

The headless king had horrified everyone.

0:30:010:30:04

No-one wanted anything to do with dictators, no-one wanted

0:30:040:30:08

anything to do with the almost-democracy of the Covenant.

0:30:080:30:11

The way ahead was backwards.

0:30:130:30:16

The parliaments of both England and Scotland began undoing things.

0:30:160:30:20

They remade the old world.

0:30:200:30:22

They remade the Union of the Crowns.

0:30:240:30:27

You could hardly see the join.

0:30:270:30:29

It was as though nothing had happened.

0:30:330:30:35

As though this Charles was that Charles.

0:30:350:30:39

His father's ghost was promoted.

0:30:390:30:41

He became King Charles the Martyr.

0:30:410:30:44

Cromwell's body was exhumed and its head cut off.

0:30:440:30:48

There was no Cromwell.

0:30:520:30:53

There had been no Civil War.

0:30:530:30:55

There was no Covenant.

0:30:550:30:57

There would be no Covenanters.

0:30:570:30:59

The English parliament declared the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 unlawful.

0:31:070:31:13

Surviving copies were collected and burnt by the public hangman, executed as though they were people.

0:31:180:31:25

Charles was destroying the evidence of the new world that had killed his father.

0:31:280:31:34

Everyone knew there would be changes for the Presbyterian church.

0:31:340:31:38

Perhaps it would be enough for Charles that the Protesters no longer ran it.

0:31:380:31:42

It wouldn't.

0:31:440:31:46

Charles appointed bishops and archbishops.

0:31:540:31:58

He ordered Scotland's ministers to swear an Oath of Allegiance to him,

0:31:580:32:03

and also required that every minister seek the nomination of a local member of the gentry.

0:32:030:32:08

262 out of roughly 1,000 ministers failed to make the cut,

0:32:120:32:16

couldn't or wouldn't take the oath,

0:32:160:32:18

couldn't or wouldn't find a noble patron.

0:32:180:32:21

So 262 ministers, mostly in the southwest, were made redundant.

0:32:210:32:26

Alexander Peden was one of them.

0:32:260:32:29

Until 1662, Peden was a minister in the parish of New Luce, in the deep southwest.

0:32:320:32:39

Charles' Oath of Allegiance stuck in his craw.

0:32:390:32:42

He couldn't say it, let alone swear it.

0:32:420:32:45

On the last Sunday before his expulsion, Peden entered the pulpit at New Luce and preached.

0:32:470:32:52

It was a performance to warm the heart of a Warriston.

0:32:520:32:55

He preached from morning until midnight.

0:32:550:32:58

When at last he left the pulpit, he struck its door three times

0:32:580:33:01

and ordered it never to open again, except for a Presbyterian minister like himself.

0:33:010:33:07

This became his pulpit instead.

0:33:240:33:26

Any rock would do, to be honest. And this became his kirk.

0:33:260:33:31

He became a field preacher.

0:33:360:33:39

A man on the run, with a growing reputation.

0:33:390:33:42

His followers called him Prophet Peden.

0:33:420:33:45

The meetings to which he preached were outlawed

0:33:450:33:47

under the new King's regime, but they took place regardless.

0:33:470:33:52

The largest drew crowds of 10,000 and the crowd bore arms.

0:33:520:33:56

Here, and in places like this, he preached to a movement that

0:33:560:34:00

the Covenant had created, to people who had no nobles, no gentry to lead them,

0:34:000:34:06

and never felt the lack.

0:34:060:34:08

They were voices in the wilderness,

0:34:140:34:16

pointing at the Stuart dynasty and crying tyrant, insisting that the King could not do as he wished.

0:34:160:34:23

Almost nobody was listening.

0:34:260:34:28

Once, the Covenanter movement had run the entire country.

0:34:280:34:32

Now it was numerous only in the southwest, numerous and illegal, dismissed by the mainstream.

0:34:320:34:38

The nobles, many of the ministers, and most of the rest of society, had gone back indoors, where it was warm

0:34:380:34:45

under the umbrella of what the King permitted.

0:34:450:34:48

The Protesters stayed outside.

0:34:480:34:50

They liked it cold.

0:34:500:34:52

In Prophet Peden, the Protesters had found a new hero.

0:34:550:34:59

He was desperately needed.

0:34:590:35:01

The government of Charles II was eating up the old ones.

0:35:010:35:05

In 1663, Warriston was finally arrested in France,

0:35:080:35:13

the last of 18 men that Charles held responsible for his father's death.

0:35:150:35:20

Time passed. The King adopted a more tolerant policy.

0:35:250:35:29

He licensed some of the Protesting ministers to preach once more,

0:35:290:35:33

as long as they accepted that he, not King Jesus,

0:35:330:35:36

was head of the church.

0:35:360:35:37

For Peden and the hardcore of the Protesters this was wickedly similar

0:35:410:35:45

to Catholic Christianity, in which the head of the church was human, and had power over individual souls.

0:35:450:35:52

The King, they were now certain, was popish.

0:35:560:35:59

Even paranoids are right occasionally.

0:36:010:36:04

In 1670, Charles concluded a secret treaty with the most powerful Catholic king in Europe,

0:36:040:36:11

Louis XIV of France.

0:36:110:36:13

Louis XIV agreed to provide Charles with a generous annual pension.

0:36:170:36:21

This was to assist Charles in the restoration of his kingdoms to the arms, the very open arms,

0:36:210:36:26

of the Catholic church, at which point Charles would announce his own Catholicism.

0:36:260:36:31

And Charles promised that once the national conversion was complete,

0:36:310:36:35

he would assist the French in their war with the Protestant Dutch.

0:36:350:36:40

This was a secret that Charles must keep.

0:36:470:36:49

Anyone who accused him of popery must be silenced.

0:36:490:36:52

The most outspoken protesters were confined on the Bass Rock.

0:36:560:37:00

Peden was one of them.

0:37:000:37:03

He was imprisoned there for four long years.

0:37:030:37:06

Their leaders were captives, the King's power seemed limitless.

0:37:110:37:16

Everything that the Protesters had once achieved was being undone.

0:37:160:37:20

The idea grew amongst them that a spectacular act of rebellion

0:37:260:37:30

would recall their countrymen to the one true path.

0:37:300:37:32

Bishops were at the heart of the wicked changes that the King had made.

0:37:350:37:39

And the Archbishop of St Andrews had once been, like themselves, a decent Presbyterian.

0:37:390:37:45

On 3rd May, 1679, Archbishop Sharp was returning to St Andrews with his daughter.

0:37:480:37:54

But nine Protesting Covenanters had lain in wait.

0:37:540:37:57

They gave chase.

0:37:570:37:59

Sharp's coach was no more than two or three miles from safety when they brought it to a standstill.

0:37:590:38:04

It was an assassination, a terrorist act.

0:38:260:38:31

The Government sent a taskforce to the Protesting heartland to stamp on the rats,

0:38:310:38:37

led by a newly appointed captain, John Graham of Claverhouse.

0:38:370:38:43

Claverhouse knew that the crowds at field preachings could sometimes number as much as 10,000.

0:38:430:38:49

But he was unaware that they were half religious service, half army.

0:38:490:38:52

Like the one he blundered into at Drumclog.

0:38:520:38:56

The terrain was boggy and treacherous.

0:39:000:39:03

Claverhouse's men were trained, but outnumbered.

0:39:030:39:06

Manoeuvres were simply not possible.

0:39:060:39:09

They were defeated. Claverhouse was almost killed.

0:39:090:39:12

Soon afterwards, Glasgow fell to the Protesters.

0:39:120:39:16

With this victory, the golden age seemed within their grasp.

0:39:200:39:23

They could have marched on Edinburgh to restore the Rule of the Saints.

0:39:230:39:27

Instead they made camp near Bothwell Brig,

0:39:270:39:31

just south of Glasgow, and settled down for three weeks of discussion.

0:39:310:39:35

Should the ungodly be allowed to join the army?

0:39:390:39:42

Were they fighting to unseat Charles for failing in his duty as a Covenanted king,

0:39:420:39:47

or were they fighting simply to reproach the King and restore him to the path of righteousness?

0:39:470:39:53

During these three weeks, the Protesters dissolved into smaller and smaller factions.

0:39:530:39:58

Tubs were thumped. Hobby horses were ridden.

0:39:580:40:01

Fine points of theology debated.

0:40:010:40:03

Perhaps they were under the illusion that the King was in a mood for clemency.

0:40:090:40:12

After all, Peden was once again at liberty.

0:40:120:40:16

But Peden himself was not at Bothwell.

0:40:160:40:18

He had learnt his lesson on the Bass.

0:40:180:40:21

The best sort of prophet to be was one who was breathing.

0:40:210:40:24

From a safe distance of 40 miles, he prophesied the bloody slaughter of his friends at Bothwell Brig.

0:40:270:40:33

Wherever his information came from, it was accurate.

0:40:330:40:37

400 of the Bothwell debaters were killed,

0:40:460:40:49

1,200 taken prisoner, the rest dispersed in terror.

0:40:490:40:53

But Bothwell Brig had shown that the Covenanting movement was still a threat.

0:40:560:41:01

Executions of the Protesters became frequent.

0:41:160:41:18

In 1681, a widow's son from a small town in Dumfriesshire

0:41:210:41:25

came to watch as the very last Protesting minister swung to glory.

0:41:250:41:29

And he decided that a martyr's death would suit him, too.

0:41:290:41:34

His name was James Renwick.

0:41:370:41:39

Later that year, he came into the city to watch another five executions.

0:41:420:41:47

Five more of his fellow Protesters.

0:41:500:41:53

Their heads were stuck on the city's Netherbow gate.

0:41:530:41:56

And that night, Renwick climbed up, took them down,

0:41:560:42:00

and buried the five grisly parcels with all due ceremony.

0:42:000:42:04

He began to rise in the ranks of the Protesters.

0:42:040:42:07

Renwick was in the bloom of youth.

0:42:160:42:18

The King who so offended him, Charles II, was withering on the vine.

0:42:180:42:22

His wife had proved barren.

0:42:260:42:28

Charles had fathered several bastards,

0:42:310:42:34

but male bastards weren't considered king material.

0:42:340:42:39

There was only one alternative, the King's brother, James.

0:42:390:42:44

At the King's command, he was confirmed as Charles II's successor.

0:42:440:42:48

But James had been openly Catholic for almost ten years.

0:42:520:42:57

The vast majority of his future subjects were Protestants, for whom Rome was a byword for tyranny.

0:43:090:43:16

Yet almost nobody dared object.

0:43:160:43:19

He was a Stuart, after all, and guilt for his father's execution stilled most tongues.

0:43:190:43:26

Only the Protesters said out loud that here was the final proof

0:43:260:43:30

that the Stuart dynasty was unfit to rule.

0:43:300:43:33

Since Bothwell Brig, the Protesters' numbers had declined.

0:43:350:43:39

There were no more than 6,000 left, when once the Covenant could have claimed 600,000.

0:43:390:43:45

They didn't care. They rechristened themselves the United Societies,

0:43:460:43:51

declared that they were the country's rightful government,

0:43:510:43:54

and as their leader, they chose James Renwick.

0:43:540:43:58

To announce their presence, they marched into Lanark to the Mercat Cross

0:43:580:44:03

and burnt copies of the acts that made James next in line for the throne.

0:44:030:44:09

Then they made their own declaration.

0:44:090:44:11

In the name of the people, for whom of course they did not speak, they rejected the Stuart dynasty.

0:44:130:44:19

They rejected Charles II as King on the grounds that he had destroyed

0:44:190:44:22

the perfect reformation, on the grounds that he had made his court into a brothel.

0:44:220:44:27

On the grounds of the hateful Catholicism of his intended heir.

0:44:270:44:31

They demanded a return to the years 1648 and 1649, to the Rule of the Saints.

0:44:310:44:38

Then they took up hammers and smashed the Mercat Cross.

0:44:380:44:42

Renwick's United Societies cut a dash.

0:44:460:44:49

They drew the eye of Prophet Peden.

0:44:490:44:52

He took to preaching sermons that supported them.

0:44:530:44:56

He lamented the bad faith of the nobles, gentlemen and ministers

0:44:580:45:03

who had deserted the Covenant for the safety of Charles II's church.

0:45:030:45:07

"They are vile bastards," he said.

0:45:070:45:09

Clearly, Peden hoped the United Societies would take him on as their minister.

0:45:090:45:15

But Renwick let it be known that Peden had been tested and found wanting.

0:45:150:45:19

His numerous absences when others had lost their lives had been noted.

0:45:190:45:24

In fact, he had disgracefully failed to die on several occasions.

0:45:240:45:30

Renwick was more than willing to die if his God required it.

0:45:300:45:34

Renwick was insanely resolute.

0:45:430:45:46

And with his 6,000 men, he was perfectly capable of starting a second civil war.

0:45:460:45:51

He and his followers were eminently worth killing.

0:45:550:45:58

But how could these dangerous men be identified?

0:45:580:46:02

The Government needed to look inside its subjects' heads.

0:46:020:46:05

An oath was framed requiring all citizens to reject

0:46:080:46:11

the United Societies, but there were questions, too.

0:46:110:46:16

Could the subject say, "God save the King"?

0:46:160:46:18

No-one from the United Societies could say that of Charles II.

0:46:200:46:24

Not when God was listening.

0:46:240:46:26

And God was always listening.

0:46:260:46:29

John Graham of Claverhouse, fast becoming the Government's enforcer of choice,

0:46:330:46:38

was sent into the southwest, armed with the oath.

0:46:380:46:42

The oath could be administered on the spot and failure to take it was punishable by instant death.

0:46:420:46:48

These months would be remembered as the Killing Times.

0:46:480:46:52

It wasn't the numbers that made the Killing Times notorious.

0:46:560:46:59

The numbers weren't great.

0:47:040:47:06

It was the summary nature of the executions.

0:47:100:47:14

No courts. No appeals.

0:47:170:47:19

Just a bullet in the head.

0:47:190:47:21

A little over 90 deaths in a little less than a year.

0:47:210:47:24

The killings began in December and provided an unpleasant baptism

0:47:240:47:29

for the beginning of a new and inauspicious reign, the reign of James VII and II.

0:47:290:47:35

In February of 1685, Charles II died of a stroke.

0:47:390:47:44

James' succession was unopposed.

0:47:440:47:47

The Stuart dynasty seemed unassailable.

0:47:470:47:49

Now there were two powerful Catholic monarchs for Europe's Protestants to contend with.

0:47:510:47:57

In France, Louis XIV.

0:47:570:48:00

In Britain, James VII and II.

0:48:000:48:03

For William of Orange, the Calvinist Prince of the Dutch Republic, the prospect of a Catholic alliance

0:48:060:48:11

between Louis XIV and James was too frightening for words.

0:48:110:48:16

He had been fighting the French on and off for years, and he was a Stuart, or very nearly.

0:48:160:48:21

He was James' nephew and his son-in-law.

0:48:210:48:25

In short, he had a claim to James' crowns.

0:48:250:48:28

James set about providing William of Orange with ammunition.

0:48:310:48:35

He decreed that Catholics could not only worship, but hold office.

0:48:350:48:39

He was his father's son. Parliament was not consulted.

0:48:390:48:43

Catholics became a majority on the Privy Council,

0:48:440:48:47

Catholics were appointed to the control of royal burghs.

0:48:470:48:52

Little was lacking from James' victory. Only the United Societies remained.

0:48:520:48:56

He set a price on Renwick's head by proclamation.

0:48:560:49:00

£100, dead or alive.

0:49:000:49:03

It was clear to Renwick what his God required of him.

0:49:060:49:09

He would preach in the fields outside Edinburgh,

0:49:110:49:15

he would even enter the city itself.

0:49:150:49:18

He would make it easy for the King's men to find him.

0:49:180:49:20

The authorities entered the house he was staying in.

0:49:230:49:26

Renwick shot one of them, escaped, but couldn't or wouldn't run.

0:49:260:49:30

He walked this far, to Castle Wynd, where he was captured.

0:49:300:49:34

He was too important a prize for simple execution.

0:49:370:49:40

For two weeks, the authorities attempted to extract from him

0:49:400:49:44

a confession that he had never done God's work.

0:49:440:49:46

This proved impossible.

0:49:460:49:49

His execution was finally fixed for February 17th, 1688.

0:49:560:50:01

On the scaffold, Renwick spoke for King Jesus at considerable length.

0:50:010:50:06

He recited Psalm 103.

0:50:080:50:11

"The Lord has established His throne in Heaven, and His kingdom rules over all."

0:50:110:50:15

He read from Revelations, Chapter 19.

0:50:150:50:18

"Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God, that ye may eat the flesh of kings."

0:50:180:50:24

And he concluded, "Lord, I die in the faith that you will not leave Scotland, but that you will

0:50:240:50:29

"make the blood of your witnesses the seed of your Church, and return again and be glorious in our land.

0:50:290:50:35

"And now, Lord, I am ready."

0:50:350:50:37

Renwick's death made James feel safe.

0:50:440:50:47

He could ignore the Covenant. He was anointed by God, an absolute monarch, unchallenged.

0:50:490:50:56

And then he did what his brother had failed to do, he secured the future of the Stuart dynasty.

0:50:580:51:03

On 10th June of that year, the king's wife gave birth to a healthy male heir, James Francis Edward.

0:51:060:51:13

A rhyme began to do the rounds. James should have listened to it.

0:51:130:51:17

It was a prophecy.

0:51:190:51:20

Rock-a-bye baby, on the tree top,

0:51:250:51:29

when the wind blows, the cradle will rock.

0:51:290:51:31

When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,

0:51:330:51:36

down will come baby, cradle and all.

0:51:380:51:41

The roots of his power as a Catholic king were far from deep.

0:51:460:51:50

They had grown upon stony, Protestant ground.

0:51:500:51:53

William of Orange had begun preparing an invasion fleet two months before the child was born.

0:51:580:52:03

The fleet was ready by the first week of October.

0:52:070:52:11

With sailors and others included, William's force totalled 70,000.

0:52:110:52:16

Clearly he had no intention of doing this twice.

0:52:160:52:19

The army landed in Devon in the first week of November.

0:52:220:52:25

And almost at once, James' support began mysteriously to wither away.

0:52:250:52:31

Because in the end, Stuart or not, son of the headless king or not, he was a Catholic.

0:52:310:52:38

On the night of 9th December, the Queen and the King's young heir fled to France.

0:52:400:52:46

James VII and II followed on the 23rd.

0:52:460:52:49

He had not abdicated.

0:52:490:52:51

But everybody decided to behave as though he had.

0:52:510:52:55

They decided, too, that this wasn't an invasion.

0:52:550:52:58

This would be the Glorious Revolution.

0:52:580:53:01

They had invited William of Orange.

0:53:010:53:03

Do come and take a kingdom!

0:53:030:53:05

Dress: military.

0:53:050:53:07

RSVP.

0:53:070:53:08

In May of 1689, William of Orange and his wife Mary

0:53:200:53:24

accepted a joint monarchy of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

0:53:240:53:29

A monarchy with strings attached.

0:53:290:53:32

The crown could no longer suspend laws, levy taxes,

0:53:320:53:36

or maintain a standing army in peacetime without Parliament's permission.

0:53:360:53:40

Here at last was the new world, 50 years after the Covenanters had first asked for it.

0:53:420:53:49

50 years after Charles I had said no.

0:53:490:53:52

In England, the Stuarts were kings no longer, with hardly a shot fired.

0:53:560:54:01

The Glorious Revolution would acquire another adjective.

0:54:010:54:06

Bloodless.

0:54:060:54:08

But in Scotland, there was blood aplenty.

0:54:080:54:11

Several northern nobles remained faithful to James.

0:54:110:54:15

One of these Jacobites was John Graham of Claverhouse,

0:54:150:54:19

now the Viscount Dundee.

0:54:190:54:23

Claverhouse went north, formed an army,

0:54:230:54:26

won a decisive victory at Killiecrankie, and died of his wounds on the battlefield.

0:54:260:54:31

The first Jacobite rebellion died with him, but its body twitched for some time after.

0:54:310:54:36

It took several months to crush the Jacobite garrison in Edinburgh Castle.

0:54:360:54:41

But the garrison here held out longest of all.

0:54:410:54:44

So it was on the Bass Rock that the Stuart dynasty finally lost its grip on power.

0:54:440:54:51

At last, there was a kind of peace.

0:55:020:55:05

The moderate remnants of the Presbyterians reached a compromise with King William.

0:55:050:55:10

Bishops were abolished, and the Presbyterians resumed control of the Church of Scotland.

0:55:100:55:15

But they were deceiving themselves.

0:55:150:55:18

They were the church of southern Scotland.

0:55:180:55:20

Because in the north, loyalty to the older kind of God-anointed king remained in force.

0:55:200:55:27

The split in the kirk was a split in the country, an unhealed wound,

0:55:270:55:32

and the Stuarts, of course, were far from dead.

0:55:320:55:36

They were only in exile, in France, a long swim across the English Channel.

0:55:360:55:41

A dynastic time bomb.

0:55:420:55:44

For 50 years, the Covenanters had been almost the only voice that constantly resisted the rule

0:55:470:55:53

of the Stuarts, stood against absolute monarchy,

0:55:530:55:57

insisted that the soul of every human weighed the same.

0:55:570:56:02

We can almost see them as martyrs in the cause of civil liberty.

0:56:020:56:06

From a distance of several hundred years, the Covenanters seem almost benign.

0:56:060:56:12

But come closer.

0:56:120:56:14

The Covenanters knew very little of mercy.

0:56:140:56:16

They knew nothing of moderation.

0:56:160:56:20

The only government they could ever have approved

0:56:200:56:22

was the rule of the Presbyterian kirk, with a Covenanted King.

0:56:220:56:25

One nation under God, and bound for glory, sermons once a day and twice on Sunday.

0:56:250:56:32

The freedoms they sought were freedoms for

0:56:320:56:34

Covenanting Presbyterians, and no-one else at all.

0:56:340:56:38

Anyone of another faith could, and certainly would, go to hell.

0:56:380:56:43

Once, this was God's country.

0:56:430:56:45

It's not any more.

0:56:450:56:47

Thank God for that.

0:56:470:56:48

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:57:240:57:27

Neil Oliver continues his journey through Scotland's past with the story of the Covenanters, whose profound religious beliefs were declared in the National Covenant of 1638. This document licensed revolution, started the Civil War that cost King Charles I his head, cost tens of thousands of Scots their lives and led to Britain's first war on terror.