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1. Interactions et transferts entre la France et les îles Britanniques, 1640-1660

Covenanting Exchanges with the French Court during the Wars for the Three Kingdoms



En 1638, les Écossais opposés à la volonté de Charles I d’imposer l’uniformité administrative, sociale, économique et religieuse, exercèrent leur droit de résistance en publiant une déclaration patriotique, appelée la Convention nationale, dont le but était d’imposer des formes permanentes de contrôle de la monarchie. Cette résistance s’intensifia pendant les Guerres des Evêques (1639-40), remportées par les Covenantaires face aux forces royales, puis s’exporta ensuite, sous forme d’interventions armées, en Irlande à partir de 1642 et en Angleterre à partir de 1644. L’alliance des Covenantaires écossais avec le Parlement anglais fut formalisée grâce à la Convention et Ligue Solennelle, dont l’objectif restait l’imposition de formes permanentes de contrôle sur la monarchie dans les trois royaumes gouvernés par les Stuart. Toutefois, ces événements ne peuvent être interprétés uniquement comme des guerres britanniques ou irlandaises. Ils doivent être replacés dans le contexte de la Guerre de Trente Ans, durant laquelle la détermination de la France, sous Richelieu puis Mazarin, à supplanter l’Espagne et les Habsbourg d’Autriche en tant que leader européen resta constante. Si de nombreux travaux récents ont été publiés quant aux relations diplomatiques entre les protagonistes des Guerres des Trois Royaumes, le rôle proéminent de la France dans les relations que les Covenantaires écossais, les Parlementaires anglais et les Confédérés irlandais entretenaient entre eux et avec Charles Ier reste un champ assez peu exploré. Cet article ne propose pas une étude complète de la question mais souligne les subtilités des échanges entre les Covenantaires et la Cour de France, jusqu’à ce que l’occupation de l’Écosse par Oliver Cromwell et les régicides anglais en 1651 n’anéantisse tout espoir de raviver la « Auld Alliance » entre les deux pays.

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1In 1638, Scots opposed to the imposition of administrative, social, economic and religious uniformity by their absentee monarch Charles I exercised their right of resistance by issuing a patriotic manifesto, the National Covenant, which sought to impose permanent checks on monarchy in Kirk and state. Having constituted a Presbyterian regime in the Kirk at expense of the episcopacy, the Scottish Covenanters subsequently defeated Charles I in the Bishops’ Wars of 1639-40 after he refused to accept their changes in the government of the Kirk. Thereafter, the Covenanting Movement sought to export revolution to England and Ireland in order to safeguard their attainment of legislative, executive and judicial power in Scotland. Armed intervention not only triggered off revolutions in England and Ireland, but also instigated the wars for the three kingdoms in the 1640s (Macinnes, The British Revolution; D. Scott Politics and War; Woolrych).

2While the advent of ‘New British History’ since the 1990s has led some English historians to take a more rounded picture of political developments within the British Isles, there is still a prevailing tendency to rely on official published sources when looking at diplomatic and international relations in assessing European ramifications (J. Scott; Smith, Constitutional Royalism). However, a new generation of Scottish and, to a lesser extent, Irish historians have opened up diplomatic history in a more thorough and archivally competent manner. Outstanding work has been accomplished in several key areas - on Swedish and Dutch support for the Scottish Covenanters (Grosjean, An Unofficial Alliance; Young, Celtic Dimension 77-106); on Spanish and papal backing for the Irish Confederates (Ó hAnnracháin 135-50); on Scottish and British aid for the recovery of the German Palatinate during the Thirty Years War; and on the incapacity of Charles I to secure support from the Danes, the Spanish, the German Empire and the French (Murdoch, Britain, Denmark-Norway; Worthington).Nevertheless, the importance of France to all protagonists in the wars for the three kingdoms remains relatively underworked (Rafferty; Murdoch, ‘The April Committee’ 43-68; Macinnes, The British Confederate). While a comprehensive review of the diplomatic links between France and the British Isles is beyond the scope of this paper, the intricacies of Covenanting exchanges with the French Court can at least be sketched out.

Covert Contacts

3Scottish resistance to Charles I had European, not just British significance. Contemporaneous revolts in Portugal and Catalonia against a centralising Spanish monarchy protested against the escalating costs of engagement in the Thirty Years’ War. The Covenanting Movement brought this European war to the British Isles. In essence, the Bishops’ Wars constituted its British theatre (Macinnes, The British Revolution 119-25). Prior to the Bishops’ Wars, Charles had been prepared to assist Spain against the Dutch with Irish troops and English ships, ostensibly to secure the restoration of his nephew, Charles Louis to the Palatinate. In return for landing facilities for troops in transit through the Channel, the Spaniards became the best hope of Charles securing external assistance against the Covenanters. However, the Dutch decisively defeated the Spanish fleet in the Downs in the autumn of 1639. This defeat demonstrated that Charles would be of limited assistance to the Habsburgs. It also ensured that the Covenanters continued to be supplied with men and munitions through Holland and Zealand (Russell 28-9; Sharpe 827-31, 895-9). Indeed, the Covenanting Movement drew on diplomatic, military and material support from the reconstituted alliance of France, Sweden and the United Provinces that had continued the Thirty Years’ War in the aftermath of the Peace of Prague between the Austrian Habsburgs and the German princes in 1635.

4The Covenanters had established their own Dutch press outlets by 1639, when they, rather than the court of Charles I, were the first to receive embassies openly from Sweden and Denmark as well as covertly from France (Mann 83-4; RC TKUA A II no.14; Murdoch, Britain, Denmark-Norway 90-116). Abbé Chambre alias Thomas Chalmers, a Scottish Jesuit, first made contact with disaffected Scots in the autumn of 1637 under the guise of boosting recruitment for the Scottish regiment in French service since 1633. Rewarded by becoming almoner to Cardinal François de Richelieu, Chambre returned to Scotland to report on Covenanting affairs prior to the Bishops’ Wars. Despite his religious affiliations, the Covenanters expediently used him as their chief contact with Richelieu. By 1640, Chambre was the unofficial Scottish envoy to the French Court (Stevenson, The Scottish Revolution 184-7; Sanderson 208, 286-7, 293).

5There is no evidence from the Scottish side to link such covert contacts with the official French embassy to the Court of Charles I. Louis XIII in September 1638 had despatched Pompone de Bellièvre, who took Jean de Montereul with him as his secretary. Montereul continued in England until June 1641 (Montereul I, xvii). Neither de Bellièvre nor Montereul seem to have been associated with a letter drafted by the Covenanting leadership, but never delivered to the French Court in 1639. Charles I revealed the existence of this letter two days before the opening of the “Short” Parliament in London in April 1640, so-called because it was promptly dismissed after failing to vote funds for the king to oppose the Covenanters. The letter to the French Court had justified recourse to arms and upheld free constitutional assemblies to prevent Scotland becoming ‘a conquered province, as Ireland, under subjection to England’. There was certainly no intent to renounce the Stuarts. Nor were the Covenanters seeking to transfer their allegiance to France – an option exercised by the Catalans at the outset of 1641 after their revolt against the Spanish monarchy. The letter did allow Charles to taunt the commissioners sent from Scotland to negotiate with him whether they had come ‘as ambassadors or as subjects’ (NLS Woodrow folio lxiv 82; HL Bridgewater & Ellesmere EL 7811, 7819-21, 7823-30, 7836; ABDA Argyll Papers 40.534). The commissioners were then detained. Their leader, John Campbell, Lord (later Earl of) Loudoun, a signatory to the draft, was incarcerated in the Tower of London for two months (Gordon III, 7-9, 32-6, 125, 133-46, 148-53; Burnet 162, 168-73).

6Overt international support for the Covenanting Movement came primarily and substantially from Sweden. Chancellor Axel Oxenstierna, deeply concerned that the growing rapprochement between Charles I and the Habsburgs would inflame the perennial antipathies of Denmark-Norway and Poland-Lithuania, was notably receptive to Covenanting pleas for assistance made by Alexander Leslie, Field-Marshal and thirty-year veteran in Swedish service, who had actually returned to Scotland under a safe-conduct from Charles I. In June 1638, Leslie (later Earl of Leven) had informed Oxenstierna of his commitment to the Covenanting Movement. James Hamilton, Marquess (later Duke) of Hamilton was then king’s commissioner in Scotland charged to prolong negotiations with the Covenanters while Charles attempted to mobilise support overseas. Hamilton’s ineptitude as king’s commissioner was exposed not only by his failure to secure the services of Leslie for the king, but in allowing the Field-Marshal to return to Sweden in July to secure political and military backing from the Swedish state council. Four months later, Leslie arrived back in Scotland in advance of the Glasgow Assembly that was strictly managed by the Covenanting leadership in order to impose Presbyterianism at the expense of episcopacy in defiance of the express commands of Charles I to preserve government of the Kirk by bishops. Leslie was equipped with arms and ammunition as a retirement present from Swedish service. He was undoubtedly the prime mover in securing not only his own release but that of leading Scottish officers in Swedish and Dutch service for the Covenanting Movement in the First Bishops’ War of 1639, which ended in stalemate and an uneasy truce. By maintaining a regular correspondence with Oxenstierna, he paved the way for the further release of Scottish officers in advance of the Second Bishops’ War in which the Covenanters emphatically triumphed by seizing Newcastle and cutting off the coal supply to London (Grosjean, “Alexander Leslie”; Gordon of Ruthven, 6-16). Diplomatic backing for an invasion of England had been announced during the Covenanting embassy of another military veteran, Colonel John Cochrane, in July-August 1640, when the Riksråd (Swedish Council) authorised further supplies of munitions and copper via Holland. At the same time, Charles was continuing to flounder in his search for overseas military backing and in his reluctance to admit to foreign powers that the revolution in Scotland was beyond his control (BL Trumbull Add.MSS 72,428, ff 61, 108-11, 121-2, 151, 165-7; Murdoch, “Scotland, Scandinavia”).

Intervention in England

7Having imposed permanent constitutional checks on monarchy by 1641, the Covenanting Movement proceeded with its alternative Scottish agenda for the British Isles. This ultimately led to a British accord through the Solemn League and Covenant in 1643, which brought the Covenanters onto the side of the Parliamentarians against the Royalists in return for the promotion of Presbyterian uniformity in England and Ireland. But this unity was undermined gradually by the splits among English Parliamentarians into the factions known as the Presbyterians and Independents from 1645 and was ultimately sundered after Charles I placed himself in the custody of the Covenanting Army in 1646. The radical mainstream of the Covenanting Movement, led by Archibald Campbell, Marquess of Argyll, was intent upon a programme of confessional confederation to establish godly monarchy in association with godly commonwealths in all three Stuart kingdoms. The Covenanters offered a radical vision of Britain that was federative, constitutional and confessional. Argyll had realised from the outset of the Bishops’ Wars, at least five years before Oliver Cromwell and the English Independents came to the same conclusion, that Charles I had to be defeated for this radical vision to be fulfilled.

  • 1 Existing Scottish forces in French service consisted of the Guarde de Corps, Gens d’Arms and the Re (...)

8As in the Bishops’ Wars, the Covenanting leadership was intent on securing covert support from France, the foremost European power in the continuing fight against the Spanish and Austrian Habsburgs. As early as January 1643, William Kerr, Earl of Lothian had been despatched to France, to reinvigorate the reciprocal civic, military and commercial privileges of the ‘auld alliance’; but also to sound out the prospects of French backing for Charles I and the Catholic Confederates of Ireland. In the course of this mission Louis XIII died. The task of governing France on behalf of his infant son Louis XIV passed to a regency government headed by the Queen Mother, Anne of Austria, but dominated by Cardinal Jules Mazarin as first minister. During the nine months that Lothian remained in France, he ingratiated himself at the French Court by facilitating recruitment of Scottish troops to bolster the French presence in Germany and Italy. (Rafferty 7-11; Ancrum & Lothian I, 142-3, 147-9; NAS Penicuik GD 18/2429-30, /2432, /2434) The fresh contingents sent from Scotland, the first authorised by the Covenanting Movement, were led briefly by Argyll’s half-brother, James, Earl of Irvine. Diplomatic ties from the Bishops’ Wars were also revitalised by Lothian’s contact with Abbé Chambre, who set up a correspondence between the Queen Mother and Argyll. Lothian seems to have convinced Mazarin not to give military assistance to Charles I on the grounds that the combined forces of Scottish Covenanters and English Parliamentarians would be too strong for the Royalists and the Catholic Confederates in Ireland, with or without French reinforcements (NAS Lothian GD 40/2/2/11, /17; BL Trumbull Add.MSS 72,434 ff 1-2, 5-8).1

  • 2 The Duc d’Orléans was squeezed out of the regency government by Anne of Austria to become the malad (...)

9During his time in France, Lothian had informed Charles I of his diplomatic activities through his Secretary of State for Scottish Affairs, William Hamilton, Earl of Lanark (brother of the Marquess of Hamilton). On his return in October, he made a courtesy visit to the king at Oxford. Lothian was promptly arrested and incarcerated in Bristol Castle for six months. Ostensibly, he was imprisoned following reports that he was to serve as lieutenant-colonel in the Covenanting Army coming to the aid of the English Parliamentarians. But his close confinement also served to deny the Covenanting leadership accurate information about the situation at the French Court while an envoy, a certain Monsieur de Boisivon, was despatched to Scotland at the behest of Charles I. He was accredited not by Mazarin or the Queen Mother, but by Gaston, Duc d’Orléans, the brother of Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I. A longstanding enemy of Richelieu, his accreditation of de Boisivon to Argyll and Hamilton can be viewed essentially as a freelance diplomatic venture on behalf of his sister not of the regency government. Charles I’s action against Lothian signposted renewed Royalist militancy. He had attempted to counter Lothian’s mission to France by despatching a Scottish courtier, Sir Thomas Dishington to propose the reinvigoration of the ‘auld alliance’ from a Royalist rather than a Covenanting perspective. His mission signally failed. When Hamilton, who had refused to sign the Solemn League and Covenant, arrived at Oxford in December to report on the Scottish situation, he was denounced and thrown into prison. Lanark was dismissed as Secretary of State (Ancrum & Lothian I, 146-7, 152-9, 162-70; NAS Lothian GD 40/12/5; D. Scott, Politics and War 61, 80).2

10The French envoy turned out to be a rather quixotic, self-serving diplomat with a penchant for exaggeration and distortion that wholly undermined his credibility in France as well as Scotland. He claimed that Lothian had really been sent to France to treat with the Huguenots. The only evidence of Lothian being engaged beyond his official remit was when he used his stay to boost his library, furnishings and art collection. Argyll was correctly identified by de Boisivon as the controlling influence in Scotland. His alleged absolutism (Le Marquis d’Argueil est icy absolu) (Montereul II, 539-63) was pursued without any semblance of knowledge about foreign affairs which were left to the messianic inclinations of the Earl of Leven, who pressed for a Protestant Crusade that would soon extend from England to France and on to Rome to vanquish the Anti-Christ. These claims had the same ring of authenticity as the purported attempts of the Covenanting leadership to have him assassinated; claims belatedly made after he had retired from Edinburgh, heavily indebted from gambling throughout his November stay, to pursue hunting and other leisurely pursuits around Manchester (NAS Penicuik GD 18/2424, /2426, /2440, /2444 & Lothian GD 40/2/2/13). His protracted posturing enabled the Covenanting leadership to spin reports on current affairs in order to heighten the sense of anticipation in England about the arrival of their army, once adequately funded, to implement the Solemn League and Covenant agreed with the English Parliamentarians as a British accord for confessional confederation.

11Although the Scots had stated their militant intent by re-occupying Berwick-upon-Tweed on 20 September, another four months were to elapse before the Covenanting Army began its push into England on 19 January 1644. In the interim, news management became a particular concern of Argyll and the radical leadership. The Covenanting Movement had been notably adept at exploiting the British press to its advantage since the outset of the Bishops’ Wars. Accordingly, on 6 November 1643, the Covenanters had a statement published in London on The Readinesse of the Scots to Advance into England, which dealt with military preparations and with the last-ditch, but futile, attempts by the French envoy (now elevated to the status of ambassador) to prevent Scots aid to the Parliamentarians. Three newsletters immediately picked up this report. The True Informer accepted the Covenanting line uncritically, if not verbatim. The Kingdomes Weekly Intelligencer embellished and editorialised the role of the French ‘Ambassador’, taking this as a warning to the Long Parliament (so-called as it lasted two decades) to be wary of dealing with the French Court. Scottish support was particularly welcomed as Charles I was expecting reinforcements from the Catholic Confederates in Ireland. However, the most supportive editorialising came from The Scottish Dove, which was dismissive of the endeavours of the French ‘Ambassador’ and focused more on the advanced state of Scottish military preparations that merited prompt payment of the funds promised by the Parliamentarians for military assistance (Readiness of the Scots; The True Informer no.10; Weekly Intelligencer no.34; Scottish Dove no.7).

12Covenanting military intervention in Ireland from the spring of 1642 had become bogged down in the province of Ulster. Intervention in England did contribute significantly to the Parliamentary victory over the Royalists at Marston Moor in Yorkshire on 2 July 1644. But no Covenanting forces were involved in the decisive Royalist defeat at Naseby in Northamptonshire on 14 June 1645. Nevertheless, the Covenanters were instrumental in establishing the Committee of Both Kingdoms which, between February 1644 and October 1646, oversaw the conduct of civil war in England and Ireland and promoted international relations on behalf of the Covenanters and Parliamentarians. Despite growing animosity between Covenanters and Parliamentarians over the conduct of the war and the failure to implement Presbyterian uniformity, the Parliamentarians readily associated with the Covenanters to build up their diplomatic credibility. Thus, William Fiennes, Viscount Saye & Sele joined with Argyll’s close associate, Sir Archibald Johnson of Wariston, to write on behalf of the Committee, now projected as Concilium Amborum Magnae Britanniae, a letter of assurance to Christian IV of Denmark-Norway in June 1645. They sought both to avert any renewed inclination on the part of the Danish king to assist his nephew Charles I and to restrict shipments of arms that would aid the Royalist cause (RC TKUA England A 1 no.3 & England A II no.15; Murdoch, Britain, Denmark-Norway 124-38).

13The Scottish commissioners serving on the Committee retained international influence in two key areas – the Palatinate and France. In 1642, Lothian had persuaded Elector Charles Louis not to become embroiled in the Royalist cause. Instead he should place his hopes on regaining the Palatinate through the joint endeavours of the Covenanters and Parliamentarians. Lothian, in turn, was receptive to overtures from the Elector in 1643 to lobby on his behalf at the French Court. The Elector in the course of 1644 and again in 1645 pushed the Scots on the Committee for assistance in the recovery of the Palatinate, even stating on the former occasion that he would come to London to lobby in person. But he had to be content with a statement endorsed by Saye & Sele and Wariston that his restoration would be a British priority once issues of war and peace were resolved with Charles I. The Scottish commissioners in London as well as the Covenanting leadership in Edinburgh were also intent on maintaining their own distinctive as well as joint British links to France following the failure of tripartite peace negotiations with the king at Uxbridge in February 1645 (Ancrum & Lothian II, 491; BL Trumbull Add.MSS 72,435 ff 27-8 & Add.MSS 72,437 ff 17-18, 20-9, 54-5, 84, 86-8 & Add.MSS 72,439 fo 87).

Peace Negotiations

14As shaped by Argyll and his radical associates, the key features of Covenanting policy during the period of English intervention were a demonstrable concern with confederal union, a pragmatic willingness to temper military force with peace negotiations and an international commitment to Protestantism not just Presbyterianism. From their arrival in London in February 1644, the Scottish commissioners were committed to the pursuit of war against the Royalists. But they did not rule out a negotiated peace with the king and the Parliamentarians that would be consistent with the British aspirations of the Covenanting Movement and the international standing of the Solemn League and Covenant. Well aware that an embassy had been sent from the United Provinces to effect a meaningful reconciliation between the king and the Parliamentarians, the Covenanters were determined to be represented separately in any peace negotiations (BL Nicholas Egerton MS 2533, fo 365 & Trumbull Add.MSS 72,435 ff 112-29; ICA Letters 1638 bundle 7/161; Whitelocke I, 263, 370).

  • 3 The Committee of Estates (the Covenanting executive)had strenuously petitioned the king in January (...)

15Accordingly, the Covenanting leadership was not content that peace negotiations, which opened at Uxbridge in November 1644, should simply tighten up on bilateral propositions between Parliamentarians and Royalists that had failed to secure agreement at Oxford in February 1643. The Scottish commissioners certainly respected issues of mutual concern raised by the Parliamentarians such as control over the militia, executive and judiciary; effecting religious reformation; the removal of delinquent counsellors and the exemption of named ‘malignants’ from pardon. In order to secure a lasting peace between the king and the Parliamentarians, the commissioners were instructed to negotiate with a degree of flexibility even on the promotion of Presbyterian uniformity according to a Scottish prescription. The Scottish commissioners were especially determined that funding for the Covenanting forces in Ireland should be regularised and that the British in Ireland were to be obliged to subscribe to the Solemn League and Covenant. The Covenanters were also resolved that neither Lothian nor Hamilton nor, indeed, any Scottish peer should be held to account in England for transgressions in Scotland.3

16However, this Scottish package was not attractive to the king and did not enjoy unequivocal support from the Parliamentarians. Charles I remained adamantly opposed to a covenanted monarchy or to making any meaningful concessions in England that would diminish his power to the level secured by the Covenanters in Scotland by 1641. Charles’s resolve not to compromise was stiffened by support from Queen Henrietta Maria and Lord George Digby. The king was also hoping to firm up the cessation between Confederates and Royalists in Ireland (operative since September 1643) into a treaty. Substantial reinforcements for his war-effort in England would be secured, it was hoped, through a comprehensive toleration for Irish Catholics. Committed to the Stuart monarchy the Covenanters had no real alternative to Charles I. Elector Charles Louis was reported to have subscribed to the Solemn League and Covenant while in the United Provinces in March 1644. Within Royalist circles there were continuing but unfounded fears that Charles Louis was being lined up to replace his uncle, Charles I. However, his restoration to the Palatinate appeared more likely with French assistance than his intrusion into the British succession. His two younger brothers, Princes Rupert and Maurice, were tainted through their martial association with the Royalist cause. A regency government appeared out of the question as the Henrietta Maria stood solidly with Charles and both the Prince of Wales (the future Charles II) and James, Duke of York enjoyed the protection of France and the United Provinces (Scots Commissioners 9, 29, 59-63; Ancrum & Lothian II, 490-1; BL Trumbull Add.MSS 72,438 ff 5-6).

17Outright republicanism remained a distinctive minority pursuit in England. Nonetheless, there were growing concerns within the Covenanting Movement that the Parliamentary war grouping was becoming less committed to a Stuart monarchy when the peace negotiations at Uxbridge broke up in February 1645; concerns compounded by the subsequent emergence of the New Model Army as Oliver Cromwell and the Independents purged and regrouped the Parliamentary forces to defeat Charles I. The Covenanters also suffered from a piece of Royalist mischief making. The publication of intercepted letters revealed that the civil war in Scotland was not running in favour of the Covenanters. At the same time, renewed solidarity between radicals and conservatives brokered between Argyll and Lanark suggested that the Covenanters were prepared to exploit divisions among the Parliamentarians to reach an accommodation with Charles I (Smith, “The More Posed and Wised Advice”).

18The Scots had actually entered the peace negotiations with alternative fields of engagement beckoning; a situation that remained open following the failure of Uxbridge. In the aftermath of Marston Moor, the Covenanters had actively debated confederation with Sweden to facilitate the wresting of the provinces to the east of the Øresund from Christian IV of Denmark. The acquisition of these provinces by Sweden would eradicate the tolls crippling the Scottish trade to and from the Baltic. The Swedes were intent on renewing the recruitment of hjaelptrupperne [help-troopers] from Scotland and Hugh Mowatt, the émigré Scot who had been despatched as envoy to both Scotland and England in the spring of 1644, stepped up his hitherto unsuccessful recruitment efforts. Chancellor Oxenstierna also wrote to the same effect to his Scottish counterpart Loudoun just before negotiations commenced at Uxbridge. Notwithstanding the warm reception accorded to Mowatt by leading Covenanters in both London and Edinburgh, neither he nor Oxenstierna was promised troops. While stating his intention to raise the issue in the Committee of Both Kingdoms, Loudoun was adamant that no assistance could be forthcoming until a lasting peace was secured with the king and Presbyterianism established in England. Nevertheless, Swedish overtures had added to the tensions between the Covenanters and Parliamentarians at Uxbridge (MSH Deeds bundles 1/1, 2/2; RS Mowatt AOSB ser B. E583; Grosjean, An Unofficial Alliance 195-206).

  • 4 Manoeuvres of French troops in Brittany and Normandy during the Uxbridge negotiations was no more t (...)

19The withdrawal of Swedish troops from the German theatre to fight in the Northern War of 1643-45 against Denmark-Norway, made the French determined to increase recruitment from the British Isles, which Mazarin and the Queen Mother felt could best be achieved by the promotion of peace between Charles I, the Covenanters and the Parliamentarians. Building upon the foundations laid by Richelieu, Mazarin sought to wrest from Spain the mantle of universal monarchy for France. By Uxbridge, French forces were not only committed in Germany but also lined up, with varying degrees of success, against Spain in Italy, Catalonia and Flanders. Their presence in the latter theatre was of concern to the Dutch as well as the Parliamentarians. France sought Irish as well as Scottish recruits. However, French diplomatic links with the Catholic Confederates were relatively weak. Certainly, Mazarin was aware that the putative conversion of the cessation into a peace treaty between Royalists and Confederates had the potential not only to transform Charles I’s military prospects in England, but also to release Irish forces for French service. Yet, there was a tacit recognition at the French Court that Spanish influence over the Irish carried more weight (BL Trumbull Add.MSS 72,434 ff 15-16 & Add.MSS 72,436 ff176, 182-3, 190-1 & Add.MSS 72,437 ff 15-16, 37; Schaub 14-16, 90-1, 263-4, 281-2; Ohlmeyer).4

20At the same time, where the French were studiously vague in their promises to the Irish, Mazarin and the Queen Mother, in the name of Louis XIV, had actually despatched a statement of intent to Chancellor Loudoun that they were prepared to reinvigorate the ‘auld alliance’. This statement coincided with the breakdown of negotiations at Uxbridge in February 1645. In the following month, Loudoun accredited Sir Robert Moray to be colonel of the Scottish regiment formerly commanded by the late Earl of Irvine. Moray, in turn, was to become the principal diplomatic agent to negotiate further Scottish forces in return for a firm alliance. To this end, Mazarin, notwithstanding papal overtures to provide armed assistance to Charles I, was also willing to promote peace between the Royalists and Parliamentarians that would facilitate the withdrawal of the Covenanting Army from England. Once in Paris, Moray encouraged Henrietta Maria to become more flexible. But the exiled Queen, like Charles I, had been heartened by Royalist successes in Scotland and was still insistent that the Covenanters would have to abandon the imposition of Presbyterianism on England if there was to be any prospect of a meaningful peace (NAS Bute RH 1/7/20-1; BL Trumbull Add.MSS 72,434 ff 1-2 & Historical Add.MSS 33,596 ff 7-8).

21Undoubtedly, the rise of the New Model Army and triumphal intransigence among Independents were negative influences on such a prospect from the Parliamentary side. Charles I discounted any suggestion of replacing an Anglican with Presbyterian establishment as this shift would imperil his immortal soul. Indeed, he was incapable of making meaningful concessions on the religious issue. The Covenanters’ resolve to reach an accommodation with the king suffered critically when Charles’s secret correspondence regarding a negotiated peace was intercepted and published in part by the Parliamentarians in the wake of Naseby; a correspondence that laid bare the king’s untrustworthiness as well as the straightened financial circumstances of the Royalist cause in revealing Henrietta Maria was attempting to pawn her jewellery in Amsterdam and other Dutch markets (King’s Cabinet Opened; BL Trumbull Add.MSS 72,434 ff 1-10 & Add.MSS 72,438 ff 1-99).

22The Covenanters, while immoveable on the commitment of the Solemn League and Covenant to Presbyterian uniformity, were prepared to negotiate with latitude on the other key issues discussed at Uxbridge, notably the militia and Ireland. This greater flexibility was a sign of the revival of pragmatic conservatism brought about by the rehabilitation of Lanark among the Covenanting leadership in Edinburgh and by the growing prominence of John Maitland, Earl of Lauderdale among the Scottish commissioners at London. Preoccupied with civil war raging in Scotland north of the Tay and protecting his estates from devastation by Royalist clans, Argyll was in danger of letting diplomatic affairs drift. The Parliamentary triumph at Naseby had, however, reinvigorated French diplomacy and encouraged the more conservatively inclined Covenanters to contemplate a bilateral peace with Charles I. At the same time, the reluctance of the Covenanting Army to leave its garrisons in northern England made Charles more susceptible to French overtures for peace. Royalist successes in Scotland, through the brilliant, but bloody, guerrilla campaigning of James Graham, Marquess of Montrose, was strengthening the king’s hand against Argyll and the radicals, who could not be brought to disown a tripartite British solution. (BL Miscellaneous Add.MSS 36,540 ff 16-17 Baillie II, 345; Stevenson, Revolution and Counter-Revolution 54-8). Indeed, to this end Argyll remained resistant to overtures from Mazarin and the Queen Mother that would have released him from reimbursing the sum of around £500 sterling advanced to the late Earl of Irvine on entering French service in 1643 and for which the Marquess and Loudoun stood surety (Montereul I, 42)

  • 5 Angier provided regular despatches from the French Court until December 1646, albeit his credential (...)

23Two months after Naseby, Jean de Montereul arrived in London as the French envoy empowered by Mazarin to pursue peace. Considerably less subtle than Mazarin in the promotion of French politique, Montereul prioritised Royalist and Covenanter interests. In the process, he was prepared to work against Swedish endeavours to promote confederation and recruit troops, leading the under-resourced and under-instructed Mowatt to complain to Oxenstierna that the French no less than the Danes were hostile diplomatic influences in London (if not yet in Edinburgh). From August 1645 until May 1646, Montereul worked in association with Sir Robert Moray in London and Paris to secure a bilateral if not a tripartite peace. Montereul and Moray were able to draw on the increasing prominence of Lauderdale among the Scottish commissioners in London (Rafferty 23-31; RS Mowatt AOSB ser B. E583; Montereul I, 1-78 & II, 669-75; Macinnes, The British Revolution 140). At the same time, Montereul was supported by two influential noblewomen in London, both with Scottish connections, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, a Scot by birth and the Countess of Carlisle, the widow of a Scot. Montereul’s seeming partiality to the Covenanters over the Parliamentarians was particularly welcomed by the Scottish commissioners even although they were ostensibly working towards the same diplomatic ends through the Committee of Both Kingdoms, which was in receipt of regular reports from the French Court through their Parisian agent Rene Angier, a former courtier in Paris now reinstated as British resident. In giving notice of Montreul’s departure for London, Angier claimed that he was coming ostensibly to resolve commercial disputes. In fact, this was the province of Monsieur de Sabran, already resident in London as secretary to the French embassy for commercial affairs. Angier also asserted that Montereul’s dispatch reflected dissatisfaction at the French Court with the directory established to maintain a watching brief over the three kingdoms, particularly as this directory had failed to pick up growing tensions among the Parliamentarians between the Presbyterians and Independents (BL Trumbull Add.MSS 72434, ff 21-178 & Add.MSS 72,437 ff 87,91).5

24His Scottish connections notwithstanding, Montereul also worked assiduously with Henry Rich, 1st Earl of Holland, a pragmatic Royalist more at home in London than in Oxford and well connected to the Presbyterian faction in Parliament. For his part, Holland was also a longstanding associate of the still imprisoned Hamilton and his brother Lanark (BL Historical Add.MSS 33,596 ff 7-8; ICA Letters 1646 bundle 8/92).Montereul and Holland originally hoped that Charles I would come to London and push for peace with the assistance of the Presbyterian faction. However, hard-liners within the Royalist camp, led by Lord Digby, were more prepared to countenance an accommodation with the Independents. Their belief in gathered congregations of the godly nationwide rather than a single ecclesiastical establishment for England opened up the prospect of toleration rather than eradication for Anglicanism; a position from which Charles I also derived hope. Nevertheless, Montereul and Mazarin pressed for the alternative of the king seeking safe custody with the Scots who were repelled by the rampant sectarianism and the growing strain of republicanism among the Independents. Military relations between the Independents and the Scots were close to breaking point. The Scots complained persistently about the continuing shortages of money and supplies from Parliament. The Independents were outraged by the Scots unilateral resort to local assessments, free quarters and occasional depredations in the north of England. They also harboured exaggerated fears that France and Scotland would formulate an international alliance involving Sweden and Denmark to restore Charles I to power in England. Both radical and conservative Covenanters were contemplating war between the two kingdoms following the eventual movement of General Leven in November 1645 to lay siege to Newark in Northamptonshire (Montereul I, 79-162 & II, 575-83; Scots Commissioners 150, 153, 160, 163, 179-80; Mahoney).

25The ending of the Scottish civil war in favour of the Covenanting Movement, which left Charles I ‘in deep melancholy and despair’, as well as the growing political hostility among Presbyterians and Independents in England allowed Montereul and Mazarin additional scope to press for the option of Scottish custody. Henrietta Maria, now lodged at St Germain outside Paris, was encouraged to put pressure on her husband to come to some accommodation over the Solemn League and Covenant and the establishment of Presbyterianism in England. William Moray, a member of the queen’s household, was despatched from St Germain with overtures for the king’s compliance. However, his mission was aborted on his capture by Parliamentary forces while making his way to Oxford. An increasingly exasperated Montereul eventually persuaded Charles I to abandon his court at Oxford and throw in his lot with the Covenanters (Montereul I, 163-208; Ancrum & Lothian I, 181-6). Two months after the formal capitulation of Royalist forces in England, the king surrendered to General Leven at Newark on 5 May 1646. But this was only after Charles had attempted a feint towards London in a forlorn hope of rapprochement with the Independents. Montereul was less than enthused by the Covenanting response to the arrival of the king. Lothian, into whose custody the king was entrusted, led the reassertion of radical control over proceedings. Charles was required to order the surrender of the besieged Royalist garrison in Newark, to disband the Royalist forces in Scotland and to sign the Solemn League and Covenant. His refusal to undertake the latter or even to signify his acceptance of its validity ensured that he was placed in protective custody as the Covenanting Army promptly withdrew to Newcastle (NAS, Lothian GD 40/2/2: ICA, Letters 1646 bundle 8/192).

Withdrawal from England

  • 6 The Covenanters did not regard control over the militia solely as an English issue as the Independe (...)

26Although the Covenanters had actively been considering a further round of talks with the king since autumn 1645, the Parliamentarians only seem to have given renewed impetus to peace proposals at the outset of 1646. Their revised position was eventually formulated as the Newcastle Propositions in July. The Covenanters, whether of a radical or conservative hue, remained reluctant to alter their standpoint at Uxbridge in 1644-5. The Covenanters were also unconvinced that the Parliamentarians were exerting any meaningful pressure on Charles I to take the Solemn League and Covenant (MSH Papers A15/5, A213/4 & Deeds bundles 1/20, /23-5, /2/7; BOU MS Carte 65 ff 34-5). The Scottish Army in Ulster was defeated by the Catholic Confederates at Benburb in County Tyrone on 5 June 1646. The major casualty was the Covenanters’ working accommodation with the Parliamentarians in Ireland. The exclusion of Scots from ongoing discussions on Irish affairs was again viewed as breaching the spirit of the Solemn League. While there was little doubt that Scottish participation on the Committee of Both Kingdoms had run its course, the Covenanting leadership was insistent that the making of peace and war were common issues for Scotland and England (Scots Commissioners 104-5, 148-52, 173-7, 181-2, 186-200, 219, 222-3; Whitelocke I, 548-9, 557, 564, 578; Smith, Constitutional Royalism 128-31, 149-50, 183-7).6

27Argyll, the driving force behind a British confederation, had attempted to bridge divisions between Parliamentarians and Covenanters, and within the ranks of both. English intransigence towards an accommodation had grown now that the king was in Covenanting custody. The House of Lords still exercised a restraining influence on the Scotophobia then rampant in the House of Commons, which maintained that the disposal of the king was a purely English not a British matter. Internal divisions between Presbyterians and Independents were a further complication, especially as the New Model Army inclined towards the latter in terms of restricting royal authority and promoting religious toleration. The Covenanters were increasingly restless about the continuing cost of military intervention in England and Ireland. Argyll was also experiencing increasing difficulty in holding together the radical mainstream of the Movement. The purging of public offices by the Scottish Estates in January 1646 had witnessed the emergence of a distinctive grouping of gentry and burgesses intent on the political exclusion of all nobles, their clients and associates tainted with Royalism (ICA Letters 1646 bundle 8/192; An Answer to the Scotch; Young, Celtic Dimensions 164-84; Stevenson, Revolution and Counter-Revolution 63-72). At the beginning of June, Argyll joined with Loudoun and Leven, to issue a robust defence of the Scottish position. They called for the Committee of Both Kingdoms to be re-convened at Newcastle to resolve a unified approach to peace and in handling the king. Argyll was hoping Charles would moderate his position sufficiently to take stock of the Newcastle Propositions from the Long Parliament. However, Charles was prepared neither to trust Argyll nor to compromise on religious issues (BL Autographs Add.MSS 19,399 fo 4; BOU MS Carte 65 ff 313-4; Committee of Estates at Newcastle). A further irritant to Charles was the pressure exerted on him in the camp at Newcastle by the Committee of Estates to discharge James Butler, Marquess of Ormond, from attempting any further treaties between Royalists and Catholic Confederates. Charles was especially irate, as the French Queen Mother was receptive to such a firm peace in Ireland. But, she was still not prepared to commit French forces to re-establish the king’s position in England and Scotland. The king remained aggrieved that Argyll continued to push that Ormond, as the Royalist commander in Ireland, should surrender to forces loyal to the English Parliamentarians (A Declaration to Ormond; Charles I in 1646 47, 70).

28Argyll went to London to make a celebrated speech to the Grand Committee of Both Houses on 25 June that reaffirmed his credentials as the foremost British confederate in the three kingdoms. In formally signifying Covenanting consent to the Newcastle Proposition, Argyll stated that the Scots had a natural affection towards their monarch, ‘whereby they wish he may be rather Reformed than Ruined’ (Argyle’s Speech). Accordingly, the Long Parliament should not negotiate unilaterally with Charles I; the Covenanting forces in England and Ireland should be promptly supplied; and tensions between the New Model Army and the Covenanting Army in England should be headed off. Argyll was wholly dismissive that any settlement with the king would serve to unite Irish and Scottish Royalists with the Presbyterians in England. Argyll, however, had earlier journeyed to Ireland in March, both to apprise himself of the deplorable state of the under-funded and under-supplied forces, but also to arrange for three regiments of 2,100 men to be brought over to Scotland. Originally the Covenanting leadership had intended to use these forces to mop up lingering Royalist resistance on the western seaboard of Scotland. But, Argyll was prepared to redeploy them to England in the event of war breaking out between Covenanters and Parliamentarians (ABDA Argyll Papers 40.21; BOU MS Carte 65 fo 266; ICA Letters 1685 A/36/150 & Accounts bundle 53/3 & Letters 1646 bundle 8/198).

29The king’s aversion to the Newcastle Propositions left the Covenanting leadership with little alternative but to negotiate an honourable withdrawal from England. Inevitably, the Covenanters’ continued custody of the king until a satisfactory recompense for past services was agreed increased the ire of the Independents, detached the Presbyterians and led to a marked decline in support from their most steadfast constituency, the city of London. Following diligent, but fruitless, attempts to convince Charles I at Newcastle on the godly merits of Presbyterianism, the Kirk in September gave voice to widespread concerns among radicals about the intransigence of the king, his continuing encouragement of disaffected forces in Scotland and his suspect dealings with the French Court. In these circumstances, Loudoun was insisting at the outset of October that the disposal of the king required the joint advice and consent of both kingdoms (The Lord Chancellor; A Remonstrance; Ancrum & Lothian I, 188-92; Baillie II, 376, 379, 383, 386-7, 402; D. Scott, ‘Particular Businesses’ 321-4, 329-31).

  • 7 Two instalments amounting to £200,000 was actually paid between 30 January and 3 February 1647, on (...)

30The initiative in negotiating final terms for the withdrawal of the Covenanting Army and handing over the king was taken by the Presbyterians, who saw a satisfactory resolution without recourse to war threatened by the Independents as a means to consolidate their control over the Long Parliament. Compensation of £400,000 sterling was secured and the Covenanters agreed that this sum should be paid in equal instalments, the initial two payments when the Covenanting army withdrew from England with the third and fourth to follow when funds became available. This sum was equivalent to the money the Covenanters had actually received from the Parliamentarians since January 1644; yet still offered scant reward to the hard-pressed Scottish forces in Ulster who were now more likely to receive prayers than payment (Scots Commissioners, 201-06; ICA Letters 1646 bundles 4/68, 14/68; MSH, Papers A213/2).7 With Montereul temporarily recalled, Pompone de Bellièvre, the president of the Paris Parlement had been dispatched as an ambassador from France to mediate between the king and the Parliamentarians in July 1646. Ambassador de Bellièvre was instructed that Mazarin would prefer a tripartite peace. In addition, he was to keep open the option of a bilateral deal notwithstanding growing doubts at the French Court about Scottish intentions towards the king. Although de Bellièvre waited assiduously on Charles I and Montereul shuttled between Paris, London, Newcastle and Edinburgh, the king remained as obstinate to French as to Scottish pressures to negotiate. Lingering hopes that Charles would take stock of the gravity of his situation and accept the Newcastle Propositions were dashed on 20 December (Rafferty 59-65; Montereul I, 231-426 & II, 583-95; RS Mowatt AOSB ser B. E583). The French diplomatic mission was not entirely fruitless as the Covenanting leadership did agree in principle to the release of Scottish forces to serve in France once its Army had withdrawn from England (NAS, Hamilton GD 406/1/2101, /2114, /2107).

31Freed from captivity and restored to the Scottish Estates that reconvened on 3 November 1646, Hamilton took over the leadership of the conservative Covenanters whose strength had been built up discreetly by Lanark with covert assistance from Lauderdale. Hamilton had intruded himself in the peace negotiations in an attempt to delay giving up the king until his safety was firmly assured (ICA Letters 1646 bundle 8/209; NAS Hamilton GD 406/1/1953, /2024, /2044, /2104, /2108, /2145, /9611). Despite Hamilton’s sterling endeavours, Argyll with the aid of Wariston reasserted radical control over Covenanting negotiations with the king and Parliamentarians. Argyll had also secured solid backing from the Kirk which on 19 December issued a powerful condemnation of all clandestine diplomatic dealings and compared the activities of Royalist sympathisers to that of locusts. Argyll’s managerial dominance of the Scottish Estates was duly affirmed when a radical motion that an unconvenanted king should not be brought to Scotland was carried by 25 votes in a highly-charged parliamentary debate. This vote among the 154 members on 16 January 1647 ensured that Charles was left at Newcastle, where he was duly handed over to the Parliamentarians fourteen days later. The Covenanters had received no guarantees for his safety or for the future of the Stuart monarchy in England, save from a vague promise from the Long Parliament to sustain British confederation in terms of the Solemn League and Covenant (Young, The Scottish Parliament 162-75; MSH Papers A213/1, /3 & Deeds bundles 1/15, /17, /20 & /2/9; Seasonable Warning).

The Engagement

32With the transfer of Charles I from the Covenanters to the Parliamentarians and his lodging in Holmby Castle, Northamptonshire, the political initiative appeared to have passed to the Presbyterians who were still committed to a negotiated peace with the king, if not the Scots. However, Argyll was not confident that the Presbyterians in England could reach a binding accommodation with the king that would satisfy both Parliamentarians and Covenanters. His downgrading of peace negotiations with Charles I gave substance to the opinions of the French diplomats, Bellièvre in London and Montereul in Edinburgh, that the Covenanters, having removed themselves from the centre stage of British politics, were struggling to stay in the wings. Indeed, Bellièvre was keen that both the Presbyterians and the city of London distance themselves from the Covenanters. To this end, he supported the Presbyterians’ proposals that the king be brought to London without being obliged to subscribe to the Solemn League and Covenant, and that Presbyterianism was established for a trial period of three years in the Church of England. However, Bellièvre was wary of any backlash from Independents that would afford leverage to Spain to propose a triple alliance with them and the Dutch to prevent further French incursions in the Spanish Netherlands. Montereul was more circumspect. While he remained deeply sceptical that either conservative or radical Covenanters would seriously promote the restoration of the king’s authority in all three kingdoms, he saw immediate advantage to France if Scotland continued to be supported as an irritant to both the Presbyterians and Independents in England. Moreover, the withdrawal of the Covenanting Army from England opened up the prospect of recruiting far more troops for French service. Montereul was optimistic that at least three regiments could be raised in Scotland. Montereul was also hopeful that Argyll and Hamilton would at least facilitate this recruitment if not raise regiments on their own account to cement their standing at the French Court and, in the process, demonstrate to both Parliamentarians and Independents that the Covenanters still had an international profile (Ancrum & Lothian I, 203-04, 207-10; Montereul I, 430-52 & II, 9-75).

  • 8 Montereul had originally found Argyll cautious and reserved. He soon discovered that the Marquess w (...)

33British politics did not follow the French script, however. Five months after Charles I was transferred from the Covenanters to the Parliamentarians and lodged in Holmby Castle in Northamptonshire, he was forcibly removed by troops loyal to Oliver Cromwell and imprisoned on the Isle of Wight. This caused outrage among the more conservatively inclined nobility in Scotland who had faced purging from political office in the wake of the civil war and, simultaneously, played into the hands of Hamilton. While the Scottish commissioners who remained in London continued to be consulted on foreign and domestic matters relating to British politics, Lauderdale openly switched his allegiance from Argyll, as briefly did Loudoun on the prompting of Hamilton’s brother Lanark. Argyll had a more considered British position than Hamilton, in terms of collaboration between Covenanters and Parliamentarians. He diligently maintained his contacts among Presbyterians and Independents in both the Lords and the Commons. Argyll was also less concerned than Hamilton at the growing dominance of the Independents in association with the New Model Army. In keeping with his depiction by Montereul in June 1647 as ‘one of the subjects of this island that has done most harm to the king’, Argyll’s stance towards rapprochement with Charles I remained that of an uncompromising British confederate. Covenanting attainments in Kirk and State could not be secured until the king subscribed both Covenants and accepted unconditionally the establishment of Presbyterianism throughout his three kingdoms. Montereul was inclined to favour Hamilton over Argyll as the former was viewed as a more exploitable in the interests of France. Indeed, Hamilton was more reliant on French backing than Argyll. His British contacts lay primarily with the House of Lords, former courtiers, Royalists and the household in exile of Queen Henrietta Maria, where Argyll also had discrete representation through William Moray, the brother of Sir Robert. Montereul also reported to Mazarin that Hamilton’s credibility with the king as within Scotland was undermined by suspicions –wholly unsubstantiated – that he harboured designs on the Scottish throne should the Stuarts cease to be a British dynasty. No such suspicions afflicted Argyll. Montereul appeared to reverse his opinion of the Marquess in the following month, when he informed Mazarin, ‘I know no Scotsman here more sincere and more faithful to his prince’. But Montereul was indulging heavily in irony. He remained adamant that the Covenanting leadership, notwithstanding any ‘sham disagreement’ between Argyll and Hamilton, was far more committed to securing the £200,000 sterling still owed by the Parliamentarians for the transferred custody of the king than in restoring monarchical authority (Montereul II, 95, 164, 183, 212; Baillie III, 18; Macinnes, The British Confederate 226-36).8

34As Argyll and Hamilton had actually colluded in maintaining rather than disbanding the Covenanting Army, Montereul was adamant that they were as liable to work with as against each other. Montereul never came to terms with the possibility that Argyll, ‘who will not brook having a master’ and Hamilton, who ‘does not want a companion’, actually enjoyed good personal relations while the former operated as a radical and the latter as a conservative. They did not conspire to bring about the ruin of the Stuart monarchy. Indeed, while they disagreed over the prospects of reaching a satisfactory accommodation with a monarch whom Montereul held to be afflicted by ‘his natural irresolution’, they both agreed that the key to any British settlement for the restoration of the Stuart monarchy was to bring the Prince of Wales (the future Charles II) to Scotland. However, there was no prospect that this would be accomplished as a joint endeavour. In any case, bringing the Prince to Scotland was staunchly resisted by Montereul and by Pierre de Bellièvre, who had replaced his brother Pompone as French Ambassador in London in October 1647. Montereul was particularly insistent that Mazarin caution Queen Henrietta Maria against allowing the Prince of Wales to fall into the clutches of Hamilton or Argyll. The acquisition of the Prince of Wales would not necessarily assist Charles I, as both Hamilton and Argyll were liable to use his arrival in Scotland as a means of raising their bargaining position with the Independents and the New Model Army. If France was seen to countenance the departure of the Prince of Wales for Scotland it would compromise her room for diplomatic manoeuvre with the Parliamentarians and facilitate Spanish overtures for an alliance, especially with the Independents (Montereul II, 51, 213, 240, 247, 275, 294-5, 299; Rafferty 82-90).

35Nevertheless, Lauderdale, Loudoun and Lanark secretly concluded the Engagement with Charles I in Carisbrooke Castle on 26 December 1647, to defend and restore the authority of Britannic monarchy (The Scots-Mans Remonstrance; RS Anglica 521; Burnet 365-78; Scally 54-73). Under the Britannic Engagement, which came into force in 1648, Charles was not obliged to subscribe to the Covenants. Ideological imperatives were further diluted by the stipulation that Presbyterianism would be imposed on England for no more than a trial period of three years. This effective abrogation of the Covenanters’ revolutionary platform in favour of a negotiating position put forward earlier by the Presbyterians but not accepted by Charles I was intolerable to Argyll and the radicals, who enjoyed vociferous support from the Kirk. The Engagement effectively conceded that the Covenanters had lost the political initiative within the British Isles. Simultaneously, it represented a reactionary effort to reassert aristocratic dominance and promote a conservative resurgence in all three kingdoms (Baillie III, 444-50; NAS Hamilton GD 406/1/1193, /2156, /2212, /2254, /2368, /10806).

36However, Scottish armed intervention in a renewed phase of civil war during 1648 only briefly raised the hopes of the English Royalists. The Engagers’ invasion was not co-ordinated with localised resistance in Wales, Kent and Essex, nor with the brief Royalist resurgence on the English Border, nor with the naval mutiny in the Downs. French diplomatic brokerage notwithstanding, the Engagers did not make common cause with the Royalist coalition led by Ormond and Inchiquin in Ireland, where the withdrawal of Covenanting forces under Sir George Munro had hastened the demise of the armed Scottish presence in Ulster. Indeed de Bellièvre and especially Montereul acted less as diplomatic brokers than as perceptive commentators on political rivalries (British Bell-man; TNA Derby House SP21/27 ff 129-30; Bennett). In England, the Britannic Engagement revived Scotophobia and the desire of the Independents to be quit of the Solemn League and Covenant. The Presbyterians remained aloof although they had been intermittently suspected by the Independents and the Army for wishing to bring back Scottish forces during 1647. Their residual commitment to the cause of both kingdoms took solace from the refusal of Argyll, Leven and his second in command, David Leslie to participate in an expeditionary force that began to unravel under Hamilton’s uncertain military leadership. The Engagers were soundly defeated by Cromwell at Preston, Lancashire on 17 August (House of Commons assembled; Clarke Papers II, 251-2; NAS Hamilton GD 406/1/2284, /2389, /2403, /2408, /2442, /2454).

  • 9 Over the course of the seventeen months he was stationed in the Scottish capital, Montereul had com (...)

37In advance of the Engagers crossing the Border into England, Montereul took his leave from Scotland in July. In a valedictory address from Edinburgh, Montereul had made clear to Mazarin that Franco-Scottish relations were but ‘the shadow of an old alliance’. Nevertheless, in response to entreaties from radicals as well as conservatives, his brother Mathieu, who had arrived that June, was left as a resident French presence in Edinburgh. Still not convinced that the Engagers prioritised the restoration of Charles I over improving their negotiating position with the Independents and the New Model Army, Montereul strenuously exhorted Mazarin to ensure that the French Court offered no more than good wishes along with limited supplies of arms and ammunition. On no account was France to be compromised in England to the advantage of Spain. He made no effort to contact Charles I on the Isle of Wight once he arrived in London en route for Paris (Montereul II, 74, 127, 286-7, 377, 394, 489-538; Macinnes, The British Confederate 237-45).9

38Once news of the defeat at Preston filtered back to Scotland, the radicals in western districts staged a successful revolt which commenced with the Whiggamore Raid on Edinburgh in September. Argyll and his supporters were checked temporarily at Stirling by Lanark, reinforced by the forces from Ireland under Munro. Armed support from Oliver Cromwell, who had come into Scotland to assist the radicals, persuaded the Engagers to give up the reins of government. Although Cromwell contemplated and many Scots feared a conquest, he was content to reinstall Argyll and the radicals in power now committed to the exclusion of Engagers as well as Royalists from public office.


39The radical regime that came to power in Scotland at the outset of 1649 was intent on redressing the unremitting centralism within the Covenanting Movement over the past eleven years and to a programme of social restructuring (NLS Parliament MSS 8482 ff 1-82; The Clarke Papers II, 52-3; Letter from Cromwell; Macinnes, “First Scottish Tories; Young, The Scottish Parliament 189-227).However, such radical programming was overtaken by news of the execution of Charles I on 30 January 1649. In England, as in Scotland, there had been an effective coup d’état by radical forces in late 1648 that were led by Cromwell and were intent upon regicide and republicanism in which the English commonwealth became a free state and duly annexed Ireland and Scotland (Walker 140, 156-8, 166-74; Smith, Constitutional Royalism 138-40, 196-7). By this juncture, France was convulsed by the Frondes, whose outbreak had coincided with the implementation of the Britannic Engagement. Political posturing notwithstanding, French diplomatic endeavours between 1643 and 1648 were marked largely by perceptive positioning and persistent persuasion. However, the French Court was powerless to prevent the execution of Charles I or the subsequent occupation of Scotland by Cromwell and the regicides, who returned not as comrades but as conquerors in 1650-51.

40Between 1649 and 1651, Argyll stage-managed the patriotic accommodation under which radical Covenanters eventually fought alongside former Engagers and Royalists for Charles II, whom they recognized and had crowned as King of Great Britain and Ireland. Indeed, Argyll used his political influence within the exiled household of Queen Henrietta Maria and at the French Court, through his strong personal links with Mathieu de Montereul as the Edinburgh resident, to help persuade Charles II to ally with the radical Covenanters. Notwithstanding attempts by Charles II to stall his acceptance of covenanted kingship, Argyll, with the backing of the French Court and the States General of the Dutch Republic, was determined to maintain monarchy not just within Scotland, but to sustain the Stuarts as a British dynasty. However, division and ineptitude in the military command compounded by physical and financial exhaustion in the country debilitated Scottish resistance to Cromwellian occupation. With no prospect of relief from France or any further release of Scottish troops from Swedish or Dutch service, the Covenanting Movement opted for forced union with England rather than further bloodshed (Macinnes, The British Confederate 253-75).

41France had given the Scottish Covenanters tacit support and encouragement during the Bishops’ Wars of 1639-40. In turn, the Covenanters had kept France informed of their plans for British confessional confederation during the Wars for the Three Kingdoms. In terms of military assistance the Franco-Scottish exchanges were no more than a token replay of the “auld alliance”. Yet, there was a familiar dénouement. France, despite the Frondes, remained on course to replace Spain as the leading European power. Scotland had its last fling as independent player in international relations. Occupation in 1651 left a legacy of defeatism and doubt: was providence on the side of the Covenanting Movement? Nevertheless, the right to resist was not relinquished.

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Primary Sources


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British Library [BL], Historical Letters & Papers 1633-1655, Add.MSS 33,596 Miscellaneous Letters etc., 1566-1804, Add.MSS 36,540
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1 Existing Scottish forces in French service consisted of the Guarde de Corps, Gens d’Arms and the Regiment of Guards. The senior Scottish officer was Lord James Douglas, son to William, 1st Marquess of Douglas, a prominent Catholic but a rather low profile Royalist. Lord Douglas, along with other Scottish officers in French service, had been lobbying for Scottish reinforcements without success since 1640 (NAS Hamilton GD 406/1/1255; BL, Trumbull Add.MSS 72,428 fo 167). Despite the Kirk’s insistence that the reinforcements all had to be Presbyterian, the presence of Irvine, indicates that the Covenanting leadership was primarily concerned to move political misfits, adventurers averse to ideological conformity and other disruptive elements overseas. Irvine, who was wounded in Germany, returned to London to die in the autumn of 1644.

2 The Duc d’Orléans was squeezed out of the regency government by Anne of Austria to become the maladroit governor of Languedoc in 1644. He subsequently opposed Mazarin during the fronds which convulsed France between 1648 and 1653. (Collins 23, 52, 56-7, 65-8; Vergé-Franceschi 70-1, 91-2). Dishington was subsequently to return to Paris in February 1645 claiming to be an envoy for the two kingdoms. His mission was again a Royalist front having no warrant from either the Parliamentarians or the Covenanters, but he did gain the ear of the Queen Mother and was viewed as supportive to Swedish interests in Britain (BL, Turnbull Add.MSS 72,434, fo 20; Montereul I, 3 & II, 564-5; RS Mowatt AOSB ser B. E583)

3 The Committee of Estates (the Covenanting executive)had strenuously petitioned the king in January 1644 that Lothian’s close confinement was a breach of international law and that diplomatic convention required that “he be judged at home” if he had negotiated in France against the interests of the king or country. Notwithstanding that Hamilton had attracted radical opprobrium for his desire “more to serve the king than God”, the Scottish commissioners complained that his current imprisonment in Oxford at the behest of Charles I was contrary to Scots law, which required that all subjects who committed wrongs in Scotland were tried there (MSH Papers bundles 1/2607 & Deeds bundle 170002; Ancrum & Lothian I, 160-1; Scots Commissioners 6, 10-13, 22-7, 33-4, 45, 50, 53, 57-8).

4 Manoeuvres of French troops in Brittany and Normandy during the Uxbridge negotiations was no more than sabre rattling, not a serious threat to deploy forces either against the Covenanters and Parliamentarians or in support of the Irish Confederation of Catholics.

5 Angier provided regular despatches from the French Court until December 1646, albeit his credentials had come under question by the Committee of the Lords and Commons for Foreign Affairs seven months earlier. Notwithstanding support from Mazarin and the Queen Mother, Angier had difficulty establishing himself at the French Court as a public agent of the Great Britain, chiefly because of the obstinate behavior of the Count of Briennes. As Secretary of State, Briennes was to insist that Pierre de Believre reported directly to him on being sent as French ambassador to Charles I in the summer of 1646(BL, Trumbull Papers, vol. CXCIII, Add.MSS 72,434, ff.21-178 & vol. CXCVI, Add.MSS 72,437 ff.87,91).

6 The Covenanters did not regard control over the militia solely as an English issue as the Independents were insisting. Their effective exclusion of royal control for life was too long, fundamentally inconsistent with the Solemn League and a further disincentive to Charles to covenant. The issue of command over the forces in Ireland was in danger of going by default if the Parliamentarians took no account of Scottish interests.

7 Two instalments amounting to £200,000 was actually paid between 30 January and 3 February 1647, on the surrender of the northern garrisons but prior to the Covenanting forces crossing the Border; the remainder went by default.

8 Montereul had originally found Argyll cautious and reserved. He soon discovered that the Marquess was a much more volatile character, given to theatrical plays in the Scottish Estates. Argyll certainly was concerned about longstanding claims that ‘he sought his own private interest in the public cause’ and more recent aspersions that ‘he thought rather of establishing his own authority with the help of the Army than of preserving the liberties of the people’. At the same time, he was not averse to subterfuge to flush out Hamilton’s comparative standing with the French Court. Lanark was then pursuing a pension from France to complement that paid to his brother, albeit Hamilton’s was unpaid for six years. It continued so, as the French remained uncertain about the Duke’s commitment to restoring Charles I either by negotiation or by force. (Montereul II, 71, 140, 280-1, 337)

9 Over the course of the seventeen months he was stationed in the Scottish capital, Montereul had complained frequently about his inadequate diplomatic funding. However, he had acted supportively for Scottish merchants who were aggrieved by diverse requirements to pay levies on strangers trading in France; levies which they deemed contrary to the ‘auld alliance’. The French envoy was also sympathetic to political overtures, notably from Argyll, to deny Dunkirkers, licensed to privateer by the Prince of Wales, access to their home port after its capture by the French from the Spanish.

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Allan I. MACINNES, « Covenanting Exchanges with the French Court during the Wars for the Three Kingdoms », E-rea [En ligne], 11.2 | 2014, mis en ligne le 15 juillet 2014, consulté le 15 décembre 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/erea.3678

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Professor of Early Modern History, University of Strathclyde.
Allan I. Macinnes is Professor of Early Modern History in the University of Strathclyde. He has written extensively on British state formation, Scottish Jacobitism and Highland clans and clearances. His most recent monograph was The British Confederate: Archibald Campbell, Marquess of Argyll, c.1607-1661 (Edinburgh: John Donald, 2011) and he has just jointly edited with Douglas Hamilton, Jacobitism, Enlightenment and Empire, 1680-1820 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2014).

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