CHARLES I.—THE KING AND THE COVENANT
As long as James VI. was King of Scotland only, he was
guided and ruled a great deal by his nobles. But when
he went to England, he found the people there ready to
flatter him and to make much of him, and he soon became
very proud and haughty, and tried to do exactly as he
James had never cared for the Presbyterian Church,
as the Church of Scotland was called, and when he went
to England, he joined himself to the Episcopalian or
English Church. Presbyterianism was no religion for a
gentleman, he said. And all the rest of his life he tried to
force the Scottish people to do as he had done, but they
James only came back to Scotland once, after he
became King of England. When he died, he was suc
ceeded by his son Charles. Charles had been on the
throne eight years before he visited Scotland. When he
did come, however, the people welcomed him with joy,
and he was crowned at Edinburgh with great pomp and
But Charles was grave, unsmiling, and cold, such a
King as the Scots had never had, so their gladness soon
‘ Immediately after his coronation a Parliament was
held. Charles forced this Parliament to do as he wished
THE KING AND THE COVENANT 337
so that it was said that of the thirty-one acts passed, there
were not three but were hurtful to the liberty of the
people. And for the first time in all Scottish history, the
King and his Parliament quarrelled.
Charles went back to England, and soon afterwards,
with the help of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who was
called Laud, he made a new Prayer Book which, he said,
all the Scottish churches must use. This Prayer Book
was even more like the Roman Catholic Mass Book than
the English Prayer Book, so that the people were full of
fear and indignation. The King, they thought, was going
to force them to be Roman Catholics again.
It was announced that the new Prayer Book would be
used on 23rd July. All over the country, people crowded
to the churches. They were quivering with anger and
excitement ; their freedom and religion seemed both to
be in danger. For this was an act of tyranny. It was
done by the order of the King and the English bishops,
without consulting either the Scottish people or Parlia
To the church of St Giles in Edinburgh came bishops,
judges, magistrates, and gentlemen, besides great numbers
of the common people. The Dean entered, wearing a
white surplice instead of the plain black gown which the
Scottish ministers usually wore. He opened the new
Prayer Book, which was large and full of pictures. That
alone, to the stern Scottish Presbyterians, who hated all
pictures and images, was a sin.
The Dean began to read, but hardly had he uttered a
few words, when an old woman called Jenny Geddes, who
sat near the pulpit, sprang up. ‘ Thou false thief,’ she
cried, ‘ wilt thou say Mass at my ear ? ‘ and with that she
flung the stool, upon which she had been sitting, at the
338 SCOTLAND’S STORY
In a moment, all was confusion. People rushed at the
Dean and tore his white surplice from his shoulders.
They beat him and ill-treated him till he fled for his life.
The Bishop of Edinburgh got up into the pulpit and
tried to speak to the people. They would not listen. ‘ A
pope, a pope,’ they cried, ‘ pull him down, stone him.’
Soldiers were at last sent for, and the church was
cleared. The doors were locked and bolted, and the
service was read to the few who were in favour of it,
while the crowd without yelled and groaned, battered at
the door, and threw stones at the windows.
For a month after this, there was no service of any
kind held in the churches. Neither the new nor the old
Prayer Book was allowed to be used. The churches stood
desolate and empty. But the people had no thought of
giving in. They begged Charles to take away the hated
Prayer Book. But he would not.
Then the people rose as one man to resist. They
drew up a paper called the National Covenant, in which
they bound themselves to fight for their freedom of con
science. That is, for freedom to believe, and to do what
they felt to be right in matters of religion.
On the first day of March 1638 a.d. in Greyfriars
churchyard in Edinburgh, the National Covenant was first
signed. The paper was spread out upon a flat gravestone,
and noble after noble wrote his name. After them, came
ministers, gentlemen, tradesmen, and people of all ranks,
high and low. Never was there such excitement. Many
wept as they wrote their names. Others cut themselves
and signed in their own blood. Afterwards, noblemen and
gentlemen carried copies of the Covenant with them all
over the country, till thousands of names were added to
The Covenanters, as these Protestants were now called,
THE KING AND THE COVENANT 339
sent a letter to King Charles. They called it their Great
Supplication. Supplication means humble prayer. It
was sent back to them with the seal unbroken. The
King had refused even to read it.
It was to be war then ! The whole country was ready
for it. In every town and village the rattle of fire-arms
and the tramp of men was heard, as the people gathered
and drilled for the defence of their religion.
At last a great army was encamped upon a hill called
Dunse Law. Their leader was Sir Alexander Leslie, a
little, old, crooked soldier, with the heart of a giant and
the courage of a lion. The sides of the hill were covered
with wooden huts and with tents. Before the tent of
each captain fluttered a banner, with the rampant lion
of Scotland, and the motto, ‘For Christ’s Crown and
But after all, there was no fighting. At the last
moment Charles gave way. He promised the Cove
nanters the freedom they asked, and they sent their
soldiers to their homes again.
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