Glasgow Cathedral taken from the cemetery path. © Copyright Iain Marshall and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Licence – geograph.org.uk
The Glasgow Assembly of 1638 – a bit of background:
From Wikipedia: James VI of Scotland had reintroduced episcopacy to the Church of Scotland in 1584. After acceding to the English throne, he increased the numbers of bishops. His son, Charles I, continually tried to foster uniformity between the established churches of his realms following the Anglican model. His regulation of liturgy in Scotland through the imposition of a Book of Common Prayer in 1637 sparked rioting and led to a formalised opposition in the National Covenant. His attempts to control the situation from London were unsuccessful, and by July 1638 he decided in his English Privy Council that force would have to be used. To gain time, he agreed to a General Assembly of the Church of Scotland which met at Glasgow in November 1638, but the Assembly firmly decided that bishops were to be deposed and the prayer book abolished. Support for the Covenant grew under the leadership of James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose and Archibald Campbell, 8th Earl of Argyll, while soldiers serving abroad returned to Scotland, including General Alexander Leslie.
I wrote about the Covenanter uprising and the Glasgow Assembly in “DARK LORD” – book two of the Dark Birthright trilogy. Here is an excerpt from a chapter entitled ‘The Glasgow Assembly’:
Palace of Whitehall, London, England
King Charles was in a terrible mood. He woke this morning with a feeling of foreboding that escalated to a pounding headache. His wife had been no help. She’d insisted upon coupling to conceive a child. Why should he care? He had two strong sons to succeed him. This headache was intolerable. Why on earth did he marry a French woman? Henrietta was spoiled, fiery, and impossible to please. As he aged, her sexual appetites exceeded his, leaving both of them dissatisfied…
He slumped at the desk, massaging his temples. “Breathe, Charles… Imagine a garden… Roses… Lilies… Your beloved dogs are there… It’s a perfect painting.” He continued this fantasy until the headache subsided.
Charles took a sip of tea and followed it with a swig of laudanum. He sighed deeply and turned his attention to matters of State. His minister of Scottish affairs was in Glasgow, presiding over the Assembly. Charles didn’t trust Hamilton, even though he was a kinsman. The man had too much of a stake in Scotland to be a selfless agent of the King. He was a compromiser who changed his mind with bewildering rapidity. Archbishop Laud said that he had an incoherent mind. The King wondered if that was true. Hamilton was no diplomat, but he had a military record. This would be vital if they went to war. Unbeknownst to his minister, he’d been making preparations. So far, he’d been able to raise money for weapons and soldiers by selling crown lands and levying taxes. Swords and pikes were starting to arrive from Belgium and the Netherlands. He’d engaged a mathematician to advise him on fortifications. The expense was mind boggling. Unfortunately, the prospect of full scale war would force him to summon a Parliament. A parliament is a risky enterprise, he thought. I’ve ruled without one for more than ten years. Yet, it had to be done. Opposition to one of his taxes called Ship Money had caused widespread discontent.
The King needed time to prepare for war. A successful assembly would accomplish that. The initial signs were good. The Councillors had signed the King’s bond of faith and invited his bishops to attend. Glasgow had been chosen as the venue due to the nearness of Hamilton’s tenants and kinsmen. It was a sympathetic place to hold the Assembly.
Charles opened a fancy bottle and took another swig of laudanum. It had a strong alcoholic taste with a touch of cinnamon. He sighed deeply. “Laudanum is the nectar of the angels. To hell with my doctor’s warning!”
Glasgow Cathedral, 1pm
Glasgow Cathedral was a severe-looking structure reminiscent of the medieval period. Built during the 13th – 15th centuries on the site of St. Mungo’s church, it had been a place of Christian worship for hundreds of years. The interior was breathtaking, featuring richly vaulted ceilings and fluted stone pillars. This was the site selected by James Hamilton for the Assembly of the Scottish Kirk.
Hamilton was a bundle of nerves. Entering the congregational area, he sensed the spirits of thousands of men who walked this path before him. He’d been given an awesome responsibility, made difficult by a changing political situation. In his absence, events had once again marched ahead of him. In the opening session, Lord Rothes and other Covenanters made it clear that the bishops would only be allowed to appear as criminals before the bench. Leading laymen intended to be present as elders of the church. It was a cunning move on the part of the Covenanters. The elections would be managed so that no opponent of the Covenant had a chance to appear before the Assembly.
James grumbled under his breath. Glasgow had turned out to be a hostile venue. His tenants and kinsmen were under the control of his mother, Lady Cunningham, who recently announced that she was a Covenanter. My own mother is against me!
His worst fears had been realized. None of the King’s bishops attended, because they followed Bishop Spottiswood into exile. The bishop had been falsely accused of debauchery – profaning the Sabbath, carding and dicing, adultery, incest, and drinking in taverns. He’d narrowly escaped with his skin. Leading lay Covenanters attended the Assembly as elders, many of them armed for conflict.
That morning, James had written a note to the King. Your Majesty. Truly Sir, my soul was never sadder than to see such a sight; not one gown amongst the whole company, many swords but many more daggers. The commissioners, some illiterate, many rigid and seditious Puritans, fill me with despair. What then can be expected but disobedience to authority, if not rebellion?
Things got worse. Archibald Campbell, one of the most powerful Scots, attended as the eighth Earl of Argyll because of the recent death of his father. A member of the Privy Council, he now had few reasons to prevent him from signing the Covenant. He’d confronted Hamilton about the King’s plot to use his father’s influence against him, which made him a ready opponent.
The King’s commissioner was sweating. This afternoon, he had to read a protest on behalf of the truant bishops. The participants were taking their seats in the meeting area surrounding the pulpit. As the day wore on, he tried to have the protest read and failed. Hamilton was ignored as the Assembly elected Alexander Henderson as Moderator and Archibald Johnstone as clerk. It was an ominous start to the Assembly.
Six days later, after a long and bitter argument with the Lords Rothes and Loudoun over election, membership, and powers of Assembly, James Hamilton declared its dissolution. He pronounced the gathering illegal in the eyes of the King and commanded all present to depart on pain of treason. The commissioner and other royal officers withdrew, leaving Scotland in the hands of the Covenanters…
More about the trilogy at: