Robert Baillie, 1602-62

Leading Scottish clergyman and publicist for the Covenanter cause.

The son of a pious Glasgow merchant, Robert Baillie attended the University of Glasgow where he earned a reputation for outstanding literary and academic ability. He was appointed minister of the parish of Kilwinning in Ayrshire in 1631 and married Lilias Fleming (d.1653) the following year. Baillie was uneasy at the attempt by Charles I and Archbishop Laud to introduce reforms into the Scottish Kirk; he preferred to avoid controversy but reluctantly became involved in the drafting of the National Covenant in February 1638. Like other clergymen, Baillie adopted a moderate position at the Glasgow Assembly of November 1638 where he spoke against moves to declare episcopacy unlawful and to persecute opponents of the Covenanters. Despite his opposition to war against England, Baillie was persuaded to serve as chaplain to the regiment of his patron the Earl of Eglinton during the Bishops' Wars (1639-40).

Baillie wrote several tracts promoting the Covenanter cause which helped gain support for the movement from Puritans in England and Europe. In November 1640, he was one of the clergymen who accompanied the Scottish commissioners negotiating the Treaty of London and he remained in London as an observer at the Westminster Assembly during 1643-6. Baillie continued to preach and write in support of the union of the Kirk and the Church of England under a Presbyterian system, but enthusiasm amongst English Parliamentarians for the union quickly subsided once the Scottish army had helped secure the military defeat of the Royalists.

Having been appointed a professor of divinity at Glasgow University in 1642, Baillie returned to his theological duties until 1649, when he was among the commissioners appointed to negotiate with Charles II the terms under which he could become king of Scotland. Baillie retained his position at Glasgow University during the confusion of the early 1650s when he sided with the majority Resolutioner party against the extremist Remonstrants.

After the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, he was appointed Principal of Glasgow University through the patronage of the Earl of Lauderdale, though the subsequent enforced re-introduction of episcopacy into the Scottish church demoralised him. He died in August 1662.

Baillie's Letters and Journals were collected and published in 1841. They describe events spanning most of his career and are an important source for historians.


David Stevenson, Robert Baillie, Oxford DNB, 2004

David Stevenson, The Scottish Revolution 1637-44, 1973

David Stevenson, Revolution & Counter-Revolution in Scotland 1644-51, 1977


Letters and Journals of Robert Baillie, vol.1 vol.2 vol.3