The Settlement of Scotland, 1651-60

In August 1651, Cromwell's army of invasion marched out of Scotland on the Worcester campaign, which culminated in the total defeat of King Charles II and the Scots-Royalist army at the battle of Worcester on 3 September. With Royalists and Covenanters still active in Scotland, Cromwell left around 6,000 troops and the greater part of the artillery train under the command of Lieutenant-General George Monck with orders to subdue remaining Scottish resistance.

The Subjugation of Scotland

Monck worked systematically to reduce Scottish strongholds and to prevent the various factions in Scotland from uniting against the Commonwealth army. Stirling Castle was bombarded into submission on 15 August 1651; two weeks later, Monck's forces stormed Dundee, which was sacked and plundered in reprisal for defying his summons to surrender. Monck sent troops of cavalry to police Glasgow and to patrol south-western Scotland to prevent any attempt to raise new forces there.

Most members of the Committee of Estates were arrested by Monck's soldiers at Alyth near Dundee at the end of August 1651. Attempts by Lord Balcarres and the Earl of Loudoun to organise further resistance proved ineffective. By the end of the year, with the exception of a few isolated castles, the Lowlands were under English control and most Royalist and Covenanter leaders had surrendered.

In an attempt to pacify the nation, Monck and his successor Major-General Richard Deane imposed strict military discipline on the occupying English soldiers. Local lairds were encouraged to cooperate with the English by taking responsibility for law and order within their areas of influence. Large numbers of prisoners were released under amnesty.

The Tender of Union

With the defeat of the Royalist cause, the republican English government planned to incorporate Scotland into the Commonwealth with England. Initial proposals were published by the Council of State in October 1651 and the "Tender of Union" was presented to the Westminster Parliament in March 1652. The Scots were not consulted over the union. It was proclaimed in Edinburgh on 21 April 1652.

The union included religious toleration across the two nations (excluding Catholics and episcopalians) and the forfeiture of all royal property and revenues. The Committee of Estates was abolished and, under an Ordinance of Union passed by the Council of State in April 1654, thirty Scottish representatives were authorised to be elected to the Westminster Parliament. There was no attempt to incorporate the Scottish legal system, but a new Court of Judicature was established in Edinburgh to replace the Court of Session, with seven presiding magistrates, four of whom were English. Nine commissioners were appointed to regulate the universities and the church, and an Admiralty court was established at Leith, which also had responsibility for managing estates confiscated from Royalists.

While most Scots grudgingly accepted the imposition of the union, the Kirk remained opposed to toleration of the Independent sects and to the breaking of the link between Crown and Covenant. However, the Kirk itself was deeply divided by internal factionalism between moderate Resolutioners and hardline Remonstrants. Rival General Assemblies of the Kirk were held at Edinburgh in 1653, but were seen as a threat and suppressed by Commonwealth troops. The General Assembly did not meet again until after the Restoration.

Military resistance to the English occupation continued among the Royalist clans of the Highlands and culminated in Glencairn's Uprising of 1653-4. After the defeat of the rebellion in July 1654, the English occupation was consolidated by General Monck who remained military governor of Scotland until 1660. Great citadels were built at Ayr, Perth and Leith near Edinburgh; a string of twenty smaller fortresses was built at strategic locations across Scotland out to Orkney and Stornoway. Two citadels were also established at Inverlochy and Inverness to subdue the Highlands. The repressed hostility of the Scots towards the English occupation required the maintenance of a strong army of around 18,000 men, though this number was gradually reduced to around 11,000 by the end of 1657.

Cromwellian citadel at Ayr
Cromwellian citadel at Ayr

Protectorate & Restoration

When Cromwell became Lord Protector, he hoped that Scotland would become a willing participant in the union. In the summer of 1655, a nine-man Council of Scotland was appointed to control justice, trade and revenue and to regulate the universities and the church. Lord Broghill was appointed president of the Council. He worked energetically to reconcile the lairds and clergy to the Protectorate régime, but with limited success. The return of local power to the Scots was continued with the appointment of many gentry as justices of the peace—though this resulted in a renewal of prosecutions for witchcraft from 1657 onwards that built to a peak during 1660-3.

The Union lapsed with the return of the Rump Parliament in May 1659 when all ordinances passed during the Protectorate were regarded as invalid. Parliament considered a bill for a fuller union of the two nations but was not in power long enough to carry it through. Scottish representatives were not allowed to attend the Convention Parliament of April 1660 but four commissioners were appointed to govern Scotland.

The Restoration of Charles II was eagerly anticipated in Scotland. The Committee of Estates was re-appointed as an interim government prior to the full meeting of the Scottish Parliament in January 1661. On 28 March, Parliament passed an act annulling all legislation passed in Scotland since 1633, the year that Charles I was crowned King of Scots. The National Covenant was repudiated, a modified form of Episcopalian church government was re-introduced and ultimate power was restored to the King in London.


C.H. Firth, The Last Years of the Protectorate 1656-58 vol. ii (London 1909)

S.R. Gardiner, History of the Commonwealth and Protectorate vol. ii (London 1903)

Ronald Hutton, The British Republic 1649-60 (Basingstoke 2000)

David Stevenson, Revolution & Counter-Revolution in Scotland 1644-51 (Newton Abbott 1977)


The Protectorate citadel of Ayr

Union with Scotland — Cromwellian Style History of Parliament blog