The Scots, who had surrendered Charles I to the English Parliament, were shocked by his execution, suddenly remembering that his father was a Scot. They looked upon Pride’s Purge of Presbyterians from the Long Parliament as a violation of the Solemn League and Covenant by which that Parliament had sworn fidelity to Scotland and the Presbyterian faith; they feared that the victorious Puritans would attempt to force their own form of Protestantism upon Scotland as well as England. On February 5, 1649, less than a week after the beheading of Charles I, the Scottish Parliament or Estates proclaimed his son Charles II, then in the Netherlands, to be the rightful King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland.
Before they would allow his entry into Scotland they required him to sign the National Covenant and the Solemn League and Covenant, and swear to maintain or establish Presbyterian Protestantism in all his dominions and in his household. Charles II, who was already a mixture of Catholicism and skepticism, had no talent for Presbyterianism, but much relish for a throne; he reluctantly signed all these demands at Breda on May i, 1650. Montrose, noblest of the Scots in this age, led a small force from the Orkneys into Scotland, hoping to raise for Charles an army independent of the Covenanters; he was defeated, captured, and hanged (May 21, 1650). On June 23 Charles landed in Scotland, eager to head an army against the Puritan Commonwealth that had beheaded his father. Before the Scots would fight for him they induced him to issue a declaration in which he desired to be “deeply humbled before God because of his father’s opposition to the Solemn League and Covenant, and because his mother had been guilty of idolatry” (Catholicism). 19 To expiate the sins of Charles I and II the Scottish clergy ordained, for the army and the people, a solemn fast, and assured the army that now—the young King having made amends to Heaven—it would be invincible. 20 On the insistence of the ministers all officers who put loyalty to the King above loyalty to the Covenant and the Kirk were purged from the army; in this way eighty of its ablest leaders were discharged.
Cromwell proposed to the English Parliament that he invade Scotland at once, without waiting for a Scottish attack. Fairfax, who had refused to take part in the trial of Charles I, now resigned his supreme command of the Commonwealth armies. Cromwell, appointed to succeed him, organized his forces with his usual decision and speed, and crossed into Scotland (July 22, 1650) at the head of sixteen thousand men. On August 3 he sent to the Commission of the General Assembly of the Scottish Kirk a letter full of intestinal fortitude: “Is it infallibly agreeable to the Word of God, all that you say? I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken.” 21 At Dunbar (September 3) he routed the main Scottish armies, taking ten thousand prisoners; soon he held Edinburgh and Leith. The Scottish preachers lost face and infallibility; the purged officers were hastily recalled. Charles II was formally crowned at Scone. Cromwell took sick in Edinburgh, and for some months the conflict marked time.
Then the reorganized Scottish army, with Charles at its head, marched into England, hoping that all good royalists and Presbyterians would come to the banner of legitimacy and truth. Cromwell pursued them, gathering local militia as he passed through the English towns. At Worcester (September 3, 1651) the battle was fought that preserved the Commonwealth and made Charles again an exile; by superior strategy and courage, Cromwell’s lesser forces defeated thirty thousand Scots. Charles was brave, but he was no general. He strove to rally his disordered troops, but they seemed awed and palsied by Cromwell’s reputation as a warrior who never lost a battle; many of them threw down their arms and fled. Charles begged his officers to shoot him; they refused, and a few of his most devoted followers led him to temporary safety in a royalist home. There he cut his hair close to his head, discolored his hands and face, exchanged his clothes for those of a laborer, and began a long march, on horse and foot, hunted from one hiding place to another, sleeping in attics, barns, or woods, once in a “Royal Oak” tree in Boscobel while Commonwealth soldiers searched for him below. Often recognized, never betrayed, he and his party, after forty days of flight, found at Shoreham, in Sussex, a vessel whose captain agreed, at the risk of his life, to take them to France (October 15).
Cromwell entrusted to General George Monck the further suppression of the Scottish rebels; by February, 1652, this was complete. Scotland was made subject to England, its separate Parliament was dissolved, but the country was allowed to send thirty delegates to the London Parliament. The Kirk was chastened by the prohibition of its general assemblies, and by the toleration of all peaceful Protestant sects. Economically, Scotland benefited from the new freedom of trade with England. Politically it waited and prayed for a Stuart restoration.