Two Shameful and despicable Deals for Scotland – Part 1
Scotland had two Unions forced onto the nation, the first by a King, and the 1603 Union of Crowns, then almost one hundred years later its nobles forced through the 1707 Act of Union that the people of Scotland had no say or vote on, both Unions were controversial, unworthy and totally underhand in their concept, and are still causing as much controversy in todays politics. In a two-part blog I will tell the story behind the 1603 and 1707 Unions and how they changed Scotland, not always for the good of the nation, but change Scotland they did!
James VI was crowned King of Scots in 1567, but after his coronation Scotland was plunged into civil war for nearly twenty years, mainly through political differences rather than religious. After his mother Mary Queen of Scots had fled Scotland, the Scots Lords had agreed that the Earl of Moray, Mary’s half brother, should be regent. However, there would be a further three Regents during the young Kings early years.
The Protestant nobles resolved to educate their young ruler in their own way, and at the age of four he was put under the strict guidance of George Buchanan where he quickly mastered Latin and Greek and could committee long passages of the bible to memory. He had a personal library of over 6000 books and became the best-educated prince of his day; and was renowned as the Wisest Fool in Christendom.
Various lords, who all conspired to control him and the power that came with it, would hold the boy King captive. By the time he was sixteen–years-old the monarch perceived the uneasy alliance of his captors, their weak-ness and rivalries, and worked on them to achieve an end to his detention and had messages smuggled out to other lords.
One of those who helped to mastermind the young kings escape was Patrick Gray, Master of Gray, eldest son of the fifth Lord Gray. He was one of the most fascinating figures ever to perform on the Scottish stage, a sliver – tongued rogue possessed of the utmost charm. The great aim through his career was the eventual placing of James on the throne of a united kingdom of Scotland and England and the end of centuries of warfare between the two countries.
In 1589, having married Ann of Denmark by proxy, and his bride having twice been driven back by storms from crossing to Scotland, James decided to go to Denmark himself to collect her. He returned to Scotland at the end of April 1590 with his fifteen-year –old Queen. They would have two children the first Prince Henry died of typhoid in 1612 and the young Prince Charles who found himself in the unexpected position as next in line to the throne of two kingdoms.
King James believed that the law was the command of the King and that sovereignty, therefore, was the right to make that law and the Divine Right of Kingship, calming that under God he had the sole right to rule. Apart from his determination to break the power of the Kirk in Scotland the only lasting monument to his interest in Scotland’s religion was to be the Authorized Version of the Bible, which he commissioned in 1604.
James and Elizabeth of England (The Virgin Queen) played cat and mouse politics. She continued to dangle her throne before the canny and crafty King of Scots. The succession of James to the English Throne was made possible because in 1503, James IV of Scotland married Margaret, eldest daughter of Henry VII of England; the marriage brought Scotland’s Stuarts into England’s Tudor Line of succession.
In 1603 the Union of Crowns, was the accession of James VI of Scotland to the throne of England, and came at a significant time in Scotland’s history. In the sixteenth century, the Scots were an outward looking nation, justly proud of their contribution to Europe. Now their King was off to England and London to become James the first of England.
Many Scots viewed the union of the two crowns cautiously, for their nation was about to be linked to a rich and powerful old enemy, this was a severe blow to the Scots. The oldest kingdom of Europe was suddenly deprived of its resident King and subjected to a totally new kind of government, at long range. The King of Scots had been always been just that, much closer to his people than any other European Kingdom, the title ‘of Scots’ not ‘Scotland’ Significant.
Hundreds of Scots followed James south and settled in London, where they profited greatly and in doing so gave birth to the Scottish dilemma. Many Scots families that are now living in gracious country houses and estates, to go with the grand house, can thank their privileged ancestors who made profit in London from James becoming King of England. James was always short of cash and would sale titles and land to the highest bidder to keep his purse full of siller. Alas the ordinary people of Scotland were not to benefit from their King’s good fortune or that of the new up-starts that had followed him to London!
James also used the power of England to extend his rule to the wild Highlands of Scotland in order to civilize the Highlander, as he saw fit to do so. He ordered that the Highlanders must accept the more peaceful lifestyle of the Lowlands, to abandon their Catholicism and accept the reformed religion and in future, the eldest son or daughter of the Clan Chief was to be sent south to Learn to speak, read and write English. At first it made little difference with most Clans, however, it was the beginning of the end of a way of life and culture in the Highlands.
King James VI and I, was also responsible for formal invitation to Scots and Northern English to participate in the plantation of Ulster in 1609. The motives for the mostly Scots plantation of Antrim and Down were political, strategic, financial and religious. Ireland was to be made part of Protestant Europe and James approached the project with missionary zeal. By the end of his reign over 8000 Scots capable of bearing arms had settled there.
Although James talked in broad Scots all his life he was never homesick, he was too concerned in basking in England’s opulence, to Scotland’s demise. He called his two Kingdoms by a new name, Great Britain, which he had to force an unwilling English Parliament to use. This is where the idea for the British and Great Britain came from, a Scottish King, with ambitions to create a new nation out of two.
James VI died in 1625. Scots mourned his passing but felt they had gained little by giving Britain its first Monarch. When Charlie’s the first succeed his father, and despite being Scottish born, he was even more antagonistic towards Scotland than his father. Charles also believed in the Divine Right and was incapable of understanding the feelings with which the Scots clung to their faith. This lead to the National Covenant, the Scots felt politically impotent and the Covenant was a means of expressing national as well as religious resistance to the despotic aims of Charles I. King Charles had brought about exactly the sort of crisis which would unite the Scottish people against him. He told his English Council that he would have to use force against ‘this small cloud in the North’.
With growing discontent in England over Charles and that small cloud in the North would eventually cause a storm that would plunged both countries into a bloody civil war and eventually to war with each other over absolute stupidity.
Charles should have taken the advice of James Graham, Earl of Montrose, but as ever he was responsible for his own downfall and was beset with his English problems, which were to culminate in his downfall and execution. As with his great grandmother, Mary Queen of Scots, he was sentence to death by an English court and the second Scots Monarch to be treated that way.
The Stewart ambition to be rulers of England, once realized, brought little benefit to Scotland or its people, just the chosen few!
Alba gu bràth