Making the Union: Scottish Royalists and the British Civil War

Painting of Charles II greeting his Scottish troops at the Battle of Worcester available from this page.

In part 3 of our series "Making the Union", which looks at the British Civil War (1638-1660), we remember the Scottish Royalist forces who fought to put Charles II on the throne of Great Britain.


In 1644, when Charles I was still on the throne, the Scottish Covenanters were allied with the English Parliamentarians. A combined Covenanter and Parliamentarian army – led by Alexander Leslie, Earl of Leven – besieged York. The city was held by Sir Thomas Fairfax and pro-Charles Royalists.

Royalist forces were sent up to relieve the city, led by Prince Rupert of the Rhine, but they were to lose on the 2 July 1644 at the Battle of Marston Moor, thought to be one of the largest battles fought on British soil.

It was at this Battle that Oliver Cromwell distinguished himself as a cavalry commander.

REGICIDE OF CHARLES I – 30 January 1649

On 30 January in 1649, Charles I was beheaded at Whitehall.

On 5 February 1649, 6 days later, the Covenanter Parliament of Scotland proclaimed his son Charles II "King of Great Britain, France and Ireland".

However, they refused to allow him to enter Scotland unless he accepted their Presbyterian terms.

Note they proclaimed him "King of Great Britain, France and Ireland". That is, a body with (arguably) the authority to do so, pronounced him King of all these realms.

Therefore, the idea that Britain was a republic between the execution of Charles I and the restoration of Charles II in England on 29 May 1660 is not entirely correct when viewed from this perspective.

There was still a King who was recognised by many people, albeit a contested one without complete constitutional authority.