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16. The National Covenant of Scotland

By Stephen Preston, Heritage and Cultural Coordinator at St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh (@StGilesHighKirk)

The National Covenant of Scotland of 1638 was a document designed as a nationwide petition to King Charles I of England and Scotland, requesting that he cease trying to impose Anglicanism on Scotland and leave it to be Presbyterian. This, at a time when both England and Scotland’s reformations were less than 100 years old and Anglicanism was still a little too close to Catholicism for some. In this context, the authors of the Covenant attacked Anglicanism with some pretty damning language. Phrases such as ‘…his five bastard sacraments…’ and ‘…blasphemous opinion of transubstantiation…’ but also ‘…seeing that many are stirred up by Satan and that Roman Antichrist…’ perhaps hint to the feeling against Anglicanism in Scotland. Unfortunately, the Covenant did not have the desired effect. Whilst the Covenant clearly attacked the King’s policy, the Covenant never questions the King himself, the Scottish lords ‘…stand to the defence of our dread Sovereign the King’s Majesty …’. Charles appears to have ignored this olive branch from the Covenanters, and pressed ahead with the imposition of the Anglican Church in Scotland.

Image: Photograph by Stephen Preston

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