1638 - The National Covenant

It was in 1638 that adult males in Scotland were first invited to sign the National Covenant - a solemn affirmation of their commitment to the Scottish Presbyterian tradition in defiance of the religious policy of Charles I. This action by the 'Covenanters', as they were known, was a warning shot across the bows of the monarchy, and heralded the outbreak of civil war in the British Isles.

This copy of the Covenant was probably signed between May and September 1639 to mark the defection of Lord George Gordon to the Covenanting cause. Lord George was the eldest son of a leading royalist peer, the Marquis of Huntly. In April 1639 he and his father were captured by Covenanters led by Montrose and taken prisoner to Edinburgh. Subsequently the young man's uncle, the Marquis of Argyll, brought pressure to bear on him to sign the Covenant as evidence of his loyalty. Here is the proof that he did. The document was drawn up by Edinburgh writer John Laurie, who specialised in producing these beautiful illuminated Covenants. Only the best would do for such a high-profile defector.

Lord George later switched sides again, and he eventually died fighting on the royalist side at the battle of Alford, for the very man who had captured him in the first place: Montrose.

Adv.MS. 20.6.15

The National Covenant


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