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25 September 2010

On this day in history: The Solemn League and Covenant, 1643

The British Civil Wars of the mid-seventeenth century have many causes. King Charles I brought about one such cause in 1637 when he and Archbishop Laud attempted to bring the Scottish and English churches closer together by replacing the authoritative text to organisation of the Kirk, John Knox's Book of Discipline, with a new Book of Canons, and by introducing a slightly amended version of the English Book of Common Prayer into Scotland. Resistance to these reforms grew over the following year culminating in the Scottish National Covenant by the majority of Scots (sometimes under duress), uniting them in the common cause of resistance to reform of their national church.

King Charles' need for new taxes to fund military action against the Covenanters brought about the eleven years of Personal Rule when he called no parliaments. He quickly dismissed the Short Parliament of 1640 when they refused to grant him more money to fight the Scots, who then defeated Charles' army at Newburn. The king then called, what became known as, the Long Parliament, which was no more amenable to the king's wishes causing a conflict that dragged the country into civil war in 1642.

Initially the Royalist forces enjoyed success over the Parliamentarians, who decided to ally themselves with the Scottish Covenanters following the failure of peace negotiations with the king. The Parliamentarians and Scots shared common aims, both religious and military, so negotiations did not take long. On 25th September 1643 representatives of both Houses of Parliament and the Scottish commissioners signed The Solemn League and Covenant to create a military alliance to maintain the independence of the Scottish church and to bring about a reformation of religion in the rest of the British Isles as a protection against 'popery'. In the January of the following year, the Army of Covenant crossed the border into England, tipping the balance of forces in favour of the Parliamentarians.

The full text of The Solemn League and Covenant, it is available on the site

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