The imperative of historical understanding is to recognize and respect the fact that in 16th and 17th century Europe politics and religion were one. The "Reformation" began with Luther's desire to reform the Catholic Church. But once freedom of thought became an accepted notion, people were led to question traditional ideas about the relationship between monarchy (government) and the church.
Henry VIII sought freedom from the pope, and his version of Protestantism, called Anglicanism, retained much of the Catholic form and thought, while making Henry head of the English church, severing ties with Rome. Under Elizabeth I, Anglicanism became slightly more Protestant in nature, but retained the basic episcopal structure - the monarch ruled the church, and the church was ruled by cardinals, archbishops and bishops, all appointed by the crown or by local nobility.
Following Knox's death, Scottish Presbyterianism became more radicalized, politically and religiously, under Andrew Melville and his followers, for a while embodying what we might consider the worst in self-righteousness and puritan conformity. This process slowly narrowed the group of "hard-core" Covenanters (a fanatical group is always small), but the end result was a Presbyterian Scotland, markedly different in character from Anglican England.
Presbyterianism is based on democracy and self-rule. Each church is ruled by is own elected elders (including the pastor), which in turn make up groups of churches (presbyters), meeting in local synods, and at National Assemblies where important church doctrine is decided and enforced. It's structure is directly opposite Anglican top-down structure.
In addition, as in most Protestant denominations, Presbyterians advocated Bible-reading, and therefore, education. As devout Scots read their Bibles, discussed theology, and railed against the English king, they came to realize that church structure ought to be paralleled in government structure. In other words, they ought to rule the king, rather than the king rule them. Scots pamphlets and political diatribes of this period sound amazingly familiar to Americans: a king is a tyrant when he oppresses his people, a king is a tyrant when he sets himself against the laws of God. Should it surprise us that half the signers of the American Declaration of Independence were of Scottish descent?
A Very Brief History of 17th Century Scotland
Keep in mind that when James VI became James I of England in 1603, England and Scotland were not united. James simply gained another territory - larger, richer, and much better suited to his view of himself. The Scots government and national boundaries remained intact, though ruled by James' appointees.
James I viewed himself as a "Divine Right" king; ie, God Himself had placed James on the throne and he should decide the religious beliefs and practices of his people. He was acutely aware of the dangers of an independent church. As he succinctly put it, "No bishop, no king." At the same time, he was savvy as to Scots character and temperament, moving slowly and cautiously in his quest to unite his kingdom in the Anglican faith.
Unfortunately, Charles I (1625-1649), very "high church" and married to a Roman Catholic, had no understanding of the Scots, nor of the English, nor, apparently, of anything except his own desires. People like that often lose their heads, and he was no exception.
In a nutshell, Charles I tried to force an Anglican prayer book and the hated bishops on the Scots. They were having none of it. In 1638, an astonishingly large number of Scots, both common people and nobility, signed a National Covenant swearing to uphold their Presbyterian religion, by force of arms if necessary. They felt it was.
In 1640, the Scots army marched into England, occupying Newcastle. To raise money to oppose them, Charles I was forced to call Parliament, which promptly presented him with the "Grand Remonstrance" detailing the ways in which he had offended the English. By January 1642, Charles had fled London and the English Civil War was underway.
In seeking religious freedom, the Scots threw in with the English parlementarians, fighting well in several bloody battles and eventually capturing the king. However, they did not approve of killing kings and their present fight was not against the monarchy, only a quest for religious freedom. When they had captured Charles and agreed to turn him over to the English, they were appalled at his execution, and immediately proclaimed Charles II as king (1649).
So, now the poor Scots had Cromwell against them. They were defeated in battle and many were expelled to the plantations in Ulster. Throughout Cromwell's reign, the Covenanters were persecuted and many voluntarily fled to Ulster or America. The restoration of the monarcy under Charles II in 1660 didn't help at all - he exacted revenge on the Presbyterians, enacted bills for burning the Covenant, and reinstituted the Book of Common Prayer and the episcopacy in Scotland.
Throughout the reigns of Charles II and James II, the Covenanters were severely persecuted. Most Scots accepted the moderate, episcopal form of Presbyterianism tolerated by the government. Many thousands emigrated. The die-hards took to worship in open air "conventicles" hiding their pastors (unlicensed by the crown) from the soldiers. Hundreds lost their lives in these "Killing Times." /p>
One of the boldest of the Covenanter extremists was a young pastor, Richard Cameron. Martyred in 1680, he had spoken out directly against Charles Stuart and declared war against his tyranny. His military followers continued with their guerilla tactics against the crown soldiers. Ironically, in later years the "Cameronian" regiment became a respected fighting force in Great Britain, not being disbanded until 1968.
The leader of the government military operations in Scotland during the "Killing Times" was James, Duke of York and Albany, heir to Charles II and a Catholic convert. Needless to say, his reputation preceded him when he attained the throne.
William and Mary, Seeds of Jacobitism
James II's (1685-1689) Catholicism pleased the English no more than the Scots. When an unexpected male heir was born, the English ousted James II and brought William and Mary to the throne. William of Orange ruled Holland; his wife was James II's eldest daughter. This "usurpation" was, at the least, a change of dynasty, as William ruled in his own right.
Now recall that England and Scotland were separate countries. The Scots were not bound by law to recognize William and Mary as Scottish sovereigns. Meeting in a "Convention of Estates" in Edinburgh, the Scots considered three choices: stick with James (whom the lowland, Protestant Scots hated), accept William and Mary, or try to form a republic. Seeing the barriers to forming a republic as too formidable at that time, they opted to accept William and Mary provided they were guaranteed religious freedom. This they gained and the religious wars in Scotland ended.
John Graham of Claverhouse, Viscount Dundee, a Catholic, had been the commander of the forces arrayed against the extremist Covenanters. He was not alone in supporting James II, as there were many Anglican and Catholic Scots, paticularly in the Highlands and the northeast.
When the vote went against James II, Dundee fled north from Edinburgh to raise an army. Thus was the Jacobite (Jacobus is James in latin) movement born. Dundee's army defeated the government under MacKay, though Dundee died. The Scots were at a loss to find an army to defeat the Jacobites, until the Cameronians under Colonel William Clelland took up the challenge. A pitched battle was fought, house to house, street to street, Scot to Scot, in the ancient town of Dunkeld. The Cameronians held and the first Jacobite rising ended. (James II had chosen Ireland as his battleground, losing to William's forces at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.)
Twice in one century, first under Montrose (when the Covenanters first joined forces with Cromwell) and now under Dundee, Highlanders had arisen and proven themselves able and dangerous warriors. To spite them for this first Jacobite rising, Scotland punished the Highlanders and sought to provoke them to more rebellion so that "fire and sword" might be brought to bear and the threat extinguished. When provocation did not work, an example was made nonetheless - the Massacre of GlencoeThe Highlanders retreated to nurse their wounds and all was quiet for some little time.
Scotland now turned to the business of peace, greeting a new century, later dubbed the "Age of Enlightenment" with enthusiasm and hope.
The Act of Union 1707
William and Mary had no heirs. The throne passed to Queen Anne, Mary's sister and last of the direct line of Stuarts. Anne had no surviving children, so the English had sought, even before her reign, to negotiate a smooth succession after her death. They debarred any Catholic claimant by law (applicable to the Stuarts) and settled upon Sophia of Hanover, a granddaughter of James I through her mother. In due couse, her son, George, would become the first of the Hanoverian kings of Great Britain.
Once again, Scotland had the opportunity to go along with the English decision or not, as they chose. But religion was no longer the issue, and economic considerations prevailed in Scotland's 18th century diplomacy. England had been like an evil stepmother to the Scots - they were barred from the colonial trade that was making England rich. They themselves had few resources for colonial ventures; their one attempt in Panama having failed.
So Scotland threatened to keep the Stuart dynasty unless the English agreed to open colonial trade to the Scots. The English had no fear. They responded with the threats of confiscating all Scottish-owned land held in England (the nobles are quaking in their boots) and dropping all trade with Scotland (the Scots farmers and merchants are quaking in their boots). Stymied, but stubborn, the Scots stewed.
Eventually, England offered open trade on condition of political union. The Scottish parliament would cease to exist and Scots would get proportional seats in the English government. The Scots wrangled in debate, while the English applied judicious bribes of money and preferment. The final vote was for union with England, and in 1707 Great Britain was created out of England, Scotland and Wales.
The Scots had sold their souls for access to the British empire.