King Charles responded to the defeat of his army in the Second Bishop’s War by calling into session the English Parliament, which had not met for some ten years. It was a fatal decision. The members of the English Parliament were in no more agreement with the King’s policies than their Scottish neighbors. The King’s ineptitude at governing, his sympathy toward the Roman Catholic Church and his severe anti-Puritan measures, coupled with complete irresponsibility in handling the nation’s finances did nothing to endear him to the Parliament. The initial result would be the outbreak of the First English Civil War; the ultimate result would be the death of Charles and the establishment of the Protectorate Government of Oliver Cromwell.
In the autumn of 1641, Charles made another trip to address the Scottish Parliament. In the light of the troubles brewing in London, Charles now needed the support of Scotland. It is interesting to note that the King was given leave to enter Edinburgh only upon the condition that he ratify the changes made by the Scottish Parliament during the previous year. The King made a show of distributing titles to his former opponents, making Leslie the Earl of Levan, making the Earl of Argyll a Marquess, and so forth. He also declared that he was willing to accept all of the decisions enacted by the Scottish Parliament in 1638 as well as those of 1641. Although Argyll readily accepted the title of Marquess, the majority of the Scots were not so easily wooed and did not extend to Charles the support he so desperately needed.
The Irish Rebellion of 1641, also known as the Irish Rising, threatened Scotland with another ‘front’ to which she would need to send troops.
The Ulster Plantation of 1610, a scheme devised by King James VI/I to resettle a number of Londoners and Scotish Lowlanders on a ‘plantation’ or colony in Ireland, had prospered despite some years of drought and poor crops and the occasional native Irish confrontations with the settlers. Historians have estimated that the population of Ulster was approximately fifty thousand by the year 1620 and nearly one hundred thousand by 1640.
The indigenous, native Irish were not pleased to be dispossessed of their lands; but other than sporadic efforts to repel the newcomers (such as the disaster at Kinsale in Munster in the year 1601 in which the Irish suffered a major defeat and the English army utterly devastated the land), the Irish did not stage an offensive of any consequence.
A significant turn of events came about in the year 1641. The displaced native Irish staged a rebellion against the Ulster Plantation which developed into a war that lasted eight years. There were a number of causes for the rebellion, the primary one being that the Irish had simply reached the limit to what they would take from the intruding settlers. As the settlement flourished, the settlers’ needs demanded more land, which they helped themselves to. They cleared woods and drained marshes so that the settlement could expand. The Irish became more and more embittered about being pushed away from their ancestral homes. They also were growing jealous of the prosperity of the settlers who had begun to establish industries such as wool and linen manufacture, while they remained poor. The missionaries who had originally carried the Christian religion to the Irish had converted the native Irish peoples to Catholicism; the fact that the majority of the Ulster settlers were Protestant had the effect of alienating the two groups. The final straw which broke the peace came in the form of rumors of an invasion to be carried out by the Scots and aimed at ridding Ireland of all its Catholics. Whether true of not, the rumors enraged the Irish, and they decided that they needed to strike first instead of waiting for the Scottish army to arrive on Irish shores.
A Scottish army of the Covenanters was, in actuality, dispatched in January, 1642 to reinforce the embattled settlers of the Ulster Plantation. The intention of the Covenanter army was to defend the Scottish settlers, and therefore did not stage any offensive attacks on the Irish. In fact, during its deployment in Ulster, the Covenanter army did not move beyond the boundaries of that province.
The Irish rebellion of 1641 resulted in thousands of deaths and the return of many of the Protestant settlers to Scotland. The influx of those settlers naturally resulted in greater numbers of sympathizers of the Covenanter cause in Scotland.
In August of 1642 news arrived north of the border that England was in civil war. The English Parliament had established an army, the Eastern Association Army, with Edward Montagu, Second Earl of Manchester at its head. But other independent armies were being raised, the best organized being led by one of Parliament’s own members, Oliver Cromwell, a devout Puritan. The roundheads, as the Parliamentary soldiers were called in response to their Puritan styled close-cropped haircuts, were opposed by the Royalist Army, or cavaliers (from the Spanish term, caballero, or knight), led by Prince Rupert, the King’s nephew.