Life in the times of Montrose and Argyll – Marking the 375th Anniversary of the Scottish Battle of Inverlochy
By Mark Turnbull
In the year of grace 1641, Archibald Campbell, Earl of Argyll, was to have his cake and eat it. He’d sliced out the bishops from the Committee of Estates and devoured the Lords of the Articles – all royal appointees. This left Argyll de-facto leader as well as chief of Scotland’s strongest clan. A placatory King Charles I topped it off by making him a marquis. So successful was Argyll at systematically stripping the King’s power that England’s Parliament followed his recipe. Nobody came close to stopping Argyll and his Covenanters (signatories of a national pledge to defend Presbyterianism) though James Graham, Earl of Montrose, spoke out against factional control. Argyll swatted aside any such naïve outrage and set about devastating those clans neighbouring his own Campbell estates. The Ogilvy’s castle burned before the eyes of their lady and her children, fanning Montrose’s vocal opposition, which eventually had him imprisoned. Argyll was unassailable.
|© Mark Turnbull 2019.|
Four years later a civil war between King and Parliament plagued England, and it wasn’t long before Scotland was infected. Argyll and the Covenanters despatched an army to Parliament’s aid, while the newly created Marquis of Montrose formed a royalist nucleus in the highlands. But for Scotland, allegiance cut deeper than two-horse politics; the conflict pitted King, Covenanters and Clans. After two victories, Montrose and his MacDonalds, Camerons and Ogilvys went for a knockout blow to the Campbells.
© Mark Turnbull 2019.
Christmas 1644 delivered a surprise for Clan Campbell when, encouraged by his right-hand man, Alasdair MacColla, Montrose took advantage of mild weather to raid Inveraray. MacColla described how they, “left neither house nor hold unburned, nor corn, nor cattle that belonged to the whole name of Campbell.” Argyll escaped via his galley, but his pride did not. With his army he followed Montrose north into The Great Glen. Both leaders were confident. Montrose ventured that Argyll wouldn’t dare follow him through Lochaber, but Argyll, with his own army at one end of the glen and a second Covenanter force at the other, had Montrose trapped. Like an Iron Maiden, both Covenanter forces closed up in a bid to crush Montrose, yet to Argyll’s horror, Montrose’s army had vanished with the mist. Assuming it impossible to survive in such wilderness, Argyll returned to Inverlochy.
|Scottish Troops © Mark Turnbull 2019.|
Montrose, assisted by MacDonald shepherds, covered 30 miles in 36 hours and lay low on Ben Nevis’s slopes with his men. Only resentment warmed their cold, empty bellies. Argyll’s troops camped under the walls of Inverlochy Castle with home fires burning, and when a scout reported mountainside movement, Argyll took them merely to be stragglers.
These 1500 ‘stragglers’ slept little. With King Charles five hundred miles away, Montrose bonded the clan chiefs to fight to the death for their monarch, against the, “infamous faction of desperate rebels now in fury against him.” The cloudless night gave way to morning on 2nd February 1645. Montrose and his men beat the last of their oatmeal with snow, ate from their dirks, and then the royal standard was unfurled. Argyll, by comparison, awoke on board the Dubhlinnseach (Black-sailed) haunted by the manifestation of the King’s phantom Lord Lieutenant. Having fallen from his horse and dislocated his shoulder, Argyll was forced to watch from the deck as Sir Duncan Campbell of Auchinbreck drew up their troops. 1500 Campbells formed the core, 500 recalled from Ireland, while the wings comprised of 400 soldiers withdrawn from England. Montrose’s very presence had already scaled back the tentacles of Covenanter foreign policy.
Montrose acted immediately. His highlanders and flanking Irishmen prepared to descend on their foe, and the trumpet that had initiated their two previous victories gave a fanfare worthy of Montrose’s presence. For a third time the royalist’s employed their newest tactic. Though the highland charge was ferocious, wild and unbridled, it wasn’t the product of a rabble. Montrose and MacColla’s soldiers ran into a hail of lead shot, and with utmost discipline they withheld their own fire until the last devastating moment. Only then was their pent-up fury released and, discarding their guns, they smashed into the enemy with dirk and sword. The Campbells crumpled in on one another. Montrose released Sir Thomas Ogilvy’s 50 horsemen who outflanked the enemy and Alasdair MacColla cut his way through to Sir Duncan Campbell, demanding he choose between a fate of beheading or hanging. When Campbell replied that they were, “two evil alternatives that gave no room for choice,” MacColla decapitated him. The broken Covenanters were pursued for seven miles and when royalist fire pinged against Argyll’s galley, it slithered away to sea, leaving behind 1500 Covenanter dead. Only their lowland troops – those recalled from England – were spared. 375 years ago the Battle of Inverlochy had lasted a matter of minutes, but it defined Argyll and Montrose.
|Musketeers giving fire © Mark Turnbull 2019.|
Argyll was greeted in Edinburgh by mocking mobs sharing stories of the ‘Gallant Graham’. Iain Lom’s ballad was sung like a hymn, declaring the Campbells to be a fallen race of Diarmid, “Disloyal, untrue. No Harp in the highlands will sorrow for you.” With his own arm in a sling, Argyll focussed on Montrose’s, and had his coat of arms defaced in the Scottish Parliament. Reduced to a toothless declaration that his rival was a traitor, Argyll, decreed that Montrose should henceforth be referred to as merely James Graham. Next, Argyll fed his English allies the fake news of having lost only thirty men and promptly recalled more soldiers from England.
The hole that Montrose had blasted in Argyll’s clan had also taken out the man’s reputation and that of his government. The Earl of Huntley – Chief of Clan Gordon – and their cavalry, joined the royalists and Montrose wrote to the King, “I doubt not before the end of this summer I shall be able to come to Your Majesty’s assistance with a brave army.”
Inverlochy’s legacy would loom large. The battle had seen a reversal in Argyll’s personal supremacy and reputation, with the void filled by Montrose, whose legendary leadership secured the whole of Scotland for the King – if only for a moment. When the two men were next brought together in 1650, Montrose was being led to execution and Argyll, watching from an upstairs window, could only bring himself to peep down through a crack in the shutter as his heinous orders were carried out.
|Montrose’s Tomb in Saint Giles, Edinburgh © Mark Turnbull 2019.|
Allegiance of Blood
By Mark Turnbull
Sir Francis Berkeley strives to protect his wife and family from the brutal effects of the English Civil War. But aside from the struggle between king and parliament, the allegiances of family, friendship and honour entangle him at every turn and prove to be just as bloody.
As a witness to treason on the field of Edgehill, Francis is drawn into a fast-moving world of espionage and politics. Against a backdrop of some of the major battles and sieges, Francis’s fight to reunite his family opens up very different conflicts with which to contend.
Everything is at stake when the war comes to a little church one December morning. Can the family survive the parliamentarian onslaught as well as their own feud?
She’d cried enough tears to fill the German Ocean and after her second attempt at crossing it, Henrietta Maria, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, had finally made it home after a year’s absence. The anchor of her ship splashed into Bridlington Bay on the Yorkshire coast, despite bleak forecasts in both weather and horoscope. But never once was she put off by anything, especially when she had set her mind to it, and more so, when it meant being reunited with her husband.
With quick steps she danced across the deck of the Dutch flagship and ran to the rail to examine every inch of the English landscape. Beneath the scrubbed planking were arms, ammunition, money and men that she had brought all the way from Holland to aid her husband. One year of scrimping, saving and bartering, as well as anxiety and frustration during her war waged against Dutch officials and their government, who were not best pleased at her presence in their midst.
“May you scatter my enemies, Oh Lord, and be both my guide and safeguard.” She fired one of her renowned scowls westward, where in the expanse of ocean her Parliamentarian pursuers lurked.
“Your Majesty.” The Dutch Admiral Van Tromp gave a sigh of one ready and willing to hand a particularly petulant and demanding child back to its parents.
“My thanks for your good care of my person.” Henrietta usually spoke her mind, but in this, the hour of her victory, she put her true feelings aside. However, this suppression prevented her from looking him in either of his oversized eyes.
“You honour me with such praise and I thank the Almighty that you’re safely back to England,” Van Tromp said.
Of that I do not doubt! She thought.
“Now, I must find out where Parliament’s ships are.” Tromp pondered his journey home.
“Is anything wrong, madam?” Tromp noticed a change in her expression.
“They are the King’s ships.” Her irritation burned through the wintery chill that hung about her cheeks. “Our ships, which have been stolen by traitors.”
“My apologies, madam. A slip of the tongue.”
“Besides, you’ve nothing to fear, for your countrymen have declared their neutrality.”
“I cannot speak on behalf of my country.” Tromp excused.
“Oh, you do not need to, Admiral. Your government have always made its intentions perfectly clear.”
“The English Parliament accuses us of being hostile,” Tromp said.
“Hostile? If they knew how rudely I was treated by your ministers and how the Dutch East India merchants refused me loans, then Parliament could never claim you to be hostile.” Her tapping foot imitated her increasing heart rate.
“But if I may venture, Majesty, our traders have served you well.” Tromp clasped his hands behind his back and pondered the royal jewels she had pawned. “The Prince of Orange also allowed your followers to stay with you in Holland.”
“It's a good job the Prince is my son-in-law, otherwise your States General would have had my attendants expelled,” she said, unwilling to have anyone play down what she had been through. “Just how could they consider banishing trusted members of the Queen of England’s entourage?”
“If my nation has offended you, then I apologise, but I am sure this was not the intention.” Tromp deftly defused an escalating situation.
“And there was that absurd little official who tried to impound my munitions on the basis that I had no licence,” she asserted, while searching for signs of the Earl of Newcastle’s escort party.
“Your Majesty.” Tromp stepped closer.
“I imagine the enemy must be confined to Hull, due to this adverse wind,” he suggested.
“If they are it’s certainly the Lord’s doing.” As was her survival of the storm that had wrecked her first attempt at returning home. Huge waves had seen her servants strapped to their beds with hysterical fear, while she steadfastly refused to be cowed.
“Quite,” he persisted with a cough. “The Lord is also providing me with an opportunity to return home.” He revealed his wish to leave the next day.
“Can you see any of Lord Newcastle’s men?” Her weary eyes stung from the salt air. Without giving Tromp time to answer, she desired the opinion of the Duchess of Richmond and beckoned her closer.
“I’m afraid not, Your Majesty.” The Duchess shielded her eyes from the dying sun, which scattered a path of golden ripples from Bridlington right up to the ship’s hull.
“Oh, Mall, having come so far, I am still stuck on this accursed ship,” she moaned to her surrogate daughter, who had been raised in the royal household. Together they paced, such was the Queen’s inability to remain still.
“Madam, remember that fretting brings nothing but a fresh wrinkle. If you need proof, look at the Hollander,” the Duchess said in reference to Tromp, who removed his hat to reveal a bald pate with long, straggling locks at the side.
“His furrows are well earned,” the Queen conceded, “for his father was blown apart by a pirate’s cannonball and he captured by them.”
The Queen’s thoughts of her own father, stabbed to death whilst held up in Parisian traffic, were short-lived when the Duchess clapped her hands together. The source of the interruption was some cavalrymen riding onto the quay and prompting Henrietta to hurry back to Tromp, her dark ringlets bouncing with excitement, to request she be rowed ashore in spite of the cautious protests of Henry Jermyn, her Master of the Horse, who argued that they did not know the loyalty of the arrivals.
“They do not look like the Roundheads.” The Duchess watched the leading horseman leap from his steed, rip off his hat and wave it in circles of excitement that were far too flamboyant for any dour Puritan.
“All of Yorkshire is held for His Majesty.” The Queen emphasised her husband’s strength, as if because of this, there could not be one man in the entire county who would wish her harm.
The Coffee Pot Book Club
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Allegiance of Blood
After a visit to Helmsley Castle at the age of 10, Mark Turnbull bought a pack of ‘top trump’ cards featuring the monarchs of England. The card portraying King Charles I fascinated him.
Van Dyck’s regal portrait of the King and the fact that he was executed by his own people were the beginnings of Mark's passionate interest in the English Civil War that has lasted ever since.
He thoroughly enjoys bringing this period to life through writing - a recently published novel and articles for magazines, local newspapers or online educational sites. He has also re-enacted battles with The Sealed Knot and for several years edited the Historical Novel Society's online newsletter.
Connect with Mark: Website • Facebook (where I post regular articles or biographies relating to the British Civil War).
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See you on your next coffee break!
Mary Anne xxx