Glasgow and the National Covenant in 1638: Revolution, Royalism and Civic Reform

Paul Goatman, Andrew Lind

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Between October 1638 and March 1639, William Wilkie, the minister of Govan, wrote a series of letters to Walter Balcanquhall, the dean of Rochester and one of Charles I's key advisers on Scottish affairs. These provided intelligence about the Covenanters’ activities, including inside information about the 1638 General Assembly in Glasgow, the Tables’ efforts to rally support in dissenting parts of the country such as the north-east and their preparations for Charles’ planned invasion of Scotland. Being based so near to Glasgow, Wilkie was also able to give an eyewitness account of the town's involvement in these events. He described a burgh that was, at best, lukewarm in its support for the Covenanters and may have been actively working against them. On 29 October 1638, for example, Wilkie informed Balcanquhall that Patrick Bell, the provost of Glasgow, had refused a request from the prominent Covenanter leader John Campbell, earl of Loudoun, to convene the town council so that he could meet with them. Loudoun and Lord Robert Boyd instead attended a meeting of the Kirk session, where they ‘had a harangue of an hour's length, to the ministers, magistrates and other honest men there, concerning the iniquity and danger of the King’s Covenant, conjuring them, by all the powers of heaven and hell, that they would not subscribe it’. Loudoun then accused the magistrates of distributing printed versions of the King's Covenant, a royally sanctioned rival to the National Covenant, among the town's burgesses. In the course of his correspondence, Wilkie went on to provide further examples of Glasgow’s resistance to the Covenanters. In December he highlighted the university’s continued opposition, informing Balcanquhall that the Covenanters had ordered a commission ‘to visit the college and take order with everything they think amiss’. In March 1639, Wilkie revealed that Glasgow was reluctant to provide military support for the Covenanters and had thus been ‘upbraided as being Aberdeen's sister, and of a Laodicean temper; their commission [to the Tables in Edinburgh] rejected’. He added that, consequently, the Tables had sent Archibald Campbell, the marquis of Argyll, to the town to ‘keip them right’, and revealed that ‘the ministers thereof cannot be induced to press the taking of arms’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe National Covenant in Scotland, 1638–1689
EditorsChris R Langley
Place of PublicationWoodbridge
PublisherBoydell & Brewer
Number of pages13
ISBN (Print)9781787448308
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2020

Publication series

NameStudies in Early Modern Cultural, Political and Social history


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