Royalism, Resistance and the Scottish Clergy, c.1638–41

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The traditional view of clerical resistance to Covenanting rule is best summarised by James Hewison, who argued in 1913 that ‘here and there throughout Scotland were to be found little islands of nonconformity, small oases in the great expanse of uniformity’. These little islands were believed to be inhabited by ‘sparse gatherings of staunch episcopalians adhering to their uncovenanted priests and professors’. Gordon Donaldson added to this in 1966, arguing that the north of Scotland was a heartland of clerical nonconformity under the Covenanters because of the region's religious and political conservatism. Donaldson believed that this conservatism had created a province of religious moderation that naturally aligned more with Caroline episcopalianism than with Covenanting presbyterianism. While this view has been challenged in recent years for failing to fully appreciate the complexities of religious development and identity in the region, there remains the general consensus that clerical opposition to the Covenant emanated out from Aberdeen and that it was defiantly episcopalian in nature. This opinion has been reinforced by the disproportionate attention the ‘Aberdeen Doctors’ have received within the historiography. The Doctors were a group of seven divines and ministers from Aberdeenshire, predominantly based within King's and Marischal Colleges, Aberdeen. In 1638 the Doctors mounted a public defence of Charles I and episcopacy across two printed pamphlets that sought to discredit the Covenanters’ theological and political justifications. The Doctors accused the Covenanters of acting without authority in enforcing subscriptions to a dangerous interpretation of the 1581 Negative Confession, which they equated with political subversion and doctrinal misappropriation.

Much has been written on the brief war of words waged by the Doctors against the Covenanters in the summer of 1638, yet few attempts have been made to survey the wider clergy in order to assess how representative their ideology was. One such study is Salvatore Cipriano's re-evaluation of opposition to the Covenant within Scotland's universities. Cipriano has shown that the intellectual elites of St Andrews and Glasgow joined the Aberdeen Doctors in their opposition to the National Covenant
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe National Covenant in Scotland, 1638–1689
EditorsChris R Langley
Place of PublicationWoodbridge
PublisherBoydell & Brewer
Number of pages20
ISBN (Print)9781787448308
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2020

Publication series

NameStudies in Early Modern Cultural, Political and Social history


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