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The Story of the Royal Scots
Chapter IV - The Royal Regiment of Foot and James II,
1684-1689


Duke of Monmouth’s Rebellion—Royals at Sedgemoor— Second Battalion goes to Scotland—Infant Officers and their pay—Hobos—Flight of King James and Dumbarton—Colonel Count Schomberg—The Ipswich Mutiny.

The brilliant work of the regiment at Tangier brought them into the sunshine of royal favour.

In June of 1684 four companies were chosen to attend the Duchess of York (soon to be Queen) at Tunbridge Wells, and soon afterwards “Dumbarton’s” Regiment became officially, by Charles the Second’s command, “The Royal Regiment of Foot,” though the older name was not at once forgotten. Nathan Brooks’ Army List, published in 1684, gives particulars of the establishment and uniform of the regiment, from which we find that the colours, thus early, bore St. Andrew’s Cross with Thistle and Crown and the motto, “Nemo me impune lacessit”—a warning the regiment has always supported with consistent pugnacity and success. When King Charles died in 1685 the regiment was scattered over four stations, and, as the political situation was obscure and precarious at the accession of King James, seventeen companies were concentrated for a time in or near London, and only four remained so far away as Chester. The new reign began peacefully, but the regiment was soon to betake itself to its business of fighting. James, Duke of Monmouth, one of Charles the Second's natural children, had long claimed more or less privately that Lucy Walters had been in fact the King’s true wife, and he soon put his demand for the throne to the arbitrament of war. He sailed from Holland with a trivial force and landed at Lyme in Dorsetshire, hoping to raise the south in his favour. His chief asset was the unpopularity into which James had fallen by declaring himself a Roman Catholic, and by working against the established religion. Had Monmouth been a man of character, his claim  to be the champion of the Protestant cause might have led him to victory, but he was known at Court as a rather dissolute weakling, and few men of substance joined his banner.

Moreover, the great Civil War was not dead in men’s remembrance, and James was recognized not only as a competent if narrow-minded ruler, under whose guidance peace and prosperity were more likely to be preserved, but as an able military leader. This is no place to tell again the rather sordid narrative of a rising which was foredoomed to failure ere it was begun, but the part played by the regiment belongs to our story. Immediately news had come of the Duke’s landing, the companies were brought up to full strength. Five of them, with a troop of the King's Life Guards, all under the command of Lieut.-Colonel Archibald Douglas, of the Royals, were detailed to escort a team of artillery then moving to join the King’s main army under the supreme command of the Earl of Feversham. This they did, marching by way of Newbury, Marlborough and Devizes.

After some marching and counter-marching by Monmouth’s troops they were located not far from Bridgewater by Feversham, who drew up the King’s forces on Sedgemoor, and camped there. Despite the fact that the little army included twelve hundred of the King’s Foot Guards and six hundred of the Coldstreams, and only five hundred of the Royal regiment, the latter’s seniority was emphasized by their being placed on the extreme right wing, always the post of honour.

Monmouth was much distressed to observe, from the tower of Bridgewater Church, that The Royals were against him on the right, where he had intended to make his chief assault. They had fought under him in the French wars and he knew their mettle. “I know these men will fight. If I had them, I would not doubt of success.” With the Scots against him, he already took a gloomy view of the result. However, his tactics were not ill conceived. At midnight of July 5, 1685, his force, gallant enough but unseasoned, made a wide detour with a view to taking Feversham’s right on flank, but his scouts had served him ill and there were two fords to cross, which caused loss of time. A chance pistol shot gave the alarm; The Royals, tough campaigners from the Moorish war, stood to arms and repelled the surprise. John Churchill, afterwards the great Duke of Marlborough, was Feversham’s brigadier, and his generalship helped to turn the scale against Monmouth. After a stiff engagement, in which The Royals suffered heavy casualties, the rebels gave way and ran. Monmouth's own standard, embroidered ”Fear none but God,” was taken by Captain Robert Hackett, of the Royal regiment. That was the end of the little Duke's military career. He was soon a prisoner, and it was no long step to the scaffold.

It would seem from a warrant of 1686 directing bounties to be paid to the wounded of The Royal regiment, that the Scots suffered more severely than any of the King’s regiments engaged, and twelve disabled men were admitted to the new charity of Chelsea Hospital.

A few days after the Sedgemoor fight, the recruits enlisted for the Monmouth rebellion were discharged, including all Englishmen, a significant witness to the determination of the Scots to maintain the northern purity of the regiment. The peace establishment was about half the war strength, but yielded men enough to aid in the work of hunting down, in the west, the unfortunate rebels who were tried at the Bloody Assize. It is at least pleasant to record that it is not alleged that the Scots showed any zeal in finding food for Jeffreys's gallows, nor were many employed on that ungodly business.

In August 1685 Lord Dumbarton, nominally removed by Charles II from the colonelcy because he was a Roman Catholic, was formally restored to his post by James, and in November he received a commission as Lieut.-General.

Reference has already been made to the fact that the regiment was drawn up in line of battle as two battalions when in the French service. In 1686 this became the formal organization of the regiment, no doubt as a preliminary to the second battalion, consisting of ten companies, being sent to Scotland. This move was ordered on March 20, 1686, in order that the Scots Guards might for the first time serve with the King's (or Grenadiers) and the Coldstreams in attendance on the King in London. For the men of the Royal regiment it was a new experience, for during over half a century of service in most of the countries of Europe and in North Africa, they had never paraded as a military unit in their own land, and few probably had seen it since they were recruited. They remained on the English establishment, but their Muster Rolls, beginning in May 1686, are preserved in the Register House, Edinburgh. With the exception of some of Sir John Hepburn’s letters, dealing with the Gustavus Adolphus campaigns, and to be seen only at Stockholm, these rolls are the earliest written records of the regiment. They reveal one or two entertaining facts.

Lord George Hamilton, afterwards colonel and a Field-Marshal, was a captain at eighteen. The Earl of Dumbarton put his son George, Lord Ettrick, aged six months, on the muster roll as captain, a canny device enabling the lusty infant to draw the King’s pay. The life of a grown captain may have been a jolly one, but it was not too lucrative. One way out of the difficulty, quite recognized then, was for captains to enter fictitious names on the roll of privates, and draw pay for them. These shadowy warriors were called warrant-men, also hautbois, hoboys or hobos.

Meanwhile the first battalion, consisting of ten ordinary companies and one of Grenadiers, was moved in June 1686 from the west country to Hounslow Heath. The assemblage there of about fifteen thousand troops was a novel arrangement, for it was one of the first training camps organized in times of peace. No doubt James II also had it in mind to overawe London, for the citizens were somewhat restive under his anti-Protestant measures. However, such competent soldiers as The Royals were in small need of training camps, and they soon gave place to new regiments and went to do garrison duty at Portsmouth.

In August 1687 the first battalion left there on being relieved by Colonel Buchan’s regiment (now the Royal Scots Fusiliers, with whom The Royal Scots are sometimes confused by the careless), and were next stationed in Yorkshire, being billeted at eightpence a man per week—a pretty contrast with modern rates.

In those days the rates of pay per annum were, Colonel, 210, Lieut.-Colonel, 127 15s., Major, 91 5s. (and these officers also drew captain’s pay of 146), Captains, 146, Lieutenants, 73, Ensigns 54 15s. When such extras as "hobos” yielded are added in, the pay, taking account of the change in the purchasing power of money, was probably better than it is to-day.

The year 1688 opened ominously. King James was flouting English opinion by drafting Irish Catholics into English regiments, and by bringing over complete regiments of them to overawe the Protestant population. At that time the Irish were hated far more than any foreigners, and the soberest Englishmen regarded the Protestant cause as seriously endangered.

William of Orange, son-in-law of the King, was invited to invade England and save the situation. On November 5 he landed at Torbay with a small but very efficient force. Meanwhile, the second battalion of - The Royals had returned to England and was at Ware, Herts, in August. The first was manning the Thames defences. They joined once more at Gravesend in September.

By the end of November they were both at Andover, once more, as at Sedgemoor, under the supreme command of the Earl of Feversham, and were brigaded soon after with others at Warminster, the most advanced post of James’s army. Lord Dumbarton was with his old regiment, and when Kirke, the brigadier, refused to obey the King’s order to retire on London, Dumbarton asked to be allowed to attack the Prince of Orange with his regiment alone, then nearly two thousand strong. But James had lost heart, and the whole brigade fell back on Windsor. It is difficult to sympathize with James’s misfortunes, which he had brought on himself by the old Stewart disregard of popular liberties, but the superb loyalty of The Royal regiment to their master stands out in the clearer relief. Most of the men were doubtless of the Kirk, though Dumbarton was a Catholic, and the Protestants of the north had suffered much at the hands of James’s Ministers of State, infatuated, like him, with the Stewart idea of unfettered autocracy. Nevertheless the soldier’s oath of allegiance was sacred, and outweighed all private judgment.

The Royals had eaten the King’s salt, and though all others turned against James, they stood by him. This example of unflinching loyalty in a time of extreme difficulty crowns the history of The Royals with a dignity and honour which has been surpassed by none of their exploits on the stricken field, glorious though they have been during nigh three centuries. And none recognized this more than William of Orange himself, a keen judge of great military qualities.

On December 23, James left England for France, and the Earl of Dumbarton, Colonel of The Royals, soon followed him. On January 5, 1689, the regiment was ordered by King William to march from Oxford to various stations in Suffolk. Soon after, Frederic, Count Schomberg, was appointed colonel. The regiment might well have been proud of having at its head the greatest soldier in Europe, the more so as they had fought by his side in the French campaigns. But they had known no colonels but Hepburns and Douglases, and Count though Schomberg were—he was Duke four months later—they had no stomach for a Dutch leader. Moreover, the Scottish Estates had not yet declared for William, and the allegiance of The Royals was not to be transferred lightly. The muster in Suffolk was to be the prelude to their embarkation for Holland, whither William was sending an English army to help the Dutch in the new war against Louis of France. The flame burst out at Ipswich. Lieutenant Gawen was ringleader in revolt against William and for James. The story can be continued in Macaulay’s words 1: " The market-place was soon filled with pikemen and musketeers running to and fro. Gunshots were wildly fired in all directions. Those officers who attempted to restrain the rioters were overpowered and disarmed. At length the chiefs of the insurrection established some order and marched out of Ipswich at the head of their adherents. The little army consisted of about eight hundred men. . . . The mutineers resolved that they would hasten back to their native country, and would live and die with their rightful king. They instantly proceeded northward by forced marches.” The Government was justly alarmed. As Halifax said: “If these Scots are unsupported, they are lost. But if they are acting in concert with others, the danger is serious indeed.”

Parliament moved William to immediate action, which he had in fact already taken. The brave Ginkell was on his way north with several regiments of horse. He caught the Scots near Sleaford, in Lincolnshire, where they were drawn up amidst marshes, through which they had by superhuman efforts dragged their cannon. Brave as they were, they saw that they were hopelessly outnumbered, and surrendered. Narcissus Luttrell says that five hundred men and twenty officers were taken prisoners. If he is right, Macaulay must be wrong with his figure of eight hundred. Be that as it may, Ginkell marched them south again. They were tried at Bury Assizes; the ringleaders were convicted of high treason and the bulk of the men ordered to return to duty. William in his wisdom did no more than cashier Lieutenant Gawen, and is said to have often expressed a strong admiration for the men who alone remained faithful to their old sovereign when all others had deserted him.

The rising had one far-reaching effect. Until then, “mutiny” was not an offence under military law. A mutineer was merely guilty of high treason and subject to all its penalties. The Government doubtless realized that mutiny needed differential treatment, and this led to the passing of the Mutiny Act, which has since played an important part in our military development. The Royal Scots have made history in more ways than one.

The Ipswich trouble ended, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Robert Douglas, who had quarrelled early with the Schomberg colonelcy and lost his commission for a time, was placed in command  of the first battalion, which then sailed for the Netherlands, reconciled so completely to the new regime that they were now more loyal to William than the English regiments.


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