Scotland's Story Chapter LXXVIII. Charles II - How the King came to His own
AFTER the Lowlands of Scotland had yielded to
Cromwell, the Highlands still held out and still fought, but at length the
last Highland chief laid down his arms, and Scotland formed part of the
Commonwealth, as the government was now called.
Cromwell had abolished Kings,
now he abolished the Scottish Parliament. There should be, he said, only one
Parliament for the whole kingdom, which should meet at Westminster, and
there Scottish and Irish members should come, as well as English.
Cromwell made many wise laws, and under the stern rule
of the Lord Protector the country gradually settled down into peace and
prosperity. But this did not last long, for in 1658 A.D. Cromwell died. He
had been a strong ruler. He had indeed made himself king in everything but
name, so that it seemed quite natural to the people to choose his son
Richard to succeed him. But Richard Cromwell was a very different man from
his father. He was neither strong enough nor clever enough to rule, and
after a few months he gave it up, and went away to his house in the country.
There he lived quietly until he died many years later.
As soon as Richard Cromwell went away, quarrels began
as to who should govern. In England, many of the people were tired of the
stern rule of the Puritans, for they made life very dull, calling innocent
games and music wicked, and thinking it sinful even to dress in bright
colours. They remembered that over the sea there was a king—the King whom
the Scots had already crowned—and they began to long for him to come back.
The Scots had never forgotten their King. They had been the first to rise
against Charles I.; but they had never wished to kill him, and they had been
the last to yield to Cromwell. Under Cromwell they had found no more freedom
than under Charles I., and now they too thought of the King over the water.
Monk, who had ruled Scotland for Cromwell, seeing how
things were, began to march to London with his army. He was a stern and
silent man. He told no one what lie meant to do, but for some time, letters
had been passing between him and Charles, who was now living in France.
One day while Parliament was sitting, news was brought
that a messenger with a letter from the King was without.
Not for ten years or more had there been a King.
The messenger was brought in, and the letter was read.
It promised that all those who had rebelled should be forgiven; it promised
that if they would now receive their King, people should be allowed to
believe what they thought to be right. When the letter had been read, the
members rose up and shouted, 'God save the King.' The Commonwealth was at an
On the 20th of May 1660 A.D. Charles II. landed in
England. When the news reached Scotland, it was received with frantic joy.
People shouted and cheered and danced. Fountains ran with wine, and in
Edinburgh alone, thousands of glasses were broken after drinking the health
of the King. For it was the fashion, after drinking the health of any great
person, to break the glass so that it should never be used for any meaner
purpose. And now so often was the King's health drunk, that it was said that
the noise of the breaking of glasses in the streets was like the clash of
The coming of Charles ii. was called the Restoration.
Now that the King was restored, the Scottish Parliament was also restored.
Cromwell's idea that there should be only one Parliament for the whole
kingdom, was a good one. But neither the Scots nor the English were ready
for it, and as soon as they could, they went back to the old way.
The Scottish Parliament always opened with a great
procession. The members met at Holyrood, and rode in state to the Parliament
house. This was called the Riding of Parliament. So on New Year's Day 1661
A.D. there was a solemn Riding.
The crown, which had been so bravely kept, was brought
from its hiding-place, and with the sceptre and the sword of state, was
carried before the procession. The King was not there, but behind the crown
rode a soldier called Middleton, whom Charles had sent as Vice Regent, that
is, in place of the King.
Then by two and by two came the nobles, riding slowly.
They were all clad in splendid robes, and behind them walked gentlemen
holding up their trains. Footmen and guards surrounded them, and so, with
beat of drum and blare of trumpet, they reached the ancient Parliament
Yet for all the solemnity and grandeur of its opening,
there never was a more wretched Parliament in Scotland. 'It was a mad,
roaring time,' says a man who lived and wrote in those days. 'And no wonder
it was so, when the men of affairs were almost always drunk.' So it came to
be called the 'Drunken Parliament.'
This Parliament passed an act called the Rescissory
Act, by which all the laws and acts passed since 1640 A.D., nine years
before the end of the reign of Charles i., were recalled. So that by this
act, the Covenant, which had become the law of the land, was swept away; the
Presbyterian Church and all its courts was disestablished; the freedom of
religion, for which the people had fought so hard, was gone.
This was what Charles had set his heart upon. He hated
the Presbyterians. He had neither forgotten nor forgiven the dreary life
they had made him lead when he came to take the crown ten years before. The
Marquis of Argyll, the greatest Presbyterian chieftain in Scotland, had set
the crown upon his head. But Charles knew no gratitude, and when the Marquis
came to do honour to his King, the King would not receive him, but ordered
him to be imprisoned in the Tower, because he had rebelled against Charles
Argyll was afterwards sent to Scotland, and there he
was executed, as his great enemy Montrose had been. He met his death
bravely. 'I had the honour to set the crown upon the King's head,' he said,
'and now he hastens me to a better crown than his own.'
The Marquis was executed partly in revenge for the
death of Montrose. Yet Charles, when he came to Scotland, had denied that
brave friend and follower, and had pretended to be glad that he had been
killed. Now, when it suited him, he ordered Argyll's head to be placed over
the gate of Edinburgh, to blacken in the sun and wind, as that of Montrose
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