Battle of Tippermuir
The road to Tippermuir was paved with good intentions. Or at least, Godly ones; like those championed by the Covenanter government whose removal of the Stewart Kings from the throne brought round the Wars Of The Three Kingdoms – the widespread, bitter conflict which controlled the religious climate in 17th Century Britain.
It is one of the conflict’s enduring ironies, and would be typical of the period’s political/religious tumult, that James Graham, Marquis Of Montrose, would have scored the first significant victory in the fight to restore the King’s sovereignty. Montrose was one of a number of signatories on the Solemn League and Covenant – the movement which sought to rid Scotland of the Anglicised prayer book which was forced upon the people by the increasingly out-of-step Charles I .
Self-interest, however, is a very persuasive dynamic in the midst of constitutional brinkmanship. The personalities who formed the Covenanter movement were strong, and not hugely compatible. Where they shared a common loathing of Charles I’s Book Of Canons; they shared mutual hostility; Montrose would fall into the Royal fold as his relationship with Lord Lorn Of Argyll dissolved.
A running motif of the Covenanter battles was the vast numerical superiority that the Covenanters would enjoy. Throughout Montrose’s campaign against the parliamentarians he would only muster around 2,000 men. These were men from the Scottish Highlands and Ireland. Alasdair MacColla of the clan Macdonald was a close and most effective ally.
The Battle Of Tippermuir saw this Royalist force up against 7,000 footsoldiers under the command of Lord Elcho, James Murray and Sir James Scott – Lord Drummond was also a high-ranking Covenanter among the parliamentarian army. With a numerical advantage – including several hundred cavalry men – the Covenanters should have given Montrose’s men no chance.
Perth was at stake. The Royalist movement was desperate for a foothold. For any encouragement that would re-ignite their campaign. They would soon get it. In the last battle on British soil to be contested with the archer, Montrose triumphed. His men were grizzled veterans, pitted against a large yet green army, whose flanks and middle were lanced then butchered by arrow and sword. Montrose’s tactical guile was considerable, and in the years that followed he would prove time and time again just how dangerous a band of 2,000 hardened soldiers could be against a large but complacent enemy.
It is said that 2,000 Covenanter men fell in the slaughter. Though this figure may be skewed by the Royalists, the victory resounded around the country. Once again, religious and constitutional change was going to be a bloody affair in the Three Kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland. In Montrose, Charles I had a beacon of hope.
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