History of Leith, Edinburgh

December 18, 2004

Treasures of the National Archives

National Covenant, 1638.

The National Covenant was a protest against Charles I’s religious policies. James VI had superimposed bishops on a presbyterian system, but when his son tried to ensure uniform worship in Scotland and England by introducing a new prayer book, there was a riot in St Giles. Charles had already alarmed the nobility by threatening to take back lands they had acquired from the old church.

These twin threats to church and property united all levels of Scottish presbyterian society against his policies. The National Covenant was drawn up in protest. It includes the ‘Negative Confession’ of 1581 which denounced popery, along with acts of parliament on the church, which were included to show up Charles’ reforms as unconstitutional.

The first covenant was signed in Greyfriars Church, Edinburgh. This copy was signed at the General Assembly in Glasgow. The signatories include the Earl of Lothian, lairds, ministers and burgesses.

The Confession of Faith subscribed at first by the King’s Majesty and his household in the year of God 1580; thereafter by persons of all ranks in the year 1581… And now subscribed in the year 1638 by us noblemen,barrons, gentlemen, burgesses, ministers and commons undersubscribing; together with our resolution and promises for the causes after specified, to maintain the said true religion and the King’s Majesty

source-National Archives of Scotland

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