Bishops' wars

views updated May 21 2018

Bishops' wars, 1639–40. Charles I assumed, with good reason, that religious diversity was a source of weakness in a state. In 1637, therefore, he ordered the Scottish presbyterian church to use a new prayer book on the English model. This provoked a protest movement which culminated in the drawing up of a national covenant to defend ‘the true religion’. Charles raised an army to enforce his will but his troops were an undisciplined rabble and rather than risk fighting he accepted the pacification of Berwick in June 1639. This brought to an end the first of the so-called Bishops' wars, but in 1640 Charles again took up arms. The outcome was worse. The Scots promptly invaded England, brushed aside Charles's army at Newburn, outside Newcastle, on 28 August, and occupied the north-east of the country. They were now secretly collaborating with the king's opponents and refused to contemplate withdrawing unless and until he summoned Parliament. Charles's policy had collapsed.

Roger Lockyer