As part of my series of blogs exploring the history of the Covenanters, today I am sharing a timeline of Scottish history, focusing on events relating to the Covenanting era.  In further blogs I will go on to explain more about who the Covenanters actually were and what they stood for, but for now I want attempt to outline the events which lead up to this turbulent period of Scottish history, along with some of the atrocities which took place around this time.

For this particular timeline I have decided to begin from the very beginning of the 17th century, and continue up until 1688 when the last of the Covenanting leaders was executed.  It is a very complex and a rather confusing time and one which I am only beginning (just about) understand so I have tried to keep the timeline as simple as possible, but ensuring that I include all the major events connected to our subject.  In terms of events during ‘The Killing Time’, I have chosen to primarily just include ones close to and relating to the Nithsdale area.  This is by no means a complete list but I will add to it as I uncover more dates and events which I feel help to explain things more clearly.  In further posts I will write more detailed accounts of some of the events listed below, as well as looking further into the lives of some of the individuals who lost their lives during this power-struggle period.

covenanters pic3

1st January 1600 – This was the first celebration of New Year in Scotland on this date.  Prior to this it was celebrated on March 25th.

24th March 1603 – Queen Elizabeth I of England dies, making James VI of Scotland also James I of England.  Scotland and England are now united under Stuart rule.

3rd April 1603 – James VI/I relocates to London and only returns once to Scotland (in March 1617).


27th March 1625 – James VI/I dies aged 58.  His eldest son, Henry had died in 1612 so his second son, Charles, becomes King aged 24.  Charles I believed being a king meant a Divine Right to rule direct from God, echoing Henry VIII one hundred years before.

13th June 1625 – Charles I marries Henrietta Maria, daughter of King Henry IV of France.

29th May 1630 – Birth of the future King Charles II.

18th June 1633 – Charles I comes to Scotland for the King of Scotland coronation – a service conducted under full Anglican Rites which concerned the Scottish church.

23rd July 1637 – One of the first signs of the impending troubles took place in St Giles Kirk in Edinburgh when a street seller names Jenny Geddes throws a stool at the Dean for conducting the service from the Book of Common Prayer – a book from the Anglican Church and imposed on the Scots by Charles.

28th February 1638 – The National Covenant is signed in Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh.  This document set out to preserve Scottish cultural and religious practices by renouncing English governance over Scottish churches.  The passion for what this document meant saw some people signing in their own blood.

1645 – This year saw many Covenanter battles throughout Scotland, including Inverlochy (where 1,300 were killed), Alford, Kilsyth and Philiphaugh.


30th January 1649 – Charles I is executed after sparking two English civil wars.

5th February 1649 – Charles II becomes king.

1st January 1651 – Charles is crowned King of Scotland.  This was to be the last coronation on Scottish soil.

1660 – Charles completely reneged on the Covenant Oath he had signed in 1643, along with the 1650 treaty which recognised the Scottish Presbyterian church.  In an act of betrayal to the Covenanters, he set out to reverse everything and restore an Episcopalian (Anglican) church structure in Scotland.

1661 – The Rescissory Act repealed all laws made since 1633, which saw 400 Ministers forced to leave their churches and allowed Charles to proclaim the restoration of Bishops in Scotland.  This leads to the formation of Conventicles (outdoor religious services) throughout the South-west where ministers preached to large crowds in secret services hidden on moors and in glens away from government troops.


28th November 1666 – Battle of Rullion Green on the Pentland Hills – the King’s army defeated a uprising by the Covenanters.

3rd May 1679 – Archbishop James Sharp is killed for ‘betraying’ the Covenanter’s cause and suppressing the Covenant in Scotland.  This sparks a period known as ‘The Killing Time’.

1st June 1670 – Thousands attend a conventicle at Loudon Hill in Ayrshire.  Covenanters also defeat John Graham of Claverhouse at Drumclog.

22nd June 1679 – Battle of Bothwell Bridge where the Covenanters are heavily outnumbered by the King’s army.  The charge was lead by the Duke of Monmouth, one of Charles II’s many illegitimate children.  Over 800 Covenanters are killed and twice as many taken prisoner.

The Battle of Bothwell Bridge

22nd June 1680 – The Rev. Richard Cameron assembles a group of Covenanter’s and issues a statement denouncing the King and nails it to the town cross in Sanquhar.  This document became known as the Sanquhar Declaration.

22nd July 1680 – Richard Cameron is killed by government troops at the Battle of Aird’s Moss.


December 1684 – The government produce an ‘Abjuration Oath’ – a document swearing allegiance to the King which all Scots are required to sign on pain of death.  Many refused and many were killed, especially in the South-west of Scotland.

6th February 1685 – Charles II dies and is succeeded by his brother, James Stuart, Duke of York, making him King James II of England and King James VII of Scotland.

13th May 1685 – A Covenanter, James Kirko, is killed in Dumfries.

25th May 1685 – The Rev. James Renwick issues the second Sanquhar Declaration.

17th February 1688 – James Renwick, the leader of the remaining Covenanters, is executed in Edinburgh…age 26.  His death is seen as the end of this period of martyrdom.

The next post in this series attempts to answer the question of who the Covenanter’s were, aimed specifically at those with no knowledge about them at all: