Flag of Freedom

Battle of Marston Moor 2nd July 1644

On this day in 1644 the allied forces of the Scottish Army of the Solemn League Covenant and the English Parliamentary Army defeated the Royalist Army at the Marston Moor on the outskirts of York.

‘The Solemn League and Covenant
Now brings a smile, now brings a tear;
But sacred Freedom, too, was theirs:
If thou’rt a slave, indulge thy sneer.’

Robert Burns

The battle is considered to have been the largest fought on English soil and one of the most significant in what is often called the English Civil War but in fact was a war that raged over the three kingdoms – Scotland, England and Ireland – of Charles I. In 1643, the Scottish Covenanters promised their support to the English parliamentarians on condition that the Presbyterianism form of church government would be introduced into England and Ireland.

Monument at the Battlefield of Marston Moor  (R.Guthrie)

The allied armies, under the overall command of Alexander Leslie (Earl of Leven), had an estimated force of 28,000 almost half of which were Scottish Covenanters. Their contribution to the victory over the Royalist army (~18,000 strong) is often overshadowed by the presence of Oliver Cromwell,  then the Lieutenant- General of the Horse of the Eastern Association, but who later as he progressed to Lord Protector reneged on the conditions of the Solemn League and Covenant.

Covenanter Flag Fragment: R.Guthrie

In the Scottish Army of the Solemn League and Covenant was the Regiment of the Kyle and Carrick Foot, under the Earl of Cassillis and at Marston Moor ‘it was brigaded with the Nithsdale Foot  with which it cleared the royalist foot placed in a ditch in front of the allied line’ [1]. In December 2007, I tracked down a fragment of a Covenanter flag in the archives of the Hunterian Museum, Glasgow donated in 1819  by Miss Mary Logan of  Cumnock. In the top quadrant of a saltire is the word ‘COVENANT‘ and in the left quadrant is ‘RELIGIONE‘ while at the intersection (see top photo) is the word ‘CVM NOK’ surrounded by a garland of leaves with berries. The flag is similar in design to the regimental colours carried by the Army of the Solemn League and Covenant, and perhaps it (or one like it) was carried by a company (100 men) of the Kyle and Carrick Foot made up of men from the original parish of Cumnock (i.e. Old Cumnock and New Cumnock).

Attempted reconstruction: R.Guthrie

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[1] A Regimental History of the Covenanting Armies 1639-1651, Edward M Furgol (John Donald Publishers Ltd, Edinburgh, 1990)

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