IT was in this week in 1652 that Scotland found itself a conquered country and would remain so for another eight years.

Over the past few years, I have frequently pointed out that Scotland was never an unconquered nation. Edward Longshanks took control of Scotland in the last decade of the 13th century, and the second conquest of Scotland took place in September 1650, when Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army routed the Scottish Covenanter-led forces at Dunbar, after which Scotland was occupied for a decade.

On February 4, 1652, some 371 years ago this week, the Tender of Union – effectively a declaration that the Scottish Parliament would be subsumed into a new united parliament – was declared at the Mercat Cross in Edinburgh by eight commissioners sent by Oliver Cromwell.

A reader emailed me to ask if I could give more details about that first Union, adding: “I can’t believe the Scots just accepted it. Was there no mass rioting or uprising?” The short answer is that while pockets of royalists loyal to King Charles II did rise up against the military governance imposed on Scotland, they were too few in number and simply ineffective against far superior forces. It also does not ring well with nationalists that rather a lot of Scots, but by no means all, acquiesced to this first Union.

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I did write about the 1650s in Scotland two years ago, but I fear I did not explain that decade in proper context, especially the politics.

Due to the loss of Scottish officers and nobles during the War of the Three Kingdoms, there was something of a power vacuum in Scotland at the end of the 1640s, as demonstrated by the execution in this week of 1649 of Charles I, king of Scotland as well as England, with Scottish protests being ignored.

The Scottish leadership reacted by proclaiming Charles’s son as King Charles II. Crucially, they named him king of Great Britain, and Cromwell marched north to punish the Scots, with the disastrous battle of Dunbar on September 3, 1650, starting what became an Occupation of Scotland.

There was still royalist resistance to the forces of Cromwell’s Commonwealth, in effect a republic. It was agreed that the Convention of Estates should meet at Alyth in Perthshire in late August 1651, but probably betrayed by pro-English members, the Convention was surrounded by 5000 English cavalry, and all the leading figures of the Scottish Government, such as it was, were captured. In effect, the Scottish Government ceased to exist, and under General George Monck, the New Model Army set out to crush the remaining resistance.

At the Siege of Dundee on September 1 and 2, 1651, they committed atrocities against the population, the stories of which were passed the length and breadth of Scotland and had a cowing effect on the public. Aberdeen surrendered a few days later and, apart from the Highlands and Islands, Scotland was in English hands, confirmed at the Battle of Worcester on September 3, 1651 when Charles II’s royalist army – replete with Scots – was finally defeated, which enabled Cromwell to advance his plan to incorporate Scotland into his Commonwealth.

The commissioners charged by Cromwell with bringing about that Union were Richard Deane, George Fenwick, John Lambert, George Monck, Richard Salwey, Oliver St John, Robert Tichborne and Sir Henry Vane.

With their declaration on February 4, 1652, they were merely stating what was already the case – Scotland would have to do what England told it.

The commissioners met representatives from the shires and royal burghs, most of whom took an oath to support the new Union, and meanwhile the New Model Army slowly but surely extinguished royalist resistance all over the land while its officers began to sit in judgement in legal matters.

As sums it up: “For the first time, England, Scotland and Ireland became part of a single state, a republic ruled by a single government (in London) that sent elected representatives to a single parliament (in Westminster). This integration depended entirely on force, however - 10,000 English troops occupied Scotland.”

Imposed on the Scots, the new Union did not get off to an edifying start, with the so-called Rump Parliament, which at one point had wanted full incorporation of Scotland into England, failing to agree on how the Commonwealth should progress. Cromwell famously dismissed the Rump Parliament which had still not passed the laws uniting the two countries, but ironically for a man who had executed a king for tyranny, Cromwell now began to rule as a despot, issuing a series of ordnances approved by his “council” of cronies.

In 1653, the 9th Earl of Glencairn did lead a rising against the English occupiers, but the royalists fought among themselves and General Monck, recalled from naval service, smashed the small royalist army at the Battle of Dalnaspidal on July 19, 1654, by which time Cromwell, named “His Highness the Lord Protector”, had already issued his ordnance on the Union which would be both political and economic. It stated: “That after all those late unhappy Wars and Differences, the People of Scotland should be united with the People of England into one Commonwealth, and after and under one Government.” It was rule by diktat, and Scotland could do nothing about it.

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The English governors were careful to ensure that the Church of Scotland’s supremacy in religious matters would remain, though the Kirk, as always, endured a brief schism over the issue.

It took until 1657 for the Union to fully come into force, including an early form of devolution with a “Scottish Council” charged with running the country.

Oliver Cromwell’s time as supreme ruler of Great Britain lasted until September 3, 1658, when he died in London. His son Richard took over but was pretty hopeless, really. The restoration of the monarchy in 1660 began in Scotland when General George Monck decided that the united Parliament was useless and he gathered his army at Coldstream to match south and get Charles II back on the throne.

Charles promptly annulled all Cromwell’s legislation, including that first union, and the lesson from history is that if one union can be extinguished, so can another.