17th February 1688

Covenanter James Renwick is executed

Covenanters supported the Presbyterian Church of Scotland against threats from Charles I. They sided with Parliament in the First English Civil War, which had been sparked by Charles’ refusal to acknowledge that Parliament was more powerful than the throne.

Charles lost and, faced with being taken into custody by Parliament of the Covenanters, he chose the Covenanters, who supported a constitutional monarchy and wanted to maintain the independence of the Church of Scotland which might, otherwise, be swallowed up by the Church of England.

Second English Civil War begins

But keeping hold of Charles was a risky proposition and, in 1647, he was handed to Parliament anyway. Charles escaped and sought to divide his enemies, including the various parties in Scotland. Thus, the Second English Civil War began.

Scottish forces pushed south into England in support of English Royalists, who wanted to return Charles to the throne, as they saw this outcome as their best chance of advancing their religious aims. But, as history records, the Royalists failed, Charles I was executed in 1649 and, for 11 years, Britain was ruled as the Commonwealth of England, Scotland, and Ireland by Oliver Cromwell.

James Renwick is born

James Renwick was born in 1662, two years after Charles II came to the throne and, by his early twenties, was already a very public critic of the king. This earned him a following, but also the attention of the monarch who offered a reward for his capture.

Renwick had been ordained in the Netherlands in 1683, then returned to Scotland to preach. Many of his meetings were held outside, to bypass the requirement that all Presbyterians be registered with the government and drew up a declaration that agents of the government were the enemies of God, and that killing them was thus acceptable. The privy council ruled that anyone who failed to disown the declaration would be subject to the death penalty, while the Scottish Parliament declared it treason.

His luck ran out in 1688. Captured in Edinburgh, he refused to swear his allegiance to the king, and was tried and sentenced to be hanged. The sentence was carried out, at Edinburgh’s Grassmarket, on 17 February.

He was 26, and the last of the Covenanter martyrs.

Grassmarket, Edinburgh
Grassmarket, Edinburgh



Other events that occured in February

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