View site in Scots

Scots Language Centre Centre for the Scots Leid

John Nicoll and the English Invasion

In 1603 James VI of Scotland had also succeeded to the thrones of England and Ireland, but his attempt at a political union between his kingdoms had failed. His son Charles I (ruled 1625-1649) provoked political and religious differences that led to wars between England and Scotland in 1639-40 and 1650-52. The Scots had drawn up a National Covenant in 1637 which pledged the country to support a national Presbyterian church, free of royal control, while at the same time Puritan sects rose to power in England. Ultimately these two forces, and their national interests, clashed, ending with an English occupation of Scotland that lasted until 1660.

John Nicoll (c.1590-1667) lived through these upheavals. He was a Glaswegian who spent much of his life in Edinburgh where he worked as a notary public – writing legal documents on behalf of clients – and as Writer to the Signet, a legal department of the Scottish government which oversaw the administration of decrees of the Court of Session. Nicoll was a prolific diary writer throughout the years 1637-1667, commenting in great detail on political and religious affairs, the wars with England, the English occupation of Scotland, and the early Restoration government. In the PDF document below you will find six extracts from Nicoll’s diary describing events in 1650, together with background and other notes.