The Covenanters by Claire Watts is a book aimed at young people aged 10 and above about the religious (and other) conflicts that tore apart Scotland (and England and Ireland) from 1625 to 1690. This is an exceptionally complex and convoluted period of Scottish history. Individuals, groups and entire nations changed allegiance, sometimes over very short periods, and sometimes more than once: and to modern eyes, the underlying motivation that drove participants to kill and be killed is strangely alien. As a result, though many books have been written, and read, about Scotland in the 1600s, we sometimes wonder how many of those readers can really say they understand even the broad outline of the plots and sub-plots, the unexpected and often unlikely twists and turns, and the repeated shifts of alliance and outlook.
Clair Watts has done an exceptionally fine job in presenting the sometimes disparate strands of the story in a way that is comprehensible, and retainable, by the modern reader. And while the book is aimed at a younger audience, such is the complexity of what took place that it serves as an excellent starting point for anyone of any age wanting to gain an understanding of the period.
The book opens with a helpful timeline, and concludes with an interactive section. In between are a series of short and well illustrated sections addressing topics such as "who were the Covenanters?" and "religion in the 17th century", before moving on to look at Charles I's belief in his Divine Right to impose new and unwelcome forms of worship on his Scottish subjects, and his subjects' response, culminating in the signing of the National Covenant; the Bishops' Wars between Scotland and England that followed as a result: and the English Civil War that they gave rise to. Specific sections look at the roles of James Graham, Earl of Montrose and Oliver Cromwell, before the book moves on to the restoration of Charles II, the heightened tensions that followed, including the "Killing Time"; and finally the Glorious Revolution, which brought the story full circle, and left the Scots with a church not very different from the one they began with before Charles I decided to intervene, 65 years and many thousands of needless deaths (including his own) earlier.