Scotlands History

Lords of the Congregation

In the winter of 1557 a small group of Scots nobles met in Edinburgh. They signed the ‘First Band of the Protestant Congregation in Scotland’; swearing that they would create a Protestant Scotland ‘to establish the most blessed word of God’. They became known as the Lords of the Congregation of Christ.

At first Marie de Guise tolerated the Protestants but, in May 1559, after a violent attack on churches in Perth - inspired by a fiery sermon by John Knox - she mustered an army.

The Lords of the Congregation raised a force called ‘the Army of the Congregation’ and occupied Perth. Marie de Guise backed down, withdrawing to Dunbar and calling for French support.

The Army of the Congregation marched on Edinburgh, attacking churches on the way. The Lords of the Congregation turned to Elizabeth I, the Protestant Queen of England, for support. Leith became a battleground as English ships besieged Marie de Guise's French troops.

On 11 June 1560 Marie de Guise died of dropsy. Her embalmed body was placed in a lead coffin in St Margaret’s Chapel in Edinburgh Castle. A peace treaty was signed the following month and the English and French troops left Scotland. The body of Marie de Guise was taken to France to be buried in Reims.

In August 1560, the Lords of the Congregation called a Parliament - known as ‘the Reformation Parliament’ - and broke all formal contact with the Pope. Celebration of the Catholic Mass was forbidden in Scotland. Scotland effectively became a Protestant country.

  • Stained-glass window showing John Knox giving a sermon to a crowd
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