“Bothwell Bridge”

Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1803 (Scott)
Keywords: battle death nobility
Found in: Britain(Scotland)


Earlston bids farewell to his family and sets out for Bothwell Bridge (to join the Covenanters). Monmouth, who commands the enemy, welcomes him but orders him to disarm. The two sides cannot agree, and a bloody battle ensues


The battle of Drumclog (1679; see "Loudon Hill, or Drumclog," Child 205), at which Dundee was defeated, brought many more men to the Covenanter cause. These new men, however, were anything but disciplined; they didn't even really agree on what they wanted (they were anti-Episcopal, but there were all sorts of ways to oppose bishops!).

As a result of this disorganization (abetted by bad leadership), the Covenanters were routed at Bothwell Bridge by Charles II's illegitimate son Monmouth, the royalist commander. According to G. N. Clark's _The Later Sutarts, 1660-1714_, the presbyterian forces lost about 400 killed and over 1000 captured; many were sold into slavery in Barbados.

Despite the failure of the rising, the mere fact that it happened caused the Duke of Lauderdale (John Maitland, 1616-1682), the Secretary of State for Scotland who had implemented the High Church policy, to lose most of his power.

The ballad implies that Claverhouse was a senior officer at Bothwell Bridge -- but in fact he was only a captain of no great importance at this battle.

It should be noted that various sources list July 2 as the date of the battle. This is, I believe, a case of Old Style (Julian) versus New Style (Gregorian) dates.

There is at least one unrelated (but quite old) broadside about this battle, NLScotland, APS.4.99.4, "Bothwell-Bridge: Or, Hamilton's Hero," T.B. (London), 1679 - RBW

Historical references


  1. Child 206, "Bothwell Bridge" (1 text)
  2. Bronson 206, "Bothwell Bridge" (4 versions)
  3. Leach, pp. 551-553, "Bothwell Bridge" (1 text)
  4. Roud #337
  5. BI, C206