Scotland and the Thirty Years' War

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Scottish soldiers in the service of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden.[1]

Scotland and the Thirty Years' War deals with the complicated involvement of Scotland in the Thirty Years' War of 1618-1648. Although not a formal belligerent in the war, Scotland and Scots were heavily entangled in both the diplomatic and military events centred on the Holy Roman Empire (modern Germany). The fate of the Scottish princess Elizabeth of Bohemia was a key concern and up to 50,000 Scottish troops,[2] in effect mercenaries, were engaged in various European armies.

Since the Union of the Crowns of 1603 Scotland had been increasingly distanced from the Stuart regime in London, and events at home and abroad increasingly led the Scottish Parliament to pursue its own independent lines of diplomacy with mainland European states.[2] For example, when Stuart England formally engaged in the war in 1625, Scotland did not follow suit. In addition, a large number of ambitious individual Scots in different European courts had a profound influence on the course of the war and Scotland's involvement in it.

Basis for the Covenanter armies[edit]

In the early seventeenth century relatively large numbers of Scots took service in foreign armies involved in the Thirty Years' War, with 20-30,000 in Swedish service, a Scots brigade in the Netherlands, 5-6,000 raised for Danish service in the period 1626-7, 11,000 for France and large numbers in the armies of eastern Europe, including German states, Poland and Russia.[3]

Hundreds of Scots mercenaries returned home from foreign service, including experienced leaders like Alexander and David Leslie. These veterans played an important role in training the Covenanter recruits.[4]

Scottish people of the Thirty Years' War[edit]

The assassination of Albrecht von Wallenstein by the Scottish and Irish officers

Many noted Scots participated in the Thirty Years' War, including:


  1. ^ While the artist's inscription addresses the soldiers as Irish, and the 1631 (?) print had been catalogued by the British Museum under the header "Irish soldiers," cf. Catalogue of prints and drawings in the British Museum, division I, vol. I, Chiswick Press 1870, p. 78 (No. 124), Ian Grimble identified the depicted soldiers as Scottish Highlanders of the Mackay regiment, cf. Ian Grimble: The royal payment of Mackay’s regiment, in Scottish Gaelic Studies, vol. 9.1 (1961), pp. 23–38, esp. p. 32.
  2. ^ a b Murdoch, Steve (2001). Scotland and the Thirty Years' War: 1618-1648. Brill. ISBN 9789004120860. 
  3. ^ R. Mitchison, A History of Scotland (London: Routledge, 3rd edn., 2002), ISBN 0415278805, p. 183.
  4. ^ J. S. Wheeler, The Irish and British Wars, 1637-1654: Triumph, Tragedy, and Failure (London: Routledge, 2002), ISBN 0415221315, pp. 19-21.

Further reading[edit]

  • Dukes, Paul, ed. (1995). Muscovy and Sweden in the Thirty Years' War 1630-1635. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521451390. 
  • Ferguson, James; Scot, John (1899). Papers Illustrating the History of the Scots Brigade in the Service of the United Netherlands, 1572-1782: The war of independence, 1572-1609. The time of the twelve years' truce, 1609-1621. The thirty years' war, 1621-1648. The age of William of Orange and the British revolution, 1649-1697. Printed at the Princeton University Press by T. and A. Constable for the Scottish History Society. 
  • Monro, Robert (1637). Brockington, William S., ed. Monro, His Expedition With the Worthy Scots Regiment Called Mac-Keys. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 9780275962678.