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Scotland in the seventeenth century was a troubled country plagued by lawless Highlanders and rebellious Covenanters - a strict religious sect, which harboured an armed force strong enough to worry the Scottish government. In 1678 Scotland's parliament raised a small army to keep order, from which emerged two regiments that were to gain a glorious future in the British Army as the Royal Scots Greys and the Royal Scots Fusiliers.
Re-enactment group in the guise of pikemen of the 1680s. Pikes were phased out of the army with the introduction of the ring bayonet around 1690
When James II succeeded his brother Charles to the throne in 1685 the small army he had inherited was enlarged by 200 per cent. Six regiments of horse, two of dragoons and nine of foot were raised in response to the Duke of Monmouth's Rebellion. The superior horse regiments were given precedence over all others that had been raised before them, with the exception of the Horse Guards, but they proved too costly to maintain and the senior regiments were reduced to the rank of dragoon guards in 1746.
By 1688 Parliament was at the end of its tether with King James and his pro-Catholic policies, and Whigs joined Tories to look abroad for a more enlightened monarch. James's Protestant daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange were duly invited to come over from Holland to take the crown of England. When William landed in Devon the army went over to his cause and more regiments were organised in the West Country. The deposed James created a following in Ireland and attempted to drive Protestant settlers from the country; the towns of Londonderry and Enniskillen were put under siege and regiments were hastily formed locally in their defence. Two of these continued in service under the title of Inniskilling, a name owed to the slip of a clerk's pen it is said. A sympathetic rising in Scotland during 1689 forced the government to commission regiments of foot to counter rebellions in the Highlands. William harnessed the strength of the Covenanters in a regiment called the Cameronians after their martyred leader Richard Cameron, and in Edinburgh Leven's Regiment lived on to become the King's Own Scottish Borderers.
There followed a lull in recruitment until 1694, when many new regiments of foot were embodied for William's perpetual quarrels with France. A number of marching regiments formed in this year were stood down at the end of hostilities but three - the 28th to 30th of Foot - were re-formed for the new war of 1702. New regiments warranted by William in his last year of life were authorised by his successor Queen Anne and began life as marines.
When Anne died in 1714 the Protestant Elector of Hanover was invited to take the throne and Jacobites again rose up in Scotland. From the regiments formed to fight the rebellion, six were to gain a permanent footing in the army as the 9th to 14th Dragoons. The ebb and flow of campaign in Scotland stretched the old train of artillery to the extent that reorganisation was inevitable, and after 196 years of supervising the artillery and support arms, the Board of Ordnance relinquished its gunners and engineers to form their own separate bodies, each responsible for their own area of expertise.
When George II succeeded to the throne in 1727, Scotland was still an unsettled country and independent companies of Highlanders recruited from families loyal to the crown were hired to police the braes. Those patrolling to the north of Glasgow were known by their dark tartan as Am Freiceadan Dubh (the Black Watch), a name later adopted by the army's first Highland regiment to be enlisted after the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715. Lads for the Highland Regiment joined up in the belief that they were wanted for service in their own country and when they were ordered over the border in 1743 a hundred of them turned back, only to be hunted down and returned to London where the ringleaders were shot and the remainder transported. In the ensuing years some sixty Highland regiments were raised in times of war, and of these, seven line and nine fencible regiments were to mutiny against harsh conditions and broken promises.
Several marching regiments were raised with the outbreak of war in 1740, seven of which remained with the infantry. At this time regiments were identified by the name of their colonel but around 1751 a system of numbering according to seniority gave them a more permanent identity.
The 1750s found Britain and France locked in conflict around the world, and in Europe Frederick the Great was expanding Prussian territory into neighbouring countries. Existing regiments were brought up to war strength, more were commissioned, and, after the usual disbanding and renumbering at the end of the war, twenty-one new formations could be added to the army list: the 50th to 70th Regiments of Foot.
As the Seven Years War progressed, an experiment with light cavalry proved so successful that complete regiments of the kind were formed for service in the period 1759-60. All but three of the new light horse regiments were disbanded at the end of the war, but the concept thrived and eventually most of the heavy dragoon regiments were converted to a light role as hussars or lancers.
A Militia Bill passed during the Seven Years War to resurrect the old county militia regiments was implemented with a threat of invasion in 1759. It required a quota of able- bodied men to be chosen by lot in every county of the land, to be drilled in town and village every week from spring until autumn, ready to be called out when needed. The men proved quite willing when danger threatened but seldom looked to their duties after the end of the French wars.
Re-enactors in the dress of the Marlburian Wars 1703-12. The black felt hat of the last century was now turned up on three sides
The early part of the reign of George III was dominated by unrest in the colonies fought over in the Seven Years War. Riots and demonstrations in Massachusetts sparked a revolution that was to tie down the army for ten years and end in defeat. The surrender of a British column at Saratoga in 1777 stirred people at home to form volunteer units for local defence in case news from the colonies influenced French policy against England. In general English soldiers had little taste for fighting their own countrymen in America, but the Highland Scots had suffered great poverty after their defeat at Culloden in 1746 and gladly offered their services under arms for the King's pay. The next twenty years saw the birth of the remaining Highland regiments of the British Army.