Monmouth Rebellion in England & Scotland

The Monmouth Rebellion (incorrectly called the Pitchfork Rebellion) was the invasion of Britain in 1685 by two Whigs Armies. The first was led by Archibald, the 9th Earl of Argyll and landed in Scotland. The second was led by James, Duke of Monmouth who landed in England. After the death of Monmouth’s father King Charles II, his uncle James, Duke of York assumed the title, of James II. The objective of the invasions was to remove the new King from power. This is the true story of the Monmouth Rebellion based on first-hand accounts.

Gathering Clouds Map: the planning timeline & first moves up to May 8, 1685.

On to Scotland: the Earl of Argyll’s first moves & other acts from May 9 to 18 1685

The build-up from May 19 to 30 1685

The first acts of the war May 31 to June 10 1685

The impact of the delay from June 11 to 20 1685

The Road to the Sedgemoor June 21 to July 4 1685

Why did the Monmouth Rebellion Happen?

The Monmouth Rebellion was the planned invasion of Britain by two combined Whigs Armies. The first was led by Archibald, the 9th Earl of Argyll and landed in Scotland. The second was led by James, Duke of Monmouth who landed in England. Argyll held a strong position in Argyllshire, diverting Government troops his way. Meanwhile, an uprising in Chester was to draw forces out of London, as Monmouth advanced on the capital, the city would also rise up. However, due to good and then poor weather, followed by delays created by the unexpected arrival of English warships the two invasions were no longer synchronised.

King James II & VII

Opposing the Whigs were the forces of the new King James II, funded by French money. Through a network of spies, James had advanced warning that the invasions were coming but not when or where. At the start of the Monmouth Rebellion, the Whig Armies had some success, after initial skirmishes with Argyll wins the Battle of Ardkinglas on June 12, 1685. With Monmouth landing at Lyme on June 11, his Army grew rapidly clashing with Government forces at Bridport on June 14, Axminster on June 15 and Keynsham on June 25. On June 27, at Norton St Philip, Monmouth’s Army defeated the main Government force under the Earl of Feversham. However, with supplies running short, the Whigs retired to Bridgwater.

In Scotland, Argyll was surrounded on the Cowal Peninsula but broke out towards Glasgow leaving his supplies to be captured on the Island of Eilean Dearg.

Archibald 9th Earl of Argyll

On the night of June 17, the Whigs are at Killearn facing the Earl of Dumbarton with a Government force three times their size. During the night they slip south across the Kilpatrick hills towards the River Clyde at Old Kilpatrick. Although the Whigs captured the crossing, by sunrise the Argyll’s Army had broken up, with some loss in the hills, and others fleeing home. With his Army destroyed Argyll, crosses the Clyde and is captured on June 18, trying to get to Glasgow. However, a force of Whigs under Sir John Cochrane marched south and that evening defeated a Government detachment four times bigger at the Battle of Muirdyke. Over the following days, news reached Cochrane of Argyll’s capture, and with a heavy heart, he dismissed the remaining Whigs. The Monmouth Rebellion in Scottish was over, Monmouth was on his own. After his capture, Argyll was executed in Edinburgh on June 30, 1685.

James, Duke of Monmouth

In England, the Monmouth Rebellion was reaching its climax. After arriving at Bridgwater on July 3, Monmouth set about fortifying the town. Two days later on July 5, Feversham arrived in Westonzoyland some 5 miles from the Whig. Early the following morning Monmouth attempted to surprise the Government forces. However, Feversham’s well-deployed pickets alerted the camp. This forced the Duke to deploy before reaching the tents and gave the Government Army time to form up. What followed was the Battle of Sedgemoor, and Monmouth’s Whig Army was defeated and broken. The day after James II wrote to Orange with news of his victory. In the months after the battle, the King inflicted a harsh penalty on those that had rebelled. What followed was the Bloody Assizes which saw the quartered bodies of over three hundred and twenty Whigs being posted across Somerset and Dorset. Monmouth did not escape and was captured three days later. He was taken to London and on July 15, the Duke of Monmouth was executed on Tower Hill. The Monmouth Rebellion was over.


This account is based on a more detailed description of the Earl of Argyll’s & the Duke of Monmouth’s campaign of 1685 available from Helion & Company in my Book Fighting For Liberty.