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The Covenanters were supporters of the Scottish Covenant of 1638, which was a national protest against the ecclesiastical innovations in the Scottish Church imposed at Edinburgh and subscribed to by various nobles, ministers, and burgesses. Those who signed the Covenant, which was initially neither anti-royalist nor anti-episcopalian, though it became both, declared that they would defend their religious beliefs against any changes not mandated by free assemblies and the Scottish Parliament. The term was also applied to their spiritual heirs who opposed the reintroduction of episcopacy in 1662.

Some Covenanters were also signatories of the Apologetical Declaration which declared war on all established political officials, soldiers, judges, conformist ministers, and informers. This document, however, provoked a response upon the part of the authorities which became known as the Killing Times: during 1684-85, at least 78 persons were summarily executed for refusing to retract their allegiance to the declaration, and many others were executed after trial. Despite often brutal repression, especially during the period between 1678 and 1685, the excluded ministers, supported by the local aristocracy and independant peasantry, maintained an underground church in the south-western parts of Scotland.

Last modified 1988