It was a crucial moment for the Covenanters. An English army was marching against Scotland to impose the haughty will of Charles I upon the kingdom that had made a covenant with Christ. A small but determined Scottish army was drawn up at the fields of Kelso to oppose them. The invasion was supported by an English fleet that sailed into the Firth of Forth. Along the shores near Leith, a determined band of Scottish defenders refused to allow the hostile fleet to land. It was an action known to history as the Battle of Berwick.
On board one of the English vessels was a young Scottish nobleman who had apostatized from the Reformed Faith. Like many men of his time, James the Marquis of Hamilton was willing to court power and wealth by compromising with the cause of the King of England. Rather than assisting his Scottish countrymen in their noble struggle against tyranny in church and state, he was actually guiding the English fleet into the coastal waters of Scotland.
Among the defenders on shore was an elderly Scottish noblewoman named Anne Cunningham. Many troubles and trials throughout life had already whitened her hair. She was the Marchioness of Hamilton, the mother of the faithless traitor. This heroic lady arrived at the scene of action on horseback, leading a troop of armed horsemen behind her. In Anne’s saddle-bow were two loaded pistols. Upon reaching the shore of the Firth of Forth, she drew one of the pistols from her saddle and proclaimed with calm confidence that she would be the first to shoot at the enemy if they dared to land and oppose the troops of the covenant. It is rumored that Anne had loaded her pistols with balls of gold!
Anne Cunningham had a rich heritage of faithful and Godly ancestors. Her great-great grandfather William Earl of Glencairn was one of the early converts to the Reformed Faith in Scotland. Her great grandfather was known as “The Good Earl” for his piety toward God and his benevolence toward his fellow men. He often attended the preaching of John Knox, and invited Knox to perform the Lord’s supper according to the manner of the reformed church at his manor house. The same great grandfather nobly defended the liberty of the Scottish church with his drawn sword. He was at Perth in 1559 when the queen regent brought a French army against Scotland. He raised a troop of twelve hundred horsemen to oppose the French invasion.
Now Lady Anne saw that her generation faced a similar peril from England. She was deeply grieved that her own son, following the sad example of his late father, had compromised with the enemy. Lady Anne, now a widow, had come to take a stand for the cause of truth.
But she came armed, not only with pistols, but also with the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Lady Anne asked for and obtained an interview with her son. She was rowed out to his ship, and pleaded with him not to desert the religion of his fathers, urging him to desist from making war against his own people. Lady Anne’s willingness to intercede with her son bore good fruit, and the enemy ships pulled away without landing.
Lady Anne of Hamiliton is not one of the famous servants of Christ during the Covenanter period, but her bold spirit, her love for Christ, and her generous support for the ministers of the Gospel will never be forgotten in Christ’s book of remembrance. Married to an unworthy husband for many years, she remained throughout life faithful to the Covenant that her ancestors had sworn to defend.
A few years before this repelled invasion at Leith, in the summer of 1630, Lady Anne was a Providential instrument in the outbreak of a great revival in the kirk of Shotts. She and a party of other ladies were traveling in a carriage on the road between her manor house and Edinburgh. Her carriage providentially broke down very near the manse (parsonage) at Shotts.
The local minister, Mr. Home, invited the lady and her companions to lodge with him and his family. The manse was in need of repair, and the lodging was quaint and simple, quite beneath the dignity of a noblewoman. But the kind pastor and his wife spread a simple Scottish meal before Lady Anne, and they gave her the best bed in the house. Lady Anne ordered that the manse be refurbished and that ministers far and wide come to Shotts to help the pastor keep the Lord’s Supper. The report of this gathering, connected with the name of Lady Anne, attracted a vast concourse of people from the surrounding villages and towns. They flocked in droves to the small country church to hear the Word of God and to receive communion. The assembly was much refreshed by the preaching and by the communion, and they tarried until the Lord’s Day.
On the Monday morning following the Lord’s Supper, the time came for the people to return to their homes, but there was such a manifest moving of God’s Holy Spirit that the ministers decided to remain there in Shotts and to continue the preaching. On that memorable Monday evening, a young minister named John Livingstone preached from the text of Ezekiel 36:25-26, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.” Such was the work of the Holy Spirit that five hundred people traced their conversion to that sermon delivered in the humble kirk of Shotts. The minister himself recounted of that occasion, “I was led on about an hour’s time in a strain of exhortation and warning with such liberty and melting of heart as I never had the like in public in all my life.”
The entire region of Clydesdale felt the long lasting effects of this mighty revival. After this, the practice in the Scottish church of meeting on t he Monday evening following a communion season became general. Lady Anne was forever grateful to God that her carriage had broken down in that very place, leading to such a mighty work of the Spirit of God. She remained an ardent supporter of the Gospel throughout the rest of her long life.
Lady Anne died in 1647. She was fondly remembered by the many pastors and their families that she had helped and encouraged. The people under her benevolent rule were grateful to God for such a faithful and kind noblewoman who put the interests of the Gospel above her own. Whether wielding a pistol in the defense of the truth or donating her personal funds to repair a manse for a Godly pastor, she was a consistent and faithful Christian lady.
Jesus gave a warm tribute to another such woman in the New Testament, words that could surely apply to Lady Anne, “Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her” (Matthew 26:13).
The Ladies of the Covenant by James Anderson