It is 1679. Archbishop Sharpe, Primate of Scotland, has just been murdered. His death is a signal for rebellion in which the Covenanting army, strong in faith and willing to die for it, challenges the King's forces under the command of Claverhouse. Between the two extremes stands young Henry Morton of Milnewood; escaping the threat of execution by Claverhouse, he commits his loyalties to the Covenanters, whose bigotry and fanaticism he nevertheless deplores. The story reaches dramatic heights in Scott's description of the Covenanters rebuff of the Royalist forces at Loudoun Hill, the preparations for the Battle of Bothwell Bridge, and the moving trial of the young Morton and his fellow prisoners before Claverhouse and the Privy Council. Scott's grim tale of extremism and cruelty is redeemed by the courage and the loyalty of its characters and the humorous vignettes of the maid Jenny Dennison, the faithful Cuddie Headrigg, and his stubborn yet resolute mother Mause. In this, one of his best-known novels, Scott dramatically reaffirms his conviction that religious and civil liberty are essential for a civilized society.