The Bishops' Wars (Latin: Bellum Episcopale) were conflicts, both political and military, which occurred in 1639 and 1640 centred on the nature of the governance of the Church of Scotland, and the rights and powers of the Crown. They constitute part of a larger political conflict across Scotland, England and Ireland, and are often considered a prelude to the English Civil Wars. They were so named due to the central conflict between Charles I, who favoured an episcopal system of church government for Scotland (that is, with bishops), and the desire of much of the polity of Scotland for a presbyterian system of governance (without bishops).
James VI of Scotland had reintroduced episcopacy to the Church of Scotland in 1584. After acceding to the English throne, he increased the numbers of bishops. His son, Charles I continually tried to foster uniformity between the established churches of his realms following the Anglican model. His regulation of liturgy in Scotland through the imposition of a Book of Common Prayer in 1637 sparked rioting and led to a formalised opposition in the National Covenant. His attempts to control the situation from London were unsuccessful, and by July 1638 he decided in his English Privy Council that force would have to be used. To gain time he agreed to a General Assembly of the Church of Scotland which met at Glasgow in November 1638, but the Assembly firmly decided that bishops were to be deposed and the prayer book abolished. Support for the Covenant grew under the leadership of James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose and Archibald Campbell, 8th Earl of Argyll, while soldiers serving abroad returned to Scotland, including General Alexander Leslie.
Despite problems in raising funds, Charles gathered a poorly trained English force of around 20,000 men in the early summer of 1639 and marched to the vicinity of Berwick-upon-Tweed on the English side of the border. The Scottish army, of some 12,000 men, led by Leslie, was encamped a few miles away on the other side of the border near Duns. Meanwhile, a series of minor engagements between Covenanters and Scottish royalist forces took place in Aberdeenshire. The first was a confrontation at the small town of Turriff called the "Raid of Turriff" at which no blood was shed. The next was the siege of Towie Barclay Castle, in which one person was shot – the first casualty of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. This was followed by two minor engagements known as the "Trot of Turriff" and the battle of the Brig o' Dee to the south of Aberdeen. However, as neither of the main armies wanted to fight, a settlement called the Pacification of Berwick was reached on 19 June under which the king agreed that all disputed questions should be referred to another General Assembly or to the Parliament of Scotland.
The new General Assembly then re-enacted all the measures passed by the Glasgow Assembly, and the Scottish Parliament went further, abolishing Episcopacy and declaring itself free from Royal control.