William Fraser.

The earls of Cromartie; their kindred, country, and correspondence (Volume 1) online

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N o isr u R o .







William Eraser.






. HIS Book of the Earls of Cromartie owes its existence to the liberality
of their Graces the Duke and Duchess of Sutherland. Her Grace was
created, in 1861, Countess of Cromartie. As the representative of the Earls
of Cromartie, and heiress of their estates. Her Grace inherited a large col-
lection of the Correspondence of her distinguished ancestor, George first Earl
of Cromartie, a statesman who exercised great influence during a long life.
He was born in the year 1630, in the reign of King Charles the Eirst, and
died in the year 1714, in the reign of King George the First. He thus lived
in the reigns of seven sovereigns. Six of these he served faithfully in high
judicial and political ofi&ces, and he was, when he finally retired from public
life, the oldest servant of the Crown, having been for the long period of sixty
years in the active service of his country.

Although much of his correspondence has been lost, owing to the for-
feiture of his grandson, the third Earl of Cromartie, in 1746, a large portion
of it is still preserved, embracing the period from the Eestoration of King-
Charles the Second to the death of Queen Anne.

The Cromartie Correspondence and Charters came under my notice some



years ago. Judging that the Collection contained ample materials for an
interesting Book, similar to other Family Books which have recently been
arranged for several of the Historical Houses, I took the liberty of suggesting
that a selection of the Letters and Charters should be printed, along with a
comprehensive Memoir of Lord Cromartie. This proposal was readily assented
to, and the work intrusted to me. It is a satisfaction to me that, amidst
many interruptions and hindrances, this Family Book is at last added to a
rather long list of others for which I am already responsible.

The regions of Eoss and Cromartie, to which these volumes chiefly relate,
are of great historical interest.^ Cromartie was the cradle of Macbeth. Eoss
was the scene of the repeated rebellions of Donald Bane, who, in the time
of King AVilliam the Lion, possessed himself of the whole Earldom of Eoss,
and afterwards aimed at the conquest of the kingdom. But King William,
with his brother. Earl David, advanced with a large army and succeeded in
cutting off the rebel. The Castles of Dunscath, near Cromartie, and Ethir-
dover, or the Eedcastle in Killearnan, were then built, and still remain as
monuments of the progress of the Lion King.

Between the years 1496 and 1513, King James the Fourth made seven
pilgrimages to the shrine of St. Duthac, who was satirically styled "the
Demigod of Eoss." The last of these pilgrimages of the gallant King was
made within a month of his death at Flodden. The King's Causeway, or
Bridle Eoad, at Tain, is still pointed out.

1 While on his memorable journey to the
Hebrides, Dr. .Samuel Johnson passed through
Glenshiel, part of the country of the Mac-
kenzies of Seaforth, with great mountains on
each side, forming, as he said, a scene of as
wild nature as he could see. Sitting on a
bank for an hour, waiting his horses feeding

on the grass of the glen, he first conceived the
thought of writing his " Journey." The Doctor
and his fellow-traveller amused themselves
with a formal distribution of halfpence, tobacco,
and wheat-bread amongst the " wild Macraes,"
who inhabited that part of the country. They
had not previously seen any wheat-bread.


After the forfeiture of the ancient Earls of Ross, the district furnished
new titles, under the old names, to members of the Eoyal Family. James
Stewart, second son of King James the Third, was created, in 1487, Duke of
Eoss, Marquis of Ormond, Earl of Ardmanach, and Lord of Brechin and
Navar. The Duke did not long hold the territorial Dukedom of Eoss. On
the 15th of May 1503, having obtained the rich Abbey of Dunfermline,
he resigned the Dukedom of Eoss into the hands of the King. The Duke
reserved for his life the Hill of Dingwall beside that town, for the style
of Duke, the hill of Ormond for the style of Marquis, the Eeidcastle of
Ardmanach for the style of Earl, and the Castlehill of Brechin, with gardens,
etc., for the name of Lord of Brechin and JSTavar. The Duke of Eoss died in
1504. It was said of him by Ariosto, as translated by Hoole —

" The title of the Duke of Ross he bears,
No chief like him in dauntless mind compares."

The next creation of the title of Duke of Eoss was in favour of Alexander
Stewart, the posthumous son of King James the Fourth. The Duke was
born on 30th April 1514, and died on 18th December 1515. In the reign of
Mary Queen of Scots John Earl of Sutherland acquired from Mary, the
Queen-Dowager, a certain right in the Earldom of Eoss, which might ultimately
have joined in one family both Sutherland and Eoss. Lord Darnley, on
the prospect of his marriage with Queen Mary, was created Earl of Eoss, a
title by which he is little known, as it was only given to him a short time
before he obtained the higher titles of Duke of Albany and King of Scotland.

A history of the ancient Earls of Eoss and the Lords of the Isles is a
desideratum. In the year 1850 there w^as printed for private circulation
" Ane Breve Cronicle of the Eaiies of Eoss." The original manuscripts of that
work are at Balnagowan and Pitcalnie. The " Cronicle " is very imperfect ;
but the notices of original Charters which it contains are valuable.


The Cromartie Correspondence now printed occupies the largest portion
of this Book, there being in all 520 letters. Those in the first volume, 253
in number, embrace the period from 1662 to 1705 ; and those in the second,
267 in number, extend from the year 1706 to the year 1774. The greater
part of the Correspondence consists of letters addressed to the first Earl
of Cromartie, or letters written by him. It is of a very varied character,
including letters from eminent divines, authors, statesmen, and men of
science : amongst others, from John Tillotson, archbishop of Canterbury,
James Sharp, archbishop of St. Andrews, William Carstares, principal
of the University of Edinburgh and for a long period secretary to King
William the Third, and Eobert Barclay of Ury, author of " An Apology for
the True Christian Divinity," preached by the people called " Quakers."

One of the most valuable sections of the Correspondence is that between
John Earl of Mar and the first Earl of Cromartie. The Earls were cousins,
Lord ]\lar's grandmother having been Lady Mary Mackenzie, daughter of
George second Earl of Seaforth, while Lord Cromartie's mother was Margaret
Erskine, daughter of Sir George Erskine of Innerteil, brother of the Earl of
Kellie. From that connection Lord Mar called Lord Cromartie an " Erskine's
bairn," and Lord Cromartie, in the same way, called Lord Mar a " Mac-
kenzie's bairn." Besides this family relation, the two Earls had an official
comiection. Lord ]\Iar succeeded Lord Cromartie as Secretary of State for
Scotland, and the outgoing and incoming Secretaries carried on a very active
correspondence on tlie then ruling subject of the Union between Scotland
and England. Lord Cromartie's letters in favour of the Union are of very
jjreat interest.

Another correspondent of Lord Cromartie was Sidney Lord Godolphin,
Lord High Treasurer of England. Lord Godolphin's correspondence was
inherited by the family of Godolphin Osborne, Duke of Leeds. In the year


1869 a large collection of autograph letters belonging to them was dispersed
by public sale in London. In the catalogue of the fourth day's sale there are
the following entries of letters from Lord Cromartie : —

"Lot 623. — Mackenzie (Sir George), when Viscount Tarbat and Earl of Cromartie, dis-
tinguished Statesman, Lawyer, and Writer. Thirty holograph letters, two to Queen
Anne, and the others to Lord Godolphin, from May 27, 1703, to July 14, 1705, with
four others signed only when Earl of Cromartie, together 34. A most interesting
and valuable series, relating principally to the proceedings of the Scotch Parliament
during this eventful period."

" Lot 624. — Mackenzie (Sir George), Lord Tarbat, a letter signed, 1 page 4to, to Queen
Anne, 16th July 1703."

" Lot 625. — Mackenzie (Sir George), Lord Tarbat and Earl of Cromartie. Sixteen auto-
graph letters to (Lord Godolphin), and three other papers unsigned, very interesting,
July 1703 to November 1706."

On inquiring in London it was ascertained that the lots 623 and 625 were
purchased by j\I. Labussierre, a dealer in manuscripts, who retailed them soon
afterwards without retaining the names of the purchasers. The letters could
not be further traced.

Another section of the Correspondence here printed consists of the
letters of Anne Duchess of Buccleuch and Monmouth to the first Earl of
Cromartie, who, on his second marriage with her half-sister, Margaret
Countess of Wemyss, became the brother-in-law of the Duchess. Her
Grace confided much in the wisdom and advice of Lord Cromartie and
his son. Lord Royston, as to the management of her extensive estates
in Scotland. The greater number of the letters from the Duchess are
subscribed by her A. B. C, for Anne Buccleuch and Cornwallis. In her
own right she was Anne Duchess of Buccleuch. After her marriage with
Lord Cornwallis, she usually signed "A. B. C." She assures Lord Tarbat
how acceptable his letters are, and that her friendship for him, which began
in childhood, would not alter with age. In another work I printed a collec-
tion of thirty letters addressed by the Duchess to Sir James Mackenzie, Lord


Eoyston/ and also added a short Memoir of the Duchess.^ Her Grace was
the lady to whom Sir Walter Scott made his " Last Minstrel " recite or sing
his famous " Lay." The allusion in the Introduction to the kindness of the
Duchess to the aged minstrel is very touching: —

" The Duchess marked his weary pace,
His timid mien, and reverend face.
And bade her page the menials tell,
That they should tend the old man well :
For she had known adversity,
Though born in such a high degree ;
In pride of power, in beauty's bloom,
Had wept o'er Monmouth's bloody tomb ! "

In another Family Book with which I have made some progress, I hope
to be able to give a Memoir of the sagacious Duchess.

The Correspondence of the third Earl of Cromartie includes many letters
%\T:itten during the Insurrection of 1745-6, by Sir Thomas Sheridan and
Colonel John O'Sulivan, who attended Prince Charles Edward, These letters
throw much light on the operations of the Highlanders in that ill-fated

The letters of Simon Lord Lovat contain several new touches of that
versatile genius, although his correspondence is already weU known from the
previous publication of many of his letters. The present Collection affords
good specimens of his Lordship's peculiar style of epistolary correspondence,
which is usually characterised by extravagant protestations of friendship,
flattery, and servility. At the conclusion of his letters. Lord Lovat was to
his correspondents often a " faithful slave," while to Duncan Forbes, whom he
addressed as his " Dear General," as figurative of his high official position, Lovat,
in mock humility, subscribed himself as his " devoted Corporal." Yet with
these faults, there is often a copiousness of language, as weU as a learning and
originality that mark a vigorous mind and bespeak the scholar. Writing
1 The Red Book of Grandtully, vol. ii. pp. 301-319. ^ /j;^;^ y^x^ i p_ ccxxi.


to the Earl of Cromartie in 1743, on his recovery from an ilhiess with which
he was seized after a visit to Lord Lovat at Beaufort, his Lordship says : —

" Since I had the use of reason, I never received two letters that gave me so much joy, so
much pleasure, and so much comfort, as the two letters that I had the honour to receive from
your lordship this day. ... As my fears and concern were beyond expression when 1 was
acquainted with your lordship's illness, so, I thank God, my satisfaction and joy are now
complete in finding your lordship recover'd : . . . and I wish from my heart and soul that your
lordship may be restor'd to perfect health, and live at least for as many years as j^our grand-
father did. I do assure you, my dear Earl, that I wish this as much as I do my own health
and life ; and I wish I may have no life the day that I am not faithfully attach'd to your
lordship's person and interest." ^

The year 1745, which was so eventful and disastrous both to Lovat and

his correspondent, was begun with warm congratulations by his Lordship : —

" AUow me, my dearest earl, on the begining of this new year, to asure your lordship
and the worthy Countess of Cromarty, and all your most lovely family, of my most humble,
most affectionate, and everlasting respects. May God preserve your person, and the worthy
Countess of Cromarty, in perfect health, and with all manner of prosperity, untill at least
you see your great-grandchildren, which you may do without being so old as your great-
grandfather, who retained his vast judgment and reason to his dying hour."

In the same letter, Lovat refers to the contemplated changes in high
quarters. He pretends not to understand them, and says that they are as
incomprehensible as the greatest mysteries of nature and religion. But he
adds that though honest men should turn knaves, he is determined to preserve
his integrity till the conflagration.^

In April of the same year a daughter was born to Lady Cromartie. That
event afforded Lovat an opportunity of congratulating the Countess in his
best style. He said that he honoured and respected her beyond all the
Countesses in Scotland, and " I wish your lordship joy, with all my heart, of
this new infanta, as ane additionall beauty to your lordship's lovely family.
It is certain that your lordship's family is already the most beantifull in the
King's dominions."^

1 Vol. ii. p. 300, No. 512. - Ihid. p. 305. 3 /j;,/_ p 30s.

tiiii PREFACE.

This praise of beauty was not without foundation. Isabella Gordon, the
Countess of George third Earl of Cromartie, was popularly styled " Bonnie
Bell Gordon," and it was the beauty of her family that Lovat extolled so
hicrhly. Nor was it only in that generation that beauty appeared. The
features of the second Earl of Cromartie, as shown in his portrait, are cer-
tainly very handsome, and his second sister, Lady Elizabeth Mackenzie, who
was wife to Sir George Broun of Coalston, in East Lothian, was so very
beautiful, that whenever she appeared in the streets of Edinburgh crowds of
people actually followed her, in admiration of her beauty. She was the Lady
Coalston, who is reported, out of feminine curiosity, to have bit out a part
of the famous Coalston pear, and thereby caused the loss of a portion of the
Coalston property, which was previously held intact by the supposed charm
of the celebrated pear of fabulous antiquity.-^

In another letter to Lord Cromartie, Lord Lovat says — " My son has
taken a military freak : he is going, whether I will or not, with all of the
name of Eraser that are fitt for it, to join the adventureing Prince. You may
be sure, my dearest earl, this must affect me, because my son is the hope
of my family, and the dareling of my soul." "

In a notice of the "CuUoden Papers" which appeared in the "Edinburgh
Pteview," in February 1816, Lord Lovat is represented as a "feudal savage,"
" a brutal provincial tyrant," and a " monster." These are strong expressions
from the pen of a writer so graceful as Lord Cockburn, to whom the notice
is attributed. It is difficult to believe that this was the true character of
Lord Lovat, as his neighbours and friends in the highest position joined with
him in cordial intimacy and social friendship. His best biographer says
that he was a laced courtier welcomed by the first circles in Europe ; and as
a specimen of the different opinions formed of Lovat by his contemporaries,

1 Information by Her Grace the Duchess of Sutherland. - Vol. ii. p. 313.


he quotes the letter of a gentleman who lamented the death of Lovat as one
of the ablest men, of the soundest head, firmest mind, and best heart that our
country has at any time produced.^ The " Culloden Papers" above alluded
to, and in which several letters of Lord Lovat are printed, contain an
amusing instance of the alarm of so good a man as Duncan Forbes at
the general use of tea, and the injury that would happen to the agricul-
tural interest by that drug, as he called it, superseding the former beverage
of ale made from malt. He thus states the evil as he thought it : — " The
cause of the mischief we complain of is evidently the excessive use of
tea, which is now become so common that the meanest families, even of
labouring people, particularly in burroughs, make their morning meal of
it, and thereby wholly disuse the ale which heretofore was their accustomed
drink ; and the same drug supplies all the labouring women with their after-
noon's entertainments, to the exclusion of the twopenny."^ The Lord Presi-
dent further enlarges on the absurdity of cobblers and their wives gravely
sitting down to drink tea. He characterises in his paper the tea-drinkings
as " villanous " and " rascally " practices. The worth and wisdom of the
Lord President Forbes are much and justly extolled. But his tirade against

^ Mr, Burton's life of Lord Lovat, vol. i. \). of pulling down his family seat of Brahau

267. — Highland chiefs were supposed to have Castle. In the History of England by Lord

omni})otent authority over their Clan, and Lord Mahon, afterwards the late Earl Stanhope,

Lovat is one who is often quoted in corrobora- he notes that in the expedition for the inva-

tion of this. But the incautious remark of the sion of Scotland in 1719, according to "San

young chief of Clauronald, who was brought Phelipe, Lurd Seaforth went to BraCaam. But

up as a foster .son in the family of Lord Lovat, what place he means by Bracaam is beyond

was a remarkable exception. A profuse my skill to divine." Lord Stanhope might

slaughter of Highland cattle having been made have learned that Brahan Castle was obviously

on the comiug of age of young Clanronald, he alluded to, and that the various spellings,

remarked that a fewhenswouldhave been suffi- even in the title-deeds of that estate, such as

cient. This irritated the Clan, who speedily " Brawine," etc., differ more from the present

dethroned the " Hen-chief," as he was called. mode than the one which he quotes from San

The Clan Mackenzie also forcibly compelled Phelipe.
their Chief Seaforth to desist from his purpose - Culloden Papers, p. 190.


tea, under the plea of promoting ale, raises the idea that he was afraid of his
own famous Ferintosh whisky, of which, it is stated in the " Culloden
Papers," more was made than in all the rest of Scotland, and that it yielded
the President an annual income of about £18,000.

One of the noblest letters in the entire collection of the Cromartie
Correspondence is that which was written to the third Earl of Cromartie by
his son. Lord Macleod, announcing his intention of going into foreign service
to push his fortune as a soldier.^ The " poor boy," as his uncle, Sir John
Gordon, called him, when he went abroad, had not sufficient means for his
outfit, which had to be supplied by his friends. After his successful,
chivalrous, and even romantic career abroad, he returned and was able to
raise the popular regiment named after him, the Macleod Highlanders.

The First Volume, in addition to the Correspondence, contains the
Memoirs of the Tarbat or Cromartie Branch of the Mackenzie Family,
with an Introduction on the Origin of the Mackenzies, a subject which
has caused much discussion. The Memoir of the first Earl of Cromartie com-
prehends the whole of his official and domestic life, with an account of his
numerous literary works, and he is necessarily the most prominent figure in
the book. The memoirs of his immediate ancestors, his father, Sir John, and
his grandfather, Sir Eorie Mackenzie, are given comprehensively, as weU as
the memoirs of his immediate successors, the second and third Earls of
Cromartie, and of the eldest son of the latter, John Lord Macleod.

The Second Volume, besides the Correspondence already mentioned, con-
tains a selection of ancient Charters, chiefly connected with the Earldom of
Ptoss, Patents of Honour, also notices of the Grandvale and Cromartie and

1 Vol. ii. p. 226, No. 443.


Eoyston branches of the Mackenzies, and two Narratives written by John Lord
Macleod. One of these gives an account of the Insurrection in Scotland
in the year 1745-46, and the other, which is written in French, of the first
campaign in 1757 of the Seven Years' War in Germany. Both in the Insur-
rection in Scotland and the campaign in Germany, Lord Macleod, although
then a young man, took an active part, and his Narratives have all the
freshness of description of a participator in the events which he describes.

The story of the Eebellion of 1745-46 has been so often told by historians,
and the subject so much exhausted, that it is now difficult to discover any-
thing new and original about it. But Lord Macleod's Narrative has never
been published, and it, as well as his other Narrative, was unknown to the
family until I found them among a number of Tarbat papers. Facsimiles of
two portions of the Narrative are given. These contain an account of the
first interview between Prince Charles Edward and Lord Macleod. The first
of the Narratives is a new contribution to the history of an Insurrection,
in which the third Earl of Cromartie and his son, Lord Macleod, were deeply
engaged, and for which the Earl forfeited his honours and estates. That for-
feiture caused a long eclipse of the family till the estates were graciously
restored to Lord Macleod for his meritorious services in the army. After
the lapse of nearly a century, new honours, with nearly the old names,
have been conferred on the present representative of the family.

The letter which was written by Prince Charles Edward to George third
Earl of Cromartie on his landing at Boradale in August 1745, inviting his
Lordship to join the Royal Standard, which was to be set up at Glenfinan on
the 19th of that month, had also been overlooked amongst useless papers at
Tarbat. It is printed, with a lithograph, in the IMemoir of the third EarL

The first Earl of Cromartie, while Sir George Mackenzie, wrote a history
of the Mackenzie family, which is titled " A genealogie of the Mackenzies


preceding the year 1661, wreattin in the year 1669, by a Persone of Qualitie."
The original manuscript of that history is not known to exist, but many
copies are preserved, particularly in families of the name of Mackenzie.
From one of these an impression of fifty copies was printed in the year 1829,
in quarto (16 pp.), by Mr. John Whitefoord Mackenzie, W.S., a great lover
of books, and the possessor of one of the choicest libraries in Edinburgh.
The last paper in the Second Volume is another History of the Mackenzies,
also written by Lord Cromartie. It is much longer than that of 1669.
The original manuscript of the larger history was also lost, and had been
for many years out of the family repositories. After the present work had
been arranged, and the greater part of both Volumes printed, this manu-
script was recovered. It is imperfect and incomplete. Lord Cromartie
appears to have dictated portions of the History to an amanuensis who
was not familiar with the names, and had apparently often misunderstood
what his Lordship said. The manuscript thus contains many clerical errors.
In printing it, the original has been adhered to, but where such errors are
obvious, corrections are generally indicated by brackets. The History ends
abruptly. But during a careful search at Tarbat House, I was unable to dis-
cover any more of it. The fragment now printed, although incomplete, is a