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

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memoir of one of the rivals. Bishop Burnet, who was intimately acquainted
with Lauderdale, has drawn this striking portrait of him : — " The Earl of
Lauderdale, afterwards made Duke, had l^een for many years a zealous
Covenanter ; but in the year forty- seven he turned to the King's interests,

^ Original Grant, Bundle 3 N, No. 5, of Cromartie Papers.
- Orioinal in the Cromartie Charter-chest.


and had contiuued a prisoner all the while after Worcester fight, where he
was taken. He was kept for some years in the Tower of London, in Portland
Castle, and in other prisons, till he was set at liberty by those who called
home the King. So he went over to Holland. And since he continued so
long, and, contrary to all men's opinions, in so high a degree of favour and
confidence, it may be expected that I should be a little copious in setting out
his character, for I knew him very particularly. He made a very ill appear-
ance ; he was very big, his hair red, hanging oddly about him ; his tongue
was too big for his moutli, which made him bedew all that he talked to ; and
his whole manner was rough and boisterous, and very unfit for a court. He
Avas very learned, not only in Latin, in which he was a master, but in Greek
and Hebrew. He had read a great deal of divinity, and almost all the
historians, ancient and modern, so that he had great materials. He had with
these an extraordinary memory, and a copious but unpolished expression.
He was a man, as the Duke of Buckingham called him to me, of a blundering
understanding. He was haughty beyond expression, abject to those he saw
he must stoop to, but imperious to all others. He had a violence of passion
that carried him often to fits like madness, in which he had no temper. If
he took a thing wrong, it was a vain thing to study to convince him : that
would rather provoke him to swear he would never be of another mind : he
was to be let alone ; and perhaps he would have forgot what he had said, and
come about of his own accord. He was the coldest friend, and the violentest
enemy I ever knew. I felt it too much not to know it. He at first seemed
to despise wealth, but he delivered himself up afterwards to luxury and
sensuality, and by that means he ran into a vast expense, and stuck at
nothing that was necessary to support it. In his long imprisonment he had
great impressions of religion on his mind, but he wore these out so entirely
that scarce any trace of them was left. His great experience in affairs, his


ready compliance with everything that he thought would please the King,
and his bold offering at the most desperate counsels, gained him such an
interest in the King, that no attempt against him nor complaint of him could
ever shake it, till a decay of strength and understanding forced him to let go
his hold. He was in his principles much against Popery and arbitrary
government ; and yet, by a fatal train of passions and interests, he made
way for the former, and had almost established the latter. And, whereas
some, by a smooth deportment, made the first beginnings of tyranny less
discernible and unacceptable, he, by the fury of his behaviour, heightened the
severity of his ministry, which was liker the cruelty of an inquisition tlian
the legality of justice. With all this he was a Presbyterian, and retained his
aversion to King Charles I. and his party to his death," ^

Bishop Burnet admits that he was a sufferer at the hands of Lauderdale,
and in return the hand of the Bishop w^as laid heavily on his persecutor in
portraying his character.

Lord Macaulay, in his History, follows suit with the Bishop in his descrip-
tion of Lauderdale, who, " loud and coarse both in mirth and anger, was
perhaps, under the outward show of boisterous frankness, the most dishonest
man in the whole cabal. He had been conspicuous among the Scotch insur-
gents of 1638, and zealous for the Covenant, He was accused of having
been deeply concerned in the sale of Charles the First to the English Parlia-
ment, and was, therefore, in the estimation of good Cavaliers, a traitor, if
possible, of a worse description than those who had sate in the High Court
of Justice, He often talked with noisy jocularity of the days when he was a
canter and a rebel. He was now the chief instrument employed by the Court
in the work of forcing Episcopacy on his reluctant countrymen, nor did he in
that cause shrink from the unsparing use of the sword, the halter, and tlie
1 Bishop Burnet's History of bis Own Time, Vol. i. pp. 101, 102. Ed. 1724.


boot. Yet those who knew him knew that thirty years had made no change
in his real sentiments, that he still hated the memory of Charles the First,
and that he still preferred the Presbyterian form of Church Government to
every other." ^

The same eloquent historian afterwards refers to Lauderdale's corrupt
gains in office, and his tenacity of place-keeping, in which, however, he was
not singular in his age. " In the seventeenth century, a statesman who was
at the head of affairs might easily, and without giving scandal, accumulate
in no long time an estate amply sufficient to support a dukedom. . . . The
gains of the Chancellor Clarendon, of Arlington, of Lauderdale, and of Danby
were enormous. . . . The more than Italian luxury of Ham, with its busts,
fountains, and aviaries, were among the many signs which indicated what was
the shortest road to boundless wealth. This is the true explanation of the
unscrupulous violence with which the statesmen of that day struggled for
office, of the tenacity with which, in spite of vexations, humiliations, and
dangers, they clung to it, and of the scandalous compliances to which they
stooped in order to retain it."^

According to Lauderdale's own account, his holding of office so long was
against his own wish, and by the express command of the King ; and that at
last he was, on his own solicitation, relieved of his office with joy. In a letter
written by Lauderdale, dated at Ham, 13th September 1680, he writes: —
" Having now, at last, by God's blessing and the King's goodness, after long
and earnest pressing, obtained his Majestie's leave to demitt my office of
Secretary, and his Majestic having been pleased to fill that place with a most
worthy, loyall, and able man (the Earl of Morray), you may be sure my mind
is, God be thanked, very much at ease."

This, and the subsequent portion of the same letter, which earnestly

^ History of England, 10th Edition, 1854, vol. i. pp. 213-214. 2 ;^-,;_ ^ 309.


beseeches au exoneration for all actings while in office, are in the handwriting
of a secretary. But the conclusion of the letter is holograph of the Duke
himself, in a feeble and tremulous scroll — " It was my right arme, wher I was
bled this day, which makes (me) use another hand." ^

The bodily ailments here alluded to were aggravated by his retirement,
and they proved to be the beginning of the end. Lauderdale lingered on in
disappointment and chagrin for two years, and died in August 1682.

Alexander, sixth Earl of Morray, who is alluded to by Lauderdale as his
successor in the office of Secretary, was on terms of intimacy with Lord
Tarbat. In a letter to his Lordship, dated 15th September 1684, Secretary
jNIorray writes that he values the correspondence of the latter as much as he
can express, and that he loves him, and desires to serve him ; and that the
King and Duke were extremely pleased with the accounts which Lord Tarbat
had given concerning Spence and Carstares.^ -

Lord Tarbat had the chief management of the business of Scotland during
the remainder of the reign of King Charles the Second, and during the reign
of King James the Second. He was very active in opposing the invasion of
Scotland by the ninth Earl of Argyll. One of the measures adopted by the
Government for crushing that ill-fated expedition was the appointment of
the Marquis of Athole as Lord Lieutenant and Justiciary of the county of
Argyll. Several letters written by Lord Tarbat to the Marquis are printed
in this collection.^ In a letter, dated 6th September 1684, Athole is informed
of the proceedings of the Privy Council. It is stated that " Argyl's letters,
now discovered, show a plaine, open, violent intended rebellion both in

' Original letter in Invermay Charter-chest. of his grandfather, the Chancellor, who was a

A Prince of the House of Brnnswick once greater. — [Eiddell's Peerage Law, 1S42, vol. i.

bluffly asked an Earl of Lauderdale if he was p. 217.]
descended of that great b — kg — d, the Duke "^ Letter, vol. i. p. 42.

of Lauderdale ? No, was the cool reply, but ^ Vol. i. p. ,33, et seq.


England and lieer. Spence's help hath opeud all the letters plainly. Car-
stairs is just now coming to a confession also. When he hath deponed, by
the next your Lordship shall know what it is."

Spence here referred to was a servant and follower of the Earl of Argyll.
He was put to the torture first by the boots, and afterwards by the thumb-
kins, — a small vice, which, with the screw, was capable of inflicting severe
torture on the hand. Carstares was also put to the same torture of the
thumbkins. It is related that when he afterwards showed to his master.
King AVilliam, one of these instruments, his Majesty was impressed with the
idea that it could not inflict such pain as was reputed. Carstares asked the
King to make trial of it. At a few turns of the screw the pain was so
severe that the King cried out in agony, and said that, under such an instru-
ment, a sufferer might be made to confess anything.

During his imprisonment at Stirling, Carstares wrote to Lord Tarbat, com-
plaining of his ill-usage there, and beseeching his Lordship to obtain for him
more liberty. He had but one room for himself, his wife, and maid. He
hoped to be liberated on bail, and promised to appear when called on.^

King Charles the Second died on the 6th of February 1685. Between the
removal of Lauderdale from office in 1 680, and the King's death. Lord Tarbat
had been intrusted with many of the affairs of Scotland. Exactly ten days
after the death of the King, his successor. King James the Second, on the
16th of the same month, wrote the following letter from Whitehall to the
Duke of Queensberry, then Lord Treasurer of Scotland, with whom James
corresponded on Scotch affairs for many years, both before and after his
accession to the throne : —

"Whitehall, Feb. 16, 1685.
" I have received yours of the 10th by the flying pacquet, and have only now

1 Letter, vol. i. p. 4.3.


tyme to tell you that the change of my condition has made no alteration in kind-
nesse to you, having the same esteeme and consideration for you I had before,
Avhich I am sure you will give me no reason to alter, so that you may be at quiet
in your mind, and shall find I have the same trust and confidence in you I had,
and am sensible none has served me better and more faithfullie than you, and do
rely on the continuance of it. As to other things, you will know my pleasure
from the letter I have signed, and what the Secretarys will say to you.

" J. K
"For the Lord Treasurer of Scotland."^

In another letter, the King writes to the Lord Treasurer of certain steps
taken by him to carry on the Government. This letter alludes to Lord
Tarbat, and is as follows : —

AVhitehall, Feb. 25, 1686.

By that tyme this getts to you, you Avill haue the Lord Tarbot with you, who
I haue charged to tell you the reasons which moued me to put the Tresury againe
into Commission. I haue also discoursed at large upon the same subject both to
Lord Eochester and your sonne, and assured them, as I now do you, that nothing
but my being satisfyd, upon long and mature considerations, that it is absolutly
necessary for the good of my service could haue obliged me to do it. And to lett
the world, as well as yourself, see I do it upon no other account, I make you Pre-
sident of the Councell, and put you into the Commission of the Tresury, in both
which stations, as Avell as in that of the See. Com., you may haue the oportunity
of serving me as well and as usefully as in the former station you were in. As to
my puting the command of the Castel of Edenburgh into the Duke of Gordon's
hands, I thought that necessary at this tyme, to make that towne haue more
regard for my commands, and civiler to the Catholiks, by seeing it in the hands
of one of that persuasion, who, I am sure, never thought of asking for it, nor dos
he know yett I intend it him. I shall end as I began, with assuring you I haue
done all this upon no other consideration then what I already sayd ; and as I
expect the same service from you which I always did, so you may be sure of my
kindnesse and protection to you and yours. ■ J. R.

For the Duke of Queensberry.-

1 Original Letter in Queensberry Corre- ^ Original Letter in Queensberry Corre-

spondence, at Drnmlanrig. spouclence, at Drumlanrig.




X WO months after his accession to the Crown, King James was pleased to
create Sir George Mackenzie a Peer of Scotland, by the titles of Viscount
of Tarbat, Lord Macleod and Castlehaven. The patent of creation is dated
at Whitehall, on 15th April 1685. It recites the very many signal services
performed by Sir George Mackenzie as Lord Eegister, and in many other
public trusts confided to him by King Charles the Second; and also his
unshaken fidelity during the Usurpation. The dignities were granted to the
patentee, and the heirs-male of his body.^

During the whole reign of King James the Second, Lord Tarbat enjoyed
the oifice of Lord Clerk-Eegister, and was also an ordinary Lord of Session.
Besides the business strictly applicable to those offices, he took part in the
political business of the country. During that period, as well as towards the
close of the reign of the late King, he received many applications from all
classes of subjects. Robert Barclay of Ury, the author of an "Apology for the
Quakers," applied to Lord Tarbat m reference to a proposal for joining East
New Jersey to New York as a part of that Government, and so share in it
by sending their representatives to the Assembly at New York. King James
the Second, while Duke of. York, obtained rights in East New Jersey under
a special grant.^ The application of Eobert Barclay was brought under the
notice of the King, who wrote the following letter on his relations with the
Quakers : —

1 Patent, vol. ii. p. 348. ' Letter, vol. i. p. 32.


" Whithall, July 16, 1685.
*' Tho' I have not great reson to be well satisfyd with the Quakers in generall,
yett I look on this bearer, Rob. Barkley, to be well affected to me, so that I would
have you shew him what countenance is reasonable, and not lett him suffer for the
faults of others of his persuasion, which is all I shall say now.
" For the Lord Treasurer of Scotland." ^

The Duke of York, in virtue of his right to lands in New Jersey,
on 14th March 168|, conveyed to James Earl of Perth, Eobert Barclay of
Ury, and others, a tract of land in New England, in America : the said tract
of land being then called New Caesarea, or New Jersey. The lands were to
be held of the Duke of York and his heirs, for yearly payment of ten nobles
in the Middle Temple Hall, London.^

Although engrossed in public affairs, Lord Tarbat was not unmindful of
the poor people on his estates. On the 18th September 1686, he executed a
deed of mortification, which provided that thirty-six bolls of bear from his
quarter lands of Wester Geanies should be given yearly for the help, susten-
ance, and entertainment of poor and indigent persons living on his lands of
Easter Aird, etc., in the parish of Tarbat ; Meddat, etc., in Logic and Kilmuir
parishes ; Park, Kinetties, etc., in the parish of Fodder ty ; with preference to
decayed tenants, and their wives when widows. The gift was to be adminis-
tered by the minister and elders of the parish of Tarbat ; and during the life
of his wife, Ann Viscountess of Tarbat, so much of it M'as to be given to
poor persons in the parish of Fearn. The mortification was made in thankful
acknowledgment of God's mercies, spiritual and temporal, bestowed on
him ; and the recipients were to be such as were of good life, and were
to pray for the King, the Bishop of Eoss, the donor, his lady, and their

children, and were to attend the church.^

1 Original holograph letter in volume of Queensberry Correspondence at Drumlanrig.
'- Grant in Bundle 3 E, No. 515, of Cromartie Papers, at Tarbat House,
3 Copy Deed of Mortification at Tarbat House.


Wliile holding the offices successively of Lord Justice- General and Lord
Clerk-Eegister, Lord Tarbat was admitted a burgess of several of the royal
burghs of Scotland, including those of Haddington, Dunbar, and Montrose/

Notwithstanding his constant occupation with official and State affairs at
this time, Lord Tarbat found leisure for attending to field sports. The
Honourable Alexander Melville, afterwards Lord Eaith, eldest son of Lord
Melville, writes to him from Monimail, in September 1687, to let him know
when he (Lord Tarbat) came to Fife, that he might come and hawk with
him ; assuring him that his hawk is very good, and that if his Lordship
could bring a good spaniel, fair sport might be expected."

The active position into which Lord Tarbat was forced at the period of
the Eevolutiou in 1688 has been graphically told by a contemporary writer : —

AVhen the Prince of Orange was preparing to invade England, Lord
Tarbat was not only Clerk-Eegister, but one of His Majesty's Privy Coun-
cillors, and one of the Secret Committee of the Council, which consisted of
seven persons : — the President, the Marquis of Athole, the Earl of Perth,
Chancellor, the Earl of Balcarras, the Viscount of Tarbat, Paterson, Arch-
bishop of Glasgow, and Sir George Lockhart. This Secret Committee had
the ordering of most of the affairs of the nation.

The King being informed that there was great discontent amongst his
subjects in Scotland, sent a warrant to the Chancellor, the Earl of Balcarras,
and Lord Tarbat, as three of the Secret Committee, to inquire of all the Officers
of State, Judges, and officers of the army, their opinion and obtain their

1 Extracts from the Records of these ciety of Antiquaries in April 18/2. Tt is

burghs in 1679, 1683, and 1684, 3 N. made of common horn, but beautifully carved,

Nos. 2, 3, and 4 of Cromartie Papers. and has on it an attempt at Sir George's por-

^ Letter, vol. i. pp. 53, 54. A powder- trait in a rude way. He is represented with

horn, having engraved on it the monogram of his gun on his shoulder, and wearing this

Sir George Mackenzie of Tarbat, was described powder-horn and the belted plaid. — [Eeport

by Mr. .Tames Drummond, R.S.A., to the So- in Scotsman, 10th April 1872.]


consent for taking off the penal laws and tests ; and though most of them
consented to it, yet it augmented their fears and jealousies more than ever.

In September 1688, tlie King acquainted the Secret Committee that he
expected an invasion from Holland ; but his enemies gave out that this was
only a sham to get the army together to enable him to forward his designs
for establishing the Eoman Catholic religion. A short time, however,
undeceived them in that, and the King, being afraid of some insurrections
that were rumoured as ready to break out in the North of England, sent
orders to the Secret Committee to concentrate his forces in Scotland with the
view of marching into England. Lord Tarbat, plainly seeing how much this
would encourage his enemies in Scotland, by leaving the country at their dis-
cretion and encouraging them to think that he was in danger from his English
subjects, proposed that an express should be sent to the King to show him
the inexpediency of withdrawing the army from Scotland, and to urge on
him the formation of an army out of the few regular forces that were in the
country, with the modelled militia, and a detachment of Highlanders, amount-
ing in all to 13,000 men, and that this army should be furnished with a half-
year's pay, and be stationed either on the borders of Scotland, or in the North
of England. That would keep the north of England and the whole of Scot-
land in peace ; and if he had further use for them, they would be always
ready to serve him in either nation. This was agreed to by the Council,
and an express was despatched to acquaint the King with it. But instead
of following this advice, the Earl of Melfort sent an order in the King's
name, but not subscribed by his Majesty, that the army should imme-
diately march ; and that if any of the King's friends were afraid of the
mob, they might march along with the army. They began their march
about the beginning of October, and left the country exposed to the mercy
of a furious and incensed mob.


The Couucil, finding themselves in this danger, ordered the modelled
militia to be brought to Edinburgh, and some of them to be quartered in
the suburbs, under the command of Sir George Monro, then an old man, who
had served under Gustavus Adolphus. But the army had no sooner passed
the Borders than great numbers of the discontented noblemen and gentlemen
came into Edinburgh, where they kept frequent meetings ; and although the
Council, by their spies amongst them, got notice of all their proceedings, yet
they overlooked what they had not power to suppress.

One of the first things they took into their consideration was how
to hinder all correspondence between the King and Council, which Sir
James Murray of Philiphaugh^ undertook to do, and did it so effectually that
few packets escaped them ; yet some came through till the rising in the
northern counties of England under the Earl of Derby and Lord Lumley ; then
all packets were opened, and only such suffered to pass as they thought fit.
At length an express came to the Council with an account of the landing of
the Prince of Orange, and that the King was gone to meet him. Upon this
the Chancellor, with advice of the Council, resolved to send an express to
the King to receive his further orders, and to know how affairs were going
in England. The Viscount of Tarbat recommended Bailie Brand, a mer-
chant in Edinburgh, as the most proper person for this, he being accustomed
to travel that road about his own affairs, and so less liable to be suspected.
This was agreed to, and the Bailie was despatched with the Chancellor's
account to the King of the bad state of the nation since the calling away
of the forces, and that the Presbyterians had all declared against him.
But the Bailie betrayed his trust, and went straight into the camp of
the Prince of Orange, and was introduced by Dr. Burnet. He delivered to
the Prince the letter intended for the King, and told him that he was

* Sir James Montgomerie, according to the Balcarras Memoirs, p. 13.


sent by several to offer his Highness their service. This becoming known,
Lord Tarbat was suspected of having contrived the scheme, and of being
one of those who had commissioned Baihe Brand to make an offer of
service to his Highness. But my Lord Balcarras, who was no great friend
to Tarbat, vindicates him in regard to this ; for, he says, " I am convinced
that he had not at that time any correspondence, for there was no man in
the nation in such apprehensions of danger after he read the Prince of
Orange's declaration, and saw by it he intended to sacrifice all to serve the
Presbyterians, and these rebels that came over with him, and who were for
the most part the Viscount of Tarbat's personal enemies."

The Council, after this disappointment with Bailie Brand, ordered three
of their number to wait upon the King, — the President of the Council,
Tarbat and Balcarras. The two first excused themselves as not being able
to ride post, so BalcaiTas went up alone. :

The news being brought that the King's army had deserted him, and
that he had returned to London, Tarbat, not doubting that the Prince of
Orange would prevail in whatever he designed, began now to provide for his