William Fraser.

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

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Cromartie's second wife, Margaret Countess of Wemyss and Cromartie, in
the year 1705, it was arranged between his Lordship and her son, the Earl of
Wemyss, that on Lord Cromartie's own death his body should be laid next
to that of his late Countess in the burial-place at Wemyss. This arrange-
ment was reduced to a formal written obligation by Lord Wemyss, which has
been given in a previous chapter. Notwithstanding the anxiety which Lord
Cromartie then showed to have his burial-place beside his Countess, his wish
was not ultimately fulfilled. He had in his lifetime enclosed about two-
thirds of an acre of ground near the church and churchyard of Dingwall, in
which his immediate ancestors w^ere interred. In the centre of that ground
there was also erected a pyramid six feet square at the base, and which rises
to the height of fifty-seven feet. This is popularly known as Lord Cromartie's

There being no trace of the interment of Lord Cromartie at Wemyss in
terms of the written obligation before quoted, and there being no record of

1 Original Letter in Cromartie Correspondence at Tarbat House.




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10 .11 ,ig ,13 Feet






his interment at Dingwall, doubts arose as to the real last resting-place of
his Lordship. These doubts were completely cleared up in the month of
August 1875 when excavations were made in the enclosed ground at
Dingwall. Many traditions were current in Dingwall in reference to this
pyramid. The oldest inhabitants believed that Lord Cromartie was buried
in a vault on the west side of the pyramid, and pointed out the exact spot,
as they thought, where he lay. They described the vault, the actual
number of steps which led to it, and the iron gate by which it was guarded.
That gate does not now exist. Its removal was accounted for by an incident
very generally repeated, that a poor boy having fixed his head in the bars of
the gate, a blacksmith had to be sent for from Inverness to extricate him —
no Dingwall tradesman having been equal to the task.

These traditions were so very precise and plausible, that the excavation
of the vault was considered advisable, and a trial made on the spot so dis-
tinctly indicated by the aged people. But after a careful exploration, no
trace of any grave or vault, or roadway leading to it, Avas found ; and the
fulfilment of the original obligation as to the burial of the Earl of Cromartie
at Wemyss seemed to acquire confirmation. But as only one of the four sides
of the ground around the pyramid had been explored, it was thought possible
that Lord Cromartie's remains might have been interred on one of the other
three sides. The whole surface of the ground around the pyramid was exactly
alike, quite level, without the slightest indication of a grave by a raised
mound, railing, or tablet ; nor, on the pyramid itself, was there any inscrip-
tion to indicate that the ground had ever been used as a place of sepulture.
The second excavation was made on the south side. Four wooden coffins,
containing bodies, were successively discovered, and also a leaden coffin, with
the initial letters G. E. C, for George Earl of Cromartie, and the date 1714,
the year of his death. The leaden coffin contained two wood coffins, and


the velvet on these was in many places quite entire. The inscription
identifies the remains as those of the first Earl of Cromartie, and proves that
he was buried beside his ancestors, and not alongside Lady Wemyss at
Weniyss, as arranged for at the time of her death.

From the time of the discovery of the graves, on 19th August 1875, they
were carefully guarded ; and, on Friday the 1 0th of September following, the
whole were inspected on behalf of the noble family interested in them. Lord
Cromartie's body was found to measure six feet two inches, which agrees
with tlie contemporary descriptions of his personal appearance as tall and
handsome. His skull was carefully measured, and found to be much beyond
the ordinary size. All the graves were restored to their original condition.

The following inscription has been engraved on a stone inserted on the
south side of the monument : —





Who died at Tarbat House

On the 27TH OF August 1714,


23RD September following,




Other Four Bodies, lying near,



Since the above was in type, very careful search has been made at
Wemyss for the tomb with the Latin inscription, said to have been erected
to the memory of Margaret Countess of Wemyss and Cromartie, by Lord
Cromscrtie. That inscription is referred to, and two lines of it quoted, by
Mr. Wood in his edition of the Peerage of Scotland, which was published in
the year 1813. The two lines quoted by him run thus : —

" Pulchra Venus, Pallas sapiens, et casta Diana, ^

Trina sub hoc uno cernitur sere Dea."

But after the most careful search in the burial-vault at Wemyss, no monu-
ment to the Countess can now be found, nor can the site of her sepulchre be
ascertained. Amongst the Cromartie Papers at Tarbat House, there is a
poem for a bronze statue of the Countess in the Hall of Wemyss, written by
a person signing with the initials K. C, in which the above two Latin lines
occur. It is probable this was an inscription for one of the statues cast by
Josias Iback, statuary, London. The whole poem is in the following terms : -

In Statuam Aeneam NobiHssimse Margaritse de Weemys comitissse in Aula

Margarita nitet Dufforum gemma coronse,

Stella nee aetherio pulchrior orbe micat.
Macbethi domitore sates ornatque tyranni,

Dum Lapidem Duffi Regia Fifa colit.
Principe sublato Duncano morte cruenta,

Restituit sobolem DufFus, et ultor erat.
Illius hinc soboles Lapidis sibi gaudet asylo,

Quern reus attingens crimine liber abit. »

Virtutis pretium dedit hoc Rex pignus in sevum,

Debuerat Duffo quod diadema suum.
Magna quidem res est regno cum laude potiri,

Major at est populi Marte creare ducem.


Margarita sui proavi nil indiget ara ;

Immunis sceleris non nisi Diva fuit.
Quisquis es impurus Statuam ne pollue dextra,

Non dabit ses veniam, si dedit ante Lapis.
Ectypus hie sacer est, procul hinc absiste profane,

Aut preesta similem te pietate bonse.
Pulcbra Venus, Pallas sapiens, et casta Diana,

Trina sub hoc uno cernitur sere Dea.
Pars ejus melior vivitque perennior illo,

Mens ea ccelestis jam super astra regit.
Corporis effigiem posuit Cromertius heros,

Nupta fuit maesto nam dea trina Viro.

K. C.

Quid tua fata fleat % Tu C03I0 jure recepta.

Vivere se sine te non sine jure dolet.
Spes tamen una manet, mox tecum vivet, et optat

Mens ut conjugio spiritus unus erat.
Emeriti natura parens miseretur honesta,
Vir sex lustra tuns prseteriitque decern.

K. C.
To the Right honorable the Earl of Cromarty, These
are humbly presented by the Author.

The investigations at Wemyss furnished an explanation why Lord Cro-
inartie was not buried there. A mGrtification for behoof of a catechist at
East Wemyss, by Lord Cromartie, has come to light, and fully explains it.
The deed states that whereas Margaret, heiress and Countess of Wemyss, his
dearest wife, is now to be buried in the burial-place of Wemyss with her
ancestors, and in which burial-place, " at my destination and earnest desire,
and with consent of David, now Earl of Wemyss, and in consonance to our
said dearest wife's desire, whilst on earth, I am (God willing) to be hurried, if
I shall dy, in any place besouth the water of Northesque, which runs betwixt




the shy res of Angus and Mearns, and since on several accornpts the said
burrial-place of the Wemyss cannot admit of a tomb to be built for hir as
there are none for any of hir ancestors," therefore the Earl, as a small token
of his great affection and honour to her pious memory and unparalleled vir-
tues, though very unproportionable to either, determined to pay to the church
of Easter Wemyss the sum of a hundred merks Scots yearly, for founding a
salary to a catechist for catechising and instructing the colliers and salters of
the lordship of Wemyss in the method of catechising in their families, to be
paid in yearly to the kirk-session of the Wemyss under the direction of the
Earl of Wemyss and minister of the parish. The payment was to be made
yearly on the 1 st day of January, that being the birth-day of that illustrious
Countess. The bond is dated 1705, and recorded in the Books of Council and
Session on the 16th of April 1707. As Lord Cromartie's death took place in
the shire of Cromartie, north of the water of Esk, he was buried at Dingwall
with his forefathers.





XIaVING been a member of so many different ministries, and having
warmly supported the Union between Scotland and England, Lord Cromartie
did not escape misrepresentation by those who expected that he would
have opposed that measure. In particular, George Lockhart of Carnwath,
in his Memoirs of the Affairs of Scotland, has drawn the following character
of Lord Cromartie : —

" The Satyrist, in his lampoon, speaking of George Viscount of Tarbat, since
Earl of Cromarty, uses these words —

Some do compare him to an eel,
Should mortal man be made of steel !

and certainly this character suited him exactly ; for never was there a more fickle,
unsteady man in the world : he had sworn all the contradictory oaths, comply'd
■with all the opposite Governments that had been on foot since the year 1648, and
Avas an humble servant to them all, 'till he got what he aim'd at, tho' often he did
not know what that was. He was full of projects, and never rejected one, pro-
vided it was new. Since the Eevolution (tho' he had a large share in carrying it
on) he pretended to favour the Royal Family and Episcopal Clergy : yet he never
did one action in favour of any of them, excepting that when he was secretary to
Queen Anne he procured an Act of Indemnity, and a letter from her recommend-
ing the Episcopal Clergy to the Privy Council's protection ; but whether this pro-
ceeded from a desire and design of serving them, or some political views, is easy
to determine, when we consider that no sooner did Queen Anne desert the Tory
party and maxims, but his Lordship turn'd as great a Whig as the best of them,
join'd with Tweedale's party to advance the Hanoverian succession, in the Par-
liament 1704, and was, at last, a zealous stickler and writer in favour of the Union.
He was certainly a good-natur'd gentleman, master of an extraordinary gift of
pleasing and diverting conversation, and well accomplish'd in all kinds of learning ;
but, withall, so extreamly maggoty and unsettled that he was never to be much


rely'd upon or valii'd ; yet he had a great interest in the Parliament with many
of the northern members. Tho' his brother, Mr. Eoderick Mackenzie of Preston-
hall, was not altogether so chymerical as his Lordship, yet in their politicks they
seldom differed ; but he still pretended a greater zeal for the service of the Eoyal
Family than his Lordship did, tho' both proved alike faithful at the latter end." ^

Lockhart's lives of Scottish statesmen who entertained opinions different
from his own are all drawn in unfavourable colours. He was as much opposed
to the Union as Lord Cromartie was favourable to it ; and this divergence of
opinion on so vital a question was enough to induce Lockhart to misrepresent
Lord Cromartie. The long experience of the Union has proved that Lord
Cromartie's views about it were more sound than those of Lockhart, who
entertained the opinion that the Treaty of Union would be repealed. The
latter was an uncompromising Jacobite, and as Lord Cromartie did not con-
tinue to act with that party after the abdication of King James the Seventh,
but took office under his successors, these acts were enough to insure a cari-
cature from so keen a Jacobite as Lockhart.

He was supposed to be engaged in the plot for an invasion of Scotland

on behalf of King James in the year 1708, In a letter to the first Duke of

Montrose, Lord Cromartie suggests the best course for opposing the threatened

invasion ; and of aU that he then writes, he says that he did, by a second sight,

forewarn the Duke of Marlborough in a letter above fourteen days previously.

He concludes his letter with a poetic verse upon the supposed author of the

plot : —

" But out stept ane old knight,

Call'd Lockhart of the Lie ;

And he did swar —

A step he would not flee." -

The satirical portion of Carnwath's character of Lord Cromartie is easily
explained by the antagonistic positions which they occupied, and the keen
1 The Lockhart Papers, edition 1817, vol. i. pix 74-5. ^ Letter, vol. ii. p. 62.


party spirit in which Lockhart misrepresented all those who were opposed to
him. His character of John first Earl of Stair may be referred to as an
example of this. He is represented as the author of the barbarous massacre
of Glencoe, and the main plotter to cut off the chief of the Cavalier and
country parties, for which he is compared to Catiline. He is also accused
as the chief author of the Union, for which he is called the Judas of his
country. He and his family are represented as having perverted justice, and
as being the most dreaded and detested of any in the kingdom ; as having
risen but lately from nothing ; and he himself as false and cruel, covetous
and imperious, altogether destitute of the sacred ties of honour, loyalty,
justice, and gratitude.

After painting Lord Stair as black as he could, the artist seems to have
recoiled from his own work, for he immediately adds that this Catiline and
Judas combined was extremely facetious and diverting company in common
conversation, and, setting aside his politics, good-natured.^

His unfriendly aspersions on the character of Lord Cromartie are also
counteracted in a similar strain. He is represented as the master of an extra-
ordinary gift of pleasing and diverting conversation, which rendered him one
of the most entertaining companions in the world.

In the characters of the Nobility of Scotland, by John Macky, Lord
Cromartie is described in terms similar to the favourable part of his character
by Lockhart. Macky says that Lord Cromartie is a gentleman of very polite
learning and good parts ; hath a great deal of wit, and is the pleasantest com-
panion in the world ; a great master in philosophy, and much esteemed by
the Eoyal Society of London. He hath been very handsome in his person ;
is tall, fair-complexioned, and now past seventy years old.^ A contemporary

1 The Lockhart Papers, vol. i. p. 89. William, Queen Anne, and King George the

- Memoirs of the Secret Services of John First. London, 1733, p. 188.
Macky, Esq., during the Reigns of King


satire on the Earls of Breadalbane, Lithgovv, Drumlanrig, Lord Tarbat, and
others, deals thus with the last : —

" But then George Lord Tarbet, thin plain honest man,
Never plots nor works mischief, let say it quho can ;
Cares as much for age as for Mahomet's pigeon,
Yet can talk like old wives of the French and religion." ^

With such qualifications, admitted even by such a satirical opponent as
Lockhart, it is not surprising that Lord Cromartie was a member of several
learned and other societies.

He was a member of the Eoyal Company of Archers for many years ;
and, on the 3d March 1679, he was elected Lieutenant in place of Sir Charles
Erskine of Cambo, knight, Lyon-King-of-Arms, who died shortly before. Lord
Tarbat was then Lord Justice-General. He continued to hold the office of
Lieutenant, till, on the death of the Marquis of Athole, who was Captain-
General of the Company, Lord Tarbat was appointed to succeed the Marquis
in that office on 17th INIay 1703. The minute of the Company of that date
bears that " the Council and other officers of the Eoyal Company of Archers,
having met and taken to their consideration that the office of Captain-General
of the said Company is now become vacant through the death of the Marquis
of Athole, and likeways, considering that the Eight Honourable the Viscount
of Tarbat, now Principal Secretary of State for the Kingdom of Scotland, hath
been a member of that Society ever since the erection thereof, and that long
since he did them the honour to accept of the office of Lieutenant of their
Company, they did all, with one voice nominate, elect, and choice the said
Xoble Lord George Viscount of Tarbat to be Captain- General, wdth all powers
and privileges that ever any captain could claim or pretend to.""

^ A Choice Collection of several Scots Miscellanie Modern Poems, MS.
- Records of the Royal Company of Archers.


Lord Tarbat accepted the office of Captain-General, and he was received
in person by the Company at a meeting held in August 1703. Under the
command of Lord Tarbat as Captain-General, the Company commenced a
course of prosperity. A largely- attended general meeting of the Company
was held on the 4th of September 1703. The minutes bear that the new
Captain-General was the successful competitor in the ancient sport of shooting
for the goose prize. " They went to the buts, where a living goose was fixed
a convenient distance from the north butt, and nothing but her head in view.
The same was shot through by the Captain-General, the arrow entering the
left eye and going out a little behind the right eye, above four inches quite
through, so as she never mov'd after she receiv'd the shot. Then returning
to John Monro's, the whole company was nobly entertained by their Captain-

After the noble entertainment, a Council of seven members was elected
by signed lists, — a mode of election similar to the billeting proposed by Lord
Cromartie at the Eestoration. The Captain-General signified to them the
great respect which he bore to the Eoyal Company, and how much he was
inclined to encourage and propagate the use of ancient arms, of bows and
arrows. And as he promised fidelity to the former Council at his reception
to his office, so he now heartily renewed the same in presence of the new
councillors. He then signed the laws, and the Council elected the other
officers. The Captain-General proposed that, for the better managing of the
Company, four brigadiers should be appointed, which was agreed to. John,
Master of Tarbat, was one of the four who were chosen.

Soon afterwards the Earl of Cromartie obtained from the Queen a warrant,
or signature, for a charter in favour of the Archers, which bears date the 3 1 st
of December 1703. The charter which followed under that warrant is still
the regulating charter of the Company. In a letter, dated 29th January 1704,


the Council gave their Captain-General great praise for obtaining the charter,
which they acknowledge with the cheerfulness and respect due to so valuable
a gift. It gives his Lordship, they add, a just title to be called not only the
restorer but (under her Majesty) the founder of a society which, it is hoped,
in a short time, by his Lordship's conduct and patronage, will revive the
ancient exercise of bows and arrows, so much of late neglected, though of
great use to this nation in time of our warlike progenitors.^

Lord Cromartie maintained his interest in the archers to the last. Even
when he was eighty-three years of age he wrote to the Council, "I am
much in hopes to be tolerably fit for a try at butts, though scarcely for a
journey at rovers. ]\Ieanwhile I wish a merry sederunt, and pray accept the
will for the deed, for no captain can be more desirous to serve a company,
nor hath any better reason for being so.""

Soon after the date of that letter, the first known public march of the
archers was made. It is recorded that the Company " marched in order
through Leith, with the Ensign (Earl of Lauderdale) at their head, and
Marchiston, one of their briggadiers, in the rear, and received from the guard
the usual honours, to the place where they dined, and were there attended
by their Captain-General and Magistrates of Edinburgh." ''

On the occasion of shooting for the Musselburgh arrow, on the 4th of
August 1713, Lord Cromartie wrote to the Council the quaint letter excusing
his non-attendance, which is printed in this collection. The letter was also
a practical resignation of his office of Captain- General. But it was not
accepted, and Lord Cromartie held the office till his death in the following

Exactly two months previous to his death, Lord Cromartie w^as able to

1 Original Letter in the Archives of the ^ 7^;,/

Archers. ^ Archives of the Archers.

2 a


attend a very imposing array of the Archers, on the 14th of June 1714, on
the occasion of shooting for the Edinburgh arrow on the Links of Leith. The
Earl of Cromartie, as Captain-General, was upon the front, and in their march
through the streets of Edinburgh and Leith, all arrayed in their new uniform,
they received military honours from all guards and others. His letter of
resio-uation before referred to is so characteristic that the following extracts
from it may fitly close tliis notice of Lord Cromartie and the Archers : —

He writes, — " If your generosity will not cutt me of, yet I think discre-
tion obliges me to slip of, so that for and in place of dissatisfaction, I may
have the pleasure to see you have a captain general worthy of so great an
honour. . . . My great esteem of this noble station I have evidenc'd in de-
mitting many, whilst I keep'd this. ... I need not tell you that, tho' absent,
yet with a friend or two this day I will remember you ; for indeed you
cannot be forgott by him who is att once your old captain, your faithfuU
friend, and most humble servant." ^

The Earl of Cromartie was also a benefactor to the Eoyal College of
Physicians of Edinburgh. In June 1685 the Viscount Tarbat, as Clerk to
his Majesty's Parliament, Council, Eegisters, and Rolls, signed a ratification
of the privileges granted to them by their charter of 1681. In 1707, Lord
Cromartie presented to their library several volumes of the manuscripts of
his maternal grandfather, Sir George Erskine of Innerteil, chiefly on
Alchemy, in which Sir George was well versed, and held in great repute
for his knowledge of the occult sciences. An inscription by Lord Cromartie
on one of the volumes, gives an account of the way in which it came into
the possession of his ancestor.

I haveing found, by letters directed from one Dr. Politius (a Polonian or
Silesian) to my grandfather, Sir George Areskine of Innertile, brother to the Earle

1 Letter, vol. ii. p. 131.

1714.] GIFT OF MS. TO THE PHYSICIANS. clxxxvii

of Kellie, and grandchild to the Earle of Marr, a Senator of the Colledge of Jus-
tice, and Privy Counsellor to King James the 6th and to King Charles 1st, who
Avas a great student of naturall philosophy, evn to a considerable advancement in
the Hermetick school, and had a correspondence in very remote parts with the
sonnes of Hermes, and of whose fruits of his expensive and secret correspondence
with them I have depositat some volumns of manuscripts, mostly of his own

This was sent to him by tlie Society at Hess, and directed under the convoy
of the said Dr. Politius, who, by his letters to Sir George, declares that, by direc-
tion of that Society, his chief errand to Scotland was to confer with him. And I
judged it a monument not unworthy to be consignd to the Honourable College of
Physitians at Edinburgh, both for its conveyance and matter, evn tho' perhaps