William Fraser.

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

. (page 23 of 53)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

sion of Mrs. Murray of Dollerie. Perthshire, is a granddaughter of the writer of it.

2/



ccxxvi GEORGE THIRD EARL OF CROM ARTIE. [1702-

tions for mercy to all the Ijords of the Cabinet Council ; and on the next Sunday
she went in mourning to Kensington Palace to petition the King. When the lady's
condition is considered, it must be allowed she adopted a powerful mode of inter-
cession. She took her station in the entrance through which the King was to pass to
chapel, and on his approach falling on her knees before him, presented her suppli-
cation. This presentation of a petition for pardon was in imitation of the course
adopted by Lady Nithsdale with King George the First. But the second George
was more courteous to Lady Cromartie than the first George was to Lady Niths-
dale, who was spurned from the royal presence, and rudely treated by the attend-
ants. King George the Second raised Lady Cromartie up with his own hand,
and, taking the petition, gave it in charge to the Duke of Grafton, who was in
attendance, and desired Lady Stair, who accompanied Lady Cromartie, to conduct
her to an apartment where care might be taken of her, but at the same time
declined to give her any hopes. Lady Cromartie swooned away as soon as he
was gone. Gray, in a letter to Wharton, mentions Lady Cromartie's intercession
with the Prince and Princess of Wales. He says " Lady Cromartie, who is said
to have drawn her husband into these circumstances, was at Leicester House on
Wednesday, with four of her children. The Princess saw her, and made no
other answer than by bringing in her own children, and placing them by her ;
which, if true, is one of the prettiest things I ever heard." ^ Several courtiers
also interceded with his Majesty on the unfortunate Earl's behalf

The account now given of the presentation of the petition to the King appears
the most reliable ; but there are other notices of it which vary in some details.
Thus Horace Walpole, in a letter dated 5th August, says that " Lady Cromartie
presented her petition to the King last Sunday. He was very civil to her, but
would not give her any hopes. She swooned away as soon as he was gone. Lord
Cornwallis told me that her Lord weeps every time anything of his fate is men-
tioned to him." 2 Mr. Chambers says that Lady Cromartie fainted at the King's
feet. Stewart, in his " Sketches of the Highlanders," mentions that the Countess
of Cromartie, accompanied by ten children, presented a petition to the King, and
that the family threw themselves on their knees before the King, and the mother,
pointing to them, said, " These are your Majesty's humble petitioners for the life
of their father."^ But this dramatic scene was impossible, for the younger

1 Gray, Works by Mitford, vol. iii. p. 4. " Letters of Horace Walpole, vol. ii. p. 45.

^ Stewart's Sketches of the Highlanders, vol, ii. p, 84.



17G6.] REPRIEVE TO LORD C ROM ARTIE. coxxvii

members of the family remained in Ross for some time after these events. There
is a like diversity as to whose intercession really saved Lord Cromartie's life.
Horace Wal pole says, in a letter dated August 11, 1746, " Lord Cromartie is
reprieved for a pardon. If wives and children become an argument for saving
rebels there will cease to be a reason against their going into rebellion." And
again, on August 1 2, " Lord Cromartie is reprieved : the Prince [of Wales] asked
his life, and his wife made great intercession." And on August 21, " The Prince
of Wales, whose intercession saved Lord Cromartie, says he did it in return for
old Sir William Gordon (Lady Cromartie's father) coming down out of his death-
bed to vote against my father [Sir Robert Walpole] in the Chippenham election.
If his Royal Highness had not countenanced inveteracy like that of Sir [William]
Gordon, he would have no occasion to exert his gratitude now in favour of rebels."^
A Sutherlandshire tradition bears that the King asked the Earl of Sutherland to
name a favour he could bestow on him for his eminent services to the Government
on the occasion of the insurrection, and the Earl asked that Lord Cromartie's life
should be spared. The King, although disappointed at the request, granted it,
but with the express condition that his successors should never restore the title of
Earl of Cromartie. There was certainly a close friendship between the families of
Sutherland and Cromartie, and the Earl of Sutherland frequently visited Lord
and Lady Cromartie in the Tower, and no doubt used all his influence in Lord
Cromartie's favour.^ There was a general feeling that the life of one of the three
condemned lords should be spared. As Lord Balmerino refused to plead guilty,
the choice lay between the Earls of Kilmarnock and Cromartie ; and there is little
doubt, notwithstanding Walpole's sneer, that the circumstances of Lord Cromartie's
wife and family naturally made the decision turn in his favour. Walpole's account of
the intercession of Frederick Prince of Wales is corroborated by a letter from Lord
Macleod to his father, in which he says, " Lord Elibank and Mr. Murray advise me
to present a memorial to the Prince of Wales asking his consent to my going into
foreign service, and giving those assurances of attachment to his Royal Highness's
service, which are certainly due to his so great goodness."^ The fact of the suc-
cessful intercession of the Prince of Wales for sparing the life of Lord Cromartie is
distinctly stated in the petition of Lord Macleod for the restoration to him of the
forfeited estate of Cromartie. There is, at Tarbat House, a portrait of Frederick

1 Letters of Horace Walpole, vol. ii. pp. 47, 49, 55.

- Letter, vol. ii. p. 221. •' Letter, vol. ii. p. 228.



ccxxviii GEORGE THIRD EARL OF CROMARTIE. [1702-

Prince of Wales, said to have been given to the Countess of Cromartie as a
mark of his friendship. The Prince was the son of King George the Second,
and father of King George the Third. He predeceased his father in the
year 1751.

In the Case of the Earl of Cromartie, referred to before, it is stated on behalf
of the Earl that he had waited on Sir John Cope at Inverness, and made him a
tender of all his power and influence to suppress the rebellion ; that, after
Prestonpans, application was made to President Forbes for a company to Lord
Macleod ; that subalterns were appointed to levy the men, and levies were
made, but that it became known that the subalterns were to be appointed by
Lord Fortrose ; that Lord Cromartie, while smarting under this slight, was beset
by designing men, who used all their arts and cunning to seduce him from his
duty, but that no reason could have had this efi'ect if he had not been taken
unawares after some merriment, and that on coming to himself he reflected with
horror on what he had done ; that, when at Perth, he was chiefly in company of
the king's officers who were prisoners, and sought to mitigate their condition ;
that, as to his levying the cess in Fife, he did intimate his orders upon pain of
military execution, but returned to Perth without getting a shilling, and gave up
the command not to be an actor in the severities he saw were unavoidable ; that
he had command laid on him to raise men in Ross and Sutherland, and levy
money by contribution, and use military execution ; but that he was averse to
violence, and granted protections, and preserved the house of Sir Robert Munro
and his brother Cullcairn, which the rebels had particularly doomed to destruc-
tion, and had used the same tenderness and care towards the house and family of
the Earl of Sutherland, for which he appealed to that noble Lord.

Lord Cromartie received a respite on 9th August 1746, but the Lords Kilmar-
nock and Balmerino were executed. He was permitted to leave the Tower, and
to lodge at the house of a messenger, 18th February 1748. In August following
he received a warrant for his discharge out of the hands of the messenger, and
enabling him to reside at Layhill, in Devonshire. The Lords Justices approved
of his residence there, and granted £200 for the expense of his removal. A
pardon in favour of his Lordship passed the Privy Seal on the 4th of October
1749, with the condition that he should remain in such place as should be
directed by the King.^

^ Copy Pardon, Bundle 3 0, No. 18, Cromartie Writs, at Tarbat House.



1766.] HIS ENDURANCE UNDER ADVERSITY. ccxxix

Lord Cromartie resided but a short time at Layhill, removing thence to
Northcote, near Honiton, which he found more convenient and agreeable. But
his Highland heart wandered in imagination to his beautiful StrathpefFer at the
foot of Ben Wyvis, as appears from the following letter : —

Northcote, 5th November 1748.
Sir, — . . . My chief reason for writing to you now, is to let you and our other friends
know that we are very well, as well as we can be while in this parte of the world. There
were so many inconveniencys attending our living at Leahill, that I quited it above six weeks
[a]go. We linde this place more agreeable. It is in the heart of a very fine country, and
within a short walk of Honiton, a very good market town ; but for all that, I would much
rather live at the foot of Peenouish, and be better pleased with an oaten cake, and the produce
of the Strathpeffer of Mihitoun bear then with the finest bread, the finest cyder, and all the
other necessarys of life which this county is remarkable for beyond any in England. . . .
I am, your assured and sincere friend,

Cromertie.^

During the twenty years which Lord Cromartie survived his forfeiture, having
a large family to provide for, with very slender means for their support, and
precluded by his position from any professional or other active exertion on their
behalf, the state of his family was often very distressing. His principal corre-
spondent was John Mackenzie of Meddat, whose residence was close to Tarbat
House. Mr. Mackenzie was the medium of communication between Lord Cromartie
and his friends in Eoss-shire, who afforded his Lordship occasional supplies of
money. Mr. Mackenzie did many kind offices to Lord Cromartie and his family.
He purchased from the Barons of Exchequer the furniture in Castle Leod and
Tarbat House for behoof of Lord Cromartie, who gave directions as to the por-
tions of the furniture which were to be sold. In the midst of their distress Lord
and Lady Cromartie had the misfortune to lose one of their daughters, Lady
Amelia Mackenzie, who, with her two sisters, Ladies Jean and Pegie, were left at
Tarbat House in charge of Mr. Mackenzie of Meddat when Lord Cromartie was
removed to the Tower of London. The poor child, Lady Amelia, was playing
with her sister in the room, when she fell and fractured her thigh. Small-pox
supervened, and soon carried her off", on the 3d of May 1748.

On the forfeiture of the Earl of Seaforth, in the year 1715, the scattered
tenants of his wide domain contrived to remit their rents to the exiled Earl, and

1 Original Letter at Tarbat House.



ccxxx GEORGE THIRD EARL OF CROM ARTIE. [1702-



to make it hazardous for the Government factor to visit them for the rents. After
the forfeitures of 1745, the Government were more strict as to the management of
the estates which were then forfeited to the Crown. The rents of the Cromartie
estates Avere collected for the Crown. Mr. John BailHe, W.S., Edinburgh, was
appointed collector of the rents of the forfeited estate of Cromartie. He offered
Mr. Mackenzie of Meddat a deputation as collector under him. In his visits to
the estates, Mr. Baillie stipulated for a room or two to lodge in both at Castle
Leod and New Tarbat ; and for maintenance, he said, " We must use freedom
with some of the custom hens, etc."^ Lord Cromartie was often in great straits
for money, and he was glad to have sent to him in London portions of the
furniture from Tarbat House to be used in his London house or converted into
cash for pressing supplies. A number of his clansmen occasionally contributed
money for his assistance, but such supplies were very scanty, and did not materially
aid his Lordship. He wrote, in 1751, that "we are most excessively pinched for
want of money." In 1759, Lord Cromartie writes, " We were never more put to
it than at present. Every year grows worse and worse for us, as every year
increases the load of our debts." And again, " We feel daily the miserable situa-
tion we are in. I am afraid we shall be put to the utmost extremity soon,
perhaps not to have a house to go into or a bed to lie on, and no hopes of any
amendment in this our very distressed situation for some time."^ This adversity
was bravely endured both by the parents and children. In all his misfortunes
Lord Cromartie himself kept a cheerful spirit. In a letter to Mr. Mackenzie of
Meddat, dated London, March 9th, 1751, he says, " With what we have here, and
what will remain there, we should have more then sufficient. I wish I had as many
real friends as I could, with them, lodge and entertain. A little house, or a little
part of a great house, will serve me wherever I live ; as I never will hereafter
keep an open house, which is submitting to all the inconveniences of a publick inn-
keeper, with this diiference, that he do's it for gain, and I at a great expence of
health and money, and have mett with most ungrateful returns from many of
them I have so entertained. This I have learned by experience, and tho' it is dear
bought, it is a great satisfaction to me to know who are my real friends and who
are not." ^

The eldest son, Lord Macleod, disdaining to be a burden to his parents, went

' Letter at Tarbat House. '- Letters, ibid. ^ Original Letter, ihid.



1766.] HIS DEATH IN 1766.



forth as a soldier of fortune and had his reward. George, the second son, entered
the army, at first in the Royal Scots as an ensign, the commission for Avhich was
bought for him by his uncle, Hugh Mackenzie, and he served at first in America,^
and his after career is mentioned in the memoir of Lord Macleod. The eldest
daughter also, Lady Isabella Mackenzie, was not ashamed to toil for a time in the
performance of the humblest offices for the comfort of her parents and their younger
children, and she also had her reward. She was, like her mother, a second " Bonnie
Bell," and much admired. One day in company, when some discussion arose about
the beauty of the gloves she wore, a lady beside her said that if her Ladyship
would excuse the remark, she would say that the hands and arms were sufficient
to make any gloves look well. " Ah ! madam," replied Lady Isabella, then Lady
Elibank, " let us never be vain of such things ; these hands and arms at one
time washed the clothes and prepared the food of a father, mother, and seven
other children."

Of the marriage of Lord and Lady Cromartie there were a family of three
sons and seven daughters, whose names are given in the pedigree. The daugli-
ter who was unborn at the date of his Lordship's forfeiture was Lady Augusta
Mackenzie, who married Sir William Murray, Baronet, of Ochtertyre, in the
county of Perth. Lady Augusta was born with the mark of an axe upon one
side of her neck, with three drops of blood, which was supposed to have been
impressed by the imagination of her mother. After suffering many hardships
for twenty years, with much resignation and even cheerfulness, Lord Cromartie
died at his house in Poland Street, St. James's, Westminster, London, on 28th
September 1766.^

A royal warrant was issued on 26th February 1749, authorising the Barons
of Exchequer in Scotland to pay a yearly pension of £200 to Isabella, late
Countess of Cromartie, out of the rents of the forfeited estates in Scotland. The
Barons did not pay this owing to the want of means, as they represented in a
memorial to the Treasury. In answer to that memorial, the Lords of the
Treasury addressed a letter to the Barons of Exchequer on 26th February 1750,
in which it is stated that " We think it reasonable, in regard to the distresses
of herself and family, which have been represented to us to be very great, on
account of the non-payment of the said pension, that the same should be

^ Letter from Earl of Cromartie to Mr. Mackenzie of Meddat, dated August 11, 1761, at
Tarbat House. ^ Scots Magazine, 1766, vol. xxviii. p. 558.



GEORGE THIRD EARL OF C ROM ARTIE. [1702-



forthwith paid." ^ In July of the following year Lady Cromartie presented a
petition to the Lords Justices, representing the straits she and her family
suffered, and praying to have a grant of the house, gardens, and mesnes of
Castleleod, and others, to which she was provided by her marriage-articles,
stating that her husband had been seduced from his allegiance by the arts of de-
sio-ning persons, and engaging that for the future he would be one of his Majesty's
most dutiful and grateful subjects. ^ Apparently in answer to that petition, a
royal warrant, of date 10th July 1751, after mentioning the difficulty that was re-
presented to have hitherto prevented the payment of the pension, by reason of the
uncertainty of the extent of the claims upon the forfeited estates, and expense of
their management, orders the payment of the pension to be made out of the arrears
of feu-duties from the lands of the late Earl of Cromartie, which were a preferable
burden upon the rents of the estate.^ In a letter dated 11th August 1761, Lord
Cromartie mentions that the King had been pleased, out of his royal goodness, to
augment their allowance of £200 to a pension of £400 per annum.*

The similarity of action between the Countesses of Nithsdale and Cromartie
in preserving the lives of their respective Earls has been alluded to. Another
phase may be noticed. Lady Nithsdale secured the Charter-chests of the Nithsdale
and Herries families by burying them in the gardens at Terregles. The furniture
at Tarbat House, after the forfeiture of Lord Cromartie, having been purchased for
his Lordship by Mr. Mackenzie of Meddat, Lady Cromartie, anxious for the safety
of the family muniments, contrived to get some of the Charter-chests carried away as
articles of furniture. This led to an investigation by order of the Court of Exchequer,
in whom was vested the management of the forfeited estates. Mr. John Gorry,
(Jommissary of Ross, was summoned to Edinburgh in the month of January 1758,
to answer interrogatories to be put to him by the Lord Advocate in relation to the
late Earl of Cromartie's Charter-chests. Mr. Gorry, after his examination, presented
a petition to the Barons of Exchequer for the expenses of his journey from Ross to
Edinburgh. In this petition he shows the difficulty of a winter journey across the
Grampians at that time. He says, " that your petitioner, to the great danger of his
life, crossed that large tract of mountains that are interjected betwixt the shires of

' Original Letter, Bundle 3, Papers of the ^ Original Warrant, Bundle 3, Papers of the

forfeited estate of Cromartie. forfeited estate of Cromartie.

2 Copy Petition, Cromartie Papers, vol. ■• Original Letter at Tarbat House,

tix. No. 222.



1766.] POEM OX THE EARL OF C ROM ARTIE. ccxxxiii

Inverness and Lothian, and ^vas in many places obliged to wade thro' deep wreaths
of snow where it was impossible, with any degree of safety, to ride j" and on his
return he had to hire a chaise and go coastwise, to shun a part of the storm. At
the end of his petition is the following note : — " Since the lodging of this peti-
tion, Mr. Gorry's council is authorised to averr to your Lordships, that the Lady
Cromarty had obtained a protection from his Royal Highness for her house, furni-
ture, and movables, and, in consequence of this protection, published at his Royal
Highness's command by Sir Everard Faulkener, a party of the Sutherland militia
were obliged to restore several particulars which they had seized as lawful prize,
and therefore the petitioner could not be justly blamed for receiving a box whereof
the contents might have consisted of those very particulars that fell under his
Royal Highness's protection. It is humbly hoped the notoriety of the fact will
supersede the necessity of a proof ; if not, the petitioner will undertake to prove
it to your Lordships' satisfaction."^

Isabella Countess of Cromartie survived the Earl for three years, and died
at Edinburgh on 23d April 1769. Her remains were interred in the churchyard
of the parish of Canongate, at the head or entry on the east side. Her son. Lord
Macleod, Avas afterwards interred there, and a monument was erected to them,
with the following inscription : — " Here lieth the remains of Isabella Gordon,
Countess of Cromartie, who departed this life, 23d April 1769, in the 64th year of
her age ; also the Right Honourable John Lord Macleod, ]\Iajor-General in the
British Service, and Colonel of the 71st regiment of foot. Count Cromarty,
and a Commandant of the Order of the Sword in the Kingdom of Sweden ;
died 2d April 1789, aged 62."

Shortly after his succession to his father, the following poem v/as addressed
to Lord Cromartie by Mr. John Colme, a schoolmaster of learning. The original
poem is amongst the Cromartie Papers (vol. xix. No. 186), at Tarbat House.
Making allowance for the overpraise of a patron, the poem must still be con-
sidered as showing the favourable opinion entertained of this Earl of Cromartie
by men of letters.

^ Original Petition, Bundle 3, Papers of the August 1760, he writes, that John Gorry's

forfeited estate of Cromartie. In a letter daughter is married to the young Laird of

from Mr. Leonard Urquhart, W.S., Edin- Gareloch. — [Letter at Tarbat House.]
burgh, to the Earl of Cromartie, dated 7th

2^



GEORGE THIRD EARL OF GROM ARTIE. [1702-



Illustrissimo, nobilissimo et potentissimo Comiti de Cromartie, etc., nataliura splendore,
miiltifaria doctrina, et omnigen^ virtute longfe lateque conspicuo, etc., literarum et literatorum
omnium fautori eximio, Mecsenati suo siimmopere colendo, etc.

S. P.

Corporis atque animi virtus, faciesque decor^

Majestate nitens, mens sine labe mali,
Ingenium solers, animi constantia summa

Egregie charum te genu ere virum,
M'Kenzas gentis, Comes illustrissime fulgens,

Et patriae, et generis splendida gemma tui.
Gignuntur fortes ex fortibus, atque paternam

Virtutem sequitur srepe propago suam.
Tu virtute tuS, splendes, virtute tuorum,

Unde tibi merito sanguinis auctus bonos.
Immortale decus ducens ab utroque parente

Evincis morum nobilitate genus.
Te ditant qusecunque aliis optare solemus,

Stemmata, vis, virtus, gratia, candor, opes,
Linguarum, Sophiseque Sciens, Martisque Minervas

Dotibus ornatus, propositique tenax ;
Corporis, atque animi cunctis virtutibus auctus,

Natura strenuus, pulclier et ore micans :
Macte animo Heroo ! semper majora capescens,

Seroque sed tandem ccelica regna colas.
Pauperis interea ne despice vota poetee,

Ssepe ipsi grata est victima parva Deo.
Dona tamen si parva putes, majora remitte.

Sic non vis nostri criminis esse reus.

Gratulabundus posuit dominationis tuse humillimus cultor in Aytonensi, et Duddingstoni-
ensi Scholis Literarum Humaniarum quondam professor; nunc vero senio confectus, ad incitas
redactus, et per multos retro annos prob ! dolor, exauctoratus.

M. Jo. COLME.

Datum Edinburgi 19"<' Junii 1731.



1766.] POEM ON THE EARL OF C ROM ARTIE.



Translation of the foregoing Poem.

To the most illustrious, noble, and mighty Earl of Cromartie, etc., far and wide distinguished
by splendour of descent, diversified learning, and every kind of virtue, an eminent
patron of letters and all men of learning, and his much to be honoured Maecenas, most
hearty greeting :

Worth of body and of mind, and a countenance beaming with beauty and majesty, a soul
without a stain of evil, a shrewd understanding, and the utmost steadfastness, have rendered
you singularly dear, most illustrious and renowned Earl of the Mackenzie Clan, and splendid
gem of your country and of your kind. The brave are begotten by the brave ; and often-
times the offspring follow their forefathers' virtuous example. You shine gloriously by your
own virtue and that of your kindred ; and thereby the honour of your blood is deservedly
increased. While you draw immortnl renown from either parent, you surpass your race
by the nobility of your behaviour. You are enriched with all things that we are wont to
wish for to others, — birth, power, gallantry, grace, courtesy, wealth ; with a knowledge of
tongues and of wisdom, adorned with the gifts of Mars and of Minerva, and stable of purpose ;
strengthened with every virtue of body and of mind, hardy by nature, handsome and beaming
in countenance. Go on with heroic heart, always aiming at greater deeds; and later, but