James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose

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The Marquess of Montrose
1st Marquess of Montrose.jpg
Born 25 October 1612
Died 21 May 1650(1650-05-21) (aged 37)
old Mercat cross, Edinburgh, Scotland
Cause of death
execution
Resting place
St. Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh, Scotland
Nationality Scottish
Other names The Great Montrose
Alma mater University of St Andrews
Occupation chief of Clan Graham, soldier, poet
Title Lord Lieutenant and captain-general of Scotland, 1st Marquess of Montrose, 5th Earl of Montrose
Spouse(s) Magdalene Carnegie
Children James Graham, 2nd Marquess of Montrose
Parents John Graham, 4th Earl of Montrose
Mary Ruthven

James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose (25 October 1612 – 21 May 1650) was a Scottish nobleman, poet and soldier, who initially joined the Covenanters in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, but subsequently supported King Charles I as the English Civil War developed. From 1644 to 1646, and again in 1650, he fought a civil war in Scotland on behalf of the King and is generally referred to in Scotland as simply "the Great Montrose".

His "spectacular" victories, which took his opponents by surprise, are remembered in military history for their tactical brilliance.[1]

Family and education[edit]

James Graham, chief of Clan Graham, was the youngest of six children and the only son[2] of John Graham, 4th Earl of Montrose and Lady Margaret Ruthven.[3] His maternal grandparents were William Ruthven, 1st Earl of Gowrie, and Dorothea, a daughter of Henry Stewart, 1st Lord Methven and his second wife Janet Stewart. Her maternal grandparents were John Stewart, 2nd Earl of Atholl and Lady Janet Campbell. Janet Campbell was a daughter of Archibald Campbell, 2nd Earl of Argyll and Elizabeth Stewart. Elizabeth was a daughter of John Stewart, 1st Earl of Lennox and Margaret Montgomerie. Margaret was a daughter of Alexander Montgomerie, 1st Lord Montgomerie and Margaret Boyd.

Graham studied at age twelve at the college of Glasgow under William Forrett who later tutored his sons.[4] At Glasgow, he read Xenophon and Seneca, and Tasso in translation.[4] In the words of biographer John Buchan, his favourite book was a "splendid folio of the first edition" of History of the World by Walter Raleigh.[4]

Graham became 5th Earl of Montrose by his father's death in 1626.[5] He was then educated at Saint Salvator's College at the University of St Andrews.[6]

At the age of seventeen, he married Magdalene Carnegie,[7] who was the youngest of six daughters[8] of David Carnegie (afterwards Earl of Southesk). They were parents of four sons,[8] among them James Graham, 2nd Marquess of Montrose.

Covenanter to royalist[edit]

Portrait attributed to Willem van Honthorst

In 1638, after King Charles I had attempted to impose an Episcopalian version of the Book of Common Prayer upon the reluctant Scots, resistance spread throughout the country, eventually culminating in the Bishops' Wars.[9] Montrose joined the party of resistance, and was for some time one of its most energetic champions.[10] He had nothing puritanical in his nature, but he shared in the ill-feeling aroused by the political authority King Charles had given to the bishops. He signed the National Covenant, and was sent to suppress the opposition which arose around Aberdeen and in the country of the Gordons. Three times Montrose entered Aberdeen, where he succeeded in his object, on the second occasion carrying off the head of the Gordons, the Marquess of Huntly, as a prisoner to Edinburgh (though in so doing, for the first and last time in his life, he violated a safe-conduct). He was a leader of the delegation who subsequently met at Muchalls Castle to parley regarding the 1638 confrontation with the Bishop of Aberdeen. With the Earl Marischal he led a force of 9000 men across the Causey Mounth through the Portlethen Moss to attack Royalists at the Bridge of Dee.[11] These events played a part in Charles I's decision to grant major concessions to the Covenanters.

In July 1639, after the signing of the Treaty of Berwick, Montrose was one of the Covenanting leaders who visited Charles. His change of mind, eventually leading to his support for the King, arose from his wish to get rid of the bishops without making Presbyterians masters of the state. His was essentially a layman's view of the situation. Taking no account of the real forces of the time, he aimed at an ideal form of society in which the clergy should confine themselves to their spiritual duties, and the King should uphold law and order. In the Scottish parliament which met in September, Montrose found himself opposed by Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll, who had gradually assumed leadership of the Presbyterian and national party, and of the estate of burgesses. Montrose, on the other hand, wished to bring the King's authority to bear upon parliament to defeat Argyll, and offered the King the support of a great number of nobles. He failed, because Charles could not even then consent to abandon the bishops, and because no Scottish party of any weight could be formed unless Presbyterianism were established as the ecclesiastical power in Scotland.

Rather than give way, Charles prepared in 1640 to invade Scotland. Montrose was of necessity driven to play something of a double game. In August 1640 he signed the Bond of Cumbernauld as a protest against the particular and direct practising of a few, in other words, against the ambition of Argyll. But he took his place amongst the defenders of his country, and in the same month displayed his gallantry in action at the forcing of the River Tyne at Newburn. On 27 May 1641 he was summoned before the Committee of Estates and charged with intrigues against Argyll, and on 11 June he was imprisoned by them in Edinburgh Castle. Charles visited Scotland to give his formal assent to the abolition of Episcopacy, and upon the King's return to England Montrose shared in the amnesty tacitly accorded to all Charles's partisans.

Scotland in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms[edit]

A souvenir of Montrose's hanging: His right arm (seen front and back) and sword.

The king signed a warrant for his Marquessate and appointed Montrose Lord Lieutenant of Scotland, both in 1644. A year later in 1645, the king commissioned him captain general.[12] His military campaigns were fought quickly and used the element of surprise to overcome his opponents even when sometimes dauntingly outnumbered. At one point, Montrose dressed himself as the groom of the Earl of Leven and travelled away from Carlisle, and the eventual capture of his party, in disguise with "two followers, four sorry horses, little money and no baggage".[13]

Highlanders had never before been known to combine together, but Montrose knew that many of the West Highland clans, who were largely Catholic, detested Argyll and his Campbell clansmen, and none more so than the MacDonalds who with many of the other clans rallied to his summons. The Royalist allied Irish Confederates sent 2000 disciplined Irish soldiers led by Alasdair MacColla across the sea to assist him. The Irish proved to be formidable fighters.[14]

In two campaigns, distinguished by rapidity of movement, he met and defeated his opponents in six battles. At Tippermuir and Aberdeen he routed Covenanting levies; at Inverlochy he crushed the Campbells, at Auldearn, Alford and Kilsyth his victories were obtained over well-led and disciplined armies.[15]

The fiery enthusiasm of the Gordons and other clans often carried the day, but Montrose relied more upon the disciplined infantry from Ireland. His strategy at Inverlochy, and his tactics at Aberdeen, Auldearn and Kilsyth furnished models of the military art, but above all his daring and constancy marked him out as one of the greatest soldiers of the war. His career of victory was crowned by the great Battle of Kilsyth on 15 August 1645.

Now Montrose found himself apparently master of Scotland. After Kilsyth, the king's secretary arrived with letters from Charles documenting that Montrose was lieutenant and captain general. He first conferred knighthood on Alasdair.[16] Then he summoned a parliament to meet at Glasgow on 20 October, in which he no doubt hoped to reconcile loyal obedience to the King with the establishment of a non-political Presbyterian clergy. That parliament never met. Charles had been defeated at the Battle of Naseby on 14 June, and Montrose had to come to his aid if there was to be still a king to proclaim. David Leslie, the best of the Scottish generals, was promptly dispatched against Montrose to anticipate the invasion. On 12 September he came upon Montrose, who had been deserted by his Highlanders and was guarded only by a little group of followers, at Philiphaugh. He won an easy victory. Montrose cut his way through to the Highlands; but he failed to organise an army. In September 1646 he embarked for Norway.

The exhumed body of Montrose was placed inside St. Giles' Cathedral. His tomb is inscribed with lines from one of his poems, "Scatter my ashes, strew them in the air/Lord, since thou knowest where all these atoms are..."

Montrose was to appear once more on the stage of Scottish history. In June 1649, eager to avenge the death of the King, he was restored by the exiled Charles II to the now nominal lieutenancy of Scotland. Charles, however, did not scruple soon afterwards to disavow his noblest supporter to become King on terms dictated by Argyll and his adherents. In March 1650 Montrose landed in Orkney to take command of a small force which he had sent on before him. Crossing to the mainland, he tried in vain to raise the clans, and on 27 April was surprised and routed at the Battle of Carbisdale in Ross-shire. His forces were defeated in battle but he escaped. After wandering for some time he was surrendered by Neil MacLeod of Assynt at Ardvreck Castle, to whose protection, in ignorance of MacLeod's political enmity, he had entrusted himself. He was brought a prisoner to Edinburgh, and on 20 May sentenced to death by the parliament. He was hanged on the 21st, with Wishart's laudatory biography of him around his neck. He protested to the last that he was in truth a Covenanter and a loyal subject.

His head was removed and stood on the "prick on the highest stone" of the Old Tolbooth outside St Giles Cathedral from 1650 until the beginning of 1661.[17]

Shortly after Montrose's death the Scottish Argyll Government switched sides to support Charles II's attempt to regain the English throne, providing he was willing to impose the Solemn League and Covenant in England for a trial period at least. After the Restoration Montrose was officially rehabilitated in the public memory.

On 7 January 1661 Montrose's mangled torso was disinterred from the gallows ground on the Burgh Muir and carried under a velvet canopy to the Tolbooth, where his head was reverently removed from the spike, before the procession continued on its way to Holyrood Abbey. The diarist John Nicoll wrote the following eye-witness account of the event,

[A guard of honour of four captains with their companies, all of them in] thair armes and displayit colouris, quha eftir a lang space marching up an doun the streitis, went out thaireftir to the Burrow mure quhair his corps wer bureyit, and quhair sundry nobles and gentrie his freindis and favorites, both hors and fute wer thair attending; and thair, in presence of sundry nobles, earls, lordis, barones and otheris convenit for the tyme, his graif [grave] was raisit, his body and bones taken out and wrappit up in curious clothes and put in a coffin, quhilk, under a canopy of rich velwet, wer careyit from the Burrow-mure to the Toun of Edinburgh; the nobles barones and gentrie on hors, the Toun of Edinburgh and many thousandis besyde, convoyit these corpis all along, the callouris [colours] fleying, drums towking [beating], trumpettis sounding, muskets cracking and cannones from the Castell roring; all of thame walking on till thai come to the Tolbuith of Edinburgh, frae the quhilke his heid wes very honorablie and with all dew respectis taken doun and put within the coffin under the cannopie with great acclamation and joy; all this tyme the trumpettis, the drumes, cannouns, gunes, the displayit cullouris geving honor to these deid corps. From thence all of thame, both hors and fute, convoyit these deid corps to the Abay Kirk of Halyrudhous quhair he is left inclosit in ane yll [aisle] till forder ordour be by his Majestie and Estaites of Parliament for the solempnitie of his Buriall.[18]

Montrose's limbs were brought from the towns to which they had been sent (Glasgow, Perth, Stirling and Aberdeen) and placed in his coffin, as he lay in state at Holyrood. A splendid funeral was held in the church of St. Giles on 11 May 1661.[19][20]

The torso of an executed person would have normally been given to friends or family; but Montrose was the subject of an excommunication which was why it was originally buried in unconsecrated ground. In 1650 his niece, Lady Napier, had sent men by night to remove his heart. This relic she placed in a steel case made from his sword and placed the whole in a gold filigree box, which had been presented to her family by a Doge of Venice. The heart in its case was retained by the Napier family for several generations until lost amidst the confusion of the French Revolution.[21]

Battle history[edit]

For a full list of James Graham's battles and military activity see Clan Graham.

See also[edit]

Line note references[edit]

  1. ^ "James Graham, 5th Earl and 1st Marquess of Montrose". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 23 June 2013. 
  2. ^ Buchan 1928, p. 20.
  3. ^ John Buchan, Montrose, Thomas Nelson and Son Ltd, 1928, p. 35
  4. ^ a b c Buchan 1928, p. 21.
  5. ^ John Buchan, p. 36
  6. ^ Buchan 1928, p. 22.
  7. ^ British Civil Wars: James Graham, 1st Marquis of Montrose, 1612–1650
  8. ^ a b Buchan 1928, p. 24.
  9. ^ John Buchan, p. 44–76
  10. ^ John Buchan, p. 75
  11. ^ C.Michael Hogan, Causey Mounth, Megalithic Portal, ed. by A. Burnham, Nov 3, 2007
  12. ^ Buchan 1928, p. 139.
  13. ^ Buchan 1928, pp. 151–152.
  14. ^ "...it is not hard to understand how in Gaelic legend his[Alasdair's] fame is made to outshine Montrose's" in Buchan 1928, p. 219, also July and August 1645, "the thousand Irish were probably the best infantry at the time in Britain" on p. 235.
  15. ^ George Wishart, Memoirs of the Most Renowned James Graham, Marquis of Montrose, 1819, A. Constable, 530 pages
  16. ^ Buchan, John (1928). Montrose: A History. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin: The Riverside Press. pp. 246–247. 
  17. ^ Grant's Old and New Edinburgh, p. 124
  18. ^ John Nicoll, A Diary of Public Transactions And Other Occurrences, chiefly in Scotland, from January, 1650, to June, 1667, Bannatyne Club, p. 316
  19. ^ Daniel, William S. (1852), History of the Abbey and Palace of Holyrood. Edinburgh : Duncan Anderson. p. 123–124.
  20. ^ Chambers, Robert (1885). Domestic Annals of Scotland. Edinburgh : Chambers. p. 307.
  21. ^ Chambers, Robert (1885). Domestic Annals of Scotland. Edinburgh : Chambers. p. 282–283.

Bibliography[edit]

  • Buchan, John (1928). Montrose: A History. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin: The Riverside Press. 

Principal authorities for Montrose's career are George Wishart's Res gestae, etc. (Amsterdam, 1647), published in English as Memoirs of the Most Renowned James Graham, Marquis of Montrose; Patrick Gordon's Short Abridgment of Britanes Distemper (Spalding Club); and the comprehensive works of Napier. These include Montrose and Covenanters; his Memorials of Montrose is abundantly documented, containing Montrose's poetry, including the celebrated lyric "My dear and only love." [1]

There are several modern works on Montrose, including two biographies by John Buchan and one by Dame Veronica Wedgwood, and Montrose: The King's Champion by Max Hastings.

In fiction[edit]

  • A Legend of Montrose by Sir Walter Scott
  • A two volume series: The Young Montrose (1972) and Montrose:The Captain-General (1973) by Nigel Tranter
  • Graham came by Cleish (1973) by James L. Dow.
  • Margaret Irwin, "The Proud Servant" (1949), a biographical novel about Montrose, and "The Bride", the story of the ill-fated romance between Montrose and Louise Marie of the Palatinate (1939)
  • "John Splendid" (1898), by Scottish author, Neil Munro. Deals with the sack of Inveraray by Montrose and his subsequent victory at the battle of Inverlochy in 1645.
  • "Witch Wood" by John Buchan (1927). A novel about the minister of a small kirk in Scotland, set during the Civil War. Montrose features as a change for good in the minister's view on the world.

External links[edit]

Peerage of Scotland
New creation Marquess of Montrose
1644–1650
Succeeded by
James Graham
Preceded by
John Graham
Earl of Montrose
1626–1650