John Dalrymple, 1st Earl of Stair

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

John Dalrymple, First Earl of Stair
PC The Right Honourable[1]
John Dalrymple, 1st Earl of Stair
Joint Secretary of State in Scotland with (1) Earl of Melville and (2) James Johnston
In office
10 January 1691 – July 1695
MonarchMary II & William II & III
Preceded byEarl of Melville
Succeeded byJames Johnston
Lord Advocate
In office
MonarchMary II & William II & III
Preceded byGeorge Mackenzie
Succeeded bySir James Stewart
MP for Stranraer, Parliament of Scotland
In office
March 1689 – June 1702
MonarchMary II & William II & III
Queen Anne
Lord Justice Clerk
In office
MonarchKing James VII & II
Mary II & William II & III
Preceded byJames Foulis, Lord Colinton
Succeeded bySir George Campbell
Lord Advocate
In office
MonarchKing James VII & II
Preceded byGeorge Mackenzie
Succeeded byGeorge Mackenzie
Personal details
Stair House, Kyle, Ayrshire
Died8 January 1707(1707-01-08) (aged 58)
Resting placeKirkliston, Linlithgowshire
Spouse(s)Elizabeth Dundas (c.1654–1731)
ChildrenJohn Dalrymple, 2nd Earl of Stair (1673-1747)
William (1678-1744)
George (1680-1745)
Lady Margaret Dalrymple (1684-1779)
Six others died young
ParentsJames Dalrymple, Viscount Stair
Margaret Kennedy nee Ross

John Dalrymple, 1st Earl of Stair (10 November 1685 – 10 December 1747) was a Scottish politician and lawyer. As Joint Secretary of State in Scotland 1691-1695, he played a key role in suppressing the 1689-1692 Jacobite Rising and was forced to resign in 1695 for his part in the Massacre of Glencoe. Restored to favour under Queen Anne in 1702 and made Earl of Stair in 1703, he was closely involved in negotiations over the 1707 Acts of Union that created the Kingdom of Great Britain but died on 8 January 1707, several months before the Act became law.


Stair House, birthplace of John Dalrymple

John Dalrymple was born in 1648, at Stair House near Kyle, Ayrshire, eldest son of James Dalrymple, Viscount Stair and Margaret Ross-Kennedy. His father James was a prominent lawyer and one of the few Scots involved in the 1650 Treaty of Breda who retained the favour of Charles II after the 1660 Restoration.

In January 1669, John married Elizabeth Dundas (died 25 May 1731), daughter of Sir John Dundas of Newliston and Agnes Gray; they had ten children in all, four of whom reached adulthood: John Dalrymple, 2nd Earl of Stair (1673-1747), William (1678-1744), George (1680-1745) and Lady Margaret Dalrymple (1684-1779).


James Dalrymple was author of the Institutions of the Law of Scotland, first published in 1681 but in circulation since the 1660s and generally accepted as 'the foundation of modern Scots law.'[2] With this background, John followed his father into a legal career, as did three of his four brothers and qualified as an Advocate in February 1672.

During the 1639-1651 Wars of the Three Kingdoms, Scottish Royalists and Covenanters both agreed monarchy itself was divinely ordered but disagreed on the nature and extent of Royal authority versus that of the church.[3] Determined to avoid a repeat of the collapse of political authority that had accompanied Covenanter rule, the Royalist view that the Crown was the supreme arbitrator and source of authority became dominant.[4] This meant opposition to the King's authority, legal or otherwise, now became a political act.

In 1681, the future James VII & II was sent to Edinburgh as Lord High Commissioner and in August, the Scottish Parliament passed the Succession Act. This confirmed the divine right of kings, the rights of the natural heir 'regardless of religion,' the duty of all to swear allegiance to the King and the independence of the Scottish Crown.[5] The Scottish Test Act passed at the same time required all public officials and MPs to swear 'to uphold the true Protestant religion' but also to acknowledge the supremacy of Royal authority in all religious matters.[6]

A number of prominent Scots Presbyterians including James Dalrymple and the Earl of Argyll refused to take the Test Act, since it exempted the members of the Royal family were exempt from having to make the same commitment; their objection was the second part of the Oath obliging them to accept the King's authority, which caused an obvious problem with the Catholic James. Argyll was put on trial for treason with John Dalrymple as one of his lawyers; he was found guilty and sentenced to death but escaped to the Netherlands.

In January 1682, James Dalrymple also went into exile in Holland; John Graham or Claverhouse who was the military commander in charge of suppressing Presbyterian conventicles in South-West Scotland, quartered his troops on John Dalrymple's property and imposed fines on his tenants. His objections led to Dalrymple's arrest and imprisonment in September 1684; James became King in February 1685 and he was not released until November 1685.


Memorial in Kirkliston Church
Kirkliston Parish Church, where Stair is buried

Stair's last political action was in the debate over Article XXII of the Act of Union, concerning Scottish representation in the unified Parliament; it was approved on 7 January and he died in his lodgings on 8 January, allegedly of apoplexy. He was buried just outside Edinburgh, at Kirkliston, Linlithgowshire.

After his death, his wife Elizabeth, Countess Dowager of Stair, acquired the house in Lady Gray's Close, Edinburgh, built and owned by her grandparents and known as Lady Gray's House. They were renamed Lady Stair's Close and House respectively and now house the Scottish Writer's Museum.


  1. ^ "Addressing a Judge". The Scottish Courts & Tribunal Service. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  2. ^ "Viscount Stair". The Stair Society. Retrieved 23 July 2018.
  3. ^ Harris, Tim (2015). Rebellion: Britain's First Stuart Kings, 1567-1642. OUP Oxford. pp. 53–54. ISBN 0198743114.
  4. ^ Jackson, Clare (2003). Restoration Scotland, 1660-1690: Royalist Politics, Religion and Ideas. Boydell Press. p. 45. ISBN 0851159303.
  5. ^ Jackson, Clare (2003). Restoration Scotland, 1660-1690: Royalist Politics, Religion and Ideas. Boydell Press. pp. 49–51. ISBN 0851159303.
  6. ^ Harris, Tim; Taylor, Stephen, eds. (2015). The Final Crisis of the Stuart Monarchy. Boydell & Brewer. p. 122. ISBN 1783270446.


Legal offices
Preceded by
George Mackenzie
Lord Advocate
1687 – 1688
Succeeded by
George Mackenzie
Preceded by
Lord Colinton
Lord Justice Clerk
1688 – 1690
Succeeded by
Lord Cessnock
Preceded by
George Mackenzie
Lord Advocate
1689 – 1692
Succeeded by
Sir James Stewart
Political offices
Preceded by
Earl of Melville
Secretary of State, Scotland
1691 – 1695
Succeeded by
James Johnston
Parliament of Scotland
Preceded by
Patrick Paterson
Burgh Commissioner for Stranraer
Succeeded by
Sir Patrick Murray
Peerage of Scotland
New creation Earl of Stair
1703 – 1707
Succeeded by
John Dalrymple
Preceded by
James Dalrymple
Viscount of Stair
1695 – 1707