Philip Anstruther (British Army officer)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Philip Anstruther
Port Mahon, Menorca; an important British naval base, Anstruther's period as Lieutenant-Governor was marked by disputes and led to a Parliamentary investigation
Member of Parliament
for Anstruther Burghs
1715 to 1722; 1722 to 1741
In office
Lieutenant Governor of Menorca
In office
Personal details
Airdrie House, Fife [1]
Died11 November 1760(1760-11-11) (aged 80)
Airdrie House, Fife
Political partyWhig
RelationsSir John Anstruther, 2nd Baronet
OccupationSoldier and politician
Military service
Allegiance Great Britain
RankLieutenant General 1745
UnitColonel; 26th (Cameronian) Regiment of Foot 1720-1760

Lieutenant-General Philip Anstruther (bap. 26 July 1682 – 11 November 1760), of Airdrie House, Fife, was a professional soldier from Scotland and Member of Parliament between 1715 and 1754. He was a controversial Lieutenant Governor of Menorca.

Personal details[edit]

Philip Anstruther was baptised at Edinburgh on 26 July 1682,[2] only son of Sir James Anstruther of Airdrie House, in Fife, and his wife Katherine Skene; his father, a lawyer and Clerk of the Bills in the Parliament of Scotland, died the same year.[3]

He died unmarried on 11 November 1760 and left his estate to his cousin, Sir John Anstruther, 2nd Baronet.[4]


There are few details available on Anstruther's military career and it is not clear if he ever saw action; in 1710, he was appointed Captain in the Foot Guards, but these positions were based in London and often required little military service.[5] In 1720, he purchased the colonelcy of the Cameronians, which he retained until his death. Regiments and commissions were then considered private assets and particularly at the senior levels did not require service.[6]

The Anstruthers were an important family in Fife and his cousin Sir John controlled the constituency of Anstruther Burghs. At the 1715 British general election, Sir John was elected MP for Fife and Philip took over Anstruther Burghs, which he retained until defeated in 1741. His only recorded vote was in 1737, when he was the only Scottish MP to support government reprisals against Edinburgh over the Porteous Riots; although ultimately never passed, this allegedly made him "an object of detestation among his countrymen".[4]

The Porteous Riots, by James Drummond; Anstruther was the only Scots MP to support proposed government reprisals

In 1733, Anstruther was appointed Lieutenant Governor of Menorca, an important British naval base in the Mediterranean Sea taken from Spain in 1708. Although he spent little time there, this was not unusual, but while many similar positions were accepted as sinecures, Menorca was vital for control of the Western Mediterranean, vulnerable to attack and absenteeism an ongoing problem. Following his defeat in 1741, Anstruther was summoned before a Parliamentary committee to explain his long absence from duty; although he admitted neglecting his duties, he narrowly escaped censure.[4]

On returning to Menorca in 1742, Anstruther court-martialled his subordinate, Henry Erskine, for a supposed conspiracy against him; Erskine was acquitted and became a bitter political enemy. Since MPs were now barred from holding overseas military commands, Anstruther resigned as Lieutenant Governor and was returned for Anstruther Burghs at the 1747 British general election. However, much of his time was spent defending his activities at Menorca and he was heavily criticised in a Privy Council report. He was also attacked by Erskine, now in Parliament and seeking revenge; in the 1754 British general election, Erskine ran against him at Anstruther Burghs and won, ending his political career.[4]


  1. ^ RCAHMS 1933, pp. 61–62.
  2. ^ Edinburgh OPR 685/1 90 147.
  3. ^ Maidment 1842, p. 31.
  4. ^ a b c d Simpson & Lea 1970.
  5. ^ Dalton 1910, p. 125.
  6. ^ Guy 1985, p. 49.


  • Dalton, Charles (1910). George the First's army; Volume I 1714-1727. Eyre and Spottiswoode.
  • Guy, Alan (1985). Economy and Discipline: Officership and the British Army, 1714–63. Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-1099-6.
  • Maidment, James (1842). Scotish Elegaic Verses. Stevenson.
  • RCAHMS (1933). Eleventh report with inventory of monuments and constructions in the counties of Fife, Kinross, and Clackmannan. RCAHMS. pp. 61–62.
  • Simpson, JM; Lea, RS (1970). ANSTRUTHER, Philip (c.1680-1760), of Airdrie, Fife in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754. Boydell & Brewer. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
  • Wood, Walter (1887). The East Neuk of Fife: Its History and Antiquities. D. Douglas. pp. 403. Retrieved 18 August 2007.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Anstruther Burghs
Succeeded by
Preceded by Member of Parliament for Anstruther Burghs
Succeeded by
Military offices
Preceded by Colonel of 26th (The Cameronian) Regiment of Foot
Succeeded by