William Graham, 2nd Earl of Montrose

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William Graham, 2nd Earl of Montrose (1492 – 24 May 1571) was a Scottish nobleman and statesman, who successfully steered a moderate course through the treacherous waters of mid-16th century Scottish politics.


Graham was the eldest son and heir of William Graham, 1st Earl of Montrose by Annabel, a daughter of John Drummond, 1st Lord Drummond. The Grahams were a long-established family of Norman origin, who first rose to prominence in the reign of David I.

Career in the reign of James V[edit]

Montrose succeeded to the earldom as a minor, following the death of his father at the Battle of Flodden. In 1525, he was one of a number of lords selected to attend personally on the King and in June 1535 he was appointed an ambassador to France in connection with the King's marriage. On 29 August 1536, he was named as one of the Commission of Regency during the King's absence in France until the King returned in 1537 with Madeleine of Valois.[1]

Montrose supported the King in his struggles with the pro-English faction led by Archibald Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus and was rewarded on 29 May 1542 with a grant in feu of the King's lands of Rathernes and Blacksaugh, in Strathearn. (He afterwards also acquired the neighbouring lands of Orchill and Garvock.)[1]

Career in the reign of Queen Mary[edit]

Following the King's death, Montrose was present at the Parliament held at Edinburgh on 15 March 1543 and voted for the election of the Earl of Arran as regent for the infant Mary, Queen of Scots. However, when differences arose between the Regent and Cardinal Beaton, Montrose supported the latter.[1]

Montrose remained a leading member of the Regent's Council and was rewarded on 11 January 1546, for his personal attendance on the Queen, with a charter of many of the lands forfeited by the Earl of Lennox (at least until Lennox's restoration to favour in 1564). In November 1547, Montrose took part with the Regent in the unsuccessful siege of Broughty Castle, following its surrender to the English after the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh.[1]

Montrose was not present at the Reformation Parliament of 1560 and was the only nobleman to attend the Queen's first mass on her return from France in 1561. In 1563, the Bishop of Dunblane identified Montrose to Pope Pius IV as remaining true to the Catholic faith.[1]

Although Montrose was made a member of the Privy Council on 6 September 1561, he is not recorded as having attended any of the Queen's Parliaments after her return from France. He favoured the Queen's marriage to Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, but steered a middle course during the tumultuous upheavals that followed. Thus, he dissented from the deposition of the Queen and her imprisonment at Loch Leven Castle between 1567 and 1568, and joined the Queen at Hamilton, following her escape; but he did not take the field in her support and his grandson and heir was on the other side.[1]

Montrose died at Kincardine on 24 May 1571.


In December 1515 Montrose married Janet Keith, daughter of William, 3rd Earl Marischal. She died between 27 August 1546 and 25 August 1547. They had numerous children:[1][2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Sir John Balfour Paul, The Scots Peerage, volume VI (David Douglas, Edinburgh, 1909), at pages 226-230
  2. ^ Gordon A. MacGregor, The Red Book of Perthshire (Perthshire Heritage Trust, 2006)
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by Earl of Montrose
Succeeded by