[History of the Highlands Contents]
MONTROSE appeared among his Athole friends at a time the most unfavourable for obtaining their aid. Many of them were engaged in the occupation of the harvest, securing, for the support of themselves and their families, the scanty and precarious crops which were then upon the ground, and which, if neglected to be cut down in due time, might be destroyed by unfavourable weather. It was, besides, little more than a month since they had left him at Bothwell muir for the purpose partly of repairing the depredations which had been committed by Argyle’s men upon their houses, and the interval which had since elapsed had not been sufficient for accomplishing their object. Yet, notwithstanding of these drawbacks, Montrose succeeded in inducing about four hundred of the men of Athole to join him immediately, and to follow him to the north in quest of additional reinforcements; and he obtained a promise that, on his return, the whole of the Athole Highlanders would join him in a body.
While in Athole, Montrose received promises both from Lord Aboyne and Sir Alexander Macdonald, that they would speedily join him with considerable reinforcements; but, growing impatient at Aboyne’s delay, he resolved to proceed north himself to ascertain in person the cause of it, and to urge that nobleman to fulfil his promise. Crossing, therefore, the Grampians, he marched with great haste through Aberdeenshire, and had an interview with Lord Aboyne, whom he expected to rouse from his apathy. Montrose, however, soon perceived, that whatever Aboyne’s own intentions were, he was thwarted by his father, the marquis of Huntly, who, on hearing of Montrose’s success at Kilsyth, had left his retreat in Strathnaver, where he had passed a year and a half in absolute supineness, and returned to his own country. The marquis envied and hated Montrose, and although, being a royalist in his heart, he did not care to expose the crown and monarchy to danger to gratify his spleen and vanity, as he could not endure to see a man whom he looked upon as his inferior in rank, monopolize the whole power and authority in Scotland.
“He was,” says Bishop Wishart, “a man equally unfortunate and inconsiderate; and, however much he would seem, or was really attached to the king, yet he often betrayed that interest through a pride and unaccountable envy he had conceived against Montrose, whose glory and renown he endeavoured rather to extenuate than make the object of his emulation. He durst not venture to depreciate Montrose’s actions before his own people, who had been eye-witnesses of them, and were well acquainted with his abilities, lest it might be construed into a sign of disaffection to the king himself. However, he gave out that he would take the charge of commanding them himself during the remainder of the war; and in that view he headed all his own vassals, and advised his neighbours, not without threats if they acted otherwise, to enlist under no other authority than his own. They remonstrated against being asked to disobey the commands of Montrose, who was appointed by the king his deputy-governor and captain-general of all the forces within the kingdom. Huntly replied, that he himself should in no way be wanting in his duty to the king; but, in the meantime, it tended no less to their honour than his own that it should appear to the king and the whole kingdom how much they contributed to the maintenance of the war; and this, he said, could never be done, unless they composed a separate army by themselves. He spoke in very magnificent terms of his own power, and endeavoured as much as possible to extenuate that of Montrose. He extolled immoderately the glory and achievements of his ancestors, the Gordons; a race, worthy indeed of all due commendation, whose power had for many ages been formidable, and an overmatch for their neighbours; and was so even at this day. It was therefore, he said, extremely unjust to ascribe unto another, meaning Montrose, the glory and renown acquired by their courage, and at the expense of their blood. But, for the future, he would take care that neither the king should be disappointed of the help of the Gordons, nor should they be robbed of the praise due to their merit.”
By this insidious reasoning, Huntly succeeded in blinding the greater part of his clan as to his real intentions; but there were some honourable men among them who saw through the disguise of the marquis, and who justly appreciated the talents of Montrose. They perceived the great danger to which the king’s affairs would be exposed by such selfish conduct, and they did everything in their power to induce him to alter his resolution. It was, however, in vain that they represented to him the danger and impropriety of dividing the friends of the king at such a crisis, when union and harmony were so essentially necessary for accomplishing the objects they had in view, and when, by allowing petty jealousies to interfere and distract their councils, they might ruin the royal cause in Scotland. Huntly lent a deaf ear to all their entreaties, and instead of adopting the advice of his friends to support Montrose, by ordering his vassals to join him, he opposed him almost in everything he proposed by underhand means, although affecting a seeming compliance with his wishes. Seeing all their efforts fruitless, those friends who had advised Huntly to join Montrose declared that they would range themselves under Montrose’s banner, as the king’s lieutenant, regardless of consequences, and they kept their word.
The author of the history of the family of Gordon, endeavours to defend Huntly from the charges of Wishart, and having given one side of the question, it is but justice also to state what that author has to say in defence of his chief. “Here that author (Wishart) gives Huntly a very bad character. Envy is an action or rather passion of the mind. He pretends to have known the very secret thoughts of his mind; he speaks very doubtfully of his loyalty, and that his mind began to be alienated from the king. He would need to have been well acquainted with him, when he knew the secrets of his mind, none of them appearing by any overt act. Huntly was immoveable and constant in his loyalty even to and in his death, as the same author acknowledges in another place, which I will have occasion to notice hereafter. Then he makes Huntly to have had very senseless speeches to his friends, full of boasting of the glory and great actions of his ancestors, his own great power; and that it was unjust that the honour gotten at the expense of their blood should be put to another man’s score; and a great deal more of such idle stuff, needless to be repeated. Now, this author was not an ear-witness to those speeches, nor does he name any person who told him of them; and, therefore, in all justice, they must be esteemed as his own, and for these reasons, in no construction can be put upon Huntly; and so I do not think myself obliged to take any further notice of them. Only, I must be allowed to think it not a little strange, that such a pious and loyal author should give so bad a character of Huntly here, who in another place hereafter is pleased to give him so great a one.”1
Among other reasons which induced Montrose to take the speedy step he did of marching north himself, was a report which had reached him that the king was to send from England a large body of horse to support him, and he was most anxious to collect such forces as he could to enable him to be in a condition to advance to the south, and unite with this body. In fact, the king had given orders to Lord Digby and Sir Marmaduke Langdale to proceed to Scotland with a body of fifteen hundred horse; but they were, unfortunately, completely defeated, even before Montrose’s departure to the north, by Colonel Copley at Sherburn, with the loss of all their baggage. Digby and Langdale, accompanied by the Earls of Camwath and Nithsdale, fled to Skipton, and afterwards to Dumfries, whence they took ship to the Isle of Man.2
Notwithstanding the evasions of the marquis of Huntly, Montrose succeeded in inducing the Earl of Aboyne to join him at Drumminor, the seat of Lord Forbes, with a force of fifteen hundred foot and three hundred horse, all of whom appeared to be actuated by the best spirit. To remove every unfavourable impression from the mind of Montrose, Aboyne assured him with great frankness, that he and his men were ready to follow him wherever he should be pleased to lead them; that they would obey his orders; and that his brother, Lord Lewis, would also speedily join him, as he soon did, with an additional force.
On receiving this reinforcement, Montrose turned his face to the south, and marched towards Mar, where he was to be joined by forces which Lord Erskine had raised there; but he had not proceeded far, when Lord Lewis Gordon, under some pretence or other, returned home with a considerable party of horse, promising to return to the army the following day. The desertion of Lord Lewis had a most pernicious influence upon the remainder of Aboyne’s men, who, before the army had reached Alford, were greatly diminished by desertion. As the remainder showed great unwillingness to march forward, and as the desertions continued, Aboyne requested leave of absence, alleging as his reason, that his father had expressly commanded him to return to defend his possessions against a party of the enemy who were in Lower Mar, and who were threatening an attack. The demand of Aboyne excited the astonishment of Montrose, who remonstrated with him, and gave many reasons to induce him to remain. He showed that Aboyne’s apprehensions of danger were groundless, as, with the exception of a few troops of the enemy’s horse quartered in Aberdeen, there were no other forces in the north which could disturb his father’s possessions, and that these horse were too weak to attempt any thing – that by marching south, the seat of war would be transferred from the north country, and that, in this way, the Marquis of Huntly would be relieved altogether of the presence of the enemy – that it would be impossible to join the royalist forces, which were on their way from England, without crossing the Forth, and that it was only by adopting the latter step that they could ever expect to rescue their brave friends from the fangs of the Covenanters, and save their lives.
Aboyne did not attempt to answer these reasons, which were urged with Montrose’s peculiar energy, but he requested him to send some persons who had influence with his father to acquaint him with them. Donald, Lord Rae, at whose house Huntly had lived during his exile in Strathnaver, and Alexander Irvine, younger of Drum, Huntly’s son-in-law, both of whom had been indebted to Montrose for their liberty, were accordingly sent by him to the Marquis of Huntly, as the most likely persons he could select to induce Huntly to allow Aboyne to remain with the army. But all their arguments and entreaties were to no purpose. Lord Rae was so heartily ashamed at the failure of his mission, that he declined to return to Montrose; and Irvine, who brought some evasive letters from Huntly, frankly declared to Montrose, that he could obtain no satisfactory explanation from his father-in-law of his real intentions, farther, than that he remained fixed in his resolution that Aboyne should return home immediately. After declaring that he parted from Montrose with reluctance, and promising to join him within a fortnight with a force even larger than that which he had lately brought, Aboyne left the army and returned to his father.
Montrose then continued his march through Braemar and Glenshee into Athole, where he obtained an accession of force. He next proceeded to Strathearn, where he was met by two messengers, who arrived by different routes, with orders from the king, desiring Montrose to join Lord George Digby, near the English border, as soon as possible. These messengers were Captain Thomas Ogilvy, younger of Pourie, and Captain Robert Nisbet. On receiving these commands, Montrose immediately sent the messengers north to the marquis of Huntly, to acquaint him with the king’s wishes, in the expectation that the use of his majesty’s name would at once induce him to send Aboyne south with reinforcements.
While Montrose lay in Strathearn waiting for reinforcements, intelligence was brought to him that the Covenanters were about to imbrue their hands in the blood of his friends who had been taken prisoners after the battle of Philiphaugh. The committee of estates, which had accompanied the covenanting army to Glasgow, had now determined upon this bold and illegal step, for which hitherto, with the recent exceptions of O’Kean and Laughlane, no example had been set by either of the belligerent parties in Scotland since the commencement of the war. They had wisely abstained from staining the scaffolds with blood, but from different motives. Montrose, acting agreeably to the understood wishes of the king, which were congenial with his own disposition, not to hurry matters to extremities with his Scottish subjects, refrained from inflicting capital punishment, and, as we have seen, often released his prisoners on parole. The heads of the convenanters had been deterred by fear alone from carrying their bloody purposes into execution; but considering that they had now nothing to fear, they soon appeared in their true colours. That the measures of Charles were unconstitutional and oppressive, cannot be denied, and that he endeavoured to circumvent the parties opposed to him by duplicity and cunning, is a point equally certain; but there can be no question that, being king de facto, as well as de jure, he had a right, so long as he held the reins of government, to exercise all the power of the executive in the protection of his person and throne. With the covenanters, however, the case was widely different. They, indeed, struggled for the existence of their religious liberties, but they had no right to assume judicial powers, by consigning to the block those who, from a principle of duty, had taken up arms in defence of their sovereign. But a period of civil war is not the time for attending to such distinctions.
Besides the committee of the estates, a committee of the kirk held sittings in Glasgow at the same time, which sittings were afterwards transferred to Perth, where, after deposing some ministers who were considered disaffected to the covenant, because they had not “mourned” for Montrose’s victory at Kilsyth, they “concerned” themselves, as Guthry observes, about “the disposition of men’s heads.” Accordingly, thinking the committee of estates remiss in condemning and executing the prisoners, they appointed Mr. William Bennet, who acted as Moderator in the absence of Mr Robert Douglas, and two others of their number, to wait upon the committee of estates, and remonstrate with them for their supineness. Guthry relates, that the deputation reported on their return, in his own hearing, that some of the lords of the committee slighted the desire of the committee of the kirk, and that they were likely to have obtained nothing had not the earl of Tulliebardine made a seasonable speech to this effect, “that because he had a brother among those men, it might be that their lordships so valued his concurrence with them in the good cause, that for respect of him they were the more loth to resolve upon the question. But that, as for himself, since that young man had joined with that wicked crew, he did not esteem him his brother, and therefore declared that he would take it for no favour if upon that account any indulgence was granted him.”3 4 This fratricidal speech made those members of the committee, who had disliked the shedding of blood, hang down their heads, according to Bennet’s report, and the committee, thereupon, resolved that ten of the prisoners should be executed, viz. the earl of Hartfell, the Lord Ogilvie, Sir Robert Spottiswood, the Honourable William Murray, brother to the Earl of Tulliebardine, Alexander Ogilvie of Inverquharity, Sir William Rollock, Sir Philip Nisbet, Colonel Nathaniel Gordon, Adjutant Stewart, and Captain Andrew Guthry.
Apprehensive, however, that Montrose might still be in a condition to avenge the blood of his friends, the committee did not venture to carry their sentence into immediate execution upon any of them; but hearing of the division between Montrose and Huntly, and the desertion of the Gordons, they thought they might now safely venture to immolate a few victims at the shrine of the covenant. Accordingly three of the prisoners were ordered for execution, viz. Sir William Rollock, Sir Philip Nisbet, chief of that name, and Alexander Ogilvie, younger of Inverquharity, a youth not quite eighteen years of age, who had already given proofs of genius. This excellent young man was sacrificed to gratify the malignant animosity of Argyle at the Ogilvies. Sir William was executed at the market cross of Glasgow, on the twenty-eighth day of October, and Sir Philip and Ogilvie suffered at the same place on the following day. Wishart relates a circumstance connected with Sir William Rollock’s condemnation, which exhibits a singular instance of the ferocity and fanaticism of the times. He says, that the chief crime laid to Sir William’s charge was, that he had not perpetrated a deed of the most villanous and atrocious nature; for having been sent by Montrose, after the battle of Aberdeen, with some despatches to the king, he was apprehended by the enemy, and would undoubtedly have been immediately executed, but for Argyle, who used all his endeavours to engage him to assassinate Montrose, and who at length, by threatening him with immediate death, and promising him, in case of compliance, very high rewards, prevailed on him to undertake that barbarous office, for which, however, he secretly entertained the utmost abhorrence; and having thereby obtained his life and liberty, he returned straight to Montrose and disclosed the whole matter to him, entreating him, at the same time, to look more carefully to his own safety; as it could not be supposed that he, Sir William, was the only person who had been practised upon in this shameful manner, or that others would equally detest the deed, but that some persons would undoubtedly be found who, allured with the bait, would use their utmost industry and pains to obtain the promised reward.5 Another instance of fanaticism is related by Guthry, of David Dickson the “bloody preacher,” who, on witnessing the execution of Nisbet and Ogilvie, was heard to utter the barbarous expression – “The work goes bonnyly on,” an expression which, afterwards, became proverbial.
About the time this tragedy was performing, Montrose crossed the Forth and entered the Lennox with a force of three hundred horse and twelve hundred foot, and took up his quarters on the lands of Sir John Buchanan, an ardent covenanter, whence he sent out his cavalry every day, who hovered about Glasgow, and plundered the neighbouring country without opposition, although the covenanters had a force of about three thousand cavalry in Glasgow and the neighbourhood. When Montrose heard of the execution of his friends his heart was filled with the most poignant grief, and he longed for a suitable opportunity to avenge their deaths, but he was too weak to venture upon an immediate attack. He sent repeated messengers from his present head-quarters to Sir Alexander Macdonald to join him; but after hovering several weeks about Glasgow, like a hawk ready to pounce upon its quarry, he had the mortification to find, that Macdonald had no intention of ever again returning to him, and that his expectations of being joined by the earl of Aboyne were to be equally disappointed.
Under these untoward circumstances, therefore, and as the winter, which turned out unusually severe, was far advanced, Montrose resolved to retire into the north where he could remain undisturbed. With this view he began his march from the Lennox on the nineteenth of November, and crossing the hills of Monteith, which were covered with snow to a considerable depth, he entered Strathearn, and crossing the Tay, marched into Athole. Here Montrose received the melancholy news of the death of his brother-in-law, Archibald Lord Napier of Merchiston, whom he had left behind him in Athole on account of indisposition, a man, says Bishop Wishart, “not less noble in his personal accomplishments than in his birth and descent; a man of the greatest uprightness and integrity, and of a most happy genius, being, as to his skill in the sciences, equal to his father and grandfather, who were famous all the world over for their knowledge in philosophy and mathematics, and in the doctrine of civil prudence far beyond them.” Montrose had been accustomed from his earliest years to look up to this gifted nobleman with feelings of reverential and filial awe, nor were these feelings impaired as he advanced in life. He was interred in the Kirk of Blair with becoming solemnity by Montrose.
When Montrose arrived in Athole, he there found Captain Ogilvie and Captain Nisbet, who had just returned from the north to give an account of their embassy to the Marquis of Huntly. They reported that they found him quite inflexible in his determination not to send assistance to Montrose, that he had spoken disdainfully to them, and even questioned the authenticity of the message which they brought from the king. It was truly grievous for Montrose to see the cause for which he had fought so long, and for which he had encountered so many personal risks, thus endangered by the apparently wilful and fatal obstinacy of an individual who had abandoned his country and his friends in the most trying circumstances, and cowardly skulked in Strathnaver, without showing any inclination to support the tottering diadem of his sovereign. But Montrose did not yet despair of bringing the marquis to a due sense of his duty, and as he considered that it was more expedient, in the present conjuncture, to endeavour to soothe the wounded pride of the marquis than to use the language of menace, he sent Sir John Dalziel to Huntly with a message of peace and reconciliation; intending, if necessary, as soon as circumstances permitted, to follow him, and enforce by his personal presence, at a friendly conference, which Sir John was requested to ask from the marquis, the absolute necessity of such a reconciliation.
As Dalziel was quite unsuccessful in his mission, and could not prevail upon Huntly to agree to a conference with Montrose, the latter hastened to put into effect his intention of paying a personal visit to Huntly, “that nothing might be unattempted to bring him to a right way of thinking,” and “by heaping favours and benefits upon him, force him even against his will, to a reconciliation, and to co-operate with him in promoting the king’s affairs.”6 Montrose accordingly left Athole with his army in the month of December, and marching into Angus, crossed the Grampians, then covered with frost and snow, and arrived by rapid marches in Strathbogie before Huntly was aware of his movements. To avoid Montrose Huntly immediately shut himself up in his castle of Bog of Gicht, on the Spey, but Montrose having left his head-quarters with a troop of horse, unexpectedly surprised him very early in the morning before he had time to secrete himself. Instead of reproaching Huntly with his past conduct, Montrose spoke to him in the most affable manner, and apparently succeeded in removing his dissatisfaction so far, that a plan for conducting the future operations of the army was agreed upon between them. The reduction of the garrison of Inverness, which, though strong and well fortified, was but scantily stored with provisions, and an attempt to induce the earl of Seaforth to join them, were the leading parts of this plan. Accordingly, while Montrose was to march through Strathspey, on his way to Inverness, it was agreed that Huntly should also advance upon it by a different road along the sea coast of Murrayshire, and thereby hem in the garrison on both sides.
In prosecution of this design, Montrose proceeded through Strathspey, and sat down before Inverness, waiting for the arrival of Huntly. When marching through Strathspey, Montrose received intelligence that Athole was threatened with a visit from the Campbells – a circumstance which induced him to despatch Graham of Inchbrakie and John Drummond, younger of Balloch, to that country, for the purpose of embodying the Athole Highlanders, who had remained at home, in defence of their country. The inhabitants of Argyle, on hearing of Sir Alexander Macdonald’s arrival in their country, after the battle of Kilsyth, had fled to avoid his vengeance, and concealed themselves in caverns or in the clefts of the rocks; but being compelled by the calls of hunger to abandon their retreats, they had been collected together by Campbell of Ardkinlass to the number of about twelve hundred, and had attacked the Macgregors and Macnabs for favouring Montrose. Being joined by the Stuarts of Balquidder, the Menzieses, and other partisans of Argyle, to the number of about three hundred, they meditated an invasion of Athole, and had advanced as far as Strathample, with the intention of carrying their design into execution, when intelligence was brought to Inchbrakie of their approach. Inchbrakie and Balloch had by this time collected a body of seven hundred able-bodied men, and, with this force, they immediately proceeded to meet the Campbells. These had laid siege to Castle Ample; but, on being apprised of the advance of the Athole-men, they retired to Monteith, whither they were hotly pursued by the Athole-men, who overtook them at Callander, near the village of Monteith. After crossing the river Teith, they halted and prepared for battle, having previously stationed a large party of musketeers to guard the ford of the river.
Having ascertained the strength and position of the Campbells, Inchbrakie ordered a hundred of his men to advance to the ford, as if with the intention of crossing it, in order to draw the attention of the Campbells to this single point, while, with the remainder of his men, he hastened to cross the river by another ford, higher up, and nearer the village. This movement was immediately perceived by the Argyle-men, who, alarmed at such a bold step, and probably thinking that the Athole-men were more numerous than they really were, abandoned their position, and fled with precipitation towards Stirling. As soon as the Athole party, stationed at the lower ford, saw the opposite bank deserted, they immediately crossed the river and attacked the rear of the retiring Campbells. They were soon joined in the pursuit by the party which had crossed the higher ford; but, as the Athole-men had performed a tedious march of ten miles that morning, they were unable to continue the pursuit far. About eighty of the Campbells were killed in the pursuit. They loitered about Stirling for some time in a very pitiful state, till visited by their chief, on his way to Ireland, who, not knowing how to dispose of them, led them into Renfrewshire, under the impression that as the inhabitants of that district were friendly to the covenant, they would be well received; but the people of Renfrewshire, instead of showing sympathy for these unfortunate wanderers, threatened to take arms and cut them down, unless they departed immediately. The marquis, thereupon, sent them into the Lennox, and quartered them upon the lands of Lord Napier and other “malignants,” as the royalists were called.7
The support of General Leslie’s army being heavily felt by the people, complaints were made to the committee of estates for retaining such a large body of men in Scotland, without any necessity, and whose habits and mode of living were so different from those of the inhabitants of North Britain. The committee sent Leslie back to England, retaining only a small brigade under General Middleton, to watch the motions of Montrose.
The covenanters, emboldened by recent events, had summoned a parliament, without any authority from the king, to meet at St Andrews, and which accordingly assembled on the twenty-sixth of November, sixteen hundred and forty-five; and, that the ministers might not be behind their lay-brethren in zeal for the blood of the “malignants,” the general assembly of the church also met at the same time and place. It is truly melancholy to find men, under the pretence of religion, demanding the lives of their countrymen as a sacrifice which they considered would be well-pleasing to God; yet, whilst every well disposed mind must condemn the fanaticism of the covenanters, it must be remembered that the unconstitutional attempts of the king to force protestant episcopacy upon them – a system which they detested, – the severe losses which they had sustained from the arms of Montrose, and the dread of being subjected to the yoke of prelacy, and punished for their resistance, had aroused them to a state of phrenzy, over which reason and religion could have little control.
As a preparative for the bloody scenes about to be enacted, Sir Archibald Johnston of Warriston, on the day the parliament met, addressed the house in a long harangue, in which he entreated them to “unity amongst themselves, to lay all private respects and interests aside, and to do justice on delinquents and malignants; showing that their dallying formerly had provoked God’s two great servants against them – the sword and plague of pestilence – which had ploughed up the land with deep furrows: he showed that the massacre of Kilsyth was never to be forgotten, and that God, who was the just Judge of the world, would not but judge righteously, and keep in remembrance that sea of innocent blood which lay before his throne, crying for vengeance on these bloodthirsty rebels, the butchers of so many innocent souls. He showed, likewise, that the times required a more narrow and sharp looking into than formerly, in respect that the house of parliament was become at this present like to Noah’s ark, which had in it both foul and clean creatures, and therefore he besought the estates there now convened by God’s especial permission and appointment, before that they went about the constitution of that high court of parliament, that they would make a serious search and inquiry after such as were ears and eyes to the enemies of the commonwealth, and did sit there as if there was nothing to say to them; and, therefore, he humbly desired that the house might be adjourned till to-morrow at two o’clock in the afternoon, and that the several estates might consider what corrupted members were amongst them, who had complied with the public enemy of the state, either by themselves or by their agents or friends.”8
On the fourth of December, a petition was presented to the parliament from the prisoners confined in the castle of St Andrews, praying to be tried either by their peers, the justice-general, or before the whole parliament, and not by a committee, as proposed; and they very properly objected to Sir Archibald Johnston, who had prejudged their case, from sitting as a judge; but the house, “in one voice,” most iniquitously rejected the petition, reserving, however, to the prisoners still to object to Sir Archibald before the committee, “if they had not any personal exception against his person.”9
As the ministers considered the parliament tardy in their proceedings against the royalists, the commissioners of the general assembly presented, on the fifth December, a remonstrance, praying them “for justice upon delinquents and malignants who had shed the blood of their brethren,” and, on the same day, four petitions and remonstrances to the same effect were presented to the parliament, from the provincial assemblies and from the shires of Fife, Dumfries, Merse, Teviotdale, and Galloway, by a body of about two hundred persons. The parliament, says Balfour, by their president, returned this answer – that they had taken their “modest petitions and seasonable remonstrances very kindly, and rendered them hearty thanks, and wished them to be confident that, with all alacrity and diligence, they would go about and proceed in answering the expectations of all their reasonable desires, as they might themselves perceive in their procedure hitherto; and, withal, he entreated them, in the name of the house, that they would be earnest with God to implore and beg his blessing to assist and encourage them to the performance of what they demanded.”10
Notwithstanding the entreaties of the ministers to proceed with the condemnation of the prisoners, the parliament postponed proceedings till the seventeeth of January; but, as a peace offering, they ordered, in the mean time, some Irish prisoners, composed partly of those who had been taken at Philiphaugh, and who had escaped assassination, and partly of stragglers who had been picked up after that battle, and who were confined in various prisons throughout the kingdom, especially in those of Selkirk, Jedburgh, Glasgow, Dumbarton, and Perth, to be executed without trial, “conform to the treaty betwixt both kingdoms.”11 A more illegal act it is scarcely possible to conceive, but in these times even the forms of justice were set aside.
The committee of estates, when sitting in Glasgow, had condemned the earl of Hartfell and Lord Ogilvie to death, along with Sir William Rollock, Sir Philip Nisbet, and Alexander Ogilvie; but, for some reason or other, their execution was deferred. So that, with the exception of Adjutant Stuart, who escaped while under the charge of General Middleton, there remained only four persons of any note for condemnation, viz. Colonel Nathaniel Gordon, Sir Robert Spottiswood, the honourable Wm. Murray, and Captain Guthry. It appears from the parliamentary register of Sir James Balfour, that these four prisoners pleaded exemption from trial, or rather from condemnation, on the ground of “quarters;” but after three hours’ debate, on the tenth of January, the parliament overruled this defence; and the committee having, of course, found them all “guilty of high treason against the states of the kingdom,” they fixed the sixteenth of that month for taking into consideration the punishment to be inflicted upon the prisoners.
The first case taken up on the appointed day, was that of Colonel Nathaniel Gordon, who, after a debate of three hours’ duration, was sentenced to be beheaded at the cross of St Andrews, on Tuesday, the twentieth of January, at twelve o’clock, noon, and his lands and goods were declared forfeited to the public. The lord chancellor declined voting. Similar sentences were pronounced upon the honourable William Murray and Captain Guthry, by a plurality of votes, a few of the members having voted that they should be imprisoned during life. Mr Murray’s brother, the earl of Tulliebardine, absented himself. These three fell under an act passed the preceding year, declaring that all persons who, after having subscribed the covenant, should withdraw from it, should be held as guilty of high treason. But the case of Sir Robert Spottiswood, who had not subscribed the covenant, not falling within the scope of this ex-post-facto law, the committee had stated in a special report the grounds on which they found Sir Robert guilty of high treason, namely, 1st, that he had advised, docketed, signed, carried, and delivered to Montrose the commission appointing him “lieutenant-governor and captain-general” of all his majesty’s forces in Scotland; and 2dly, that he had been taken in arms against the country at Philiphaugh. After a lengthened debate, the parliament decided that both these charges were capital offences, and accordingly Sir Robert was condemned by a large majority to lose his head.12 The four prisoners were, on the following day, brought up for judgment, and received sentence “on their knees severally.”13
It was the intention of the parliament to have ordered the earl of Hartfell and Lord Ogilvie to be executed along with the other prisoners; but on the evening of the nineteenth of January Lord Ogilvie effected his escape in the following way. Pretending sickness he applied for, and obtained, though with considerable difficulty, liberty to his mother, lady, and sister, to visit and attend him in prison. On entering his chamber the sentinels retired out of respect to the ladies; and, as soon as the door was shut, his lordship jumped out of bed, and attired himself in his sister’s clothes, who, on undressing, took the place of her brother in bed, and put on his night-cap. After spending some time together to prevent suspicion, the two other ladies and his lordship, after opening the door ajar so as to be seen by the guards, pretended to take a most affectionate and painful leave of the unfortunate bed-ridden prisoner, and drawing the door after them, passed the sentinels without interruption. This happened about eight o’clock in the evening; and as horses had been prepared for his lordship and two companions who were waiting to escort him, he immediately mounted, and was out of all danger before next morning, when the cheat was discovered. The escape of Lord Ogilvie highly incensed Argyle, who hated the Ogilvies, and who, it is said, longed for the death of his lordship. He could not conceal the chagrin he felt on the occasion, and even had the audacity to propose that the three ladies should be immediately punished; but the Hamiltons and Lord Lindsay, who, on account of their relationship to Lord Ogilvie, were suspected of being privy to his escape, protected them from his vengeance. The escape of Lord Ogilvie was a fortunate occurrence for the earl of Hartfell, for whose life it is alleged the Hamiltons thirsted in their turn; and to disappoint whom Argyle insisted that the earl’s life should be spared, a concession which he obtained.14
Of the four prisoners Colonel Nathaniel Gordon, “a man, (says Wishart,) of excellent endowments both of body and mind,” was the first that suffered. He had been long under the ban of the church for adultery; but on signing a paper, declaratory of his repentance, he was absolved from the sentence of excommunication. He died expressing great sorrow for the vices and follies of his youth; but vindicated himself for the part he had taken in the troubles of his country, professed the most unshaken loyalty to his king, and declared that if there were any thing in the instrument he had signed which might be construed as dishonourable to the king, or repugnant to his authority, he completely disowned it.
Colonel Gordon was followed to the scaffold by Sir Robert Spottiswood, a man of spotless integrity, and one of the most profound scholars of the age. He was the eldest son of Archbishop Spottiswood, and had, by his rare endowments and great merit, been noticed with distinction by king James and his successor Charles. James conferred on him the order of knighthood, and made him a privy councillor, and Charles promoted him to the high situation of lord president of the court of session; and, upon the desertion of the earl of Lanark to the covenanters, the king appointed him principal secretary of state for Scotland instead of that nobleman. This appointment drew down upon him the hatred of the leading covenanters, but still there were some among them who continued to respect him on account of his worth and shining talents, and when the vote was taken in parliament whether he should suffer, the earls of Eglintoun, Cassillis, Dunfermline, and Carnwath, voted that his life should be spared; and the lord chancellor and the earl of Lanark, by leave of the house, declined voting. “Though many liked not his party, they liked his person, which made him many friends even among the covenanters, insomuch, that after his sentence was read, some of the nobility spoke in his behalf, and entreated the house to consider the quality and parts of that excellent gentleman and most just judge, whom they had condemned, and begged earnestly his life might be spared. But an eminent knowledge and esteem, which, in other cases, might be a motive to save a criminal, was here only the cause of taking an innocent man’s life – so dangerous is it, in a corrupt age, to be eminently constant and virtuous. The gentlemen who spoke were told that the authority of the established government was not secure while Sir Robert’s life was spared. Whereupon the noblemen who presided at the meeting of the estates at Glasgow, and in the parliament at St Andrews, openly declared, when they signed the respective sentences, that they did sign as preses, and in obedience to the command of the estates, but not as to their particular judgment.”15
After he had mounted the scaffold, still reeking with the blood of Colonel Gordon, Sir Robert surveyed the terrific scene around him with singular composure, which, added to his appearance, which was naturally grave and dignified, filled the breasts of the spectators with a feeling of compassion. Sir Robert had intended to have addressed the people, and had prepared a written speech for the occasion;16 but on turning round to address the spectators, he was prevented from proceeding by the provost of St Andrews, formerly a servant of Sir Robert’s father, who had been instigated to impose silence upon him by Robert Blair, one of those ministers who, to the scandal of religion, had dishonoured their profession by calling out for the blood of their countrymen. Blair’s motive in occasioning this interruption is said to have arisen from a dread he entertained that Sir Robert would expose the designs of the covenanters, and impress the bystanders with an unfavourable opinion of their proceedings. Sir Robert bore the interruption with the most unruffled composure, and, as he saw no chance of succeeding, he threw the manuscript of his speech amongst the crowd, and applied himself to his private devotions. But here again he was annoyed by the officious impertinence of Blair, who rudely asked him whether he (Blair) and the people should pray for the salvation of his soul? To this question Sir Robert answered, that he indeed desired the prayers of the people; but knowing the blood-thirsty character of the man he was addressing, who had come to tease him in his last moments, he told him that he “would have no concern with his prayers, which he believed were impious, and an abomination unto God; adding, that of all the plagues with which the offended majesty of God had scourged the nation, this was certainly by far the greatest, greater than even the sword, fire, or pestilence; that for the sins of the people God had sent a lying spirit into the mouths of the prophets.”17 This answer raised the fury of Blair, who assailed Sir Robert with the most acrimonious imputations, and reviled the memory of his father by the most infamous charges; but Sir Robert was too deeply absorbed in meditation to regard such obloquy. Having finished his devotions, this great and good man, after uttering these words, “Merciful Jesus! gather my soul unto thy saints and martyrs who have run before me in this race,” laid his neck upon the fatal block, and in an instant his head was severed from his body.
After Sir Robert Spottiswood’s execution, Captain Guthry, son of the ex-bishop of Moray, was next led to the scaffold. The fierce and unfeeling Blair, who had already officiously witnessed, with the most morbid complacency, the successive executions of Colonel Gordon and Sir Robert, not satisfied with reviling the latter gentleman in his last and awful moments, and lacerating his feelings by heaping every sort of obloquy upon the memory of his father, vented the dregs of his impotent rage upon the unfortunate victim now before him; but Guthry bore all this man’s reproaches with becoming dignity, and declared that he considered it an honour to die in defence of the just cause of his sovereign. He met his death with the fortitude of a hero and the firmness of a Christian.
In consequence of an application to the parliament by the earl of Tulliebardine, the execution of his brother, William Murray, was delayed till the twenty-third day of January. The case of this unfortunate young man excited a strong feeling of regret among the covenanters themselves, and some writers have not scrupled to blame the earl as the cause of his death, that he might succeed to his patrimony. Some countenance is afforded to this conjecture from the circumstance that the earl not only made no exertions to save his brother from condemnation, but that he even absented himself from parliament the day that his brother’s case came to be discussed, when, by his presence or his vote, he might have saved his brother’s life. Nor is this supposition, it is contended, in any shape weakened by the attempt he afterwards made to get off his brother; for he must have known that the parliament had gone too far to retract, and could not, without laying itself open to the charge of the grossest partiality, reprieve Mr Murray, and allow their sentence to be carried into execution against the other prisoners. If true, however, that the earl delivered the speech imputed to him by Bennet, there can be no doubt of his being a participator in the death of his brother, but, it would be hard to condemn him on such questionable authority. To whatever cause it was owing, Mr Murray was not, during his last moments, subjected to the annoyances of Blair, nor was he prevented from delivering the following speech to the persons assembled to witness his execution. He spoke in a loud tone of voice as follows: “I hope, my countrymen, you will reckon that the house of Tulliebardine, and the whole family of Murray, have this day acquired a new and no small addition of honour; that a young man, descended of that ancient race, has, though innocent, and in the flower of his age, with the greatest readiness and cheerfulness, delivered up his life for his king, the father of his country, and the most munificent patron and benefactor of that family from which he is sprung. Let not my honoured mother, my dearest sisters, my kindred or my friends, lament the shortness of my life, seeing that it is abundantly recompensed by the honour of my death. Pray for my soul, and God be with you.”18
Many prisoners, but of less note, still remained to be disposed of; but the parliament, either averse to shed more blood, or from other considerations, took no steps against them. The committee of the kirk, however, being actuated by other motives, pressed the parliament to dispose of some more of the “malignants;” but the bloody zeal of these clerical enthusiasts was checked by the better sense of the parliament; and in order to get rid of their importunities for blood, a suggestion was made to them by the leading men in parliament to lay before them an “overture,” proposing some more lenient mode of punishment. The “godly” brotherhood soon met, but a considerable difference of opinion prevailing as to the nature of the punishment to be submitted to parliament in the proposed overture, the moderator asked David Dickson what he thought best to be done with the prisoners, who answered “in his homely way of speaking, ‘shame them and herry (plunder) them.’ ” This proposal, being adopted, was made the subject of an overture, which was accordingly presented to parliament; and to meet the views of the ministers, a remit was made to a large committee, which was appointed to meet at Linlithgow, on the twenty-fifth of February, to fix the amount of the fines to be imposed upon the different delinquents.
While the proceedings before detailed were going on at St Andrews, Montrose was ineffectually endeavouring to reduce the garrison of Inverness, the acquisition of which would have been of some importance to him. Had the marquis of Huntly kept his promise, and joined Montrose, its capture might have been effected; but that nobleman never made his appearance, and as Inverness was thus left open on the side which it was intended he should block up, the enemy were enabled to supply themselves with provisions and warlike stores, of which they stood in great need. Huntly, however, afterwards crossed the Spey, and entered Moray with a considerable force; but instead of joining Montrose, who repeatedly sent for him, he wasted his time in fruitless enterprises, besieging and taking a few castles of no importance.
As Huntly, who envied the military glory of Montrose, probably did not think that the capture of a few obscure castles was sufficient to establish his pretensions as Montrose’s rival, he resolved to seize Aberdeen, and had advanced on his way as far as Kintore, where he was met by Ludovick Lindsay, earl of Crawford, who had retired from the Mearns, where he had been stationed with Montrose’s horse, on hearing of the approach of the parliamentary army under the command of General Middleton towards Aberdeen. This intelligence was quite sufficient to induce the marquis to desist from his enterprise. Lindsay then marched into Buchan, and burnt the town of Fraserburgh. He, thereafter, went to Banff, but was compelled to retire hastily into Moray with some loss in February sixteen hundred and forty-six, by a division of Middleton’s army under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Montgomery and Major David Barclay.19
About this time intelligence was brought to Montrose that General Middleton had arrived at Aberdeen with a force of six hundred horse and eight hundred foot. He now renewed his entreaties to Huntly to join him immediately, that they might either reduce Inverness or march jointly upon Aberdeen and attack Middleton; but the jealousy or vanity of Huntly would not permit him to accede to Montrose’s request. This refusal exasperated Montrose to such a degree that he resolved to have recourse to force to compel compliance, as he could no longer endure to see the authority of the sovereign, whose deputy he was, thus trampled upon and despised. As he had already brought over the Earl of Seaforth to his side, who had induced the heads of some of the principal clans to form a confederation for obtaining a national peace, he was fully in a condition to have reduced Huntly to obedience; but the sudden advance of Middleton prevented Montrose from making the attempt.
Wishart relates rather an incredible story respecting an alleged piece of treachery on the part of Lord Lewis Gordon on this occasion. He states that, as Montrose had no reliance on Huntly, and as he “began now to think it high time to look more carefully to his own safety, lest Huntly’s malice might at last carry him the length even to betray him,” he sent three troops of horse to the fords of the Spey to watch the motions of the enemy, with orders, if they approached, to send him immediate intimation of their movements. This body, it is said, occupied the most convenient stations, and watched with very great diligence for some time, till Lord Lewis, who then kept the castle of Rothes, having contrived his scheme of villany, assured the officers who commanded the horse, that the enemy was very far distant, and had no intention to pass the river; he, therefore, advised them to cease watching, and having invited them to the castle where they were sumptuously entertained by him, plied with wine and spirits, and detained till such time as Lord Middleton had crossed the Spey with a large army of horse and foot, and penetrated. far into Moray, he dismissed his guests with these jeering remarks – “Go, return to your general Montrose, who will now have better work than he had at Selkirk.” Such a statement carries its own condemnation upon the face of it, for even supposing that Montrose’s officers had acted the stupid part imputed to them, they would certainly not have forgotten their duty so far as to order their men to abandon their posts.
It was in the month of May, sixteen hundred and forty-six, that General Middleton left Aberdeen at the head of his army, on his way to Inverness. He left behind him in Aberdeen a regiment of horse, and another of foot, for the protection of the town, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Montgomery. Middleton made rapid march, and arrived in the neighbourhood of Inverness on the ninth of May, driving before him the few troops of horse which Montrose had stationed on the Spey to watch his motions. On being warned of Middleton’s approach, Montrose drew his troops together, and took up a position at some distance from the town; but having ascertained that Middleton was strong in cavalry, he hastily crossed the river Ness. Middleton, thereupon, despatched two regiments of cavalry after him, who attacked his rear, cut off some of his men, and captured two pieces of cannon and part of his baggage. Montrose continued his retreat by Beauly into Rosshire, whither he was pursued by Middleton, who, however, suffered some loss in the pursuit. As Montrose’s forces were far inferior, in point of numbers, to those of Middleton, he avoided coming to an engagement, and as Seaforth’s men, who had joined Montrose at Inverness, under their chief, began to desert him in great numbers, and as he could not depend on the population by which he was surrounded, Montrose turned to the right, and passing by Lochness, marched through Strathglass and Stratherrick to the banks of the Spey. Middleton did not follow Montrose, but went and laid siege to the castle of the earl of Seaforth in the chanonry of Ross, which he took after a siege of four days. He behaved towards the countess of Seaforth, who was within the castle, with great politeness, and restored it to her after taking away the ammunition which it contained.20
The absence of Middleton from Aberdeen afforded Huntly an opportunity of accomplishing the design which he formerly entertained, till prevented by the approach of Middleton from the south, of taking Aberdeen, and accordingly he ordered his men to march from Deeside to Inverury, where he appointed a general rendezvous to be held on the tenth of May. Colonel Montgomery being aware of his motions, beat up his quarters the same night at Kintore with a party of horse, and killed some of his men. But Montgomery was repulsed by Lord Lewis Gordon, with some loss, and forced to retire to Aberdeen. The marquis appeared at the gates of Aberdeen at 12 o’clock on the following day, with a force of fifteen hundred Highland foot and six hundred horse, and stormed it in three different places. The garrison defended themselves with courage, and twice repulsed the assailants, in which contest a part of the town was set on fire; but a fresh reinforcement having entered the town, under Lord Aboyne, the attack was renewed, and Montgomery and his horse were forced to retire down to the edge of the river Dee, which they crossed by swimming. The covenanting foot, after taking refuge in the tolbooth and in the houses of the Earl Marischal and Menzies of Pitfoddles, craved quarter and surrendered at discretion. Although the city of Aberdeen had done nothing to incur Huntly’s displeasure, he allowed his Highlanders to pillage it. About twenty officers were taken prisoners, among whom were Colonels Hurry, Barclay, and David Leighton, besides Sir William Forbes of Craigievar, and other country gentlemen, particularly of the name of Forbes; but they were all released next day on their parole of honour not to serve against the king in future. There were killed on the side of the covenanters, Colonel William Forbes, Captain Lockhart, son of Sir James Lockhart of Lee, and three captains of foot, besides a number of privates; but Huntly lost only about twenty men in whole.21
As Huntly’s force was considerably reduced by the return of the Highlanders, who had accompanied him, to their own houses, with the booty which they had collected in Aberdeen, and, as he was apprehensive of the immediate return of Middleton from the north, Huntly remained but a short time in Aberdeen. Marching up the north bank of the Dee, he encamped in Cromar; but the sudden appearance of Middleton, who, on hearing of Huntly’s advance on Aberdeen, had retraced his steps and re-crossed the Spey, made him retire into Mar, where he was followed by Middleton, who, in some slight skirmishes, cut off some of his men; but Middleton discontinued the pursuit and returned to Aberdeen, which he found had suffered severely from Huntly’s visit.
After an ineffectual attempt by Montrose to obtain an interview with Huntly at the Bog of Gight, whither he had gone after Middlleton’s return to Aberdeen, Montrose resolved to make a tour through the Highlands, in the hope that he would be able, by his personal presence, and by promising suitable rewards, to induce the clans to rise in defence of their sovereign; but with the determination, in case of refusal, to enforce obedience to his commands. This resolution was not taken by Montrose, without the concurrence of some of his best friends, who promised to aid him by every means in their power, in carrying it into effect. In pursuance of his design, Montrose was just about setting out on his proposed journey, when, on the last day of May, a messenger arrived with a letter22 from the king, requesting him to disband his forces, and to retire, himself, to France, where he would receive “further directions.” After the disastrous battle of Naseby, which was fought on the fourteenth of June, sixteen hundred and forty-four, between the English royalists and the parliamentary forces, the campaign in England, on the part of the king, “presented little more than the last and feeble struggles of an expiring party.”23 The king had been enabled, in consequence of the recall of the horse, which had reached Nottingham, on their way to Hereford, under General David Leslie, after the battle of Kilsyth, to drive the parliamentary infantry back from the siege of Hereford; but the surrender of Bristol to the forces of the parliament, on the tenth of September, and the defeat of the royalists at Chester, on the twenty-third of the same month, completed the ruin of the king’s affairs. Having shut himself up in Oxford, for the last time, in November following, Charles, after the discovery of the secret treaty with the catholics of Ireland, which had been entered into by the earl of Glamorgan, endeavoured to negotiate with the English parliament in the expectation that if he could gain either of the parties (the presbyterians and independents) over to his side, by fair promises, he would be enabled to destroy both.24 That negotiation, however, not succeeding, a separate negotiation was set on foot, through the medium of Montrevil, the French envoy, with the Scots army before Newark, the leaders of which offered an asylum to the king on certain conditions. At length Charles, undetermined as to the course he should pursue, on hearing of the approach of the parliamentary army, under Fairfax, left Oxford at midnight, on the twenty-seventh of April, sixteen hundred and forty-six, in the disguise of a servant, accompanied by Mr Ashburnham and Dr Hudson, a clergyman, and, after traversing the neighbouring country, arrived at Southwell on the fifth of May, where he was introduced by Montrevil to the earl of Leven, the commander of the Scots army, and the officers of his staff. The arrival of the king seemed to surprise the officers very much, although it is generally supposed that they had been made previously aware of his intentions by Hudson, who had preceded him, and they treated him with becoming respect, the commander tendering his bare sword upon his knee;25 but when Charles, who had retained Leven’s sword, indicated his intention to take the command of the army, by giving orders to the guard, that crafty veteran unhesitatingly thus addressed him:- “I am the older soldier, Sir; your majesty had better leave that office to me.”26 The king was, in fact, now a prisoner. As soon as the intelligence reached the capital, that the king had retired to the Scots camp, the two parliamentary factions united in accusing the Scots of perfidy, and sent a body of five thousand horse to watch their motions; but the Scots being desirous to avoid hostilities, raised their camp before Newark, and hastily retired to Newcastle, carrying the king along with them.
On arriving at Newcastle, the king was waited upon by the earls of Lanark and Callander, and Lord Balmerino, who paid their respects to him. As Callander was understood to be favourably inclined to the king, Lanark and Balmerino were desirous to get rid of him, and accordingly they prevailed upon his majesty to send Callander back to Edinburgh with a letter, which they had induced his majesty to write to the committee of estates, expressive of his desire to comply with the wishes of the Scots parliament, and containing instructions to them to order Montrose, Huntly, and Sir Alexander Macdonald to disband their forces. And it was also at the desire of these two noblemen that the king wrote the letter to Montrose already referred to.
After Montrose had read this letter he was filled with deep amazement and concern. All those visionary schemes for accomplishing the great object of his ambition, which a few minutes before had floated in his vivid imagination, were now dispelled. He was now placed in one of the most painful and difficult situations it is possible to conceive. He had no doubt that the letter had been extorted from the king, yet he considered that it would neither be prudent nor safe for him to risk the responsibility of disobeying the king’s orders. Besides, were he to attempt to act contrary to these instructions, he might thereby compromise the safety of the king, as his enemies would find it no difficult affair to convince the army that Montrose was acting according to private instructions from the king himself. On the other hand, by instantly disbanding his army, Montrose considered that he would leave the royalists, and all those friends who had shared his dangers, to the mercy of their enemies. In this dilemma, he determined to convene a general meeting of all the principal royalists to consult as to how he should act – a resolution which showed his good sense, and kind and just feeling towards those who had been induced by his means to risk their lives and fortunes in the cause of the king. Notwithstanding the many slights which had been put upon him by the marquis of Huntly, Montrose, anxious to preserve a good understanding with him, sent Sir John Hurry and Sir John Innes, two gentlemen the most unexceptionable he could select, to Huntly, to invite him to attend the proposed meeting, and that there might not appear any idea of dictation on the part of Montrose, the time and place of meeting was left to Huntly’s own choice. But this haughty nobleman answered that he himself had received orders similar to those sent to Montrose, which he was resolved to obey immediately, and, therefore, he declined to attend any meeting on the subject.
In this situation of matters, Montrose considered that his best and wisest course would be to keep his army together till he should receive another communication from the king, in answer to a letter which he sent by a messenger of his own, in which he begged his majesty to acquaint him with the real situation of matters, whether he considered his person safe in the hands of the covenanters, and if he could be of any farther service to him. Montrose begged also to be informed by the king, if he persevered in his resolution to disband an army which had fought so bravely in his defence, and that at a time when his enemies, in both kingdoms, were still under arms; and if so, he wished to be instructed by his majesty as to the course he should pursue, for the protection and security of the lives and fortunes of those brave men, who had encountered so many dangers, and had spent their blood in his defence, as he could not endure the idea of leaving such loyal subjects to the mercy of their enemies.27 The king returned an answer28 to this letter, by the former messenger, Ker, in which he assured him that he no less esteemed his willingness to lay down arms at his command, “for a gallant and real expression” of his zeal and affection to his service than any of his former actions; but he hoped that Montrose had not such a mean opinion of him, that for any particular or worldly respects he would suffer him (Montrose) to be ruined, – that his only reason for sending Montrose out of the country was that he might return with greater glory, and, in the meantime, to have as honourable an employment as he (the king) could confer upon him, – that Ker would tell him the care he had of all Montrose’s friends, and his own, to whom, although he could not promise such conditions as he would have wished, yet they would be such, all things considered, as were most fit for them to accept. “Wherefore,” continues his majesty, “I renew my former directions, of laying down arms, unto you, desiring you to let Huntly, Crawford, Airly, Seaforth, and Ogilvy, know, that want of time hath made me now omit to reiterate my former commands unto you, intending that this shall serve for all; assuring them, and all the rest of my friends, that, whensoever God shall enable me, they shall reap the fruits of their loyalty and affection to my service.”
These ‘conditions,’ which consisted of several articles, and in the drawing up of which the king probably had no concern, were far from satisfactory to Montrose, who refused to accede to them. He even refused to treat with the covenanters, and sent back the messenger to the king to notify to him, that as he had acted under his majesty’s commission, he would admit of no conditions for laying down his arms, or disbanding his army, which did not come directly from the king himself; but that if his majesty imposed conditions upon him, he would accept of them with the most implicit submission. The king, who had no alternative but to adopt these conditions as his own, put his name to them and sent back the messenger with them, with fresh instructions to Montrose to disband his army forthwith under the pain of high treason. Besides Ker, the king despatched another trusty messenger to Montrose with a private letter29 urging him to accept of the conditions offered, as in the event of his refusal to break up his army, his majesty might be placed “in a very sad condition,” such as he would rather leave Montrose to guess at than seek himself to express. From this expression, it would appear that Charles already began to entertain some apprehensions about his personal safety. These commands of the king were too peremptory to be any longer withstood, and as Montrose had been informed that several of the leading royalists, particularly the marquis of Huntly, Lord Aboyne, and the earl of Seaforth, were negotiating with the estates in their own behalf, and that Huntly and Aboyne had even offered to compel Montrose to lay down his arms in compliance with the orders of the king, he immediately resolved to disband his army.
As Middleton had been intrusted by the committee of estates with ample powers to negotiate with the royalists, and to see the conditions offered to Montrose implemented by him in case of acceptance, a cessation of arms was agreed upon between Montrose and Middleton; and in order to discuss the conditions, a conference was held between them on the twenty-second day of July, on a meadow, near the river Ilay, in Angus, where they “conferred for the space of two hours, there being none near them but one man for each of them to hold his horse.”30 The conditions agreed upon were these, that with the exception of Montrose himself, the earl of Crawford, Sir Alexander Macdonald, and Sir John Hurry, all those who had taken up arms against the covenanters would be pardoned on making their submission, and that Montrose, Crawford, Hurry, and Graham of Gorthy, should transport themselves beyond seas, before the last day of August, in a ship to be provided by the estates. This arrangement was ratified by the committee of estates, but the committee of the kirk exclaimed against it, and petitioned the committee of estates not to sanction it.
Preparatory to disbanding his army, Montrose appointed it to rendezvous at Rattray, in the neighbourhood of Coupar-Angus, at which place, on the thirtieth of July, he discharged his men, after addressing a feeling and animated oration to them, in which, “after giving them due praise for their faithful services and good behaviour, he told them his orders, and bade them farewell, an event no less sorrowful to the whole army than to himself; and, notwithstanding that he used his utmost endeavours to raise their drooping spirits, and encourage them with the flattering prospect of a speedy and desirable peace, and assured them that he contributed to the king’s safety and interest by his present ready submission, no less than he had formerly done by his military attempts; yet they concluded, that a period was that day put to the king’s authority, which would expire with the dissolution of their army, for disbanding which, they were all convinced the orders had been extorted from the king, or granted by him on purpose to evite a greater and more immediate evil. And, upon whatever favourable conditions their own safety might be provided for, yet they lamented their own fate, and would much rather have undergone the greatest fatigue and hardships than be obliged to remain inactive and idle spectators of the miseries and calamities befalling their dearest sovereign. Neither were their generous souls a little concerned for the unworthy and disgraceful opinion which foreign nations and after ages could not fail to conceive of the Scots, as universally dipt in rebellion, and guilty of defection from the best of kings. Their sorrow was likewise considerably augmented by the thoughts of being separated from their brave and successful general, who was now obliged to enter into a kind of banishment, to the irreparable loss of the king, the country, themselves, and all good men, at a time when they never had greater occasion for his service: And falling down upon their knees, with tears in their eyes, they obtested him, that seeing the king’s safety and interest required his immediate departure from the kingdom, he would take them along with him to whatever corner of the world he would retire, professing their readiness to live, to fight, nay, if it so please God, even to die under his command. And not a few of them had privately determined, though at the evident risk of their lives and fortunes, to follow him without his knowledge, and even against his inclination, and to offer him their service in a foreign land, which they could not any longer afford him in their own distressed native country.”31
Such is the account of the affecting farewell between Montrose and the few remaining brave and adventurous men who had shared with him all the dangers and vicissitudes of the battle-field, as related by a warm partisan of fallen royalty; yet there is no reason for supposing that he has given an exaggerated view of the feelings of the warlike and devoted band at parting, under existing circumstances, with their beloved commander who had so often led them to victory, and whose banishment from his native country they regarded as the death-blow to their hopes.
Upon the dissolution of Montrose’s army, the Scots officers and soldiers retired to their homes, and the Irish troops marched westward into Argyle, whence they embarked for their own country, being accompanied thither by the earl of Crawford, who from thence went to Spain. Montrose, along with the few friends who were to follow him abroad, took up his abode at his seat of Old Montrose, there to wait the arrival of the vessel destined to convey them to the continent. The day fixed for Montrose’s departure was the first of September, and he waited with impatience for the arrival of the expected vessel; but as the month of August was fast expiring without such vessel making its appearance, or any apparent preparation for the voyage, Montrose’s friends applied to the committee of the estates for a prorogation of the day stipulated for his departure, but they could obtain no satisfactory answer.
At length, on the last day of August, a vessel for the reception of the marquis entered the harbour of Montrose, in which he proposed immediately to embark, but he was told by the shipmaster, “a violent and rigid covenanter,” that he meant to careen his vessel before going to sea, an operation which would occupy a few days. In the course of conversation, the shipmaster bluntly stated to his intended passengers, that he had received express instructions to land them at certain ports. The behaviour of the captain, joined to the information he had communicated, and the fact that several English ships of war had been seen for several days off the coast, as if watching his embarkation and departure, created a strong suspicion in Montrose’s mind that a plan had been laid for capturing him, and induced him to consult his own safety and that of his friends, by seeking another way of leaving the kingdom. He accordingly sent some trusty persons to the other harbours in the north to search for and engage any foreign vessel they might fall in with to be ready, on a day to be fixed, to carry out to Norway such passengers as might present themselves; but such a plan was considered so hopeless by Montrose’s friends, who still remained with him, that they advised him, as the best course which could be pursued under such dangerous circumstances, to retire to the Highlands, to collect his forces again, and trust to the chances of war; but he was opposed to such a proposal, principally on the ground that such a step on his part would be imputed to the king, whose life might thereby be endangered. The anxiety of Montrose and his followers was speedily relieved by the arrival of intelligence, that a small vessel belonging to Bergen, in Norway, had been found in the neighbouring harbour of Stonehaven; and that the master had engaged, on being promised a handsome freight, to be in readiness, against an appointed day, to sail with such passengers as should appear.
Accordingly, after sending off Sir John Hurry, John Drummond of Balloch, Graham of Gorthy, Dr Wishart, and a few other friends by land to Stonehaven, on the third day of September sixteen hundred and forty-six, he himself left the harbour of Montrose in a small boat, disguised as the servant of James Wood, a clergyman, who accompanied him; and the same evening went safely on board the vessel, into which his friends had embarked, and setting sail with a fair wind, arrived in a few days at Bergen, in Norway, where he received a friendly welcome from Thomas Gray, a Scotsman, the governor of the castle of Bergen.32
1 Vol. ii. 495.
2 Eachard’s Hist. of England, vol. i. 538.
3 Memoirs, 164.
4 This report fortunately appears to be belied by the following entries in Balfour’s Annals, 17th and 19th January, 1646. “The earl of Tulliebardine humbly petitions the House that they would be pleased to pardon his brother, William Murray’s life, in respect he averred on his honour, that he was not compos mentis, as also within age.” “The earl of Tulliebardine again this day gave in a humble petition to the House for prolonging the execution of that sentence pronounced against his brother.” Vol. iii. 362, 363.
5 Wishart, p. 223.
6 Wishart, p. 227.
7 Guthry, p. 172.
8 Balfour, vol. iii. p. 311, 312.
9 Balfour, vol. iii. p. 323.
10 Ibid. p. 325.
11 Ibid. p. 341.
12 Balfour, iii. 359-61.
14 Wishart, p. 238; Guthry, p. 168.
15 Life prefixed to Sir Robert’s work, titled “Practicks,” folio, printed in 1706.
16 This speech is too long for insertion, but the most interesting parts of it are here given.
“You will expect to hear from me somewhat of the cause for which I am brought hither at this time to suffer in this kind; which I am bound to do, for clearing the integrity of mine own proceedings, vindicating his majesty’s just and pious intentions, and withal to undeceive you that are muzzled in ignorance, and made to believe that you are tied in conscience, to set forward this unnatural rebellion, masked under the cover and pretext of propagating religion, and maintaining of public liberty.
“You have perceived by the fact which hath gone before, viz., tearing of my arms, &c., that I stand here adjudged to die by this pretended parliament, as a traitor to the states, and enemy to my native country. This is a treason unheard of before in this kingdom; against the states, a thing of a new creation, which, I believe, there be some would have erected in opposition to the just and lawful authority of the king, under which we and our predecessors have been so many hundreds of years governed.
“To come to the particulars of my treasonable demeanour, as they term it, the main one is, that I did bring down a commission of lieutenancy from his Majesty to the lord marquis of Montrose, with a proclamation for indicting a parliament by the king’s authority, wherein the lord marquis was the commissioner. Not to excuse myself upon the necessity laid upon me to obey his majesty’s command in a business of that nature, in regard of the charge I had about him; I cannot so far betray mine own conscience, as to keep up from you my judgment of the thing itself; seeing it may both tend to the justifying of the king’s part, and your better information, for lack whereof I know many are entangled in this rebellion unwittingly; and who knoweth but God, in his merciful providence, hath brought us hither, to be the instruments of freeing you from the manifold delusions that are made use of to insnare you.
“I say, then, it was just and necessary to his majesty to grant such commissions, and, by consequence, an act of duty in me to perform what he was pleased to command me.
“It is known well enough what contentment his majesty gave to the kingdom at his last being here, both in the affairs of church and policy; notwithstanding whereof the world seeth what meeting he hath got from us. When this rebellion first burst out in England, all that he desired of us was only to stand neutral, and not to meddle between him and his subjects there. Of which moderate desire of his little reckoning was made. But on the contrary, at the request of these rebels, by the power of their faction amongst us, an army was raised and sent into England, to assist them against their own native king.
“His majesty being reduced to this extremity, what expedient could he find so fair and easy, as to make use of the help of such of his loyal subjects as he knew had such unparalleled disloyalty in horror and detestation? Amongst whom, that matchless mirror of all true worth and nobility, the lord marquis of Montrose, having offered himself, it pleased his majesty to give him a subaltern commission first; which he having executed with such unheard-of success, that his memory shall be had in honour for it, in all ages, his majesty, for the better furthering of his own service, and to countenance and encourage him the more in it, gave an absolute one, and, independent, thereafter; which is that I delivered into his hands by his majesty’s command. here withal, his majesty, pitying the miseries of this poor kingdom, occasioned by the rebellious stubbornness of a few factious spirits, thought fit to give a power to the said lord marquis to call a parliament in his own name, to try if by that means a remedy might be found against the present evils.
“And in all this, I see not what can be justly upon his majesty, or upon me his servant, who have done nothing against any authorised law of the kingdom, but have served him faithfully, unto whom by trust and natural allegiance I owe so much.”
The day before his execution Sir Robert wrote a letter to the marquis of Montrose offering the “last tribute of his service,” and expressing a hope that “the king’s cause” would be advanced by his death. He encouraged the marquis to go on and crown the work he had “so gloriously” begun, and recommended to him to pursue the course he had hitherto followed, “by fair and gentle carriage, to gain the people’s affection to their prince, rather than imitate the barbarous inhumanity” of his adversaries. Sir Robert concluded by recommending his orphans and his “brother’s house” to his care.
17 Wishart, p. 242.
18 Guthry, p. 245.
19 Gordon’s Continuation, p. 531.
20 Gordon’s Continuation, p. 523.
21 Gordon’s Continuation, p. 533.
22 MONTROSE, – I am in such a condition as is much fitter for relation than writing, wherefore I refer you to this trusty bearer, Robin Ker, for the reasons and manner of my coming to this army; as also what my treatment hath been since I came, and my resolutions upon my whole business. this shall, therefore, only give you positive commands, and tell you real truths, leaving the why of all to this bearer. You must disband your forces, and go into France, where you shall receive my further directions. This, at first, may justly startle you, but I assure you, that, if for the present, I should offer to do more for you, I could not do so much, and that you shall always find me your most assured, constant, real, and faithful friend,
Newcastle, May 19, 1646. CHARLES R.
23 Lingard, vol. vi. p. 530 4to.
24 Ibid. 543 – “I am not without hope that I shall be able to draw either the presbyterians or independents with me, for extirpating the one or other, that I shall be easily king again.” Carte’s Ormond, iii. 462.
26 Rushworth, vi.
27 Wishart, p. 262.
28 June 15, 1646.
29 July 16, 1646.
30 Guthry, p. 179.
31 Wishart, p. 264-5.