Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page

Soldiers of Fortune
Sir James Turner


SCOTT has taken old Robert Munro for the essential type of the immortal Dalgetty, but unquestionably many touches of the portraiture, and of the scenes in which the Rittmaster figured, were borrowed from the Memoirs of Sir James Turner. Both may be taken as trustworthy, except perhaps where Turner is on his defence, but they were very different men. Munro was a soldier, pure and simple : Turner played a variety of parts, and was deeply involved, to his manifold peril, in the political intrigue of the period. He was brought into familiar and confidential relations with all sorts and conditions of men. He was the trusted agent of the exiled Charles ; he was honourably received at the Courts of Denmark, Sweden, and Poland ; he was in touch with the Scottish statesmen and generals—with Montrose, Hamilton, and Middleton, with Argyle, Leven, Lauderdale, and Rothes. He was the brother-in-arms, abroad or at home, of savage old Dalziel and of Graham of Claverhouse. He began by fighting the Protestant battle with the Swedes; he ended by persecuting Covenanters when he held command in the Westland shires. In his lively narrative we have a breathless succession of incident—of warfare, of captivity, of escapes from captivity, of slipping across the seas with false names under forged passes. Few men had travelled Western and Central Europe more frequently in all directions; he knew each river, canal, and seaport between the French frontiers and the Polish borders. Like Munro, he was never so happy as with the pen in his hand, but unlike Munro, in his story he is never prosy.

Munro was a staunch Presbyterian and pious, who fought throughout for the Protestant cause, and according to himself, would have gone to the stake for his opinions. Turner had as few scruples of conscience as the Rittmaster ; he changed his creed on occasion with his colours and his service, and with perfect candour he takes us into his confidence as to pledges solemnly sworn with no intention of keeping them. It is true that in writing his Memoirs he is almost as edifying in his moralising as Munro, deploring the laxity of his earlier practice. That is the tribute the old soldier pays to decency, but it gives the stamp of truth to a tale which seems essentially veracious, and which is confirmed by contemporary writers wherever we have a chance of checking it. Pay and plunder were the first considerations with the penniless cavalier of fortune; the pay was almost invariably in arrear, and as to booty, Turner, on his own confession, was as little scrupulous as his fellows. Of course we have only his own word for it, but he seems, like Bailie Jarvie's father the deacon's friend, to have been honest "after a sort." He accounted honourably for considerable sums confided to his charge, and according to himself was foolishly generous in his dealings with the Danish Ministry, who would readily have paid for his recruiting in advance. He was certainly a devoted and most affectionate husband to a wife from whom he always parted in pain, and who made many a dangerous journey to meet him; nor need we doubt him when he says that some ruthless deeds laid to his charge were so many baseless slanders. The lenient treatment he received when captured by the fanatical Westland Whigs is the best proof of his relative humanity.

Like Dalgetty and most men "of that kidney," he was entered to warfare young. Sorely against his will he was made a Master of Arts, and he seems to have been meant for the Church, but the pulpit was not his vocation. In his seventeenth year, "a restless desire entered my mind to be, if not an actor, at least a spectator of those warrs which made so much noyse over all the world." He had friends, and was fortunate in getting an ensigncy in the regiment Sir James Lumsdale—the "stout Lumsdale" of Dalgetty's "intake" of Frankfort—was then raising for the service of the Lion of the North. "The thrice-famous Gustavus," Turner styles him, and it is significant of the military reverence in which the Swedish King was held alike by followers and enemies that he is seldom or ever mentioned without some superlative epithet. The regiment landed at Elsinore, but the King, who had " such a way of overrunning countries," was already in the heart of Germany, and the regiment never came to a sight of him. Already his fortunes were beginning to decline, and forced to withdraw from Nuremberg by famine and Wallenstein, he was soon to fall on the field of Lutzen. But the Scots speedily found occupation when, in the winter of 1633, they were attached to the Swedish army in Lower Germany.

Turner's entry to campaigning was a rough one. " With this army I had a lamentable cold, wet, and rainie march," till they laid siege to Hamelin, the town of the Pied Piper. When the Imperialists had been beaten in a great battle for the relief, there was slaughter enough, and in cold blood, "to flesh such novices as I was." The famous Finnish Cuirassiers, as stern as their climate, "professed to give no quarter." Lying in that long leaguer, his fare was none of the best: his best entertainment was bread and water; little of the first, but an abundance of the latter. In the subsequent marching and countermarching he suffered much from lack of meat and clothes, lying out in the open without covering of any kind. But it was the hardihood next to the courage of the Scots which recommended them so strongly to the kings of the North, and then Highlanders were wont to couch in the snows with no wrapping but the plaid. "I was so hardened with fatigue, and so well inured to toile, that I fully resolved to go on in that course of life of which I had made choice." He was an apt pupil in the art of campaigning, and within a year had learned to help himself. His own company was in rags, without a dollar of pay. " But I had got so much cunning, and became so vigilant to lay hold on opportunities, that I wanted for nothing, horses, clothes, meate, nor money, and made so good use of what I had learned, that the whole time I served in Germanie I suffered no such misery as I had done." How he came by necessaries and luxuries we gather from his picturesque and pathetic descriptions of the miseries of the peasantry when fair towns and peaceful homesteads were blazing everywhere. " Aged men and women, most lame or blind, supported by their sonnes, daughters, and grandchildren, who themselves carried their little ones on their backs, was a ruthful object of pity to any tender-hearted Christian, and did show us with what dreadful countenance that bloodie monster of warre can appear in the world." All the same, the tender-hearted Christian who made war his profession, had to live by it. And these ruthless ravages recruited extenuated ranks, when each boor, when burned out and beggared, was constrained to become brigand or soldier.

Turner had better luck than Dalgetty: he rose rapidly from ensign to captain, and then, like the Rittmaster, threw up his commission on light cause of offence. His colonel, a Courlander, "imposed too hard conditions of recruits." From the frontiers of Franconia he went straight to Scotland, to seek for employment under the Prince Elector, who was levying men there. So he had been told; but, finding he had been misinformed, he hurried back to Germany, where he undertook to raise a company under a Swedish colonel who had the reputation of a brave and honest cavalier. The colonel swindled him shamefully, and being left seriously out of pocket, he travelled to the Court of Stockholm to lay his grievances before the Regency. They were civil, and even free-handed, but referred his case to Field-Marshal Banner, then far away in Bohemia. Turner declined going on a wild-goose chase, and asked a pass for Scotland, which was granted. It gave free license for "horses, meate, and drink by the way; a custom much in use then, and very grievous to the poore countrymen."

Then there is the amusingly frank exposition of a cavalier of fortune's code of morality. There were two ships lying in the roads off Gothenburg, an Englishman bound for Hull, a Dane chartered for Leith. It was a toss up as to his future in which he took a berth: if he went to the Humber he was to be for the King, if to the Forth he was to stand for the Covenant. An accident he deemed providential decided the matter, and he sailed for Leith. "I had swallowed without chewing in Germanie, a very dangerous maxime, which military men there too much follow : which was, that so we serve our master honestlie, it is no matter what master we serve." From Edinburgh he followed Leven's army to their leaguer on the Tyne, and there, through the dissolute Rothes, the renegade of "Wandering Willie's Tale," he got a major's commission. A Royalist at heart, "I did not take the National Covenant, not because I refused to doe it, for I wold have made no bones to take, sweare, and signe it, and observe it too; for I had then a principle, having not yet studied a better one, that I wronged not my conscience in doeing anything I was commanded to doe by those whom I served. But the truth is it was never offered to me."

The German wars had been no bad training for service in Ulster against the Irish of the Rebellion in 1641. As the Chouannerie in Brittany, it was a war of ambushes and surprises, of desultory fighting through swamps and wood-lands, of lining hedgerows with musketry and meeting pikes, scythes, and bludgeons with desultory volleys. In the woods of Kilwaring, the rebels who were taken "got but bad quarter, being all shot dead." The storm of Newry was as bloody as the more famous sack of Drogheda, when the garrison, with many merchants and traders of the town, were carried to the bridge and butchered to death, some by shooting, some by hanging, and some by drowning. These summary executions were licensed by the Marshal of Ireland and Major-General Munro. "But our sojers, who sometimes are cruel, for no other reason than that man's wicked nature leads him to be so, seeing such pranks played by authority at the bridge, thought they might doe as much anywhere else." The tide in full flood suggested the pleasant idea of drowning a hundred and fifty women who were huddled together below the bridge. "Seeing the game those godless rogues intended to play," Turner galloped up and put a stop to it before more than a dozen of the unfortunates were murdered.

The garrison of Newry was sorely pressed for lack of provision for "both backe and bellie." So Turner was sent to meet an Irish colonel: each envoy was backed up by a score of horse, and after drinking deep of Scotch whisky and Irish usquebaugh, they happily arranged an armistice. But as no money came in from England or Scotland, and nearly as little meal, Turner went to Scotland to interview the General. Leven had led his Scots to Newcastle, and thither Turner followed. The soldier found so much to criticise, that it explains the precipitate flight of those Scots from Marston. The men were lusty, well clothed, and well paid, but raw and undisciplined; the officers, from the General downwards, left everything to desire. They were puzzled as to the passage of the Tyne. Operations were directed by a sort of Aulic council, and Turner, with other veterans, was called into consultation. Their advice was ignored, and the attempt to throw a pontoon bridge over the river might have ended in grievous disaster had the garrison made a midnight sally in force. The Scots had not counted with the tides: there was a causeless panic; there was a comedy of errors, and Turner made himself merry over the stupidity of both sides, and the incompetence of General Leven, whom he always held in supreme contempt.

He posted back to Scotland, where he joined his regiment, which had landed from Ireland, and there he was in the thick of political intrigue. The soldier of the Covenant was conspiring for the cause of the King. He had had toyle "and trouble enough for the space of two years in Ireland, having got no more in the employment than what barely maintained him, and now he was casting about for a more lucrative engagement. He discovered that the Solemn League and Covenant, to which the States required an absolute submission, was nothing but a treacherous and disloyal combination against lawful authority. He held secret converse with other disaffected officers, and they agreed that it was their duty to do the King what service they could against his ungracious subjects. They meant to join with Montrose, who had his Majesty's commission, and was meditating his infall on the Highlands. Turner had won over the Earl of Callender, and was enjoying the Earl's hospitality. Callender had taken the deepest oaths, even wishing the Lord's Supper should turn to his damnation were he to engage with the Covenanters. But Montrose, made wary by experience, declined to trust either the oaths or the promises of those suspected converts. As to Callender he proved to be right, and so, says Turner in his disappointment, " by Montrose his neglect, and by Callender's perfidie, was lost the fairest occasion that could be desired." "It was the inauspicious fate and disastrous destinie of the incomparablie good King." That plot had failed, but a man must live, and reluctantly he marched south again to England with his Covenanting regiment. He made a fashion again, with brother officers, "to take the Covenant, that under pretence of the Covenant we might ruin the Covenanters, a thing that (though too much practised in a corrupt world) is in itself dishonest, sinfull, and disavowable." Disavowable he certainly believed it, for in the summer of 1646 he sought a secret interview with the captive King at Sherburne. Charles knew him for a man of the time, but " having got some good character of me, bade me tell him the sense of our army concerning him." Turner was frank, told him he was virtually a prisoner, and offered his services to effect an escape. The conversation was abruptly interrupted by Leven's orders, who must have known Turner even better than the King, nor was he ever again given an opportunity of seeing "his incomparable sovereign."

Turner had offered his Majesty to do him all possible service, but is silent as to why he did not join the standard of Montrose. Subsequently, however, he did do the royal cause some service, "after a sort." He was easily persuaded to act as Adjutant-General of the army which marched under David Leslie into Kintyre—not, of course, simply for base considerations of pay, but "because I thought it dutie to fight against those men who first had deserted their Generall Montrose when he stood most in need of them, . . . and next had absolutely refused to lay down their arms at the King's owne command." He confirms all Sir Walter Scott says in the "Legend" of the formidable passes leading from the Blackmount into Argyle's country, only traversed by the hunters and shepherds. Had Alaster M`Donald secured them with his thousand of brave foot, Leslie could never have entered Kintyre but by a miracle. But the valiant and reckless Colkitto was "doomed to destruction." By another miracle of folly he threw 300 of his best men into the fort of Dunaverty, and zoo more into another sea-girt fortress. They seem to have been well found in food, but neither stronghold "had a drop of water." The garrisons surrendered at discretion. Turner acquits Argyle, who had good grounds of grief against the Irish for their cruel ravages of his country, and charges the guilt, or at least the responsibility of a massacre, on Leslie. For he says that the General would willingly have shown mercy, but was urged persistently by his truculent chaplain to smite the captive Amalekites hip and thigh. "Each mother's son was put to the sword," save a youth, whose life, for some reason, was successfully begged by Turner. Indeed, with all his love for free quarters and lust for booty, he seems to have been invariably averse to useless bloodshed. No cold-blooded atrocities arc laid to his charge, as was the case with Claverhouse, Dalziel, and Grierson.

The slaughtered Irish had been in arms for the King. Turner, who had been Adjutant-General with the Covenanters, was now to play his part in the Duke of Hamilton's ill-fated expedition in aid of the English Royalists. There was a strange state of affairs in Edinburgh. The Duke and his friends had got the better in the Parliament of the Covenanting faction, headed by Argyle and supported by Leven and David Leslie. A vote had been carried for the raising of troops to march into England for his Majesty's releasement. A counter petition was drawn up, which was to secure religion and the Kingdom of Christ; it was called the petition of the army, and was subscribed by Leven, David Leslie, and all the distinguished Covenanting leaders. It was believed, says Turner, that " the rest would follow suit, but they were deceived." He and the "honest" folk, with Middleton at their head, declined to incur the dishonour which Fairfax had drawn on himself by intimidating the Parliament at Westminster. There was a little civil war in Scotland, by way of preliminary to the other undertaking, which for a time threatened to be formidable. The preachers fired the enthusiasm of the Whigs. The conflagration spread in the south-western shires, where the Covenanting element was strong. Glasgow, of all the considerable towns, was the most refractory. Turner was sent with horse and foot to bring the recalitrant city to reason. There he entered on the practices which he found so efficient in Ayr and Dumfries after the Restoration. "I founde my work not very difficult, for I learned to know that the quartering two or three troopers and half a dozen musketeers was ane argument strong enough in two or three nights' time to make the hardest-headed Covenanter forsake the Kirk and side with the Parliament." Finding his Glasgow men grown pretty tame, he tendered them a paper at point of sword, which was known facetiously as "Turner's covenant." "It was nothing but a submission to all orders of Parliament: "it was subscribed by all, with rare exceptions, and was so highly approved at headquarters that he was ordered, with his booted apostles of loyalty, to reduce Renfrewshire to obedience. Similar measures were adopted elsewhere under other leaders : armed assemblies and conventicles were dispersed with "bloody broyles": but though the conflagration was suppressed, the fires were still smouldering when the royal forces mustered at Stewarton.

Never was a foolhardy and belated undertaking more surely doomed to disaster. It was undertaken and set out with the fond idea of efficiently aiding the English loyalists, who were already reduced to extremities. Colchester was the last garrison in the southern counties which held for the King, though Carlisle was the immediate object of relief, where the gallant Langdale was closely beset by Lambert. Half the levies had not come in when the army marched, and Lanark, the Duke's brother, with the saddest forebodings over the fortunes of his illustrious house, was left to mount guard over the rebel Whigs. Hamilton's forces, according to Turner, were no better than an armed rabble. They had no cannon, not a single field-piece, and little ammunition. Commissariat and transport were absolutely lacking. Incessant rain had damped their powder and their spirits. Their councils were distracted : Hamilton, though he displayed great personal gallantry, was no general, and as they pushed stubbornly forward, with Lambert behind and Cromwell in front, their fate was assured and only hung in suspense. The inevitable dinouernent came in Staffordshire, where they surrendered on terms, "good enough, but very ill kept." Hamilton, like his royal master, was brought to the block, and Turner, with other officers, went into captivity at Hull.

But we are only concerned with his personal adventures, and they are sensational enough. At Hornby there was a question as to the route of the advance. Turner, agreeing with Middleton, gave his opinion for Yorkshire : urging that Lancashire was a county full of hedges and ditches, where Cromwell's veterans would have great advantage over Hamilton's untrained musketeers, whereas in the more open Yorkshire they might use their horse and "come sooner to push of pike." As with Dalgetty, the pike was Turner's darling weapon. Once he had more of it than he cared for, when he was wounded in the house of his friends. Mutinies had been not infrequent in the insubordinate ranks, and on the retreat to Wigan there were nocturnal alarms which threw the army into panic-stricken confusion. "I marched with the last brigade of foot through the toune I was alarmed that the horse behind me were beaten and runne several ways, and that the enemy was in my reare." He faced about with his brigade to cover the retreat, when a regiment of horse came up, "riding very disorderlie." He had them halted while he "ordered his pikes to open, and give way for them to ride or runne away," "But my pikemen being demented (as I think we all were) would not heare me, and two of them runne full tilt at me." One of the thrusts he parried ; the other ran him through the thigh. Not unnaturally he lost temper, ,and had recourse to violent methods. "I forgot all rules of modestie, prudence, and discretion. I rode to our horse and desired them to charge through these foot. They, fearing the hazard of the pikes, stood. I then made a cry come from behind them, that the enemy was upon them." Whereupon they charged the foot so fiercely, that the pikemen scattered and bolted for cover. The cavalry distinguished themselves on that occasion as they had never done before, for they rode right over the retiring brigades, and one Colonel Lockhart "was trode doune from his horse, with great danger of his life." But wounded and ruffled as he was, the old soldier promptly recovered his presence of mind. He caused his drums to beat, though the enemy was near, got his men together, and marched on through the darkness till it was fair day. Then he was prevailed upon by Major-General Baillie to take some rest in a chair, as he had slept none in two nights and ate as little. Having rejoined the Duke, his first idea seems to have been to desert him: "to march forward a day or two and then by a turne to endeavour to get into Scotland." But that was impracticable; the trained bands were up in arms everywhere, and there was no breaking away from the main body, which was being steadily pushed south, with all retreat cut off. Three nights he passed in the saddle; the fourth he lodged in a hedge; and slept so sound that the trumpets could not wake him ; and as he met with civil treatment from his captors, it must have been a relief when he yielded himself a prisoner of war. Colonel Overton, who held Hull for the Parliament, was friendly, though according to special orders from headquarters, Turner was strictly guarded. Indeed Cromwell —at Argyle's instigation, as Turner believed—paid him the high compliment of ordering him into irons. He made no doubt that, if greater matters had not put him out of the Protector's mind, some greater mischief would have befallen him. For more than a year he was under ward, dieted and boarded at his own costs. He paid eighteen pence a meal ; a shilling for his bed, a groat for his man's, a shilling for coals, and a groat for candles. The time did not hang so heavy on his hands as might have been expected, for he had the use of books, pen, and paper. When Cromwell had gone to Scotland, the Governor be stirred himself in his favour, using his influence for letters of liberty from Fairfax, on Turner giving his parole to go beyond seas and not return to the three kingdoms for a twelvemonth.

It was after the execution of the King that he sailed for Hamburg, where he found himself among a number of penniless compatriots attending the orders and motions of Montrose. It was lack of money, as he tells us, which scared the adventurer from following the Marquis on his last fatal expedition. But though often short of cash, he generally had some sort of credit ; his wife came over to Holland with supplies, and after a visit to the Court of Denmark, he was persuaded by Lord Carnegy to venture himself with him in Scotland again. The visit was sadly ill-timed, for they landed at Aberdeen on the very eve of the battle of Dunbar. The persecution was hotter than ever against those who had followed the lead of Hamilton, so the gentlemen separated and went into hiding. Soon, however, they could venture to emerge. The titular King of Scots, trimming his sails to the wind, commanded all who would serve him to submit themselves to the Kirk. But Turner's dragooning of Glasgow and the West was remembered against him, and it needed time and much influence to condone his flagrant offences. However, in due course he was absolved, made Adjutant-General, and given a regiment by his Majesty's special command. "Behold a fearful sinne!" piously ejaculates the autobiographer. "The ministers of the Gospel took our repentances as unfeigned, knowing well they were counterfeit, and we made no scruple to perjure ourselves, speaking against conscience and judgement."

His new engagement ended abruptly with the rout of Worcester. He was one among the thousands of prisoners who were to be carried in triumph to London. The wily veteran was too many for the careless guards. On this occasion he had refused his parole, and Generals Dalziel and Drummond, who had been brothers-in-arms with the Muscovites, likewise chivalrously declined to sign, lest Turner, as the sole recusant, might be the worse used. He profited by their generosity, for in loyal Oxford, with the help of friendly hosts, he made a moonlight flitting through the roof, escaping all the outposts of horse and foot, though not without obstructions and some merry passages. He walked to London in company of half-a-dozen bargemen who had served the murdered King as soldiers. The companions of his travel were lusty but debauched; they would not pass a single ale-house on the way, and Turner had to pay for any amount of drink; "but it was a vexation for me to drink cup for cup with them, els they should have had no good opinion of me." Good fellows they were nevertheless ; they would have no gold from him, when he bade them a grateful farewell in London, but, under pressure, consented to take half-a-crown apiece to drink his health on their return, and so "with many embraces we parted." They were faithful as the poor Highlanders who sheltered the Young Cavalier. He had felt obliged to reveal his identity, and they would have been handsomely paid for betraying him.

In London he stirred little abroad, for the streets were full of Scottish acquaintances who might have been less scrupulous, and the watch at the ports was then so strict that he dared not go out of England till it was known that the young King was safe in Paris. Through bribed jailors he was in constant communication with Middleton, then a prisoner in the Tower. "I did approach him, for my intelligence by my English friends was very good, that his life would be taken, so soon as he was cured of a shot he had received, and therefore had laid down three ways for his escape." But Middleton hesitated, because if he had broken out, his Scottish estates would assuredly have been forfeited, begging Turner to be gone and see to his own safety, giving him messages to the King and friends in France. Middleton subsequently reconsidered the matter and did escape, placing Turner, as it chanced, in an awkward dilemma at Dover. He had gone to the coast with a forged passport, and would have had no difficulty in embarking had he not been mistaken and arrested for Middleton. A brother Scot was called in to cross-examine him, but that Mr. Tours "proved ane honest man," and intelligently responded to a private sign. Turner arrived safely at Paris, where he had a gracious reception from his Majesty and cordial welcome from old acquaintances.

Turner, though he had thrown off the student's gown to don the cuirass, might have been a scholarly man in more peaceful times. Few soldiers of fortune would have withdrawn from the bustle of intrigue to the seclusion of a pension that they might improve themselves in French. But Mars must have been in the ascendant at Turner's birth. He was disturbed in his peaceful quarters by the fighting of the Fronde, and when Conde was driven in on the Porte St. Antoine, in great peril from land thieves and water thieves on either bank, Turner went by river to St. Germains, whither the exiled Court had withdrawn. There he was fortunate in forming the friendship of the future Marshal Keith, and after an enjoyable trip to Rouen, they were sent in advance of Middleton to Holland to beat up recruits for that general's projected campaign in Scotland. How Turner found money for his travelling expenses is a mystery. It would seem that, contrary to all the principles of his profession, he sometimes went wayfaring on his own charges, for his subsequent mission from the King to Lower Germany was as an accredited beggar to more or less impecunious Scottish gentlemen. It shows the humiliating expedients to which the young monarch was reduced. Travelling night and day, on a long winter journey, he came back with 1500 dollars. A peregrination in the spring was more successful, when Middleton was so elated by his collecting three times as much that he sent his own brother-in-law on a similar errand to the Swedish mercenaries. Sir Edward Hyde, a keeper of the royal privy purse, must have had at once an anxious and easy time. There were few finances to administer, yet at the same time it was hard to meet the daily expenses of the frugal household, and supply the King's occasional extravagances. But from love or policy, from jealousy of English commerce or hatred of Cromwell and the Puritan regime, money always trickled in somehow. The Spanish Government of the Netherlands gave grudging subsidies, with the permission to levy regiments if the men were forthcoming ; and the merchants of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, with "well-affected Scotsmen" in Holland, now and again came down handsomely.

Middleton sailed for Scotland, with the veterans Dalziel and Drummond in company, but Turner for some reason was left to follow. He lost nothing by not being attached to headquarters, for Monk held the North in his firm grip, and the expedition proved a ludicrous fiasco. For himself he ran through another gamut of adventure, and his experiences at hide-and-seek may have proved useful when afterwards he hunted down persecuted Covenanters in the hills and glens of Galloway. After a tempestuous voyage in a Norwegian timber ship he was landed on the coast of Fife. The friendly skipper buried his baggage and some arms he had brought over, and he ventured forth on the quest for recruits. He picked up a few officers out of work, who professed themselves ready to join Middleton, and they lurked together for some weeks in the Perthshire Highlands, then scoured by strong parties from the English garrisons. They had news from the North by troopers of Middleton, who had "taken a liberty to themselves to disband." Everything was so discouraging, and the affairs of his Majesty were so obviously "out of frame," that he decided to beat a retreat. Nevertheless he owed it to himself to attempt something before he left, and there is an account of a skirmish which is interesting, as it very evidently was in Scott's memory when he describes the meeting of Dalgetty with Menteith and Montrose. Turner came across an officer with a score of disbanded troopers who had thoughts of "making a purchase of 200 pairs of pistols" stored in a house in Kirkcaldy. "Purchase" was a pleasant euphemism, and payment was to be in powder and shot. Carousing at an ale-house where the ale was good, they conferred the command on Turner, who settled the bill, to the relief and surprise of the landlord, as "it was a thing not usual at that time." It was fortunate he had primed his party well with liquor, for that afternoon they met thirty well-mounted men of the enemy, English and Scots. "We trifled away the time with enquiring for whom we were, and at length I bid one of my officers tell we were for God and King Charles." The enemy ran basely, but there was an unfortunate contretemps, through which Turner, who drew the line between Scottish rebels and fair English foes, came to be falsely charged with the murder of an English prisoner in cold blood.

He came back with cold news to the Court, which was then at Aix-la-Chapelle, for few men were more continually on the move than the royal exile in his evil days. At Paris, Cologne or Aix, Bruges, Breda, or the Hague, he was seldom made heartily welcome, and often warned sharply away. Turner reported to Hyde and Newburgh, who were billeted together in a convent ; but though he declared himself ready to go on the King's service to Japan, he demurred to being sent back to Scotland. Middleton had shown small respect for him, and Glencairn mistrusted him as a democrat. His time at Aix was passed not altogether unprofitably, for a course of the baths cured him of a disease, epidemical in the Highlands from which he had brought it, " I mean the scab or itch." As his master had neither work nor pay for him, he went to seek an engagement elsewhere. He had a pass for Bremen without a discharge. But soldiering was slack then, and adventurers not in demand, and there was a whole year of involuntary repose. Other soldiers of greater distinction felt the pinch as he did. In the summer of 1655 Dalziel came to Bremen in disguise, and spent a few days with him. The fierce old warrior was in despair ; he declared that all was lost in Scotland, and it was then he sought congenial service with the Tsar of Muscovy, whence he returned ten years afterwards to dragoon the Whigs of the Southland shires and sit, superintending tortures and signing death warrants, on the Blood Council of Edinburgh.

Charles had cherished some delusive hopes when Cromwell declared war with Spain, but it would be wearisome to follow Turner in schemes that came to nought and through a succession of disappointments. The note of the whole is chronic impecuniosity. Sent on a mission with Middleton to the King of Poland, they were stopped en route by stress of poverty, "in pitiful condition." They borrowed from magistrates and private persons money that was never to be repaid. They had to leave the inns and find sorry lodgings apart ; their money was all spent, their credit gone, and everything was pawned except their wearing apparel. Always by permission of King Charles he took service with the Danes, and was commissioned by them to raise a regiment. The estimated cost was to be paid him in advance, but as half the men were to be sought in Holland, he declares that in his scrupulous generosity he would only accept half the pay. It was very unlike the shrewd old routier to refuse, as Dalgetty says, coined money, freely offered, and he bitterly regretted it later —more especially when the monarchs of Denmark and Sweden had made peace, and when the united princes, to his intense disgust, discharged the Danish levies in most cavalier fashion "under paine of death," giving each of the privates half a dollar and bidding them go where they pleased.

Colonel Turner went in quest of the money he had chivalrously refused. As was to be expected, he failed to get it, for the Danish king was almost as hard up as himself. For the next two years, with empty pockets, he was dancing attendance on the impecunious Charles, whose Court was agitated by alternate hopes and fears, according to the reports from England. It seems certain that he was admitted to their most confidential counsels. When the troubles began between Monk and Lambert, as his fortunes were desperate and he had nothing in Scotland to lose, he was made the mouthpiece and probable scapegoat of the Scottish lords, who offered his Majesty loyal help if he could send them armed assistance. Charles was lavish of assurances and agreeable to their proposals, except as to their desire to get rid of Middleton as general, who was still in high favour. By the royal command Turner preceded the King from Brussels to Breda, where Charles for once was cordially welcomed by his sister and his nephew, the Prince of Orange. In a personal interview he charged Turner to give his Scottish friends all sort of satisfaction, except as to Middleton's dismissal. But the chances were always against the soldier of fortune. Events moved so fast, as much to the astonishment of the King as to the disgust of his envoy, that he never had the opportunity of discharging that delicate mission. "In less than two months the King was proclaimed in all his three kingdoms."

Nevertheless Turner had done and endured so much that he counted confidently on high honours and rich rewards. If he did all he professes to have done, like many another honest and less helpful cavalier, he was somewhat scurvily treated. He had the privilege of kissing the King's hand, and received the accolade of knighthood, by which he set small store, as it was promotion without pay. Moreover Charles, who was always lavish of promises and costless civilities, "assured me he had ordered his commissioner to provide for me." The commissioner was his old travelling companion Middleton, whom he seems always to have regarded with suspicion, and who probably believed that Turner had played him false when acting for the Scottish lords, who were his avowed enemies. At any rate the chapter of the foreign experiences ends with the dolorous plaint of the man with a grievance. "Earle Middleton never did doe, act, or propone anything for me."

The rest is matter of Scottish history. Three or four years were passed in comparative obscurity, and then Turner figured only too conspicuously in what Macaulay would have called "the evil days" of the persecution. Among the "booted apostles of prelacy," next to Claverhouse and Dalziel, not even Grierson of Lagg, the prototype of Sir Robert Redgauntlet, is more heartily denounced or more bitterly execrated by Wodrow or Patrick Walker. The philosophic Hume gives him the epithet of ferocious, and even Scott, who was no friend to " the beastly Covenanters," deals with him harshly, quoting authorities who describe him as fierce and dissolute. It may be doubted whether they do not do him some injustice. He was a mercenary soldier, emphatically a man of his time, who, like Claverhouse, believed that the orders of his superiors absolved him from all personal responsibility. He certainly was not naturally cruel, nor bloodthirsty, when he had his faculties under command. In short, he seems to have been rather a good fellow. But he owns himself that he was a hard drinker, and Burnet, who was rather friendly to him than otherwise, tells us he was mad when he was drunk. Like all his kind he was greedy of gain, and turned his times of command to profitable account. To a licentious soldier given a free hand the opportunities were irresistible, and when he assures us he did not abuse them excessively, he may have been astonished at his own moderation. Had he been Claverhouse or Dalziel, we may assume confidently that he would have been shot or hung out of hand, when the Whigs took him in his lodgings at Ayr. But his excuse for surrendering convicts himself, as it condemns the infamous system of dragooning. It was the application of the financial and moral thumbscrew to the recalcitrants who were backward with exorbitant fines. All of his troopers save thirteen were billeted by twos and threes, where it was their business to make themselves as obnoxious as possible, and when rapine and outrage of every kind recommended them to favourable consideration at headquarters.

At any rate, if he sinned he suffered, when he was made to do penance for his military subservience to the persecuting edicts of Lauderdale and Sharpe. The old soldier was in hourly terror of death all the time he was in the hands of the Covenanters, whom he ingenuously entreated to submit to the King's clemency, reminding them that they had to do with a merciful prince. The crisis came at Rullion Green, when his life seemed to depend on the issue of the skirmish. He saved himself by a timely compact with his guards, and was hopeful that his misfortunes had ended with the suppression of the rebellion. As matter of fact they were only beginning, and, charged with atrocities done to order and with malversations of money, he had melancholy experience of military commissions and the civil courts. Calumniated he may have been, and no doubt was, for it was the interest of the Government to make him answerable for the rising ; his victims were encouraged to bear testimony against him, and as to his intromissions with fines and exactions, for these he had no vouchers to show.


Return to Book Index Page

 


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus

Quantcast