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The Scottish Nation
Middleton


MIDDLETON, earl of, a title, now extinct, in the peerage of Scotland, conferred in 1660, on John Middleton, the elder son of John Middleton of Caldhame, Kincardineshire, who was killed sitting in his chair, by Montrose’s soldiers in 1645. He was a descendant of Malcolm the son of Kenneth, who got a charter from William the Lion of the lands of Middleton in that country, confirming a donation of King Duncan of the same, and in consequence assumed the name.

The first earl was from his youth bred to arms. He at first “trailed a pike” in Hepburn’s regiment in France, but in the civil wars of 1642, he entered into the service of the parliament of England as commander of a troop of horse, and lieutenant-general under Sir William Waller. He afterwards returned to Scotland, and got a command in General Leslie’s army. At the battle of Philiphaugh, 13th September 1645, he contributed so much to the defeat of Montrose, that the Estates voted him a gift of 25,000 marks. When Montrose, soon after, sat down before Inverness, General Middleton, with a small brigade, was detached from General Leslie’s army and sent north to watch his motions. In the beginning of May 1646, he left Aberdeen, with a force of 600 horse and 800 foot, and arrived in the neighbourhood of Inverness, on the 9th of that month. Montrose immediately withdrew to a position at some distance from the town, but soon quitted it. Two regiments of cavalry, dispatched by Middleton after him, attacked his rear, cut off some of his men, and captured two pieces of cannon, and part of his baggage. Retreating into Ross-shire, he was pursued by Middleton, who, as Montrose avoided an engagement, laid siege to the castle of the earl of Seaforth in the chanonry of Ross. After a siege of four days he took it, but immediately restored it to the countess of Seaforth, who was within the castle at the time.

Learning that the marquis of Huntly had seized upon Aberdeen, Middleton retraced his steps, and re-crossing the Spey, made him retire into Mar. He then returned to Aberdeen. When Montrose received orders from the king to disband his forces, Middleton was intrusted by the committee of Estates with ample powers to negotiate with him, and in order to discuss the conditions offered to the former, a conference was held between them on 22d July 1646, 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.” (Guthry’s Memoirs, p. 179). The conditions were that his followers, on making their submission, should be pardoned, and that Montrose and a few others of the principal leaders should leave the kingdom.

The following year, Middleton was occupied in pursuing the marquis of Huntly, who had appeared in arms for the king, through Glenmoriston, Badenoch, and other places in the north, till he was captured by Lieutenant-colonel Menzies in Strathdon. Some Irish taken at the same time were shot by Middleton’s orders in Strathbogie. In 1648, when the “Engagement” was formed for the rescue of the king, he was appointed lieutenant-general of the cavalry in the army ordered to be levied by the Scots Estates for that purpose. The levy being opposed by a large body of Covenanters and others at Mauchline in Ayrshire, on the 12th June, Middleton charged them, and put the whole to the rout, with the loss of eighty killed and a great many taken prisoners, among whom were some ministers. He also dispersed some gatherings of the western Covenanters at Carsphairn and other places. He behaved with great gallantry at the battle of Preston in England, 17th August the same year, but his horse being shot under him, he was taken prisoner and sent to Newcastle. He soon made his escape, however, and with Lord Ogilvy attempted a rising in Athol in favour of the king. The party being dispersed by a force under the orders of General David Leslie, Middleton was allowed, on giving security to keep the peace, to return to his home.

When Charles II., in 1650, arrived in Scotland, General Middleton immediately repaired to him. Many small bodies of men were raised for the defence of the king in the north, and it was at one time proposed to have placed General Middleton, who commanded a small division of the army, at the head of all the loyal forces that could be collected for the purpose of opposing Cromwell, but this was never carried into effect. For his conduct in support of the king the commission of the church summarily excommunicated him on the motion of James Guthrie, who pronounced the sentence from his pulpit at Stirling.

To compel the northern royalists to lay down their arms, General Leslie, by order of the committee of Estates, crossed the Tay on the 24th October with a force of 3,000 cavalry, with the intention of proceeding to Dundee and scouring Angus. At this time Middleton was lying at Forfar, and, on hearing of Leslie’s advance, he sent him a letter, enclosing a copy of a “bond and oath of engagement” which had been entered into by Huntly, Athol, Seaforth, and himself, with others, by which they pledged themselves not to lay down their arms without a general consent, and promised and swore that they would maintain the true religion as then established in Scotland, the national covenant, and the solemn league and covenant; and defend the person of the king, his prerogative, greatness and authority, the privileges of parliament, and the freedom of the subject. Middleton stated that Leslie would perceive, from the terms of the document sent, that the only aim of himself and friends was to unite Scotsmen in defence of their common rights, and he proposed to join Leslie, and put himself under his command, as their objects appeared to be precisely the same. The negotiation was finally concluded on 4th November at Strathbogie, when a treaty was agreed to between Leslie and the chief royalists, by which the latter accepted an indemnity and laid down their arms.

On the 12th January 1651, Middleton was relaxed from his excommunication, and did penance in sackcloth in the parish church of Dundee. He commanded the horse in the royal army that marched into England on the 31st July; and at the battle of Worcester, 3d September, the chief resistance was made by him. He charged the enemy so vigorously that he forced them to recoil, but being severely wounded, he was taken prisoner after the battle, and sent to the Tower of London. Cromwell was so incensed against him that he designed to get him tried for his life, as having formerly served in the parliamentary army, but he contrived to make his escape. After remaining for some time concealed in London he retired to France, and joined Charles II. at Paris. In 1653 he was sent home with a commission from the king, appointing him generalissimo of all the royal forces in Scotland, and took the command of the troops at Dornoch. Middleton soon found himself sorely pressed by General Monk, who had advanced into the Highlands with a large army. In an attempt to elude his pursuers he was surprised in a defile near Lochgarry, 26th July 1654, when his men were either slain or dispersed, and he himself escaped with great difficulty. After lurking for some months in the country, Middleton again got over to the king, who was then at Cologne, and was excepted by Cromwell from pardon in his act of grace and indemnity the same year.

At the Restoration, he accompanied King Charles II. to England, and was created earl of Middleton and Lord Clermont and Fettercairn, by patent, dated 1st October 1660, to him and his heirs male, having the name and arms of Middleton. He was also appointed commander-in-chief of the forces in Scotland, governor of Edinburgh castle, and lord high commissioner to the Scots parliament. On the 31st December, he arrived at Holyrood-house, having been escorted from Musselburgh by the nobility and gentry then in the capital, attended by a thousand horse. He was allowed 900 merks per day for his table, and he lived in a style of great magnificence. He opened parliament 1st January 1661, with a splendour to which the Scots people had long been unaccustomed. In this “terrible parliament,” as it is well named by Kirkton, the king’s prerogative was restored in its fullest extent, and a general act rescissory of the parliaments from 1633 was passed. Various other acts of a most unconstitutional nature also became law. On the rising of parliament in the following July, Middleton hastened to London, to lay an account of its proceedings before the king. On his arrival at court, he assured his majesty and the Scottish privy council in London, that the majority of the Scottish nation desired the establishment of episcopacy, and it was accordingly agreed that “as the government of the state was monarchy, so that of the church should be prelacy.” Middleton’s object in thus recommending the establishment of the Episcopal church in Scotland was that he might strengthen his own authority by that of the bishops, and thwart Lauderdale whom he hated, and who at that time was favourable to Presbyterianism.

He was again appointed lord high commissioner to the Scots parliament, which met 6th May 1662, and on 15th July following, he was nominated an extraordinary lord of session. In September of the same year, Middleton and the privy council made a progress through the west of Scotland, and when at Glasgow, under the influence of drink, as Burnet says, passed the act for depriving the covenanting ministers of their benefices, by which more than 200 were thrown out. After proceeding through Ayrshire to Dumfries, they returned to Edinburgh. Having procured the passing of the famous act of billeting, by which Lauderdale and his friends were incapacitated, that unprincipled nobleman resolved upon his overthrow. He misrepresented all his actions to the king, and so prejudiced the royal mind against him that Middleton in 1663 was ordered up to London to give an account of his administration in Scotland. When the council met, Lauderdale accused him of many miscarriages in his great office, and particularly of having accepted bribes from many of the Presbyterians, to exclude them from the list of fines. Middleton was defended by Clarendon, Archbishop Sheldon, and Monk, duke of Albemarle. The Scottish prelates also wrote in his favour, and in vindication, of his general policy. Their interposition, however, was in vain. He was declared guilty of arbitrary conduct as commissioner, and deprived of all his offices, to the great joy of the Scottish people, whom he had disgusted by the oppressive character of his measures, as well as by his open debauchery and intemperances, being, according to Burnet and Wodrow, most ostentatious in his vices. The former says that he was “perpetually drunk.”

After his disgrace he retired to the friary near Guildford, to the house of a Scotsman named Dalmahoy, who had been gentleman of the horse to William duke of Hamilton, killed at the battle of Worcester, and who had married that nobleman’s widow. There he built a bridge over the river which ran through Dalmahoy’s estate, and was called Middleton’s Bridge after him. He afterwards, as a king of decent exile, received the appointment of governor of Tangier, a seaport town of Fez in Africa, which made part of the dowry of the princess Catherine of Portugal, whom Charles II. married soon after the Restoration. He died there in 1673, having fallen in going down stairs, which in that hot climate produced inflammation.

His only son, Charles, second and last earl of Middleton, was M.P. for Winchelsea, in the long parliament. He was bred in the court of Charles II., by whom he was appointed envoy extraordinary to the court of Vienna. On his return home he was constituted one of the principal secretaries of state for Scotland, 26th September 1682. On 11th July 1684 he was sworn a privy councilor of England, on the 15th of the same month was admitted an extraordinary lord of session in Scotland, and on 25th August same year appointed one of the principal secretaries of state for England. His seat on the bench, however, he resigned in February 1686, in favour of his brother-in-law, the earl of Strathmore.

At the Revolution, though he had opposed the violent measures of King James, he adhered to him steadily. He refused all the offers made to him by King William, and after being frequently imprisoned in England, he followed James to  France, and was, in consequence, outlawed by the high court of justiciary, 23d July 1694, and forfeited by act of parliament, 2d July 1695. Before the Revolution, we are told, he firmly stood in the gap, to stop the torrent of some priests who were driving King James to his ruin, and had so mean an opinion of converts that he used to say a new light never came into the house but by a crack in the tilting. Yet this man, who had withstood all the temptations of James’ reign, and all the endeavours of that prince to bring him over, to the surprise of all who knew him declared himself a Roman Catholic on the king’s death, and obtained the entire management of the exiled court at St. Germains. (Macky’s Memoirs, p. 238.) He is described as having been a black man, of middle stature, with a sanguine complexion. He had two sons and three daughters. Lady Elizabeth, the eldest daughter, was the wife of Edward Drummond, son of James, earl of Perth, high-chancellor of Scotland. She was styled duchess of Perth, and died at Paris after 1773. The sons, Lord Clermont and the Hon. Charles Middleton, were taken at sea by Admiral Byng, coming with French troops to invade Scotland, in 1708, and committed to the Tower of London, They were soon released, when they returned to France.


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