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A History of the Stewarts courtesy of Lu Hickey
Colonel William Stewart


Colonel William Stewart, third son of the "Good Lord" rendered vigorous support to his brother, the Earl of Arran. He was a soldier rather than a statesman and he carried out the spadework of many of his brother

Ambitious schemes. On one occasion, indeed, he represented his country at the court of Queen Elizabeth, but it was his military prowess rather than his keen intellectuality that brought him to the front. He it was who freed the king from the Ruthven faction, who captured the Earl of Gowrie, who defended Stirling against overwhelming odds, and who in every possible way attempted to bring to book any who dared to thwart the designs of his aspiring brother. As part of reward for his services, he received from King James the lands and barony of Carstairs. He is supposed to have been murdered by the Earl of Bothwell in 1588.

When the "Good Lord Ochiltree" died, his grandson Andrew succeeded to the title and estates; but he sold both to his cousin, Sir James Stewart of Killeth, son of the notorious Captain James Stewart. The new lord seems to have had it in his mind to follow to some extent in the footsteps of his father. The father thrust himself into public notice by his vigorous and successful denunciation of the Regent Morton. The son sought to find an opening into the political arena by an attack upon the Marquis of Hamilton.

About the year 1630, in the reign of Charles I, Lord Reay had raised a regiment to support the great Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden against the Germans. The Scottish troops acquitted themselves with so much credit, and were so handsomely treated that when their period of service came to an end, the discharged soldiers at once re-enlisted; and fresh recruits from Scotland offered themselves in such numbers that a national brigade of then thousand men was soon ready for the field. Lord Ochiltree, however, suspecting that things were not quite what they seemed, went the length of openly accusing the Marquis of Hamilton of a design to employ these forces in support of his own claims to the throne. The king rejected the suggestion as absurd, and turned the tables upon Ochiltree by putting him upon his trial for leasing making which at that time was a capital offence. The trial took place in Scotland and his Lordship was found guilty and condemned to perpetual imprisonment in Blackness Castle. For twenty years he pined in that melancholy donjon and it was not till 1651, after the victories of Dunbar and Worcester, that he was released by the order of Oliver Cromwell. He died in 1659 leaving as his heir a lad of tender years, with whose untimely death while yet a student in the University of Edinburgh the title became extinct.

The barony was now acquired by the first Earl of Dundonald and bestowed by him on his second son, Sir John Cochrane, who obtained a charter of it from the crown on March 6th, 1667. Sir John came into conflict with the reigning family on more than one occasion. He resented the tyranny of the second Charles, and entered into a scheme with some other Scottish gentlemen to establish a colony in America. He was sent to London to secure if possible, the royal consent and patronage, but while in the city he got entangled in an intrigue to put Monmouth on the throne. The Rye House Plot was attempted and failed, and Sir John and his son fled for safety to Holland, There he remained until Charles died in 1685. Returning to this country, he became associated with Argyle in his ill-considered, ill-fated, ill-managed expedition into Scotland on behalf of Monmouth. Argyle was captured, tried and beheaded. Cochrane fled to Ayrshire but even there, among his friends and kinsmen, he found no sure refuge. He fell into the hands of his enemies, was tried and found guilty and condemned to be hanged at the Cross of Edinburgh as soon as a formal warrant should arrive from London.

And here we come upon the most romantic episode of the entire history of Ochiltree. Sir John's friends were naturally in great distress over the sad plight into which he had fallen and many tears were shed. When the Israelites heard of the threatened fate of Jabesh -Gilead, they lifted up their voices and wept. But there was one who knowing that weeping would not save the situation, betook himself to vigorous action. And in the case of Sir John, while others might weep, his daughter, Grisel resolved that she would postpone her tears until every possible attempt to save her father had been afforded its full opportunity of success. She got various influences set at work to mollify the stern and dogged temper of the new king. Her grandfather, Lord Dundonald, had stood faithfully by the exiled Charles while he was a refugee in France, and his name was therefore in good odour at court. There was reason to hope that through his intervention, through professions of penitence and through a judicious distribution of the coin of the realm, pardon might be obtained for the erring Sir John. But time was short, the warrant might arrive in Edinburgh and the execution be carried out before these various lines of influence counld concentrate upon the king.


 

 


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