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The Scottish Nation

BALMERINO, Baron, a title formerly possessed by a branch of the Elphinstone family, first bestowed in 1603, on the Hon. Sir James Elphinstone, knight, third son of Robert, third Lord Elphinstone, by his spouse Margaret, daughter of Sir John Drummond of Inverpeffrey, (see ELPHINSTONE, surname of).

      The Balmerino branch of the Elphinstones were singularly unfortunate. The history of no family in the Scottish peerage was marked by so many vicissitudes. Out of the six lords Balmerino, to which number the line extended, three were condemned to death, and the last lord was publicly beheaded as a traitor.

      The first Lord Balmerino, previous to his elevation to the peerage, was designed of Innernochtie, and under that designation, was appointed a lord of session, 4th March, 1586. In 1595 he was constituted one of the eight commissioners of the treasury, called from their number Octavians, who were intrusted with the management of the public revenue, and who became, from their office, exceedingly unpopular; and he was one of the intended victims to the fury of the people, in the remarkable riot in Edinburgh, in December 1595, which afterwards cost the city so much. In 1598 he was appointed secretary of state, and on the 20th February 1604, he was created a peer of parliament by the title of baron Balmerinoch, in Fifeshire. On the 1st of March 1605 he was constituted president of the court of session. In his latter years he fell into disgrace with the king, owing to the following circumstance: In 1599, while secretary of state, he had drawn up a letter in the name of James VI., addressed to the Pope, Clement VIII., requesting a cardinal’s hat for his kinsman, Chisholme, bishop of Vaison, in order that he might manage the correspondence between the courts of Rome and Holyroodhouse, and shuffling it in among other papers lying for the king’s signature, it was subscribed by his majesty without his noting the contents, or observing to whom it was addressed. The letter was transmitted to Rome, and the deceit was not finally discovered till 1608, five years after James’ accession to the throne of England, when Lord Balmerino was sent for to London to explain the transaction. Having confessed his guilt he was removed to Scotland by land, under a guard, and imprisoned at Falkland. He was tried at St. Andrews, and being found guilty of treason, was sentenced to be beheaded. The execution of the sentence, however, was delayed, and in October 1609 a warrant passed granting him liberty of free ward in Falkland, and one mile round that place. Afterwards he obtained permission to retire to his own house of Balmerinoch, where he died in 1612. It was thought, however, that in this he was but made the scapegoat of James VI., who was believed to have been privy to the writing of the letter, with the view of rendering the English Catholics favourable to his accession to the English throne. James’ double dealing was a strong feature in his character. By his first wife, Sarah, daughter of Sir John Menteith of Carse, his lordship had a son, John, second Lord Balmerino. His second wife, Marjory, daughter of Hugh Maxwell of Tealing, brought him a son, James, created in December 1607 Lord Coupar, and two daughters, Anne, married to Andrew, first Lord Fraser, and Mary, who became the wife of John Hamilton of Blair.

      John, second Lord Balmerino, was restored to blood and to the peerage by letter under the great seal, 4th August, 1613, his father having died under attainder. He distinguished himself by the opposition which he displayed in parliament in 1633, to the act establishing the royal prerogative of imposing apparel on churchmen. A petition to the king, on the part of the opposition, having been drawn up by William Haig, a lawyer, who had been solicitor to James VI., a copy of it was shown to Charles, who signified his displeasure at the measure so strongly that the intention of presenting it was abandoned. Lord Balmerino had unfortunately retained a duplicate of it, and having interlined it in some places with his own hand, he showed it to one John Dun-more, a notary in Dundee, his confidential agent, who was allowed to take it home with him under the strictest injunctions of secrecy. The latter, however, gave a copy of it to Peter Hay of Naughton, in Fife, who bore no goodwill to Lord Balmerino, and he immediately carried it to the archbishop of St. Andrews. That prelate, thinking the petition was sent about for subscription, hurried with it to London, and laid the matter before the king. Lord Balmerino was, in consequence, on the 10th June 1634, examined before the privy council concerning this paper, and afterwards committed to close confinement in Edinburgh castle. He was subsequently brought to trial, for having divulged and dispersed a dangerous and seditious libel, as the petition was styled, and concealing and not revealing the author thereof, and being found guilty by a majority of one, sentence of death was pronounced upon him. The earl of Traquair, who was then chancellor, apprehensive of the vengeance of the populace, if the sentence was carried into execution, hastened to London, and procured a pardon, though it was not till November 1635 that Lord Balmerino was set at liberty. His lordship entered warmly into the views of the covenanters, and assisted them not only with his advice and personal exertions, but also with large sums of money, to the injury of his paternal inheritance. On the 18th August 1641 he was nominated president of parliament, on the 17th September a privy councillor, and on the 13th November following an extraordinary lord of session. He died of apoplexy on the 28th February 1649, and was buried in the vaulted cemetery of the Logan family, adjoining to the old church of Restalrig, but according to Scott of Scotstarvet, his body was disinterred in 1650 by Cromwell’s soldiers, while searching for leaden coffins, for the purpose of making bullets, and thrown into the street. He married Anne, daughter of Sir Thomas Ker of Fernyhirst, and sister of the notorious Car, earl of Somerset. His name has found a place in Walpole’s Royal and Noble Authors, ‘Lord Balmerino’s Speech on the Army, describing their Conspiracies,’ having been published in 1642, 4to.

      John, third Lord Balmerino, the son of the second lord, born 18th February 1623, on succeeding to the title, found his affairs in great disorder. He was also engaged in several lawsuits, and was obliged to dispose of almost the whole of his landed property. For his compliance with the ruling powers during the usurpation, and for non-conformity, he was fined in the sum of £6,000 Scots, by the earl of Middle-ton’s parliament in 1662. He died 10th June 1704, aged 82. By his wife, Lady Margaret Campbell, only daughter of John, earl of Loudon, lord high chancellor of Scotland, he had John, fourth Lord Balmerino, and three other children, who died in infancy.

      John, fourth Lord Balmerino, born 26th December 1652, was styled by Lockhart in his Memoirs, as "perhaps one of the best lawyers in the kingdom, and very expert in the knowledge of the Scottish constitution." He was admitted a privy councillor 16th August 1687, succeeded his father in 1704, and strenuously opposed the Union. At the general election in 1710, he was elected one of the sixteen representatives of the Scottish peerage; the same year he was appointed general of the mint, and sheriff of the county of Edinburgh, and in 1711 he was named one of the commissioners for executing the office of lord chamberlain. He was also one of the lords of police. In 1713 he was rechosen a representative peer. On the accession of George I. he was removed from all his offices, and no longer elected one of the sixteen peers. Notwithstanding this harsh treatment he continued faithful to the house of Hanover during the rebellion of 1715. He afterwards lived retired, and died at his house at Leith, 13th May 1736, aged 84. By his first wife, Lady Christian Montgomery, third daughter of Hugh, seventh earl of Eglin— toun, he had two sons and two daughters. His eldest son, Hugh, master of Balmerino, an officer in the army, was killed at the siege of Lisle in 1708. His second son, John, succeeded him as fifth Lord Balmerino. By his second wife, Anne, daughter of Arthur Ross, the last archbishop of St. Andrews, he had the unfortunate Arthur, sixth and last Lord Balmerino. and another son and a daughter, who both died unmarried.

      John, fifth Lord Balmerino, born 24th November 1675, applied to the study of the law, and was admitted advocate in 1703. In June 1714, a few weeks before the death of Queen Anne, he was appointed a lord of session, and took his seat on the bench as Lord Coupar. (See COUPAR, Baron.) He died at Leith, 5th January 1746, aged 71, and having no issue by his wife, Lady Elizabeth Carnegie, daughter of David, fourth earl of Northesk, he was succeeded in both his titles of Balmerino and Coupar by his half-brother, Arthur, sixth and last Lord Balmerino, for a notice of whose life see ELPHINSTONE, ARTHUR.

      The Lords Balmerino were superiors of the district of Cal— ton in Edinburgh. The town council purchased the superiority from the last representative of that noble family, who presented the old Calton burying-ground to his vassals, and it is said offered them the whole hill for £40.—(Wilson’s Memorials of Edinburgh, vol. ii. p. 133.) The house of the Lords Balmerino in Leith was at the corner of Coatfield Lane in the Kirkgate, and here the third Lord Balmerino received Charles II. on his landing in Leith, 29th July 1650.

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