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The Scottish Nation

CROMARTY, earl of, a title in the peerage of Scotland (attained in 1746) conferred in 1703 on Sir George Mackenzie of Tarbat, descended from a branch of the ancient family of Mackenzie of Kintail (see MACKENZIE, surname of). A memoir of the first earl is given below. His lordship was twice married. By his first wife, Anne, daughter of Sir James Sinclair of Mey, baronet, he had, with four daughters, John, second earl; Hon. Sir Kenneth Mackenzie of Cromarty, and Hon Sir James Mackenzie of Royston, both created baronets the same day, 8th February 1704. The latter became an advocate on 19th November 1698, and on the resignation of his uncle (Roderick Mackenzie), a lord of session under the title of Lord Prestonhall, he was appointed his successor on the bench, and took his seat 7th June 1710, as Lord Royston. By his second wife, Margaret, countess of Wemyss in her own right, widow of James Lord Burntisland, the first earl of Cromarty had no issue.

      John, second earl of Cromarty, was member of parliament for the county of Ross, at the date of his father’s being raised to the peerage, when the parliament resolved that he could not, in consequence, continue to possess a set in that house, and a warrant for a new election was, therefore, issued, 23d April 1685. In August 1691, he was tried before the high court of justiciary, for the murder of Elias Poiret, Sieur de la Roche, at Leith, on 8th March preceding, and acquitted. He succeeded his father in 1714, and died at Castle-leon, 20th February 1731. He was thrice married. By his first wife, Lady Elizabeth Gordon, only daughter of Charles first earl of Aboyne, he had no issue; by his second wife, the Hon. Mary Murray, eldest daughter of the third Lord Elibank, he had, with two daughters, George, third earl, and three other sons, Roderick, William, and Patrick; and by his third wife, the Hon. Anne Fraser (previously twice a widow), second daughter of Hugh tenth Lord Lovat, he had three sons and a daughter.

      George, third earl, joined the Pretender in 1745 with about four hundred of his clan, and was at the battle of Falkirk. He and his son Lord Macleod were surprised and taken prisoners at Dunrobin castle, by a party of the earl of Sutherland’s militia, 15th April 1746, and sent to London, and committed to the Tower. With the earl of Kilmarnock and Lord Balmerino, he was on the 28th July following, brought to trial before the House of Lords, when he pleaded guilty, and threw himself entirely on the king’s mercy. On the 20th, being called up for judgment, he began a humiliating but pathetic appeal, by declaring that he had been guilty of an offence which merited the highest indignation of his majesty, their lordships, and the public; and that it was from a conviction of his guilt that he had not presumed to trouble their lordships with any defence. “Nothing remains, my lords,” he continued, “but to throw myself, my life, and fortune, upon your lordships’ compassion;” and he earnestly besought them to intercede with his majesty on his behalf. On the 1st of August he was sentenced to death, and his estates and honours forfeited. He immediately petitioned the king for mercy, In support of this application his countess (Isabel, daughter of Sir William Gordon of Invergordon, baronet) waited upon the lords of the cabinet council, and on the Sunday following the sentence, she went to Kensington palace in deep mourning, to intercede with his majesty in behalf of her husband. She took her station in the entrance through which the king was to pass to chapel, and when he approached she fell upon her knees, seized him by the coat, and presenting her supplication, fainted away at his feet. The king raised her up, and taking the petition, gave it in charge of the duke of Grafton, one of his attendants. The dukes of Hamilton and Montrose, the earl of Stair, and other courtiers, backed these petitions. The king granted a respite to the earl. He was permitted to leave the Tower, and to lodge at the house of a messenger, 18th February, 1748. In August following he went to Devonshire, where he was ordered to remain. A pardon passed the seals for his lordship, 20th October, 1749, with the condition that he should remain in such place as directed by the king. He died in Poland Street, London, 28th September, 1766. He had three sons, and seven daughters. His life was published in 1746, in 4to.

      John, Lord Macleod, the eldest son, was born in 1727. At his trial in London, on 20th December 1746, for his share in the rebellion, he pleaded his youth and his father’s example in mitigation of his guilt. “An unconditional pardon passed the great seal in his favour, 26th January 1748, on which he went abroad in quest of employment in foreign service. He sojourned sometime at Berlin with Field-marshal Keith, through whose interest, it is believed, he obtained a commission in the Swedish army. At this time his means were so limited that he was unable to equip himself in an officer-like manner, but the Chevalier de St. George, on the recommendation of Lord George Murray, generously sent him a sum of money to defray the expenses of his outfit. After serving the crown of Sweden for twenty-seven years with distinguished approbation, he obtained the rank of lieutenant-general, and was, by his Swedish majesty, created Count Cromarty, and made one of the commandants of the order of the sword. He returned to England in 1777, and was presented to George the Third, who received him very graciously. At the suggestion of Colonel Duff of Muirtown, who had served in Keith’s Highlanders, he offered his services to raise a regiment; and so great was the influence of his name in the North, that eight hundred and forth Highlanders were enrolled in a very short time, forming two battalions of the 73d, now the 71st, or Glasgow light infantry. The first battalion, under Lord Macleod, as colonel (commission dated 19th December 1777) embarked for the East Indies in January 1779; the second battalion, under the command of his brother, the Hon. Lieutenant-colonel George Mackenzie, was sent to Gibraltar, where it formed part of the garrison during the celebrated siege of that place, which lasted upwards of three years. In India Lord Macleod served with the force under Sir Hector Munro, and had the local rank of major-general in 1781. Sometime after the battle of Conjeveram, his lordship took shipping for England, having, it is said, differed in opinion with General Munro on the subject of his movements. In 1782 he had the rank of major-general in the army. After his return he had the family estates restored to him by act of parliament in 1784, on payment of nineteen thousand pounds of debt affecting that property. He died at Edinburgh 2d April 1789, in his sixty-second year, and was buried, with his mother, in the Canon-gate church-yard, where there is a monument to their memory. He had married, 4th June, 1786, Margery, eldest daughter of James, sixteenth Lord Forbes, but having no issue by her (who, 11th March 1794, became the second wife of John, fourth duke of Athol) he was succeeded in the family estates by his cousin, Kenneth Mackenzie of Cromertie, son of the Hon. Roderick Mackenzie, second son of the second earl. This gentleman dying without make issue, 4th November 1796, the Cromarty estates devolved on Lady Elibank (Lady Isabel Mackenzie), eldest sister of Lord Macleod. On her death in December 1801, her elder daughter, the Hon. Maria Murray, married to Edward Hay of Newhall, the brother of the seventh marquis of Tweeddale, got that extensive property, and her husband assumed the name of Mackenzie in addition to his own. They had four children; Dorothea, Isabella, Georgina, and John. the eldest daughter married, in 1849, the marquis of Stafford and Lord Strathnaver, eldest son of the second duke of Sutherland, who in her right is now in possession of the vast estates formerly belonging to the earl of Cromarty. His son and heir, Cromertie, Earl Gower, was born in 1851.

CROMARTY, first earl of, an eminent statesman, was the son of Sir John Mackenzie of Tarbat, (created a baronet 21st May 1628) by Margaret, daughter of Sir George Erskine, (a lord of session under the title of Lord Innerteill,) and was born in 1630. He succeeded his father in 1765; and having applied for and received from Charles the Second, during his exile, a commission to levy forces to promote his restoration, with a large body of men, he, the same year, joined General Middleton, then in arms for the royal cause, and with him carried on for about a year in irregular warfare with the parliamentary forces, but was at last forced to capitulate, in 1655, to Colonel Morgan, when they were obliged to leave the kingdom. At the Restoration, Middleton had the chief direction of Scottish affairs, when Mackenzie became his principal confidant. On 14th February 1661 he was appointed one of the lords of session, when he assumed the judicial title of Lord Tarbat. In the Memoirs of his namesake, Sir George Mackenzie of Rosehaugh, it is stated that being a violent cavalier, he was the chief instigator of the Act Rescissory, by which the proceedings of all the previous parliaments since 1633, were at once annulled. In 1662, he was sent up to court with the famous act of billetting, of which he was the inventor and manager, and the object of which was to get the earl of Lauderdale, the earl of Crawford-Lindsay and ten others declared incapable of holding any office of public trust; but the king refused his assent, and Middleton was dismissed from all share in the administration. A particular account of this curious piece of state-craft will be found in Sir George Mackenzie’s Memoirs of the affairs of Scotland, and in Burnet’s History of His own Times, vol. i. For his participation in the contrivance, Lord Tarbat was deprived of his seat on the bench on the 16th February 1664, in terms of a letter from the king, dated on the 4th of that month, and he remained without any public employment during the principal part of the long administration of Lauderdale. Having eventually become reconciled to that nobleman, by his influence he was restored to the royal favour, and on October 16, 1678, was appointed lord-justice-general of Scotland, an office which had been hereditary in the family of Argyle, till it was surrendered in the preceding year. On the 11th November following he was admitted a privy councillor, and next day presented a letter from the king to the court, dated 27th September previous, in which his majesty declares his having pardoned him “for the wrong he had committed in that affair.” As the former letter had been recorded in the Books of Sederunt, the king directs that this should be so too. He was appointed lord clerk register by patent dated 16th October 1681, and reinstated in his place as a lord of session, on the 1st of the following November.

      During the last years of Charles the Second, and the whole of the short reign of James the Seventh, he had the chief management of Scottish affairs. On 15th February 1685, immediately after the accession of James, he was created viscount of Tarbat, and Lord Macleod and Castelhaven in the Scottish peerage. At the revolution he proposed in council to disband the militia, by which artful advice that important matter was accomplished without bloodshed. He was one of the first to make advanced to King William, having gone to court, where he was well received; but the arbitrary proceedings in the two former reigns in which he had largely shared, had rendered him so odious in Scotland, that his majesty declined his services, and in consequence he lost all his employments. On 5th March 1692, however, he was restored to his office of clerk register, but resigned it in the end of 1695, when he received a pension of four hundred a-year. He has been accused of having, during the period he held this important office, repeatedly falsified the minutes of parliament, as well as of having issued orders in private causes in name of parliament, which had never been made.

      On the accession of Queen Anne, Lord Tarbat was sent for to court, appointed one of the principal secretaries of state, and created earl of Cromarty, by patent, dated 1st January 1703. The following year he resigned the office of secretary, and was appointed, in its stead, lord-justice-general, 26th June 1705. This office, in its turn, he resigned in 1710, in favour of Archibald Lord Ilay. He was a zealous supporter of the union, and died at New Tarbat, August 17, 1714, in the eighty-fourth year of his age. He was a man of superior endowments and great learning, but totally devoid of principle as a statesman. In Walpole’s Royal and Noble Authors is a portrait of his lordship, from which the annexed woodcut is taken:

[woodcut of Lord Tarbat, Earl of Cromarty]

He was one of the original members of the Royal Society, and contributed some valuable articles to the earlier volumes of the Philosophical Transactions. Macky (in his Characters of the Nobility of Scotland, p. 188) says that he had a great deal of wit, and was the pleasantest companion in the world; had been very handsome in his person; was tall and fair-complexioned; much esteemed by the Royal Society; a great master in philosophy, and well received as a writer by men of letters. The earl of Cromarty was the author of the following works:

      A Vindication of King Robert III. from the Imputation of Bastardy; by the clear proof of Elizabeth Mure (daughter of Sir Adam Mure of Rowallan) her being the first lawful wife of Robert the Second, then Steward of Scotland and Earl of Strathern; by George Viscount of Tarbat, &c. In the dedication to the king he says that all the crowned heads in Europe are concerned in this vindication. Edinburgh, 1695.

      The Mistaken Advantage by raising of Money. Edinburgh, 1706, 4to.

      Letter to the Earl of Wemyss concerning the Union with England. Edin. 1706, 4to.

      Friendly return to a Letter concerning Sir George Mackenzie’s and Sir John Nisbet’s Observations and Responses on the matter of Union. Edin. 1706. 4to.

      Synopsis Apocalyptica, or a short and plain Explication of Daniel’s Prophecy, and of St. John’s Revelation, in concert with it. Edin. 1707.

      Account of the Mosses in Scotland, in Phil. Trans. 1710. Abr. v. p. 633. Mr. Gough has pointed out three other papers on natural curiosities in the same Transactions See Anecdotes of Brit. Topography, 637. Bishop Nicolson (Scottish Histor. Library, p. 20) mentions having seen a description of the Isles Hirta and Rona, two of the Hebrides, by his lordship, but does not say if it was ever printed. The bishop also notices a copy of the continuation of Fordun’s Scotichronicon in the handwriting of this nobleman, whom he terms “a judicious preserver of the antiquities of his country.”

      Historical Account of the Conspiracy of the Earl of Gowrie, and of Robert Logan of Restalrig, against King James VI. Edin. 1713.

      A Vindication of the same, from the Mistakes of Mr. John Anderson, preacher, of Dumbarton, in his Defence of Presbytery. Edin. 1714.

      A Vindication, by Lord Cromarty, of the Reformation of the Church of Scotland, with some account of the Records, was printed in the Scots Magazine for 1802, from a manuscript in possession of the late Mr. Constable.

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