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The Scottish Nation

DYSART, Earl of, a title in the peerage of Scotland, possessed by an English family of the name of Tollemache, but at first conferred, in the reign of Charles the First, on William Murray, a cadet of the house of Tullibardine, and the son of William Murray, rector of Dysart, in Fifeshire, a younger son of the family of Murray of Woodend, Perthshire. His uncle, Thomas Murray, was preceptor and afterwards secretary to King Charles the First, and by him he was introduced to that monarch when a youth, and as they were nearly about the same age, he had the whole of his education along with the king. Being of a lively disposition, the young prince became much attached to him, and soon after his accession to the throne, he appointed him, in 1626, one of the gentlemen of his bedchamber. During the subsequent troublous period which ended with Charles’ decapitation at Whitehall, Murray was employed in several negociations of importance, and on 3d August 1646 (Douglas says 1643) he was created a peer of Scotland, by the titles of earl of Dysart, Lord Huntingtower, &c. In 1650, he and the earl of Carnwath were sent with instructions to the Scots commissioners at Breda, who were then in treaty with King Charles the Second relative to his restoration, when he conducted himself with great ability and fidelity. He married Elizabeth Bruce, a daughter of the family of Clackmannan, and had two daughters; Lady Elizabeth, afterwards countess of Dysart; and Lady Margaret, married to William Lord Maynard, an English nobleman.

      Burnet gives the following unfavourable character of the first earl of Dysart. “He had been,” he says, “page and whipping boy to King Charles the First, and had great credit with him, not only in procuring private favours, but in all his counsels. He was well turned for a court, very insinuating, but very false; and of so revengeful a temper, that rather than that any of the counsels given by his enemies should succeed, he would have revealed them, and betrayed both the king and them. He had one particular quality, that when he was drunk, which was very often, he was upon a most exact reserve, though he was pretty open at all other times. He got a warrant to be an earl which was signed at Newcastle, yet he got the king to antedate it, as if it had been signed at Oxford, to get the precedence of some whom he hated. But he did not pass it under the great seal during the king’s life, but did it after his death, though his warrant, not being passed, died with the king.” [History of his own Times, vol. i. p. 224.]

      As he died without make issue, his elder daughter, Lady Elizabeth Murray, assumed the title of countess of Dysart in her own right. Being in great favour with King Charles the Second, she was by him created countess of Dysart, baroness of Huntingtower, &c., with her father’s precedency, by a new patent, bearing to be “to her or any of her children she thinks fit to name, by a writ under her hand, any time of her life, and in case of no such nomination, to her heirs general, the eldest to be preferred, &c.,” dated 5th September 1670. She married, first, Sir Lionel Tollemache of Helmingham, in the county of Suffolk, by whom she had eleven children; and secondly, on 17th February 1671-2, the celebrated John Maitland, duke of Lauderdale, (being his second wife.), who at one period had the chief power in Scotland; but by him she had no issue. She possessed considerable talent, with unbounded ambition, and a great spirit of intrigue. According to Burnet, “She was a woman of great beauty, but of far greater parts. She had a wonderful quickness of apprehension, and an amazing vivacity in conversation. She had studied not only divinity and history, but mathematics and philosophy. She was violent in everything she set about, a violent friend, but a much more violent enemy. She had a restless ambition, lived at a vast expense, and was ravenously covetous; and would have struck at nothing by which she might compass her ends. She had been early in a correspondence with Lord Lauderdale, that had given occasion to censure. When he was prisoner after Worcester fight, she made him believe he was in great danger of his life, and that she had saved it by her intrigues with Cromwell; which was not a little taken notice of. Cromwell was certainly fond of her, and she took care to entertain him in it; till he, finding what was said upon it, broke it off. On the king’s restoration, she thought that Lord Lauderdale made not those returns that she expected. They lived for some years at a distance. But upon her husband’s death she made up all quarrels. So that Lord Lauderdale and she lived so much together that his lady was offended at it, and went to Paris, where she died about three years after. The Lady Dysart came to have so much power over the Lord Lauderdale that it lessened him much in the esteem of all the world; for he delivered himself up to all her humours and passions. All applications were made to her. She took upon her to determine everything. She sold all places, and was wanting in no methods that could bring her money, which she lavished in a most profuse vanity. As the conceit took her, she made him fall out with all his friends, one after another. From that time to the end of his days he became quite another sort of man than he had been in all the former parts of his life.” [Burnet’s Own Times, vol. i. p. 245.] Her grace died in June 1696. Of her eleven children, only three sons and two daughters attained to maturity.

      Of the sons, the eldest, Lionel Tollemache, became second earl of Dysart. The family to which his father belonged, namely that of Tollenmache, Talmash, or Toedmeg, as it is spelled in Doomsday Book, has continued in an uninterrupted male succession from the arrival of the Saxons in England till now, and were possessed of the lands of Bentley in Suffolk, before the Norman conquest. They acquired Helmingham, by marriage with the daughter and heiress of Helmingham of Helmingham, and several of them served the office of high sheriff of Norfolk and Suffolk.

      The Hon. Thomas Tollenache, the second son, was a distinguished military officer, and served seventeen campaigns. He gave his hearty support to the Revolution, and was made colonel of the Coldstream guards 1st May 1689. Soon after, he was advanced to the rank of lieutenant-general, in which capacity he served under King William in Ireland, in 1691. He is stated to have displayed uncommon bravery in the passage over the river Shannon, and at the taking of Athlone, and in the battle of Aughrim. In 1693 he attended the king to Flanders, and at the battle of Landen, against the French, when his majesty himself was obliged to retire, he brought off the English foot with great gallantry. In 1694 he was appointed commander-in-chief of the expedition against Brest, where he was mortally wounded, and died at Plymouth, 13th June that year. A fine engraving of General Tollemache by Houbraken is in Birch’s collection of Illustrious Characters.

      The third son, the Hon. William Tollemache, was a captain in the royal navy. In 1681 he unfortunately killed the Hon. William Carnegie, second son of the earl of Southesk, in a duel at Paris. He died of a fever in the West Indies.

      Lionel, second earl of Dysart, in the lifetime of his mother was styled Lord Huntingtower. Although he had succeeded his mother as earl in 1696, two years thereafter he was chosen member of the English parliament for the county of Suffolk, being an Englishman, and having his property in England, and was rechosen for the same county in 1700 and 1701. On the accession of Queen Anne he had the offer of the patent of a baron of England, which he declined, preferring, though a Scotch earl, to be a member of the English House of Commons, and he was a fourth time chosen for the county of Suffolk, after a very keen contest, to the first parliament of Queen Anne in 1702. He was rechosen in 1705 and 1707, but after the treaty of union with Scotland, being no longer a commoner of Great Britain, he was obliged to vacate his seat, and a new writ was ordered 10th November of the latter year. His lordship died 2d February 1726. His only son, also named Lionel, died before him in 1712, but left a son, Lionel, who became third earl. The latter died in 1770, in his 63d year. He had fourteen children. The eldest son having died young, the second, Lionel, became fourth earl, and the third, Wilbraham, fifth earl of Dysart. The fourth son, the Hon. George Talmash, an officer in the navy, was killed in the sixteenth year of his age, by a fall from the masthead of the “Modeste” man-of-war, in a voyage to Lisbon in October 1760. The Hon. John Talmash, the fifth son, a captain in the royal navy, was killed in a duel at New York, with Captain, afterwards General Pennington (first lord Muncaster in the peerage of Ireland), 25th September 1777, aged twenty-seven. The quarrel originated in a sonnet written by Captain Pennington, which Captain Talmash resented as reflecting on the supposed wit of his wife, Lady Bridget Henley, daughter of the earl of Northington, and widow of the Hon. George Fox Lane. His opponent, Captain Pennington, received seven wounds of so severe a nature, that his life was for some time despaired of. The Hon. William Talmash, also an officer in the navy, was lost in the twenty-sixth year of his age, in the “Repulse” frigate, in a hurricane, 16th December 1776.

      Louisa, the third and only surviving daughter, succeeded as countess of Dysart. She was born in 1745, and married in 1765, John Manners, Esq. of Grantham Grange, Lincolnshire, by whom she had three sons and four daughters. Her eldest son, William, Lord Huntingtower, born in 1766, created a baronet 5th January 1793, assumed the surname of Talmash only. He died before his mother, 10th March 1833, leaving six sons and six daughters. The Hon. John Manners, the second son of the Countess Louisa, married 19th August 1806, Mary, duchess dowager of Roxburghe. Of the daughters, Maria-Caroline, the second, married the fourth earl of Fife; and Louisa Grace, the third, became the wife of the sixth duke of St. Albans. Lady Louisa Manners, the fourth and youngest daughter, married in 1808, John Dalrymple, seventh earl of Stair, which marriage was dissolved in 1809, in consequence of a previous contract in 1804, with Johanna, daughter of Charles Gordon of Cluny. The latter, however, though deemed a valid marriage by the laws of Scotland, was annulled by the court of session, in June 1820. The countess Louisa obtained for herself and her only surviving daughter, Lady Laura, royal permission, in consideration of her ladyship being the heir and representative of the ancient house of Tollemache, to adopt the surname and arms of that family, instead of Manners, and in April 1821, her sons John and Charles obtained a similar license. She died on 22d September, 1840.

      Her grandson, Sir Lionel William John Tollemache, succeeded her as sixth earl, having in 1833 succeeded his father as second baronet. He married in 1819, his cousin Maria, eldest daughter of Sweeney Tone, Esq. of Keston Lodge, and has a son, William Lionel Felix, Lord Huntingtower, born 4th July 1820, married in September 1851, his cousin, Katherine Elizabeth Camilla, youngest daughter of Sir Joseph Burke, baronet, of Glinsk castle, county Galway, with issue.

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