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STAIR, Viscount of, a title in the peerage of Scotland, conferred 21st April 1690, on Sir James Dalrymple, an eminent lawyer and statesman.


STAIR, Earl of, a title in the peerage of Scotland, conferred in April 1703, on Sir John Dalrymple, eldest son of Viscount Stair, by his wife, Margaret Ross, coheiress of the estate of Balneil, Wigtonshire. He was born about 1648, and admitted advocate February 18, 1672. In 1681, he was one of the counsel for the earl of Argyle on his trial for treason, on account of the test. On his father’s retirement to Holland in October 1682, in consequence of the tyrannical measures of the then persecuting administration, he was at first subjected to many vexations proceedings on the part of the government. In 1682 he was compelled by the council to pay £500 sterling, on the pretext that, as heritable bailie of Glenluce, he had interfered with the jurisdiction of the sheriff, and had not exacted fines sufficiently high from his own and his father’s tenants for attending conventicles. In September 1684 he was seized during the night at his country house at Newliston, and committed to the Tolbooth of Edinburgh, whence, after being detained for three months, he was released on giving security to the amount of £5,000 sterling. By his talents and address, however, he contrived to make his peace with the king, and had influence enough to procure a pardon for his father, who had been prosecuted and outlawed for his alleged concern in the Ryehouse Plot. In 1686 Sir John Dalrymple was appointed lord-advocate in the room of Sir George Mackenzie, and on his return to Edinburgh from London, he brought with him an order from the king for £1,200, whereof £500 was for the fine he paid in 1682, and the remainder for the expenses of his journey and his loss of practice. He also brought a comprehensive remission to his father and mother, brothers and sisters, particularly for their intercourse with traitors, and to his second son, who had accidentally shot his brother. On 23d February 1688, he was created a lord of session and lord-justice-clerk. He gave his support to the Revolution, and was a member of the Convention parliament held at Edinburgh in March 1689. A committee of eight lords, eight knights, and eight burgesses, were appointed to prepare and report upon a plan of settling the government. After considerable discussion, the committee agreed to the following resolution, on the motion of Sir John Dalrymple, who, in a speech of powerful reasoning, exposed the unmeaning application of the term abdicate, which had been used by the English convention: -- “The estates of the kingdom of Scotland find and declare that King James VII. being a professed papist, did assume the royal power, and act as king, without ever taking the oath as required by law; and had, by the advice of evil and wicked counselors, invaded the fundamental constitution of this kingdom, and altered it from a legal and limited monarchy, to an arbitrary despotic power, and had governed the same to the subversion of the Protestant religion and violation of the laws and liberties of the nation, inverting all the ends of government, whereby he had forfaulted the right of the crown, and the throne was become vacant.” This vote was approved of by a great majority in the convention, and Sir John Dalrymple was one of the three commissioners sent to London to offer the crown to William and Mary. He was one of the six persons excepted by King James VII. out of his intended act of indemnity. In 1690 he was reappointed lord-advocate, and in 1691, was constituted one of the principal secretaries of state. His conduct in regard to the massacre of Glenco has stamped his name with lasting infamy. Previous to the massacre, in his letters to the military officers of date 1st and 3d December 1691, he exulted that as the winter was the only season in which the Highlanders could not escape, they could easily be destroyed “in the cold long nights.” He seems to have contemplated the total extirpation of the clans, for, in a letter to Sir Thomas Livingston, dated January 7, 1692, he says, “You know in general that the troops posted at Inverness and Inverlochie will be ordered to take in the house of Invergarie, and to destroy entirely the country of Lochaber, Lochiel’s lands, Keppoch’s, Glengarie’s and Glenco,” and he adds, “I assure you your power shall be full enough, and I hope the soldiers will not trouble the government with prisoners.” In sending Livingston the instructions, signed and countersigned by the king on the 11th January, “to march the troops against the rebels who had not taken the benefit of the indemnity, and to destroy them by fire and sword,” he said in his letter, as a hint to Livingston how to act, “Just now my Lord Argyle tells me that Glenco hath not taken the oath, at which I rejoice. It is a great work of charity to be exact in rooting out that damnable sect, the worst of the Highlands.” Additional instructions, bearing date the 16th January, were sent to Livingston, and in the letter containing them, Secretary Dalrymple said, “for a just example of vengeance I entreat the thieving tribe of Glenco may be rooted out to purpose.” A duplicate of these instructions was at the same time sent by him to Colonel Hill, the governor of Fort William, with a similar letter. The odium against the government that arose in the nation when the accounts of the massacre were known, alarmed the king, and to pacify the people he dismissed Sir John Dalrymple from office and from his councils. A commission of inquiry into the massacre was granted 29th April 1695, and in their report, which was afterwards adopted by parliament, the commissioners threw the whole blame upon Secretary Dalrymple, stating that his letters had exceeded the king’s instructions. In their address to the king, founded upon the same, the estates stated that, in the first place, they had found that the letters of the Master of Stair (Secretary Dalrymple) had exceeded his Majesty’s instructions as to the killing and destruction of the Glenco-men, and they conclude as follows: -- “that considering that the Master of Stair’s excess in his letters against the Glenco-men has been the original cause of this unhappy business, and hath given occasion, in a great measure, to so extraordinary an execution, by the warm directions he gives about doing it by way of surprise; and considering the station and trust he is in, and that he is absent, we do, therefore, beg that your Majesty will give such orders about him for vindication of your government, as you in your royal wisdom shall think fit. And, likewise, considering that the actors have barbarously killed men under trust, we humbly desire your Majesty would be pleased to send the actors home, and to give orders to your advocate to prosecute them according to law.” The estates also solicited his Majesty to order reparation to be made to the surviving inhabitants of the glen for the losses they had sustained in their properties. Whether this was ever done, does not appear, but it is highly probable that this part of the address was as little heeded as the rest. The murderers, instead of being brought to trial, were allowed by William to remain in his service, and some of them were even promoted. The report of the Scottish parliament, though drawn up as favourably as possible for the king, was carefully suppressed during his lifetime, a proof that the government of the day were anxious to have the whole matter buried in oblivion at once and for ever.

The same year, Sir John succeeded his father as 2d Viscount Stair, but did not take his seat in parliament for some years. In 1698, he made a strong attempt to do so, but was dissuaded from it by the duke of Queensberry, the earls of Argyle, Leven, and Seafield, and by his brother, the Hon. Sir Hugh Dalrymple of North Berwick, baronet, lord-president of the court of session. The lord-justice-clerk was determined, if he offered to take his seat, to call for the vote and address to the king, passed respecting the affair of Glenco, by which it was declared to be a barbarous murder. He took the oaths and his seat in parliament 21st February 1700, and on the accession of Queen Anne was sworn a privy councilor. He was created earl of Stair, Viscount Dalrymple, and Lord Newliston, Glenluce and Stranraer, April 8, 1703, by patent, to the heirs male of his body, with remainder to the heirs male of his father. In 1705, he was named one of the commissioners for the treaty of Union, and was so instrumental in carrying that measure through parliament as to give rise to the opinion that without his assistance it could not have passed. He died suddenly, January 8, 1707. On that day, after speaking warmly in favour of the 22d article of the treaty of Union, he walked home, and dined very cheerfully with company, but died the same evening. According to a contemporary (Macky’s Memoirs) he was an able lawyer, and possessed of good natural parts. His conversation was lively and facetious; and he made always a better companion than a statesman, being naturally very indolent. In his person he was handsome, tall and fair. He married Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Sir John Dundas of Newliston, Linlithgowshire, and by her had five sons and two daughters.

His second son, John, second earl of Stair, a distinguished military commander and accomplished statesman, was born at Edinburgh, July 20, 1679. When a mere boy, he had the misfortune to kill his elder brother, James, by the accidental discharge of a pistol. About 1684 he was sent to Leyden, where he made great proficiency in the languages, and other branches of education. ON his return to Scotland, he was sent to the university of Edinburgh, under a guardian, to finish his studies. He was designed by his father for the law, but he himself was anxious for a military life. In 1687 he went over to Holland, where he passed through the first military gradations, under the eye of the prince of Orange. At this time he could speak the French, Spanish, German, Italian and Dutch languages with great purity. At the Revolution he returned to Scotland. He was amongst the first to declare for William and Mary, and went up with his father to London to pay his homage to King William, by whom he was most graciously received. He attended the king to Ireland, and in 1692 accompanied his father and King William to Flanders. His majesty conferred a colonel’s commission on him, and he served as a volunteer under the earl of Angus, colonel of the Cameronian regiment, at the battle of Steinkirk, August 2d of that year, where Angus was killed. Although so young, no British officer signalized himself more in this engagement than Colonel Dalrymple. He several times rallied his regiment when the ranks were broken by the cannon, and brought them back to the charge. In the succeeding winter he was sent to study the law at the university of Leyden, where he had previously received the greater part of his education. In 1700 he accompanied Lord Lexington in his embassy to Vienna, and after making the tour of Germany and Italy, he returned home in 1701. Soon after he was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the Scots regiment of foot guards. In 1702 he served as aide-de-camp to the duke of Marlborough at the taking of Venloo and Liege, and the attack on Peer. At the assault on the citadel of Venloo, when the fort of Chartreuse was taken by the allies, Colonel Dalrymple had the good fortune to save the life of the prince of Hess-Cassel, afterwards king of Sweden, who, in wrestling the colours from a French officer, was upon the point of being cut down by a grenadier, when Dalrymple shot the assailant dead upon the spot, with his pistol. In April 1703, he had a colonel’s commission in the Dutch service. In January 1706 he obtained the command of the Cameronian regiment, and in the succeeding August that of the Royal Scots Greys. He was a brigadier-general at the battle of Ramilies, 12th May that year; and, succeeding his father in January 1707 as second earl of Stair, was soon after chosen one of the representative peers of Scotland in the imperial parliament. He held an important command at the victories of Oudenarde and Malplaquet; and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general, January 1, 1710. In the winder of 1709 he had been sent ambassador extraordinary to the king of Poland, but in May 1710 he went to the siege of Douay, which surrendered to the allies on the 26th of June. In the same year he was invested with the order of the thistle. On the dismissal of the Godolphin ministry in 1711, when the duke of Marlborough was superseded by the duke of Ormond in the command of the army, Lord Stair sold his commission, and retired from the military service for the time.

On the accession of George I., his lordship was appointed one of the lords of the bedchamber, sworn a privy councilor, and, in the absence of the duke of Argyle, was constituted commander-in-chief of the forces in Scotland. In 1715 he was sent on a diplomatic mission to France, and after the death of Louis XIV. Was appointed ambassador extraordinary to the French court. He entered Paris in a splendid manner, and was successful in all his negotiations for the defeat of the attempts made in favour of the Pretender. Several of his letters are published in the Hardwicke Collection of State Papers. He was recalled in 1720, when he retired to his seat at Newliston, where he turned his attention to agriculture, and was the first in Scotland who introduced the cultivation of turnips and cabbages in the open fields. The fine woods that adorn Newliston were planted by him, and it is said, that he arranged them so as to represent the position of the British troops at one of the victories at which he had been engaged. In April 1730 he was appointed lord-admiral of Scotland. He held that and other posts till April 1733, when he fell into disgrace at court, for opposing a bill brought in by government for changing the duties on tobacco and wine, and bringing them under the laws of excise, which was greatly disliked by the trading part of the nation.

On the dissolution of the Walpole administration in 1742, Lord Stair was recalled to public life, appointed field-marshal, sent ambassador to Holland, and nominated governor of Minorca. He was subsequently appointed commander-in-chief of the allied army in Flanders, and was present with the king at the battle of Dettingen, June 16, 1742. Disgusted, however, at the preference given to the Hanoverian generals, he soon after resigned his command, and retired to the Hague. The memorial which he presented to his majesty on this occasion is printed in Dalrymple’s Memoirs of Great Britain. In 1744 he was appointed commander-in-chief of the forces in the United Kingdom, and restored to his command of the Scots Greys. Upon the breaking out of the rebellion in 1745, he repaired to court, and offered his services to the government, which were gladly accepted. He accompanied the duke of Cumberland to Edinburgh. After the suppression of the rebellion, he continued at court till the winter of 1746, when he removed for his health to Scotland. He died at Queensberry House, Edinburgh, May 9, 1747, in the 74th year of his age. The earl of Stair, in person, was about six feet high. He was, perhaps, one of the handsomest men of his time, and remarkable, among the nobility, for his graceful mien and majestic appearance. His complexion was fair, but rather comely than delicate; his forehead was large and graceful, his nose straight and exquisitely proportioned to his face. He was universally acknowledged to have been the first diplomatist of his day. His lordship married Lady Eleanor Campbell, fourth daughter of James, second earl of Loudon. She was first married to James, first Viscount Primrose, who died in 1706, and was mother of the second and third Viscounts Primrose. She had no issue to the earl of Stair, whom she survived, and died at Edinburgh 21st November 1759. Some remarkable circumstances in the early life of this lady formed the groundwork of a tale by Sir Walter Scott, under the title of ‘Aunt Margaret’s Mirror.’ These have been related in a more ample form by Mr. Robert Chambers, in his ‘Reekiana, or Minor Antiquities of Edinburgh,’ and copied into the 88th number of ‘Chambers’ Journal,’ first series. It appears that Lord Primrose, her first husband, was a man of bad temper and dissolute character, and treated her so barbarously that, under the apprehension that he meditated putting an end to her life, she made her escape from his house, and never lived with him again. According to tradition, she was shown by a foreign conjuror who had taken up his residence in the Canongate of Edinburgh, the shadowy representation of her husband’s intended nuptials with a merchant’s daughter on the Continent, which were prevented at the altar by the opportune appearance of the brother of the viscountess. The resolution which she had formed, after the death of Lord Primrose, never to marry again, is said to have been overcome by the following manoeuvre of Lord Stair, who had sought her hand in vain. By dint of bribes to her domestics, his lordship got himself admitted one night, into a small room in her ladyship’s house, where she used to say her prayers every morning, and the window of which looked out upon the principal street of Edinburgh. At this window next morning Lord Stair showed himself, half undressed, to the people passing along the street, and lest her reputation should suffer, her ladyship felt herself constrained to accept of him as her second husband. His portrait is subjoined:

[portrait of Lord Stair]

The earl of Stair, and his grandmother, Margaret, the first viscountess Stair, and the original of Lady Ashton in Scott’s tale of ‘The Bride of Lammermuir,’ lie interred in the family vault Kirkliston church.

As the earl’s next brother and heir presumptive, Colonel the Hon. William Dalrymple of Glenmure, had married the countess of Dumfries, a peeress in her own right, his lordship surrendered all his honours to the crown, and obtained a new charter, of date 17th February 1707, ratified by an act of the Scots parliament, 21st March of the same year, containing, in default of male issue, a reversionary clause in favour of any one of the male descendants of the first viscount of Stair, as he should nominate to succeed him. By a writing under his hand, dated 31st March 1747, six weeks before his death, he named as his successor, his nephew, Captain John Dalrymple, eldest son of a younger brother, the Hon. George Dalrymple of Dalmahoy, one of the barons of exchequer in Scotland. The succession to the titles was contested by James Dalrymple, second surviving son of Colonel the Hon. William Dalrymple, above mentioned, on the ground that it was not in the power of the sovereign to transfer the right to create or nominate a peer to any individual. Both cousins voted as earl of Stair at the general election of Scots representative peers, 13th August 1747, and petitions to the king were presented from both, claiming the titles, as also one from the earl of Dumfries, eldest son of Colonel William Dalrymple and the countess, if it was not adjudged to his brother, James. The House of Lords having, on 4th May 1748, decided in favour of James Dalrymple, he accordingly became third earl of Stair. His father, Colonel the Hon. William Dalrymple of Glenmure was the fourth but second surviving son of the first earl of Stair, and M.P. for Ayrshire in the last parliament of Scotland. He was a firm supporter of the treaty of Union, and afterwards sat first for Clackmannanshire, then for the Stranraer burghs, and latterly for Wigtonshire, in the imperial parliament. He died 3d December 1744. By his wife, the countess of Dumfries, he had six sons, the three youngest of whom died unmarried, and two daughters. His eldest son, William, succeeded as earl of Dumfries. His second son, Captain the Hon. John Dalrymple, the favourite nephew of the great earl of Stair, died, unmarried, 23d February 1742. The third son, James, passed advocate in 1728, and by the resolution of the House of Lords became third earl of Stair, 4th May 1748. He died, without issue, 13th March 1760, and in pursuance of the remainders in the patent, the earldom of Stair reverted to his eldest brother, William, fourth earl of Dumfries, who thus became fourth earl of Stair also. (See DUMFRIES, earl of.) Dying, without surviving issue, 27th July 1768, he was succeeded as fifth earl of Stair by his cousin, Captain John Dalrymple, to whom the title had at first been assigned under the new patent, eldest son of the Hon. George Dalrymple, fifth son of the first earl of Stair. His father passed advocate in 1704, and was appointed one of the barons of the court of exchequer in Scotland in 1707. He purchased at a judicial sale, the estate of Dalmahoy, Mid Lothian, and died at Moffat, 29th July 1745. With two daughters, he had a younger son, General William Dalrymple, lieutenant-governor of Chelsea hospital, who died at London, 23d February 1707, leaving an only son, John William Henry Dalrymple, who became seventh earl of Stair.

The fifth earl passed advocate in 1741, but afterwards went into the army, and had the rank of captain. He sold the estate of Newliston to Roger Hog, Esq. Chosen one of the sixteen representative Scots peers on a vacancy in 1771, he opposed the measures of the administration which led to the revolt of the American colonies. Having presented the petition of the agent for Massachusetts against these measures, he received the thanks of that province in 1774. He was the author of several pamphlets on political subjects, which have entitled him to a place in Walpole’s Catalogue of Royal and Noble Authors, vol. v. Park’s edition (1805). Their titles are: ‘Considerations preliminary to the fixing the Supplies, the Ways and Means, and the Taxes for the year 1781,’ Lond. 1781, 8vo; ‘Facts and their Consequences submitted to the consideration of the Public at large.’ Lond. 1782, 8vo; ‘Argument to prove that it is the indispensable duty of the Creditors of the Public to insist that Government do forthwith being forward the consideration of the State of the Nation,’ Lond. 1783, 8vo; ‘State of the Public Debts,’ Lond. 1783, 8vo; ‘Address to and Expostulation with the Public,’ Lond. 1784, 8vo; ‘Comparative State of the Public Revenues for the years 1783-4,’ Lond. 1785, 8vo; ‘The Proper Limits of the Government’s interference with the affairs of the East India Company,’ 1784. In this tract he severely attacked the coalition ministry, and promised his support to the Pitt administration so long as they should continue to deserve it. He died Oct. 13, 1789. He married a daughter of George Middleton, Esq., banker in London, and had one son, John, who succeeded.

John, sixth earl of Stair, born Sept. 24, 1749, became a captain in the 87th foot in 1779, and served in the first American war. He was at the successful attack on New London and Fort Griswold, in Sept. 1781, under Sir Henry Clinton, who sent him home with the dispatches. He was appointed minister plenipotentiary to the king and republic of Poland, Jan. 5, 1782, and envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to the court of Berlin, Aug. 5, 1785. Succeeding his father in 1789, he was chosen one of the sixteen Scots representative peers at the general election of 1790, and several times rechosen. He died, without issue, June 1, 1821.

His cousin, John William Henry Dalrymple, son of General William Dalrymple, above mentioned, became seventh earl. Born November 16, 1784, he married in 1808, Laura, youngest daughter of John Manners, Esq. of Grantham Grange, and Louisa, countess of Dysert. This marriage was dissolved the following year, in consequence of his having entered into a marriage contract in 1804 with Johanna, daughter of Charles Gordon, Esq. of Cluny. The latter marriage was, however, dissolved in June 1820. The earl died at Paris, without issue, March 22, 1840.

His kinsman, Sir John Hamilton Dalrymple, baronet, succeeded him as eighth earl. He was the 4th but eldest surviving son of Sir John Dalrymple of Cranston, fourth baronet of that family, one of the barons of the court of Exchequer in Scotland, and author of those ‘Memoirs of Great Britain and Ireland,’ which first revealed the painful fact that Sidney and some others of the great Whig patriots, in the reign of Charles II., were pensioners of the French king. The eighth earl, born 15th June 1771, succeeded, on the death of his father, 26th February 1810, to the baronetcy of Nova Scotia, which had been conferred on his great-great-grandfather, Sir James Dalrymple of Borthwick, 28th April 1698. through his mother, Elizabeth, only child of Thomas Hamilton MacGill of Fala, and heiress of the Viscounts Oxenford, he inherited the estates of Oxenford and Fala. He entered the army as ensign in the 40th foot, 28th February 1790, and attained the rank of general 28th June 1838. In 1843 he was appointed colonel of the 46th foot. Long known as Sir John Dalrymple, he early embraced the Whig cause, and more than once before the passing of the Reform Bill in 1832, contested the representation of Mid Lothian, without success. In December of that year, he carried his election for the county by a majority of 65 votes. He succeeded his cousin, the seventh earl of Stair, in that title and the ample estates connected with it, in March 1840, and in the following month was appointed keeper of the great seal of Scotland, an office which he held till September 1841. On the 11th August that year he was created Baron Oxenford of Cousland in the peerage of the United Kingdom, with remainder to his brother, North Hamilton Dalrymple of Cleland and Fordell. In August 1846, he was reappointed keeper of the great seal of Scotland. IN 1847 he was made a knight of the Thistle. In his latter years his attention was engrossed by the management of his extensive estates in Mid Lothian and Galloway. Of the former county he was for some years convener. He died at his seat of Oxenford castle, Mid Lothian, 10th January 1853, at the age of 82. Although twice married, he had no issue. His titles and estates devolved on his brother, North Hamilton Dalrymple.

North Hamilton Dalrymple, 9th earl of Stair, born in Edinburgh in 1776, married, first in 1817, Margaret, youngest daughter of James Penny, Esq. of Arrad, Lancashire; and, 2dly, in 1831, Martha Willet, daughter of Colonel George Dalrymple. By his first wife, he had, with 4 daughters, a son, John, Viscount Dalrymple, lord-lieutenant of Wigtownshire, at one period a captain in the guards, and M.P. for that county from July 1841 to Feb. 1856. Born April 1, 1819, Lord Dalrymple married, in 1846, Louisa Jane Henrietta Emily de Franquetot, eldest daughter of Augustin, Duc de Coigny, by his wife, Henrietta Dundas Dalrymple Hamilton, daughter of Sir Hew Dalrymple Hamilton, baronet; issue, 3 sons and 5 daughters. By his 2d wife the 9th earl had a son, Hon. George Grey, born in 1832, an officer in the Scots fusilier guards. The latter married Elinor Alice, 5th daughter of 9th Lord Napier, with issue. Margaret Penny, 4th daughter of the 9th earl, married, in 1859, Allan Alexander Macconochie Welwood, Esq., LL.D., eldest son of Alexander M. Welwood, Esq. of Meadowbank and Garvock, a judge of the court of session under the title of Lord Meadowbank.

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