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The Great Historic Families of Scotland
The Earldom of Menteith

THE district of Menteith, situated partly in Perthshire, partly in the county of Stirling, is celebrated for the beauty of its scenery and its traditionary and historical associations. It has been depicted by Sir Walter Scott both in prose and verse—in the ‘Lady of the Lake’ and in ‘Rob Roy,’ and the ‘Legend of Montrose,’ and is probably more familiar to Englishmen, Americans, and Continental visitors than any other part of Scotland. The earldom of Menteith, which takes its name from the district, is one of the most ancient of the Scottish titles of nobility, and dates from the beginning of the twelfth century, while the oldest English earldom—that of Huntingdon—is three hundred years, and the oldest barony—De Ros—is a hundred and fifty years, later. This famous earldom has been borne successively by three of the most distinguished families of Scotland—the Red Comyns, the royal Stewarts, and the gallant Grahams—and is associated with a great part of the most important and interesting events in the history of the country.

Of the original line of the Earls of Menteith only three are known—Gilchrist, Murdoch, and Maurice. On the death of Earl Maurice, about the year 1226, his title and estates descended to his daughter, Isabella, the wife of Walter Comyn, second son of the first Earl of Buchan. Comyn, who became Earl of Menteith in right of his wife, was one of the most powerful nobles in the kingdom, the leader of the national party, and one of the regents of the kingdom during the minority of Alexander III. He is described by Pordun as a man prudent in counsel, valiant in battle, whose foresight had been obtained by long experience. He founded the Priory of Inchmahome, on the island of that name in the Lake of Menteith, in 1238, which for upwards of three centuries flourished as a religious house, and afforded a place of refuge to the infant Queen Mary after the battle of Pinkie. He was the builder of the famous castle of Hermitage in Liddesdale, the stronghold in succession of the Soulis family, the Douglases, Hepburns, and Scotts. He also erected the castle of Dalswinton, in Galloway, long one of the chief residences of the Comyns. His sagacity and influence were conspicuously shown at the accession of Alexander IlI. to the throne in the eighth year of his age. The leaders of the English party endeavoured to postpone the coronation of the youthful monarch, on the plea that the day fixed for the ceremony was unlucky, and that it was unprecedented to crown the king before he became a knight. But the Earl of Menteith, ‘a man of foresight and shrewdness in counsel,’ says the old chronicler, ‘urged the danger of delay, as the English King Henry was intriguing at Rome to procure from the Pope an interdict against the coronation of the young prince, alleging that Alexander, being his liegeman, should not be anointed or crowned without his permission.’ ‘He had seen a king consecrated,’ the Earl said, 'who was not yet a knight, and had many a time heard of kings being consecrated who were not knights; further, that a country without a king was beyond doubt like a ship amid the waves of the sea without a crew or steersman. So he moved that this boy be raised to the throne as quickly as possible, seeing it is always hurtful to put off what may be done at once.’ The prompt and wise counsel of this great noble silenced the objections of the English partisans, and induced the barons and bishops to proceed at once with the coronation of the young king. ‘The bold baron of Menteith,’ says Chalmers in his ‘Caledonia,’ ‘deserves lasting praise for having thus exploded a scruple which might have involved an irascible nation in civil war.’

By a dexterous stratagem Alan Durward, the High Justiciary and the leader of the English party, obtained possession of the King’s person and the castle of Edinburgh in 1255, and with the assistance of King Henry, Alexander’s father-in-law, the regents were supplanted by others who were favourable to the English interests and supremacy. But the national party refused to acknowledge the new regents, who, in consequence of their oppressive treatment of the Bishop of St. Andrews, were excommunicated by the Pope. The Earl of Menteith availed himself of the favourable opportunity to overthrow this unpatriotic faction, and suddenly seized the young king while he was holding a court at Kinross, rescuing him, as he said, from the hands of excommunicated traitors; and Alan Durward and the barons who supported him immediately fled to England.

Soon after the new government was established, the national party lost their leader. He died suddenly, without male issue, in 1258, and it was believed that he had been poisoned by his wife, in order that she might be free to marry an English knight, named John Russell. There was no satisfactory evidence adduced to prove her guilt, but her marriage to Russell, which took place shortly after, gave colour to the charge. She was in consequence deprived of her earldom, and imprisoned, along with her new husband, and was ultimately expelled the kingdom in disgrace. The Countess appealed to the Pope (Urban IV.) against the injustice which she alleged had been done to her, but the Scottish King and his nobles indignantly repelled the interference of the Roman Pontiff with the affairs of the kingdom. Isabella, daughter of the Countess by Walter Comyn, married her cousin, William Comyn; and after long contention a compromise was effected in the year 1285, and the vast domains of the earldom were divided between the Lady Isabella and the husband of her mother’s youngest sister, WALTER STEWART, a son of the High Steward of Scotland, who obtained the title. The new Earl of Menteith, surnamed Bailloch, or ‘the Freckled,’ was a famous warrior. He joined the disastrous expedition under St. Louis of France, called the Third Crusade, for the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre, and fought with great distinction at the battle of Largs in 1263, at which his elder brother defeated the Norwegians under King Haco. He took a prominent part in the proceedings connected with the contest for the Scottish crown after the death of the ‘Maiden of Norway,’ and was one of the commissioners nominated by Robert Bruce in his competition with John Baliol. The Earl left two sons, who dropped their paternal surname of Stewart, and assumed that of Menteith. The younger of the two, Sir John Menteith of Ruskie, is the ‘false Menteith’ who is branded by Scottish tradition and history as the betrayer of the patriot Wallace. Lord Hailes, who sometimes carried his scepticism respecting the statements of the old Scottish historians a great deal too far, discredits the story, which he asserts rests only on tradition and the allegations of Blind Harry. Sheriff Mark Napier, a descendant of Sir John Menteith, has made an elaborate defence of his ancestor from the charge of betraying Wallace; and Mr. Burton designates it as a part of the romance of Wallace’s career that he was betrayed by a fellow-countryman and an old companion in arms. ‘Menteith,’ he adds, ‘held the responsible post of Governor of Dumbarton Castle, and it seems likely that he only performed a duty, whether an agreeable one or not.’

There is conclusive evidence, however, afforded by documents recently discovered that the charge brought against Menteith is not without foundation. Mr. Fraser, who has discussed this question very fully and impartially in the ‘Red Book of Menteith,’ and has carefully examined all the documents bearing on the subject, is of opinion that the accusation that Menteith basely betrayed Wallace as his friend rests upon evidence too insufficient to sustain such a charge. But the documents which Mr. Fraser has examined show that Sir John Menteith fought on the patriotic side at the battle of Dunbar in 1296, where he was taken prisoner along with his elder brother; that he afterwards made his peace with Edward I., and supported the claims of that monarch; that he again returned to the patriotic party; that he once more submitted to the English king, and obtained from him the sheriffdom of Dumbarton and the custody of the castle to which Wallace was conveyed after his capture, and that he obtained a share of the reward which Edward had promised to the persons who should be instrumental in delivering the Scottish patriot into the hands of his enemies. It is impossible to speak with certainty as to the extent of friendship that may have existed between Wallace and the vacillating turncoat noble, but there can be no doubt that they must have had ‘intercourse and familiarity.’ In the ‘Relationes Arnaldi Blair,’ it is mentioned that in August, 1298, Wallace, Governor of Scotland, with John Graham and John de Men/el/h, and Alexander Scrymegour, Constable of Dundee and Standard-bearer of Scotland, acted together in an expedition into Galloway against the rebels who adhered to the party of Scotland and the Comyns.

There is abundant contemporary evidence to prove that Sir John Menteith was the chief agent in the capture of Wallace. In the ‘Chronicle of Lancaster,’ written in the thirteenth century, it is stated that ‘William Wallace was taken by a Scotsman, namely, Sir John Menteith, and carried to London, where he was drawn, hanged, and beheaded.’ In the account of the capture and execution of Wallace contained in the Arundel manuscript, written about the year 1320, it is stated that ‘William Wallace was seized in the house of Ralph Rae by Sir John Menteith, and carried to London by Sir John de Segrave, where he was judged.’ Fordun, who lived in the reign of King Robert Bruce, when the memory of the exploits of Wallace must have been quite fresh, says: ‘The noble William Wallace was, by Sir John Menteith, at Glasgow, while suspecting no evil, fraudulently betrayed and seized, delivered to the King of England, dismembered at London, and his quarters hung up in the towns of the most public places in England and Scotland, in opprobium of the Scots.’ Wyntoun, whose ‘Metrical Chronicle’ was written in 1418, says— 

‘Schyre Jhon of Menteith in tha days
Tuk in Glasgow William Walays; 
And sent hym untill Ingland sune, 
There was he quartayrd and undone.’

The English chronicler, Langtoft, states that Menteith discovered the retreat of Wallace through the treacherous information of Jack Short, his servant, and that he came under cover of night and seized him in bed. A passage in the ‘Scala Chronica,’ quoted by Leland, says, ‘William Walleys was taken of the Counte of Menteith, about Glasgow, and sent to King Edward, and after was hanged, drawn, and quartered at London.’ But the most conclusive evidence of all that Menteith took a prominent part in the betrayal and capture of Wallace is afforded by the fact that while very liberal rewards were given to all the persons concerned in this infamous affair, by far the largest share fell to Menteith: he received land to the value of one hundred pounds.

ALEXANDER MENTEITH, sixth Earl of Menteith, elder brother of the ‘false Menteith,’ fought on the patriotic side in the War of Independence, and in consequence lay for a considerable time in an English dungeon. His son, ALAN MENTEITH, seventh earl, a staunch supporter of Robert Bruce, was taken prisoner at the battle of Methven, in 1306, when the fortunes of the patriot king were at the lowest ebb, was deprived of his estates by Edward I., and died in an English dungeon. He was succeeded by his brother, MURDOCH STEWART, who was killed at the battle of Dupplin, 12th April, 1332. His niece, LADY MARY, only daughter of Earl Alan, who appears to have been under age at the time of her father’s death, now became Countess of Menteith. She married Sir John Graham, who is supposed to have been the younger son of Sir Patrick Graham of Kincardine, ancestor of the Montrose family, and became Earl of Menteith apparently by courtesy through his wife. He accompanied David II. in his invasion of England in 1346. He was present at the battle of Durham, and, when the archers were almost within bowshot, earnestly urged the King to send a body of cavalry to charge them in flank. His advice was unhappily disregarded, and when the archers were about to direct their deadly volleys on the serried ranks of the Scottish spearmen, the Earl exclaimed, ‘Give me but a hundred horse and I engage to disperse them all; so shall we be able to fight more securely.’ His appeal was, however, unheeded, and hastily leaping upon his horse, and followed only by his own retainers, he rushed upon the advancing bowmen. But his gallant attack was not supported. His horse was killed under him, and after bravely, but vainly, striving to arrest the advance of the enemy, he was compelled to retire to the main body of the Scottish army. After a stout battle, which lasted for three hours, the Earl was taken prisoner, along with his sovereign, and was imprisoned in the Tower of London. By the direct orders of King Edward, he was tried and condemned as a traitor, on the plea that he had at one time sworn fealty to the English King, and was drawn, hanged, beheaded, and quartered.

LADY MARGARET GRAHAM, only child of the heroic Sir John Graham, Earl of Menteith, and Lady Mary his countess, inherited the earldom about the year 1360. She was four times married, twice before she had attained the age of twenty years; and she received five dispensations from the Roman Pontiff to enable her to enter into her successive matrimonial alliances. Her first husband, to whom she was married when she was fourteen, was Sir John Moray of Bothwell, son of Sir Andrew Moray, who was regent of the kingdom during the minority of David II. He died about the close of the year 1351 without issue. The hand of Lady Margaret was next sought in marriage by Thomas, thirteenth Earl of Mar, the last male heir of the ancient race of that house, to whom she was married in 1352; but she was soon after divorced by him, Fordun says by the instigation of the devil and on pretences that were utterly false.

‘The true reason for this action,’ says Mr. Frazer, ‘is no doubt to be found in the fact that the Earl of Mar, naturally desirous of having children of his own to succeed to his old and historical earldom of Mar, and finding himself disappointed in this after his union with Lady Margaret Graham, as it is recorded that there were no children of the marriage, separated himself from her, in the hope that by a new matrimonial alliance he might have an heir. He afterwards married Lady Margaret Stewart, Countess of Angus, who was the eldest daughter and heiress of Thomas Stewart, second Earl of Angus. But he was again disappointed, and he died without issue in 1377.’

Lady Margaret, who was still little more than twenty years of age, was induced to take for her third husband, in 1359, John Drummond, of Concraig, for the sake of healing the fierce feuds that raged between the Menteiths and the Drummonds. He died, however, probably in 1360, for his widow married again in 1361. Her fourth and last husband was Sir Robert Stewart, third son of Robert Stewart, Earl of Strathern, Hereditary High Steward, afterwards King Robert II. of Scotland; and by this marriage she carried the earldom of Menteith back to the race of her maternal ancestors, the Stewarts. ROBERT STEWART was created Earl of Menteith on the 26th of March, 1371, the day on which his father was crowned, and on the 30th of that month the Lady Isabella, Countess of Fife, recognised the Earl as her true and lawful heir-apparent in virtue of the entail made by her father, Sir Duncan, Earl of Fife, in favour of Alan, Earl of Menteith, grandfather of Earl Robert’s wife, and of the entail made by Lady Isabella herself and her late husband, elder brother of Sir Robert, in his favour. A meeting of Parliament, held at Scone in April, 1373, ordained that, failing the eldest son of the King and his heirs, the succession to the Crown should devolve on the EARL OF FIFE AND MENTEITH, who was to take precedence of the younger sons of the sovereign. He received numerous grants of land from his father, with whom he seems to have been a favourite, and he was appointed in 1382 to the office of High Chamberlain, left vacant by the death of Sir John Lyon of Glammis.

In consequence of the advanced age of his father, Robert II., and the physical infirmity of his brother, the Earl of Carrick, afterwards Robert III., the Estates deemed it necessary in 1388 to appoint the Earl of Fife and Menteith Guardian of the Kingdom, and he was virtually its ruler thenceforth to the end of his life. In the year 1398 he was created Duke of Albany, at the same time that the King’s eldest son, the Earl of Carrick and Athole, was made Duke of Rothesay. Albany was crafty and ambitious, but he was possessed of great administrative ability, and his pacific policy secured for Scotland under his sway a happy exemption from those wars which for many years had exhausted the resources of the country and retarded all social improvement. His administration was undoubtedly popular; the people regarded him as their friend, the nobles were friendly to him, and his liberality to the Church procured for him the grateful eulogies of the clergy. Wyntoun, the Prior of St. Serf’s, in his ‘Metrical Chronicle,’ descants in glowing terms on the Regent’s goodly person and lofty stature; his strength, wisdom, chastity, sobriety, and affability; his piety, hatred of Lollards and heretics, and liberality to the Church. He has, however, in various ways received scant justice at the hands of the later historians of Scotland, and has long lain under the evil repute of having been accessory to the murder of his nephew, the dissolute and ill-fated Duke of Rothesay. Sir Walter Scott’s romance of the ‘Fair Maid of Perth’ has contributed not a little to deepen the unfavourable impression formed of Albany’s conduct in this matter. Lord Hailes, after quoting the remission drawn up under the royal seal granted to Robert, Duke of Albany, and Archibald, Earl of Douglas, for the part they took in the apprehension of the prince, says— 

‘From this instrument the following circumstances may be collected

‘1. The death of David, Prince of Scotland, occasioned a parliamentary inquiry.

‘2. His uncle, Robert, Duke of Albany, and his brother-in-law, Archibald, Earl of Douglas, were at least suspected of having confined him and put him to death.

‘3. The result of the inquiry was that the Duke of Albany and the Earl of Douglas avowed that they had confined him, and justified their conduct from the basis of public utility.

‘4. The King did not hold it as expedient or necessary to publish these motives to the world.

‘5. It appeared that the "Prince of Scotland departed this life through Divine Providence, and not otherwise." The reader will determine as to the import of this phrase. If by it a natural death was intended, the circumlocution seems strange and affected.

‘6. The Duke of Albany and the Earl of Douglas obtained a remission in terms as ample as if they had actually murdered the heir-apparent.’

Mr. Frazer, in his ‘Red Book of Menteith,’ has very carefully investigated the charge against the Regent and Douglas, and has come to the conclusion that the story of Rothesay’s death by starvation in a dungeon in Falkland Palace, which was first told by Hector Bocce, is not supported by any evidence of the slightest value. The eminent genealogist puts great weight on the facts that the charges were judicially investigated by Parliament, with the result that the Duke and the Earl were completely vindicated from the accusation made against them; and that the King himself, Rothesay’s father, declared publicly and explicitly in Parliament, that they were innocent from every charge of blame in connection with the Prince’s death.

Albany died in peace on the 3rd of September, 1419, in the eightieth year of his age, having virtually governed Scotland for thirty-four years, though his actual regency extended to only fourteen. He was succeeded in his titles, estates, and office by his son Murdoch, who was most unjustly and cruelly put to death, along with his sons, and his aged father-in-law, the Earl of Lennox, and their estates forfeited, by James I., on his return, in 1425, from his long captivity in England. The unrelenting severity with which the King wreaked his vengeance on the house of Albany excited deep and general indignation.

The earldom of Menteith, on the execution and forfeiture of Earl Murdoch, became vested in the Crown, and a moiety of it was conferred in 1427 upon MALISE GRAHAM, son of Sir Patrick Graham and Euphemia, granddaughter of Robert Stewart, as some compensation for the loss of the earldom palatine of Strathern, one of the oldest and most illustrious of Scottish dignities, which he had inherited from his mother, and which the King had appropriated on the plea that it was a male fief. The other portion was reserved to the Crown, and was afterwards known as the STEWARTRY OF MENTEITH. The second son of Earl Malise, named ‘Sir John with the Bright Sword,’ upon some displeasure having arisen against him at Court, retired with a large number of his kindred and clan to the English Border, during the reign of Henry IV., where they became the most formidable of the freebooters resident in the Debateable Land. ‘They were all stark moss-troopers and arrant thieves;’ says Sandford, ‘both to England and Scotland outlawed, yet sometimes connived at because they gave intelligence forth of Scotland, and could raise four hundred horse upon a raid of the English into Scotland.’

Sir Walter Scott describing— 

‘Old Albert Graeme,
The minstrel of that ancient name,’

says that— 

‘His hardy kin,
Whoever lost, were sure to win.
They sought the beeves that made their broth
In Scotland and in England both.’

From ‘John with the Bright Sword’ descended the Grahams of Gartmore, West Preston, Norton Conyers, Yorkshire, and of Netherby, lately represented by Sir James Graham, the distinguished statesman, whose tall and stalwart form and vigorous intellect were worthy of his ancestry.

Earl Malise was succeeded in 1490 in the earldom of Menteith by his grandson, ALEXANDER GRAHAM, whose father seems to have been Patrick Graham, third son of Malise. Of him nothing deserving particular notice is recorded. WILLIAM GRAHAM, eldest son of Earl Alexander, succeeded his father in 1537. He lost his life in a sanguinary fight with a party of marauding Highlanders—the Stewarts of Appin. On their retreat from a raid into Stirling-shire, through the lands of the Earl, in 1543, headed by the Tutor of Appin, surnamed ‘Donald of the Hammer,’ the Stewarts happened to pass by the Lake of Menteith at the time that preparations were making for a marriage feast at the Earl’s castle, which stood on an island in the lake, while the outhouses were on the shore. The hungry and not over-scrupulous marauders ate up all the provisions, which consisted mainly of poultry. As soon as intelligence of this outrage reached the Earl, indignant at the affront offered him even more than at the injury, he pursued after Donald and his men, accompanied by his retainers and the wedding guests, and overtook them, according to one account in the gorge of a pass near a rock called Craigvad, according to another at Tobanareal, a spring on the summit of the ridge which separates Menteith from Strathgartney, between Loch Katrine and the Lake of Menteith. A sanguinary engagement ensued, in which the Earl and nearly all his followers were killed, and ‘Donald of the Hammer’ escaped under cover of night with only a single attendant. From the cause of this fight the Highlanders ever after gave the name of the ‘Grahams of the Hens’ to the Menteith family. 

JOHN GRAHAM, fourth Earl of Menteith, succeeded his father in 1544, while still a minor. He was one of the nobles who escorted the young Queen Mary to France in 1550, and was probably selected to be one of her guardians during the voyage in consequence of her having had a temporary refuge in one of the islands on the Lake of Menteith in the immediate vicinity of his residence. He received in 1554 from the Queen-Dowager, Mary of Guise, a commission as justiciary over both the earldom and the Stewartry of Menteith; but he afterwards became dissatisfied with her policy and proceedings, and in 1558 he joined the Lords of the Congregation. He was one of the leaders of their army at the siege of Leith in 1560; he sat in the Parliament which ratified the Scottish Confession, and he subsequently subscribed the first Book of Discipline. He died in 1560. The earldom remained for upwards of seven years after his death in the hands of Queen Mary and James VI. on account of the minority of his son— 

WILLIAM GRAHAM, fifth Earl. He was a zealous supporter of the Protestant cause, took part in the proceedings connected with Queen Mary’s resignation of her crown and the accession of her infant son to the throne, and was present at the battle of Langside, in May, 1568. At the time of his death, in 1568, his son and heir— 

JOHN GRAHAM, sixth Earl, was a boy of seven or eight years of age. Little is known of his personal history, as he was in minority during the greater part of the nineteen years during which he was in possession of the earldom.

WILLIAM GRAHAM, seventh Earl, who, like his father, succeeded to the family title and estates while in his boyhood, was the most distinguished of all the earls of the house of Graham. Unlike his father and grandfather, he was a staunch Royalist and a great favourite of Charles I. He rose rapidly from comparative obscurity to be the most influential nobleman in Scotland, and held the important offices of President of the Privy Council, Justice-General, and an Extraordinary Lord of Session. Charles placed great confidence in the tact and capacity of the Earl of Menteith, and consulted him freely on all the questions which then disturbed the northern part of the kingdom. A considerable number of the letters which the Earl received from the King have been brought to light and published in the second volume of the ‘Red Book of Menteith,’ and serve to show both the state of the country at this time and the feeling which his Majesty cherished towards his faithful servant. The Earl was served heir-of-entail in 1630 to David, Earl of Strathern, eldest son of Robert II. by his second wife, and in the following year the King ratified by patent this service to the Earl, and authorised his being styled Earl of Strathern and Menteith. The other nobles, however, seem to have regarded the favoured nobleman with great envy and jealousy, and one or two of their number appear to have been actuated by apprehensions that some of their own estates which had formed part of the ancient earldom might be reclaimed. They, therefore, organised a cabal against the Earl, of which Sir John Scott of Scotstarvet, Director of Chancery, ‘a busy man in foul weather,’ was the guiding spirit, and they contrived by false and insidious accusations to excite the suspicion of the King against the potent and ambitious nobleman. The validity of the marriage of Robert II. to Elizabeth Mure, his first wife, from whom the royal Stewart family are descended, had been long and keenly disputed; and if it had been set aside, David, Earl of Strathern, the ancestor of the Menteith family, would have been the eldest legitimate son of that sovereign. In allusion to this claim the Earl of Menteith is alleged (though he affirmed untruly) to have boasted that he had ‘the reddest blood in Scotland.’ The hostile intriguers, among whom it is matter of regret that Drummond of Hawthornden, the poet, was included, succeeded in persuading Charles that the Earl of Menteith had uttered certain treasonable speeches, claiming to have a better right to the throne than the King himself. Drummond had previously stated to the king that ‘a more serious blow could not be given to the Earl of Menteith himself than allowing his descent and title to the earldom of Strathern;’ and so it proved. The unfortunate nobleman was deprived by Charles not only of the earldom of Strathern, but also of his hereditary title of Menteith. To aggravate the injustice thus done to him, he was at the same time stripped of all his offices. As some small compensation for the grievous wrong inflicted on him, he was in 1632 created Earl of Airth, and he was subsequently allowed to resume his family title of Menteith, but he passed the rest of his days in poverty and obscurity.

To add to his miseries, this ill-fated nobleman, like many a good man, was sorely troubled with a bad wife, and he gave vent to his feelings in a most amusing paper detailing his sufferings at the hands of that ‘wicked woman’ and her ‘wise devices,’ which seemed somehow always to run counter to those of her husband, whether the affair in hand referred to the purchase of a house or the marriage of a daughter. The money given as a portion to his second daughter, who, during the Earl’s absence in London, was married by ‘my prudent wife,’ as he styles her, to the eldest son of the Earl of Galloway, amounted to twenty-seven thousand merks. ‘I am sure,’ he said, ‘I might have married three of my daughters to three barouns living besyd me with that portion I gave to Galloway, any one of which would have been more useful to me than the Earl of Galloway. They had children, but they all dyed; so that money was as much lost to me as if I hade castin it in the sea.’ So with regard to the house which he says his ‘wyse wiffe’ induced him to buy much against his will, as he alleges. ‘This woeful wyse wife of mine,’ he says, ‘made propositioune to me that she conceived it not honourabill for me to pay rent for ane house as I did then for a little house I dwelled in beside the churchyard, bot that I should rather buy ane house heritabile; which foolish design of that wicked woman’s I refuised, and taulde her that I knew not how long I should stay at Edinburch, and would not give my money to buy ane house thair. But she replyed that it would serve for ane house for my lands of Kinpount, which foolish answer of that wicked woman’s showed her vanitie, and the great desyre she had to stay still in Edinbruch, for the like was never heard, that the house standeth sevin mylls from the lands, Kinpount being sevin mylls from Edinbruch. Alway ther being some things between the Earl of Linlithgow and me, he did offer to dispoun to me his house. The earl and I for the pryce of the house, yairds, and grass yairds, at the price of 8,500 merks, did agrie, and he disponed them to me. Presently after this I went up to London, and I was no shooner gone hot my wyfe sette to worke all sorte of tradesmen, such as quarriers, maissons, sklaitters, vrights, smiths, glasiers, painters, and plaisterers, and I may say treulie that the money which she bestowed upon the re-edifleing of that house and gardens was twyse so much as I gave for the buying of them.’ To crown all, in the end ‘that house took fyre accidentallie, and was totallie burned, and so became of everything this unhappie woman my wyfe lade her hand to.’ This curious paper, in which the poor Earl sought to relieve his feelings, affords an amusing contrast to the heavy and rather doleful document connected with his other trials and sufferings.

LORD KILPONT, the eldest son of this ill-assorted couple, was the young and gallant nobleman whose exploits occupy a prominent place in the ‘Legend of Montrose.’ Sir Walter has, however, considerably softened and altered the catastrophe, for Lord Kilpont unfortunately did not recover, but was struck dead on the spot by Stewart of Ardvoirlich.

Various accounts have been given of the causes which led to this murder, but all that is known with certainty is that, though his family had certainly no great reason to support the royal cause, Kilpont, who, like his father, had steadily refused to subscribe the Covenant, or to take part with the Covenanters, joined the Marquis of Montrose with a body of five hundred men, when he took up arms for the King in 1644, and at the battle of Tippermuir commanded the left wing of the Royal forces. A few days after, while the army was lying in the fields, near the Kirk of Collace, the young nobleman was assassinated by Stewart of Ardvoirlich, his intimate friend, whose tent and bed he had shared on the previous night.

Wishart, the chaplain and biographer of Montrose, states that Stewart had resolved to abandon the Royal cause, and to assassinate Montrose, and tried to induce Lord Kilpont to be ‘accessory to the villainy. Therefore, taking him aside into a private place, he had discovered unto him his intention, which the nobleman highly detested, as was meet. Whereupon the murderer, fearing he would discover him, assaulted him unawares, and stabbed him with many wounds, who little suspected any harm from his friend and creature. The treacherous assassin by killing a sentinel escaped, none being able to pursue him, it being so dark that they could not see the end of their pikes. Some say the traitor was hired by the Covenanters to do this, others only that he was promised a reward if he did it. Howsoever it was, this is most certain that he is very high in their favour unto this very day, and that Argyle immediately advanced him, though he was no soldier, to great command in his army. Montrose was very much troubled with the loss of that nobleman, his dear friend, one that had deserved very well both from the King and himself; a man famous for arts and arms and honesty; being a good philosopher, a good divine, a good lawyer, a good soldier, a good subject, and a good man.’ Wishart’s account of this tragic incident is in part corroborated by the Act of Parliament, passed in March, 1645, confirming the pardon granted by the Privy Council to James Stewart, for the slaughter of Kilpont. It stated what was no doubt the murderer’s own story, which there is little doubt was framed in such a way as was most likely to conciliate his new friends, and obtain an amnesty for his foul deed. The Act sets forth that James Stewart of Ardvoirlich, along with his son and four friends, ‘repenting of their errors in joyning with the saides rebbles, and abhorring their cruelty, resolved with his saide freendes to foirsake their wicked company, and impairted this resolution to the said umquhile Lord Kilpont. Bot he, out of his malignant dispositione opposed the same, and fell in struggling with the said James, who for his owne relieffe was forced to kill him at the Kirk of Collace, with two Irish rebells who resisted his escape.’

A different version of this sad story is given from tradition by the descendants of Ardvoirlich, who object to the account given by Wishart on account of his partiality, and his questionable authority when dealing with the motives or conduct of those who differed from him. According to the Stewarts, a quarrel had arisen between their ancestor and Alister Macdonald, surnamed Colkitto, on account of some excesses which the Irish troops under the command of the latter had committed on the lands of Ardvoirlich, and he challenged Colkitto to single combat. Before they met, however, Montrose, by the advice, it is alleged, of Kilpont, put them both under arrest, and compelled them to shake hands in his presence, when it is said that Ardvoirlich, who was a very powerful man, took such a hold of Macdonald’s hand as to make the blood start from his fingers.

A few days after the battle of Tippermuir an entertainment was given by Montrose to his officers, in honour of the victory which he had gained. Kilpont and his comrade Ardvoirlich were present, and on their return to their own quarters Stewart began to blame the young lord for the part he had taken in the quarrel with Colkitto. Kilpont of course defended himself, till the argument came to high words, when Stewart, who was a man of violent passions, and was probably heated with wine, broke out in great fury, and with his dirk struck his friend dead on the spot. He immediately fled, and, under cover of a thick mist, escaped pursuit, leaving his eldest son Henry, who had been mortally wounded at Tippermuir, on his deathbed.

Stewart’s followers immediately withdrew from Montrose, and no course remained for him but to throw himself into the arms of the opposite faction, by whom he was well received. His name is frequently mentioned in Leslie’s campaigns, and on more than one occasion he is referred to as having afforded protection to several of his former friends, through his interest with Leslie, when the cause became desperate.

[James Stewart of Ardvoirlich was the prototype of Allan McAulay in the ‘Legend of Montrose,’ and the story which Sir Walter ascribes to that moody and partially insane Highlander actually occurred in the case of Ardvoirlich. His mother was sister of one of the Drummonds, surnamed Drummond-Ernoch, who was royal forester in the forest of Glenartney, in the reign of James VI. About the year 1588 he was murdered by a party of the MacGregors, known by the title of MacEagh, or ‘Children of the Forest.’ They cut off his head and carried it with them, wrapped up in the corner of one of their plaids. They stopped at the house of Ardvoirlich, and demanded refreshments, which the lady (her husband being absent) was afraid, or unwilling, to refuse. She caused bread and cheese to be placed before them, and went into the kitchen to order more substantial refreshments to be made ready. On her return to the room she saw on the table the bloody head of her brother, with its mouth filled with bread and cheese. The poor lady, horrified at the sight, shrieked aloud and fled into the woods, where, notwithstanding strict search, she could not be found for some weeks. She was at length discovered in a state of insanity, but, after giving birth to a child of which she had been pregnant, she gradually recovered her faculties. The boy—James Stewart—grew up to manhood, uncommonly tall, strong, and active, but with a moody, fierce, and irascible temper; and there is every reason to believe that he was not free from a taint of insanity. He led a hard life after his murder of Lord Kilpont, as the Grahams held him at mortal feud. He had often to be in hiding, and even when he died his friends were obliged to conceal his body for some time till they could bury it safely in an old chapel.]

WILLIAM GRAHAM, the son of Lord Kilpont, who succeeded his grandfather as Earl of Airth and Menteith in 1661, died without issue in 1694. This last representative of ‘a great old house’ lived and died in impoverished circumstances. Having been obliged at one time to retire to the sanctuary of Holyrood for protection against his creditors, he applied to his kinsman, Malise Graham of Glaschoil, on the shores of Loch Katrine, for such a supply of money as might relieve him. Faithful to the call of his liege lord, Malise instantly quitted his home, dressed like a plain Highlander of those days, travelling alone and on foot. Arriving at the Earl’s lodgings, he was knocking at the door, when a gentleman, commiserating his apparent poverty, tendered him a small piece of money. Malise was in the act of thankfully receiving it when the Earl, coming to the door, perceived him and reproved him for doing so. The Highlander, with the utmost nonchalance, took from his bosom a purse, and handing it to his lordship, said in Gaelic, ‘Here, my lord, see and clear your way with that. As for the gentleman who had the generosity to hand me the halfpenny, I would have had no objection to accept of every halfpenny he had.’ The story adds that the Earl’s necessities having been thus, for the time, relieved, he immediately returned with his faithful vassal to his castle on the Lake of Menteith.

Some time before his death the Earl disposed of his whole landed property to the Marquis of Montrose and Graham of Gartmore, his nephew. The beautiful Lake of Menteith, with its islands—Talla, on which the ruins of the old castle of the family may still be seen, and Inchmahome, the ‘Isle of Rest,’ where the infant Queen Mary found refuge from the English invaders after the battle of Pinkie—together with Aberfoyle and the district which Sir Walter Scott’s ‘Rob Roy’ has rendered so famous, thus passed into the possession of the chief of ‘the gallant Grahams,’ from whom the last Earls of Menteith sprung, while their memory, even in their own country, is now but ‘the shadow of a name.’ LADY MARY GRAHAM, the sister of the last Earl of Menteith, was brought up at Fetteresso by her grandmother, the Countess Marischal, and there married Sir John Allardice, the head of an old Kincardineshire family. The great-grandson of this lady left an only daughter, who, in 1777, married Robert Barclay of Urie, a descendant of the author of the well-known ‘Apology for the Quakers,’ and father of Captain Barclay, the celebrated pedestrian. Lady Mary’s husband, when he represented Kincardineshire in Parliament, always walked from Urie to London. He was a very powerful man, and could walk fifty miles a day, his usual refreshment on the road being a bottle of port wine, which he poured into a bowl and drunk off at a draught. Lord Monboddo, the well-known eccentric judge and philosopher, his neighbour, on the other hand, always travelled on horseback, and when he went to London he rode the whole way. George III. was much interested in these performances, and said ‘I ought to be proud of my Scottish subjects when my judges ride and my members of Parliament walk to the metropolis.’

Captain Barclay laid claim to the earldom of Menteith and Airth in right of his mother, and it greatly perplexed him whether, if he succeeded in gaining the earldom, he would have to give up his favourite amusement of driving the ‘Defiance’ coach between Aberdeen and Edinburgh. On this point he consulted his friend the Duke of Gordon. ‘Why,’ replied his Grace, ‘there is not much difference between an earl and a marquis; and as the Marquis of Waterford drives the Brighton ‘Defiance,’ I see no reason why you may not drive the Edinburgh ‘Defiance.’ At all events, if there be any objection to your being the coachman, there can be none to your being guard.’

Mrs. Barclay Allardice, the claimant of the Airth peerage, is lineally descended from this aristocratic coach-driver. Her claim is opposed by Mr. Graham of Gartmore, who contends that the titles of Airth and Menteith cannot be dissevered, and that as the latter is unquestionably limited to heirs male, so must the former. Whatever may be the decision of the House of Lords on this subject, every Scotsman will cordially join in hoping that we shall soon witness the restoration to its rightful heir of one of the oldest and most famous titles— 

'... Of a race renowned of old
Whose war-cry oft has waked the battle swell,
Since first distinguished in the onset bold;
Wild-sounding when the Roman rampart fell,
By Wallace’ side it rung the Southron’s knell,’

and has been heard on many a battlefield since, from Bannockhurn to Barossa.

The Red Book of Menteith
In two volumes by William Fraser (1880)
Volume 1  |  Volume 2

 Return to the Great Historic Families of Scotland