Kilmuir and Logie Easter History

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Kilmuir and Logie Easter History - page 6

Chapter VI - The Cromartie Family

Sir George Mackenzie, who acquired the estate of Milntown in 1656, was a descendant of the Mackenzies of Kintail. His grandfather was Sir Roderick Mackenzie of Coigeach, Knight, who in 1605 married Margaret, daughter of Torquil Macleod of Lewis. Eleven years later he built the mansion of Castle Leod. Not long before his death in 1626, Sir Rorie had become owner of the lands and barony of Tarbat, but he very rarely adopted the designation of that estate, which became the territorial title of his son, John, who succeeded him, as well as the judicial and peerage designation of his grandson, George.

Sir John married Margaret, daughter of Sir George Erskine of Innerteil. He was created a Baronet of Nova Scotia by King Charles I in 1628. A Covenanter and one of the lay elders in the famous Assembly of Glasgow in 1638, he was nominated one of the committee appointed by the Assembly for examining the libels against the bishops. But, like Montrose, in spite of his attachment to the Presbyterian form of Church government, he cherished an unfaltering loyalty to the King. This led subsequently to his deserting the Covenanters, and joining Montrose in support of the royal cause. As a consequence of this he suffered imprisonment under Cromwell.

On his death in 1654, George, who was his eldest son, succeeded to the title and estates. George was educated at St Andrews University, then at King's College, Aberdeen, where he graduated in 1646. He was a distinguished scholar, excelling particularly in classics, and he had a fancy for sprinkling his letters, even love letters, with Latin phrases.

At the time of his succession, Oliver Cromwell was in control of the Government of the country, General Monck being Commander-in-Chief of the English Army in Scotland. George was an ardent Royalist, and having obtained a commission to raise forces in support of King Charles, he succeeded in gathering together a considerable number, and joined Glencairn in the famous rising on behalf of the Royal exile.

After the failure of that attempt, Sir George, with others, fled to the Castle of Island Donan. Afterwards he made a tour through the Western Isles, where he employed his time in noting "the tides and fluxes and refluxes of the sea, the natural products of the Isles", and in acquiring knowledge of all matters which might help in the advancement of Natural Philosophy. In that subject he was deeply interested. He was one of the earliest members of the Royal Society of London, and a valued contributor to its transactions. He was also the author of many works on political, historical and ecclesiastical subjects.

At the Restoration the Earl of Middleton, King's Commissioner in Scotland, appointed Mackenzie his principal adviser, and in 1661 he was nominated one of the Lords of Session, when he adopted the judicial title of Lord Tarbat. In all the proceedings at the Restoration he took a prominent part, his opinion being much respected by that rough, astute soldier, Middleton, who consulted him constantly.

With Middleton, Lord Tarbat was concerned in intrigues for the overthrow of the unpopular Earl of Lauderdale, and helped to draw up the Act of Billeting, by which, it was hoped, the removal of Lauderdale might be accomplished. The scheme failed, however, the result being the displacement, not of Lauderdale, but of Middleton himself, who was discovered to have been misleading both King and Parliament. Lord Tarbat shared in his downfall, while Lauderdale retained his office of Secretary of State for many years.

Tarbat was deprived of his seat as a Lord of Session, and kept out of all official employment. He continued, however, to represent the County of Ross in the Scottish Parliament for years, and was active in all measures which had for their object the public good, particularly of the Highlands.

In 1678, mainly through the efforts of Archbishop Sharp, he was restored to public employment. In that year he was appointed to the high office of Lord-Justice General of Scotland. At the same time he received from King Charles as a token of appreciation of his loyalty to him a grant of a pension of £200 a year.

King James also, two years after his accession, in recognition of his services as Lord Register and for other services, as well as for his fidelity during the "Usurpation", created him a Peer of Scotland. The titles of Viscount of Tarbat, Lord Macleod and Castlehaven were granted to him and his heirs - male.

While holding the offices successively of Lord-Justice General and Lord Clerk-Register, Lord Tarbat was admitted a burgess of several of the royal burghs of Scotland, including those of Haddington, Dunbar and Montrose.

Notwithstanding a life crowded with affairs of State, he found time to indulge in his favourite sport, which was hawking.

Nor was he unmindful of the necessitous poor on his estate, for it was in 1686 that he executed the deed of mortification in their favour, described in a previous chapter.

When the Prince of Orange was preparing to invade E:ngland, Lord Tarbat was not only Clerk-Register, but one of the seven members of the Secret Committee of the Council. But as soon as he realised that the cause of James was lost and the Prince of Orange likely to prevail, he set about providing for his own safety by seeking the favour of the Marquis of Athole, one of the Prince's supporters. In this he succeeded for a time, but later, suspicions of his loyalty being aroused, he was arrested at his lodging in Parliament Close. He succeeded, however, in making his escape to London, where he gained the ear of the Prince before any information regarding his antecedents reached him, and made such an impression on the Prince that he accepted him as his friend, regarding him as one more worthy of trust than any other of his professed supporters.

Eventually he was restored to his old post of Lord Clerk-Register, and continued in high favour during the Prince's life-time.

In many difficult problems Tarbat showed great wisdom and astuteness. By advising in council the disbanding of the Militia he helped to facilitate the peaceful establishment of the new Government.

After the Battle of Killiecrankie he was deputed by the Government to enter into negotiations with the Highland clans, and was successful in bringing about a settlement. Macaulay asserts that if certain of his suggestions had been adopted earlier much bloodshed might have been avoided.

His proposal to the Government in 1689 of a joint recognition of Presbytery and Episcopacy, though not acted upon, showed how far in advance he was of that age of intolerance.

He professed great friendliness towards the Episcopa1 clergy, but Lockhart throws doubts on his sincerity in this respect, and states that the only act he did in favour of them was when, as secretary to Queen Anne, he procured an Act of Indemnity and a letter from the Queen recommending the Episcopal clergy to the protection of the Privy Council. He certainly could drop his political principles with great facility and adopt others of an entirely different complexion. He seems, however, to have been a sincere advocate of the Union of Parliaments.

Contemporary writers had little respect for him as a politician. His career was perhaps more variable and inconsistent than that of any other statesman of his time, but, personally, he was very popular, having great charm of manner, with a gift of making interesting and amusing conversation.

On his retiral in 1690 he was granted by King William and Queen Mary, in gratitude for services rendered to them, a pension for life of £400, payable yearly out of the feu-duties and casualties of the Earldom of Ross and Lordship of Ardmanach, and in 1696, in spite of charges against him of irregularities in his conduct as Lord Clerk-Register, these charges, being unsubstantiated, he received a further pension of £400 per annum.

On the death of King William and the accession of Queen Anne, Lord Tarbat entered official life again, although now advanced in years. In 1702 he was appointed Secretary of State for Scotland, and in the following year he was raised to the dignity of Earl of Cromartie. The title was taken from that part of his estate consisting of Tarbat, Castle Leod, Strathpeffer, Coigeach, and other lands in Ross-shire which were disjoined from the shire of Ross and annexed by Act of Parliament to the shire of Cromarty.

In 1654 he had married Anna, daughter of James Sinclair of Mey, Baronet. She died in 1699, and six months later he married the Countess of Wemyss, peeress in her own right, widow of Sir James Wemyss, of Burntisland, who had died in 1685.

The marriage caused much amusement among their friends, owing to the disparity of their ages, she being forty-one, he seventy, and the following couplet was composed:

'Thou sonsy auld carle, the world has not thy like,
For ladies fa' in love with thee, though thou be an auld tyke."

The marriage was extraordinarily happy. There was a deep affection on both sides, and when parted they were restless and unhappy until reunited. On one such occasion she wrote:- "The Lord send us a happy meeting! My dearest love, be carefull of the best part of me, and do not fast long, nor sitt up late. There is great care of me here, but I fear there will be some tears att parting, tho none frome me, my dear."

On her death at Whitehall, London, in 1705, he composed a Latin inscription for her tomb, enumerating her virtues, and expressing his deep grief at her loss, and the hope of a future reunion. He desired that his body should be laid beside hers, and made arrangements for this, but his wishes were not carried into effect, and he was buried at Dingwall.

The Earl's last years were spent in retirement in Ross-shire. Swift writes of him that "after four score he went to his country house in Scotland with a resolution to stay six years, and lived thriftily in order to save money that he might spend it in London." But before that period expired, he died at New Tarbat on 27th August 1714, in his 84th year.

His son, John, born 1656, succeeded him as second Earl of Cromartie and Viscount Tarbat. During the life-time of his grandfather, John held the courtesy title of Lord Macleod, the name Macleod coming through the heiress of Lewis, who was his great-grandmother. When his father was created the Earl of Cromartie, John naturally assumed the title of Lord Tarbat. At the time he was Member of Parliament for the County of Ross, but Parliament decreed that as his father was "nobilitate", he could not as a Peer continue in Parliament, and a new election had to be held.

At the Revolution he was suspected of hostility to William and Mary, and was arrested by order of Major-General Mackay, Commander of the Forces in Scotland. For a few months he remained under surveillance of the Laird of Balnagown, at that time Governor of Inverness, but later was released on parole, by order of the Privy Council.

In August 1691 he was tried for the murder of Elias Poiret, Sieur de la Roche, a French Protestant refugee, and Gentleman of the King's Guard, who was killed in a scuffle in an inn in the Kirkgate of Leith. The following extract from a letter, dated March 1691, written by D. Ross at Edinburgh, to the Laird of Balnagown, gives some details of the incident:-

"Saturday's night last the Mr of Tarbat, Laird of Mey, James Sinclair a wryter, and one Ensigne Mowat, being drinking late . . . in Leith, and the Mr having offered kindness to the maid, who to shun him removed, the Mr followed her, whom he having misst stept into a room qr a frenchman was sleeping who as the Mr laid hand on his face awaked and said What for b-r the Mr struck at him in the face . . . he cryth.. . . . . Other frenchman . . . came down wt swords and pistolls.... Ensigne Mowat ran in assistance of the Mr and after some reasonings one of the frenchmen was run throw the body and died. The Mr is now in the Castle and Mowat in the Tolbooth. They were seized by the guard."

He remained a prisoner in the Castle for some months, but was ultimately aquitted of the charge. At his trial he asserted his innocence, maintaining that in the scuffle Poiret was killed accidentally by his own friends, there being little light in the room.

When quite a young man his father had given him directions regarding the rebuilding of the mansion-bouse of Tarbat, and entrusted him with the supervision of it.

After his accession to the estate, he resided very seldom at New Tarbat, and on 27th September 1717, his Chamberlain wrote: - "I am hopefull, now that your lordship is married that you will winter yett att bonie New Tarbatt where I am shour your Lordship will be much easier than in the hurie of the city." His pecuniary affairs becoming embarrassed, the estate was sequestrated in 1724.

Though he and the Laird of Balnagown were near neighbours, they were not on friendly terms, and in 1694 the latter, believed to be of a somewhat timid disposition, was charged with absenting himself from funerals through fear of the Master of Tarbat. This he denied.

The Earl's first wife was Lady Elizabeth Gordon, daughter of the Earl of Aboyne, whom he divorced in 1698. There were no children of the marriage. In 1701 he married the Hon. Mary Murray, eldest daughter of Patrick, third Lord Elibank. By her he had several children, the eldest of whom, George, succeeded him on his death at Castle Leod in 1731, as third Earl. He had married a third time the Hon. Anne Fraser of Lovat, by whom also he had issue.

George was born in 1702. In 1721 he married "Bonny Bell Gordon", aged 19, a daughter of Sir William Gordon, a wealthy London banker, but any hopes that Sir William might help to lighten the burdens on the estate were vain, and three years later it was once more in sequestration.

Almost immediately, after the landing of Prince Charles Edward in Scotland in 1745, a letter was received by Lord Cromartie from him, announcing his intentions of taking steps to restore his father to the throne, and, as a preliminary, setting up the Royal Standard at Glenfinnan. He indicated that the Earl was expected to join him. This was somewhat embarrassing to the Earl, as just at that time he was professing loyalty to the House of Hanover, but after a little hesitation he decided for Prince Charles, and, with about four hundred men, whom he had enrolled, joined the second army at Perth, after the Young Pretender had marched into England. Having definitely declared for the Prince, he proved one of his most ardent supporters. He collected money for the cause in Fife, superintending the transportation of the French artillery across the Forth from the Siege of Stirling, and took part with his son, Lord Macleod, in the Battle of Falkirk on 17th January 1746. When the Jacobite forces retreated northwards, Lord Cromartie accompanied Lord George Murray's contingent. Later, he was given command of the Earl of Kilmarnock's troops. This command was afterwards transferred to James Drummond, titular Duke of Perth, and Cromartie given command of the troops in Sutherland. In April 1746 he was surprised at Dunrobin by the Earl of Sutherland's militia, under the command of Lieut. Mackay, and defeated. Shortly afterwards he was captured at Dunrobin by stratagem while conferring with the assailants regarding offers of surrender, in spite of the attempts of the Countess of Sutherland to save him, who was unwilling that a friend and neighbour should be taken in her house.

Lord Cromartie and the other prisoners were carried in a sloop of war to Inverness two days after the Battle of Culloden, then sent to London, and committed to the Tower.

His trial took place before the House of Lords, in the Rufus Hall of Westminster, the scene being described by Horace Walpole as "the most solemn and fine". The Earl pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to be beheaded, his honours and estate to be forfeited.

His wife, determined to save his life, applied to the Earl of Sutherland for a pass to permit her and her daughters, Isabella, Mary and Anne, to travel to London. This was granted to her. At the same time, William Earl of Sutherland ordered - the order being dated at Tarbat House - twenty-four men of the Sutherlandshire Militia to act as a guard to the mansion of New Tarbat.

Meanwhile Lady Cromartie, with her daughters, hastened to London. On her arrival there she immediately wrote to the Hon. Mrs Poyntz, preceptress to the family of the Duke of Cumberland, asking her to intercede for her. She went in person and petitioned the Lords of the Cabinet Council, and on the Sunday following proceeded to Kensington Palace, dressed in mourning, and took up her station in the entrance through which the King had to pass to attend Divine service in the chapel. On his approach she fell on her knees before him, and presented her supplication that her husband's life might be spared.

King George II was most courteous and kind. With his own hand he raised her up, and gave orders that she was to be conducted to an apartment, where care might be taken of her. He declined, however, to give her any hopes of her petition being successful.

The Princess, however, took up her cause, and pleaded for her, while several of the courtiers and Lord Sutherland also used their influence on her behalf. Her strenuous efforts were ultimately successful, and the sentence of death was commuted to imprisonment in the Tower.

In February 1748 the Earl was released, and given permission to lodge at the house of a messenger, and in the following year he received a pardon under the Privy Seal on condition that he should reside in such place as the King should direct.

During his later years he was reduced to extreme poverty, and his eldest daughter, who had inherited her mother's beauty, was not too proud to perform the most menial tasks for the comfort of her parents and their younger children.

A daughter - Lady Augusta - whose birth occurred shortly after her father's trial, married Sir William Murray, Baronet of Ochtertyre. There is a story that (as the result of the intense emotions of her mother before her birth) she was born with the mark upon one side of her neck of an axe and three drops of blood.

Lord Cromartie died on 28th September 1766. His widow was granted by Royal warrant a pension of £200 a year out of the rents of the forfeited estates, but the Barons of Exchequer did not pay it until after she had presented a petition representing her impecunious condition. This pension was subsequently doubled.

She died in 1769, in Edinburgh, aged 62, and was buried in the Canongate Churchyard.

Her son, Lord Macleod, born in 1727, who had joined with his father in risking life, title, fortune and lands in the Stuart cause, shared also with his father the humiliation of being arrested and charged with high treason. Like his father he pleaded guilty, and was imprisoned. In January 1748 he was offered a pardon on condition that within six months of attaining his majority he should convey to the Crown all his rights to the estates of his father. This he agreed to. The following year he went to Sweden and entered the military service of that country, where he rose to high rank. In 1777 he returned to England, and petitioned for the restoration of his estates, offering to raise a Highland regiment for the Government. Through the influence of his cousin, Henry Dundas, this offer was accepted, and he was given the rank of Colonel. He was successful in raising two battalions of Highlanders, which were named the 73rd Foot, a regiment known later as the 71st, afterwards the 1st Battalion Highland Light Infantry.

His regiment was dispatched to India under his command, where it saw active service against Hyder Ali. While there in 1780 he was elected M.P. for Ross-shire, and there were great rejoicings all over the estate. Bells were rung, the Tower of Tain was illuminated, and balls were held to celebrate the event. In 1781 he returned home, and in 1783 he was raised to the rank of a major-general. The following year the family estates, but not the title of Earl of Cromartie, were restored to him on payment of £19,000, the amount of debt affecting the property, and in 1787 he arranged to take up residence in New Tarbat. On the death of Sir John Gordon, kinsman through his mother, he inherited the estate of Invergordon, but he sold it to Macleod of Cadboll.

The mansion of New Tarbat, a stately, turreted edifice, had been allowed, during the forfeiture, to fall into dilapidation, so Lord Macleod set about building a new residence, the present Tarbat House.

The beautiful trees, the pride of the district, many of them believed to have been planted by Sir Robert Innes during the short time that he held Milntown after the Monros, had been cut down and sold to a company in Leith, and the ground parcelled out in lots to disbanded soldiers and sailors. Lord Macleod started planting again, and soon the estate began to show signs of recovering its former grace and beauty.

With the estates went the patronage of Kilmuir Church, and on his restoration, Lord Macleod immediately made enquiries regarding his rights to certain seating accommodation in the church, and requested that the Presbytery should hold a meeting at an early date to consider the matter.

This request the Presbytery complied with, and at the meeting a letter from Lord Macleod was read, in which he stated that when the church was rebuilt in 1736 or thereby, by a scheme of division which then took place the whole aisle, with a part of the body of the church, fell to the share of his father, the Earl of Cromartie. He declared that the aisle, as well as the fitting up of the gallery and furnishing a room with a fireplace behind the family seat, had cost his father a large sum of money, and he complained that the seat and the room had been removed and the gallery opened up and filled with pews. He now claimed that his share in the church should be restored to him.

At the meeting, Baillie, factor for Balnagown, objected to Lord Macleod's claims on the grounds that a final division had been made in 1771 after extensive repairs had been undertaken by the heritors, and that the Presbytery had no jurisdiction in the matter.

The Presbytery, anxious to avoid unpleasantness, and hoping that in time an understanding might be arrived at between the heritors and Macleod, delayed giving a reply, but the death of Macleod in Edinburgh in the spring of 1789 ended the matter. He was buried beside his mother in Canongate Churchyard.

In 1786, at the age of 59, he had married Margery, daughter of Lord Forbes, but there were no children, and his cousin, Kenneth Mackenzie, who was the only son of Captain Roderick Mackenzie, brother of George, third Earl of Cromartie, succeeded him. In his favour an entail of the Cromartie estates had been executed by Lord Macleod.

Kenneth continued the improvements on the estate which his predecessor had begun. On his death in Middlesex in 1796, he was succeeded by his cousin, Lady Isabella Mackenzie, Dowager Lady Elibank. She was the eldest daughter of George, 3rd Earl of Cromartie, born March 1725, and had married, in 1760, George, sixth Lord Elibank, and had two children, Maria and Isabella.

Isabella died in 1801, and was succeeded by Maria, who had married Edward Hay of Newhall, brother of George, seventh Marquess of Tweeddale.

In terms of Lord Macleod's entail, the surname of Mackenzie was assumed by Mr and Mrs Hay.

Mrs Hay Mackenzie died at No. 10 Royal Circus, Edinburgh, on 8th October 1858, and her eldest son John succeeded her. He had the fee of the Cromartie Estate conveyed to him by his mother in 1822. In 1828 he married Anne, third daughter of Sir James Gibson-Craig of Riccarton, Baronet. They had one child, Anne, born in 1829, who on her father's death in 1849, succeeded to the estates. In the same year Anne married George Granville William, Marquis of Stafford, who in 1861 became the Duke of Sutherland, the premier peer of Scotland.

The Duchess was a close friend of Queen Victoria, and held the office of Mistress of the Robes for several years. The old titles were revived in her favour, and she became Countess of Cromartie, Viscountess Tarbat of Tarbat, Baroness Macleod of Castle Leod, and Baroness Castlehaven of Castlehaven, by patent, dated 21st October 1861.

Her death occurred in 1888, and she was succeeded by her third son, Francis, Viscount Tarbat, the second son being heir to the Dukedom, the eldest having died.

Francis was born in 1852, at Tarbat House. He was Vice-Lieutenant of Ross and Cromarty, and Deputy-Lieutenant of Sutherland. In 1876 he married Lilian Janet, second surviving daughter of Godfrey William Wentworth, 4th Lord Macdonald.

They had two daughters - Sibell Janet, the present Countess of Cromartie, born 1878, and Constance, born 1882. Constance married Sir Edward Stewart-Richardson, 15th Baronet, who died, in November 1914, of wounds received in the Great War. In 1921 she married Dennis Luckie Matthew. She died in London on 23rd November 1932.

In 1900 the present Countess married Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Walter Blunt, who on his marriage assumed the surname Mackenzie, thus becoming Blunt-Mackenzie.

Of the marriage there are two sons and one daughter:- Roderick Francis Grant (Viscount Tarbat), born 1904, who married in 1933 Dorothy Downing, of Kentucky; Hon. Walter Osra, born 1906; Lady Isobel, born 1911.

Continued on Page 7

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