STEWARTS of Traquair - Scotland - ( ancestral history )
The Stewarts of Traquair
AMONG the many beautiful districts on the Scottish Borders, there is not one more lovely in its scenery, or more interesting in its associations—legendary, historical, and poetical—than the vale of the Tweed from Peebles to Selkirk. The ancient, sleepy borough itself—the scene of the curious old poem of ‘Peblis to the Play,’ and which, according to Lord Cockburn, is more quiet than the grave—the ruins of Neidpath Castle, with its reminiscences of the Frasers, the Hays, and the Douglases; and of Haystone, Horsburgh, Cardrona, and Elibank, and the rest of that chain of fortalices which, in the ‘riding times,’ kept watch and ward on the Borders against the inroads of the English invaders; the picturesque village of Innerleithen, the prototype of ‘St. Ronan’s Well,’ and the fine river, clear, broad, and deep, rolling cheerily along its pebbly bed—form a picture which no Scotsman can look upon without emotion. In the midst of this beautiful and interesting scene, at the opening of the vale of the Quair, and nearly opposite the spot where the Leithen Water falls into the Tweed, stands the ancient House of Traquair, the seat of the Earls of that title, ‘a grey forlorn-looking mansion, stricken all over with eld.’ The gateway, which opens upon the grassy and untrod avenue, is ornamented with a huge ‘Bradwardine stone bear’ on each side, the cognisance of the family—most grotesque supporters, with a superfluity of ferocity and canine teeth. The wrought-iron gate, in the time of the late proprietors, was embedded in a foot deep or more of soil, never having been opened since the ‘45. In the immediate vicinity is the remnant of the ‘Bush aboon Traquair‘—
‘Birks three or four,
Wi’ grey moss bearded owre,
The last that are left o’ the birken shaw,’
rendered classic by the well-known song of Crawford.
In later times the Quair, on whose bank the far-famed group of birches stood, has been noticed in a song written by the late Rev. James Nicol, minister of the parish, beginning ‘Where Quair runs sweet amang the flowers;’ and by James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, in his well-known song, ‘O’er the hills to Traquair.’
To the east of Traquair lies Minchmoor, over which Montrose made his escape from Philiphaugh—lofty, yet round and flat, fragrant with recollections of Sir Walter Scott and Mungo Park, the African traveller; and to the south-west and south are the green pastoral hills of Ettrick and Yarrow, ‘round-backed, kindly, and solemn,’ with ‘lone St. Mary’s Lake’ in their bosom; and Dryhope Tower, the residence of the ‘Flower of Yarrow;’ and Blackhouse Tower, the scene of the Douglas tragedy; and the ‘Dowie Dens of Yarrow,’ immortalized in Scottish song, and which have been the subject of more and better poetry than even the celebrated Vale of Tempe.
The house of Traquair consists of a tower of remote antiquity, to which considerable additions were made in the reign of Charles I. by the powerful Earl who held the office of High Treasurer of Scotland under that monarch. Its walls are of great thickness; its accommodation is for the most part that of a long-bygone age, and it has an antique, deserted-looking aspect.
‘A merry place it was in days of yore,
But something ails it now—the place is curst.’
‘The whole place,’ said Dr. John Brown, ‘like the family whose it has been, seems dying out—everything subdued to settled desolation. The old race, the old religion, the gaunt old house, with the small deep comfortless windows, the decaying trees, the stillness about the doors, the grass overrunning everything—nature reasserting herself in her quiet way—all this makes the place look as strange and pitiful among its fellows in the vale as would the Earl who built it three hundred years ago, if we met him tottering along our way in the faded dress of his youth; but it looks the Earl’s house still, and has a dignity of its own.’
The estate of Traquair was originally a royal domain, and was conferred by Robert Bruce on his warm friend and devoted adherent, Lord James Douglas. After passing through various hands, it came into possession of an ancestor of the Murrays of Elibank, and was forfeited by William Murray in 1464. It was given to William Douglas of Cluny, but was almost immediately thereafter assigned to the Boyds. On the forfeiture of Robert, Lord Boyd, the head of this powerful family, in 1469, the estate was resumed by the Crown, but was shortly after conferred upon Dr. William Rogers, an eminent musician, and one of the favourites of the ill-starred James III. After holding the lands for upwards of nine years, Dr. Rogers sold them for an insignificant sum, in 1478, to James Stewart, Earl of Buchan, the second son of Sir James Stewart, called the Black Knight of Lorn, by Lady Jane Beaufort, widow of James I. The Earl conferred Traquair, in 1491, on his natural son, JAMES STEWART, the founder of the Traquair family. He obtained letters of legitimation, and married the heiress of the Rutherfords, with whom he received the estates of Rutherford and Wells in Roxburghshire. Like the great body of the chivalry of Tweeddale, and the ‘Flowers of the Forest,’ he fell along with his sovereign on the fatal field of Flodden in 1513. Four of the sons of this stalwart Borderer possessed the Traquair estates in succession, one of whom was knighted by Queen Mary when she created Darnley Duke of Albany, and was appointed captain of her guard, and, no doubt in that capacity, is said to have accompanied the Queen and her husband in their flight to Dunbar after the murder of Rizzio. He continued a steady friend of the ill-fated princess, and was one of the barons who entered into a bond of association to support her cause after her escape from Loch Leven in 1568.
A second son of Sir James was one of the Gentlemen of the Bedchamber to James VI., and governor of Dumbarton Castle in 1582. James, the youngest son, alone had issue, and his grandson, JOHN, who succeeded to the family estates in 1606, became the first Earl of Traquair. This nobleman, who at a critical period of our history was one of the most powerful men in the kingdom, was educated by Thomas Sydserf, Bishop of Galloway, and, in order to complete his education according to the fashion of his day, he travelled for some time on the Continent. On his return home, he was elected Commissioner for Tweeddale in the Scottish Parliament, was knighted by King James, and was a member of the Privy Council. On the accession of Charles I., with whom he became a great favourite, he was raised to the peerage by the title of Lord Stuart of Traquair, and was appointed Treasurer-Depute, and an Extraordinary Lord of Session. During the visit of Charles to Scotland in 1633 he elevated Lord Stuart to the dignity of Earl of Traquair, with the subordinate titles of Lord Linton and Caberston. On the resignation of the Earl of Morton, Traquair was appointed Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, the highest office in the Government; and during the succeeding twenty-five years he took a prominent part in public affairs. Clarendon says, ‘This Earl was, without doubt, not inferior to any in the Scottish nation in wisdom and dexterity.’ Charles evidently regarded him as a person on whom he could thoroughly rely in carrying out his arbitrary schemes. The resumption of the grants of Church lands had excited great discontent among the fierce and turbulent nobility of Scotland, and a proposal to vest in the King authority to regulate the ecclesiastical dress of the clergy had met with considerable opposition. Charles, acting by the advice of Laud, resolved to strike a blow which would frighten the malcontents into silence, if not into acquiescence with his measures, and Lord Balmerino was brought to trial on a charge of leasing-making, or uttering a document tending to sow dissension between the King and his subjects. The only ground for this charge was that a humble and most respectful supplication to His Majesty against the proposed changes, which had not been presented, was in his Lordship’s possession, and had been revised and corrected by him. On the advice of Archbishop Spottiswood, Lord Balmerino was arrested and tried. Every effort was made by the Court to secure the condemnation of the ill-used nobleman; and the Earl of Traquair, on whose powers of persuasion great dependence was placed, was appointed chancellor or foreman of the jury. Although the list of jurors was mainly prepared by the Earl himself, it was only by his casting vote that a verdict of guilty was obtained. Sentence of death was pronounced upon Lord Balmerino; but, the public indignation at this outrageous proceeding blazed out so fiercely, that the Government were afraid to carry the sentence into execution. Bishop Burnet says, that when the trial terminated, ‘many meetings were held, and it was resolved either to force the prison to set Balmerino at liberty, or, if that failed, to avenge his death both on the Court, and on the eight jurors. When the Earl of Traquair understood this, he went to Court and told the King that Lord Balmerino’s life was in his hands, but the execution was in no ways advisable; so he procured his pardon.’
The person who could act this part in such a trial was evidently a man after the King’s own heart. Crafty, unscrupulous, and resolute, he was not likely to shrink from carrying through any scheme that the Court would devise. A number of holograph letters from Charles in the charter-chest of Traquair house, show the unbounded confidence which the King reposed in the Earl. On the 20th of November, 1637, he wrote from Whitehall, ‘I have commended Roxborough, not only to show you the manie secrets of my thoughts, but, to have your judgment as well as your industrie concur in my service.’ In 1641, when compelled by the Parliament to exclude Traquair from his service, Charles wrote to him, ‘Since by your owen desyre and my permission ye are retired from my court to satisfie the needlesse suspitions of your countrimen, I have thought fitt by these lynes to assure you that, I am so far from having chased you away as a delinquent, I esteem you to be as faithfull a servant as anie I have, beliuing that the greatest cause of malice that ye are now vext with is for hauing served me as ye ought; therefore I desyre you to be confident that I shall bothe fynde a fiitt tyme for you to wype away all thease slanders that are now against you; and lykewais to recompence your by-past sufferings for my service.’ Again, on 26th September, 1642, the King wrote, ‘Traquair, the former experience I have of your zeal to my seruice and your dexteritie in it makes me address this bearer particularly to you, that though his business may seem equally addressed to many, yet you are he whom I cheefly (and indeed only) trust for the right managing of it. Your most assured constant friend, CHARLES R.’
Traquair had gained the confidence of the King’s chief ecclesiastical adviser, as well as of Charles himself. Laud informed the Archbishop of St. Andrews that the Earl of Traquair ‘hath assured the King in my presence that he will readily do all good offices for the Church that come within his power, according to all such commands as he shall receive either immediately from the King, or otherwise by direction of his Majesty from myself.’ This ‘mutual relation’ between the earl and the archbishop was to be ‘kept very secret; and made known to no other person, either clergy or laity.’ The Scottish Privy Council, consisting of eight prelates and about twenty noblemen, along with the legal officials, formed the acting ministry for the government of the country from 1634 to 1638. The Earl of Traquair was virtually the leading resident minister, and after his promotion to the office of Chief Treasurer in 1635, he ‘guided our Scots affairs,’ says Baillie, ‘with the most absolute sovereignty that any subject among us this forty years did kythe.’ His overbearing manner seems to have intimidated some, at least, of the other members of the Council. ‘He carries all down that is in his way,’ observed Baillie, ‘with such a violent spate [flood], oft in needless passion.’ He disliked the bishops, however, and notwithstanding his zeal for the King’s service, both in ecclesiastical and civil affairs, he was personally opposed to the introduction of the new Service Book.
He declared to the Earl of Rothes that he ‘would rather lay down his white staff than practise it, and would write his mind freely to his Majesty.’ He was, indeed, hostile not only to Laud’s Liturgy, but to the entire scheme of governing Scotland by the policy of Lambeth. He agreed with Lord Napier in the opinion ‘that Churchmen have a competency is agreeable to the law of God, and man, but to invest them into great estates, and principal offices of State is neither convenient for the Church, for the King, nor for the State.’ But, when Charles, with his characteristic obstinacy, insisted on the adoption of the new Service Book by the Scottish clergy, the timeserving Lord High Treasurer took a prominent part in carrying out the royal commands. Jenny Geddes’ stool hurled at the head of the Dean of Edinburgh, when he was ‘saying mass at her lugg’ (ear), produced at once an explosion of the long pent-up wrath that had been accumulating throughout the country. Traquair was one of the principal objects of popular indignation, and one of the first to suffer from its outburst. He was mobbed by the rabble of Edinburgh, and his official wand broken. He was himself hustled and thrown down, and having been with difficulty raised by those about him, ‘without hat or cloak like a malefactor,’ says a contemporary chronicler, ‘he was carried by the crowd to the door of the Council House, where he found an asylum.’ On receiving the tidings respecting this riot the King wrote to the Treasurer, ‘We have seen a relation of that barbarous insurrection at Edinburgh, which you sent vnto our Secretarie, and doe give you hartie thanks for the paines you tooke to pacifie the same, and are highly offended that such an indignitie as you wreate of should have been offered to such an cheif officer of ours, and others of our Councell, and we do not doubt but you have taken notice of them that were authours or accessory therevnto, that vpon due tryall wee may take such order therewith, as the nature of such an exorbitant cryme doth require." At the King’s own request the Earl was sent by the Privy Council to London, to inform his Majesty of the state of affairs and to advise with him as to the policy which should be adopted. He earnestly recommended that the new liturgy should be withdrawn, but that, to save the royal authority and dignity, a form of submission should be required from the Presbyterians. The king was, however, profoundly ignorant of the real state of affairs, and of the precipice on which he stood. He was persuaded that to give up the Service Book and the Court of High Commission would degrade his royal authority. The Archbishop of St. Andrews wrote him that if he firmly condemned the present proceedings of the supplicants, and forbade them, under pain of treason, to follow the same course for the future, ‘their combinations would melt like frost-work in the sun, or be driven like mist before the wind.’ Similar advice was given by Laud and Strafford, and about the beginning of February, 1688, Traquair returned to Scotland with instructions to carry out this policy.
The Scottish capital was still in disgrace on account of the late disturbances, and the Council and Sessions were held at Stirling. After remaining a short time in the metropolis, where he declined to give any information respecting the intentions of the King, or the instructions which he had received, the High Treasurer set out for the North. The object of his journey, however, and the nature of the King’s answer, had by some means transpired, and, within an hour after the Earl had left Edinburgh, Lords Lindsay and Home set out for Stirling as fast as their horses could carry them. They reached the town before him, and were in readiness to counteract his proceedings on the spot. At ten o’clock on the 20th of February, the heralds, accompanied by the Lord Treasurer and the Privy Seal, appeared at the market cross and read the royal proclamation. It expressed his Majesty’s extreme displeasure with the conduct of those who had taken part in recent ‘meetings and convocations,’ declared them to be liable to high censure, prohibiting ‘all such convocations and meetings in time coming, under pain of treason,’ and commanding ‘all noblemen, barons, ministers, and burghers, not actually indwellers in the burgh of Stirling,’ to depart thence within six hours, and not return again, either to that town or to any other place where the Council may meet. No sooner was the proclamation made, with the usual formalities, than Lords Home and Lindsay stepped forward and caused the protest which they had prepared to be read at the same spot with all legal forms, and, leaving a copy of this document affixed by the side of the proclamation to the market cross of Stirling, they hastened back to Edinburgh. A repetition of the same scene took place at Linlithgow, Edinburgh, and all the other towns where the proclamation was made. It was understood that the policy of Traquair was to break up as much as possible the Presbyterian combination, embracing all classes of society, and to induce the different orders of ‘supplicants’ to renew their petitions separately. To counteract this device, it was resolved to renew the National Covenant, solemnly pledging the subscribers ‘constantly to adhere unto and defend the true religion, and forbearing the practice of all novations already introduced on the matter of the worship of God.’
When ‘the ten years’ conflict’ between the King and the Covenanters began, in the memorable General Assembly which met at Glasgow in November, 1638, the Earl of Traquair was one of the assessors to the Royal Commissioner, the Marquis of Hamilton. After the Covenanters had, by an appeal to arms, compelled the King to yield to their demands in the Pacification of Berwick, Traquair was appointed Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly which met at Edinburgh, 12th August, 1639. He had a very difficult, and, indeed, dangerous task to perform. While apparently willing to yield to the popular current, the King was obstinately bent on carrying out his own schemes. His representative was therefore instructed to appear to grant everything which the people desired, but with such artful qualifications and reservations, as in reality to concede nothing. He was ‘to give way for the present to that which will be prejudicial to the Church, and to the Government, but to do so in such a way as would reserve a plea for withdrawing these concessions when the proper time should come.’ A hint was also given to the clergy that they should deliver secretly to the Commissioner a ‘protestation and remonstrance against this Assembly and Parliament,’ which might afterwards serve as a pretext for cancelling their proceedings. Traquair seems to have played his difficult part with great dexterity. On the one hand he gave assent in his Majesty’s name to the Acts of the Glasgow Assembly, the abolition of Episcopacy, the rescinding of the five Articles of Perth, and the ratification of the Covenant, to which he appended his signature, both as Commissioner and as an individual. On the other hand he made at the outset a most plausible pretext, reserving his Majesty’s right for redress of anything that might be done prejudicial to his service.
The day after the rising of the Assembly, the Commissioner opened Parliament in great state, the ‘riding’ of the members—a procession on horseback from Holyrood to the Parliament Close— and all the other forms and honours due to royalty, being observed with more than customary splendour. The Estates, which had hitherto met in the dingy recesses of the Tolbooth, now for the first time assembled in the great new hall of the Parliament House, with its fine roof made of oaken beams, which has ever since been one of the most interesting structures in the metropolis. The meeting, however, was short and stormy, and as Traquair, with all his dexterity and eloquence, was unable to control their proceedings, he prorogued the Parliament in order that he might receive fresh instructions from the King, and did not again appear in person at their meetings. The Covenanters, though unable to penetrate the thick veil of duplicity and deceit in which the King and his Commissioner had enveloped their policy, were quite aware of the insincerity and hostility both of Charles and his most-trusted Councillor. Traquair was regarded as by no means the worst of the ‘Malignants,’ but his energy and ability rendered him especially formidable. Hence, when their day of triumph arrived in 1641, they compelled the King to give his assent to the exclusion of the Earl from the benefit of the ‘Act of Oblivion,’ as an incendiary betwixt England and Scotland, and betwixt the King and his subjects. In the previous session of Parliament, an Act had been passed ‘anent leising makers of quhatsomever qualitie, office, place, or dignity,’ which declares that ‘all bad counsillars quha, instead of giving his Majestie trew and effauld counsaill, has given or will give informatone and counsaill to the evident prejudice and ruine of the liberties of this kirk and kingdom, suld be exemplarlie judged and censured.’ Sir James Balfour asserts this Act ‘was purposelie made to catche Traquair.’ He was accordingly impeached in Parliament as an incendiary, and found guilty. Charles interfered to save him from capital punishment, but he was deprived of his office as Treasurer, and obliged to find caution to conduct himself in such a manner as would best conduce to the peace of the country, under penalty of the forfeiture of the pardon he had received from his Majesty. The dominant party in Parliament were not inclined to use their power with moderation or mercy, and they compelled the King to promise that he would not employ Traquair or any of the other ‘incendiaries’ in any public office, without consent of the Estates, or even allow them access to his person, lest they should give him evil counsel.
The Earl of Traquair was one of the Scottish nobles who in 1643 subscribed a remonstrance expressing strong disapproval of the combination of the Scottish Estates and the English Parliament against the King, and was in consequence, on the ground that he had violated the conditions on which he had been set at liberty, declared an enemy to religion, and to the peace of the kingdom. His movable goods were confiscated and his estates sequestrated. He averted the entire forfeiture of his property, and obtained a pardon, by the payment of 40,000 marks, along with the conditions that he should subscribe the Covenant, and confine himself within the counties of Roxburgh, Selkirk, and Peebles, and promise that he would not repair to the King’s presence. He is alleged to have sent his son, Lord Linton, with a troop of horse, to join Montrose the day before the battle of Philiphaugh (September 13th, 1645), but to have withdrawn them during the night. It is also reported that when the great Marquis, in his flight from the battle-field, accompanied by a few followers, reached Traquair House, the Earl and his son refused to receive them—an incident which, if true, tends to confirm the opinion generally entertained of this shifty noble, that he was an unprincipled trimmer on whom neither party could rely.
In 1647, when Charles had taken refuge in the Scottish camp, Traquair was restored, and appointed a member of the Committee of Estates, probably in consequence of a letter which the King wrote in his behalf to the Earl of Lanark, the Scottish Secretary of State. ‘I must not he negligent,’ he said, ‘on Traquair’s behalf as not to name his business to you for admitting him to his place in Parliament, of which I will say no more; but you know his sufferings for me, and this is particularly recommended to you by your most assured real constant friend, Charles R.’ In 1648, Traquair raised a troop of horse for the ‘Engagement’ to attempt the rescue of the King from the victorious Parliament, and with his son, Lord Linton, was taken prisoner at the battle of Preston. He was confined for four years in Warwick Castle, and his estates were a second time sequestrated. He was ultimately set at liberty by Cromwell, and returned to Scotland, where he spent the remainder of his days in great poverty and obscurity. His son, Lord Linton, though he had taken part in his father’s efforts on behalf of King Charles, had by some means—probably by joining the extreme Presbyterian party—succeeded in rescuing a portion of the family property, and was able to reside at Traquair; but much to his discredit, he refused to give assistance to his aged and impoverished father. During the last two years of his life, the old Earl was reduced to such straits as to be dependent on charity for the necessaries of life. It is stated by the author of ‘A Journey through Scotland, in Familiar Letters,’ that this once great noble and state officer ‘would take an alms though not publicly ask for it. There are some, still alive at Peebles that have seen him dine on a salt herring and an onion.’
In the curious account of the Frasers, by James Fraser of Kirkhill, recently brought to light, there is the following passage respecting the first Earl. ‘He was a true emblem of the vanity of the world— a very meteor. I saw him begging in the streets of Edinburgh. He was in an antique garb, and a broad old hat, short cloak, and pannier breeches; and I contributed in my quarters in the Canon-gate towards his relief. We gave him a noble, he standing with his hat off. The Master of Lovat, Culbockie, Glenmorrison, and myself were there, and he received the piece of money from my hand as humbly and thankfully as the poorest supplicant. It is said that at a time he had not to pay for cobbling his boots, and died in a poor cobbler’s house.’ [The Earl of Traquair was not the only ‘emblem of the vanity of the world’ to be seen during the Great Civil War. The head of the ancient family of the Mowbrays of Barnbougle was reduced to a similar state of destitution. In the sessions record of a parish in Strathmore, under the date of February 17, 1650, there is the following entry, ‘Gave this day to Sir Robert Moubray, sometime laird of Barnbougle, now become through indigence ane poor supplicant, twenty-four shillings’ [Scots].] He died in 1659, ‘sitting in his chair at his own house,’ says Nicol, ‘without any preceding sickness,’ and ‘but little lamented.’ His death, it is said, was hastened, if not caused, by the want of the necessaries of life. This melancholy example of the mutability of fortune, was repeatedly employed by the Treasurer’s contemporaries to ‘point a moral and adorn a tale.’ The annotator on Scott of Scotstarvit’s ‘Staggering State of Scots Statesmen,’ says that at his burial this unfortunate nobleman ‘had no mortcloth [pall] but a black apron, nor towels, but leashes belonging to some gentlemen that were present; and the grave being two feet shorter than his body, the assistants behoved to stay till the same was enlarged and he buried.’
If we may believe a story handed down by tradition, related by Sir Walter Scott, and embodied in a ballad published in his ‘Border Minstrelsy,’ the Earl of Traquair must have been as unscrupulous in the means he employed to promote his own private interests, as in the steps which he took to carry out the policy of the Court. When he was at the height of his power, he had a lawsuit of great importance, which was to be decided in the Court of Session, and there was every reason to believe that the judgment would turn upon the casting-vote of the President, Sir Alexander Gibson, titular Lord Dune, whose opinion was understood to be adverse to Traquair’s interest. Dune was not only an able lawyer but an upright judge—a character not very ‘common in Scotland in those days, when the maxim, ‘Show me the man and I’ll show you the law’ was of very general application. As the President was proof both against bribes and intimidation, it was necessary for the success of the Lord Treasurer in his lawsuit that he should, in one way or other, be disposed of. There was a stalwart Borderer, named William Armstrong, called, for the sake of distinction, ‘Christie’s Will,’ a lineal descendant of the famous Johnnie Armstrong of Gilnockie, who, for some marauding exploits, had been imprisoned in the Tolbooth of Jedburgh, and was indebted to Traquair for his liberty, if not for his life. To this daring moss-trooper the Earl applied for help in this extremity, and he, without hesitation, undertook to kidnap the President, and keep him out of the way till the cause should be decided. On coming to Edinburgh, he discovered that the judge was in the habit of taking the air on horseback on Leith sands without an attendant. Watching his opportunity one day, when the judge was taking his usual airing, Armstrong accosted him, and contrived, by his amusing conversation, to decoy the President to an unfrequented and furzy common, called the Figgit Whins, where he suddenly pulled him from his horse, blindfolded him, and muffled him in a large cloak. In this condition the luckless judge was trussed up behind Christie’s Will, and carried across the country by unfrequented by-paths, and deposited in an old castle in Annandale, not far from Moffat, called the Tower of Graham. Meanwhile, his horse having been found wandering on the sands, it was concluded that its rider had been thrown into the sea and drowned. His friends went into mourning, and a successor was appointed to his office by the Lord Treasurer. The President spent three dreary months in the dungeon of the Border fortalice, receiving his food through an aperture in the wall, seeing no one, and never hearing the sound of a human voice, save when a shepherd called upon his dog Bawty, or a female inmate of the tower on her cat Madge. In the words of the ballad—
‘For nineteen days and nineteen nights
Of sun, or moon, or midnight stars,
Auld Dune never saw a blink,
The lodging was sae dark and dour.
He thought the warlocks o’ the rosy cross
Had fang’d him in their nets sae fast,
Or that the gipsies’ glamoured gang
Had lair’d his learning at the last.
"Hey! Bawty lad! far yond! far yond!"
These were the morning sounds heard he;
And een "alack !" Auld Dune cried,
"The Deil is hounding his tykes on me !"
And whiles a voice on Baudrons cried,
With sound uncouth, and sharp, and hie;
"I have tar-barrell’d mony a witch,
And now I think they’ll clear scores wi’ me ! "
At length the lawsuit was decided in favour of Lord Traquair, and Will was directed to set the President at liberty. In the words of the ballad—
‘Traquair has written a privie letter,
And he has sealed it wi’ his seal—
"Ye may let the auld brock out of the poke,
My land’s my ain, and a’s gane weel."’
Accordingly Will entered the vault at dead of night, muffled the President once more in his cloak, without speaking a single word, placed him on horseback as before, and, conveying him to Leith sands, set down the astonished judge on the very spot where he had taken him up. He, of course, claimed and obtained his office and honours, probably not much to the satisfaction of his successor. The common belief at the time, in which the President shared, was that he had been spirited away by witchcraft; and it was not until after the lapse of a good many years that the truth was brought to light. [The truth of this strange incident does not rest wholly on tradition, for Forbes, in his journal of the Session, published in 1714, says: "Tis commonly reported that some party in a considerable action before the session finding that Lord Ducie could not be persuaded to think his plea good, fell upon a stratagem to prevent the influence and weight which his lordship might have to his prejudice by causing some strong men to kidnap him in the Links of Leith, at his diversion on a Saturday afternoon, and transport him to some blind and obscure room in the country, where he was detained captive, without the benefit of daylight, a matter of three months (though otherwise civilly and well entertained), during which time his lady and children went in mourning for him as dead. But after the cause aforesaid was decided, the Lord Ducie was carried back by incognitos, and dropt in the same place where he had been taken up.’ —Minstrels, of the Scottish Border, iv. pp. 94, 95. ]
It appears from Pitcairn’s Criminal Trials that George Meldrum, the younger, of Dumbreck, with the assistance of three Border thieves, kidnapped Gibson of Dune, and kept him prisoner for some time in a Border tower. But this may have been done at the instigation of Traquair, or the President may have been carried off a second time. It is not probable that the tradition long current on the Borders should have been wholly groundless.
This was not the only occasion on which the Lord Treasurer was indebted to Armstrong for important assistance. During the Great Civil War, it was of vital consequence to the royal service that a certain packet of papers should be transmitted to the King from his friends in Scotland. But the task was both difficult and dangerous, for the Parliamentary leaders kept strict watch on the Borders, to prevent any communication between Charles and the Scottish Royalists. In this strait, Traquair had once more recourse to ‘Christie’s Will,’ who readily undertook the commission, and succeeded in conveying the packet safely to the King. On his return, however, with his Majesty’s answer, he was waylaid at Carlisle, where, unconscious of danger, he halted for some time to refresh his horse. On resuming his journey, as soon as he began to pass the long and narrow bridge which crossed the Eden at that place, both ends of the pass were immediately occupied by a detachment of Parliamentary soldiers, who were lying in wait for him. The daring Borderer, however, without a moment’s hesitation, spurred his horse over the parapet, and plunged into the river, which was in high flood. After a desperate struggle, he effected a landing at a steep bank called the Stanners, and set off at full speed towards the Scottish Borders, pursued by the troopers, who had for a time, stood motionless in astonishment at his temerity. He was well mounted, however, and having got the start, he kept ahead of his pursuers, menacing with his pistols any of them who seemed likely to gain on him. They followed him as far as the river Esk, that divides the two kingdoms, which he swam without hesitation, though it flowed ‘from bank to brae.’ On reaching Scottish ground, the dauntless moss-trooper turned on the northern bank, and, in the true spirit of a Border raider, invited his pursuers to cross the river, and drink with him. After this taunt he proceeded on his journey to the Scottish capital, and faithfully placed the royal letters in the hands of Traquair.
The Earl was succeeded in his titles, and the remnant of his estates, by his only son Lord Linton, of whose ‘unnatural conduct to his parents’ loud complaints have been made. Though an elder in the kirk, he was accused of drinking and swearing; and while professing to be an adherent of the extreme Presbyterian party, he married in succession two ladies who were Roman Catholics. The records of the Kirk Session of Inverleithen mention, in 1647, that ‘for the more speedy carrying out of their acts, the Session resolve to elect Lord Linton an elder, which was accordingly done, his lordship promising before the whole congregation to be faithful in the function.’ In April, 1648, he was appointed to attend the ensuing Synod, as ruling elder from the session. Lord Linton’s conduct, however, speedily subjected him both to civil and ecclesiastical penalties. In 1649 he married Lady Henrietta Gordon, a daughter of George, second Marquis of Huntly, the leader of the Roman Catholic party in Scotland, who had shortly before been beheaded at the cross of Edinburgh. Lady Henrietta was the widow of George, Lord Seton, eldest son of the second Earl of Winton, also a leader among the Royalists. The marriage of an elder of the Presbyterian Church to an excommunicated Papist must have excited the strongest feelings of disapproval throughout the whole body, and was regarded as a heinous offence. The marriage ceremony was performed, contrary to law, privately and without the proclamation of banns, by the minister of Dawick, who was deposed and excommunicated for this violation of the law both of Church and State. Lord Linton himself was fined £5,000 Scots, and was also excommunicated and imprisoned. These severe penalties, however, did not deter him from repeating the offence. His wife lived only a year after her marriage, and in 1654 Lord Linton took for his second wife Lady Anne Seton, half-sister of the brother of Lady Henrietta—a union forbidden by the canon law which regulates the marriages of the members of the Roman Catholic Church, to which Lady Anne belonged. Lord Linton still kept up his connection with the Presbyterian Church, but his irregular conduct subjected him to the censures of the Presbytery of Peebles, which at that time had no respect of persons. In its records, under the date of August 9, 1657, there is the following entry, ‘The Lord Lyntoun (after many citations) called, compeared, and being charged by the Moderator with these several miscarriages, viz., absenting himself from the church, drinking, swearing, &c., he took with them [admitted them], craved God’s mercie and prayed for grace to eschew them in time coming. Whereupon, his lordship being removed, the Presbytery resolved that the Moderator should give him a grave rebuke, and exhort him to seek God, and to forbear those evills in time coming, which was accordingly done.’
An entry in the Justice of Peace Records of the county affords another glimpse of the position of this inconsistent and not over reputable noble. Under the date of January 30th, 1658, it is said, ‘This day the commander of the troops lying in the shires of Peebles and Selkirk, desired information from the justices of all Papists living within the shire of Peebles, that he might prescribe ane order for their personal deportment. The bench declared they knew of no Papists in the shire except those who lived in Lord Linton’s family, Lord Linton himself declared that his lady and three women were the only Papists in his house.’
The second Earl of Traquair died in April, 1666, in his forty-fourth year, having had issue only by his second wife, four sons and three daughters. The Privy Council, apprehensive that the Dowager Lady Traquair would bring up her elder surviving son, William, in the Roman Catholic faith, enjoined her, in 1672, when the youthful Earl had reached his fifteenth year, to attend at Holyrood House, and bring her son with her. She thought fit to disobey this summons, and a warrant was immediately issued to messengers-at-arms to bring the Countess, along with her son, before the Council. Both were produced within a week. In the Privy Council Records, under date February 8, the disposal of the case is thus narrated, ‘Compeared the Countess of Traquair, with her son the Earl, who is ordered to be consigned to the care of the Professor of Divinity in the University of Glasgow, to be educated in the Reformed religion, at sight of the Archbishop of Glasgow. No Popish servants to be allowed to attend him.’ The order was, however, by some means evaded, and was repeated nearly two years later, December, 1673. Once more ‘at Holyrood House, the Countess of Traquair compeared to exhibit her son the Earl, in order to be educated in the Reformed religion. The Council resolve he shall be sent to a good school, with a pedagogue and servants, as the Archbishop of Glasgow should name, the Earl of Galloway to defray charges. A letter to be sent to the Archbishop, and that the lady in the meantime keep the Earl, her son, for ten or twelve days.’
It does not appear whether these measures were effectual in retaining the young Earl in the Presbyterian fold, or whether his mother succeeded in enticing him to enter the Romish Church. He died unmarried, and was succeeded by CHARLES, the third son of the second Earl—the second son, George, having died unmarried. The new Earl had yielded to his mother’s influence, and had openly embraced the Roman Catholic faith. He suffered considerable annoyance on account of his religious opinions at the time of the Revolution, as appears from a statement of the celebrated Peter Walker, the Packman, in his ‘Vindication of Mr. Richard Cameron,’ published in the ‘Biographia Presbyteriana.’ ‘In the end of the year 1688, at the happy Revolution, when the Duke of York [James VII.] fled, and the crown was vacant, in which time we had no king, nor judicatories in the kingdom, the United Societies, in their general correspondence, considering the surprising, unexpected, merciful step of the Lord’s dispensation, thought it someway belonged to us in the interregnum to go to all Popish houses, and destroy their monuments of idolatry, with their priests’ robes, and to apprehend and put to prison themselves: which was done at the cross of Dumfries, and Peebles, and other places. That honourable and worthy gentleman, Donald Ker of Kersland, [Ker, though possessing the confidence of the Covenanters, was in reality employed by the Government as a spy and informer. ] having a considerable number of us with him, went to the house of Traquair, in frost and snow, and found a great deal of Romish wares there, but wanted the cradle, Mary and the Babe, and the priest. He sent James Arcknyes and some with him to the house of Mr. Thomas Lewis, who had the name of a Presbyterian minister. Kersland ordered them to search his house narrowly and behave themselves discreetly, which they did. Mr. Lewis and his wife mocked them, without offering them either meat or drink, though they had much need of it. At last they found two trunks locked, which they desired to have opened. Mr. Lewis then left them. They broke up the coffers, wherein they found a golden cradle with Mary and the Babe in her bosom; in the other trunk the priest’s robes (the Earl and the priest were fled), which they brought all to the cross of Peebles, with a great deal of Popish books, and many other things of great value, all Romish wares, and burnt them there. At the same time we concluded to go to all the prelatical and intruding curates, and to give them warning to remove, with all that belonged to them.’
It is evident that Peter Walker and his associates had not been taught toleration by their own sufferings.
Their adoption of the Roman Catholic faith excluded the Traquair family both from Parliament, and from public office. Thus shut out from intimate association with the great body of the Scottish nobles and gentry, the successive Earls, remarkable for nothing but their longevity, spent their lives in obscurity on the remnant of their ancestral estate, which now yields a rental of only £4,846 a year.
CHARLES, seventh Earl of Traquair, made application in 1779 for a concession of the exclusive working of certain mines in Spain, in which he believed there were vast deposits of coal. The Earl seems also to have entertained the wish that a grandeeship and a suitable establishment in Spain should be conferred upon him, because a cadet of his family had formerly gone to that country, and allied himself to one of the noble houses. He applied to Henry Stewart, Cardinal York, the last of the royal Stewarts, for his influence in the matter, who replied to his letter in kind and courteous terms. ‘You may be assured,’ he said, ‘I have full cognizance of the merits and prerogatives of your family, but I cannot but remark that it is the first time in all my lifetime I have ever seen your signature, or that of anyone belonging to you. That, however, has not hindered me from writing a very strong letter to the Duque of Alcudia in your favour, and I have also taken other means for to facilitate the good success of your petition. I heartily wish my endeavours may have their effect in reguard of you and your son, and the meanwhile be assured of my sincere esteem and kind friendship.’ It appears that the application was not successful, for a second equally kind letter from the Cardinal, in 1795, expresses his hope that the affair will have a successful termination. The concession, however, was not granted.
On the death of the eighth Earl in 1861, in his eighty-first year, the titles of the family became extinct. His sister, Lady Louisa Stuart, however, continued to possess the family estates and to reside in the antique, deserted-looking mansion of her fathers, probably the oldest inhabited house in Scotland, until December, 1875, when she passed away, in the hundredth year of her age. It does not appear, however, that the venerable lady was depressed, or saddened either by the decayed fortunes of her family, or by the reflection that she was the last of her race. She continued to the end cheerful and active, kind and charitable, fond of dress and of news, interested in all the events passing around her, and, in spite of her great age, was a frequent traveller. Her stately manners well became her position and descent, and, though she went to the grave like a shock of corn fully ripe, her death caused sadness and regret throughout Tweeddale and the Forest. At her death the Traquair mansion and estates passed to the Hon. William Constable Maxwell, a younger son of Lord Herries, whose ancestor, the sixth Earl of Nithsdale, married his cousin, the fourth daughter of the fourth Earl of Traquair.
The world on which Lady Louisa looked, not only in youth and middle age, but even in her advanced years, differed so widely from that on which she closed her eyes, that it might almost seem as if several centuries had intervened between the beginning and the end of her career. When she was born the Bourbons ruled, apparently with a firm hand, in France, Spain, and Naples; the Hapsburgs were Emperors of Germany; Italy was a congeries of petty, powerless principalities; Turkey was a formidable power; Poland was still a kingdom, and Russia a barbarous and almost unknown region. America was then only a dependency of Great Britain, though the conflict had begun which was to terminate, before Lady Louisa left the nursery, in the total separation of the American colonies from the mother country. The East India Company was then little more than an association of traders, and our Indian Empire was merely in its infancy. She was ten years of age when the famous trial of Warren Hastings, before the House of Lords, commenced. She was a young lady of seventeen when the first French Revolution broke out, and the whole civilised world stood aghast at the frightful massacres which ensued, at the execution of Louis XVI. and his queen, and the cruelties inflicted on the Royalists, with whom both the political and religious principles of the Traquair family must have made them deeply sympathise. She witnessed the astonishing results of the French revolutionary wars, the overthrow of ancient dynasties, and the adjustment and re-adjustment over and over again of the map of Europe; the Continent prostrate at the feet of Bonaparte; and the succession of brilliant naval victories of Rodney, Howe, Jervis, and Nelson, from Cape St. Vincent to Trafalgar, which made Britain the undisputed mistress of the seas. She had reached middle life when Napoleon invaded Russia and lost both his splendid army and his throne amid its snows, and when Wellington, having baffled the best French generals, drove their armies, in confusion out of the Peninsula, and planted the British standard on the soil of France. She was about forty years of age when the crowning victory of Waterloo restored peace to Europe and consigned the common enemy to his life-long prison on St. Helena. It is striking that one who witnessed in mature years the rise, progress, and overthrow, of the first French Empire, should have lived to see, half a century later, the establishment and destruction of the Second Empire, and ‘haughty Gaul,’ which had so often invaded, plundered, and oppressed other nations, compelled to drain to the dregs the cup of humiliation and retribution.
The changes which Lady Louisa witnessed in her own country— the result of advancing intelligence and scientific discoveries—are no less remarkable and much more satisfactory. The destruction of the old close system of parliamentary representation, and the substitution in its room of a system at once popular, equitable, and efficient; the abolition of the Corn Laws, and of the restrictions on trade and commerce, once regarded as the palladium of Britain’s prosperity, took place, while gas, steamships, railroads, telegraphs, and the penny post were all invented, or brought into general use after she was far advanced in life. Nowhere had more extensive and gratifying changes taken place during Lady Louisa’s lifetime than in her own beautiful and beloved Tweedside. The green pastoral hills and ’Tweed’s fair river, broad and deep,’ remained as they were, but all else was altered. Not only at the time of her birth, but after the first decade of the present century had closed, agriculture in Tweeddale, and indeed throughout Scotland, was at a very low ebb. In 1763 there were no enclosures, and almost no trees. The arable lands were cut up into small holdings, and the fields divided into patches by numerous ditches and swamps. Draining had never been tried; artificial manures had never been thought of; green crops and stall-feeding were unknown. Corn was raised only on the drier spots, and ploughing was effected by means of a huge, cumbrous machine, drawn by teams of from four to six horses, or twice as many oxen, driven by four or five men. The harness consisted mainly of plaited straw and ropes. Men frequently dragged the wooden harrows by means of ropes thrown over their shoulders. The crops were always scanty, and it was no uncommon occurrence for the grain to be cut down, and gathered in, amid frost and snow. Thrashing-mills were unknown at that time in Tweedside. There were no wheeled carts or carriages, or public conveyances of any kind, and, indeed, no proper roads. When Lady Louisa travelled in those days, it must have been always on horseback, and along rough bridle-paths.
The condition of the people was on a par with the state of their lands. Farmhouses and cottages alike were mere hovels; the latter built of turf, low in the roof, dirty, damp, and unhealthy. The people were sober, industrious, and thrifty, but very poor; they seldom tasted butcher’s meat, but lived mostly on meal, milk, and vegetables. The rents were very low, and only a small portion was paid in money. In the whole county of Peebles there was, at the close of the last century, only eight proprietors whose rentals exceeded £1,000 a year, £4,000 being the maximum. There are now twenty-six. The contrast between the condition of the country and its inhabitants in Lady Louisa’s youthful days, and the scene of beauty and fertility which Tweedside now presents,—its rich arable fields and green pastures, the stately mansions of the gentry embosomed in fine woods, and the comfortable farmhouses and cottages,—may serve to show what agricultural skill and enterprise have done, in one lifetime, to transform a wilderness into a garden of Eden. Other changes have no doubt taken place during her career which must have been less pleasing to the far-descended, aristocratic old lady. At the close of last century there was no fewer than six great nobles who had estates in Tweeddale, only one of whom now remains, the proprietor of an estate of £2,000 a year.
Till we meet again - Regards - edmondsallan