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25 September 1703, the Death of the 1st Duke of Argyll

On this day, 25 September 1703 died Archibald Campbell, the 10th Earl and 1st Duke of Argyll……..which Argyll was this one then…?

Our Archibald, 10th Earl and 1st Duke of Argyll

Our Archibald, 10th Earl and 1st Duke of Argyll

This Archibald, hereinafter to be referred to as Our Archibald, was the latest in a long line of ennobled Archibald Campbells who held title over Argyll in the centuries after Colin Campbell was first raised to the peerage as the 1st Earl of Argyll by James II, in 1457.
A contemporary of Claverhouse, born in 1658, he played as much a part on the grand stage of Scottish Affairs as any of his forefathers. Which is why he features in this blogpost.


It can be difficult for even the enthusiastic student of Scottish History to keep track of the various Earls, Dukes and Marquesses who ruled the House of Argyll through the centuries. Suffice to know that most of these were christened Archibald and the vast majority were heinous criminals. Men fueled by towering ambition both for themselves and their noble house and, since the advent of the Reformation in the 16th century, the bitter, cheerless gall of hard core Presbyterianism layered a further patina of unpleasantness on them and their actions.


As the 10th Earl, Our Archibald was the son of Archibald, the 9th Earl who was executed in 1685 for his involvement in the Monmouth Rebellion.

Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll. Our Archibald's father

Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll. Our Archibald’s father

This was naked attempt to overthrow the incumbent of the British throne, James II & VII and place the Duke of Monmouth, Charles II’s illegitimate offspring, there in his stead.

Much has been written of Monmouth’s part of the rebellion but there is comparatively little commentary on Argyll’s efforts with the Scottish aspect of the rebellion.

Monmouth, having landed at Lyme Regis in June 1685 with less than 100 men, was quickly reinforced by local volunteers to the tune of 1000 troops. Over the next 4 weeks his army fought a serious of indecisive skirmishes against royalist troops before he was brought to a definitive set-piece battle at Sedgemoor a month after landing where his poorly trained and disorganized force was utterly routed by the regulars of the King’army. Monmouth was duly executed for high treason.

Monmouth docks at Lyme Regis to start his abortive Rebellion (June 1685)

Monmouth docks at Lyme Regis to start his abortive Rebellion (June 1685)

If Monmouth’s end of the rebellion was comical, Argyll’s efforts north of the border degenerated swiftly to the farcical. Arriving in Orkney a month before Monmouth docked at Lyme Regis, Archibald spent 4 weeks sailing around the west coast attempting to round up supporters for his cause. Bedevilled by lack of support and mutiny amongst those who did rally to his colours, he finally found himself at Dumbarton with only his son and 3 friends by his side. Subsequently captured by Government troops Argyll was executed in Edinburgh fully one week prior to Monmouth’s denouement at Sedgemoor.
This Archibald, the 9th Earl, features in the Claverhouse story as much as Our Archibald, the 10th Earl. To his credit he fought for his king and Scotland against the depredations of Cromwell and took part in both military disasters of the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 and then the Battle of Worcester the following year. He survived through the interregnum, keeping one foot on both Stuart and Cromwellian camps, trusted by neither and viewed with high suspicion by both. And his father, Archibald the 8th Earl was executed on Charles II command in the immediate aftermath of the restoration in 1660.


In the complicated political atmosphere post the Restoration, Archibald the 9th Earl, sought to navigate the difficult waters but was confounded by the passing of the Test Act in 1681. This required all the nobility to take an oath which required a profession of the Protestant religion AND an affirmation of royal supremacy in all matters spiritual and temporal. This created too much of a compromise for Archibald who refused to take the oath and was, consequently, tried before his peers in December 1681, with one John Graham of Claverhouse present on the jury, he was sentenced to death. But prior to his execution he managed to escape from Edinburgh Castle, in disguise, and abetted by his step daughter Lady Sophie Lindsay. He was eventually executed, as outlined above, following the failure of Monmouth’s Rebellion.


Our Archibald’s grandfather was the 8th Earl, also christened Archibald, and it was he who felt the eventual wrath of Charles II, when the Stuart monarchy was restored in 1660 following that disastrous period of miserableness known to history as the Cromwellian interregnum. It was he who set himself against the Great Montrose and although bested by this outstanding hero of Scottish history both on the military and political stage, he was the man peering through the blinds of his Edinburgh home on 20th May 1650 when Montrose was put to death at the order of the misguided covenanting Government.

Our Archibald's grandfather, also Archibald. 8th Earl and 1st Marquess of Argyll. In black-cowled Geneva Minister manifestation

Our Archibald’s grandfather, also Archibald. 8th Earl and 1st Marquess of Argyll. In black-cowled Geneva Minister manifestation


Anyway, let’s get back to Our Archibald, the 10th Earl. He had much to live up to, given the extensive record of his father and grandfather, both of whom had been executed for high treason, and he applied himself enthusiastically to his task. Following King James’ accession to the throne in 1685, after the death of Charles II, Archibald enthusiastically lobbied for the restoration of his father’s attainder. And when his entreaties were treated with the contempt of which they were thoroughly deserving, Archibald took himself off to The Hague and the Court of the Prince of Orange where he joined the motley crew of ambitious, exiled men who were minded to persuade the young Prince to seek his father-in-law’s throne for himself.

William of Orange, once more thrown from a horse

William of Orange, once more thrown from a horse

With the usurpation of King James from the throne in December 1688, Archibald continued in his personal support of the new monarchs, William and Mary. A devotion which in turn led to the restoration of his father’s land and holdings. When Dundee raised King James’ Standard on Dundee Law in April 1689, and initiated the first Jacobite Rising which was intended to restore James to said throne, Our Archibald proceeded to raise an armed force in King William’s name to protect the Hanoverian Crown. Although, this was done in such a slow and haphazard fashion that the decisive action of that campaign had been fought at Killiecrankie ere an armed Campbell marched forth from Argyll.

The Battle of Killiecrankie, July 1689. Fought without contribution from Archibald or his Campbell's

The Battle of Killiecrankie, July 1689. Fought without contribution from Archibald or his Campbell’s

With the eventual end of Dundee’s campaign it was clear to many that with a monarch of satisfactory protestant heritage ensconced on the throne, and an ambitious and capable one at that, the deposed Stuart monarch and his court exiled in France and the shifting political sands of the last ninety years now beginning to solidify into set cement, the requirement for caution of loyalty, often manifested as outright duplicity, was now gone. And it was now possible for a noble lord to throw himself wholeheartedly behind the monarch in order to best profit one’s standing and the resultant inheritance to be handed down. It was in this climate of enthusiastic loyalty that Our Archibald found himself. He became William’s principal advisor on Scottish affairs and was made a Privy Councillor. On the military side he was made Colonel-in-Chief of the Earl of Argyll’s Regiment of Foot. This was the body of men who were entrusted by William’s Scottish advisors to carry out that action of political repression known to us all as the Massacre of Glencoe, in 1692. Although, to be fair to Our Archibald, he was far and distant from the aforementioned Glen when the slaughter of the women and children was taking place.

The Massacre of Glencoe, February 1692. Carried out by The Earl of Argyll's Regiment of Foot of which Our Archibald was Colonel-in-Chief.

The Massacre of Glencoe, February 1692. Carried out by The Earl of Argyll’s Regiment of Foot of which Our Archibald was Colonel-in-Chief.

Elevated to 1st Duke of Argyll in 1701 by a grateful monarch he died on 25th September 1703 at Cherton House, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne. His son, John, not Archibald, continued to serve the Hanoverian house in the same loyal fashion and indeed commanded the detachment of the British Army which, at the Battle of Sheriffmuir, confounded the Earl of Mar’s attempts to move south during the 1715 Jacobite Rising. An afternoon’s action which effectively ended the Rising.

Our Archibald's son, John. The first head of the House of Argyll in 4 generations not christened Archibald.

Our Archibald’s son, John. The first head of the House of Argyll in 4 generations not christened Archibald.


Birth of William Carstares – a scoundrel by any standards

John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount Dundee was born in 1648. Strangely enough, in that same year, and the one following, a handful of individuals were also born who would all have key roles to play on the enthralling religious, political and military stage that was to be Scotland in the latter part of the 17th century.

Men like John Dalrymple who would go on to become the Master of Stair and play a prominent role in events such as the Massacre of Glencoe and the signing of the Treaty of Union in 1707. Men like Richard Cameron, known to posterity as the Lion of the Covenant. Men like James Drummond, 4th Earl of Perth, who was to become Lord Chancellor of Scotland and introduce the use of thumbscrews into the kingdom. Also his brother, John, born in 1649, and would as the Earl of Melfort, do more political damage to King James’ cause than any other during the key period between the Glorious Revolution and the culmination of Dundee’s Rising at the Battle of Killiecrankie.

Also of this generation was William Carstares, born in Cathcart, Glasgow on this day in 1649. He was the son of a Presbyterian minister who held some sympathy at the time with those many who protested against King Charles I’s initiatives but he did not take an extreme position. So the atmosphere of young William’s upbringing was a balanced one, redolent with tolerance and Presbyterian piety.

SAMSUNG DIGIMAX 360Cathcart Parish, Glasgow. William Carstares birth place

William, however, did not take after his father who would famously say of him in later years, in a curiously Blackadderesque manner, that ..”he would plot and plot till he plotted his head off. Ministers of the Gospel are not called on to meddle with that work.”

William_Carstares_about_1700William Carstares

Ordained a Protestant minister in Holland, Carstares was drawn into the circle around William, Prince of Orange.

William , Prince of OrangeWilliam, Prince of Orange

During the 3rd Anglo Dutch war (1672 – 1674), Carstares played an important role as master spy for William, moving between England and Holland, under the cunning and completely unsuspicious nom de plume of William Williams. In September 1674 he was arrested in England for espionage. No firm evidence was uncovered despite threats of torture and he was sent to EdinburghCastle where he would remain a prisoner until 1679. He was released then along with a number of other malcontents as the Scottish Government sought to ameliorate the political climate after the Covenanter uprising which had ended at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge.

Undiscouraged by his years in jail, Carstares threw himself once more into the feverish world of political plotting. He was involved in a Whig Plot during the Exclusion Crisis when the presbyterian gentry sought to exclude the King’s brother (James, Duke of York and future James VII & II) from the succession, on the grounds of his Catholicism. The plan was to replace him instead with Charles’ illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth. Charles managed to avoid this by using his Royal Prerogative to dissolve the English Parliament, in 1679.

Then in 1683 Carstares was implicated in the unsuccessful Rye House Plot. A scheme which had the naked intention of assassinating both the King and his brother as they travelled to Newmarket races.

Rye_House_1793_Turner (of plot fame)Rye House. Setting for the infamous plot

He was arrested again and this time subjected to various tortures including the Boot and the notorious Thumbikins.

thumbikinsThe dreaded Thumbikins

 He made a deal with the Secretary of State in Scotland, John Drummond, that his statement would not be used against himself. However, it was enough to see the conviction of his fellow conspirator, Baillie of Jerviswood, who was subsequently put to death with all the hideousness associated with traitor’s executions prevalent at the time.

Baillie of JerviswoodBaillie of Jerviswood. Another victim of Carstares shennanigans.

Carstares was subsequently released and headed back immediately to Holland in time to become involved with the Monmouth Rebellion of 1685 when an armed force, hostile to the newly crowned King James II & VII, landed at Lyme Regis under the command of Monmouth, while a smaller force landed in Scotland under that incorrigible Covenanting hardliner, Archibald Campbell, Earl of Argyll. The Rising was subsequently crushed at the Battle of Sedgemoor on 6th July by forces loyal to the king. Fortunately, for his political future, Cartsares had remained in Holland, so once again escaped retribution for his crimes.

Sedgemoor 3

Battle of Sedgemoor. Presbyterian hopes crushed again.

When William’s army invaded England in the lead up to the Glorious Revolution in 1688, Carstares was this time on the boat and by William’s side in the newly created official capacity of William’s Royal Chaplain for Scotland.

Landing of William of OrangeWilliam, Prince of Orange, lands at Torbay in 1688.

Finally after all the years of scheming and plotting, Carstares’ fortunes had now become completely transformed. Following William’s triumph, in the aftermath of James II & VII’ s flight to France, he became a hugely influential member of William’s court and would be his primary advisor in all matters Scottish, manipulating affairs through his established methodology of scheming deviousness.

Following William’s death he remained at court as advisor to Queen Mary II & II and was subsequently elected principal of Edinburgh University. He played a key role in pushing through the abhorrence of Parliamentary Union in 1707 and when in 1714 Mary’s successor, Queen Anne, died and the unified parliament cast about Europe to find an acceptably protestant monarch before finally settling on the Electress of Hanover’s son George, Carstares was still around to have the office of Royal Chaplain conferred upon him yet again.

He finally died late in December 1715, of apoplexy, having survived long enough to see the failure of the latest Jacobite military effort to reverse the events of the Glorious Revolution and restore the Stuart Monarchy to the unified throne.

27th July 1689: The Battle of Killiecrankie

The highland nights in July last but a few short hours. As had been the case so often during the few months since he had led his troops away from the wreckage of the Edinburgh Convention, the King’s Lieutenant-Colonel took no sleep. The decisive hour of the campaign now approached and the fortunes of the Stuart cause would be hazarded decisively in battle.

Dundee knew that MacKay’s army was less than 20 miles away at Dunkeld and would march north at dawn. He knew also that Murray would have conveyed to MacKay the news that the full Jacobite army was now at Blair. MacKay had not risen to his position by behaving in a capricious and unpredictable manner. Dundee could be confident that his counterpart would seek to engage the Jacobite army in a full field engagement and to destroy them. The task before him was to bring his smaller, less disciplined force into action at close quarters, and use whatever advantages could be gained from the rough terrain to, in turn, eliminate MacKay’s command and take full control of Scotland in King James’ name.

Dundee conducted a full council of war in the banqueting hall of the castle early that morning. While he was clear in his own mind as to what was required, he still had to convince his men. His lowland officers, aware of the proximity and superior numbers of MacKay’s force advised caution. To take on an experienced enemy with lesser numbers, was to risk the complete destruction of their army and with it the King’s cause. The chieftains, for the most part, sought to attack MacKay immediately. Dundee turned to Sir Ewan Cameron of Lochiel, who had sat silently through the contentious discussions. Effectively giving the casting vote to this high status chieftain. There was little surprise when he indicated they should seek battle that day.

The Jacobite army headed for the Pass of Killecrankie but by a circuitous route which saw them maintain the higher ground as they approached the pass: optimum use of the terrain was essential to ensure Dundee’s men extracted all possible advantages that could be mustered over the enemy.

Meanwhile MacKay had led his men out of Dunkeld at first light. The men that Murray had posted to guard the pass had long since disappeared so MacKay sent 200 troops through it to ensure that his main force would not suffer a surprise attack in the narrow defile. By late afternoon the redcoat force was clear of the pass, the point of their greatest vulnerability. However, they were still in a difficult position. They stood on low ground facing North West, looking up at the rising slopes of Creag Eallaich. At their back thundered the River Garry, in heavy spate after days of rain. At this point the first elements of Dundee’s army came into sight on the hill above them, marching from left to right.

There was no possibility of MacKay launching an attack up the steep slope, but the ground they held was eminently defensible. To avoid being outflanked he thinned his battalions to a depth of three men only and stretched them to their maximum extent, leaving a space in the middle where he placed his horse.

Thinning out his line to this length created two problems for MacKay. Its ability to handle a full-blooded highland charge down the slope was one but now the difficulty in exercising command and control along its length now became apparent to him. He rode back and forth along his line issuing orders, adjusting dispositions, seeking to maintain control of a situation which was rapidly getting away from him.

Above him Dundee’s army stood silently drawn up in full battle order, calmly awaiting his order to attack. In classical fashion the hard work had been done. The Jacobite force had surprised their enemy and were now fully deployed with all the advantages that the difficult terrain could endow. At about eight o’clock, as the sun began to slip behind Beinn Dearg in the distance, Dundee gave the order.

The clans came crashing down the slope. Each contingent had been given a redcoat battalion to aim for and in the fashion of many generations of fighting men, developed to a fine level two generations previously by Montrose and MacColla, they swept into the redcoat force.

Amid the inevitable confusion whole battalions of redcoats melted before the storm. Others remained intact as the angle of the slope diluted the effect of the charge at some points.

General MacKay’s prospects of victory disappeared within those first few moments of contact. Thereafter it was only a question of damage limitation. He performed credibly as the battle progressed. He pulled together those relatively intact units moving them across the battlefield, and having considered making a stand, soon determined that withdrawal was more in keeping with his master’s interest and within two hours of the commencement of hostilities he led away what remained of his initial force, some 400 form his original 4000. Other redcoat general’s during other crushing defeats in future Jacobite Risings would perform less commendably.

Meanwhile, higher up the slope of the battlefield, John Graham, First Viscount Claverhouse and the King’s Lieutenant-Colonel lay mortally wounded. As he had raised an arm giving directions at an early stage in the battle, a musket ball had struck him in the chest under his arm.

Before the last sounds of combat had faded from the field he was dead. The army he had fashioned through the sheer force of his implacable determination and led to spectacular victory against opposition better trained and equipped now stood triumphant. But the man who had made it all possible was gone. And with him went the prospects of a Stuart restoration.

25th July 1689: The Two Armies Close

Dundee and his army have been camped at Castle Cluny in Badenoch for 2 days.  Although Cluny and his Mackintosh clansmen had been out with the army in the earlier part of the campaign two months previously, they had returned to Badenoch and Cluny had since resisted all Dundee’s efforts of persuasion to march once again to the King’s standard.

Such comings and goings were simply the way that the chieftains conducted themselves and while it grated with Dundee whose military career hitherto had been spent in considerably more disciplined surroundings, he adapted himself to the harsh facts of the situation and exercised his significant gifts of charm and personal authority.

While he was often able to demonstrate this in person, much of his communication with recalcitrant chieftains and potential allies had needed to be done by letter. During the four months of the campaign to date he had written dozens of such letters. And now with the decisive battle just 2 days away he bends once more to his pen.

Lord John Murray of Atholl had consistently refused Dundee’s persuasive efforts to support King James’ cause and indeed was now effectively in arms against him, Dundee did not yet give up on him. He writes to him one more time, outlining the success the King was achieving in Ireland, the likely size of the military support which would shortly arrive thence and the benefits which would inevitably ensue for the House of Atholl were Lord John to decide, even at this late hour, to place his support firmly with Dundee.

In truth things did not go well in Ireland for the Jacobite cause and any hopes that fresh troops would be sent to his assistance were in all probability his and his alone. Nonetheless, battle beckoned and Atholl’s support was required.

Dundee despatched the letter to BlairCastle, which Lord John was besieging, in the care of Major William Grahame and Gilbert Ramsay, an Edinburgh advocate, with clear instructions to wait for Murray’s reply. On their arrival Murray simply refuses to see them. As they wait they speak with the Atholl men in the siege lines around their master’s house. The support for King James among the common soldiery is clear to all.

Grahame and Gilbert return to Dundee’s camp this same day. It’s clear now that not only will Murray not rally to him but is in full cooperation with McKay. Dundee realises he must now head for BlairCastle directly or Patrick Stewart will be overwhelmed. The final rally for those not yet with the standard is still 4 days away but MacKay’s move north has pre-empted him. And his army is barely half that of McKay.

General MacKay, meanwhile, has reached Perth. His army comprises 4000 foot and 4 troops of horse. He also writes to Murray, outlining his expectations of him in the successful prosecution of his siege and that he is heading Murray’s way.

Its 2 days to the Battle of Killiecrankie.

22nd July 1689: Both Armies Move Out

General MaKay, ensconced in Edinburgh, has considered his options.  Blair Atholl is a big concern to him. While Lord John Murray is staunchly Williamite his followers are by no means as reliable. By McKay’s calculations there are 1500 fencible men up for grabs by either side in that area. BlairCastle is key to free passage between the northern and southern highlands and this is now held for Dundee, albeit with Murray besieging it. So, abandoning his original plan of joining the Earl of Argyll in the west, McKay strikes north for Stirling with BlairCastle his immediate objective. He has 4000 redcoat soldiery at his back.

Dundee has now been joined in Lochaber by Lochiel, Glengarry and the Sleat MacDonalds. The final rendezvous for all those who have not yet joined the standard is set for Blair Atholl on 29th July. Dundee’s intention is to make his way there not by the most direct route but by that which will allow him to recruit as many fighting men as he can. In the meantime he knows Patrick Stewart will need some support in holding BlairCastle so he orders Sir Alexander MacLean to break off his siege of McKay’s ally, the Master of Forbes at CraigievarCastle, and make haste to Blair with his 400 men to assist in holding that fortress.

Then, on 22nd July, Dundee’s army breaks camp and moves out of Lochaber heading to Badenoch and Castle Cluny.

Killiecrankie, the climactic battle of the campaign is 5 days away.

17th July 1689: Blair Castle Falls to King James

Killiecrankie is 11 days away and Dundee is still camped in Lochaber as he seeks to strengthen the army that he commands for the King. To this end he continues to seek to persuade those powerful men in the highlands who have not yet declared their loyalties to come out for King James.

The Marquis of Atholl is one such man. He holds sway over a key area of the central highlands with the BlairCastle the centre point for the administration of his affairs and the key gateway between northern and southern highlands.

The Marquis himself has responded to the deepening political and military crisis initiated by William of Orange’s landing at Torbay and the subsequent usurpation of King James, by heading of to Bath on sick leave, leaving his affairs in the hands of his eldest son, Lord John Murray.

Lord John, a committed supporter of William, heads off to Edinburgh leaving, in his turn, BlairCastle in the hands of his factor, Patrick Stewart of Ballechin. He has urged his men that if they cannot support William they should support no one. From the safety of the capital he organises a rendezvous for all Atholl men at Pitlochry, ostensibly for consultations. He is deeply aware that most of his vassals would stand by James if a choice had to be made.

The King’s Irish reinforcements have now joined with Dundee, but his army still numbers no more than two thousand men. The Earl of Argyll, William’s man, has assembled three thousand of his clansmen in Argyll. General McKay, commander of the main government force of five thousand, is preparing to leave Edinburgh. There is a clear prospect of Dundee being attacked on two fronts within days.

The rallying of the remaining clans and possible further reinforcement from Ireland is scheduled for July 29th. Dundee needs to maintain his strategic position in the centre of the country but be close enough to the west coast should reinforcements appear.

And Dundee now moves with clear insight, decisiveness and confidence. Reinforced by the receipt of his commission as the King’s Lieutenant-Colonel he sends instruction to Patrick Stewart at BlairCastle to hold the fortress in King James’ name.

When Lord John Murray arrives at Pitlochry to organise his vassals into armed service for William he is given a letter from Patrick Stewart in which he explains that he is unable to attend this gathering as he has been given clear orders to hold BlairCastle.

Lord John, in all his discombulation, heads off to besiege his own home. The key to the north is in Jacobite hands.

12th July 1689: Opposing Forces Gather

The Battle of Killiecrankie, Bonnie Dundee’s hour of victory and death, is 15 days away. Dundee, with a Government bounty of £2000 scots on his head, is camped in Lochaber with an army of highlanders which defies accurate counting as it grows and shrinks by the day. He continues to pen voluminous correspondence to all who might be disposed to aid the King’s cause.

Colonel Alexander Cannon, with 300 Irish reinforcements, lands at Duart on Mull. A detachment whose number and martial calibre falls considerably short of the King’s Lieutenant-General’s hopes and expectations. Attacked en route this force had lost the considerable stock of victuals with which they had embarked 2 days earlier. However, they had managed to convey intact 35 barrels of powder and shot. Most likely Dundee’s preference in an either / or scenario. They have a 4 day march ahead of them before reaching Dundee’s encampment.

General Hugh MacKay, commander of the Government army which will be vanquished in a fortnight’s time, arrives in Edinburgh to make his final preparations before advancing north to meet Dundee.

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