By Mhairi Pyott
James Graham, who became the first Marquis of Montrose, was born at the family home at Old Montrose, in 1612. This is where he spent much of his boyhood also with some time at Kincardine Castle. Montrose was hanged at the Mercat Cross on 21st May 1650 , to the last protesting he was a true Covenanter and a loyal subject.
In 1626, on the death on his father, James inherited the earldom of Montrose. He was educated at St Andrews University, where his interests were mainly military glory.
While a student at St Andrews he occasionally visited the local district and took part in archery contests with his friends on Broughty links.
As a result of his marksmanship he lost twelve shillings in August 1628, and apparently a week later again on the losing side, as his careful steward records:
Item, “in Bruchtue links my lord being at the archerie with my Lord Kingorne, the losse being for payment of wyne that come from Dundie, my Lord bearing part of Reyres laying by heid , 36 shillings.“
In November of 1629, he married Magdalene Carnegie, daughter of Lord Carnegie of Kinnaird. After the birth of his two sons, James Graham went to France and Italy to complete his education, which included some time at the French military academy at Angers.
He returned to Scotland in 1637.
Being of the Presbyterian faith, he was soon involved in the religious controversy caused by the increasing control by the National Assembly over political and spiritual matters.
James Graham was one of the first to sign a national protest or covenant in Greyfriars Churchyard , in Edinburgh.
The then ruling monarch Charles 1 tried to curb this protest.
James Graham despite his deep religious faith was also a firm supporter of Royalty.
When civil war broke out between the King and his government, Montrose and his army of Highlanders won a brilliant series of victories against the opposition led by the Duke of Argyll.
However, the King`s cause failed and Montrose was defeated at Philliphaugh in September 1645.
After a desperate campaign in the North of Scotland in September 1645 Montrose was defeated by a superior force under the command of David Leslie. King Charles surrendered himself to the Covenanters. Montrose sailed into exile on 3rd September 1646
Montrose was offered numerous appointments by European rulers, including that of Field Marshall to the Emperor Ferdinand 111.
He remained loyal to King Charles 1 and following the monarchs execution in January 1649, swore his loyalty to Charles 11, who was proclaimed King of Scots in February 1649.
Charles 11 appointed Montrose as his captain-general in Scotland, authorizing him to negotiate with European heads of state to raise forces on his behalf.
Charles 11 also entered into negotiations with the Covenanters.
When talks with the Covenanters were of no avail, the King ordered Montrose to take military control of Scotland. With a very small force of German and Danish troops, Montrose landed in Scotland in March 1650.
Charles11 had meantime re-opened talks with the Covenanters. He wrote to Montrose with orders to disarm.. This letter was never delivered to Montrose.
In April 1650 at Carbisdale, Montrose and his followers were defeated by Colonel Strachan. Charles 11 disavowed Montrose under the terms of the Treaty of Breda. This action signed on 1st May 1650 by the King was made to secure an alliance with the Covenanters.
Escaping into the hills Montrose made his way to Ardvreck Castle near Loch Assynt, the home of his former friend Neil McLeod, who betrayed him.
As the Argyll faction sold their King, so this highland laird rendered his name infamous by selling the heroic Montrose to the Covenanters, for which he was rewarded by four hundred bolls of meal.
The illustrious prisoner was led southward under strong armed guard, commanded by Colonel Strachan.
Halts were made at various houses and castles owned by those who were known to be in favour of the covenanting cause.
In this way they reached Grange Castle, Monifieth.
The Durhams of Grange, long held a leading position among the landed proprietors of Forfarshire..
James Durham was a zealous covenanter, but his wife Margaret Scott, daughter of the Laird of Brotherton, was by no means so enthuisiastic on the subject. She had a secret love and admiration for the Great marquis and was aggrieved at the pitiable condition of one born to so high a position.
Lady Grange accordingly set herself to rescue him out of the hands of the enemy.
The Marquis was lodged in a chamber communicating directly with the hall of the castle, which was occupied by the main guard. As night advanced Lady Grange proceeded to serve the soldiers indiscriminately, with store of good liquor. The Highlanders of the Lawers Regiment became stark drunk and in a short time fell down on the floor and “they lay like swine on a midden“.
Lady Grange waited until all were asleep. No eye saw her, as with one of her own dresses over her arm she picked her way deftly among the incumbent figures and entered the prisoners chamber.
She hurriedly explained her plan to the Marquis and he approved.
They passed through the outer door and two sleeping sentinels but at the castle gate there unexpectedly appeared another soldier who had deserted his post to find if any `good cheer` remained for him within the castle. Partly intoxicated on encountering two females he seized one around the waist, supposedly the servant and in doing so discovered that his arms were around Montrose.
Colonel Strachan commanded the arrest of the Laird of Grange and his household, threatening them with immediate death by rope or bullets.
Lady Grange stood up to him by firmly declaring that she alone was answerable, her husband and household knowing nothing of what she had been about. She said “I glory in what I have done though heartily grieved that I have failed in setting the Marquis free. On my head therefore expend all vials of your wrath“. Her courageous spirit dampened Strachan`s ire and after due consideration decided to `hush up` the affair which reflected badly on his men.
Next day Montrose was taken to Dundee, where the inhabitants, although they suffered severely from his raid in 1646, treated him with noble generosity. They had his wounds dressed and gave him suitable attire also a handsome sum of money.
Montrose was hanged at the Mercat Cross on 21st May 1650 , to the last protesting he was a true Covenanter and a loyal subject.
Montrose`s head was fixed on a spike at the Tolbooth in Edinburgh, his legs and arms fixed to the gates of Stirling, Glasgow, Perth and Aberdeen. His dismembered body was buried in Edinburgh, but Lady Jean Napier had it secretly disinterred. The heart was removed, embalmed, placed in a casketand sent to Montrose`s exiled son as a symbol of loyalty and martyrdom. After the Restoration, Montrose`s embalmed heart and bones were buried in th High Kirk of St Giles in Edinburgh , in an elaborate ceremony with fourteen noblemen bearing the coffin, on 11th May 1661
Perhaps if the escape plan had been successful then Monifieth might have had a famous heroine on par with Flora McDonald.