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The Scottish Nation

TRAQUAIR, Earl of, a title in the peerage of Scotland, conferred in 1633, on Sir John Stuart, lord-high-treasurer of Scotland, the fifth in descent from James Stewart, a natural son of the earl of Buchan, brother uterine of James II. and the second son of Sir James Stewart, called the Black Knight of Lorn, by Jane Beaufort, queen dowager of King James I. James Stewart obtained from his father an act of legitimation, under the great seal, 20th February 1489, and a charter of the lands of Traquair, Peebles-shire, to him and the heirs male of his body legitimately begotten. He fell at Flodden, 9th September 1513. Having married the heiress of Rutherford, and got with her the lands of Rutherford and Wells, Roxburghshire, he quartered the arms of Rutherford with his own. His son, William Stewart of Traquair, had four sons. 1. Robert, who succeeded to the family estates but died without issue, 9th September 1548. 2. Sir John Stuart of Traquair, who was knighted, 20th July 1565, when Queen Mary created Darnley duke of Albany, and the following year was appointed captain of her guards. He remained a steady friend to that ill-fated queen, and was one of those who entered into a bond of association to support and defend her rights, after her escape from Lochleven, in 1568. He was afterwards continued as captain of the king’s guard. 3. Sir William Stuart of Traquair, one of the gentlemen of the bedchamber to James VI. and governor of Dumbarton castle in 1582. This laird of Traquair was a courtier of King James. At the meeting of the estates of parliament, 17th January 1593, he was one of the commissioners appointed “to converse in the checker house,” to consider as to the payment of the king’s debts, “as also touching his majesty’s visitation of the Isles” the following summer, “and needful provisions to be made therefore.” (Calderwood, vol. v. p. 221.) At the baptism of Prince Henry in the chapel royal of Stirling in August 1594, the laird of Traquair officiated as a “paile” bearer. In a convention held at Holyrood-house, 10th December 1598, he was present as one of the king’s privy council. He died, unmarried, 20th May, 1605. 4. James, who also possessed the Traquair estates, and died in the beginning of 1606. He had two sons, namely, 1. John Stuart, younger of Traquair, who predeceased his father, leaving by his wife, Margaret, daughter of Andrew, master of Ochiltree, an only son, John, first earl of Traquair. 2. Sir Robert Stuart. He had also one daughter, Isobel, wife of William Rutherford of Quarrieholes.

John, first earl of Traquair, succeeded his grandfather in 1606. He was educated by him under Thomas Sydserf, bishop of Galloway. After returning from his travels on the continent, he was, in 1621, elected commissioner for Tweeddale in the Scots parliament. He was knighted by King James VI., and sworn one of his privy council. On the accession of Charles I., he became a great favourite with that monarch, and was by him raised to the peerage by the title of Lord Stuart of Traquair, 19th April, 1628, to him and his heirs male. He was appointed treasurer-depute in 1630, and an extraordinary lord of session 10th November the same year. When Charles I. visited Scotland in 1633, he created his lordship earl of Traquair, with the secondary titles of Lord Linton and Caberston, by patent, dated at Holyrood, 23d June, 1633, to him and his heirs male whatever, bearing the name and arms of Stuart. In 1635, on the resignation of the earl of Morton, he was appointed lord-high-treasurer, and in March of that year he was chancellor of the jury on the trial of Lord Balmerinoch, when that nobleman was found guilty of having published a seditious libel, but as the sentence was unpopular, his lordship hastened up to London, and obtained Balmerinoch’s pardon from the king. In 1637, on the attempted introduction of the liturgy in to Scotland, the earl of Traquair acted a very prominent part in carrying out the king’s commands. In December of that year he was sent by the privy council to court, to inform his majesty as to the state of parties. His advice that the liturgy should be recalled was disregarded; but in consequence of giving it, he was accused by the bishops of being himself friendly to the Covenanters. Previous to going to London he had expressed himself to the earl of Rothes as opposed to the liturgy, as thus related by that nobleman in his ‘Relation of Affairs,’ (p. 32): “The treasurer (Traquair) and Southesk meeting in Durie’s house at their return from Linlithgow, sent for Rothes on Friday, 8th December, at night, Durie being present, when the treasurer spoke to Rothes more freely than ever. Having never before shown directly his own particular dislike of the service-book, he did there declare he would rather lay down his white staff than practice it, and would write his mind freely to his majesty, but did run much upon some satisfaction to the king’s majesty’s honour, by getting Edinburgh submitted, either by legal pursuit or voluntary submission, and gave all vows and oaths that he should bleed sooner than any of them lose life or blood, but only that the king might be righted in the eyes of the world for the contempt which appeared to proceed from this people to his authority.” In the beginning of February 1638, he returned to Edinburgh, and was immediately applied to by some of the leading nobles for information relative to the king’s intentions and the measures to be proposed by him, but he declined giving an answer till the meeting of the privy council, which had been appointed to be held at Stirling on the 20th February. The Presbyterians, however, had already received secret information respecting the real character of his commission, and great numbers of them began to move towards Stirling, there to act as occasion might require. Resolving to publish the king’s proclamation commanding obediences to the service-book and canons, before they could assemble in sufficient force to prevent it, he hastened by night to that town for the purpose. His design, however, had become known, and when the members of privy council appeared in Stirling to publish the proclamation, they were met by Lords Home and Lindsay, who read a protest, and affixed a copy of it on the market-cross, beside that of the proclamation. On the 28th of the same month the renewal of the National Covenant took place in Greyfriars churchyard, Edinburgh. The king in consequence ordered the earls of Traquair, Roxburgh, and Lorn, to repair to London without delay, to consult them as to the state of matters. In the memorable General Assembly which met at Glasgow in November 1638, the commencement of that “ten years’ conflict” between the king and the people which ended in the signal discomfiture of the unfortunate Charles, the earl of Traquair was one of the assessors to the king’s commissioner, the marquis of Hamilton. On 22d March 1639, he was obliged to deliver up Dalkeith house to the Covenanters. It was then a royal palace, and contained a quantity of ammunition and the regalia of Scotland. He then went to meet Charles at York, but, on account of the surrender of Dalkeith house, was but coldly received by the king, and commanded to keep his chamber, until he should account for it. After a short confinement he was sent to the borders to obtain recruits for the king’s service. In July of the same year, he was mobbed by the rabble of Edinburgh, and the white staff which, as the ensign of his office of treasurer, was carried before his coach, pulled out of his servant’s hand, and broken. On complaint of this being made to the town council, all the redress which they offered him was to bring him another white staff, so that it was said that the affront to the king, in the person of his treasurer, was rated at sixpence! After the pacification of Berwick the same year, the earl was appointed the king’s commissioner to the General Assembly which met at Edinburgh, 12th August 1639, and rose on the 30th. In this Assembly, the proceedings of the Glasgow Assembly were confirmed, episcopacy abolished, the articles of Perth rescinded, and the covenant ratified and ordered to be subscribed. This was accordingly done by Traquair, both as commissioner and as an individual, he being allowed, in his former capacity, to abject a particular declaration to his signature.

The day after the rising of the Assembly, as king’s commissioner, he opened parliament in great state, this being the last occasion, according to Sir James Balfour, on which the ancient observances of the riding were compiled with. The demands of the estates being incompatible with the instructions of the commissioner, the earl, whose conduct had been deceptive throughout these memorable proceedings, greatly to the indignation of the Covenanters, prorogued the parliament from 30th October to 14th November, and afterwards, on receiving the king’s commands, continued the prorogation till the 2d of the following June. On repairing to London, he found himself coldly received at court, on account of his having subscribed the covenant; but he justified himself on the ground of necessity, and maintained that coercive measures, or a total compliance with the wishes of the Scots people, were inevitable. On his report, the former were resorted to. As a pretext for war, a letter to the king was produced by him, subscribed by seven of the chief nobility, and addressed au Roi, in the style used to the king of France, imploring his assistance. For this he was afterwards prosecuted as the grand incendiary. In the following session of parliament an act was passed “anent leising makers of quhatsomever qualitie, office, place, or dignity,” which concludes that “all had counsillaris quho, instead of giving his Ma: ane trew and effauld counsaill, hes geven or will give informatione and counsaill to the evident prejudice and ruine of the liberties of this kirk and kingdome, suld be exemplarlie judged and censured,” and which, according to Sir James Balfour, “was purposelie made to catche Traquair,” and others, (Balfour’s Annals, vol. iii. p. 377). In 1641 he was impeached in parliament as an incendiary, but the king interposed to save him from a capital punishment. Although pardoned, he was deprived of the office of treasurer, and obliged to find caution to conduct himself in such a quiet manner as might best conduce to the peace of the kingdom, under forfeiture of the pardon he had obtained. The king, moreover, was forced to declare, in reference to him and the other incendiaries, that he would not employ any of them in offices or places of court or state without consent of parliament, nor grant them access to his person, whereby they might interrupt or disturb the firm peace which had been so happily concluded. (Acts of Parliament, 5, 495.) IN 1643, Traquair was the bearer of a communication from the lords of the royal party to Charles, then at Oxford, and while there, he and a few other Scots lords signed a remonstrance, testifying their abhorrence of the conjunction between the Scots nation and the English parliament against the king. In the following year his estate was sequestrated, and in consequence of his having broken the conditions of his former liberation, by repairing to the king’s person and refusing to take the covenant, he was declared an enemy to religion, his majesty’s honour and the peace of the kingdom. His whole moveable goods were ordered to be confiscated, and he himself to be farther punished. To avert an entire forfeiture, his son, Lord Linton, appeared on his behalf, and offered 40,000 merks as a testimony of his zeal and affection to the public. This procured his pardon, with the condition that he should confine himself within the counties of Roxburgh, Selkirk, and Peebles, find caution to the extent of £100,000 Scots, that he should not repair to the king’s person without the consent of parliament, and farther, satisfy the church as to subscribing the covenant. In 1645, he sent his son, Lord Linton, with a troop of horse to join the marquis of Montrose the day before the battle of Philiphaugh, but withdrew them during the night, without acquainting Montrose, a circumstance which has led both Wishart and Guthry to suspect that the earl of Traquair was the person who sent to the camp of the covenanting general the secret information of the low and impaired state of Montrose’s army. In November 1646, Charles addressed the following letter on his behalf to the earl of Lanark, the Scottish secretary of state: “Albeit I am confident that you will further all my friends’ affairs, yet I must not be negligent in 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.” The effect of this letter was soon seen. On the 26th of the following month an act was passed in his favour, of which, however, the title only remains, and, in the subsequent month of March, he was appointed a member of the committee of estates. In 1648 the earl of Traquair raised a troop of horse for the ‘Engagement,’ to attempt the rescue of Charles, and, with his son, Lord Linton, was taken prisoner at the battle of Preston. He was sent, under a strong guard, to Warwick castle, where he was confined for four years, his estates being, in the meantime, sequestrated. On being set at liberty by Cromwell, he returned to Scotland, and for the remainder of his days, lived in great obscurity and poverty. He died, suddenly, 27th March 1659. The subjoined portrait of the first earl of Traquair is taken from an engraving of him in Smith’s Iconographia Scotica:

[portrait of the first earl of Traquair]

He was the author of a ‘Letter to Father Philips,’ London, 1641, 4to. Not having suffered attainder, his titles and estates descended to his son. It was the first earl of Traquair who employed the daring mosstrooper, Willie Armstrong, called Christy’s Will, to kidnap Lord Durie, lord-president of the court of session, in the manner related in the life of that judge. (See GIBSON, SIR ALEXANDER.) By his countess, Lady Catherine Carnegie, third daughter of the first earl of Southesk, he had, with four daughters, one son, John, Lord Linton, second earl of Traquair. The latter, born in 1622, died in April 1696, in his 44th year. He was twice married, but had issue only by his second wife, Lady Ann Seton, second daughter of the second earl of Wintoun, four sons and three daughters. The eldest son, William, third earl of Traquair, died unmarried, and his next brother, George, having predeceased his father, was succeeded by the third son, Charles, fourth earl of Traquair. This nobleman died 13th June 1741, in his 82d year. By his countess, Lady Mary Maxwell, only daughter of the fourth earl of Nithsdale, he had two sons, Charles, fifth earl, and John, sixth earl of Traquair, and six daughters. The third daughter, Lady Mary, married John Drummond, styled duke of Perth. The fourth daughter, Lady Catherine, was countess of Nithsdale. On the two youngest daughters, Ladies Barbara and Margaret Stuart, who were twins, Dr. Pitcairn wrote Latin verses, “In Barbaram et Margaritam Caroli Stuarti Comites de Traquair filias gemellas.”

The 6th earl died at Paris, March 28, 1779, in his 81st year, and was succeeded by his only son, Charles, 7th earl. The latter married Mary, daughter and coheiress of George Ravenscroft, Esq. of Wickham, Lincolnshire, and had a son and a daughter. He died in 1827.

The son, Charles, 8th earl of Traquair, was born in 1782, and his sister, Lady Louisa, in 1774; both unmarried. The earl died Aug. 2, 1861, in his 81st year. The title is dormant. This family were Roman Catholics.

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