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James Graham, Marquis of Montrose 1612 - 1650

Updated Sunday, 7th January 2001

A successful general in Scotland, but eventually betrayed

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James Graham, Marquis of Montrose

James Graham was an inspired military strategist who sustained Royalist hopes during the 'Year of Miracles' (1644-5). Declaring himself for Charles II following the regicide, Montrose was disowned by his King following his defeat at the Battle of Carbisdale, then betrayed and captured by his enemies. He was executed as a common criminal in May 1650.

James Graham is an excellent example of how political loyalties during the Civil Wars changed and fluctuated. Although he made his name as a Royalist general, Montrose signed the National Covenant in 1638 and commanded Covenanter troops during the Bishops Wars. Indeed, it was his capture of Newcastle (the source of London's coal supply) which forced Charles to conclude the Second Bishops War and summon the Long Parliament.

Montrose's loyalties began to waver when he began to suspect that Archibald Campbell, Earl of Argyll, wanted not just to defend the Kirk, but overthrow the authority of Charles Stuart. Although a sincere Calvinist, Montrose was unable to countenance disloyalty, and he broke with the Covenanters in 1641.

When the Solemn League and Covenant was signed in September 1643, Charles approved Montrose's request to raise a Royalist army in Scotland which would regain that country for Charles and pin down Covenanter troops in their home country.

Aided by Irish troops under the Earl of Antrim, Montrose recorded an outstanding sequence of victories against larger Covenanter forces during 1644-45. Tippermuir, Aberdeen, Inverlochy, Auldearn, Alford and Kilsyth were major Royalist triumphs during this period.

While Montrose enjoyed great success in the Highlands, his luck (and many of his men) deserted him when he moved south to the Borders and he was decisively defeated at Philiphaugh in September 1645. After this, he spent a year on the run before Charles ordered him to lay down his arms.

Montrose spent three years in exile on the Continent before returning to Scotland in March 1650 to raise an army for Charles II.

Treachery and duplicity marked the last months of Montrose's life for he was disowned by Charles II after he was defeated at the Battle of Carbisdale (April 1650). He was then betrayed by MacLeod of Assynt (for £25,000) and taken to Edinburgh in chains. He was hung on 21st May 1650 and his limbs dispersed to the four major Scottish cities.

When Charles II was restored, Montrose's body was embalmed and buried with full honours during the same period when his great adversary, Argyll, was facing execution.

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