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The Buccleuch Marriage Contract: An Unknown Episode in Scottish Politics*

  • Maurice Lee


On October 5, 1663, the Scottish Parliament took an action unique in its long and variegated history. It ratified a marriage contract between two of the king's subjects. Not ordinary subjects, to be sure—they were the duke of Monmouth, Charles II’s eldest bastard, a lad of fourteen, and Anna Scott, countess of Buccleuch, aged twelve, who had been married the previous April. Persuading Parliament to ratify this contract was potentially a very tricky business; the king entrusted the handling of it to the earl of Lauderdale, the secretary of state, normally resident in Whitehall, who had been sent to Scotland to manage this session of Parliament. The ratification was a private act, one of a large number passed at each session of the Scottish Parliament in favor of private individuals and corporations: towns, universities, etc. Because it was a private act Osmund Airy, the editor of the Lauderdale papers, our principal source for the day-to-day doings of this Parliament, ignored it in making his selection from the vast Lauderdale correspondence. So the episode has gone completely unnoticed by historians. This is a pity, not only because the story of the marriage contract and its ratification is fascinating in itself, but also because it was important for Lauderdale's political future. Lauderdale's success in getting the ratification passed without backlash helped to convince King Charles that he was the man to manage Scottish business from now on.

The political history of Restoration Scotland has been largely neglected by historians. Lauderdale was the dominant figure for most of Charles's reign, but it was some years before he achieved that eminence. Lord Chancellor Clarendon, until his fall in 1667, was Charles's principal adviser for all of his three kingdoms, a fact that Lauderdale resented but had to live with. Clarendon did not like Lauderdale, who, he wrote, had been a leader of the Covenanters' rebellion “when he was scarce of age, and prosecuted it to the end with the most eminent fierceness and animosity.”



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I want to thank Dr. Jenny Wotmald of St. Hilda's College, Oxford, and Dr. Kathleen Colquhoun of the University of Illinois for their comments on an earlier version of this paper.



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1 Airy, O., ed., Lauderdale Papers (hereafter cited as LP), 3 vols., Camden Society (London, 18841885). For convenience's sake this edition will sometimes be cited below. In addition to omitting many letters Airy does not always indicate that the texts be prints are incomplete. In every case the original manuscript has been checked. SirFraser, William (The Scons of Buccleuch, 2 vols. [Edinburgh, 1878], 1: 417–22, does discuss the ratification, but only as an episode in family history.

2 Edward, Earl of Clarendon, The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in England, 6 vols. (Oxford, 1888), 4: 320–21.

3 See the illuminating comments of Hutton, Ronald on this point in Charles II, King of England, Scotland, and Ireland (Oxford, 1989), especially ch. 16. Hutton rightly stresses that, contrary to the popular impression, Charles was not lazy; he spent a lot of time in meetings of the privy council and of its policy-making arm, the foreign affairs committee.

4 See Clarendon, , History, 5: 242.

5 SirMackenzie, George, Memoirs of the Affairs of Scotland from the Restoration of King Charles II (Edinburgh, 1821), p. 165.

6 There is a brief, straightforward account of the billeting episode and what preceded it in Mackenzie, W. C., The Life and Times of John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale (London, 1923), pp. 241–58.

7 June 23, 1663, Lauderdale to Moray, British Library (hereafter cited as BL), Add. Mss. 23119, ff. 51–52.

8 Thomson, T., ed., The Acts of the Parliament of Scotland (hereafter cited as APS), 12 vols. (London, 18141875), 7: 450–51, 458–61, 471–72. July 21, 1663, Lauderdale to Moray, July 31, the earl of Rothes to Moray, August 15, 21, Moray to Lauderdale, September 10, Lauderdale to Charles, BL, Add, Mss. 23119, ff. 99–100, 142–43, 167, 173–75; Add. Mss. 23120, f. 10.

9 July 13, 1663, Lauderdale to Charles, July 21–23, Moray to Lauderdale, BL, Add. Mss. 23119, ff. 86–87, 101–102. APS 7: 455-56, 465, 502. Bishop Burnet's History of His Own Time, 6 vols. (Oxford, 1823), 1: 353–54.

10 APS 7: 480–81. August 21, 1663, Moray to Lauderdale, BL, Add. Mss. 23119, ff. 173–75.

11 On this point see Malcolm, Joyce, “Charles n and the Reconstruction of Royal Power,” Historical Journal 35 (1992): 307–30.

12 APS 7: 465–66. Moray explained to Charles that this was an old problem, dating back to King James's time; Charles agreed to await Lauderdale's oral report after the end of the session before taking any action (September 7, 1663, Moray to lauderdale, BL, Add. Mss. 23120, ff. 8–9).

13 APS 7: 463–64, 468–69, 474–76, 485–86, 491. August 11, 1663, Lauderdale to Moray, LP 1: 175–77. One of the beneficiaries of the last-mentioned measure was Lauderdale's friend the son of the marquis of Argyll.

14 LP 1: 148–49, 157–58, 159–61. BL, Add. Mss. 23119, f. 72.

15 BL, Add. Mss. 23119, ff. 65–66.

16 Rait, R. S., The Parliaments of Scotland (Glasgow, 1924), pp. 449–51. The quotation is on p. 450.

17 Fraser, Scotts 1: 312. “An Information of the Condition of the Family of Buccleuch,” Scottish Record Office (hereafter cited as SRO), GD 157/3079, pp. 1–2. The author of this document, as the context makes clear, was Sir Gideon Scott of Haychesters. Earl Francis's entail was recorded in the books of the Lords of Council and Session on June 24, 1650.

18 This is the figure given in the codicil to Countess Mary's will, dated May 4, 1660, SRO, GD 157/3193. A memorandum on the money owing to the estate on Mary's death the following March lists the debt at £52,027; one note in Tweeddale's own papers gives the amount as £48,000; another, as £54,734, still another as £65,292. SRO, GD 224/924/43; National Library of Scotland (hereafter cited as NLS) Mss. 14542, ff. 63-64, 14543, ff. 238, 242. Money is given in pounds Scots. Twelve pounds Scots equalled £1 sterling.

19 “Information,” SRO, GD 157/3079, p. 2. It was customary to exclude the next prospective heir from the guardianship of children who inherited property; hence Tweeddale's exclusion, even though it was his wife, not he, who stood to inherit.

20 SRO, GD 157/3088.

21 Fraser, , Scons 1: 336.

22 “Infoimation,” SRO, GD 157/3079, p. 27. For Mary"s brief life see Fraser, , Scotts 1: 320–84.

23 SirFraser, William, Memorials of the Family of Wemyss of Wemyss, 3 vols. (Edinburgh, 1888), 1: 258–59, 271, 3: 261. See also January 31, 1661, Baillie, Robert to Spang, William, Laing, D., ed., The Letters and Journals of Robert Baillie, 3 vols. (Edinburgh, 1842), 3: 438.

24 NLS Mss. 7109, p. 44.

25 Fraser, , Scotts 1: 373–77. NLS, Mss. 14543, ff. 140–41.

26 March 12, 1661, Rothes to Wemyss, et al., SRO, GD 157/3188.

27 SRO, GD 224/402/9. N.d. but before Mary's death, and October 13, 1661, Rothes to Lauderdale, BL, Add. Mss. 23115, f. 85, 23116, f. 142. The context of the letter dated October 13 suggests that it might have been written earlier in the year. It has no year date.

28 April 23, 1661, Monck, to Wemyss, , Fraser, , Wemyss 3: 107.

29 “Information,” SRO, GD 157/3079, pp. 18,24. Countess Mary's will is in Fraser, , Scotts 2: 307–13.

30 The arrangement between Rothes and Anna, which was formalized in March 1663, is printed in Paton, H. M., ed., “Letters…to Sir John Gilmour,” Scottish History Society Miscellany V (Edinburgh, 1933), pp. 159–61. “Information,” SRO, GD 157/3079, pp. 25–27. SRO, GD 224/924/40,224/924/43. Fraser, , Scotts 1: 411.

31 NLS, Mss. 14543, f. 165.

32 The king's letter, dated June 14, 1661, is printed in Fraser, , Scotts 1: 403–04.

33 The Life of Edward, Earl of Clarendon, Continuation, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1760), 2: 25. Mackenzie, , Memoirs, pp. 113–14. Laing, , Baillie 3: 438.

34 Fraser, , Scotts 1: 383, 397. “Information,” SRO, GD 157/3079, pp. 23–25; GD 157/3228, 157/3091. Lady Wemyss was not above suggesting that those involved in the management of the estate during Mary's marriage—not, of course, including herself—might be prosecuted for embezzlement. SRO, GD 157/3208.

35 August 25, 1661, Charles to Wemyss, Lady, Fraser, , Scotts 1: 404. February 1, 1662, Gilmour to Tweeddale, NLS, Mss. 14543, f. 199. Rothes's letter to Charles is printed in Fraser, , Scotts 1; 411–12, where it is dated 1663. This is clearly wrong; the letter belongs to the summer of 1661. There was considerable doubt as to whether the Buccleuch estate was subject to wardship. Tweeddale and his allies among Countess Anna's tutors made the argument at the time in a petition to the king, and in 1692 Anna's lawyers took Rothes's heirs to court, on the ground that Earl Francis had sold all the lands held cum maritagio (NLS, Mss. 14543, ff. 185–86; SRO, GD 224/924/43). When Mary succeeded in November 1651 the question of wardship did not arise, for obvious reasons.

36 “Information,” SRO, GD 157/3079, p. 9.

37 Fraser, Antonia, Royal Charles (New York, 1979), p. 371. For marriage in this period see her The Weaker Vessel (London, 1984), chs. 14–15, and Marshall, Rosalind, Virgins and Viragos (Chicago, 1983), chs. 3–7.

38 September 14, 1661, Tweeddale to Lauderdale, and to Charles, , LP 1: 99101. For this episode see Buckroyd, Julia, Church and State in Scotland 1660–1681 (Edinburgh, 1980), pp. 4748. At the same time Anna was ordered served heir to her estates, whatever the wardship situation might be: Rothes was not to be in a position to make trouble either. Brown, P. Hume, ed., Register of the Privy Council of Scotland, 3rd ser., 1 (Edinburgh, 1908), p. 33.

39 Paton, , “Gilmour,” pp. 131–33. In the end, Mary's widower and his father let the legal case go by default by failing to appear when summoned. They thus avoided a definitive pronouncement on the merits of the contract, hoping, vainly as it turned out, that they might be able to revive their claims in future (“Information,” SRO, GD 157/3079, p. 25).

40 Quoted in Fraser, , Scotts 1: 406–7.

41 “Information,” SRO, GD 157/3079, p. 33. N.d., but probably late 1662, Haychesters to Lady Wemyss, SRO, GD 157/3233.

42 Paton, , “Gilmour,” p. 139. Nicoll, John, A Diary of Public Transactions, ed. Laing, D., Bannatyne Club (Edinburgh, 1836), p. 386.

43 The relevant correspondence is in Paton, , “Gilmour,” pp. 144–59. See also “Information,” SRO, GD 157/3079, pp. 33–35.

44 February 15, 1662, Rothes to Lauderdale, BL, Add. Mss. 23115, f. 71.

45 SRO, GD 157/3230.

46 SRO, GD 157/3232. The marriage contract is printed in full in Fraser, , Scotts 2: 461–82.

47 Green, M. A. E., ed., Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series. 1663–1664 (London, 1862), p. 18. Clarendon, Continuation, 2: 2527. Anna was still merely a countess, and is so described in the marriage contract. On the day of the wedding Charles made his son duke of Buccleuch; in 1666 he made Anna duchess of Buccleuch (though not of Monmouth) in her own right. Thus in 1685, when her husband was executed as a traitor, Anna ceased to be duchess of Monmouth but remained duchess of Buccleuch; her descendants still hold the title.

48 SRO, GD 157/3233.

49 On February 11, 1663, Anna, on her twelfth birthday, formally named her curators, thirteen in all and mostly relatives headed by her uncle Rothes and her stepfather Wemyss. They were officially responsible for the management of Anna's affairs until she turned twenty-one.

50 SRO, GD 157/3234, 3235.

51 April 15, 1663, Gilmour to Lauderdale, Paton, , “Gilmour,” pp. 167–70. Lauderdale also did not witness the contract, for other reasons. He had a claim to the teinds of the parish of Sheriffhall, which, he claimed, his father had reserved when in 1641 he granted the superiority of Sheriffhall to the earl of Morton, who in the following year sold this, and much else, to Anna's father. The teinds are specifically mentioned in the contract as part of the Buccleuch estate (Fraser, , Scotts 2: 472. April 8, 1663, Lauderdale to Gilmour, Paton, , “Gilmour,” pp. 166–67).

52 The observant Samuel Pepys noted that the coat of arms at the tail of Monmouth's coach had no bar sinister. Whether or not the error was deliberate, it would have been mightily offensive to Charles's brother. It was corrected two days later, (Latham, R. and Matthews, W., eds., The Diary of Samuel Pepys, 4 [Berkeley, 1971], p. 107).

53 Paton, , “Gilmour,” pp. 133–34. BL, Add. Mss. 23117, f. 27. February 28, October 5, 1661, February 15, 1662, Rothes to Lauderdale, BL, Add. Mss. 23115, ff. 71, 85, 23116, ff. 136–37. In Tweeddale's papers there is an unsigned memorandum of advice, probably written in June 1662, urging Tweeddale to approach Lady Wemyss directly. There is no evidence that he did this, (NLS, Mss. 14543, ff. 156–57).

54 NLS, Mss. 7109, pp. 45–46. Nicoll, , Diary, p. 393.

55 “Information,” SRO, GD 157/3079, pp. 29–30.

56 Fraser, , Wemyss 1: 274. This had been her formal allowance for the expenses of raising the children, but in fact it was about one third of what she had been pocketing from the estate, (SRO, GD 157/3208. Fraser, , Scotts 1: 374).

57 SRO, GD 157/3234.

58 BL, Add. Mss. 23119, ff. 65–66.

59 July 7, 14, 1663, Lauderdale to Moray, BL, Add. Mss. 23119, ff. 78, 88.

60 July 11, 1663, Monmouth to Wemyss, Fraser, , Wemyss 3: 64. It was difficult to get Monmouth to pay attention to anything; see, e.g., January 16,1663, Lady Wemyss to Gilmour, Paton, “Gilmour,” pp. 145–46.

61 July 21–23, 1663, Moray to Lauderdale, BL, Add. Mss. 23119, ff. 101–02.

62 August 15, 21, 1663, Moray to Lauderdale, ibid., ff. 167, 175b.

63 Paton, , “Gilmour,” pp. 172–74.

64 September 3, 1663, Gilmour to Moray, ibid., pp. 174–76.

65 September 10, 1663, Patrick Scott of Langshaw to Sir William Scott of Harden, SRO, GD 157/3237. Nisbet's opinion, dated September 6, can be found in the Tweeddale family papers, NLS, Mss. 14543, ff. 218–19. Nisbet, Tweeddale's legal adviser, evidently supplied Tweeddale with the copy.

66 See, e.g., August 21, 1663, Moray to Lauderdale, BL, Add. Mss. 23119, ff. 173–75. Middleton eventually received the dubious consolation prize of the governorship of Tangier.

67 September 10, 1663, Lauderdale to Charles, September 11, Rothes to Charles, BL, Add. Mss. 23120, ff. 12, 14.

68 September 15–16, 1663, Moray to Lauderdale, ibid., ff. 27–29a.

69 September 10, 1663, Moray to Lauderdale, ibid., ff. 19–20. September 29, Thomas Ross (Monmouth's governor) to Wemyss, Lady, Fraser, , Scotts 2: 390–91. Lady Wemyss had disliked Gilmour ever since he pronounced against the legality of Countess Mary's marriage in 1659.

70 September 21, 1663, Moray to Lauderdale, BL, Add. Mss. 23120, f. 40.

71 September 25–26, 1663, Moray to Lauderdale, ibid., ff. 29b–31. This dispatch begins on the back of the last page of the letter of September 15–16 (note 68 above). Charles was on a progress; on the 15th he was in Bath, on the 25th in Oxford. Moray evidently held the dispatch of the 15th in order to be able to complete the unfinished story.

72 Ibid., ff. 31–34. The next few paragraphs are based on this letter and the documents cited in the following notes.

73 APS 7: 494–95, 526.

74 The instructions, and Moray's comments and proposed emendations, are in BL, Add. Mss. 23120, ff. 35–37.

75 Fraser, , Scotts 2: 391–92.

76 October 1, 1663, Moray to Lauderdale, BL, Add. Mss. 23120, ff. 48–49.

77 October 6, 1663, George Lockhart to Haychesters, SRO, GD157/3239.

78 “Information,” SRO, GD 157/3079, p. 46.

79 Burnefs History, 1: 176.

80 NLS Mss. 14543, f. 214.

81 January 7, 1664, Lauderdale to Gilmour, Paton, , “Gilmour,” pp. 178–79.

82 NLS Mss. 14543, f. 223b. SRO, GD 28/1791A. In 1680, after the birth of three children to Anna and Monmouth made the matter irrelevant, the marriage contract was formally “reduced” (invalidated) to the extent that it violated Earl Francis's entail, SRO, GD 28/2137A. Fraser, Scotts 1; 438–39.

83 June 30, 1663, Moray to Lauderdale, LP 1: 141–42.

84 June 25, 1663, Moray to Lauderdale, BL, Add. Mss. 23119, ff. 54–55. Airy also expressed his gratitude for Charles's comment (LP 1: 136). It might be added that Moray's handwriting leaves much to be desired.

85 See, e.g., September 21, 1663, Moray to Lauderdale, BL, Add. Mss. 23120, f. 24. Burnet's History, 1: 206–07. As early as November 1660 Rothes and Lauderdale worked out a code: if Rothes passed on a request from someone in Scotland in a holograph letter, Lauderdale was to take it seriously. If Rothes used an amanuensis, Lauderdale could disregard it (November 13, 1660, Rothes to Lauder-dale, LP 1: 37-38).

86 The Edinburgh informant of Henry Muddiman the newswriter wrote on October 8 that they had prevented Glencaim's message with these glad tidings from leaving until after their messenger had gone (Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series 1663–1664, p. 291).

87 December 30, 1663, Lauderdale's memorandum of events since his return to London (BL, Add. Mss. 23120, ff. 140–41).

88 Wodrow, Robert, The History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland, 2 vols. (Edinburgh, 17211722), 1: 169. “All along,” he wrote, “we shall find our prelates screw everything higher than the English laws go” (ibid., p. 164).

89 On this point see Lee, Maurice Jr., The Road to Revolution: Scotland under Charles 1, 1625–37 (Urbana, 1985), ch. 7.

90 LP 1: 169.

* I want to thank Dr. Jenny Wotmald of St. Hilda's College, Oxford, and Dr. Kathleen Colquhoun of the University of Illinois for their comments on an earlier version of this paper.


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