Service of Commemoration for the Life of James Graham, fifth Earl and first Marquis of Montrose (1612 – 1650)
THIS year is the 400th anniversary of the year of the birth of one of Scotland’s most charismatic and romantic heroes. To commemorate his life, the First Marquis of Montrose Society will hold a service at St Giles Cathedral on 21st May at 11.00am.
He was Scotland’s finest battlefield commander and recognised by many of his peers as the finest general in Europe of his time.
He was also a political philosopher with a philosophy hundreds of years ahead of his time. He was a poet, perhaps not in the mould of Rabbie Burns, but his famous stanza…
He either fears his fate too much
Or his deserts are small,
That dare not put it to the touch,
To win or lose it all.
… was quoted by General Sir Bernard Montgomery in his Special Order of the Day on 5th June 1944 to inspire the troops of 21st Army Group on the eve of D-Day.
Born the son of the head of the powerful family of Graham, James became the fifth Earl of Montrose at the age of 14.
He played a full part in the political and religious life of the kingdom.
He was an early and enthusiastic signatory of the National Covenant of 1638 because he believed strongly that the King should stay out of the management of the Kirk.
Montrose even commanded a covenant army against the King during the first Bishops’ War.
But he became disillusioned by the direction that politics was taking Scotland and he was suspicious of the motives of the Earl of Argyll and the Kirk.
Whilst he urged the King to stay out of politics he also felt strongly that the Kirk should stay out of the affairs of the state.
In 1643, Montrose offered his sword to his King and in 1644 he raised an army in the highlands around a nucleus of an Irish royalists.
With this army he won six victories within a year over successive covenanting armies which invariably outnumbered him.
He was briefly master of Scotland after his victory at the Battle of Kilsyth in August 1645 but shortly afterwards his army was surprised and defeated at the Battle of Philiphaugh.
Later in 1646, he was persuaded by King Charles I to go into exile in Europe.
After the execution of King Charles he briefly returned to Scotland but was defeated at the Battle of Carbisdale in April 1650.
Shortly afterwards, he was captured, bought to Edinburgh and executed by being hung drawn and quartered on 21st May 1650.
He met his grisly death with such courage and serenity as to win the admiration of those who had sent him to his death and silenced the crowds who had been paid to jeer him.
Despite this story, Montrose is little known amongst his own people and he deserves to be celebrated every bit as much as Wallace and the Bruce.
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Notes to Editors:
- On 21st May a service of commemoration for the life of the first Marquis of Montrose will be held at St Giles’ Cathedral at 11:00 am.
- Admission is by ticket only which can be obtained, at no cost, from Malcolm McVittie, First Marquis of Montrose Society, 16 Market Place, Lauder, Berwickshire TD2 6SR, Tel no 01578-718776 E mail firstname.lastname@example.org , www.montrose-society.org.uk
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