James Graham – 1st Marquess of Montrose and 5th Earl of Montrose

James Graham

James Graham

Portrait by William Dobson, some commentary by Carolyn Bruce.

James Graham was hung, quartered and his head impaled on a stake at the Mercat Cross on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, today in 1650!

On 21 May 1650, James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose and 5th Earl of Montrose, Chief of Clan Graham and an able and brilliant soldier, was hanged at Old Market Cross in Edinburgh. When Charles I tried to force upon the Scots a prayer book they regarded as “too Catholic”, the Presbyterian Scots resisted, and James Graham joined them,  partially because of the political power King Charles had vested in Anglican Bishops. Civil war raged for years, with Montrose participating at first against the king, and later, against the Covenanters, as he tried to establish an apolitical clergy. His reputation as a military leader was well earned, and after the Battle of Kilsyth in 1645, the king appointed him Lord Lieutenant and Captain-general of Scotland. When Charles I was defeated in the Battle of Naseby and sent for Montrose to come to his aid, Montrose was defeated at Philiphaugh. Unable to raise another army, he escaped to Norway. Charles I was beheaded, and his son, Charles II, in exile, from where he appointed Montrose Lieutenant of Scotland. As such he returned home to raise an army, but was betrayed; the king had struck a deal with the Covenanters to regain his throne. After his execution “The Great Montrose” was decapitated and his head was set upon “the prick [pike] on the highest stone” of the Old Tolbooth at St. Giles Cathedral. There it remained for 11 years, at which time his body parts were reunited for a hero’s funeral.


You can read about this event in my novel DARK DESTINY, which is book three of the DARK BIRTHRIGHT TRILOGY.

Here is an excerpt:

Chapter 30 – “Letters” June 29, 1650

Drake Castle

The Duke stood in his study, gazing out the open window.  The day was oppressively hot, with temperatures above ninety.  Because of the weather, he was informally dressed – in breeks, a shirt, and no shoes or socks.  “Whew, it’s hot!”  He mopped his brow with a handkerchief.

Dughall spotted Jamison crossing the courtyard with a pack of letters in his hand.  His spirits lifted.  “Perhaps it’s from Gilbert.”  He left the window and moved his ledgers to the sideboard.  There was a knock on the door.  “Come in.”

Jamison entered.  “My Lord.”  The servant was sweaty from the heat.  “A courier dropped these letters at the gate.”  He placed them on the desk.

“How many are there?”


Dughall motioned for him to take a seat.  He picked up one of the envelopes and saw that it was addressed to Jamison.  “This one is for ye.”

The servant grinned.  “I know.  I want to read it together.  It’s from my contact in Edinburgh.  He’s a member of Parliament.  I asked about Montrose.”

Dughall frowned.  “Ah…  The trial.”

“And execution.”

“We shall see.”  The Duke sliced open the envelope and extracted the letter.  “Shall I read out loud?”


The author had some schooling.  It was written in fancy handwriting.

Jamison my friend,

You inquired about the Marquess of Montrose.  There is quite a story to tell.  The Parliament condemned him to death in absentia before he arrived here.  James Graham was brought as a prisoner to Edinburgh and without trial was sentenced to death on May 20th.  Archibald Johnston read his fate out loud for all to hear.  He was to be hanged at the Market Cross with a copy of De Rebus hung ‘round his neck.  This book you may remember was Bishop Wishart’s favorable biography of Graham’s life.  But there was more to his humiliation!  He was to swing on the scaffold for three hours, after which time, his head was to be severed and his body quartered.  Unless he repented, he was to be buried in unhallowed ground. 

Graham did not repent.  He insisted that he was a real Covenanter and a loyal subject.  This was met with jeers and shameful gestures of mockery.

I watched the sentence carried out on May 21st at the town market cross.  I must say that Graham accepted his fate with grace and courage.  When allowed final words, he prayed to heaven, “Scatter my ashes!  Strew them in the air, Lord, since thou knowest where all these atoms are.”

The hanging was then carried out.  As prescribed, his body hung for three hours, was decapitated, and quartered.  The head was displayed on a pike at the Tollbooth Prison, while the parts were dispersed for display in Glasgow, Perth, Stirling, and Aberdeen.      

I suspect that you will approve of this action, given your experience with the man.  But it was a disgraceful end for a Lord of the realm.  I fear that we have set a bad precedent.  After his death, some of us convinced Parliament to bury his body parts in hallowed ground.  They were going to dump them in a common grave on Burgh Muir.

In closing, we must be careful what we wish for!  Someday, it could apply to us.  I hope that this satisfies your curiosity.  Stay safe, my friend.  Give my regards to Lord Drake and the Lady of the castle.

 Sincerely – John H.

The Duke shuddered.  “He’s right.  That was a disgraceful way for a lord to die.”

Jamison grunted.  “Agreed.”


Our Sketch of Lord Montrose

Our Sketch of Lord Montrose

You can read about the trilogy at:


Honours of Scotland

Honours of Scotland

Honours of Scotland

Picture and some commentary courtesy of Davy Tolmie on the Scottish & Proud facebook group

The Honours of Scotland, the Royal Regalia
The Scottish royal regalia, the Honours, consist of a crown, a broadsword, a scabbard and a scepter—like the Stone of Destiny, they too fall into the category of “things mysterious.” For reasons to be explained shortly, unlike the Stone of Destiny, the Honours are no longer used today. The Honours were first used in the coronation of the nine-month-old Mary “Queen of Scots” in 1543. The crown was last worn at the coronation of Charles II at Scone in 1651. According to Scotland’s National Tourism Board: “The Sceptre of Scotland and the Sword of State were both gifts given to James IV by the Papacy, the sceptre in 1494 and the sword in 1507. The original silver-gilt sceptre was restyled and lengthened in 1536 to its present design, which has a polished rock globe atop a finial featuring various religious figures. The sword is 4.5 feet (1.4 m) in length with an elaborately decorated silver gilt handle and etched blade. It is accompanied by a wooden scabbard covered in velvet and silver and a woven silk and gold thread belt. The Crown of Scotland was refashioned in 1540 from an earlier crown for James V. The base circlet is made from Scottish gold and encrusted with 22 gemstones and 20 precious stones taken from the previous crown; freshwater pearls from Scotland’s rivers were also used.”

Read more on “The Honours” at lonk below, a remarkable story of how they survived through the years to eventually end up displayed in Edinburgh after Sir Walter Scott’s efforts in 1818.



I write about the coronation of Charles II at Scone in 1651 in my novel DARK DESTINY.

You can read about the DARK BIRTHRIGHT TRILOGY at:


Eilean Donan Castle and a legend about Seilkies

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle

Picture and some commentary courtesy of Davy Tolmie as posted in the Scottish and Proud facebook group.

Eilean Donan Castle is located northwest of Fort William.  It is at the meeting point of three sea lochs on the west coast of Scotland and is situated by the picturesque village of Dornie on the main tourist route to the Isle of Skye.  Here is a link to a webcam of the castle.

Eilean Donan Castle is on Loch Duich.  Davy found this story about a legend connected with Loch Duich.

Legend states that three brothers went fishing at the loch one night. They became enraptured by three seal-maidens who had thrown off their furs and assumed the likeness of humans. While the maidens danced in the moonlight the brothers stole their furs, intending to claim the seal-maidens as their wives. The youngest brother, moved by his seal-maidens distress, returned her seal-skin. For his kindness, the girl’s father allowed the youngest brother to visit the maiden every ninth night. As for the other two brothers, the middle brother lost his seal-maiden wife after she found her stolen fur, and she returned to the loch. The eldest brother, determined to keep his seal-maiden wife, burnt her fur as a preventative measure, only to burn her accidentally in the process.

From Wikipedia:  A Faroese stamp depicting the capture of a seal woman – Selkies (also known as silkies or selchies) are mythological creatures found in Faroese, Icelandic, Irish, and Scottish folklore. The word derives from earlier Scots selich, (from Old English seolh meaning seal).   Selkies are said to live as seals in the sea but shed their skin to become human on land. The legend apparently originated on the Orkney and Shetland Islands.  Stories concerning selkies are generally romantic tragedies. Sometimes the human will not know that their lover is a selkie, and wakes to find them gone. In other stories the human will hide the selkie’s skin, thus preventing it from returning to its seal form. A selkie can only make contact with one human for a short amount of time before they must return to the sea. They are not able to make contact with that human again for seven years, unless the human is to steal their selkie’s skin and hide it or burn it.


In my novel Dark Birthright, two young boys, Ian and Dughall, talk about Selkies as they are watching seals on the rocks.  Here is an excerpt:

Dughall stood on the precipice and looked below at the sea cliffs. The wind whipped his dark curls around his face. He ran his fingers through his hair, smoothing it back. Water crashed as the tide surged into rock hollows.

Ian gave him a shove, pushing him closer to the edge.

“Hey, stop it!” Dughall shivered as he studied the sheer drop. His heart pounded like a drum.

“Scared ye, didn’t I?”

“Aye!” A puffin stood on the cliff with its bill full of sand eels. It peered into a burrow and bobbed its head, feeding chicks. Dughall’s heartbeat slowed. “Look. A mother puffin feeding her chicks.”

Ian nodded and pointed at the sea, where jagged rocks rose out of the water. “There, on the rocks. Four gray seals.” A speckled male plunged into the water and caught a fish. He lay back and floated, biting off the head. Females lay on the rocks, clapping their flippers.

“Do ye think they’re silkies?” Dughall asked. “That they come ashore and shed their skins, to sing and dance as lads and lassies? Aunt Maggie says if ye steal their skin, they’ll stay with ye as husband or wife. Yer children will have webbed feet.”

Ian rolled his eyes. “Just a story, Brother. Have ye seen such children? Do ye believe everything Maggie tells ye?”

Dughall smiled.  “Aye.”


You can read about the novel at:


Dunnottar Castle – Scotland – a brief history

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle

Picture and historical commentary courtesy of Davy Tolmie

Dunnottar Castle is a venue in my book DARK LORD – where it is the scene of a battle between Covenanters and Royalists.

Here is a bit of history from another perspective:

Dunnottar Castle was the home of the Earls Marischal of Scotland, once one of the most powerful families in the land. The Earl Marischal oversaw all ceremonial activities in the Scottish Court, including the coronations. He was also responsible for the security of the Scottish Crown Jewels, known as the ‘Honours of Scotland’. The story of how a small garrison in Dunnottar Castle saved the Honours of Scotland from certain destruction is one of the most captivating in Scottish history.

Charles I, King of both Scotland and England, was executed in 1649 by Oliver Cromwell. The following year his son (later Charles II) arrived in north east Scotland in a bid to retake the two kingdoms and on his journey south he stayed overnight at Dunnottar Castle. However, in England, Oliver Cromwell was so enraged at the young King’s arrival he invaded Scotland. In some haste therefore, Charles II was crowned at Scone, but the crown and the other coronation regalia could not be returned to Edinburgh Castle which had now been taken by Cromwell’s army. The English crown jewels had already been destroyed by Cromwell and the Honours of Scotland, the most potent remaining icon of the monarchy, were next on his list. His army was fast advancing on Scone and the King ordered the Earl Marischal to secure the Honours and many of his personal papers at Dunnottar Castle.It was not long before Dunnottar was under siege and a scratch garrison of 70 men held out for eight months against the invading forces. Its unique position made the Castle impregnable to infantry attack, but when the heavy cannons finally arrived and began to raze the major buildings, the situation became untenable. Before surrender was contemplated, however, the King’s papers were taken through the besieging forces by a brave young lady acquaintance of the Governor who secured them around her waist. The crown, sceptre and sword meanwhile, had been lowered over the seaward side of the Castle and received by a serving woman, there on pretence of gathering seaweed.


You can read about Dunnottar Castle in the 1600’s in the Dark Birthright Trilogy: