Elphinstone of Balmerinoch

to its extinction on Tower Hill

(NOTE: Balmerinoch is often found spelt as Balmerino)



Although the Lords Balmerinoch were known in their time for the distinguished service so many of the Elphinstones gave to Scotland, today their fame rests on the memory of one man, the last of his line, whose loyalty to the Pretenders lost him his head. The manner of his death so served as an inspiration that the Sheriff of London arranged for a report to be published with these passages included. (The original spelling and punctuation have been preserved.)

A little before he was carried to Towerhill he demanded an interview with lord Kilmarnock, who was in the same unhappy situation with himself, which was granted: After it was ended the two lords saluted one another, and Balmerino bid lord Kilmarnock an eternal happy adieu, and, with a cheerful countenance, added, My dear lord, I wish I could alone pay the reckoning, and suffer for us both.

During the time the scaffold was putting in order for the execution of lord Balmerino, the sheriff, that attended at the first execution, went to Balmerino's apartments, as a notice to his lordship that his time was come; upon whose entrance his lordship said, "I suppose lord Kilmarnock is no more;" and having asked how the executioner performed his duty; upon receiving the account, said, "Then it was well done; and now, gentlemen, said his lordship, I will detain you no longer, for I desire not to protract my life." He then saluted the company, in a manner so cheerful, as drew tears from every eye but his own, and hastened to the scaffold.

But before we view his lordship on the scaffold, 'tis but just to the memory of that great, but unhappy man, to acquaint the public what was his deportment in his retirement here: 'Twas graceful, without affectation; cheerful but not presumptious: He conversed freely with his friends, twice refreshed himself with a bit of bread and a glass of wine, and desired the company to drink to him, Ain dagree ta haiven; but, above all, he called frequently upon God, and seemed both willing and prepared to die.

When he mounted the scaffold, he did it with so undaunted a step, as surprised every spectator that was unacquainted with the greatness of his soul.

He walked round the scaffold, bowed to the people, read the following inscription on his coffin: Arthurus dominus de Balmerino, decollatus 18 die Augusti 1746, aetatis sue 58 ; said it was right, and, with seeming pleasure, looked on the block, which he called his pillow of rest.

He then called for the executioner, who, being introduced to him, was about to ask for his forgiveness; but my lord stopt him, and said, "Friend, you need not ask me forgiveness, the execution of your duty is commendable;" then presenting the executioner with three guineas, said, "Friend, I never had much money; this is all I have; I wish it was more for your sake, and am sorry I can add nothing more to it but my coat and waistcoat," which he instantly took off, and placed on his coffin for the executioner. Having prepared himself for the block, he took his last farewel of them; and, having once more taken a view of the great number of the spectators, his lordship said, "I am afraid there are some who may think my behaviour bold;" and, speaking to a gentleman near him, added, "Remember, sir, what I tell you; it arises from a confidence in God, and a clear conscience."

Then observing the executioner with the ax in his hand, took it from him, and having felt the edge, return'd it him again, at the same time showing him where to strike the blow, and animating him to do it with resolution, "For in that, friend, said he, will consist your mercy."

His lordship then, with the same surprising countenance, kneeled down at the block, and having, with his arms extended, said this short prayer, "O Lord, reward my friends, forgive my enemies, ....... and receive my soul," submitted, and gave the signal to the executioner.

Horace Walpole wrote of his trial: "He is the most natural brave old fellow I ever saw; of the highest intrepidity, even to indifference. At the bar he behaved like a soldier and a man: in the intervals of form, with carelessness and humour. He pressed extremely to have his wife, the pretty Peggy, with him in the Tower."

Vicary Gibbs wrote: "It seems pitiful to have shed the blood of this truly noble loyalist, especially after the failure of the Rising; but neither generosity nor mercy were to be looked for from the 'unco wee bit German thing' then on the throne."

The Lords Balmerinoch

Ancestry: James Elphinstone of Barnton, knight, 3rd son of Robert Elphinstone, 3rd Lord Elphinstone, was a Lord of Session 1586 as Lord Innernochtie, one of the eight Commissioners of the Treasury known as the "Octavians" 1595, Secretary of State 1598, Privy Council of England 1603, and President of the Court of Session 1605. In his favour the lands of the Abbey of Balmerinoch were erected into the Barony of Balmerinoch 1603/4 and he was created Lord Balmerinoch 11 July 1606. He was convicted of treason and attainted 10 March 1608/9 for having in 1599 fabricated a letter purporting to be from King JAMES VI to Pope Clement VIII. He m 1st 21 March 1588 Sarah (still alive 14 Dec 1592) dtr of Sir John Menteith of Carse, and by her had issue:
..A1 John, his heir [see below]
He m 2nd ante 23 Dec 1597 Marjory dtr of Hugh Maxwell of Tealing and d 21 June 1612, while under attainder, having had by her had issue:
..A2 James Elphinstone, created Lord Coupar 20 Dec 1607, m 1st Margaret dtr of Sir James Halyburton of Pitcur, and m 2nd in 1667 (when he was nearly 80) Marion dtr of James Ogilvy, 2nd Earl of Ogilvy, by his 1st wife Helen dtr of George Ogilvy, 1st Lord Banff. He d without issue Jan 1668/9, his nephew 3rd Lord Balmerinoch succeeding him as 2nd Lord Coupar
..a1. Margaret Elphinstone m 1618 as his 1st wife Andrew Fraser, 2nd Lord Fraser
..a2. Mary Elphinstone m John Hamilton of Blair
..a3. Marjory Elphinstone m Francis Fraser of Kinmundie

The heir,
John Elphinstone, 2nd Lord Balmerinoch, restored in blood and to the peerage 4 Aug 1613, was a leading Covenanter whose trial and conviction (by a majority of one) in connexion with the "supplication" to the Crown of 1633, although followed by a pardon, proved fatal to the cause of King CHARLES I in Scotland. He m 1613 Anne dtr of Sir Thomas Ker of Fernyhurst (and sister of Robert Ker, Earl of Somerset) by whom he had issue:
..A1 John, his heir [see below]

The heir,
John Elphinstone, 3rd Lord Balmerinoch, b 18 Feb 1623,was forced to sell almost all his estate to meet the debts of his unfortunate father, but succeeded by special remainder to the title and estate of his uncle James Elphinstone, 1st Lord Coupar. He m 30 Oct 1649 Margaret dtr of John Campbell, 1st Earl of Loudoun, and by her had issue:
..A1 John, his heir [see below]

The heir,
John Elphinstone, 4th Lord Balmerinoch and 3rd Lord Coupar, b 26 Dec 1652, Privy Council of Scotland 1687. He was a steadfast opponent of the Union with England, and held the offices of Governor of the Mint and Sheriff of the county of Edinburgh. He m 1st 16 Feb 1672 Christian dtr of Hugh Montgomerie, 7th Earl of Eglinton by his 2nd wife Mary dtr of John Leslie, 6th Earl of Rothes, and by her had issue:
..A1 Hugh Elphinstone, Master of Balmerinoch, dvp unm, kat the siege of Lille, 1708
..A3 James, his heir [see below]
..a1. Margaret Elphinstone m Sir John Preston of Prestonhall and had issue a son and a dtr
..a2. Jean Elphinstone m 1700 as his 2nd wife Francis Stewart, 7th Earl of Murray, and d 13 May 1739 having had issue
He m 2nd Ann (d 1712) dtr of Arthur Ross, Archbishop of St Andrew's, and d 13 May 1736 having had by her further issue:
..A4 Arthur, heir to his brother James [see below]

The heir,
James Elphinstone, 5th Lord Balmerinoch and 4th Lord Coupar, b 24 Nov 1675, a Lord of Session as Lord Coupar 1714, m 1718 Elizabeth dtr of David Carnegie, 4th Earl of Northesk, by Margaret Wemyss, suo jure Countess of Wemyss (b 2 Jan 1699, d 21 Sep 1767) and d without issue 5 Jan 1746.

The heir to his brother,
Arthur Elphinstone, 6th Lord Balmerinoch and 5th Lord Coupar, b 1688, joined the 1715 Rising and escaped to France, but returned for the 1745 Rising during which he was Colonel of the 2nd troop of Horse Guards. He was captured at Culloden, attainted, and beheaded on Tower Hill 18 Aug 1746. His widow, Margaret, dtr of Captain Chalmers, d 24 Aug 1765, in her 56th year, in poverty.

The Elphinstones of that Ilk

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