History of Leith, Edinburgh

December 20, 2011

The Earl of Argyle and Richard Rumbold

In 1681 the Earl of Argyle was committed to the Castle for the third time for declining the oath required by the obnoxious Test Act as Commissioner of the Scottish Treasury ; and on the 12th
of December an assize brought in their verdict, by the Marquis of Montrose, his hereditary foe, finding him guilty ” of treason and leasing telling,” for which he received the sentence of death. His guards in the Castle were doubled, while additional troops were marched into the city to enforce order. He despatched a messenger to Charles II. seeking mercy, but the warrant had been hastened. At six in the evening of the 2oth December he was informed that next day at noon he would be conveyed to the city prison; but by seven o’clock he had conceived—like his father—a plan to escape.
Lady Sophia Lindsay (of Balcarres), wife of his son Charles, had come to bid him a last farewell; on her departure he assumed the disguise and office of her lackey, and came forth from his prison at eight, bearing up her long train. A thick fall of snow and the gloom of the December evening rendered the attempt successful; but at the outer gate the sentinel roughly grasped his arm. In
agitation the earl dropped the train of Lady Sophia, who, with singular presence of mind, fairly slapped his face with it, and thereby smearing his features with half-frozen mud, exclaimed, “Thou careless loon!”
Laughing at this, the soldier permitted them to pass. Lady Sophia entered her coach; the earl sprang on the footboard behind, and was rapidly driven from the fatal gate. Disguising himself completely, he left Edinburgh, and reached Holland, then the focus for all the discontented spirits in Britain. Lady Sophia was committed to the Tolbooth, but was not otherwise punished. After
remaining four years in Holland, he returned, and attempted an insurrection in the west against King James, in unison with that of Monmouth in England, but was irretrievably defeated at Muirdykes.
Attired like a peasant, disguised by a long beard, he was discovered and overpowered by three militiamen, near Paisley. ” Alas, alas, unfortunate Argyle !” he exclaimed, as they struck him down ;
then an officer, Lieutenant Shaw (of the house of Greenock), ordered him to be bound hand and foot and sent to Edinburgh, where, by order of the Secret Council, he was ignominiously conducted
through the streets with his hands corded behind him, bareheaded, escorted by the horse guards, and preceded by the hangman to the Castle, where, for a third time, he was thrust into his old chamber.
On the day he was to die he despatched the following note to his son. It is preserved in the Salton Charter chest:—
” Edr. Castle, 3Oth June, ’85.
” DEARE JAMES,—Learn to fear God ; it is the only way
to make you happie here and hereafter. Love and respect
my wife, and hearken to her advice. The Lord bless. I am
your loving father, ABGYLE. ”

The last day of his life this unfortunate noble passed pleasantly and sweetly; he dined heartily, and, retiring to a closet, lay down to sleep ere the fatal hour came. At this time one of the Privy
Council arrived, and insisted on entering. The door was gently opened, and there lay the great Argylein his heavy irons, sleeping the placid sleep of. infancy.
” The conscience of the renegade smote him,”
says Macaulay; ” he turned sick at heart, ran
out of the Castle, and took refuge in the dwelling
of a lady who lived hard by. There he flung
himself on a couch, and gave himself up to an
agony of remorse and shame.
His kinswoman, alarmed by his looks and groans, thought he had been taken with sudden illness, and begged him to drink a cup of sack. ‘No, no,’ said he, ‘it will do me no good.’ She prayed him to tell what had disturbed him. ‘ I have been,’ he said,’ in Argyle’s prison. I have seen him within an hour of eternity sleeping as sweetly as eve”r man did. But as for me’
At noon on the 3oth June, 1685, he was escorted to the market cross to be “beheaded and have his head affixed to the Tolbooth on a high pin of iron.” When he saw the old Scottish guillotine,
under the terrible square knife of which his father, and so many since the days of Morton, had perished, he saluted it with his lips, saying, ” It is the sweetest maiden I have ever kissed.” ” My
lord dies a Protestant!” cried a clergyman aloud to the assembled thousands. ” Yes,” said the Earl, stepping forward, ” and not only a Protestant, but with a heart-hatred of Popery, Prelacy, and all superstition.” He made a brief address to the people, laid his head between the grooves of the guillotine, and died with equal courage and composure. His head was placed on the Tolbooth gable, and his body was ultimately sent to the burial-place of his family, Kilmun, on the shore of the Holy Loch in Argyle.
While this mournful tragedy was being enacted his countess and family were detained prisoners in the Castle, wherein daily were placed fresh victims who were captured in the West. Among these
were Richard Rumbold, a gentleman of Hertfordshire, who bore a colonel’s commission under Argyle (and had planted the standard of revolt on the Castle of Ardkinglass), and Mr. William Spence, styled his ” servitour.” Both were treated with terrible severity, especially Rumbold. In a cart, bareheaded, and heavily manacled, he was conveyed from the Water Gate to the Castle, escorted by Graham’s City Guard, with drums beating, and on the 28th of June he was hanged, drawn, and quartered, at the Cross, where his heart was torn from his breast, and exhibited, dripping and reeking, by the executioner, on the point of a plug-bayonet, while he exclaimed, ” Behold the heart of Richard Rumbold, a bloody English traitor and murderer!”
According to Wodrow and others, his head, after being placed on the West Port, was sent to London on the 4th of August, while his quarters were gibbeted in the four principal cities in Scotland.

source-Old and New Edinburgh

Some Text