Cambridge Historical Reader: Primary - Cambridge Press

The Story of Montrose, or "The Great Marquis"

In the last chapter we saw how the Cavaliers fought the Roundheads, in the great civil war. Just at the time when all seemed so dark for the king's party in England, a bright ray of hope shone forth, far away in the north of Scotland.

Marquis of Montrose


The people in the south of Scotland were now helping the king's foes; but a brave nobleman, James Graham, marquis of Montrose, thought he could raise an army in the Highlands, to fight for king Charles.

So he sent the fiery cross through the Highland glens to summon all to battle, and in a few days three thousand brave Highlanders were marching beneath his banner.

Montrose, clad in tartan and kilt, led them against the old city of Perth. When the people there heard of his coming, they came out in great numbers, to give him battle.

But they were no match for Montrose and his men. With wild cries, the Highlanders rushed to the fight, and soon the field was won; for no one could stand against their great two-handed swords. Perth was taken, and, before a year had passed, other towns were won.

In this short time, "the Great Marquis" won six battles, and was able to leave the Highlands and attack the Lowlands. The two cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow were taken, and Montrose sent a message to king Charles, that he hoped soon to bring an army of 20,000 men to help him.

Now, this was more than he could do, for his Highland men did not like fighting far away from their homes. So, many of them left their great leader, and, at a place named Philiphaugh, he was beaten by general Leslie.

He was now without an army, and was forced to leave Scotland. He was away for some years, and it was during this time that king Charles was put to death. Many of the Scots did not approve of this, and so they asked his son to cross the seas and be crowned as Charles II.

Now, the brave Montrose was just as ready to fight for the new king, as he had been for his father. So he got an army together, but the ships in which they sailed were scattered by a storm. Thus, when he reached Scotland, he had scarcely a thousand men behind him.

Once more he tried the Highlands. Before him floated a banner, on which was a picture of the bleeding head of king Charles I, and underneath were these words, "Judge and avenge my cause, O Lord!" In spite of this appeal, only a few men joined him, and in a short time he was surrounded by the soldiers of general Leslie.

He managed to escape, by swimming his horse across a river, and then disguising himself as a peasant. For some time he wandered about, but was at last betrayed and given up to his enemies.

They treated him very badly, making him ride on a poor old horse, without a saddle, and with his feet tied together under its body. He bore these insults with great patience, and so won the hearts of many who had hated him.

Montrose was taken to Edinburgh, where he was tried and condemned to be hanged. This was thought to be a shameful way for a great nobleman to die; and, indeed, his enemies behaved very meanly to their fallen foe.

Still, he bore these troubles with such a calm and brave spirit, that many in the crowd felt great pity for him. Even the rough hangman shed tears when the moment came to place the rope round the neck of the brave Montrose.

A few years ago, some admirers of this noble man set up a monument to his memory in the church of St Giles, Edinburgh. It is the figure of a knight, clad in armour, with his sword lying on his breast, the whole being carved in fine white marble.