Scottish County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Alternated with Nairnshire

Number of voters:

five in 1702-3



Main Article

The county of Cromarty was contiguous with the barony, which had been purchased by the Mackenzies of Tarbat in 1682, and enlarged subsequently by the incorporation of the barony of Tarbat and of other lands belonging to Viscount Tarbat, scattered in eight separate parcels across the neighbouring shire of Ross. Despite these additions, Cromartyshire remained among the very smallest of Scottish counties: only five freeholders voted in the last elections to the Scottish parliament. Political power went with possession of the barony, and was exercised by Tarbat (raised in 1704 to the earldom of Cromarty) through his second son Kenneth, infeft in the barony himself and returned as a commissioner to the Union parliament in September 1702. Aeneas Macleod of Cadboll, one of Cromarty’s agents and a freeholder in his own right, belatedly assumed the other commissionership in March 1703. The other three voters were Hugh Rose I* of Kilravock in Nairnshire, a ‘Revolution interest’ Whig who was drawn over to support the Mackenzie interest in Ross-shire in 1708-9 but at other times was unsympathetic, and two members of the Urquhart family to whom the barony had previously belonged and who seem to have been amenable to Mackenzie influence despite a family connexion with another local Whig, Sir William Gordon, 1st Bt.*. In any case Sir Kenneth Mackenzie would always have been able to create sufficient new barons to maintain control; not to mention the capacity for interference his father possessed as hereditary sheriff of the county. The effect of the Union, which paired Cromartyshire with Nairnshire, weakened the position of the Mackenzies in general by making it necessary for Sir Kenneth to look elsewhere for a seat at every other general election, but their interest in Cromartyshire itself remained impregnable, and no opponent appeared in the only election which occurred in this period. Although the family entered upon a rapid decline after the death of the 1st Earl of Cromarty in 1714, this was not immediately evident in the constituency. In the general election the following year the son of Rose of Kilravock, Hugh II*, failed to secure election through his own efforts, whereas Alexander Urquhart of Newhall applied for the Cromarty interest and was duly returned.1

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. Ferguson thesis, 131-53; Cromartie Corresp. ii. 158, 458-61; SRO, Cromarty sheriff ct. recs. SC24/20/1/8, 13, electoral ct. mins. [23 Mar.] 1703, 30 Sept. 1702; Culloden Pprs. 33, 37.