URQUHART, Alexander (d.1727), of Newhall, Ross.
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Family and Education
1st s. of John Urquhart of Newhall by Jean, da. of Colin Mackenzie of Redcastle, Ross; bro.-in-law of Sir Kenneth Mackenzie, M.P. [S], of Scatwell, Ross. m. Anna, da. of Col. Thomas Hamilton of Olivestob, Haddington, 1s. 1da. suc. fa. by 1715.
Ensign 15 Ft. 1708; capt. Stanwix’s Ft. 1710; half-pay 1714.
Though returned for Cromartyshire on the recommendation of the Duke of Montrose, the secretary of state for Scotland, and classed as a Whig in 1715,1 Urquhart was a Tory, voting against the Administration in all recorded divisions. Professing ‘great zeal’ for the Pretender’s service, ‘he found means to be well known to the Earl of Sunderland’, for whom he acted as an intermediary with the Jacobites. When in March 1721 Sunderland was threatened with impeachment for his part in the South Sea bubble, he gave Urquhart
full power to assure the Tories that if they would be his friends in keeping off the impeachment his enemies design against him, he would order things to their desire ... that the House of Commons shall be entirely of their own making so that the Tories shall have a way open for England to do the thing [a restoration] herself, and if the Tories do not make use of the opportunity, ’twill be none of Lord Sunderland’s fault.
When the case came before Parliament in April ‘as many of the Tories joined Lord Sunderland as saved him’. In August Sunderland sent Urquhart to Scotland, where he applied to leading Jacobites, ‘endeavouring ... to give us a good impression of Sunderland’s designs, that we might ... influence the Tories to favour his interest at the election of the new Parliament’. In reply to inquiries whether these overtures should be accepted, the Pretender wrote to his friends: ‘I am satisfied Captain Urquhart is a sincere well-wisher of mine’, but advised them against trusting Sunderland too far. He also gave Urquhart a commission as lieutenant-colonel in January 1722.3 After Sunderland’s death Urquhart became ‘as great a depender on’ Walpole,2 who secured the shelving of a petition against his return for Ross-shire by his relation, Sir William Gordon, in 1722.3 During the South Sea bubble he had speculated heavily, borrowing money to buy South Sea stock, which he pawned to the Sword Blade Company as security for a loan. When the stock was at its highest he attempted to redeem it, but the Sword Blade Company refused to return it, whereupon he brought an action against them, which was settled by a payment to him of £25,000. On this his creditors pressed for repayment, which he refused, taking refuge under his parliamentary privilege. In 1725 they petitioned the House of Commons for relief, with the result that he had to agree to waive his privilege to enable them to bring an action against him for the recovery of their money.4 He died bankrupt and intestate in 1727, Newhall passing to his relatives, the Gordons of Invergordon, his principal creditors.5
Ref Volumes: 1715-1754
Author: Paula Watson
- 1. Sir W. Fraser, Earls of Cromarty, ii. 158.
- 2. Lockhart Pprs. ii. 67-68, 69, 78, 81; Stuart mss 52/105, 53/13; Ruvigny, Jacobite Peerage, 244.
- 3. Knatchbull Diary, 24 Oct. 1722.
- 4. Ibid. 12 Apr. 1725; Case of Creditors of Alex. Urquhart; Case of Alex. Urquhart; Further Case of the Creditors of Alex. Urquhart; CJ, xx. 464, 486, 496.