MONTGOMERIE, Hon. Francis (d. by 1729), of Giffen, Ayr.
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Family and Education
2nd s. of Hugh Montgomerie, 7th Earl of Eglintoun [S] by his 2nd w. Lady Mary, da. of John Leslie, 6th Earl of Rothes [S]. educ. ?Glasgow 1665. m. (1) contract 10 Oct. 1673, Margaret (d. 1674), da. and h. of Alexander Leslie, 2nd Earl of Leven [S] and suo jure Countess of Leven, s.p.; (2) 26 Sept. 1679, Elizabeth (d. 1702), da. of Sir Robert Sinclair, 1st Bt., MP [S], of Longformacus, Berwicks., and wid. of Sir James Primrose (1st s. d.v.p. of Sir Archibald Primrose, 1st Bt., of Carrington, Midlothian, Ld. Carrington SCJ, and bro. of Archibald Primrose, 1st Earl of Rosebery), 2s. (1 d.v.p.) 2da.1
MP [S] Ayrshire 1690–1707.
PC [S] 1692–1708; commr. auditing treasury accts. [S] 1695–aft. 1701, admiralty accts. 1698; commr. justiciary for Highlands [S] 1701, 1702, treasury [S] 1703–8, union with England 1706.2
Dir. Co. of Scotland 1695.3
Gov. Dumbarton Castle 1696; freeman, Dumbarton 1696.4
Montgomerie owed a lasting debt to the patronage of his uncle, the 7th Earl and 1st Duke of Rothes, who in 1673, with an entire absence of scruple, abused a position of trust to make a match for him on exceptionally advantageous terms with the young and sickly Countess of Leven. Rothes was the Countess’s ‘tutor’ (i.e. guardian) and at the time of the marriage he and Montgomerie’s brother, the Earl of Eglintoun, were among the ‘curators’ (i.e. trustees) of the Leven estate. The contract was drawn up so as to permit Montgomerie to claim £10,000 Scots out of his wife’s movable property, in order to furnish himself with ‘necessaries’ at his marriage, plus a further provision for a lifetime annuity of 10,000 merks (equivalent to approximately £600 sterling) out of her real property, and this from an estate already in a ‘crazy’ condition and ‘burdened’ with debt. A year later, when the Countess died, Montgomerie approached the Scottish treasury for a grant of a life-rent on part of the Leven estate. Although her cousin and eventual heir, the 5th Earl of Leven, briefly forestalled this application by a direct appeal to the King, and subsequently went to law to argue the injustice and ‘exorbitance’ of the contract (claiming that Rothes had ‘violented [sic] and forced’ his ward’s consent), the court of session found for Montgomerie and the grant was made. Taken together with the Giffen property, which his father had made over to him in 1669, Montgomerie now enjoyed a comfortable income. As late as 1720 the annuity was still being paid.5
Montgomerie remained close to Rothes’ family after the Duke’s death in 1681, being named in 1688 in the will of the Countess of Rothes as a ‘tutor’ for her son, the then Lord Leslie. Before the Revolution Montgomerie made little effort to involve himself in politics: his nomination in 1684 as an excise commissioner for Ayrshire may well indicate a certain passivity at this point. But in 1689 both he and his brother Eglintoun appeared as strong supporters of the Prince of Orange, Montgomerie helping to raise the fencibles and serving on a number of commissions, including those for the militia, for ‘planting kirks’ and for visiting schools. Before his election to the Scottish parliament in 1690 he seems to have been closely involved with the ‘club’ opposition led by his kinsman Sir James Montgomerie of Skelmorlie, though once having taken his seat in the estates he changed sides and insinuated himself into the inner clique of the Earl of Melville’s faction, the first sign of that natural gravitation to the Court which was afterwards to characterize his political career. Neatly detaching himself from Melville when the latter fell from power, Montgomerie was advanced to the Scottish privy council in 1692 and thereafter linked himself to the Tweeddale–Johnston group. On their dismissal he remained with the Court, serving on the commission for auditing treasury accounts, and being given the governorship of Dumbarton Castle. He was now acting in close association with his nephew Lord Seafield, a political alliance which may have dated back some years, even to the beginnings of the ‘club’: the Duke of Argyll referred to Montgomerie in 1698 as one of ‘Seafield’s squad’. In that capacity he continued to vote consistently with the Court, his loyalty unaffected by the Darien disaster, despite the fact that he had been one of the founding directors of the Company of Scotland and had pledged £1,000 to the original subscription. Montgomerie attended the rump parliament of 1702, supported Marchmont’s proposal for an abjuration the following year, and held to the Court throughout the political changes of 1703–5, being described by Seafield in 1705 as one of ‘the friends of the old party’. As the Jacobite agent Scot put it, Montgomerie was ‘always with the Court’. Reward had come in 1703, somewhat belatedly, in the form of appointment as a lord of the Scottish treasury, a preferment which had been rumoured four years earlier, and for which he had recently turned down the mastership of the Scottish mint. A member of the commission which negotiated the Union (during which he was satirized in a patriotic squib as one who ‘ambles like any paced horse’), he faithfully followed the ministerial line in the ensuing parliament, as befitted a permanent courtier, except for one cross-vote in the division on shire and burgh representation, and was duly selected to join his country’s contingent in the first Parliament of Great Britain.6
When the Parliament opened on 23 Oct. 1707 Montgomerie was the token Scot accorded the honour of seconding the nomination of the outgoing Speaker, John Smith I, whom he recommended as ‘a proper person for that station by [his] having been instrumental in the Union’ before helping to lead Smith to the Chair. This initial prominence helped to establish a brief and illusory reputation for Montgomerie among his English colleagues as ‘a fine speaker’, an appreciation of his abilities which his compatriots did not share, and which may in any case have been dissipated by his subsequent contributions to debates in December, in favour of the retention of the Scottish privy council and on the disqualification from the Commons of the eldest sons of Scottish peers, the latter being dismissed by one observer as a ‘silly speech’. His appearances in the Journals are impossible to distinguish from those of his kinsman Hugh Montgomerie* of Busbie. Appointments to drafting committees on supply bills – the land tax on 20 Nov., and the malt excise five days later – might be attributed to Francis Montgomerie because of his position as a Scottish treasury commissioner, but Hugh had an interest of his own in such matters, as a Glasgow merchant and former customs collector. Another possible appointment came on 13 Mar., to draft the bill for the improvement of the harbour of East Tarbert in Argyllshire. Towards the end of the session Francis’ nephew, the 9th Earl of Eglintoun, alerted Hugh Montgomerie to the need to oppose a measure said to have been mooted in the Upper House, namely to impose an oath of abjuration on Scottish voters, since this would be refused by ‘a good many Presbyterians’ as well as episcopalians. He added,
And if there be any appearance in your House against this [bill], tell Master Francis, if he expects to be elected next Parliament, he will be among the forwardest. For I do sincerely declare, I think there will not be six electors in this jurisdiction [Ayrshire]; and then how small his interest and mine both will be, I leave him to judge.
The bill, however, came to nothing, without either of the Montgomeries having to speak against it.7
At the 1708 election Montgomerie failed to obtain his nephew’s support in Ayrshire, but was nevertheless returned after a contest that may have comprehended anti-Unionist resentment directed against him as a treaty commissioner. Ironically, Montgomerie himself had not done particularly well out of the Union, since the Scottish treasury commission had disappeared along with the privy council in subsequent rationalization, and he had received no compensation. None the less, his support for the Duke of Queensberry’s Court party proved unwavering. In anticipation of the forthcoming Parliament, Seafield wrote with confidence that his uncle would be with him on the ministry’s side; and in January 1709 he was able to endorse word for word Montgomerie’s own profession of loyalty to the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†), presented in support of a petition for promotion in the army for his younger son, Alexander Montgomerie: ‘I do concur in every measure that is proposed for her Majesty’s service, which I reckon to be my duty.’ After casting his vote in favour of the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell, Montgomerie appears to have left Westminster at the end of March 1710 to return to Scotland.8
Montgomerie withdrew from the general election of 1710, but less from fear of defeat than as paternal self-sacrifice, his son John II replacing him as the Member for Ayrshire. Thereafter it was John who drew the dividends of patronage, and bore the responsibilities, of a seat in Parliament, while Francis retired to live comfortably off his annuity from the Leven estate. The date of his death is unknown, though it would seem a fair assumption that it occurred before the sale, in about 1725, of the Giffen estate. The first documentary reference to him as deceased occurs in an entail of the Eglintoun estates made on 30 Jan. 1729.9
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. Hist. Scot. Parl. 505–6; Scots Peerage ed. Paul, iii. 451–2; Recs. Glasgow Univ. (Maitland Club, lxxii), iii. 116; Scot. Rec. Soc. xxvii, 487.
- 2. Hist. Scot. Parl. 505–6; CSP Dom. 1691–2, p. 367; 1694–5, p. 445; 1696, pp. 101, 120, 168; 1697, p. 480; 1698, pp. 321, 405–6, 431–2; 1700–2, pp. 337, 387; 1702–3, pp. 353, 572; SP57/27, pp. 38–39; Boyer, Anne Annals, v. 13; APS, ix. 378.
- 3. W. Fraser, Memorials Earl of Eglintoun, i. 94.
- 4. Scot. Rec. Soc. lxxiii. 47.
- 5. Lauder of Fountainhall, Hist. Notices (Bannatyne Club, lxxxvii), 396, 421–2; Fraser, Melvilles, i. 247, 306, 441; ii. 25–26; CSP Dom. 1673–5, pp. 441, 527–8; Scot. Hist. Soc. xxxiv. 53; Fraser, Eglintoun, 94.
- 6. HMC 4th Rep. 511; Reg. PC Scotland, 1684, pp. 54, 60; APS, ix. 28–29, 164, 188, 201; x. 123, 247; xi. 70, 73, supp. 54; NLS, Crawford mss 19/3/63, memo. [?1689]; NLS, ms 7029, f. 155 (ex inf. Dr P. W. J. Riley); 14498, f. 82; info. from Dr Riley on members of Scot. parl.; P. W. J. Riley, King Wm. and Scot. Politicians, 173; Seafield Corresp. 34, 39, 88, 255; Carstares, State Pprs. 398, 411, 715; Darien Pprs. (Bannatyne Club, xc), 372; Crossrigg Diary, 74; Marchmont Pprs. iii. 249; Boyer, iii. app. 43; Lockhart Mems. ed. Szechi, 78; Seafield Letters, 25, 30; Orig. Pprs. ed. Macpherson, ii. 12; SRO, Hamilton-Dalrymple mss GD110/1252, Sir William Anstruther to Sir Hugh Dalrymple, 7 Jan. [?1703]; HMC Hamilton, ii. 144; HMC Var. v. 272; P. W. J. Riley, Union, 331.
- 7. Riley, Union, 311; BL, Trumbull Alphab. mss 53, John Bridges to Sir William Trumbull*, 24 Oct. 1707; Roxburghe mss at Floors castle, bdle. 1069, Hon. William Kerr* to Countess of Roxburghe, 28 Oct. 1707; bdle. 739, William Bennet* to same, 16 Dec. 1707; NLS, ms 7021, f. 140; Fraser, Eglintoun, 327.
- 8. Seafield Letters, 109; Add. 61136, f. 121; 61292, f. 6; SRO, Seafield mss GD248/560/45/17, George Nicolson to Findlater, 27 Mar. 1710.
- 9. Fraser, Eglintoun, 94, 102.