MUNRO, Hector (1726-1805), of Novar, Ross.
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Family and Education
b. 1726, 1st s. of Hugh Munro, merchant of Clayside, Sutherland by Isabel Gordon, gd.-da. of Sir Robert Gordon, 2nd Bt., M.P. [S], of Embo, Sutherland. unm. 2s. 1da. suc. fa. c. 1761; acquired possession of the Novar estate from his cos. George bef. 1768; cr. K.B. 23 Mar. 1779.
Ensign Loudoun’s Regt. 1747-8, 48 Ft. 1749; lt. 31 Ft. 1754, capt. 1756; maj. 89 Ft. 1759; lt.-col. army on half pay 1765; col. 1777; maj.-gen. (local rank India) 1777; barrackmaster [S] March 1778; maj.-gen. 1782; col. 42 Ft. 1787- d.; lt.-gen. 1793; gen. 1798.
Munro, a volunteer in Loudoun’s regiment during the ’45, obtained a commission in 1747 in the company commanded by his chief, Sir Harry Munro of Foulis. He owed his subsequent promotion mainly to the friendship of the Dowager Duchess of Gordon, who in 1759 nominated him major in the Highland regiment then raising for her second husband Staats Long Morris.1 In December 1760 he sailed for Bombay with the regiment; took command at Patna in 1764; and routed the Indian Confederation at Buxar in October. Acclaimed as the saviour of Bengal, he resigned his command in 1765 and left for England with a vast fortune.
Soon after returning home, he began his election campaign in Inverness Burghs, and purchased for £1400 the strategically placed estate of Muirtown, Elgin.2 Having with his Indian wealth outbid the West Indian magnate Sir Alexander Grant, he was returned in 1768. In Parliament his name does not appear in any division list before 1773, but in March 1772 he was classed by Robinson ‘pro, present’ on the royal marriage bill; voted with Administration on the Middlesex election, 26 Apr. 1773, and on Grenville’s Act, 25 Feb. 1774; and was listed ‘pro’ by Robinson at the end of the Parliament. His losses in the Ayr Bank catastrophe of 17723 did not curb his lavish expenditure, which secured his re-election in 1774, but probably induced him to seek profitable employment. In the summer of 1777 he was appointed commander-in-chief Madras; and in 1780 was returned in his absence for Inverness Burghs.
In India he was soon at odds with Warren Hastings, whose criticism of his lack of enterprise was refuted by his capture of Pondicherry in October 1778.4 But his ineptitude in the campaign against Hyder Ali in 1780 destroyed his reputation, and imperilled Madras.5 Superseded by Eyre Coote, Munro, resenting criticism, pleaded ill-health and in 1781 proposed going home.6 Lord Macartney, the new governor, anxious to placate him, offered him the command against the Portuguese settlements, and when, by the capture of Negapatam in October 1781, Munro had in part restored his prestige, urged him to remain another year in India. When Munro, nevertheless, decided to take passage home in February 1782, Macartney wrote to Laurence Sulivan, 28 Jan., suggesting that Munro’s ‘ill-health’ was partly a cover for wounded vanity, and complained of his cantankerous behaviour.7 Munro resigned in January 1782, at the very time when the East India Company ordered his removal. He arrived home in the early summer of 1783.8
Absent, probably through illness, from the division of 27 Nov. 1783 on Fox’s East India bill, he was counted ‘doubtful’ by Robinson in December but as probably pro-Pitt in a future Parliament;9 and in January 1784 was listed as unable to attend. Returned unopposed in 1784, Munro soon attached himself to Pitt and Henry Dundas, obtained from them the colonelcy of the Black Watch in 1787, and voted with Administration on the Regency question, 1788-9. Fond of displaying his oriental wealth, he rebuilt Novar House at a cost of some £120,000. In 1805 he applied for a baronetcy ‘to perpetuate in his family the memory of his services’,10 but before his petition was considered he died, 27 Dec. 1805.
Ref Volumes: 1754-1790
Author: Edith Lady Haden-Guest
- 1. Alex. Mackenzie, Hist. Munros, 515-16.
- 2. Fam. of Rose of Kilravock (Spalding Club), 441.
- 3. W. Gordon to David Ross, 13 July 1772, David Ross Corresp. at SRO.
- 4. Letters of Hastings to Macpherson, ed. Dodwell, 76-77; Fortescue, iv. 280; Parkes Merivale, Mems. of Francis, ii. 136.
- 5. HMC Stopford-Sackville, i. 357-64; Mackenzie, Hist. Munros. 530; Weitzman, Warren Hastings and Philip Francis, 359-60.
- 6. Add. 29146, ff. 229, 239.
- 7. Macartney Corresp. 174, 180.
- 8. E. H. Coleridge, Life of Thos. Coutts, i. 167.
- 9. Laprade, 101.
- 10. Add. 38378, ff. 78-80.