This monument to Scottish military strategist, Covenanter, & Royalist James Graham, fifth earl & first marquis of Montrose, can be found in the Chepman or Chapman Aisle in St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh. Montrose’s brief & remarkable life encapsulated what it meant to be a patriot & soldier in 17th-Century Scotland. As he waded through a political morass studded with physical pitfalls & moral dilemmas, he tried hard to balance loyalty to an arrogant & (in modern vernacular) clueless monarch, with loyalty to the Scottish kirk & its zealots. The edges of these challenges were rough indeed, & the outcome of any action dubious. Montrose led several brilliant campaigns while heading the King’s armies in Scotland in the mid-1640s, but by the time King Charles I was executed in 1649, Montrose was in exile in Europe. Charles II was crowned King in Scotland, & Montrose was persuaded to return to his homeland to pursue yet another campaign, but he was unsuccessful. He was hanged in Edinburgh on 21 May 1650, at the age of 37, & his body was dismembered & dispersed following the dictates of custom for traitors & other major transgressors. In 1661, after the Restoration, what could be gathered together of Montrose’s remains were collected, & a lavish funeral was held. But it wasn’t until late in Queen Victoria’s reign that Montrose got the memorial he was thought by many to deserve, & this handsome monument was erected & dedicated in St. Giles. The tablet above the marble effigy is in Latin & reads “IACOBI GRAHAM, MARCHIONIS DE MONTROSE, DISSIPATAS OLIM RELIQUIAS, PIA SUORUM OPERA COLLECTAS, HAEC PORTICUS EXCEPIT, A.D.V. ID MAI A.S. MDCLXI.
CUIUS VIRI IN MEMORIAM, POSTERI COGNATI GENTILES, CIVES INGENII TANTI FAUTORES, MONUMENTUM HOC PONENDUM CURAVERUNT, A. S. MDCCCLXXXVIII.” Translation: “Within this aisle the scattered remains of James Graham, Marquis of Montrose, collected by the reverent care of his relatives and friends, were deposited on the 11th day of May, 1661. By his descendants and kinsmen, by the bearers of his name, by the admirers of his lofty genius, this monument was erected to his memory in the year of our Lord 1888.” The tablet below the effigy contains the last four lines of a short poem said to have been scratched by Montrose on a window of his cell in the Tolbooth, supposedly with a diamond. It reads: “Scatter my ashes, strew them in the air; Lord! since thou knowest where all these atoms are, I’m hopeful thou’lt recover once my dust, and confident thou’lt raise me with the Just.”
More on Montrose can be seen here .
The site of one of Montrose’s great victories can be seen here: Inverlochy .