Date Of Execution: 18 Aug 1746
Execution Place: unknown
"These men were once the glory of their age,
"Disinterested, just, with ev'ry Virtue
"Of civil life adorn'd, at arms excelling,
"Their only blot was this; that much inovok'd
"They rais'd their vengeful arms against their country;
"And lo! the righteous gods have now chastis'd them."
The Earl of Kilmarnock
THESE, noblemen possessed great influence, and were much respected, previous to, the unhappy rebellion in 1745. Having already given a correct, though abridged account, of the transactions in which they took conspicuous part; we proceed, without farther comment, to their trials, defence, speeches, and execution.
On Monday, the 28th of July, 1746, about eight o clock in the morning, the three rebel lords, prisoners in the Tower, were carried from thence in three coaches, the Earl of Kilmarnock, with Governor Williamson, and another gentleman, captain of the guard, in the first, the Earl of Cromartie; attended by Captain Marshall, in the second: and Lord Balmerino, attended by Mr. Fowler, gentleman gaoler, who had the axe covered by him, in the third, under a strong guard of foot-soldiers to Westminster Hall, where the Lord High Steward and the peers having taken their seats, proclamation was made for the Lieutenant of the Tower of London to return the precept to him directed, with the bodies of the prisoners: which done, the Gentleman Gaoler of the Tower brought his prisoners to the bar; and the proclamation was made for the King's evidence to come forth, the King's counsel, by his Grace's direction, opened the indictment, then his Grace moved the house that he might advance forwards for the better hearing of the evidence, (which being done, William Earl of Kilmarnock was brought to the bar) and his bill of indictment for high treason read, to which his lordship, pleaded Guilty, and desired to be recommended to his Majesty for mercy. Then George Earl of Cromartie was brought to the bar, &c, who also pleaded Guilty and prayed for mercy, After which Arthur Lord Balmerino was brought to the bar, &c. who pleaded Not Guilty, alleging that he was not at Carlisle at the time specified in the indictment, whereupon six witnesses for the crown were called in and examined, whose evidence was distinctly repeated by the reading-clerk, proving that his Lordship entered Carlisle (though not the same day) sword in hand, at the head of a regiment called by his name, Elphinston's horse. To this he made an exception, which was overruled. The Lord High Steward then asked him if he had any witness, or any thing further to offer in his defence. To which he replied, he was sorry he had given their lordships so much trouble, and had nothing more to say. Hereupon their lordships retired out of Westminster Hall to the House of Peers, where the opinion of the judges was asked, touching the overt act, which they declaring to be not material, as other facts were proved beyond contradiction, their lordships returned, and his Grace putting the question to the youngest baron, "Whether Arthur Lord Balmerino was guilty or not guilty, &c." he clapt his right hand to his left breast, and said, "Guilty, upon my honour, my Lord," as did all the rest of the peers. And the prisoners being again called to the bar, the Lord High Steward declared their resolutions: and they were ordered to be brought up on the 30th. at 11 o'clock in the morning to receive sentence.
Written notice was given them to bring what they might have to offer in arrest of judgment.-- There were 136 peers present.
On the 30th the Lord High Steward went to Westminster Hall, attended as before: and the prisoners being brought again before their peers, the Earl of Kilmarnock made a very elegant, and pathetic speech which was much admired, to move their lordships to intercede for him with his Majesty. The Earl of Cromartie spoke also to the same effect; but Lord Balmerino, pleaded, in arrest of judgment, that his indictment was found in the county of Surrey, and, this being a point of law, desired that he might be allowed counsel to argue it, upon which the lords adjourned to their chamber, to consider of it, and soon after returned; ordered his plea to be argued on Friday next, and appointed Messrs. Wilbrake and Forrester for his counsel. [Note: This point was that the bill of indictment was found on an act of parliament passed in March last, by which prisoners, charged with high treason, were to be tried in such county as his Majesty should appoint; but, as the treason with which his lordship was charged, is said to be committed at Carlisle, in the December before, he ought to have been indicted there, and not in Surrey, because the treason alleged to be committed was before the passing of the act, and therefore he could not be affected by it, and consequently the whole superstructure built thereon must fall to the ground. This objection, it is said, was suggested to all the lords, in a letter sent to each in the Tower, by an officious person; but the very title of the act includes "such persons as HAVE levied, or shall levy war, against his Majesty."]
On the 1st of August the Lord High Steward, and the peers being come to Westminster Hall, the three rebel lords were brought to the bar, with the axe carried before them. Then the E. of Kilmarnock and E. of Cromartie were separately asked if they had any thing to propose why judgment should not be passed upon them; to which they answered in the negative. Then his Grace informed Lord Balmerino, that, having started an objection, desired counsel, and had their assistance, he was now to make use of it, if he thought fit, to argue that point. His Lordship answered, he was sorry for the trouble he had given his Grace and the peers; that he would not have taken that step, if he had not been persuaded there was some ground for the objection; but that his counsel having satisfied him there was nothing in it that could tend to his service, he declined having them heard, submitted to the court, and was resolved to rely upon his Majesty's mercy.
His Grace then made a speech to the prisoners, almost to the same effect as that pronounced by Earl Cowper. But as the present rebellion was opposed with more unanimity and zeal than the last, his Grace took occasion to observe to their lordships, that the beginnings of the rebellion "were so weak and unpromising, as to be capable of seducing none but the most infected and willing minds to join in so desperate an enterprise. -- That it was impossible, even for the party of the rebels to be so inconsiderate or vain as to imagine, that the body of this free people, blest in the enjoyment of all their rights, both civil and religious, under his Majesty's protection; secure in the prospect of transmitting them safe to their posterity, under the Protestant succession in his royal house, would not rise up, as one man, to oppose and crush so flagitious, so destructive, and so unprovoked an attempt. -- Accordingly the rebels soon saw his Majesty's faithful subjects, conscious both of their duty and interest, contending to outdo one another in demonstrations of their zeal and vigour in his service. -- Men of property, of all ranks and orders, crowded in with liberal subscriptions, of their own motion, beyond the examples of former times, and uncompelled by any law: and yet in the most legal and warrantable manner, notwithstanding what has been ignorantly and presumptuously suggested to the contrary. -- His lordship concluded thus: It has been his Majesty's justice to bring your lordships to legal trial and it has been his wisdom to shew, that, as a small part of his national forces was sufficient to subdue the rebel army in the field, so the ordinary course of his laws, is strong enough to bring even their chiefs to justice."
Then, after a short pause, his Grace pronounced sentence as in cases of high treason. Afterwards breaking his staff, put an end to the commission.
At six o'clock a troop of life-guards, one of horse-grenadiers, and 1000 of the foot guards, (being fifteen men out of each company,) marched from the parade in St. James's park through the city to Tower-hill, to attend the execution of the Earl of Kilmarnock and the Lord Balmerino, and being arrived there, were posted in lines from the Tower to the scaffold, and all round it. About eight o'clock the sheriffs of London, with their under-sheriffs, and their officers, viz. six serjeants at mace, six yeomen, and the executioner, met at the Mitre tavern in Fenchurch-street, where they breakfasted, and went from thence to the house lately the Transport-office on Tower-hill, near Catherine-court, hired by them for the reception of the said lords, before they should be conducted to the scaffold, fold, which was erected about thirty yards from the said house. At ten o'clock the block was fixed on the stage, and covered with black cloth, and several sacks of sawdust were brought up to strew on it; soon after their coffins were brought, covered with black cloth, ornamented with gilt nails, &c. On the Earl of Kilmarnock's was a plate with this inscription, "Gulielmus. Comes. de Kilmarnock decollatus, 18 Augusti, 1746, Ætat. suæ 42," with an earl's coronet over it, and 6 coronets over the six handles; and on lord Balmerino's was a plate with this inscription, "Arthurus Dominus de Balmerino decollatus, 18 Augusti, 1746, Ætat. Suæ 58," with a baronet's coronet over it, and six others over the six handles. At a quarter after ten the sheriffs went in procession to the outward gate of the Tower, and, after knocking at it some time, a warder within asked, "Who's there?" The officer without answered, "The Sheriffs of London and Middlesex." The warder then asked, "What do they want?" The officer answered, "The bodies of Earl of Kilmarnock, and Arthur, Lord Balmerino.", Upon which the warder said, "I will go and inform the Lieutenant of the Tower," and in about ten minutes the Lieutenant of the Tower, with the Earl of Kilmarnock, and Major White with Lord Balmerino, guarded by several of. the warders, came to the gate; the prisoners were there delivered to the Sheriffs, who gave proper receipts for their bodies to the Lieutenant, who, as is usual, said, "God bless King George;" to which the Earl of Kilmarnock assented by a bow, and the Lord Balmerino said, "God bless King James." [Note: At the foot of the first stairs, the Earl of Kilmarnock met and embraced Lord Balmerino, who greatly (as Mr. Foster observes) said to him, " My Lord, I am heartily sorry to have your company in this expedition."] Soon after, the procession, moving in a slow and solemn manner, appeared in the following order: 1. The Constable of the Tower-hamlets. 2. The Knight-Marshal's men and Tip-staves. 3. The Sheriffs' officers. 4. The Sheriffs, the Prisoners, and their Chaplains; Mr. Sheriff Blachford walking with the Earl of Kilmarnock, and Mr. Sheriff Cockayne with the Lord Balmerino. 5. The Tower Warders. 6. A guard of Musqueteers. 7. The two hearses and a mourning coach. When the procession had passed through the lines into the area of the circle formed by the guards, the passage was closed, and the troops of horse, who were in the rear of the foot on the lines, wheeled off, and drew up five deep behind the foot on the south side of the hill, facing the scaffold.
The Lords were conducted into separate apartments in the house facing the steps of the scaffold; their friends being admitted to see them. The Earl of Kilmarnock was attended by the Rev. Mr. Foster, a dissenting minister, and the Rev. Mr. Hume, a near relation of the Earl of Hume; and the. Chaplain of the Tower, and another clergyman of the church of England, accompanied the Lord Balmerino; who, on entering the door of the house, hearing several of the spectators ask eagerly, "Which is Lord Balmerino?" answered, smiling, "I am Lord Balmerino, gentlemen, at your service." The parlour and passage of the house, the rails enclosing the way from thence to the scaffold, and the rails about it, were all hung with black at the Sheriff's expense.
The Lord Kilmarnock, in the apartment allotted to him, spent about an hour in his devotions with Mr. Foster, who assisted him with prayer and exhortation. After which Lord Balmerino, pursuant to his request, being admitted to confer with the earl, first thanked him for the favour, and then asked, If his lordship knew of any order signed by the Prince (meaning the Pretender's son) to give no quarter at the battle of Culloden. And the; earl answering, 'No,' Lord Balmerino added, 'Nor I neither, and therefore it seems to be an invention to justify their own murders.' The earl replied, 'he did not think this a fair inference, because he was informed, after he was prisoner at Inverness, by several officers, that such an order, signed George Murray, was in the duke's custody.' -- 'George Murray,' said Lord Balmerino, 'then they should not charge it on the Prince.' Then he took his leave, embracing Lord Kilmarnock, with the same kind of noble and generous compliments, as he had used before, 'My dear Lord Kilmarnock, I am only sorry that I cannot pay this reckoning alone; once more, farewell for ever,' and returned to his own room.
The earl then, with the company kneeling down joined in a prayer delivered by Mr. Foster: after which, having sat a few moments, and taken a second refreshment of a bit of bread and a glass of wine, he expressed a desire that Lord Balmerino might go first to the scaffold; but being informed that this could not be, as his lordship was named first in the warrant, he appeared satisfied, saluted his friends, saying he should make no speech on the scaffold, but desired the ministers to assist him in his last moments, and they accordingly, with other friends, proceeded there with him. The multitude, who had been long expecting to see him on such an awful occasion, on his first appearing on the scaffold, dressed in black, with a countenance and demeanour, testifying great contrition, shewed the deepest signs of commiseration and pity; and his lordship, at the same time, being struck with such, a variety of dreadful objects at once, the multitudes, the block, his coffin, the executioner, the instrument of death, turned about to Mr. Hume, and said, "Hume! this is terrible;" though without changing his voice or countenance. [Note: His person was tall and graceful, his countenance mild, and his complexion pale; and more so, as he had been indisposed.]
After putting up a short prayer, concluding with a petition for his Majesty King George and the royal family, in verification of his declaration his speech, his lordship embraced, and took his last leave of his friend. The executioner, who before had something administered to keep him from fainting, was so affected with his lordship's distress, and the awfulness of the scene, that on asking him forgiveness, he burst into tears. My lord bid him take courage, giving him at the same time, a purse with five guineas, and telling him that he would drop his handkerchief as a signal for the stroke. He proceeded, with the help of his gentleman, to make ready for the block, by taking off his coat, and the bag from his hair, which was then tucked up under a napkin cap, but this being made up so wide as not to keep up his long hair, the making it less occasioned a little delay; his neck being laid bare, tucking down the collar of his shirt, and waistcoat, he kneeled down on a. black cushion at the block, and drew his cap over his eyes, in doing which, as well as in putting up his hair, his hands were observed. to shake; but, either to support or for a more convenient posture of devotion, he happened to lay both his hands, upon the block, which the executioner observing, prayed his lordship to let them fall, lest they should be mangled or break the blow. He was then told, that the neck of his waistcoat was in the way, upon which he rose, and with the help of a friend took it off, and the neck being made bare to the shoulders, he kneeled down as before: in the mean time, when all things were ready for the execution, and the black baize which hung over the rails of the scaffold, having, by direction of the colonel of the guards or the sheriffs, been turned up that, the people might see all the circumstances of the execution; in about two minutes (the time he before fixed) after he kneeled down, his lordship dropping his handkerchief, the executioner at once severed his head from his body,. except only a small part of the skin, which was immediately divided by a gentle stroke; the head was received in a piece of red baize, and with the body immediately put into the coffin. The scaffold, was then cleared from the blood, fresh sawdust strewed, and, that no appearance of a former execution might remain, the executioner changed such of his clothes as appeared bloody.
In the account said to be published by the authority of the sheriffs, it is asserted the Lord Kilmarnock requested his head might not be held up as usual, and declared to be the head of a traitor; and that, for this reason that part of the ceremony was omitted, as the sentence and law did not require it; but we are assured, in Mr. Foster's account, that his lordship made no such request; and further, that when he was informed that his head would be held up, and such, proclamation made, it did, not affect him and he spoke of it as a matter of no moment. All that he wished or desired was, 1. That the executioner might not be, as represented to his lordship, "a good, sort of man," thinking "a rough temper would be fitter for the purpose." 2. That his coffin, instead of remaining in the hearse, might be set upon the stage: and, 3. That four persons might be appointed. to receive the head, that it might not roll about the stage, but be speedily, with his body, put into the coffin.
While this was doing, the Lord Balmerino, after having solemnly recommended himself to the mercy of the Almighty, conversed cheerfully with his friends, refreshed himself twice with a bit of bread and a glass of wine, and desired the company to drink to ain degrae to haiven, acquainting them that he had prepared a speech which he should read on the scaffold, and therefore should there say nothing of its contents. The Under-sheriff coming into his lordship's apartment to let him know the stage was ready, he prevented him by immediately asking if the affair was over with the Lord Kilmarnock, and being answered "It is," he inquired how the executioner performed his office, and upon receiving the account, said it was well done; then addressing himself to the company, said, "Gentlemen, I shall detain you no longer," and with an easy unaffected cheerfulness he saluted his friends, and hastened to the scaffold, which he mounted with so easy an air as astonished the spectators; his lordship was dressed in his regimentals, a blue coat turned up with red, trimmed with brass buttons, (and a tie-wig,) the same which he wore at the battle of Culloden; no circumstance in his whole deportment shewed the least sign of fear or regret, and he frequently reproved his friends for discovering either upon his account. He walked several times round the scaffold, bowed to the people; went to his coffin, read the inscription, and with a nod, said, it is right; he then examined the block, which he called his pillow of rest. His lordship putting on his spectacles, and taking a paper out of his pocket, read it with an audible voice, which, so far from being filled with passionate invective, mentioned his majesty as a prince of the greatest magnanimity and mercy, at the same time that, through erroneous political principles, it denied him a right to the allegiance of his people: having delivered this paper to the sheriff, he called for the executioner, who appearing, and being about to ask his lordship's pardon, he said, "Friend, you need not ask me forgiveness, the execution of your duty is commendable;" upon which, his lordship gave, him three guineas, saying, "Friend, I never was rich, this is all the money I have now, I wish it was more, and I am sorry I can add nothing, to it but my coat and waistcoat, which he then took off, together with his neck-cloth, and threw them on his coffin; putting on a flannel waistcoat, which had been provided for the purpose, and then taking a plaid cap out of his pocket, he put it on his head, saying he died a Scotchman; after kneeling down at the block to adjust his posture, and shew the executioner the signal for the stroke, which was dropping his arms, he once more turned to his friends, and took his last farewell, and, looking round, on the crowd, said, "Perhaps some may think my behaviour too bold, but remember, Sir, (said he to a gentleman who, stood near him) that I now declare it is the effect of confidence in God, and a good conscience, and I should dissemble if I should shew any signs of fear."
Observing, the axe in the executioner's hand as he passed him, he took it from him, felt the, edge, and returning it, clapped the executioner on the shoulder to encourage him; he tucked down the collar of his shirt and waistcoat, and shewed him where to strike, desiring him to do it resolutely, for in that, says his lordship, will consist your kindness.
He went to the side of the stage, and called up the warder, to whom he gave some money, asked which was his hearse, and ordered the man to drive near. Immediately, without trembling or changing countenance, he again knelt down at the block, and having with his arms stretched out, said, "O Lord, reward my friends, forgive my enemies, and receive my soul," he gave the signal by letting them fall. But his uncommon firmness and intrepidity, and the unexpected suddenness of the signal so surprised the executioner, that though he struck the part directed, the blow was not given with strength enough to wound him very deep; on which it seemed as if he made an effort to turn his, head towards the executioner, and the under jaw fell, and returned very quick, like anger and gnashing the teeth; but it could not be otherwise, the part being convulsed. A second blow immediately succeeding the first, rendered him, however, quite insensible, and a third finished the work.
[Note: If we were to draw his character, abstracted from the consideration of his being an enemy to the present happy government, we should call him a blunt, resolute man, who would, if his principles had not been tainted with Jacobitism, have appeared honest in the eyes of those who love sincerity; but he was not so happy as to be loyal. His person was very plain, his shape clumsy, but his make strong, and had no marks about him of the polite gentleman, though his seeming sincerity recompensed all those defects. He was illiterate in respect of his birth, but rather from a total want of application to letters, than want of ability: several quaint stories related of him, which seem to be the growth of wanton and fertile imagination, which is not at all to be wondered at ,in times that afford so much matter for invention. He left a lady behind him, whom he called his Peggy; to whom, at his request, His Majesty allowed 50l., a year: whether any Children, we are not able to say.]
His head was received in a piece of red baize, and with his body put into the coffin, which, at his particular request, was placed on that of the late Marquis of Tullibardines's, in St. Peter's church in the Tower, all three lords lying in one grave.
During the whole course of the solemnity, although the hill, the scaffoldings, and houses, were crowded full of spectators, all persons attended with uncommon decency, and evenness of temper; which evinces how much the people entered into the rectitude of the execution, though too humane to rejoice in the catastrophe.
Lord Balmerino had but a small estate, though ground-landlord and lord of the manor of Colcon, a long street in the suburbs of Edinburgh, leading to Leith, and had also some other small possessions in the shire of Fife. His lady came to London soon after him, and frequently attended him during his confinement in the Tower, and had lodgings in East Smithfield. She was at dinner with him when the warrant came for his execution the Monday following, and being very much surprised, he desired her not to be concerned at it; "If the king had given me mercy," said he, "I should have been glad of it; but since it is otherwise, I am very easy; for it is what I have expected, and therefore it does not at all surprise me." His lady seemed very disconsolate and rose immediately from table; on which he started from his chair, and said," Pray, my lady, sit down for it shall not spoil my dinner;" upon which her ladyship sat down again, but could not eat.
Several more of his sayings were related as remarkable, among others, that being advised to take care of his person, he replied, "It would be thought very imprudent in a man to repair an old house, when the lease of it was so near expiring."
CHARACTER of ARTHUR LORD BALMERINO
Quique metus omnes, & inexorabile Fatum
Subjecitit pedibus, strepitumque Acherontis avari. VIRG.
The abhorrence of pain is a principle implanted in all animals as the means of: their preservation. To this in Men is added the fear of death; and that is still heightened, by apprehensions of what may happen afterwards. Yet pain is often unavoidable; and death, with its consequences, some time or other absolutely necessary. Hence arises the merit of courage, which consists in facing intrepidly and suffering cheerfully these evils, when they become either inevitable or declinable only on unworthy terms. Great then are undoubtedly the obligations of mankind for those who, on such occasions, treat these terrors with the contempt they really deserve, and give us an useful lesson and example how to behave in an emergency which we ought every day to expect, and which we must one day certainly experience. The Greeks and Romans, therefore, looked even on suicide in amiable light. It was with them the consummation of a perfect character; and the extenuation of the most faulty. Nor were they in this altogether impolitic; hence flowed that appetite for danger; that prodigality of life, which they knew so skilfully to direct to the publics emoluments. But heaven-instructed Christians have unlearnt this Pagan doctrine; and yet, amongst the primitives what was accounted more meritorious than a courageous, calm submission to civil punishment, appears the constant aim of the martyrs, and had the happiest effects, as to the promulgation of their precepts.
There has been lately seen among us a noble instance of the superiority of a great mind to fear, which, when passion and prejudice have subsided, will reflect honour on our times, and even be advantageous to former, as it bestows credibility on their most exaggerated heroical relations. I mean the death of the late Lord Balmerino.
But, before we proceed, it may be proper to declare, that, if I would vindicate and extol his death, I by no means. intend to justify or excuse his life. I give up, with all good Englishmen, the French soldier, the Jacobite, the double rebel, concur with them in the rectitude of his sentence, and the necessity of its execution. It is at the Tower gate, that I (with the sheriffs) take him up:-- There the hero commences.
I will not injure, by comparing, as has been hitherto done, with pusillanimity itself, a fortitude that wants no foil, which all antiquity can scarcely parallel. Lord Balmerino's carriage in the procession from the Tower, was easy and cheerful, his conversation in the preparatory room, rational and pertinent; his interview with his fellow-sufferer open and generous; when on the scaffold, he had so little of the formal, piteous countenance there usually exhibited, that those who were unacquainted with his person, knew not for some time that he was there. He told the officers that he would take up but little of their time; that he was sensible the greatest part of it was already elapsed; that he had had frequent opportunities to look into his future concerns, and should not settle this account in public. Accordingly, having with composure given the necessary directions, he prepared for the blow with the greatest alacrity, and with an expedition, which was only interrupted by an act of generosity, and a mistake which, to a weak mind, might have been productive of extreme disorder, but served only to elevate his character. And though, through the whole of this transaction, nothing appeared but intrepidity and constancy, yet this hero confessed the man. He had his fears, but they were glorious ones: he feared, he said, that his conduct would be thought too bold; willingly, would he have seemed less so, but could not play the hypocrite. So far was he from an affected ostentation of his prodigious courage, a courage which was attended by the most desirable effect, the most indisputable evidence. This nobleman parted with life with such unconcern as convinced the spectators that was not only to him, but really in itself, of no importance. The black solemnity could not obscure his serenity, nor imprint on them a gloom not to be dispelled by such lustre. They found there was nothing unnatural in dying, nothing. horrible in death itself; they felt no emotion.
Thus greatly, unlamented, fell Arthur Lord Balmerino, a man of the most incredible courage, the most commendable sincerity, the most engaging simplicity, who was an honour to the worst cause, and would have been an ornament to the best; whose faults wilt one day be forgotten, and his virtues remembered.
And sure the little here said (with strict truth) in his favour, cannot possibly give offence, to the most zealous loyalist. There is a justice surely due to the characters of gallant enemies, our law never intends to execute reputations, and its most rigid sentence, pronounced on the least pardonable occasion, confines the punishment to the body merely, and in the midst of judgment remembers mercy.