Graham, James, fourth Marquis and first Duke of Montrose d. 1742, was the eldest son of James, third marquis, by his wife, Lady Christian Leslie, second daughter of the Duke of Rothes, chancellor of Scotland. Being a minor at the death of his father in April 1684, he was, in accordance with his father's will, placed under the care of ten tutors, of whom his mother and the Earl of Haddington were to be sine quibus non. The Earl of Haddington having died, it was contended, when the young marquis's mother married Sir John Bruce younger of Kinross, that the tutory had become null, and the court of session so decided on 31 Jan. 1688 (Fountainhall, Historical Notices, p. 850). Two judges, Lords Harcarse and Edmonston, who had voted for the subsisting of it, were removed from the bench on 29 Feb. following (ib. p. 856) by a special letter of the king. It was supposed that the king wished the young marquis to be brought up under catholic influences, but by this time he was hastening to his fall. Macky, writing of Montrose when he was twenty-five years of age, states that he was very beautiful in person, possessed a sweetness of disposition which charmed all who knew him, and had improved himself in most foreign courts (Secret Memoirs). Swift's manuscript note to this flattering description of Montrose in his youth is, now very homely and makes a sorry appearance.
In 1702 Montrose added greatly to his territorial influence by his purchase of the property of the Duke of Lennox, with many of its jurisdictions, including the hereditary sheriffdom of Dumbarton, the custodianship of Dumbarton Castle, and the jurisdiction of the regality of Lennox. On 23 Feb. 1705 he was appointed high admiral of Scotland, and on 28 Feb. of the following year president of the council. According to Lockhart of Carnwath, Montrose, by his good behaviour after he came from his travels and in the first sessions of his parliament, awakened the hopes of the cavalier party that he would be a worthy representative of the loyal, noble, and worthy family of Montrose; but although of good understanding he was easily led by the nose, and governed by his mother and her relations (Lockhart, Papers, i. 119). He became a steady supporter of the protestant succession, notwithstanding all the friends of his father's family remonstrated to him against it (ib.). For his services in connection with the union he was created Duke of Montrose by patent, 24 April 1707. He was one of the sixteen Scots representative peers elected by the last Scottish parliament 13 Feb. 1707, and he was subsequently several times re-elected. On 28 Feb. 1709 he was appointed keeper of the privy seal of Scotland, but on account of his disagreement with the tory administration he was removed from office in 1713. On the death of Queen Anne he was named by George I one of the lords of the regency. On 24 Sept. he was named one of the principal secretaries of state in succession to the Earl of Mar, who was dismissed on account of his suspected Jacobite sentiments. The support of the government by Montrose was of considerable importance in assisting to subdue the rebellion of 1715 in Scotland. In 1716 he was again constituted keeper of the great seal in Scotland, and on 4 Oct. 1717 he was named a privy councillor. In April 1733 he was removed from the office of privy seal in consequence of his opposition to Sir Robert Walpole. Montrose was one of the six noblemen who in 1735 presented a petition, complaining of the undue interference of the government in the election of Scotch representative peers, in preparing a list to be sent down to the peers' meeting. The petition was rejected. Montrose died in London, 7 Jan. 1742. By his wife, Lady Christian Carnegie, second daughter of David, third earl of Northesk, he had a daughter, Lady Margaret, and four sons: first, James, marquis of Graham, who died in infancy; second, David, marquis of Graham, who was created a peer of Great Britain by the titles of Earl and Baron Graham of Belford in Northumberland, and died unmarried in 1731; third, William, who succeeded his father as second duke; and fourth, George, known as Lord George Graham, who was appointed governor of Newfoundland in 1740, and, after a career of distinction in the navy, died unmarried 2 Jan. 1747.
It was on account of the harsh action of the first Duke of Montrose that Rob Roy Macgregor [qv.] was driven to adopt his freebooting practices. Rob Roy, who had purchased the lands of Craigroyston from the Montrose family, had been very successful as a cattle dealer, and Montrose advanced him a sum of money to purchase cattle on condition that he should share in the profits. It so happened that the speculation of Roy on this occasion resulted in serious loss, and the duke demanded repayment of the money. Being unable to refund it he was compelled to deliver up Craigroyston to the duke. From this time Roy maintained himself chiefly by robbing Montrose's tenants; but, partly owing to the connivance of the Duke of Argyll, Montrose was baffled in his efforts to obtain redress.
Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), ii. 244-5
Fountainhall's Historical Notices
Macky's Secret Memoirs
Contributor: T. F. H. [Thomas Finlayson Henderson]