COCHRANE, John (1687-1720)

COCHRANE, John (1687–1720)

suc. bro. 22 Nov. 1705 (a minor) as 4th earl of DUNDONALD [S]

RP [S] 1713–15.

First sat 16 Feb. 1714; last sat 25 Aug. 1714

b. 4 July 1687, 2nd s. of John Cochrane, 2nd earl of Dundonald [S], and Susannah, da. of William Hamilton (formerly Douglas), 3rd duke of Hamilton [S] and earl of Selkirk [S]. educ. Glasgow Univ. 1701. m. (1) 4 Apr. 1706, Anne (d.1710), da. of Charles Murray, earl of Dunmore [S], sis. of John Murray, 2nd earl of Dunmore [S], 1s. 3da.; (2) 15 Oct. 1715, Mary (d.1722), da. of Peregrine Osborne, 2nd duke of Leeds, and wid. of Henry Somerset, 2nd duke of Beaufort, s.p. d. 5 June 1720.1

Ld.-in-waiting to George Augustus, prince of Wales, c.1715–c.1718.2

Col. 4th tp. Horse Gds. 1714–19.

Associated with: Paisley, Renfrew.

Dsundonald was only 16 years old when he succeeded his elder brother William, who according to his uncle Charles Douglas, 2nd earl of Selkirk [S], was ‘one of the hopefullest youths I ever saw’. The new earl’s situation was not happy: a sickly child, caught in the crossfire of competing family interests. His widowed mother, who had married Charles Hay, styled Lord Yester (later 3rd marquess of Tweeddale [S]), fretted over him and would not let him live on his own in the ancestral home at Paisley, as his brother had done. She called in the head of her family, her brother James Hamilton, 4th duke of Hamilton [S] (later duke of Brandon), to bolster her demand that Dundonald live in her household.3 The young man’s frustration found expression in February 1706 when he complained to his mother that her cosseting was causing him public embarrassment. Lady Yester reminded him that when his brother died she had determined that he should stay with her until he was married. Although recounting her pleasure at the accounts she had received of his conduct, she insisted that she could not yield on this point because ‘my concern is so great for you’.4 Nonetheless, she took his complaints as a warning and tried to find him a suitable bride. For his part, Dundonald himself promised to do whatever the duke of Hamilton should advise him.5 But at the same time, his paternal uncle William Cochrane, who had been appointed his tutor (guardian), and who was also, by a further complication, Hamilton’s man-of-business, was intriguing to marry Dundonald off. In April Cochrane completed the negotiations which brought his nephew the hand of Lady Anne Murray, the pious daughter of the earl of Dunmore.6 Lord and Lady Yester were piqued, but could do nothing, and as the marriage was happy, cordial family relations resumed.7

Guided by Hamilton, Dundonald took part in the election of the Scottish representative peers at Holyrood Abbey on 17 June 1708. He voted for the list agreed by Hamilton with Lord Yester’s friends in the Squadrone, but because he was himself still a minor — 17 days short of his 21st birthday — two members of the court party protested that his votes were invalid.8 Their objection was considered in the Lords on 29 Nov., when Dundonald’s baptismal record was called for. Shortly afterwards a further order was issued that his mother should attend, to be questioned about her son’s age at the election. Finally, on 26 Jan. 1709, the House decided against him and his votes were annulled.9

Dundonald was present again at the peers’ election in 1710, supporting the candidates agreed by the new Tory administration of Robert Harley, later earl of Oxford, with Hamilton, John Erskine, 22nd earl of Mar [S], and John Campbell, 2nd duke of Argyll [S] (earl of Greenwich), a list which included his brother-in-law, Dunmore.10 The following year Dundonald raised the possibility of standing for the vacancy that would be created in the House of Lords if Hamilton received, as expected, a British peerage as duke of Brandon. When he wrote to Hamilton about it, ‘begging’ the duke to ‘procure the queen’s consent ‘ and explaining that ‘the reason I am so pressing to be chosen is because I design to be at London all winter’, he was disappointed by the relatively cool response.11 Hamilton, who may have given his interest in the meantime to James Livingston, 5th earl of Linlithgow [S], merely advised him to write to Harley (now earl of Oxford) to lay before the queen his request to serve as a representative peer, which he did in September 1711.12 Two months later Dundonald set out for London, writing to his mother on 1 Dec. that ‘I kissed the queen’s hand on Monday last, my lord treasurer was not then to be seen, so I went with Duke Hamilton, her Maj[esty] was very civil and obliging’. Dundonald now had doubts about the success of his uncle’s attempt to take his seat in the Lords as duke of Brandon; despite Hamilton’s own confidence, ‘many other people think there will be a great struggle’.13 His fears were borne out later that month when the Lords resolved that no Scottish peer could sit in the House by virtue of a British peerage conferred after the Union. Disappointed, and resentful enough at the Lords’ decision to sign the petition of Scottish peers protesting against it, Dundonald then decided that he would visit Holland.14 His absence meant that he was overlooked when the death of William Keith, 8th Earl Marischal [S], produced a vacancy amongst the representative peers. As Mar commented, he was ‘abroad and so in a manner off the field’.15

When Dundonald heard that Hamilton had been appointed ambassador to France, he was eager to accompany him, and in late August 1712 wrote to his uncle from Ghent asking him to obtain the necessary permission from the queen.16 He reached Paris early in November, and wrote to tell his mother that ‘everybody in France in the town and upon the road longs mightily to see Duke Hamilton and all expects to see magnificent doings when he comes’. It was thus a cruel disappointment when he received the tragic news of his uncle’s death, in a duel fought in London on 15 November.17

Dundonald stayed on in Paris, however, until the autumn of 1713, returning to Edinburgh on 6 Oct. 1713 just two days before the election of representative peers. He had sought Oxford’s assistance in advance, as well as that of George Hamilton, earl of Orkney [S]. This, combined with the approval of Argyll, ensured his successful candidacy.18 He was believed to be still in Scotland at the end of the third week in January 1714 but appears to have journeyed south shortly after, arriving in London in time to take his seat at the opening on 16 February.19 He took the oaths and attended the session for 89 per cent of sittings. Until he could find a house of his own he lodged with Dunmore. On 20 Feb. he informed his mother that ‘I had the honour of kissing her Majesty’s hands yesternight, and I bless God her Maj[esty] looked extremely well, a quickness in her eyes and a cheerfulness in her countenance; she comes on Tuesday next to the parliament’.20 He was present in the Lords on 2 Mar., the day of the Queen’s speech, when he was named as one of the triers of petitions and on the standing committees for privileges and the Journal. Thereafter, he attended the House with special regularity during March and April, missing only five sittings during these months. On 9 Mar. he was named to the select committee to prepare an address to the queen to order enquiries into the publisher of The Public Spirit of the Whigs. In April he was named on the committee to draw up the address of thanks to the queen for her speech about the peace, and in May was forecast as likely to support the schism bill. He was subsequently included on four committees considering private bills before the end of the session on 9 July.21

Midway through the session Dundonald was permitted to purchase from the now disgraced Argyll (for the sum of £10,000) the colonelcy of the 4th troop of Horse Guards.22 At the time Dundonald was reputed to be a Jacobite Tory and a ‘professed Episcopalian’. This was presumably on the strength of his past connection with Hamilton and his present closeness to Dunmore, but his real political principles and preferences are not easy to discover.23 As a young man he had been described by Scottish Jacobites as ‘loyal’, on the testimony of his ‘nearest relations’; while in Paris he had been approached by a Jacobite agent but seems not to have committed himself.24 Such Jacobite sympathies may have been further underscored by a report of April 1714 that he was likely to marry again (his first wife having died four years previously), this time to the daughter of James Butler, 2nd duke of Ormond.25

When the Lords met following the queen’s death, on 1 Aug., he was again present, and he attended 80 per cent of sittings until Parliament was prorogued on 25 August. In spite of his reputed Jacobite sympathies, Dundonald remained in office after the accession of George I, not least because his financial health may not have been sound enough to sustain the loss of what was a very substantial investment in his army commission.26 He seems to have considered that re-election to the Lords was a possibility, writing from London on 22 Jan. 1715 to his stepfather, now marquess of Tweeddale, that ‘I am sure it is not the king’s fault if I be not of the sixteen’.27 At the same time he promised a vote in the election to Tweeddale’s Squadrone colleague, James Graham, duke of Montrose [S].28 Dundonald was not, in fact, chosen. However, he remained in London, where he remarried, and attended court as a lord-in-waiting to the prince of Wales.29 Membership of the prince’s household brought political difficulties. In 1717 there was an unfounded report that he was to lose his regiment; and two years later, in the spring of 1719, he helped to organize the petition of Scottish peers against the peerage bill, for which he suffered the punishment of being ordered to dispose of his company.30 He may well have felt strongly on this particular issue from a patriotic viewpoint, since his involvement was at odds with the position being taken by both Argyll and the Squadrone, though Argyll pinned the blame on his political opponents for Dundonald’s disgrace.31

Dundonald died suddenly on 5 June 1720, leaving behind a reputation for piety and philanthropy, which he may have taken from his beloved first wife.32


  • 1 Douglas, Scots Peerage, iii. 354.
  • 2 NLS, ms 14419, f. 48; Douglas, iii. 354.
  • 3 NAS, GD 406/1/7249, 7372, 11022.
  • 4 NLS, ms 14419, ff. 106, 107.
  • 5 NAS, GD 406/1/7342, 7144.
  • 6 CTP 1708–14, p. 155; NAS, GD 406/1/7317, 7370, 11059.
  • 7 NLS, ms 14419, f. 110.
  • 8 NLS, ms 1026, ff. 7-8, 39-40; NAS, GD 112/45/1/6; Add. 61628, ff. 114–17.
  • 9 NLS, ms 14415, ff. 176–7.
  • 10 NLS, ms. 1026, ff. 62-64; P. W. J. Riley, Eng. Ministers and Scotland, 157; NLS, ms 7021, f. 242.
  • 11 NAS, GD 406/1/7025.
  • 12 S.H.S., Misc. xii. 138; HMC Portland, x. 190; NLS, ms 14419, f. 111.
  • 13 NLS, ms 14419, f. 112.
  • 14 Representation of the Scotch Peers 1711/12 (1712); NAS, GD 406/1/7883.
  • 15 HMC Portland, x. 266.
  • 16 NAS, GD 406/1/5856, 7343.
  • 17 NLS, ms 14419, ff, 113, 117, 118.
  • 18 Add. 70030, ff. 236–7; 70279, Orkney to Oxford, 23 July 1713; HMC Portland, v. 293, 306, 339; x. 303, 306; NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto, 7, ff. 181, 184.
  • 19 NAS, GD 248/561/50/26; HMC Portland, x. 309.
  • 20 NLS, ms 14419, f. 122.
  • 21 LJ xix. 659, 674, 691, 700, 719.
  • 22 HMC Portland, v. 408; NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto, 8, f. 81; Boyer, Pol. State, vii. 409.
  • 23 Christ Church, Oxf. Wake mss, 5, ff. 13–14.
  • 24 Bodl. Carte 180, f. 216; HMC Portland, v. 410.
  • 25 HMC Portland, v. 410.
  • 26 NAS, GD 3/1/3/14; TNA, SP 54/11/42.
  • 27 NLS, ms 14419, f. 38.
  • 28 NAS, GD 220/5/321.
  • 29 NLS, ms 14419, f. 48; Douglas, iii. 354.
  • 30 Post Man, 11–14 May 1717; HMC Portland, v. 578­–82; Add. 70034, ff. 58-9, 68, 74; Weekly Packet, 21–28 Mar. 1719; HMC Mar and Kellie, i. 525; Tory and Whig ed. C. Jones and S. Taylor, 224.
  • 31 HMC Laing, ii. 203.
  • 32 Hist. Reg. Chron. 1720, p. 23; Douglas, iii. 354–5.