MURRAY, John (1685-1752)

MURRAY, John (1685–1752)

styled 1704-10 Visct. Fincastle; suc. fa. 19 Apr. 1710 as 2nd earl of DUNMORE [S]

RP [S] 1713–15, 1727–52

First sat 16 Feb. 1714; last sat 10 Nov. 1747

b. 31 Oct. 1685, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of Charles Murray, earl of Dunmore [S] (2nd s. of John Murray, mq. of Atholl [S]), and Catherine, da. of Richard Watts of Great Munden, Herts.; bro. of Robert Murray. unm. d. 18 Apr. 1752; will 6 Sept.–10 Oct. 1751; pr. 23 Apr.–4 June 1752.1

Gent. of bedchamber, 1731–d.

Ens. 1704, capt. 1705-13 R. regt. of ft.; col. 3rd Ft. 1713; maj.-gen. 1735; lt.-gen. 1739; gen. of ft. and c.-in-c. allied armies in Austrian Netherlands 1745; kt. banneret 1743; gov. Plymouth and St Nicholas Island, Devon 1745.

Associated with: Hanover Sq., Westminster.2

Murray’s father, an army officer and master of horse to Mary of Modena, lost his regiment at the Revolution and during the 1690s suffered several terms of imprisonment on strong suspicion of Jacobitism. However, he turned his coat in 1703, abandoning the ‘cavaliers’ for the Scottish court party, an act of apostasy which earned him condemnation by the Jacobite George Lockhart as a ‘wretch of the greatest ingratitude’. Lockhart considered the first earl’s desertion ‘inexcusable, [he] having about £500 a year of his own, and yet sold his honour for a present which the queen had yearly given his lady since the Revolution’.3 Support for the Union earned Dunmore the immediate sum of £200 in payment of non-existent arrears, and appointment to the captaincy of Blackness castle.4 Meanwhile, he secured a commission for John, his younger son (the subject of this piece), in the regiment of Scots Guards commanded by George Hamilton, earl of Orkney [S], under whom John (styled Lord Fincastle after the death of his elder brother) saw action at Blenheim and served subsequently in successive campaigns in Flanders. Over the next few years the earl of Dunmore repeatedly pressed John Churchill, duke of Marlborough, for promotion for his son, ‘at least’ to a lieutenant colonelcy and ideally as ‘one of your grace’s aide-de-camps’.5 Since direct application to Marlborough failed to produce the desired result, Dunmore sought the intercession of the lord treasurer, Sidney Godolphin, earl of Godolphin, while his wife appealed to the duchess of Marlborough.6 Marlborough repeatedly found reasons why acceding to these supplications was impossible, while professing the highest regard for Fincastle.7

Murray succeeded his father as 2nd earl of Dunmore in April 1710, and immediately asked for the vacant governorship of Blackness castle. This time Marlborough supported his pretensions, describing him as ‘a very sober, discreet young man’ and noting the family’s poor financial circumstances: ‘he is certainly left very ill’. It was Godolphin who, regretfully, raised difficulties: there were others with stronger claims, notably James Livingston, 5th earl of Linlithgow [S].8 Dunmore’s mother approached the duchess of Marlborough again but without success, and tried to counter one of Godolphin’s arguments that any governor would be expected to reside in Scotland. She insisted ‘there is no example of any governor in Scotland that does or ever did reside upon the place’.9 Further disappointment followed: Dunmore’s uncle, John Murray, duke of Atholl [S], pushed for his inclusion on the court list for the election of representative peers but, according to John Erskine, 22rd earl of Mar [S], ‘the queen did not seem to relish it’.10 Charles Hay, styled Lord Yester (later 3rd marquess of Tweeddale), in soliciting votes for Dunmore paid him the backhanded compliment that he was ‘a very discreet youth and there will be many worse upon the list’.11 Without sufficient backing Dunmore was overlooked, but he attended the peers’ election and voted for the court candidates.12 Presumably because of his family, he was listed as a ‘professed Episcopalian’ and as attached to the interest of the duke of Hamilton (James Hamilton, 4th duke of Hamilton [S] later duke of Brandon).13 In 1712 he subscribed to a petition from Scottish peers on behalf of Hamilton’s claims to sit in the House of Lords by virtue of his British peerage.14

In the autumn of 1711, presumably in response to an enquiry from Marlborough, Dunmore informed the duke coolly that ‘it is by the queen’s permission I have been absent from my company this summer, which I would not have been if the ill condition of my little private affairs had not obliged me to it. The queen has since prolonged my leave of absence’. This was a sign that all was not well between the two men, and helps explain a later comment by the duchess of Marlborough that ‘after I was out of my place it is tedious and monstrous to repeat what… Lord Dunmore did to me after having advanced him by the Duke of Marlborough’s interest’. He never visited her, and ‘would meet me without so much as making me a bow, but in a very rude way looked at me without taking any notice of me’.15 By 1713 Dunmore had hitched his wagon to a different military star, John Campbell, 2nd duke of Argyll [S] (who sat in the Lords as earl of Greenwich), a move which finally brought him command of his regiment.16

On 8 Oct. 1713 Dunmore was unanimously elected as one of the representative peers.17 He took his seat on 16 Feb. 1714 and attended the two sessions of this Parliament, for 70 per cent and 60 per cent of sittings respectively. In an analysis of the new intake, he was listed as a Jacobite. This was almost certainly in reference to his family background rather than his present convictions; however, it should be noted that he exchanged proxies with Atholl, registering his own with his uncle on 17 Mar. (vacated two days later) and receiving Atholl’s on 16 Apr. (which was vacated by the end of the session). He hosted his compatriot and fellow representative peer, John Cochrane, 4th earl of Dundonald [S], who was as yet ‘not fixed in a house’.18 In May he was forecast by Daniel Finch, 2nd earl of Nottingham, as likely to support the schism bill. After Queen Anne’s death, he took the oaths again on 4 Aug. 1714. He attended nine days of the brief 15 day session, sitting for the last time in this Parliament on 21 Aug., but later served as a representative peer under George II. A loyal Argathelian, contrary to earlier estimates of his convictions, he opposed the Jacobite rebellions in 1715 and 1745. His career after 1715 will be examined in the next volume of this work.

Dunmore died in London on 18 Apr. 1752 and was buried in Stanwell, Middlesex, an estate he purchased in 1720. He never married, although Lady Mary Wortley Montagu alleged that he cohabited for many years with Mary, Lady Lansdown (d. 1735). He was succeeded in the peerage by his next brother, William Murray, an active Jacobite, as 3rd earl of Dunmore [S]. His younger brother Robert was elected to the Commons in 1722 and sat until 1738 as a government supporter.


  • 1 TNA, PROB 11/794.
  • 2 London Evening Post, 18-21 Apr. 1752.
  • 3 Lockhart Mems. 34.
  • 4 P. W. J. Riley, Union, 330; A. I. Macinnes, Union and Empire, 294–95.
  • 5 Add. 61474, ff. 175-6; Add. 61292, ff. 95–96.
  • 6 Marlborough-Godolphin Corresp., ii. 835, 1124; Add. 61474, ff. 175–76.
  • 7 Marlborough-Godolphin Corresp. iii. 1225, 1263, 1367, 1381, 1395; Add. 61474, ff. 189–90, 199.
  • 8 Marlborough-Godolphin Corresp. iii. 1486, 1498.
  • 9 Add. 61475, ff. 19-20.
  • 10 HMC Portland, x. 348.
  • 11 NLS, ms 7021, f. 242.
  • 12 NLS, ms 1026, ff. 62–3; Add. 70241, Kinnoull to Oxford, 10 Nov. 1710.
  • 13 Christ Church, Oxf. Wake ms 5, ff 13–14; D. Szechi, Jacobitism and Tory Pols. 204.
  • 14 A Representation of the Scotch Peers, 1711/12 (1712).
  • 15 Add. 61292, f. 97; Add. 61474, ff. 191-92, 198.
  • 16 HMC Portland, v. 306.
  • 17 NLS, Advocates’ mss, Wodrow pprs. letters Quarto, 7, ff. 181–2.
  • 18 NLS, ms 14419, ff. 122-23.