Historical Portraits Picture Archive

Portrait of James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose (1612-1650) 

Studio of Gerrit van Honthorst 

Portrait of James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose (1612-1650), Studio of Gerrit van Honthorst
Oil and Canvas
17th Century
27 ¾ x 23 ¼ in., 70.6 x 59.1 cm.
Property of Mrs H.F.M Tempest, O.B.E. Dalguise House, Dunkeld, Perthshire; Viscount Mountgarret at Nidd Hall, Ripley, Yorkshire; Property from the 16th viscount Mountgarret Will Chattels Trust (Lot.2053).
Exhibition of Historical Portraits from Tong Hall, Bradford, Corporation Art Gallery, 1943, No. 19.
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James Graham,1st Marquess of Montrose was one of the most courageous and dedicated Royalist generals of the Civil War period (1642-1651), best known for his military victories against the Scottish covenanters. One of the most industrious and efficient leaders, Montrose was renowned for leading armies of largely untrained troops to remarkable victories. This rare portrait of Montrose is almost certainly a studio replica after the original, larger portrait usually given to Gerrit van Honthorst in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, though it has also been suggested that the original is by Gerrit’s brother, Willem.

At the age of fifteen Montrose enrolled at the University of St Andrews under the guardianship of his uncle Archibald Napier, first Lord Napier, his father having died the year previously. We know through his uncle’s memoirs that even at such a young age the marquess became fascinated with tales of military heroics; ‘Though Caesares Paragon I cannot be, In thought yet shall I sore as high as he’ [Napier, Memorials of Montrose and his Times, Maitland Club, 1848-50].

By 1636 Montrose was in England, and following a disagreeable encounter with King Charles I, he headed to Scotland in support of an uprising against the monarch, who was trying to enforce a new liturgy in Scotland. By November 1637 Montrose was listed at a meeting of those leading the opposition to the king, although his vain attitude and ideas of self-importance apparently won him few friends. After failing to attain his desired rank of commander-in-chief, and following a rapprochement with King Charles during negotiations at Berwick, Montrose then moved towards a change in alliance. Suspicion arose in August 1639 of Montrose’s support after he argued against his own movement's motions for change, and by the end of 1639 he was in secret correspondence with the King.

Montrose was created Marquess on 6th May 1644, shortly before a series of battles in which he led a small force of Irish and Highland soldiers to six outstanding victories against the covenanters; Tibbermore (1st September 1644), Aberdeen (13th September), Inverlochy (2nd February 1645), Aulddearn (9th May), Alford (2nd July), and Kilsyth (15th August). Montrose’s strategic mastery prevailed in his movements, utilising the difficult terrain, fighting on lowland areas and retreating to highland when enemies poised a concentrated threat. After a defeat at Philiphaugh in 1645 however, all Montrose’s hard work was undone, and following Charles’ execution in 1649, he turned his attention to the exiled Charles II.

In a bid to regain his thrones Charles II ordered Montrose to take action against the covenanters in Scotland. However by the time Montrose arrived again in Scotland the hope of a full-scale invasion and a chance to recuperate his reputation was lost. Never one to back down, he led an invasion regardless, and his army was defeated by the opposing cavalry at Carbisdale on 27th April. Now in hands of the Scots, faced certain death, and was executed on the 21st May. His body was hung for three hours, his head was then removed and placed on the Tolbooth in Edinburgh and his limbs sent for display in other burghs. Graham immediately became a symbol of Royalist loyalty in Scotland, and the celebratory reassembling of his body following the Restoration in Scotland in 1660, is a compelling reminder of his fame.
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