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Murray of Stanhope

7th Baronet

Sir John MURRAY of Broughton
Secretary to Prince Charles

Murray of Stanhope Coat of Arms
Murray of Stanhope Coat of Arms

Sir John MURRAY, of Broughton, also known as Secretary to Prince Charles, was the son of Sir David MURRAY and Margaret SCOTT.  He was born about 1715 and by 1732 was enrolled in the University of Edinburgh.  In 1735, he was studying at the University of Leyden in the Netherlands.  Two years later, John MURRAY was in Rome, where he reportedly was frequently in the company of Prince Charles Stuart.

Although John MURRAY was, no doubt, influenced by his family's long support of the house of Stuart, he returned in 1738 to Edinburgh absolutely captivated by the charm which won Prince Charles so many devoted servants.  Shortly after his return, John MURRAY successfully returned the ancestral estate of Broughton (which apparently had to be sacrificed by his grandfather in order to pay heavy fines levied for supporting the Stuarts during Cromwell's time).

Soon after 1738, John MURRAY married the lovely Margaret FERGUSSON, the daughter of Col. Robert FERGUSSON and niece of William FERGUSSON of Cailloch, in Nithsdale.  Margaret was also a staunch supporter of the house of Stuart and was known as the Beautiful Recruiting Sergeant for her efforts in helping to raise the Jacobite army.  John MURRAY and Margaret FERGUSSON had a family of five children.

It was probably in 1739 that John MURRAY was selected as a suitable correspondent between Prince Charles in Rome and the Jacobites in the Highlands and throughout Scotland.  The Murray family was attempting to develop the mine at Strontian and therefore John's frequent travel between the lowlands and throughout the highlands (meeting with Clan Chiefs) was legitimized.  MURRAY was as comfortable in the Highlands as he was at ease on the Continent.  He was a natural for this mission.

In August of 1745, MURRAY was in Peeblesshire when he heard that Prince Charles had landed at Moidart.  He set out immediately and joined the Prince on the 18th of August and from that day until shortly before Culloden he never left the Prince's side.

On 25 August 1745, John MURRAY was named the Prince's Secretary.  As MURRAY had preferred the post of aide-de-camp, he was probably disappointed, but MURRAY was the obvious choice for the position of Secretary:

MURRAY was not a soldier by profession, he had been trained in law and literature.

MURRAY was recognized by all concerned as having been the party's correspondent for years.

MURRAY's appointment raised no jealousies.  Most of the other candidates considered arms as the only career and therefore few would have been willing to accept the post of Secretary.

That he was an excellent Secretary in the Jacobite administration is not in dispute.  Author Robert Fitzroy Bell says "there is ample proof that throughout he was the embodiment of order, energy, and devotion."  Prince Charles stated that MURRAY was "worth a thousand men to the standard."

MURRAY became seriously ill when in March of 1746 he was with the Prince at Elgin.  On the day of the disaster at Culloden, MURRAY was carried across Loch Ness to Glenmoriston where he learned of the Jacobite fate.  The next day he was out and about meeting with various Clan chiefs.  He sent word to the Prince, pleading that he not leave the country.  When confirmed that the Prince had indeed left, MURRAY went to meet ships loaded with cashes of arms, ammunition, and louis-d'ors that had been sent by France in support the Jacobite cause.

Still ill, MURRAY set out to join the Prince after receiving word that the Prince was in the Outer Hebrides.  Exhausted, he was finally persuaded not to unite with the Prince as MURRAY's elementary command of the Gaelic language would mark him as a visitor to that area and possibly compromise the fugitive prince.

MURRAY then began an arduous trek to Peeblesshire, apparently in order to recover and ultimately find passage to Holland.  On June 27th, he arrived at the home of his sister, Veronica Murray HUNTER of Polmood at two in the morning and before five was awakened and captured.

Prince Charles, as soon as he heard of MURRAY's capture, attempted to secure MURRAY status in the Army of France so that he might, as a French officer, be exchanged as a prisoner of war.  The French were apparently willing to help but this plan had no chance to succeed.

The British government knew that MURRAY represented a significant Jacobite prisoner and they began interrogation immediately.  The interviews were fruitless and the interrogators believed that MURRAY was intoxicated.  MURRAY was physically ill and had been riding to and fro in the Highlands without pause.  MURRAY was dispatched under heavy guard to the Tower of London on July 7th, 1746.

It would be so much easier to construct this web page had the story of John MURRAY of Broughton ended here.

At this point, one could fondly recall the young Peeblesshire lad who by age 24 had healed and old family wound.  He returned to the family an estate taken from his grandfather who boldly supported the Stuarts during the Cromwell era.

We might recall the dashing, finely educated young man who had won the heart of the spirited and fair young Margaret FERGUSSON - easily making him the envy of all the eligible young lairds.

We would be able to recall the lad whose energy and loyalty had earned him status as a hero in the last romance of Scottish history.

However, the story of John MURRAY of Broughton must end with the term "rascality."  The man who insisted that he be addressed as 'Mr. Secretary' turned King's evidence on his Jacobite colleagues and that betrayal earned him the eternal soubriquet of  'Mr. Evidence.'

MURRAY's testimony certainly played a large roll in the 1747 trial of Lord Lovat, chief of Clan Fraser - a trial which resulted in Lovat's execution.

Sir John Douglas of Kelhead, when asked after the '45 if he knew MURRAY of Broughton replied, "Not I.  I once knew a person, who bore the designation of MURRAY of Broughton - but that he was a gentleman and a man of honour, and one that could hold up his head."

The father of Sir Walter Scott, after being visited in Edinburgh sometime after the '45 by MURRAY of Broughton, threw out a window the tea cup that MURRAY had used, declaring, "Neither lip of me nor mine comes after Mr. MURRAY of Broughton's."

Defense of MURRAY's actions is obviously difficult to find.  It is important of course to remember that MURRAY faced the threat of the blade himself until he was pardoned in June of 1748.  Robert Fitzroy Bell, Editor of MURRAY's MEMORIALS, offers only qualified explanations:

MURRAY "might have told a great deal more about a great deal of other people."  He was after all, a long time Jacobite correspondent and Secretary for the administration.

"MURRAY's evidence was used by the Government only against Lord Lovat," Chief of the Clan Fraser, but even without MURRAY "it seems probable the evidence of sundry Frasers would have been sufficient to bring Lovat to the block."  "Lovat's political offenses may be summarized as treachery both to the King of London and to the" Stuarts.  "In MURRAY's eyes, Lovat's double-dealing was ample justification" not to mention Lovat's failure "at the beginning to join the Prince's standard."  Lovat's failure to respond cost the movement thousands of men and that vacillation did "much to ruin the expedition."

Examination of MURRAY's evidence shows "that he did nothing to bring into jeopardy any single individual who had borne arms with Prince Charles.  He tells practically nothing that the Government did not already know."

MURRAY's later life could not have been happy.  All of his previous friends shunned him and his Prince considered him a rascal and a villain.  (Curiously though, in 1763 the Prince did visit MURRAY and his nine year old son in London.  The son recalls after the visit his father telling him, "You have seen your King."  MURRAY obviously remained loyal to the House of Stuart) MURRAY apparently crumbled under the weight of the consequences of his evidence resulting in his apparent eventual descent into insanity.

Bell concludes: "At the least, MURRAY must be distinguished from the common informer, and the view that his 'infamy' is his only claim on the memory of posterity must be modified by a knowledge of the man and his surroundings."

John MURRAY of Broughton died at Cheshunt, Hertfordshire on 6 December 1777 and is buried at the old St. Marylebone Cemetery northwest of London.