Graham, John, third Earl of Montrose 1547?-1608, lord high chancellor and afterwards viceroy of Scotland, was the posthumous son, by his wife Margaret, daughter of Malcolm, lord Fleming, of Robert, master of Graham, eldest son of William, second earl of Montrose. The master was slain at the battle of Pinkie, 10 Sept. 1547. His grandfather, in order to initiate him in state matters, sent him frequently to parliament, where he sat as proxy. He was one of the procurators authorised by Queen Mary at Lochleven on 24 July 1567 to receive her renunciation of the crown in favour of her son (Calderwood, ii. 374), and was present on the side of the regent at the battle of Langside on 13 May of the following year (Hist. of James the Sext, p. 27). In 1569, the regent, being anxious to have the castle of Dumbarton in his hands, directed Graham to take measures for its capture, but he came no speid (ib. p. 44). On the death of his grandfather, 24 May 1571, he succeeded as third Earl of Montrose. He was present with the party of the regent Lennox at Stirling when Lennox was slain, and on the election of Mar as his successor he was chosen a privy councillor. He was one of the commissioners sent by Morton to conclude with the Hamilton party the pacification of Perth, 3 July 1572, and in terms of that arrangement was appointed one of the judges north of the Forth for the restitution of goods taken or spoiled during the troubles. Though thus identified for many years with the chiefs of the reformed party, he attended the packed convention called by Argyll and Atholl, and held at Stirling 8 March 1578, when the king took the government into his own hands, with a council of twelve to assist him, of which Montrose was one (Reg. Privy Council Scotl. iii. 4). From this period he begins to figure as one of the most prominent of the nobles in whom the king reposed his special confidence, and who finally effected Morton's execution. When the Earl of Mar, at the instigation of Morton, resolved to assume his rights as keeper of Stirling Castle, in which the king resided, Montrose, at the instance of the new privy council, hurried from Edinburgh to Stirling; but though courteously permitted by Mar to enter the castle, his authority was ignored, and Morton again resumed the reins of government. On the assembly (15 July), in the great hall of Stirling Castle, of a parliament convened by Morton, Montrose, with Lord Lindsay and the Bishop of Orkney, appeared and protested that as it was held in an armed fortress it could not be regarded as a free parliament (Calderwood, iii. 413; Hist. of James the Sext, p. 167). At the king's command they, however, agreed to take their seats. On the 17th they were committed to ward in their lodgings in Stirling (Reg. Privy Council Scotl. iii. 8). A few days afterwards Montrose made his escape, and returning to Edinburgh issued, in conjunction with Argyll and Atholl, a proclamation in the name of the king commanding all subjects from the age of sixteen to sixty to assemble themselves at Stirling on 18 Aug. to effect the king's liberty (printed in Calderwood, iii. 419-22). To the muster Montrose himself brought a force of three hundred men. A contest between the rival parties seemed now imminent; but through the interposition of the English ambassador, Sir Robert Bowes, a compromise was effected, the Earl of Montrose being one of the persons added to the king's new council (Hist. of James the Sext, p. 173). The truce was, however, of a hollow kind, and the disappointed nobles eagerly watched for Morton's fall. When Esme Stuart, afterwards Duke of Lennox, arrived from France in the interests of Mary, Montrose joined him in his schemes for Morton's overthrow, and was doubtless privy to the plot by which Morton's arrest was effected. Along with Morton's accuser, the Earl of Arran, he proceeded on 23 May 1581 with horse and foot soldiers to Dumbarton, to convoy Morton thence for his trial at Edinburgh (Calderwood, iii. 556; Moysie, Memoirs, p. 32), and, as chancellor of the hostile assize by which he was tried, read the sentence against him. Actuated by jealousy of the influence wielded by Lennox and Arran, Montrose joined the conspiracy which resulted, in August 1582, in the capture of the king by the raid of Ruthven; but he nevertheless joined the lords who met at St. Andrews for the protection of the king on his escape from Falkland in June 1583 (Calderwood, iii. 715; Sir James Melville, Memoirs, p. 283). Shortly afterwards he was entrusted with the charge of the castle of Glasgow (Calderwood, iii. 731). His increasing favour with the king was shown in his appointment to be guardian of the young Duke of Lennox, who was brought from France in November of this year at the king's request. On 12 May 1584 he was made an extraordinary lord of session, in room of the Earl of Gowrie, and on the following day was named to succeed Gowrie as lord high treasurer. Along with Arran, Montrose now wielded supreme influence in the councils of the king, but their tenure of power was uncertain. Not content with obtaining the confiscation and banishment of their more inveterate enemies, they resolved to get rid of them by assassination. They appear to have meditated the death, not only of Angus—who, on account of the execution of his kinsman, the Earl of Morton, had a blood feud both with Arran and Montrose—but of the Earl of Mar and the Abbot of Cambuskenneth. Montrose found a tool for the murder of Arran in a retainer of his own, Graham of Peartree, who had a blood feud with Angus on account of the murder of a kinsman. Montrose, having given Graham 10l. Scots, and having supplied him with a short matlock or riding piece, sent him to the north of England with directions how best to effect his purpose. Graham was apprehended on suspicion, and, being brought before Lord Scrope at Carlisle, made a full confession (the Examination of Jock Graham of Peartree, 25 Nov. 1584, in Calderwood, iv. 239-240). In November of the following year the power of Arran and Montrose was overthrown by the return of Angus and the banished lords. Arran, then in nominal confinement at Kinneil on the charge of being accessory to Lord Russell's death, broke from his ward and warned the king and Montrose, but the warning came too late for the collection of forces. Arran fled for his life, and the king, with Montrose and the lords of the opposite faction, shut themselves up in Stirling Castle. While means were being taken for its assault, the king, at the instance of the Master of Gray [see Gray, Patrick], sent to treat for its surrender, one of the principal conditions being that the lives of Montrose and the other lords should be spared (Calderwood, iv. 391). Montrose was then committed to the keeping of Lord Hamilton (Sir James Melville, Memoirs, p. 351). A reconciliation took place between the rival factions in May 1587, and at a banquet held by the king on the 14th in the open air at the market cross of Edinburgh, Montrose and Angus, who had been at feud since the death of the regent Morton, joined hands in the presence of the multitude (Calderwood, iv. 614; Hist. of James the Sext, p. 229). On 6 Nov. 1591 Montrose was again admitted an extraordinary lord of session, the king's letter announcing the appointment stating that he had been dispossessed of the place before without any good cause or occasion.
     In 1593 Montrose and the Earl of Gowrie were attacked at Doune of Menteith by a detachment of troops sent by the king, under the misapprehension that they were meditating some treacherous movement, but soon afterwards they were liberated (Hist. of James the Sext, p. 282), and at the banquet which followed the baptism of Prince Henry in August 1594 Montrose officiated as carver (Calderwood, v. 345). He now entered on a new lease of power, and continued high in the royal favour during the remainder of his life. On the reconstitution of the privy council in December 1598, to consist of thirty-one members, who were to sit in the palace of Holyrood every Tuesday and Thursday to consult with the king, he was appointed president of the council. On 15 Jan. 1599 he was named to the chief office under the crown, that of lord chancellor, after it had been vacant for over three years since the death of Lord Thirlstane in October 1595. The appointment was very unfavourably regarded by the kirk authorities, on account of his being a favourer of the popish lords (ib. v. 731). His term of office was marked by the decline of the influence of the kirk in politics, by the gradual introduction of episcopacy, and by the rapid realisation of the ideas of King James in regard to absolute kingship. In 1599 Montrose was also made chancellor of the university of St. Andrews (ib. v. 738). When James in 1603 ascended the English throne, the administration of affairs in Scotland was entrusted to Montrose and Lord Fyvie. At the Scottish parliament which was held at Edinburgh from 24 April to 1 May 1604, to consider a scheme proposed by the king for a union between the two kingdoms, Montrose appeared as his majesty's great commissioner, Lord-president Fyvie appearing as his substitute under the title of vice-chancellor (Register Privy Council of Scotland, vi. 596-7). The parliament again met, 3-11 July, at Perth, when Montrose was named one of the commissioners to confer with the commissioners appointed by the English parliament. During his absence in England Lord Newbattle was appointed to act as interim chancellor; but after the articles had been agreed upon and signed on 6 Dec., Montrose returned to Scotland with the appointment of viceroy or high commissioner in Scotland for his majesty for life. He was also rewarded with a pension of 2,000l. Scots; but the real administration of affairs was committed to Lord Fyvie, who had displayed distinguished ability in conducting the union negotiations, and now succeeded Montrose in the chancellorship. Montrose continued to support the king in his absolutist policy towards Scotland, and as his commissioner presided at the Red parliament (so called from the scarlet robes of the nobility, worn for the first time in accordance with acts lately passed) held at Perth on 9 July 1606, at which the principle of the royal authority over all estates, persons, and causes whatsoever was ratified, and the episcopal government in the church restored. He was also present as the king's commissioner at a convention of the nobility and clergy held at Linlithgow on 10 Dec. for church business, and made a short address, which had to be explained to the convention by the moderator, because his voice was weak (Calderwood, vi. 605). Ill-health also compelled him on 7 Aug. 1607 to delegate his duties as commissioner of the Scottish parliament to the Duke of Lennox, his former ward, who presided until the parliament rose on 11 Aug. Montrose died on 9 Nov. of the following year at the age of sixty. Because he had been his majesty's grand commissioner in the parliaments preceding and at conventions, his majesty thought meet that he should be buried in pomp before any other were named. So he was buried with great solemnity. The king promised to bestow forty thousand merks upon the solemnity of the burial; but the promise was not performed, which drew on the greater burden upon his son (ib. vii. 38). By his wife Lilias, daughter of David, lord Drummond, he had three sons (John, fourth earl, who was appointed president of the council in July 1626, and died on 24 Nov. of the same year; Sir William Graham of Braco, and Sir Robert Graham of Scottistown) and a daughter Lilias.

     Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), ii. 239-40
     Crawfurd's Officers of State, pp. 152-5
     Reg. of Privy Council of Scotl. vols. iii-vi.
     Calderwood's Hist. of Church of Scotland
     Historie of James the Sext (Bannatyne Club)
     Sir James Melville's Memoirs (ib.)
     Moysie's Memoirs (ib.)
     Keith's Hist. of Scotland.

Contributor: T. F. H. [Thomas Finlayson Henderson]

Published: 1890