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March 16th 1646

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Lord Napier deserts his men

By 1646, the power of James Graham, Duke of Montrose, was on the wane. In the previous year he had suffered a major defeat at Philiphaugh. The Royalist cause which he fought for was irredeemably lost though it was to be three more years before Charles 1st was executed and four more before Montrose suffered a similar fate in Edinburgh.

In 1646 in Scotland there was still fighting between supporters of the King and the Presbyterian army. Hearing that the Presbyterians under General Middleton were advancing from Stirling, a party of about fifty men led by Lord Napier, Montrose’ brother-in-law, occupied the castle of Kincardine in Montrose’ name. It was from the start a futile enterprise as Middleton had an army of almost three thousand men and had brought up much heavy artillery from Stirling.

After eight days it became obvious that the fall of the castle was imminent and Lord Napier, with his cousin George Drummond of Balloch, slipped out of the castle in the darkness to a guide who was waiting for them with horses. Quietly they passed through enemy lines and made their way northwards to join Montrose. It was a daring escape from certain death and is an illustration of the somewhat haphazard manner of fighting wars at this time. One could hardly call it an heroic escape as no thought was given to those left behind.

When, next morning the castle surrendered, some thirty five of the garrison were taken away to the Tolbooth in Edinburgh. They were the lucky ones. The final twelve were ordered to be shot and the castle burned to the ground. It was never rebuilt and is now a somewhat insignificant ruin.

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