Edinburgh tours and history articles of various aspects on Edinburgh & Scotland

LORD PRESIDENT SIR GEORGE LOCKHART

Knighted by King Charles II of Great Britain in 1663. Sir George Lockhart’s legal skills were one of the finest in the country. He was a charming man, whose oratory skill rarely failed to draw admiration in all. In 1672 he became a Dean of the Faculty of Advocates.

Two years later, most unusually for Sir George the court decided a case against his client. He requested of them an appeal to parliament. Remember, this was before the dissolution of the old Scots parliament upon the Act of Union in 1707. The judges considered this disrespectful and illegal. The Government agreed and Sir George Lockhart was debarred from his profession at the pleasure of the king.

As an act of huge respect for the man, fifty advocates cast off their gowns and wigs, withdrawing from their legal careers. They were then banished from Edinburgh! This resulted in suspension of almost all legal business for twelve months. Only the intervention of the great Sir George Mackenzie enabled the return of those advocates.

Sir George Lockhart defended Covenanters and a man accused of shooting an Archbishop. He even acted as counsel for the Earl of Argyll in his trial for high treason in 1681. He was made Lord President of the Court of Session four years later.

His legal brilliance did not prevent him from a tragic end however. On Easter Sunday, which in 1689 fell on 31st March, in Old Bank Close near the top of the Royal Mile he was shot in the back. The man who pulled the trigger? Chieslie of Dalry, a man well known for violent and unrestrained passions. In a recent case between Chieslie and his wife which had come before Sir George, the Lord President had awarded maintenance to the wife.

Old Bank Close

In revenge Chieslie threatened harm to his Lordship. Sir George was aware of this but paid no heed. That Sunday, with loaded pistols Chieslie went to St Giles, where Sir George worshipped. At this time Sir George resided in a famous mansion called Robert Gourlay’s house. Today this is the site of a branch of the Bank of Scotland at the north end of George IV Bridge. Chieslie followed Sir George home after church, before shooting him as he was about to enter his mansion.

Lady Lockhart, who was confined to bed, sprang up on hearing the shot, ran to the entrance of their home in her nightdress and dragged her husband inside. He died in her arms. Chieslie was captured immediately and boasted, “you see I don’t do things by halves”.

The following day he was sentenced to death by the Lord Provost. He was dragged on a hurdle to the Mercat Cross on the Royal Mile. When he arrived he was still alive, just. The right hand with which he had fired the pistol was struck off and he was hanged in chains to die.  Lord President Sir George Lockhart’s corpse was laid to rest beneath Greyfriars Parish church.

Fraser Paterson FSA Scot

Freelance Tour Guide and Journalist 

Comments on: "Murders on the Royal Mile Part One" (3)

  1. junius45 said:

    Fraser, was Chieslie’s daughter not the troublesome & celebrated Lady Grange who knew too much & suffered kidnap & exile on St Kilda for listening at keyholes? 🙂

    Forbes Meek.

    > On 22 April 2016 at 16:47 “Fraser Paterson: Scottish Tours & History” > wrote: > > fraserpat posted: “LORD PRESIDENT SIR GEORGE LOCKHART Knighted by King > Charles II of Great Britain in 1663. Sir George Lockhart’s legal skills were > one of the finest in the country. He was a charming man, whose oratory skill > rarely failed to draw admiration in all. In 1672” >

    • I shall check that out when my tour guide work quietens and post a reply here Forbes. Thank you for your question. Please accept my apologies for the delayed response.

      Where was your source for this understanding please? As a keen researcher of Edinburgh history and a tour guide, expanded knowledge is always useful! Thank you for your time.

    • HI Forbes! A surprisingly quiet day on the tour guiding front today, so I did not run a tour. that gave me a chance to provide a full answer for you. Silences that Speak by William Pitcairn Anderson states that John Chiesle’s daughter was called, Rachel. The troubled Lady Grange as you rightly state. Her husband inflicted many ‘excessive cruelties’ upon her. She was subsequently kidnapped and and hid for many years in the Western Isles, passing away on Skye in 1749.

      Whilst on the Western Isles she very sadly developed insanity. Further details of this poor souls ordeals in married and later life can be found in Grant’s Old & New Edinburgh.

      You are clearly a very learned man on Edinburgh history Forbes. May ask where you gleaned your knowledge of Lady Grange please?

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