Montrose and Argyll
James Graham, 1st Marquis of Montrose, has gone down in history as a romantic royalist hero, while his great enemy Archibald, 1st Marquis of Argyll, has been revered as leader of the more radical Covenanters against Charles I. Both men signed the National Covenant in1638 but, suspicious of Argyll’s motives, Montrose soon led an army supporting the King. Three times in 1644-5 he routed Argyll’s Covenanting forces but was captured in 1650 and hanged outside St Giles’. His head was placed on a spike on the Tolbooth, while his limbs were sent to other leading Scottish towns, to be displayed as a horrible warning to all royalist supporters. Meanwhile, dismayed by the execution of Charles I in 1649, Argyll had changed sides; but he soon changed back again to support Oliver Cromwell.
When Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660, he ordered Montrose’s body to be reassembled and given a state funeral in St Giles’, where the Marquis’s grandfather was buried. The following year Argyll, charged with treason, was beheaded outside the Cathedral. His head was displayed on the same Tolbooth spike for three years, and then buried beside his body in his family mausoleum in Kilmun, Argyll.
In 1886 Queen Victoria visited St Giles’ and asked why there was no memorial to Montrose. As a result, the handsome, seventeenth-century style monument above his burial place was erected. Nine years later, a campaign was started to produce a similar monument to Argyll. It was agreed that this would be appropriate, for the Cathedral was seen as a temple of reconciliation. Argyll’s memorial was unveiled in 1895, on the 234th anniversary of his execution.