Traquair House

Yet another lifting from the wonderful Highways & Byways on the Borders. This says much about Scottish history beyond that of the immediate family, and yet leaves so much unanswered. Why would a mob travel so far, and in the middle of winter from Edinburgh? Why did they turn on the local vicar? High Crosses were often removed as being Popish relics, and yet here, some popish relics were carried many miles to be burnt beside one.

Of old, Traquair was a royal residence. in the 12th century, William the Lion hunted from its tower; and other of the Scottish monarchs visited it in later days, the last, I suppose, being Mary and Darnley in august 1566.The original tower, or some part of it, I believe still stands now in the north-east corner of the building but the house had, of course been greatly added to at different periods, mostly during the reign of Charles I. It is a very fine specimen of the old Scottish chateau, with walls of immense thickness. Probably it is the oldest inhabited mansion house in Scotland;… not at least interesting the picturesque old gates at the end of the avenue that have remained so long unopened. The talk used to run that they had been closed after the ’45 by an Earl loyal to the Stuart cause, who swore that they should never be opened till the rightful king came back to his own again. … The gates were not closed till 1796 when the 7th Earl of Traquair, after the death of his countess, declared that they should remain shut till they opened to admit one worthy to take the dead lady’s place. That, at least, is the story.

The Earl who lived in the latter part of the 17th century belonged to the Church of Rome. “A quiet, inoffensive man’… But that in now way protected him from the unwelcome attentions of those zealous Presbyterians who at that time “thought it someway belonged to us to go to all the popish houses and destroy their monuments of idolatry, with their priest’s robes, and put in prison [the priests] themselves”. So a pious mob set out from Edinburgh one grim December day in 1688 and trudged through the snow to Traquair House. Earl and priest, having got word of their coming, had fled before the arrival … and though they ransacked all Traquair for “Romish wares”, they did not find all they expected.Much had been hidden away. ..However they did get a great deal- an altar, a large brazen crucifix, and several small crucifixes, “a large broad opening with two leaves, covers within with cloth of gold of Arras work, having a veil covering he middle part, wherein were sewed several superstitious pictures,” a eucharist cup of silver, boxes of relics “wherein were lying, amongst silk-cotton, several pieces of bone, tied with a red thread, having written on them the Saint they belonged to”, “a harden bag, near full of beads,” “Mary and the babe in a case most curiously wrought in a kind of pearl,” a hundred and thirty books – silver clasped many them. …

Not content with this however, a detachment of the mob invaded the house of a neighbouring clergyman, “who had the name of a Presbyterian minister”. the orders given by their ringleaders were that this house should be narrowly searched but that they themselves were to “behave discreetly,” …The Reverend Thomas Louis and his wife apparently did not treat the inquisitors with the kindness and consideration to which they thought themselves entitled; they “mocked them” it is complained; and  the minister and his wife carrie their resentment so far as to offer them “neither food nor drink, though they had much need of it”. … the mob hunted about till they came on 2 locked trunks, which they demanded should at once be opened. This modest request not being complied with, they “broke up” the trunks… “they found a golden cradle, with Mary and the Babe in her bosom; in the other trunk, the priest’s robes.” so they made a pile of the articles found here and in Traqair House, carried them a distance of 7 miles to Peebles, and had them all “solemnly burned at the cross”…

But they did not also “solemnly burn” Traquair House, .. the last Countess of Traquair has gone through the old gates; and her son, the 8th earl was the last of his line. He died unmarried in 1861; and the last of her race, the venerable Lady Louisa Stuart died in 1875 in her hundredth year. 

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