The Earl of Loudoun

John Campbell, 1st Earl of Loudoun , 1598-1662

The eldest son of Sir James Campbell of Lawers, John Campbell married Margaret, the daughter of George Campbell around 1620. Margaret was heir to her grandfather Hugh Campbell, first Lord Loudoun, who resigned his peerage in John's favour. As the second Lord Loudoun, Campbell inherited the Loudoun estates in Ayrshire; he was granted the earldom of Loudoun by King Charles I in 1633.

The Earl of Loudoun

The Earl of Loudoun was among the noblemen who supported the protests against the King's attempts to introduce innovations into the Scottish church and at his interference in the traditions of the Scottish nobility. Naturally eloquent and persuasive, the Earl of Loudoun emerged as a leading spokesman for the Covenanter movement at the Glasgow Assembly of 1638. In July 1639, he was a commissioner at the treaty negotiations held at Berwick after the First Bishops' War; the following year he was one of the Scottish commissioners sent to London to negotiate with the King.

In March 1640, a letter was discovered from Covenanter leaders to Louis XIII of France requesting his support. King Charles regarded the request as treasonous. As one of the seven signatories of the letter, the Earl of Loudoun was arrested in London on 11 April and imprisoned in the Tower. He was released after promising to attempt to persuade the Covenanters to disband the army that was gathering in Scotland. However, he accompanied the army when it invaded England during the Second Bishops' War and once again played a leading role in the treaty negotiations at Ripon and London.

When King Charles went to Scotland to finalise the treaty in 1641, several leading Covenanters were appointed to high office in an attempt to win their support, including the Earl of Loudoun who was appointed Lord-Chancellor of Scotland. During 1642-3, he led diplomatic missions on behalf of the Covenanters to end the English Civil War, but when King Charles refused to allow a parliament in Scotland, the Earl of Loudoun was prominent in organising the Convention of Estates that met in June 1643. He received his commission to raise a regiment of foot in late August 1643.

Dominated by the Covenanters, the Convention formed an alliance with the English Parliamentarians under the Solemn League and Covenant in September 1643. The Earl of Loudoun was one of the Scottish commissioners who went to London to finalise the terms of the alliance. He stayed on in London as a member of the powerful Committee for Both Kingdoms, formed to direct the war-effort against the Royalists, and as an observer at the Westminster Assembly, which attempted to reform the Church of England along Presbyterian lines.

In February 1645, the Earl of Loudoun led the Scottish commissioners at the unsuccessful Uxbridge Treaty between the King, Parliament and the Scots. As the Parliamentarian cause split into the Independent and Presbyterian factions, the alliance with Scotland also began to fragment. Hoping to encourage further divisions, King Charles surrendered to the Scots after his military defeat rather than to Parliament. The Earl of Loudoun urged Charles to accept the Newcastle Propositions as the basis for a settlement and despaired at the King's duplicity in the negotiations. The Scots finally lost patience with Charles and abandoned him to the English in January 1647. With relations between the Scots and Parliament continuing to deteriorate, many Covenanters were in favour of negotiating directly with the King. The Earl of Loudoun was one of the commissioners at the talks with King Charles during his imprisonment at Hampton Court and later at Carisbrooke Castle that resulted in the signing of the Engagement in December 1647. However, he was uneasy over the terms of the Engagement. When the Engagers refused to accept concessions offered by the English Parliament to avoid war, the Earl of Loudoun broke with them and aligned himself with the hard-line Covenanters of the Kirk Party. After the failure of the Engager invasion of England in 1648, he supported the Whiggamore Raid, which brought about the removal of Engagers from the Scottish government.

The Kirk ordered the Earl of Loudoun to perform a public penance at St Giles in Edinburgh to atone for his earlier support of the Engagement. Although he retained the office of lord-chancellor, he was excluded from the initial negotiations with Charles II during 1649-50 amid rumours that he had fathered an illegitimate child. After Charles' arrival in Scotland in 1650, he resumed his official duties in formal audiences with the new King, during which he scrupulously enforced the directives of the Kirk Party. However, rumours of his sexual misconduct continued to circulate. He was summoned to answer accusations of adultery in 1651 but the case was abandoned with the collapse of the Royalist-Covenanter alliance after its crushing military defeat at the battle of Worcester.

The Committee of Estates called upon all loyal Scots to unite in resisting the English invaders, but most of its members were arrested by Monck's soldiers at Alyth near Dundee at the end of August 1651. Attempts by Lord Balcarres and the Earl of Loudoun to organise further resistance proved ineffective. Remaining members were forced to withdraw to Rothesay where the Earl of Loudoun called for a Scottish parliament to meet at Finlarig in Perthshire in November 1651. Only Loudoun and three other nobles arrived on the designated date, so the parliament never met.

The Earl of Loudoun resisted the Cromwellian subjugation of Scotland for as long as he could, refusing to make his formal submission to General Monck until March 1655. He lived peaceably until the Restoration in 1660 when he was obliged to resign his offices and pay a fine for his past support of the Covenanters. The Earl of Loudoun's last public speech was a courageous defence of his kinsman the Marquis of Argyll, who was on trial for treasonous collaboration with the Cromwellian régime, but his testimony did not prevent Argyll's execution.

The Earl of Loudoun died at Edinburgh in March 1662.

Bibliography and Sources

  • David Plant, The BCW Project: British Civil Wars, Commonwealth & Protectorate website
  • The Glencairn Uprising, 1653-54, Helen Baker, Department of Linguistics and Modern English Language, Lancaster University

Loudoun's Crest