On this day, 21st May 1650 James Graham, Marquis of Montrose was hung, quartered and his head impaled on a stake at the Mercat Cross on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. A founding signatory to The Covenant Montrose had always been a supporter of the King and when the demands of the Covenanters became more extreme he took the King’s side.
He was a truly Renaissance man being a skilled military commander, educated in the classics and a poet. He was betrayed in the end and captured by the Earl of Argyll, who was also later to meet the executioner.
On the eve of his execution in his prison cell he penned the following words:
‘Let them bestow on every airth a limb,
Then open all my veins, that I may swim
To Thee, my Maker, in that crimson lake;
Then place my parboiled head upon a stake;
Scatter my ashes, strew them in the air;
Lord ! since thou knowest where all these atoms are,
I’m hopeful thou’lt recover once my dust,
And confident thou’lt raise me with the just.’