Scottish County

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer

Background Information

Number of voters:

about 30


 Alexander Grant

Main Article

The principal landowning families in Inverness-shire adhering to the ‘Revolution’ interest were the Grants of Grant, long-established in Strathspey, and the somewhat more recently arrived Forbes of Culloden, whom some affected to despise as parvenu. Ludovick Grant of Grant, who had been given the sheriffdom by King William in 1689, and Duncan Forbes of Culloden were each elected as commissioners to the Convention in 1689, but in 1702 the laird of Grant returned himself and his son Alexander as supporters of the Country party, to the exclusion of Forbes, who had remained with the Court. The younger Grant entered the ministerial fold during the latter part of the Union parliament, even earning a place among the Scottish representatives at the first Parliament of Great Britain. His father meanwhile ended his own parliamentary career in ambiguous neutrality. Despite this equivocal stance, Ludovick Grant was confirmed in possession of the sheriffdom in 1708 and returned his son for the county at the first election to the Parliament of Great Britain. As a Court supporter Alexander Grant may also have enjoyed the countenance of the new laird of Culloden, Duncan Forbes’s son John*. Certainly by 1710 the interests of Grant and Culloden seem to have been in some kind of alliance, for the parliamentary ambitions which Forbes now entertained were directed not at Inverness-shire but towards neighbouring Ross, where Grant sought to act as an intermediary on his behalf.1

Having thus achieved a rapprochement of sorts with Forbes, and been invested by his father in the spring of 1710 with possession of the family property and the chieftainship of his clan, Alexander Grant would have been excused the expectation of a comfortable re-election in that year. Instead, he faced another even more formidable rival in the person of Alexander Mackenzie of Fraserdale, whose marriage in 1702 to the heiress of the 9th Lord Lovat had given him control over the barony of Lovat in the Aird, a potential resource for the creation of new votes, and whose fellow clansmen in the Highlands, if they could be persuaded to take the oaths, promised a further draft of electoral support. In the political climate of 1710, and given his own episcopalian associations, Mackenzie may also have drawn sustenance from the strength of episcopalian sentiment in some parts of the county. Perhaps even more important, he had the advantage of a head start. Grant was engaged in military campaigning on the Continent during the summer of 1710, and by the time of his belated arrival in Scotland, hotfoot from London, in October, his opponent had already been canvassing for at least two months. After a rapid evaluation of his prospects, Grant was said to be willing to withdraw from the contest, but in fact he pursued his candidacy as far as rejection by the electoral court.2

Although Grant had an alternative parliamentary seat as Member for his ancestral county of Elginshire, and by this time had sunk into near-penury, he still made threatening noises over the Inverness-shire representation in 1713 before Mackenzie was successfully returned. But by 1715 it was the Fraserdale interest that was tottering, Mackenzie’s title to the Lovat barony and influence over Clan Fraser having come under challenge from the egregious Simon Fraser of Beaufort. Some of Mackenzie’s erstwhile followers were seduced away by Fraser, especially the Highland clans; others seem to have been intimidated, notably ‘the pitiful barons of the Aird’, as Fraser called them, whose voting qualifications came under scrutiny. A resurgent John Forbes of Culloden then stepped into the breach and took over the county seat, given practical assistance at local level by Alexander Grant, whom George I had reappointed sheriff, and assured of the influential endorsement of the Duke of Argyll if need be. Electoral defeat played a part in provoking Mackenzie to take up arms in the Jacobite cause in the Fifteen, by which he forfeited not only the Lovat barony but all future hope of political influence in Inverness-shire.3

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. J. Cameron Lees, Hist. Co. Inverness, 29, 284-5; Hist. Scot. Parl. 246-7, 296-7; HMC Hamilton, ii. 157; SP 57/27, pp. 134-5; NLS, 1285, ff. 11, 13, 16.
  • 2. Sir W. Fraser, Chiefs of Grant, i. 326-7, 338-9; More Culloden Pprs. ed. Warrand, ii. 22-24; NLS, ms 1285, ff. 23-24; 1342, ff. 25-27, 31; NLS, Gordon Cumming mss Dep. 175/box 71/ 2248, James Cuninghame to [-], 5 Oct. 1710; C219/110.
  • 3. NLS, ms 1342, f. 32; Culloden Pprs. 33; More Culloden Pprs. 47-49, 57, 60, 63.