Irving, Alexander

Biography: May be Sir Alexander Irvine of Drum (d.1657), or his eldest son, also Alexander (d.1687). Sir Alexander had a second son Robert (d.1645), who may be the Robert Irwyng whose signature is also on Inc 157.




Sir Alexander was the son of Alexander (d.1630) and Lady Marion, daughter of Robert Douglas, earl of Buchan. He was knighted by 1618, and married Magdalene, daughter of Sir John Scrimgeour, in 1620. He converted to Catholicism shortly after his marriage but kept this secret.

He sat as a shire commissioner in 1633, and was sheriff of Aberdeenshire 1634-44. He was publicly opposed to the covenanters' rebellion from 1638, and fled to England for a short while in 1639 while covenanters occupied his lands. He returned with Lord Aboyne's ships on 2 June, and Aberdeen was occupied from 6 June. The treaty of Berwick halted further hostilities, but Sir Alexander was still preparing his castle for war in early 1640.

The castle was summoned on 2 June, while he was absent, and it was surrendered by Magdalene two days later. An agreement was then made that Sir Alexander would surrender himself to Robert Monro, and he was imprisoned in the Edinburgh Tolbooth until February 1641. After this he seems to have decided to co-operate with the covenanters, and he became a commissioner to arrest Catholic priests in 1642. In 1643 he sat in the convention of estates against King Charles and he was part of the Aberdeenshire committee of war.

However, in November 1643, he refused to publicly sign the new covenant, stating that it should be sufficient to sign it in his own parish church of Drumoak. In January 1644, as sheriff of Aberdeen, he attempted to arrest Sir John Gordon of Haddo, but did not obey his orders to arrest the marquess of Huntly. He did not join Huntly's rising in Mar, but his sons' royalist activities led people to assume that he did, and in February he was denounced for "oppen and avowed rebellion". In April, Drum Castle was garrisoned by the earl of Argyll and was plundered by his troops.

Sir Alexander still tried to ingratiate himself with the covenanters, however, and sat on covenanters' committees til late May. By November he was living in Edinburgh, as an alternative to imprisonment. He was allowed to return home on 31 May 1645, and though there is no evidence that he joined Huntly's rising, he came to be known as a rebel. In July 1646 he submitted to the covenanters, on the agreement that he could keep his fortune (and his life) if he moved south with his wife, with a penalty of £50,000 if they did not. However, the covenanters were desperate for money, so this agreement and his agreement with Monro in 1640-1 were used to extract fines of £90,000 and a loan of 10,000 merks.

By this time, Sir Alexander had also been excommunicated from the church, and from 1647-51 he tried at various times to have his excommunication relaxed, though it is suggested that he was happy to spin out proceedings in order to stay true to his catholic beliefs. In 1651, the excommunication was lifted, but he was in trouble again by December, along with his wife and his son James. He used this opportunity to play the presbytery off against the English military authorities, claiming that the actions of the presbytery were illegal. He won his point, and was free from religious persecution in his final years. He died in February 1657.




His eldest son, also Alexander, was probably born shortly after 1620. From October 1640 - February 1641 he visited the king in England with other royalists, but returned disillusioned. He was imprisoned in the Tolbooth at Edinburgh, but released after he was forced to swear the covenant. He married Lady Mary Gordon, daughter of the marquess of Huntly, in December 1643.

With his brother Robert, he was among the men who seized Aberdeen burgesses in an attempt to force Huntly to lead a royalist uprising. They led a raid on Montrose in April 1644 for which they were excommunicated and faced arrest. The brothers sailed to Caithness, but there they were arrested and sent to the Tolbooth in Edinburgh. Robert died in February 1645, and Alexander, who was seriously ill, was transferred to Edinburgh Castle. He was released in August 1645 after the marquess of Montrose's victory at Kilsyth, and was involved in another raid in Deeside the following year, before finally making his peace with the covenanters in July 1646.

After this he lived relatively quietly, although keeping his Roman Catholic faith. His son was sent to the Scots Jesuit college at Douai in 1656, and in 1660 he was threatened with excommunication but nothing came of this. Over the next two decades he held local offices such as justice of the peace and commissioner of supply without his religion being questioned, although Drum Castle was found to be sheltering priests in 1669-70. By the 1680s, as Catholic influence at court grew, his religion began to count in his favour, and he was among those who did not have to take an oath under the Test Act in 1685.

In his later years, he had family problems - his only son was incapable of marriage and producing heirs due to mental incapacity, and Irvine married a former servant of his first wife who was only sixteen to produce a new heir. His relatives referred to her as "the shepherd's daughter" and were infuriated when she bore him a son, to whom she claimed he assigned Drum Castle shortly before his death in September 1687.

Biography References: DNB;


Book List

Items 1 Ordered by Owner, A-Z