Preston, George (DNB00)

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PRESTON, GEORGE (1659?–1748), governor of Edinburgh Castle at the time of the rebellions in 1715 and 1745, was the second son of George Preston—sixth of Valleyfield, descended from the Prestons of Craigmillar—who was created a baronet of Nova Scotia on 31 March 1637. His mother was Marion, only child of Hugh Sempill, fifth lord Sempill. He was captain in the service of the States-General in 1688, and attended William, prince of Orange, in his expedition to England. Subsequently he served in the foreign wars of King William and Queen Anne, and at the battle of Ramillies he was severely wounded. In 1706 he was made colonel of the Cameronian or 26th regiment, and he retained that office till 1720. At the outbreak of the rebellion in 1715 he was sent from London to take command of the castle of Edinburgh, and was finally appointed lieutenant-governor of the castle, ‘with a salary of ten shillings per day.’ He was also made commander-in-chief of the forces in Scotland. On the outbreak of the rebellion of 1745 the government, either doubtful of Preston's loyalty or deeming his great age a disqualification, sent General Joshua Guest [q. v.] to take command of the garrison of the castle. It is affirmed that after the battle of Prestonpans General Guest was deterred from surrendering the castle merely by the firmness of Preston (Grant, Memoirs of the Castle of Edinburgh, p. 171); but, according to Home (Hist. of the Rebellion), General Guest spread the rumour that he was in need of provisions, and at the point of surrendering the castle, merely to induce the highlanders to occupy their time in a vain siege of the castle instead of marching into England. But, whatever may have been the conduct and purpose of Guest, there can be no doubt that Preston, notwithstanding his great age, displayed the utmost watchfulness and determination. ‘Every two hours a party of soldiers wheeled him in an armchair round the guards, that he might personally see if all were on the alert’ (Grant, p. 171); and when the Jacobites sent a flag of truce to the castle, and threatened, unless it were surrendered, to burn Valleyfield, he replied that in that case he should direct his majesty's cruisers to burn down Wemyss Castle, on the coast of Fife, then the property of the Earl of Wemyss, whose son, Lord Elcho, was a general officer in the service of Prince Charles Edward. Preston died on 7 July 1748. He left no issue. He paid off the encumbrances on the estate of Valleyfield, and thus acquired the right of the entail of the property, which he duly executed in favour of the heirs, male and female, of his brother Sir William, and his nephew Sir George.

[Scots Mag. 1748, p. 355; Burke's Landed Gentry; Home's Hist. of the Rebellion; Grant's Memoirs of Edinburgh Castle.]

T. F. H.