Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lindsay, Alexander (1618-1659)

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LINDSAY, ALEXANDER, second Lord Balcarres and first Earl of Balcarres (1618–1659), born 6 July 1618, was eldest son of David, first lord Balcarres, son of John Lindsay, lord Menmuir [q. v.], by Lady Sophia Seton, third daughter of Alexander, first earl of Dunfermline, lord high chancellor of Scotland. The first Lord Balcarres, created 27 June 1633, devoted much attention to the study of alchemy and kindred sciences, and left in manuscript several volumes of transcripts and translations from the works of the Rosicrucians. He also possessed keen literary tastes, and was a correspondent of Drummond of Hawthornden and Scot of Scotstarvet. His ecclesiastical sympathies were with the covenanters, and the son was educated at the school of Haddington under the superintendence of David Forret, afterwards a well-known minister of the kirk. Succeeding his father in March 1641, he was one of the noblemen present at the meeting of the estates in July, and served on various committees. In 1643 he was appointed to the command of the troops levied in Fife, Kinross, Aberdeen, and Forfar (Spalding, Memorialls, ii. 294). He was at Marston Moor in July 1644. On 26 Feb. 1645 he was sent north with his horse-regiment to Aberdeen to await the arrival of Major-general Baillie from Perth, and he took part in the strategic movements that followed. About the 20th, his regiment while lying near Coupar Angus, was surprised and routed by men under Forbes of Skellater and Lord Gordon. At Alford on 25 July, his precipitate attack on the enemy caused his regiment to be driven from the field by Lord Gordon before the main battle commenced, but he nevertheless received the thanks of parliament for his ‘worthy carriage and good service’ (Balfour, Annals, iii. 295). No better fortune awaited him and Baillie at Kilsyth on 15 Aug., but their disastrous defeat may fairly be attributed to the fact that their counsel was rejected by the committee of estates. Balcarres, who was again in command of the horse, fled to West Lothian, and came that night to Colinton with only ten or twelve horsemen. On 13 July 1646 he was chosen one of the committee of estates. When King Charles intimated his intention of delivering himself up to the Scottish army at Newark, Balcarres was sent by the Scottish parliament to the king to induce him to come to terms with the kirk, but the negotiation proved fruitless (see memorandum in Robert Balfour's Letters and Journals, ii. 514–5). On 20 July 1647 the king nominated Balcarres keeper and captain of Edinburgh Castle. He took part in the ‘engagement’ for the rescue of the king in the following year, thus severing his connection with the covenanting party (see An Account of any accession the Earl of Balcarres had to the late Engagement: with a Justification of the Letter written by his lordship to the Committee of Estates, 1649, reprinted in 1833 in Fragments relating to Scottish History). Notwithstanding his support of the engagement, he was in July 1649 admitted to parliament (Balfour, Annals, iii. 413). On 5 July 1650 he was named a commissioner of the exchequer (ib. iv. 78), and on the 20th appointed one of the committee for the king's coronation (ib. p. 123). He strongly opposed the intolerant attitude of the western covenanters, and proposed that the letter sent them by parliament should not be ‘sent as a letter but as ane order’ (ib. p. 192).

The catastrophe to the covenanting army at Dunbar tended greatly to strengthen the influence of the moderate party, and of this party Balcarres now became the recognised head. On 9 Jan. 1651 he was created Earl of Balcarres, and about the same time appointed hereditary governor of Edinburgh Castle. When the king passed south into England, Balcarres was appointed one of a committee of estates for the defence of the northern part of the kingdom. Already he had been obliged to sell his plate for 2,000l., and in the interests of the king he now mortgaged his estates for 6,000l. more. After the king's defeat at Worcester in December, Balcarres capitulated at Forres (see ‘The Artickells of Capitulatione between Alexander, lord Balcarres, and the English in December 1651’ in Balfour's Annals, iv. 345–6). In November 1652 he settled with his family at St. Andrews. After the recall of Monck, Balcarres joined the uprising in the highlands under Glencairn; and at the king's special request he shortly afterwards proceeded to France to advise with him as to the methods of rehabilitating the royal cause. In accordance with his recommendation, Middleton was despatched to Scotland, but the coalition was soon broken up by internal discord. In May 1654 Balcarres and Sir Robert Moray were sent to France to give the king an account of affairs in Scotland, and to submit to him certain proposals (see Proposals submitted to his Majesty King Charles II by the Right Hon. Alex. Earl of Balcarres, 1654). The chief recommendation of the Scottish royalists was that Charles should land in the highlands and advance southwards: and the king seems to have approved of the recommendation (see Instructions from his Majesty King Charles II to the Right Hon. Alex. Lindsay, Earl of Balcarres, 1654), although it was soon discovered that meantime the scheme was not feasible. The estate of Balcarres having been sequestrated, he did not return to Scotland, but continued to reside at the court of Charles. Although the representations of Clarendon on one occasion led to his dismissal, he was soon restored to favour, and he enjoyed much of the exiled king's esteem and confidence. He died at Breda in August 1659, according to Robert Baillie, of grief at the ill success of the rising of that year (Letters and Journals, iii. 437). After the Restoration he was buried at Balcarres on 12 June 1668.

According to Richard Baxter, he was ‘of excellent learning, judgment, and honesty, none being praised equally with him for learning and understanding in all Scotland’ (Reliquiæ, pt. i. p. 121); and his wisdom, justice, courage, and piety, are also highly eulogised in a commemorative poem by Cowley. By his wife, Anna Mackenzie, daughter and coheiress of Colin Mackenzie, first earl of Seaforth, who, according to Baxter, had marched with him and lain out of doors with him on the mountains, or as Cowley puts it ‘did all his labours and his cares divide,’ he had two sons—Charles Lindsay, second earl, and Colin Lindsay [q. v.], third earl, of Balcarres—and three daughters: Anne, who became a nun; Sophia, married to the Hon. Charles Campbell, third son of the ninth Earl of Argyll; and Harriet, married to Sir Duncan Campbell, baronet of Auchinbreck. In 1671 the Dowager-countess of Balcarres married Archibald Campbell, ninth Earl of Argyll [q. v.] who was beheaded in 1685.

[Sir James Balfour's Annals; Robert Baillie's Letters and Journals (Bannatyne Club); Spalding's Memorialls (Spalding Club); Nicolls's Diary (Bannatyne Club); Lamont's Diary (Bannatyne Club); Guthry's Memoirs; Clarendon's History of the Rebellion; Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), i. 168; Lord Lindsay's Lives of the Lindsays; Jervise's Lands of the Lindsays; Lindsay Pedigree, by W. A. Lindsay, in the College of Arms.]

T. F. H.