Menteith, Robert (DNB00)

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MENTEITH, MENTET, or MONTEITH, ROBERT (fl. 1621–1660), author of ‘Histoire des Troubles de la Grande Bretagne,’ represented himself in France as one of the Menteiths of Salmonet, descended from the Menteiths of Kerse, and more remotely from the ancient earls of Monteith. According to one account the designation of Salmonet was his own invention: ‘The fact was that his father was a mere fisherman or tacksman of fishings (user of a Salmon-net) on the Forth at Stirling’ (Chambers, Domestic Annals of Scotland, ii. 70). There was, however, at one time in Stirlingshire a place called Salmonet, with which his father, Alexander Menteith, a citizen of Edinburgh, may have had some connection. Robert was the third and youngest son. He was educated at the university of Edinburgh, where he graduated M.A. in 1621. Subsequently he became professor of philosophy in the protestant university of Saumur, where he remained four years. In 1629 he was nominated by two ministers of Edinburgh for the professorship of divinity in the university, but his nomination being strongly opposed by three other ministers as well as by the principal and regents, he was not appointed. Having obtained orders from Archbishop Spotiswood, he was in 1630 presented by Charles I to the kirk of Duddingston, and on the 20th he was admitted by warrant from Spotiswood by two or three ministers ‘without acquainting the Presbytery’ (Calderwood, History, viii. 72). Having, however, been discovered in an illicit amour with Anna Hepburn, wife of Sir James Hamilton of Priestfield (Scot, Staggering State of the Scots Statesmen, ed. 1872, p. 75), he fled the country, and on 7 Oct. 1633 was denounced a rebel. He himself attributed his retirement from Scotland to the action of the extreme presbyterian party on account of his episcopal leanings.

Menteith went to Paris, and having joined the catholic church obtained the favour of Cardinal Richelieu, and became secretary first to M. de la Port, grand prior of France, and after his death to de Retz, then coadjutor to the Archbishop of Paris, and afterwards cardinal. By de Retz he was made one of the canons of Notre-Dame. Michel de Marolles, who met him at court in 1641, refers to his gentle and agreeable personality and his witty conversation, and adds that never ‘was there a man more wise, or more disinterested, or more respected by the legitimate authorities’ (Mémoires, Amsterdam, 1755, i. 244). He expresses an equally high opinion of his learning and intellectual accomplishments, and makes special mention of the elegant French style of his writings. On the arrest of Cardinal de Retz in the Louvre in December 1652, Menteith was for some time sheltered by Michel de Marolles in his abbey of Baugerais in Touraine (ib. p. 367). He died some time before 13 Sept. 1660, when in the privilege for printing his ‘Histoire’ he is referred to as dead. He had two sons: William of Carruber and Randeford, from whom the Stuart Menteiths of Closeburn are descended; and Robert.

Menteith was the author of:

  1. ‘Remonstrance très humble faite au sérénissime Prince Charles II, Roi de la Grande Bretagne, sur la conjuncture présente des affaires de sa Majesté,’ Paris, 1652 (very rare).
  2. ‘Histoire des Troubles de la Grande Bretagne; contenant ce qui s'est passé depuis l'année mille six cens trente-trois, jusques à l'année mille six cens quarante six,’ Paris, 1661, translated into English by James Ogilvie, 1785.

He also wrote a pasquil against Robert Bruce of Kinnaird, formerly minister of Edinburgh. An engraving of his portrait, by P. Mignard, painted at Rome in 1656, is prefixed to his ‘Histoire.’

[Scot's Staggering State of the Scots Statesmen; Calderwood's History of the Kirk of Scotland; Robert Baillie's Letters and Journals; Life of Robert Bruce prefixed to his Sermons; Mémoires de Michel de Marolles; Tallemant's Les Historiettes; Francisque-Michel's Les Écossais en France; Bower's Hist. of Univ. of Edinburgh; Scott's Fasti Eccles. Scot. i. 110–11.]

T. F. H.