Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Sinclair, John (1610-1676)

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SINCLAIR, JOHN, seventh Lord Sinclair (1610–1676), son of Patrick, sixth lord Sinclair, by Margaret, daughter of Sir John Cockburn of Ormiston, was born on 29 Oct. 1610 [see for ancestry under Sinclair, William, third Earl of Orkney and first Earl of Caithness].

The seventh lord Sinclair had a charter of the barony of Ravenscraig in Newburgh on 30 July 1631, and of Balhousie in Fife to him and his wife, Mary Wemyss, on 26 July 1637. At first a zealous covenanter, he was a member of the famous general assembly of 1638 (Baillie, Letters and Journals, i. 123). In 1640, being deputed to the north to maintain the cause of the covenant in and around Aberdeen, he came on 18 May to Aberdeen with sixteen horse and passed thence to Caithness (Spalding, Memorialls, i. 269), returning on 22 Oct. with five hundred soldiers, whom he quartered in New Aberdeen, while he rode south to receive the orders of the committee of estates (ib. p. 351). He returned about 20 Dec. to Aberdeen (ib. p. 375), where he and his associates began to hold committees. In March 1641 he sent his brother, Lieutenant-colonel the Hon. Henry Sinclair, with two hundred men, into Ross, Caithness, and Sutherland to obtain recruits (ib. ii. 6). On 28 April he also convened at Aberdeen a meeting of the barons and gentry within the sheriffdom of Aberdeen, at which commissioners were appointed through all the parishes to obtain names ‘of fencible men between sixty and sixteen’ (ib. ii. 22). Being elected a member of the committee of estates in 1641, he frequently made journeys to Edinburgh to give special information and to consult as to methods and means. Notwithstanding the disbandment of the armies of the king and of General Leslie in August 1641, he kept his men in Aberdeen under arms until 9 Feb. 1642 (ib. ii. 101). He was also a member of the committee of estates in 1644 and 1645. On 22 Jan. 1646 he was examined in parliament and exonerated of the charge against him for ‘trincatting’ at Hereford with the enemy (Balfour, Annals, iii. 365).

In 1650 Sinclair was included in the act ‘excluding diverse persons from entering within the kingdom, from beyond the seas, with his majesty, until they give satisfaction to the church’ (ib. iv. 14; Nichol, Diary, p. 14). In the Halls frigate, taken on 30 May by the Marquis of Argyll, was also found a letter by Sinclair to Montrose, dated Amsterdam, 30 Feb. 1650, in which he promised to prosecute with all earnestness the ends proposed by Montrose to place the king on the throne, as he was convinced that the Scots treaty with the king was but a trap to catch him (Balfour, iv. 33). The house, after hearing the letter read, ordered it to be marked and produced in parliament ‘as a proof for drawing up a process of forfaultrie against him’ (ib.) On 4 June 1650 he was included in the ‘act of classes’ and debarred from entering the kingdom or having access to the king's person without express warrant of the estates of parliament (ib. iv. 42). Sinclair accompanied the king to England, and, being taken prisoner at Worcester, was on 15 Sept. ordered to be committed to the Tower for being of the party of Charles Stuart, a declared traitor (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1651, p. 432). He was excepted from Cromwell's act of grace in 1654, and, with various occasional enlargements on account of his health, remained a prisoner, first in the Tower and afterwards at Windsor Castle (ib. passim), until set free by the Restoration parliament of 1660. In the account of forfeited estates in 1655 the yearly value of his estate is given as 906l. 17s. 4d., and his debts as 1660l. 10s. 6d. In 1661 he was chosen a member of the privy council of Scotland. He died in 1676. By Lady Margaret Wemyss, eldest daughter of John, first earl of Wemyss, he had an only daughter Catherine (d. 1666), who married John St. Clair the younger of Herdmanston, Haddingtonshire; and their elder son, Henry, succeeded his grandfather as eighth Lord Sinclair, and was father of John Sinclair (1683–1750) [q. v.] and General James Sinclair [q. v.]

[Spalding's Memorialls of the Trubles, in the Spalding Club; Nicol's Diary and Baillie's Letters and Journals, in the Bannatyne Club; Balfour's Annals; Cal. State Papers, Dom., during the Cromwellian period; Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), ii. 499–500.]

T. F. H.