Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Turner, James
TURNER, Sir JAMES (1615–1686?), soldier and author, born in 1615, was eldest son of Patrick Turner (1574?–1634), minister successively of Borthwick and Dalkeith, by his wife, Margaret Law. His father, a man of some learning, contributed three Latin poems to ‘Hieroglyphica Animalium,’ published by Archibald Simson [q. v.] in 1622–4. The younger son, Archibald Turner (1621?–1681), was minister successively of Borthwick, North Berwick, and the ‘old’ church, Edinburgh (Hew Scott, Fasti Eccl. Scot. i. 10, 263, 266, 344, 394, 398). James was educated at Glasgow University, where, much against his will, he graduated M.A. in 1631 (Memoirs, p. 1; Munimenta Univ. Glasguensis, iii. 19). His father wished him to enter the church, but Turner was bent on becoming a soldier, and in 1632 he enlisted in the service of Gustavus Adolphus under Sir James Lumsden [q. v.] He landed in that year at Rostock, and during the following winter was engaged in establishing Swedish authority in lower Germany. In February 1632–3 he served under the Duke of Brunswick at the siege of Hameln and defeat of the imperialist army sent to relieve it (28 June), and in the following year was present at the siege of Oldendorf and other places. On the news of his father's death in August 1634 he returned to Scotland, but was back at Bremen in the summer of 1635, when he was attached to a mission which the merchants of that town proposed sending to Persia to develop their trade. It came to nothing through the hostility of Russia, and Turner served in 1636 at the siege of Osnaburg, and at that of Fürstenau in 1637. He was promoted successively ensign, lieutenant, and captain. After an abortive visit to Scotland in 1639 in search of employment there, he returned to Germany, and in 1640 proceeded to Stockholm to prosecute before chancellor Oxenstiern a complaint against his superior officer, Burgsdorff.
From Gothenburg Turner, according to his own account, endeavoured to reach Hull in order to offer his services to Charles I, but, failing in the attempt, he returned to Scotland, and then made his way to the headquarters of the covenanting army at Newcastle. Here, through the influence of the Earl of Rothes, he was appointed major in the Earl of Kirkcudbright's regiment, but never took the covenant. After ten months' service with the Scots army of occupation in England, Turner was appointed major in Lord Sinclair's regiment and sent to Ireland to aid the Ulster Scots against the Irish rebels. He served in the garrison at Newry and in several minor engagements against Owen Roe O'Neill [q. v.], but in 1644 delivered Newry to the English and returned to Scotland, where only the failure of his expedition in April prevented him from joining Montrose [see Graham, James, fifth Earl and first Marquis of Montrose]. He reluctantly retained his commission in the covenanting army, and with it invaded England in 1645; it penetrated as far as Hereford, when the battle of Naseby practically ended the war. During Charles I's sojourn with the Scots army in 1646, Turner had interviews with him and pressed upon him the necessity of escaping. In 1647 he was made adjutant-general of the Scots army.
In 1648 Turner welcomed the proposal of the Duke of Hamilton and the committee of Scottish estates to send an army into England to rescue the king. He was sent to Glasgow to raise levies and enforce obedience to the decrees of the committee, and while there ‘anticipated the methods by which Louis XIV afterwards attempted to convert the Huguenots,’ by quartering soldiers on the refractory inhabitants—a method which he found effectual with the most stubborn covenanters (Gardiner, Civil War, iv. 155, 182; Turner, Memoirs, pp. 53 et seq.). Turner accompanied Hamilton in the invasion of England, and at a council of war held at Hornby on 13 Aug. urged Hamilton to turn aside into Yorkshire and meet the enemy. His advice was rejected, Cromwell routed the Scots at Preston, and Turner capitulated to Lilburne at Uttoxeter on the 25th (Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. App. pt. vi. p. 129). He was taken to Hull, where he remained a prisoner in the custody of Colonel Robert Overton [q. v.] from September 1648 until November 1649. He was then released by Fairfax on condition of going abroad for twelve months, and retired to Hamburg, whence he made his way to Breda.
Inability to raise money prevented Turner from joining Montrose's ill-fated expedition in January 1650, but he made his way to Scotland in September, landing near Aberdeen on the 2nd, the day before Dunbar. That defeat made the covenanters more tolerant of their episcopalian countrymen, and Turner denounces the hypocrisy which led them to accept as genuine oaths to the covenant which they knew to be counterfeit (Gardiner, Commonwealth and Protectorate, i. 420). Turner was himself ‘absolved’ after some difficulty, and was appointed colonel and adjutant-general of foot. In this capacity he accompanied Charles II to the battle of Worcester (3 Sept. 1651). He was taken prisoner and sent up to London, but escaped on the way at Oxford. He then walked to London, where he lay hid for a time, and afterwards joined Charles at Paris, where he remained two or three months and learnt the language. For two years he spent most of his time at Amsterdam or Bremen. In June 1654 he landed in Fife on a rash expedition to inquire into the chances of a royalist rising there. His report was unfavourable, but he got away safely and for three years more was engaged in royalist missions on the continent. In 1657 he went with John, first earl of Middleton [q. v.], to Danzig to offer his services to Casimir, king of Poland, against Cromwell's ally, Charles Gustavus of Sweden. Poland was, however, overrun by Swedes, and Turner, after some delay at Danzig, sought employment in Denmark against the Swedes. Peace between the two countries compelled him to return to Breda, where he was in attendance upon Charles II during 1659–60.
At the Restoration Turner was knighted; in an undated petition (Addit. MS. 23117, f. 1) he requested a ‘gratuity’ for his services, and in August 1662 he was appointed sergeant-major of the king's foot-guards in Scotland. He received a commission as major on 12 Feb. 1663–4, and in July following was employed as one of the visitors of Glasgow University (Munimenta Univ. Glasguensis, ii. 476, 478, 481, 486). On 28 July 1666 he was made lieutenant-colonel; he was in command of the forces in the south-west of Scotland, whose object was to crush the opposition of the covenanters to Charles II's and Archbishop Sharp's attempts to enforce episcopacy on the Scottish church. He resorted to his old method of billeting soldiers on the recalcitrant covenanters, and was very active in extorting fines for non-attendance at public worship. It appears that he did not go beyond his commission, nor as far as he was urged by Sharp, Rothes, and others. His measures, however, provoked the ‘Pentland’ rising in November 1666. Turner was at Dumfries, where he was surprised by the covenanters on the 15th and taken prisoner. They carried him with them on their march towards Edinburgh, and he was frequently on the point of being put to death; during the engagement on the Pentland Hills (28 Nov.) his guards fled and he recovered his liberty. He was chief witness at the trial of James Wallace (d. 1678) [q. v.], the leader of the covenanters, on 26 Feb. 1667, but the blame of the insurrection was laid on his rigour, and on 26 Nov. following Charles II ordered the Scottish privy council to inquire into his conduct. On their report in the following February, Turner was deprived of his commissions (10 March 1668). Thenceforth he lived in retirement at Glasgow, or on his property at Craig, Ayrshire, occupied with his ‘Memoirs’ and other compositions. In October 1683 he was again put in command of some troops in view of renewed disturbances in the south-west of Scotland (Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. App. pt. vi. p. 167), and on 3 Jan. 1683–4 he was commissioned to try the rebels (Wodrow, 1829, iv. 5). He was granted a pension by James II (Cal. State Papers, 1689–90, p. 383), and probably died soon after 1685. An engraving by R. White was prefixed to ‘Pallas Armata,’ 1683. A portrait medal is in the National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh. His wife, Mary White, the granddaughter of a knight, whom he met at Newry in 1643, and married at Hexham on 10 Nov. 1646, survived him, and resided with the family of Lieutenant Richard Turnbull at Lamlash, Arran, dying about 1716.
Turner was a ‘soldier to the backbone’ (Gardiner); he was ‘naturally fierce, but was mad when he was drunk, and that was very often … he was a learned man, but had been always in armies, and knew no other rule but to obey orders’ (Burnet, Own Time, 1766, i. 296). Wodrow describes him as ‘very bookish.’
He published in 1683 ‘Pallas Armata. Military Essayes of the Ancient Grecian, Roman, and Modern Art of War. Written in 1670 and 1671,’ London, fol., dedicated to the Duke of York. He also left a volume of manuscripts (now Brit. Mus. Add. MS. 12067), comprising memoirs, philosophical essays, biographical notices of Mary Stuart, Mary Tudor, Mazarin, Lucrezia Borgia, and others; translations into English verse from Petrarch, Ronsard, and other poets; a criticism of Guthry's ‘Memoirs,’ which Turner saw in manuscript; and various letters to him from Burnet, the Dukes of Hamilton, and others. The memoirs, with a few other pieces, were privately printed about 1819; 101 copies were purchased by the Bannatyne Club and issued with its name on the title-page in 1829.
Turner divides with Major-general Robert Monro [q. v.] the honour of being the original of Dugald Dalgetty, whose character is, however, more akin to Turner's than to Monro's (Scott, Legend of Montrose, pref.; Notes and Queries, 3rd ser. viii. 144; Blackwood's Mag. October 1898; Literature, 22 Oct. and 5 Nov. 1898). Turner's career may also have suggested some incidents in ‘Old Mortality.’ The ‘Pallas Armata’ is there mentioned as the literary pabulum of Major Bellenden, and its author forms the subject of a note (chap. xi. and note).
A contemporary ‘Colonel’ James Turner (d. 1664), born at Hadley, near Barnet, the son of a minister there, and said to have been apprenticed to a lace merchant in Cheapside, became a goldsmith and lieutenant-colonel of the city militia during the civil war. Pepys describes him as ‘a mad swearing, confident fellow, well known by all, and by me.’ His vices and extravagances led him into debt and crime, and he was executed at Lime Street on 21 Jan. 1663–4 for committing a burglary at the house of Francis Tryon, a London merchant. His death was witnessed by Pepys (who paid a shilling and stood ‘upon the wheel of a cart, in great pain, above an hour before the execution was done’), and was made the occasion of many catch-penny tracts (see Life and Death of James Turner and other pamphlets in Brit Mus. Cat.; Pepys, Diary, ed. Braybrooke, ii. 270–4; Granger, Biogr. Hist. iv. 213).[Turner's Memoirs; Cal. State Papers, Dom. passim; Add. MSS. 23117 f. 1, 23119 f. 126; Egerton MSS. 2536 f. 341; Burnet's Own Time, ed. 1766, i. 296, 326, 346, and Lives of the Dukes of Hamilton; Hamilton MSS. Ap. Hist. MSS. Comm. 11th Rep. App. pt. vi.; Lauderdale Papers (Camden Soc.), ii. 82, 83; Lamont's Diary (Maitland Club), p. 194; Lauder of Fountainhall's Hist. Notices, pp. 388, 391, 426, Baillie's Journals, iii. 457, Nicoll's Diary of Transactions, pp. 409, 451 (all these in Bannatyne Club); Guthry's Memoirs, 1748, pp. 272, 275, 277; Wodrow's Hist. of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland, ed. 1829, passim; Granger's Biogr. Hist. iii. 397; Lingard's Hist. of England, ix. 69; Gardiner's Civil War, iv. 155, 182, Commonwealth, i. 420.]