Marquess of Argyll and 8th Earl of Argyll
Born 1607 Died 1661

Archibald Campbell, eldest son of Archibald, 7th earl, by his first wife, Lady Anne Douglas, daughter of William Douglas, 1st Earl of Morton, was born in 1607 and educated at St Andrews University, where he matriculated on the 15th of January 1622. He had early in life, as Lord Lorne, been entrusted with the possession of the Argyll estates when his father renounced Protestantism and took service with Philip of Spain; and he exercised over his clan an authority almost absolute, disposing of a force of 20,000 retainers, and being, according to Baillie, "by far the most powerful subject in the kingdom".

On the outbreak of the religious dispute between the king and Scotland in 1637 his support was eagerly desired by Charles I. He had been made a privy councillor in 1628, and in 1638 the king summoned him, together with Traquair and Roxburgh, to London; but he refused to be won over, openly and courageously warned Charles against his despotic ecclesiastical policy, and showed great hostility towards Laud. In consequence a secret commission was given to the Earl of Antrim to invade Argyllshire and stir up the Macdonalds against the Campbells, a wild and foolish project which completely miscarried. Argyll, who inherited the title by the death of his father in 1638, had originally no preference for Presbyterianism, but now definitely took the side of the Covenanters in defence of the national religion and liberties. He continued to attend the meetings of the Assembly after its dissolution by the Marquess of Hamilton, when Episcopacy was abolished.

In 1639 he sent a statement to Laud, and subsequently to the king, defending the Assembly's action; and raising a body of troops he seized Hamilton's castle of Brodick in Arran. After the pacification of Berwick he carried a motion, in opposition to Montrose, by which the estates secured to themselves the election of the lords of the articles, who had formerly been nominated by the king, a fundamental change in the Scottish constitution, whereby the management of public affairs was entrusted to a representative body and withdrawn from the control of the crown. An attempt by the king to deprive him of his office as justiciary of Argyll and Tarbet failed, and on the prorogation of the parliament by Charles, in May 1640, Argyll moved that it should continue its sittings and that the government and safety of the kingdom should be secured by a committee of the estates, of which, though not a member, he was himself the guiding spirit.

In June he was entrusted with a "commission of fire and sword" against the royalists in Atholl and Angus, which, after succeeding in entrapping the Earl of Atholl, he carried out with completeness and some cruelty. It was on this occasion that took place the burning of "the bonnie house of Airlie". By this time the personal rivalry and difference in opinion between Montrose and Argyll had led to an open breach. The former arranged that on the occasion of Charles's approaching visit to Scotland, Argyll should be accused of high treason in the parliament. The plot, however, was disclosed, and Montrose with others was imprisoned. Accordingly when the king arrived he found himself deprived of every remnant of influence and authority. It only remained for Charles to make a series of concessions. He transferred the control over judicial and political appointments to the parliament, created Argyll a marquess (1641) with a pension of £1,000 a year, and returned home, having in Clarendon's words "made a perfect deed of gift of that kingdom."

Meanwhile the king's policy of peace and concession had, as usual, been rudely and treacherously interrupted by a resort to force, an unsuccessful attempt, known as the 'incident' being made to kidnap Argyll, Hamilton and Lanark. Argyll was mainly instrumental at this crisis in keeping the national party faithful to what was to him evidently the common cause, and in accomplishing the alliance with the Long Parliament in 1643. In January 1644 he accompanied the Scottish army into England as a member of the committee of both kingdoms and in command of a troop of horse, but was soon in March compelled to return to suppress royalist movements in the north and to defend his own territories. He compelled Huntly to retreat in April, and in July advanced to meet the Irish troops now landed in Argyllshire, which were acting in conjunction with Montrose, who had put himself at the head of the royalist forces in Scotland. A campaign followed in the north in which neither general succeeded in obtaining any advantage over the other, or even in engaging battle. Argyll then returned to Edinburgh, threw up his commission, and retired to Inveraray Castle. Thither Montrose unexpectedly followed him in December, compelled him to flee to Roseneath, and devastated his territories. On the 2nd of February 1645, when following Montrose northwards, Argyll was surprised by him at Inverlochy and witnessed from his barge on the lake, to which he had retired owing to a dislocated arm, a fearful slaughter of his troops, which included 1500 of the Campbells. He arrived at Edinburgh on the 12th of February and was again present at Montrose's further great victory on the 15th of August at Kilsyth, whence he escaped to Newcastle. Argyll was at last delivered from his formidable antagonist by Montrose's final defeat at Philiphaugh on the 12th of September. In 1646 he was sent to negotiate with the king at Newcastle after his surrender to the Scottish army, when he endeavoured to moderate the demands of the parliament and at the same time to persuade the king to accept them. On the 7th of July 1646 he was appointed a member of the Assembly of Divines.

Up to this point the statesmanship of Argyll had been highly successful. The national liberties and religion of Scotland had been defended and guaranteed, and the power of the king in Scotland reduced to a mere shadow. In addition, these privileges had been still further secured by the alliance with the English opposition, and by the subsequent triumph of the parliament and Presbyterianism in the neighbouring kingdom. The sovereign himself, after vainly contending in arms, was a prisoner in their midst. But Argyll's influence could not survive the rupture of the alliance between the two nations on which his whole policy was constructed. He opposed in vain the secret treaty now concluded between the king and the Scots against the parliament, and while Hamilton marched into England and was defeated by Cromwell at Preston, Argyll, after a narrow escape from a surprise at Stirling, joined the Whiggamores, a body of Covenanters at Edinburgh; and, supported by Loudon, Leven and Leslie, he established a new government, which welcomed Cromwell on his arrival there on the 4th of October.

This alliance, however, was at once destroyed by the execution of Charles I, which excited universal horror in Scotland. In the series of tangled incidents which followed, Argyll lost control of the national policy. He describes himself at this period as "a distracted man ... in a distracted time" whose "remedies ... had the quite contrary operation." He supported the invitation from the Covenanters to Charles II to land in Scotland, gazed upon the captured Montrose, bound on a cart on his way to execution at Edinburgh, and subsequently, when Charles II came to Scotland, having signed the Covenant and repudiated Montrose, Argyll remained at the head of the administration. After the defeat of Dunbar, Charles retained his support by the promise of a dukedom and the Garter, and an attempt was made by Argyll to marry the king to his daughter. On the 1st of January 1651 he placed the crown on Charles's head at Scone. But his power had now passed to the Hamilton party. He strongly opposed, but was unable to prevent, the expedition into England, and in the subsequent reduction of Scotland, after having held out in Inveraray Castle for nearly a year, was at last surprised in August 1652 and submitted to the Commonwealth. His ruin was then complete. His policy had failed, his power had vanished.

In his estate he was hopelessly in debt, and on terms of such violent hostility with his eldest son as to be obliged to demand a garrison in his house for his protection. During his visit to Monk at Dalkeith in 1654 to complain of this, he was subjected to much personal insult from his creditors, and on visiting London in September 1655 to obtain money due to him from the Scottish parliament, he was arrested for debt, though soon liberated. In Richard Cromwell's parliament of 1659 Argyll sat as member for Aberdeenshire. At the Restoration he presented himself at Whitehall, but was at once arrested by order of Charles and placed in the Tower (1660), being sent to Edinburgh to stand his trial for high treason. He was acquitted of complicity in the death of Charles I, and his escape from the whole charge seemed imminent, but the arrival of a packet of letters written by Argyll to Monk showed conclusively his collaboration with Cromwell's government, particularly in the suppression of Glencairn's royalist rising in 1652. He was immediately sentenced to death, his execution by beheading taking place on the 27th of May 1661, before even the death warrant had been signed by the king. His head was placed on the same spike upon the west end of the Tolbooth on which that of Montrose had previously been exposed, and his body was buried at the Holy Loch, where the head was also deposited in 1664. A monument was erected to his memory in St Giles's church in Edinburgh in 1895.

While imprisoned in the Tower he wrote Instructions to a Son (1661; reprinted in 1689 and 1143). Some of his speeches, including the one delivered on the scaffold, were published and are printed in the Harleian Miscellany. He married Lady Margaret Douglas, daughter of William Dougals, 2nd Earl of Morton, and had two sons and four daughters.

See also the Life and Times of Archibald Marquis of Argyll (1903), by John Willcock, who prints for the first time the six incriminating letters to Monk; Eng. Hist. Review, xviii. 369 and 62 4; Scottish History Society, vol. xvii. (1894); Charles II and Scotland in 1650, ed. by S. R. Gardiner, and vol. xviii. (1895); History of Scotland, by A. Lang, vol. iii. (1904).

Extracted from the entry for EARLS AND DUKES OF ARGYLL in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, the text of which lies within the public domain.