The Autobiography of Anne Halkett

[Nearly two years at Fyvie, Aberdeen, pp. 66 - 72]

[p. 66] Itt would bee too tedious to relate here how I spentt the time I was att Fyvie, which was neere two yeares;1 butt itt was so agreably that in all my life I never was so long together so truly contented; for the noble familly I was in dayly increased my obligation to them, and the Lord was pleased to blese what I gave to the helpe of the sicke and wounded persons came to mee, part of them from Kinrose; and some English soldiers came to try my charity, which I did nott deny to them, though they had itt nott withoutt exhorting them to repentt there sin of rebellion and become loyall.

The variety of distempered persons that came to mee was nott only a devertissmentt, butt a helpe to instruct mee how to submit under my owne croses, by seeing how patient they were under thers, and yett some of them intollerable by wanting a sence of faith, which is the greatest suport under afflictions. There was three most remarkeable of any that came to mee: one, Isbell Stevenson, who had beene three yeare under a discomposed spiritt; the other was a young woman who [p. 67] had beene very beautyfull, and her face became loathsomely deformed with a cancerous humour that had overspread itt, which deprived her of her nose and one of her eyes, and had eaten much of her forhead and cheecks away; the third was a man that had a horne on the left side of the hinder part of his head, betwixt 4 and 5 inches aboutt and two inches long, and his wife told mee shee had cutt the lengh of her finger off (as shee usually did) when two or three days before hee came to mee, because the weight of itt was troublesome. A further accountt of these may bee had hereaffter iff itt bee nesesary.

The misfortune in the King's affaires gave his enemys the greater advantage, and was a discouragementt to the loyall party to see how succesfull Cromwell's army was, who now marched where they pleased, and gave laws to the whole kingdome. The Earle of D. [Charles Seton, the 2nd Earl of Dunfermline] beeing left behind the King (when his Majestie marched into England2) with others of the Councell to order what was fitt to be done in his Majestie's absence, they were soone putt from acting any thing, and was forced to suffer what they could nott preventt. Butt as long as they had any retreat they still retired to bee outt of there enemys hands; and my Lord D. [Dunfermline] came to Fyvie, and when the Army came to Aberdeene [Aberdeen] hee wentt to Muray [Moray] till hee could make some capitulation for himselfe; for when noe resistance could bee made, the next remedy was to make as good conditions as every one could for themselves.3

The Army comming now towards Fyvie, some scattering soldiers came in there who had noe officer butt one they made amongst themselves, and called him Major. When they came into the howse they were very rude, beating all the men came in there way, and frighting the weemen, and threatening to pistoll who ever did nott give what they called for.

My Lady Dunfermeline [Lady Mary Seton, Countess of Dunfermline], beeing then great with child, was much disordered with feare of their insolence, and with tears in her eyes desired mee to goe and speake to them, to see if I could prevaile with them as beeing their country woman, butt (says shee,) I know nott well how to desire itt, because I heare they say they are informed there is an English woman in [p. 68] the howse, and if they get her they will be worse to her then any.

"Madam, (said I,) if my going to them can doe your Las [Ladyship] service, I will take my hazard, and had gone to them before, butt that I thought itt nott fitt for mee in your Las [Ladyship's] howse to take upon mee to say any thing to them till I had your Las [Ladyship's] command for itt."

Then calling my woman I wentt downe where they were, and being instructed which was the major (as they called him), who ordered the rest as hee pleased (and I beleeve gott that authority by humouring them in all they desired), I made my adrese first to him, beleeving if I prevailed with him the rest were soone gained.

As soone as I came amongst them, the first question they asked mee was if I were the English whore that came to meet the King, and all sett their pistolls just against mee. (I had armed myselfe before by seeking assistance from Him who only could protect mee from there fury, and I did so much rely upon itt that I had nott the least feare, tho naturally I am the greatest coward living.) I told them I owned myselfe to bee an English woman and to honor the King, butt for the name they gave mee I abhorred itt; butt my comming to them was nott to dispute for my selfe, butt to tell them I was sorry to heare that any of the English nation, who was generally esteemed the most civill people in the world, should give so much occation to be thought barbarously rude, as they had done since there comming into the howse, where they found none to resist them, but by the contrary whatever they called for, either to themselves or horses, was ordered by my Lady to bee given them.

"What advantage (said I,) can you propose to yourselves to fright a person of honor who is great with child, and few butt chilldren and weemen in the howse? and if by your disorder any misfortune hapen to my Lady, or any belonging to the familly, you may expect to be called to an accountt for itt, because I am very confidentt you have no allowance from your officers to be uncivill to any, and I am sure itt is more your interest to obleege all you can then to disobleege them, for the one will make you loved, the other hated; and judge which will be most for your advantage."

They heard mee with much patience; and att last [p. 69] flinging downe there pistolls upon the table, the major gave mee his promise that neither hee nor any with him should give the least disturbance to the meanest in the familly, only desired meatt and drinke and what was nesesary that they called for; and they did so keepe there word that my L. Dunfermeline [Lady or the pregnant Countess of Dunfermline] was by there staying in the howse secured from many insolencys that were practised in other places.

A litle affter there came to Fyvie three regimentts with there officers, beeing commanded by Coll. Lilburne [Colonel Robert Lilburne], Coll. Fitts [Colonel Thomas Fitch], and Co. Overton [Colonel Robert Overton].4 My Lady D. [Dunfermline] inquired of mee, when shee heard they were comming, if I knew any of those, because shee would desire mee if I did to gett a pass for my Lord D. [Dunfermline] to have liberty to returne home. I said I had only seene Coll. Fitts [Fitch] when I was at N. [Naworth] Castle, butt had never spoken to him, and if hee owned the knowledge of mee I would then indeavour to serve her Las [Ladyship], butt if nott I would speake to those I had never seene rather than him.5

When they all came up to the dining roome, and saluted my Lady D. Dunfermline] and my Lady Anna Arisken [Anna Erskine], when Coll. Fitts [Fitch] came to salute mee, hee lifted up his hands as beeing astonished to see mee there, and came to mee with the greatest joy hee could exprese, and taking mee by the hand said to my Lady Dun. [Dunfermline] "Madam, I must beg liberty to speake with Mrs [Mistress] Murray. and give her accountt of her freends in England."

So hee and I sat downe together att some distance from the rest, and hee gave mee a relation of all that had hapened in N. [Naworth] Castle affter my comming away; some things that I was sory for, even for Mr. N. [Nicholls], who itt seemes had nott followed my advice, butt traducing a person (who came there presently affter I wentt away) who could nott suffer itt as I had done, butt tooke a revenge suitable enough to the fault, though unsuitable to one of his function. And I cannott omitt to remarke that itt was performed in the garden nott farre from the place where hee so confidently denyed a truth, which I hope, beeing punished there, made him reflect upon his sin and made him penitentt for itt; and I have reason nott only to forgive him, butt to thanke him for the injury hee did mee, since the Lord turned itt to my advantage.

[p. 70] When I found Coll. Fitts [Colonel Fitch] thus free and civill, offring mee any service in his power, I told him how much hee would obleige my Lady D. [Dunfermline], who was now neere her time, if hee would give a pass for my Lord [Dunfermline] to returne; which hee promised, and made good when hee came to Elgin [another name for the country of Moray], where my Lord was, for hee wentt to him and prevented his Lors [Lordship] seeking anything by making offer of all hee could desire.

That day the officers wentt away, Coll. [Colonel] Overton sitting by mee at dinner, said to mee that God had wonderfully evidenced his power in the great things hee had done. I replied, noe doupt butt God would evidence his power still in the great things hee designed to doe. I spoke this with more than ordinary earnestnese, which made him say, "You speake my words, butt nott I thinke to my sence."

"When I know your sence, (said I,) then I will tell you whether itt bee mine or noe."

"I speake (said hee,) of the wonderfull workes that God hath done by his servantts in the late times, that are beyond what any could have brought aboutt withoutt the imediate assistance of God, and his derection."

"Sir, (said I,) if you had nott begun this discourse, I had said nothing to you; butt since you have desired my opinion (which hee did) of the times, I shall very freely give itt, upon the condittion that what ever I say you may nott make use of itt to the prejudice of the noble familly I live in, for I can hold my toung, butt I cannott speake any thing contrary to what I thinke. I cannott butt confese you have had great succese in all your undertakings; butt that's noe good rule to justify ill actions. You pretend to great zeale in relligion, and obedience to God's words. If you can shew mee in all the Holy Scriptures a warrant for murdering your lawfull King and banishing his posterity, I will then say all you have done is well, and will bee of your opinion; butt as I am sure that cannott bee done, so I must condemne that horid act, and whatever is done in prosecution of itts vindication."

Hee replied, that those who had writt upon the prophesy of Daniell showed that hee foretold the distraction of monarky many yeares since, and that itt was a tiranicall governmentt, and therfore fitt to be destroyed.

"How comes (said I,) you have taken the power [p. 71] from the Parliament and those succesive interests that have governed since you wanted the King?"

"Because (said hee,) wee found affter a litle time they began to bee as bad as hee, and therfore wee changed."

"And (said I,) so you will ever find reason to change what ever governmentt you try till you come to beg of the King to come home and governe you againe; and this I am as confident of as I am speaking to you."

"If I thought that would bee true, (replied hee,) I would repentt all that I have done."

"Itt will come to that I dare assure you, (said I,) and the greatest hinderance will bee that you thinke your crimes have beene such as is imposible hee should forgive you; butt to incourage you I can assure you that there never was any prince more inclined to pardon, nor more easy to be intreated to forgive."

"Well, (says hee,) if this should come to pass, I will say you are a prophetess."

Here wee broke off, because wee saw the rest of the table take notice of our seriousnes. I found affterwards hee was nott unsattisfied with my discourse, for hee came severall times to see mee when I came to Edb [Edinburgh], and remembred many things I had said to him which I have now forgott.6

When the whole kingdome was now brought under the bondage of the Usurper, and finding noe remedy butt to submitt till the Lord thought fitt to give them deliverance, every one thought now of returning where there interest led them; and my Lord Dunfermeline [Dunfermline] having beene att Fyvie some time, and staid till his lady was delivered of her daughter my Lady Henrietta, and mending againe, his Lors [Lordship] resolved to goe to Edb [Edinburgh] aboutt his affaires, and I thought itt would bee a convenientt time for mee to returne then with his Lords [Lordship]; butt hee having first some occation to goe to Elgin [again another name for Moray], my curiosity to see that country made mee prevaile with my Lady Anne Areskine [Anna Erskine] to go with her unckle, and lett mee waite upon her to Murray [Moray].7

Wee wentt from Fyvie Wednesday the 2nd of June, 1652, and crosed the river Spey [fast flowing river, East Highlands] att the Boge; upon Friday came backe againe to Garmuth [Garmouth], and crosed there the next day, and came home by Fordice to Fyvie. Though I was resolved of my journy to Edenb [Edinburgh], yett I was much troubled how to performe itt, [p. 72] for my mony was neere spentt, and having beene so long a trouble to my Lady D. [Dunfermline] I had nott the confidence to seeke to borrow any for carrying mee South. Many deficultys in the way represented themselves to mee, and what I might meett with att Edb [Edinburgh] and my woman [Miriam? Crew?] was weeping by mee as beeing much discouraged with the inconveniences shee aprehended I might bee exposed to.

I smiled upon her, and bid her have a good hart, for though my presentt condittion seemed very darke and cloudy, yett I was confidentt I should see a sun-shyny day, for though I was now incompased round with misfortunes, yett I was very sure I should bee as hapy as I could desire, though I could nott tell which way itt would come to pase; and for my presentt suplys I would rely upon God, who had never yett left mee in my greatest deficultys, and to his direction I resigned myselfe, beeing confidently asured hee would provide some unexpected meanes to free mee of my presentt trouble; and with that conclusion I wentt to bed with as quiett repose as if I had had nothing to disturbe mee.

The next morning early the midwife (who had come from Dalkeith to my Lady8) came into my chamber with her riding-cloaths on to take her leave of mee, and said shee had a request to mee before shee wentt, which was (hearing that I intended to bee att Edb [Edinburgh] shortly) that I would doe her the favor to take the mony shee had gott from my Lady [Lady Mary Seton, Countess of Dunfermline, in payment for the childbirth] and others att the christening, and bring itt South with mee, because shee durst take noe more with her then her expences by the way because shee aprehended beeing plundered by the soldiers. I told her iff shee thought itt secure with mee, I would doe her that courtesy, and deliver itt where shee would apoint att Edb [Edinburgh].

So I receaved itt from her, and gave her a note of my hand for itt, beeing aboutt ten pound sterling, and shee wentt away very well pleased, butt litle knew how much more reason shee had given mee to be so, for I looked nott on itt only as a presentt advantage, butt as a recompense for the reliance I had upon my most gracious God, and an incouragementt still to do so.

[1 Anne's 1701 biographer states: "The Earle of Dunfermline's Concern in her, was, That her Mother had been educated in his Fathers Family; and she, in duty and gratitude, had made His Lordship welcome to her House, at all times, when He came to Court." We have already seen that the Countess found Anne a trustworthy and respectable, socially acceptable and obedient companion. Anne obtains the Countess's approval before she sees Bampfield ("having aquainted my Lady Dunfermeline [Dunfermline] with his desire, and obtained her Las [Ladyship's] liberty ..." Couper Life p. 65). Anne is pointing out the soldiers came a long way to avail themselves of her skill and knowledge. We can reckons the two years: September 1650-August 1652: she would have been 19 and had not forgotten Bampfield although it had been more than 3 years since she lived with him. They may have corresponded. EM]

[2 We can date this July 31, 1651. There was a long lead-in to Charles's defeat once he reached Worcester on August 22nd; the fighting did not erupt until August 29th. See Antonia Fraser, Royal Charles: Charles II and the Restoration (NY: Knopf, 1979), 103. EM]

[3 Moray is a county north of Aberdeen. Stevenson has the Scots leaders meeting at Aberdeen on September 1, 1651 and attempting to assemble leaders and men to fight at Dunkeld by September 14, 1651, Revolution and Counter Revolution, 208-9. The defeat of Charles's Royalist forces at Worcester was September 3, 1651; after Major General Monck took Dundee on September 15, he penalized looters and "imposed swingeing penalties on the soldiers for robbery, drunkenness, swearing and fornication"; Monck fell ill, and was replaced for a time by Colonel Overton (see directly below) who went on to Aberdeen, and he and his men were there by September 7, 1651. Overton was unable to enforce discipline. Stevenson says at Dundee about 800 Scots were killed, "including some women and children, Revolution and Counter Revolution, 208; Frances Dow, Cromwellian Scotland, 1651-1660. (Edinburgh: Donald, 1979), 15-16.

So, putting all these dates together, the marauding soldiers' arrival and Anne's brave counter stance probably occurred between late August and early September 1651. EM]

[4 "Colonel Robert Lilburne (1613-65) had taken a prominent part in the Second Civil War on the side of the army. He had been one of the signatories of the death warrant of Charles I; for which he was imprisoned from 1661 . . . Colonel Thomas Fitch commanded a regiment of foot in Scotland during the period of Anne Murray's residence at Fyvie . . . Colonel Robert Overton (fl. 1640-68) had commanded a brigade of foot at the battle of Dunbar . . . " (Loftis, Memoirs, 201n.) Dow writes "In late September [1651], the greatest part of the English horse was quartered between Dundee and Aberdeen 'in order to observe the enemies motion.'" Among its goals, the English army aimed to "crush" the "organised military resistance to the English invader . . . led by the royalist nobles, Balcarres and Huntly," and the first new recruits arrived in October or November. See Dow, Cromwellian Scotland, 17. There is a life of Overton by Barbara Taft in the New Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

I suggest Anne's conversation with Overton may be dated mid-, to late September or early October. EM]

[5 Although her experience at Naworth had ended unfortunately, and she is identified as English, nonetheless Anne sees her way to using her time and connections at Naworth Castle for her own and her mistress-friend's advantage, see She goes to live with Anne Howard. EM]

[6 Loftis tells us that Overton was "a friend of Milton," "a scholar, and he was deeply and disinterestedly committed to the cause for which he fought" (Memoirs, 201n). At this point of the story, after paraphrasing and copying out word for word Anne's debate with Overton, Simon Couper inserts a group of quotations from the Bible Anne is said to have been meditating and presents her as a prophetess; see Couper 1701 Life, pp. 24-26. EM]

[7 The phrase "wait upon her" reveals that Anne is functioning as a companion. Such a function helps guarantee her respectability. She also shows an adventurous spirit. She may really have enjoyed the landscape around Fyvie and necessarily retired life (and I've included a modern photo of the grounds around the National Trust castle which thought much changed still represent the geography and geology of the place), but she also finds herself stirred and genuinely curious to go further north. She may have thought she would never return. Garmouth was a signifcant port city in the north until the middle 18th century. Since it must've taken more than 2 days to reach Spey and cross it, or they would have wanted to stay a bit, I suggest the Friday referred to was either June 11th or June 18th, 1652. EM]

[8 Dalkeith is six miles southeast of Edinburgh. So the midwife came from southeast Scotland to help secure a safe childbirth. Now she wants her money to return to her relatives. EM]

A path alongside Fyvie Castle today

Typical Loch Scene, 1929 photograph

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