The military exploits and achievements of James Graham, 1 st Marquis of Montrose, have long since been acknowledged and are now acclaimed across the globe wherever the virtues of honour and nobility are cherished.
Less widely known however is the fact that Montrose was also a poet of considerable ability.
Some 13 or so poems have been attributed to Montrose although, as no contemporary manuscripts of his work have survived, this figure could be considerably more. Whether or not others were lost during the time when his enemies ransacked through his private papers in search of incriminating evidence is not known.
Great leaders have over the years used the words of Montrose to encourage and inspire their followers and even General Montgomery, on the eve of D-Day, roused his troops with the following words:-
‘He either fears his fate too much
Or his deserts are small
That puts it not unto the touch
To win or lose it all'.
These four lines, taken from Montrose's poem ‘My Dear and Only Love' , are perhaps the most often recited of all Montrose's writings and they underline the clearness of vision and the single minded purpose of Montrose as he struggled against overwhelming odds to support the failing cause of his sovereign Charles 1 st .
‘My Dear and Only Love' is a considerable work and the first part alone consists of 228 words in 5 verses. Part 2 contains a further 13 verses making the entire work over 800 words.
This work, which is essentially a love poem to Montrose's wife Magdalen Carnegie, is also generally recognised as being one of the greatest political poems of all time. It was written in two parts and the second part could conceivably have been written much later than the first.
Montrose started this work at a time when his personal life was in turmoil, being torn by his loyalty to his family, his country, his religion and his sovereign. In it he makes an impassioned plea as he struggles to express his love for his wife and also his beloved Scotland which is embroiled in civil war.
He makes a contrast between his model of honourable conquest, Alexander the Great, the Synod, which Montrose despised as a vehicle for collective hypocracy, and the English Republican Commonwealth which he considered a committee-driven abnegation of personal responsibility.
Little of fact is known about Montrose's relationship with Magdalen but what is beyond doubt is that it suffered greatly by the pressures put on it by the political upheaval of the times. Despite these pressures on them both, and to their great credit, no evidence was ever found (despite rigorous searches by Montrose's enemies to locate any) to show that either one of them had ever been unfaithful