The Story behind the Stone – the families, estates and stories of Kirkmichael, Cullicudden, the Black Isle and beyond

Scandalous Sisters –
the three daughters of Dr Alexander Mackenzie of New Tarbat and Cromarty
and his wife Jane Mackenzie of Conansby
– and their Horrible Husbands

text: Dr Jim Mackay    photography as set out below each image

thanks to Henry Reid for drawing my attention to the affair between William Ross of Shandwick and Alexie Mackenzie


Dr Mackenzie was an indulgent father, and from his letters he seems to have had a warm relationship with his three daughters. All three of them married well, but the marriages did not last. With Elizabeth Jane, her elderly first husband died a few years after the marriage, and the lady immediately took up with a ne’er-do-well who was in and out of debtor’s prison repeatedly. With Harriet Ann, her husband proved to be an adulterous wife-beater whom she successfully divorced. With Alexie, whilst her husband divorced her for adultery with his half-brother, he himself was not only an adulterer but also a bigamist. Alexie had children by yet another man, who was killed in a duel over his allegedly raping the duellist’s sister. Two of the three marriages ended in divorce, at a time when divorces were vanishingly rare.

It is a pity that their mother, who died in 1776, did not live to see her daughters settle down, but it was perhaps a blessing that she did not have to experience the scandals that followed. This is the story of the three sisters. It is a companion piece to the story of Dr Alexander Mackenzie which may be read here and to the story of his son John Mackenzie of Bayfield which may be read here.


1. Elizabeth Jane Mackenzie and her two marriages

Elizabeth Jane was the eldest of the three daughters. She married twice, the second time disastrously to somebody who was regarded by all around as an absolute wastrel. Her name of “Elizabeth Jane” combined those of her maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Paterson, daughter of the Bishop of Ross, and her mother Jane Mackenzie of Conansby. She would have been born in the late 1750s but we know little of her early life except that she spent much time in Edinburgh.

Her father mentions her in several of his letters to his friend and “doer” in Edinburgh, David Ross (in between commissioning the secret purchase of lottery tickets). This is one of several to be found within RH15/44:

Tarbat House 1 Nover. 1772
Dear Sir
I am again this year to intreat you will take the trouble to purchase for me and in my Name a fourth share in a Ticket in the present Lottery making apologys for this repetition of trouble, would be but tautology so shall wave it, only to assure you I shall embrace every opportunity of Serveing you or yours to the outmost of my ability, and when you let me know what you have paid for it, I shall remit you an order on a young Damsel of mine now in your Town, who shall have directions to pay you with a Kiss for interest, and as she has a frank for me if you will take the trouble to send your Letter covering the little Chance to her she will forward it, but to no body say a word on the subject. Not as a Gamester for I dislike the Character, but purely to be a small matter in the way of fortune leads me to give you this additionall trouble believe me to be
Dear Sir
Your affectionat hule. Servt.
Alexr Mackenzie
Bett lives with her Aunt Mrs Mackenzie in Pierrys Close Canongate, if you have any inclination to see her, your Call will not be unkind to deliver your Letter.

Pirrie’s Close on the Canongate, Edinburgh

Alexie would have been in and out of that close entrance every day

With the doctor’s distinguished Mackenzie connections, and his wife’s distinguished Earl of Seaforth connections, Elizabeth Jane would have been welcome in the most elite social gatherings. Her father mentions in one letter (7 July 1773) that she had been spending time at Lord Selkirk’s. Dunbar Hamilton Douglas, 4th Earl of Selkirk FRSE (1722–1799) was a Scottish peer. His maternal grandparents were, according to Wikipedia, “Elizabeth (née Paterson) Mackenzie (a daughter of Kenneth Mackenzie of Suddie) and Col. Hon. Alexander Mackenzie (a son of Kenneth Mackenzie, 4th Earl of Seaforth).” Those were in fact also Elizabeth Jane’s maternal grand-parents so you can see that Elizabeth Jane was in fact visiting a relative! Just a few years later, in 1778, Lord Selkirk had a much less welcome visitor in the form of a raid organised by John Paul Jones, who was looking to kidnap him to exchange for American prisoners – this extraordinary story may be read here. The Lord not being at home, it was agreed with his wife that the family silver should be taken instead.

For Elizabeth Jane’s marriage, she returned home to New Tarbat House, where her father occupied and maintained one wing whilst the other was deteriorating following the forfeiture of the New Tarbat Estate due to the role of the Earl of Cromartie in the ’45. Dr Mackenzie was related to the Earl of Cromartie himself.

The Scots Magazine, Volume 40
1778 … Aug… 21. At New Tarbat house, Charles Cameron, Esq, captain in the 76th, to Miss Eliza Jane Mackenzie, eldest daughter to Dr Alexander Mackenzie physician in Ross.

The good Captain was also from a family affected by the ’45. His father, Allan Cameron of Callart, had been banished and his estate annexed by the State for his role in the rebellion. But like so many other sons of prominent Jacobites, here was Charles Cameron fighting for the administration which his father had fought against. There are records of only two children to Elizabeth Jane and Captain Charles:

Parish of Kilmuir Easter Baptisms
Cameron. Charlotte Euphemia Daughter to Captn. Charles Cameron of the 76th Regt. of Foot, & Mrs. Elizabeth Jane Mackenzie his spouse, was born 27th & baptized 29th June 1779.

Edinburgh Baptisms
January 29th 1782.
Capn. Charles Cameron of the 76 Regt. of Foot & Elizabeth Jean Mckinzie his Spouse had a Son born in Maitlands Land Cannongate Parish on the 14th of January Current Baptized by the Revd Mr Fitzsimons of the English Chapel named Alexander Duncan, witnesses to the baptizm Mr William Graham of North St Davids Street & Mr Selkirk Stewart both of St Andrews Square

Note the witness Selkirk Stewart at the latter baptism as he crops up elsewhere in this story. Selkirk Stewart (–1799) was a Lieutenant in the Dutch Service and later became Captain in Breadalbane’s Fencibles. He was cousin to the Earl of Seaforth and late in life held Camelon House near Falkirk – he changed his name to Fergusson on marrying the heiress there. He appears in the testimony relating to the divorce of Alexie Mackenzie, Elizabeth Jane’s young sister. I believe he was the brother of William Mackenzie Stewart … whom Elizabeth Jane would shortly marry.

Camelon House, courtesy of Falkirk Local History Society

Now, the elderly Captain Charles Cameron died at Callart, home of this branch of the Camerons, on 15 June 1784. Traditionally, the disconsolate widow mourned for a year and a day before looking around, but clearly Elizabeth Jane was happy to dispense with the year. I don’t know when she married William Mackenzie Stewart, but they had their first child in Cromarty as soon as 22 June 1785!

Caledonian Mercury 10 July 1784
On Tuesday the 15th of June, died at Callart, Major Charles Cameron, Captain in the late 76th regiment of foot, much and justly regretted; and it is entreated that his, and his disconsolate widow’s numerous friends and relations, will accept of this notification of his death.

Cameron of Callart mausoleum, near Ballachulish, and detail from Unequal Marriage by Vasili Pukirev depicting an old man with a young bride and the unhappy bearded lover, the painter, looking on

Elizabeth Jane and her new husband went on to have their second child in Cromarty as well, and I presume that they were residing with Dr Alexander Mackenzie who had moved to Cromarty by this time, or with Elizabeth Jane’s brother, Captain “Black” John Mackenzie of Bayhead, who had also moved to Cromarty. John had leased Cromarty House, so there would be lots of room to accommodate relatives. Elizabeth Jane’s second child, another daughter, had an unusual set of first names which underlined the Seaforth link by including “Frederick” – a name closely associated with the family, with Seaforth’s own daughter “Margaret Frederica Elizabeth Stewart-Mackenzie” born only four years earlier. The “Alicia” was an acknowledgement of her first husband’s aunt, Alicia Cameron, wife of Brigadier General Duncan Cameron, who I believe took in the two children of the first marriage.

Parish of Cromarty Baptisms
Novr 6th 1785 Jane LD to William McKenzie Stuart and Elizabeth Jane McKenzie in Town
June 22d born & 29 Bap 1787 Anna Alicia Frederick LD to William McKenzie Stuart & Elizabeth Jane McKenzie

Lieutenant Wiliam Mackenzie Stewart (c1757–1820) was a wastrel who would go on to be imprisoned in Debtor’s Gaol on several occasions. But at this time he was riding high, presumably on credit. I see he obtained a game licence in 1786, probably to go shooting with his in-laws; he had been permanently injured in the service but clearly his injury did not prevent him shooting.

Caledonian Mercury 15 Mar 1786
ROSS. Game-Duty.
A List of Certificates, issued in the County aforesaid, with respect to the said duty, between 25th March and 1st of October 1785 … William Mackenzie-Stewart, Esq; of the 100th regiment.

It says “of the 100th regiment” although by this time it had been disbanded and Mackenzie Stewart would have been on half-pay. As he had been injured but could still serve, after a period on half-pay he spent the remainder of his career shuttling around the various army companies made up of injured soldiers like himself. The Garrison Regiments I believe had as a minimum qualification an ability to walk unaided and to fire over a parapet wall.

But initially he was with the 100th Regiment of Foot which from its inception in 1780 was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Frederick Mackenzie Humberston (born Thomas Frederick Mackenzie, and Chief of the Clan Mackenzie), a close relative to William Mackenzie Stewart. It was dispatched to India shortly after being raised, and fought in the Second Anglo-Mysore War. After surrendering at the Siege of Bednore on 28 April 1783, it was interned before returning to Ireland in 1784. It was disbanded in 1785. It is therefore likely that William Mackenzie Stewart suffered his injury during conflict in India.

Depiction of action in the 1783 Siege of Cuddalore, part of the Anglo-Mysore Wars. Attribution: Richard Simkin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

From the London Gazette and various newspapers we see his progress:

The London Gazette 23 June 1781
100th Regiment of Foot … Volunteer William Mackenzie Stuart to be Ensign

The London Gazette 5 Jun 1784
100th Regiment of Foot … Ensign William Mackenzie Stewart to be Lieutenant

Saunders’s News-Letter 23 November 1787
Lieutenant William Mackenzie Stewart, from the half pay of the late 100th regiment, to be Lieutenant in Captain William Stewart’s Independent Company of Invalids at Guernsey

It can be worked out from these appointments, and from the fact that his first child was baptised in Cromarty in November 1785, that Mackenzie Stewart most probably received his injury in early 1784, perhaps during his internment in India, and on return to the UK was placed on half pay. The nature of his injury is never revealed. By now he and Elizabeth Jane had been blessed with two children, baptised at Cromarty in 1785 and 1787. Guernsey was a big step away. It is likely that Elizabeth Jane and the children accompanied William Mackenzie Stewart to the Channel Islands, although there are no records to support this.

It is clear that by this time the Mackenzie family had gotten the measure of William Mackenzie Stewart. When Harriet died out in India in 1789 she wrote in her will: “It is my will, that the above mentioned one thousand Pounds, do at the decease of my Father become the property of my Eldest Sister, Mrs Elizabeth Jane Stuart, & her Children By Lieut. William Stuart, to be settled on her & them entirely & perfectly out of the power of her Husband Lt. Willm. Stuart”. Her position was quite clear! Harriet also provided for her sister Alexie, and set out an arrangement whereby under certain circumstances a “sum of five hundred Pounds, Shall at my Fathers death be left to Mrs. Eliza Jane Steuart & her Children in form & manner as before, out of the power of her Husband Willm. Steuart; but in the event that the one thousand Pounds becomes the property of Mrs. E. J. Stewart, then this five hundred pounds shall be Disposed of as follows. Vizt. I give and Bequeath it to my Niece Charlotte Euphemia Cameron, the interest to assist her Education, & the principal to be paid her on the Day of her marriage, and if she dies unmarried I give it at her Death, to her Brother Evan [sic, actually Duncan] Alexr. Cameron.” Harriet was thus seeking to assist all her sister’s children, but the youngest ones most directly, the two eldest ones being looked after by their aunt and uncle. She was evidently being kept up-to-date with affairs back at home.

Unfortunately, due to a technicality over an unsigned codicil, administration of the will was delayed until 1802. But as the money was to be released on the death of her father, Dr Alexander Mackenzie, who died in 1803, it was then that Harriet’s money would have come to Elizabeth Jane anyway. We shall return to Harriet’s bequests. At the time of her death in distant India, Elizabeth Jane and William Mackenzie would have been in Guernsey, but soon yet another move brought them back to England:

Kentish Gazette 16 July 1790
Invalids.– Wm M'Kenzie Stewart, from Captain William Stewart’s Independent Company of Invalids at Guernsey, to be Lieut. in Captain Lord Lindore’s Independent Company at Chatham Barracks.

But now, time for something completely different: quite unexpectedly a third child to the couple appears, far away from any of the locations associated with the family, in the village of Twyning in Gloucestershire.

Transcript of Parish Register, Twyning, Gloucestershire
Baptism Henrietta William Stewart date 10 November 1791 father William Mackenzie Stewart mother Elizabeth Jane

There can be no doubt about it: this is the same family, albeit popping up completely unexpectdly in Gloucestershire. There are no further records of Henrietta William and sadly I think she must have died before reaching adulthood. She was presumably named after Elizabeth Jane’s sister Harriet and Elizabeth Jane’s husband William, given this last name on the basis that this was their third daughter and it was unlikely that a son would now be born. But what were the couple doing in Gloucestershire, given they were meant to be in Chatham? There is a mystery there, one of those surprising twists that family research throws up, and often opens up a whole new story if you can find the key. But the family next appear, much closer to home, in Fort Augustus!

The London Gazette 25 August 1792
Lieutenant William McKenzie Stewart, of the late Independent Companies of Invalids, to be Fort Adjutant at Fort Augustus, vice William Reide, deceased.

Old Fort Augustus and the Great Glen; image courtesy of Inverness Museum and Art Gallery (High Life Highland)

The role of the adjutant was to assist the commanding officer with unit administration, mostly the management of human resources. Mackenzie Stewart was later to squander the pay he received for performing this role. Fort Augustus would have seemed very isolated to Elizabeth Jane, who had spent much of her earlier life in Edinburgh. The town, then just a village with barracks, lies half-way down the Great Glen between Inverness and Fort William, at the head of Loch Ness. Curiously, she and her children were still resident there whilst her husband was back in Guernsey. I am not clear why he was on duty there whilst still Adjutant at Fort Augustus. But it was during this period that the first record of her husband’s delinquency appeared. Elizabeth Jane wrote to her cousin, Lord Seaforth, in despair. The description of the letters within the Seaforth papers in the NRS says it all:

GD46/15/1 items 15/1–2.
1794 July 6. Fort Augustus. E J Stewart to F H Mckenzie, her cousin. Asks him to write to her husband, pointing out to him the distress of his wife and three infants and to intreat him to order her part of his pay to support them; he is doing duty at Alderney and has never sent her a shilling; sends a few lines to be forwarded to him.

How difficult it must have been for Elizabeth Jane to write that letter to Seaforth! Note that Elizabeth Jane refers to her “three infants”. I don’t believe she was including Charlotte Euphemia (born 1779) and Alexander Duncan (born 1782) from her first marriage, as they were with their aunt and uncle. She was instead referring to Jane, Ann Frederick and Harriet William, her children to Mackenzie Stewart. Hopefully a letter from Seaforth was forthcoming, and her wastrel husband was shamed into providing for her and the children. By 1797 Mackenzie Stewart, back in the North, was now in even deeper trouble. He had been imprisoned in the Tolbooth in Inverness for debt. We learn of this from a series of impassioned letters from Elizabeth Jane to Seaforth (“F: H: Mackenzie Esqr of Seaforth” – Francis Humberstone Mackenzie (1754–1815)) via his secretary. She had come up from Fort Augustus and was accommodated in the Ettles Hotel, just opposite the Tolbooth. The second of her letters reads:

Inverness Augt 26th 1797
My Dear Sir
I trust you will Pardon me again troubling you so soon, as I wrote you jointly with Mr Stewart last Monday and I rather am fearfull it has not been put in to the [the Earl] from this Lodgings, for I think your heart &c leads you to pick my anxious distress to have my Hushand from here. [she repeats her plea to have thirteen pounds forwarded to her to enable her husband to be released from prison] address it to the Care of Mr. John Ettles …
My Dr. Sir / Your gratefully affct. / Cousin & Hul.
E: J: Stewart
P.S. Mr Stewart is in very ill health owing to his confinement & thinks what wd. become of me & my poor three Children if he is totally broken in health or lose his life – 3 o’clock I am in such a state of anxiety that I am hardly able to bear it…

the rear of the Ettles Hotel, within which Elizabeth Jane Mackenzie stayed whilst trying to get her husband out of the Tolbooth, the Tower of which stands just behind

steps and doorway of the ancient Ettles Hotel, demolished in 1962

the Recruitment Centre, sporting the Blue Plaque to show where a heritage gem once stood

Above are images of the Ettles Hotel, within which Elizabeth Jane was residing whilst her husband was just across the street – in the Tolbooth, the tower of which can be seen behind the hotel. The Ettles Hotel was on the south side of Bridge Street and was foolishly pulled down in 1962. It had a celebrity visitor ten years before Elizabeth Jane – in 1787, poet Robert Burns stayed there on a tour of Scotland. What an addition to the heritage interests of Inverness it would have made if it had been retained! Nowadays a blue plaque on the Services Recruitment Centre commemorates what might have been.

Seaforth had meantime despatched writer Murdo Downie from Dingwall to investigate the situation. Downie wrote to Seaforth’s agent on 19 September.

In consequence of your letter, I immediately went to Invs. to wait of Lieut. Stewart (but not before he had dispatched a second letter to Seaforth) and made every enquiry into his situation with his Creditors – He is imprisoned by a Major Bull for a debt of about £60 arrears of an annuity for which he granted a Bond to Bull in discharge of a Debt of Honour– [i.e. a gambling debt]– Mr Stewart some time ago employed A. McDonell writer in Invs. to correspond with his Creditors and offer them to give up his Pay of Adjutant to a trustee for their behoof untill they shd. be paid – Nothing has been done to bring this compromise to a hearing – Mr & Mrs Stewart say that Major Bull is willing to accept of the above proposal and to liberate Mr Stewart upon penalty paid 15 Gs. to acccount of the expence incurred in Diligence &c. Mr Stewart has (I suppose since his incarceration) incurred some other debts necessary for him to be discharged immediately, to the amount of about £20. These sums they have been endeavouring to make up and have collected upwards of £20.
… Seaforth however can judge for himself and whatever directions he or you send to me, I shall punctually execute … Murdo Downie

It was a shocking state of affairs: imprisoned in the Tolbooth in Inverness due to a gambling debt, and giving up some of his service pay to repay that debt, service pay that should have been going to maintain his family. The Tolbooth at this time was relatively new, the previous one having been demolished about 1790, and the new one erected in 1791 at the corner of Church Street and High Street. It had cost £3400, of which £1600 was for the 130-foot high steeple which can still be seen in the centre of the Inverness, although the other buildings were removed in 1854. It houses several bronze bells.

the Tower of the Tolbooth from across the street; photo by Davine Sutherland

photo by Davine Sutherland

The writer, Murdo Downie (1768–1818), was shortly to be involved in a scandal himself as his deceased wife’s sister gave birth in 1799 to a child thought to be his. He was implicated indirectly in the subsequent death of the child, and sentenced to a period of jail in the very Tolbooth in Inverness within which William Mackenzie Stewart had been imprisoned ( In 1802 he left the country, departing for Guyana as a land surveyor.

By now Elizabeth Jane had returned to Fort Augustus. She had received a letter from Seaforth’s agent, presumably telling her the situation was being investigated, but it had not included any money to get her husband out of prison (probably the best place for him). She wrote an unwise letter to the agent:

Fort Augustus Septr 19th 1797
I recd. yours of 13th cutt. and am very much hurt & disappointed at not receiving the trifle I beg’d from Seaforth, as on the faith of trust to assist me to get my Husband Liberated I borowed money at Inverness, I am much obliged to Seaforth’s providing friendly expressions, but he little knows my Present difficulties or he wd. not have hesitated to afford me that little assistance for my present necessities; as to the deed of conveyance of Mr Stewarts adjts. pay, Mr McDonell is now extending it & the Creditors are agreeable to it; if Seaforth wishes to be inform’d of this and he shall of Mr. Stewarts Proceedings … can you sir fully inform him at same time I will be much obliged to you to mention to Seaforth my present distress, on acct. of the money I was obliged to borrow, & that I will trust he will have the goodness to transmit me a little cash to help to liquidate it, and I am sure if he desires or wishes it I will most Cheerfully refund him in Parts even if he shd advance me twenty Pounds; may I beg Sir … to represent this to Seaforth immediately, for my state of mind is really distressing and I promised (& thought would be able) to repay the money by yesterday, so what I am to do God knows; the favor of a few lines from you soon will much oblige me, I am
Your much obliged and / obedt. Hul. Servt.
E. J. Stewart
Mr Stewarts spirits and health is very much affected & my distress adds too heavily to his.

William Mackenzie Stewart’s own legal agent wrote to Murdo Downie from Inverness on 20 September to confirm that Stewart had been freed from prison.

I wrote you some time ago anent Lieut. Mackenzie Stewart– Since then he has been liberate on becoming bound to pay £15.15 to indemnify the Creditor Incarcerator of the Expense of Imprisoned, and to convey the Adjutancys Pay to a Trustee for his Creditors – I have Scrolled and sent him the proposed Conveyance, and by this Days Post I had a line from him saying that when a friend of his revised it, it would be sent me for Extending – I can entertain no doubt of the Creditors acceding not only on account of the reasonableness of the thing, but also that they know he might defeat them altogether – His Commission I suspect is not a Saleable one, and you know that Half pay Officers have been found entitled to the Cessie so that the Credrs know that if that method was to be resorted to, [what they could get] would altogether depend on the Humour of the Court, and his Services and sufferings properly pointed out would have no small influence – As things are in so favorable a train I trust that whatever Seaforth is disponed to bestow will be ordered without much delay – I am / Sir / your most ob serv / Alex Macdonell

Why did Elizabeth Jane seek assistance from the Earl of Seaforth, albeit her and her husband’s cousin, rather than from her father or brother? They were both still alive and in the area. Perhaps there had been similar incidents which her nearest relatives had already dealt with. On this occasion, Seaforth himself seems to have been antagonised. It appears that Mackenzie Stewart had written to him to draw a line under the incident, and Seaforth had written sharply back to him on 20 November, upbraiding Mackenzie Stewart for gambling irresponsibly and Elizabeth Jane for borrowing on the strength of his name. They responded to defend themselves in another joint letter, but their defence rings hollow…

Fort Augustus 26th Novr. 1797
My Lord,
I am exceeding sorry to be obliged again to trouble you, but the articles Laid to my Charge in yours of the 20th inst give me much surprise and concern, and I cannot be satisfied untill I beg of you to let me know your informers as I can say with safety they are Scoundrels & Lyers, as all the Statements of my Debts thank God will Shew, to any friend who might take the trouble to investigate them, if ever I could be called a Gambler it has not been since I married for I would readily take the Sacrament I have never Play’d but in private familys to make up a Party and never have in all that time lost or won to the amount of three pounds With regard to your man of business misrepresenting the state of my affairs to you, I am sorry for in the first place he did not see my man of Business the day he called on me at Inverness my affairs will show that there is no such debts as [claimed] existing and as to the amount I never denyed you will I hope pardon my being so plain, but when my enemys take the liberty to prepossess my friends against me, & cut throat behind my back, I think in justice to my character as a Gentleman I can do no less than state the truth to your Lordship who professess a kindness for me and mine / I have the honor to be / Your Lordships / oblig’d hum’l servt
W. Mackenzie Stewart
[on same paper] My Lord,
I trust you will forgive my presuming to add a few lines to my Husband’s letter, to exculpate myself of a charge against me in your favor of ye 20th Inst. In regard to my Pledging your Lordship for paying the money I borrowed at Inverness, you must have misunderstood what Mr Stewart wrote on that head, as I never did or never could make myself appear so Crass as to Pledge any person falsely; no my Lord the matter stands candidly thus, When Mr Downie Called … I told him in my Presence that merely two or three Pounds wd get him Liberated, and that if Seaforth wd. be so good as advance thirteen I meaning me could immediately get [she gets tangled in a knot of explanation]
E: J: Stewart

I do not know how Mackenzie Stewart had secured the adjutancy role at Fort Augustus (perhaps Seaforth had a hand in it), but his underlying role was still formally with the Company of Invalids in Guernsey. But in 1797 he was transferred to a Scottish Company of Invalids:

The London Gazette 26 Dec 1797
Lieutenant William Mackenzie Stewart, from the Invalids at Alderney, to be Lieutenant in Colonel Abercrombie’s Independent Company of Invalids in North Britain…

His financial position must have been dire as he had met the debt to Major Bull by giving away his adjutancy pay, although clearly embarrassing his Seaforth relations into contributing some finance as well. However, he was fortunate the following year in securing a transfer to the Royal Garrison Battalion where an addional responsibility must have provided more cash. The Royal Garrison Battalion, of course, was again a group for disabled but functional soldiers. Amazingly, for a time he was made quartermaster, in charge of stores, not perhaps the best position for someone with serious money issues. But it meant another return to the Channel Islands, this time to Jersey. There was a complex inter-change of roles to facilitate the change-over.

The London Gazette 20 March 1798
Royal Garrison Battalion.
Lieutenant William Mackenzie Stewart, from the Invalids, to be Lieutenant, vice Elrington, who exchanges.
Lieutenant William Mackenzie Stewart to be Quarter-Master, vice Elrington.
Lieutenant William Elrington, of the Invalids, to be Fort Adjutant of Fort Augustus, vice Stewart, appointed to the Royal Garrison Battalion.

image of Badge of First Royal Garrison Battalion, 1803

The Royal Garrison Battalion was stationed at this time and for the next few years in Jersey. In 1802 it was disbanded and officers retired on their full pay. But Mackenzie Stewart was already back in debtor’s prison. From the records of King’s Bench Prison, Surrey, William Mackenzie Stewart was first imprisoned there on 22 July 1802 but I see him committed again in 1804:

The London Gazette [From 7 August to 11 August 1804]
Prisoners in the KING’s BENCH Prison in the County of Surrey. First Notice.
… William Mackenzie Stewart, formerly of the Island of Jersey, and late of Riegate, in the County of Surrey, Esquire.

The King’s Bench prison had a reputation for being dirty, overcrowded and prone to outbreaks of typhus. Debtors had to provide their own bedding, food and drink.

image of King’s Bench Prison, published 1809. Attribution: Thomas Rowlandson (1756–1827) and Augustus Charles Pugin (1762–1832) (after) John Bluck (fl. 1791–1819), Joseph Constantine Stadler (fl. 1780–1812), Thomas Sutherland (1785–1838), J. Hill, and Harraden (aquatint engravers), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Elizabeth Jane’s son from her first marriage, Alexander Duncan Cameron, had by now risen very quickly to the rank of Captain in the 95th Rifle Regiment. He must have been a very able officer. I think his career may have been aided, though, by his being raised by his uncle, Brigadier General Duncan Cameron. Tragically, he died still a young man of 22 years at his barracks at Shorncliffe in that same year of 1804 as William Mackenzie Stewart was re-committed to debtor’s prison. Alexander had been very popular with his men, who erected a memorial for him at Cheriton Church at Folkestone. Before dying, he wrote a will (PROB-11-1410-293) giving his mother, Elizabeth Jane, an annuity but strictly only if she didn’t cohabit with Stewart Mackenzie of whom he clearly did not approve!

This is the Last Will and Testament of me Alexander Duncan Cameron Captain of His Majesty’s 95th Regiment of Infantry in the first place I order and direct my Executors hereinafter mentioned to pay all my just debts with my funeral expences as soon after my decease as conveniently may be. I give unto William Anderson Esquire of Guilford Street London and to Alexander Fraser Esquire Lincolns Inn New Square … the annuity or clear yearly sum arising from money in the funds or other property left by will to me by my late uncle Brigadier General Duncan Cameron upon trust to be by them and the survivor of them paid to Mrs E J Stewart my Mother for and during all the years days and terms of her natural life and to be paid unto her own hands and upon her own receipt notwithstanding her coverture without being in any respect subject to or liable for the debts controul and engagements of her present or of any future husband and on the express condition that she does not live or cohabit with her said present husband William McKenzie Stewart the said annuity is to commence on the day subsequent to the day of the decease of Mrs Alicia Cameron widow of my late uncle Brigadier General Cameron

The money had come from his uncle “Duncan Cameron Esquire Colonel in his Majesties Service and Brigadier General of his Majesties forces in the West Indies” who in his own will (PROB-11-1322-50) written in 1797 and proved in 1799 had left a sizeable sum for Charlotte Euphemia (payable after his wife Alicia had died) and made Alexander Duncan his residuary legatee. Charlotte Euphemia died (in 1803) before Alicia so did not benefit from her bequest (although she in turn willed it to her husband, Captain Charles Cameron). And similarly Alexander Duncan did not live long enough to benefit fully from the bequests, but you can see how he tried to put in place measures to ensure financial independence for his mother. I think Elizabeth Jane would have died before the annuity was released, as Alicia survived until 1812. In Alicia’s will, written in 1810, she wrote: “and the picture of Capt. Alexander Duncan Cameron I leave unto his Cousin Helen Cameron now residing with me” and I think she would have left the picture to his mother rather than his cousin if she had still been alive. Having said that, perhaps she took a rather dim view of Elizabeth Jane! But it is likely that Elizabeth Jane, while clearly alive in 1804 when last mentioned in her son’s will, had died by 1810.

Note from Alexander Duncan’s short will that one of his executors was William Anderson, one of the Andersons of Udol, continuing the connection begun with the marriage of his grandfather, Captain John Mackenzie of Bayfield with Justina Anderson of Udol.

While we do not know when Elizabeth Jane died, we know that William Mackenzie Stewart survived through to 1820. We pick up on him in late 1819, when there was a final obligatory move for him as the Army re-structured:

The London Gazette 4 December 1819
4th Royal Veteran Battalion. … To be Lieutenants. … Lieutenant William Mackenzie Stuart, from the late Royal Garrison Battalion. Dated 1st November 1819.

He died the following year and his daughter Ann Frederick applied for letters of administration of his estate and effects, but we shall return to Ann. He is buried in St Botolph’s within the City of London. The burial record states he was aged 63 which indicates a birth year of approximately 1757.

Burials St Botolph Without Aldgate, City of London 1820
William Mackenzie Stuart King Street [buried, June] 25 [age] 63


The Children of Elizabeth Jane Mackenzie

I am aware of two children from the first marriage of Elizabeth Jane Mackenzie, with Captain Charles Cameron, and three from her second marriage, with Lieutenant William Mackenzie Stewart.

The Children of Elizabeth Jane: 1. Charlotte Euphemia (1779–1803) married Lieutenant, later Lieutenant Colonel, Charles Cameron (1777–1827) in 1800 in Kent.

Kentish Chronicle 10 October 1800
On the 1st. inst. was married, at Rochester, Lieutenant Charles Cameron, of his Majesty’s 3d regiment of foot, or Buffs, to Miss C.E. Cameron, niece of the late Major-General Cameron.

The Register entry provides slightly more information, including a slight difference in date of the marriage, and confirmation that Charlotte Euphemia was residing in the Parish of Rochester, Kent. Now, her Aunt, Alicia Cameron, widow of Brigadier General Duncan Cameron, resided in Rochester, so I believe it likely that soon after the marriage of Elizabeth Jane to William Mackenzie Stewart, the two children of her first marriage were taken in by their aunt and uncle, who had no surviving children of their own. Upon the death of their uncle in 1798, he left the two children, young adults by that time, sizeable bequests.

Parish of Rochester Marriages
Charles Cameron, a Bachelor of the Parish of Chatham & Charlotte Euphemia Cameron, Spinster, of this Parish were Married in this Church by Licence this Second Day of October in the Year One Thousand eight Hundred By me W.B. Harrison, Officg. Minr.
This Marriage was solemnized between Us Cha. Cameron Charlotte Euphemia Cameron In the Presence of Charlotte Harrison M. T?. Berry

The minister was not the usual one for the church and is likely to have been a friend of one of the families. He was the Reverend William Bagshaw Harrison, and his wife Charlotte Harrison ms Tonkin signed as one of the witnesses, but I have been unable to discover the connection.

Poor Charlotte Euphemia died just three years later. Her uncle had left her a considerable sum of money, to come to her following the death of her aunt Alicia. As I have mentioned, she died before her aunt but, by her will, she passed it on to her husband, whose image can be seen below. There is no record of any children. Her husband went on to become a Lieutenant Colonel and married twice more, before dying of cholera in India. Children of those later marriages proved important to the development of Australia, but that is another story.

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Cameron of the Buffs wearing the General Service Medal with Peninsular clasps: Battle of the Crossing of the Douro on 12th May 1809 in the Peninsular War; courtesy of

The Tomb of Charles Cameron, Dutch Cemetery in Chinsurah. Attribution: Arup1981, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

The Children of Elizabeth Jane: 2. Alexander Duncan Cameron (1782–1804)

Alexander Duncan’s life has already been summarised above, but I shall include here a couple of pieces from the press of the time to show how respected he was as an officer and a gentleman, despite being only 22 years old at the time of his death.

The Sun 16 April 1804
On the 9th inst. at Shorncliff Barracks, in the 22d year of his age, Captain Alexander Duncan Cameron, of the 95th (Rifle) Regiment. The interment took place on Thursday with military honours, and was attended by his Regiment, by Major-General Moore, Brigadier-General Manningham, and all the Officers of the Brigade – thus paying a melancholy tribute of respect to the memory of a brother Officer, “who (to quote Major-Gen. Moore’s orders upon the occasion) “from the worth of his character, his honourable and upright conduct, was in every respect entitled to it.”

The Kentish Gazette 2 November 1804
The Officers of the 95th (Rifle Regiment) have, much to the honour of that respectable corps, caused to be erected, in the parish church of Cheriton, a Monument to the memory of Captain A.D. Cameron, a brother Officer of the same regiment. The design (by Spratt and Jones, of this city) is a statuary tablet, representing an Egyptian sarcophagus, surmounted by a crown and bugle (the insignia of the corps), on a dove-coloured marble ground – the inscription on which is as follows, and will, moreover, best describe the character of the deceased:–
Near this place are interred the remains of / Alexander Duncan Cameron, Captain in H.M. 95th, or / Rifle Regt. / Son of Captain Charles Cameron, of Callart Lochaber, N.B. / Who died at Shorncliff on the 8th day of April 1804, / aged 22 years. / As a tribute of respect / To his many amiable qualities, / To commemorate the sense of his worth, / As a gentleman and a soldier, / This stone has been erected / By his brother officers.

Cheriton Church. Attribution: The copyright on this image is owned by John Salmon and is licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

The Children of Elizabeth Jane: 3. Jane Mackenzie Stewart (1785–) I know little of. Her Aunt Harriet provided for her and her siblings in her will, written in 1789, but also makes a specific bequest: “I give to my Niece Jane Stewart my pearl Bracelets eight rows of pearls in each, with Gold sliders fixed to them, and a set of Pearl ornaments for the hair, in the same box.” She was alive in 1804 as that year her half-brother Captain Alexander Duncan Cameron wrote in his will “I order that after the decease of my mother Mrs EJ Stewart the whole of the said property of whatever kind is to go or be paid to my cousin John Cameron Esquire Major in His Majesty’s 43d Regiment of Infantry upon condition that he pay an annuity to my half sisters Jane and Anne Stewart.” But I have been unable to track her thereafter.

The Children of Elizabeth Jane: 4. Ann Alicia Frederick Mackenzie Stewart (1787–1857) had an unusual life of it. I know nothing of her early days – did she reside with her father, or mother, or both of them if they stayed together? But I do know that she married an unusual character called John Henry Smyth in 1806, the officiating minister being none other than the husband of her cousin Williamina, the Honourable and Reverend Richard Fitzgerald King. It is one of the few links I have seen between the children of the Three Sisters.

Parish of St Clement’s, Hastings, Sussex 1806
John Smyth Widower of this Parish & Anne Frederic Stuart of this same parish Spinster Married in this Church by banns this 21st Day of August in the Year One Thousand eight Hundred and six By me Richard King M.A. This Marriage was solemnized between us [signatures] John Smyth Ann Frederick Stuart In the Presence of Emma Ainslie John Jenas[?] Jas[per] Cox

As I say, John Henry Smyth was an unusual character. First, the usual side of his life. From his wife’s death certificate, he was at some point “a Captain in the Royal Artillery”. He is difficult to track as he was usually called John Smith, only occasionally deploying the “Henry” and the “Smyth” instead of “Smith”. I think perhaps he transferred from the military to the staff side of the Ordnance Office (under which the Royal Artillery sat) as there is a John Smith who progresses thus:

Ordnance-Office, June 5, 1801. Royal Regiment of Artillery. … Second Lieutenant John Smith to be First Lieutenant. Dated as above.
Ordnance-Office, 12 September 1801. Corps of Gunner Drivers. [September 1]To be Lieutenant-Commissaries … John Smith. Dated as above.
Ordnance-Office, September 22, 1808. Corps of Royal Artillery Drivers. First Lieutenant Commissary John Smith to be Captain Commissary. Dated September 1, 1808.

Given the popularity of the name John Smith, I would not swear the above is the correct man! However, we know he definitely became assistant-commissary at the Ordnance Department at Woolwich from at least 1807. The family resided at Woolwich, in Rectory Place, for the first 10 years of their marriage.

But here’s the unusual element. When not officially deployed he had a completely different enterprise – he rented theatres across the country! He held theatres at Windsor, Croydon and Northampton. How on earth did he get started in this business?

I have been unable to find contemporary images of Windsor, Croydon or Northampton theatres, but here are images of Covent Garden (above) and Drury Lane (right) from an 1808 publication.

Drury Lane 1808. Smyth leased three such theatres!

I see the couple had at least four children:

Ann Elizabeth Jane Smyth (St Mary Magdalene, Parish of Woolwich, 1807, when they were residing at Rectory Place),
John Thomas MacKinzie Smyth (St Mary Magdalene, Parish of Woolwich, 1816; they were still residing at Rectory Place),
Charlotte Emily Janette MacKenzie Smyth (St Mary Magdalene, Parish of Woolwich, 1819, by which time they were residing at Shooter’s Hill) and
Julia Stuart Smyth (All Saints Northampton, 1823; they were residing in Sheep Street, Northampton).

Tracing children born to a father named John Smyth would usually be well-nigh impossible, but with a mother named Ann Frederick Smyth research gets a little easier.

In 1820, Ann Frederick’s father died. It was actually through his administration in 1821 that I first traced Ann Frederick.

DL/C/479/032/1 Form No. 2. For Administrators, when there is no Leasehold Property.
In the Goods of William McKenzie Stuart deceased In the Consistory Court of London Appeared personally Ann Smyth (wife of John Smyth) of Shooters Hill in the County of Kent the Party applying for Letters of Administration of the Estate and Effects of the said William McKenzie Stuart late of Tower Hill in the County of Middlesex and a Lieutenant in HM 4th Veteran Battalion, deceased, and made Oath, that the Estate and Effects of the said Deceased, for or in respect of which said Letters of Administration are to be granted, exclusive of what the said Deceased may have been possessed of or entitled to as a Trustee for any other Person or Persons, and not beneficially, and without deducting any Thing on Account of the Debts due and owing from the said Deceased, are under the Value of forty Pounds, to the best of this Deponent’s Knowledge, Information, and Belief. And she lastly made Oath, that the said Deceased was not possessed of or entitled to any Leasehold Estate or Estates for Years, either Absolute or determinable on Lives, to the best of this Deponent’s Knowledge, Information, and Belief.
Ann Smyth

Given William Mackenzie Stewart’s history of debts it is surprising that he died possessed of enough of an estate to justify Ann Frederick applying to administer it. But I think that John Smyth was in a difficult financial position himself by now. Either the theatre business was not doing well or they were living a lifestyle unsupported by their earnings, for a few years later we see:

The Law Chronicle, Commercial and Bankruptcy Register 22 January 1824
SMYTH John Henry, of Shooter’s-hill, of Kent-road, of Waterloo place, Lambeth, of Windsor, of Northampton, last of Croydon, assistant commissary in the Ordnance, and renter of the Theatres of Windsor, Croydon, and Northampton

Just like her father back in the early 1800s, her husband was now confined to Debtor’s Prison, in this case the notorious Fleet Prison, just off what is now Farringdon Street in London. It was privately-run, and so the incarcerated had to pay rent, challenging considering they were in prison because of their debts. A prisoner’s family could reside with him, but I suspect that Ann Frederick would not have chosen this option. John Henry Smyth must have become seriously ill within Fleet Prison, not an uncommon occurrence, and he was released only to die a few months later.

Fleet Prison

There is some story behind his release, as the person initially assigned to recover money from his estate and effects was replaced with another by a Court order. The story can be pieced together from two separate announcements:

The Law Chronicle, Commercial and Bankruptcy Register 20 May 1824
Smyth John Henry, of Croydon, Surrey, assistant-commissary in the ordnance-department, and renter of the theatres of Windsor, Croydon, and Northampton, now decd.; – meet 1st June, two, office of Mr. Smyth, solicitor, 12, Furnival’s inn, Holborn, as to selling the leasehold premises at Shooter’s-hill.

The London Gazette Friday August 4 1826
The Creditors of John Henry Smyth, otherwise called John Henry Smith, formerly of Shooter’s-Hill, in the County of Kent, afterwards of the Kent-Road, afterwards of Waterloo-Place, Lambeth, both in Surrey, afterwards of Windsor, in Berkshire, afterwards of the Town of Northampton, and late of Croydon, in Surrey, Gentleman, and Assistant-Commissary in the Ordnance, formerly Renter of the Theatres of Windsor, Croydon, and Northampton, an Insolvent Debtor, who was discharged from the Fleet Prison the 10th day of February 1824, are requested to meet at the Office of Messrs. Nokes and Colquhoun, Solicitors, Rectory Place, Woolwich, in the County of Kent, on Tuesday the 15th day of August instant, at the hour of Twelve o’Clock at Noon, in order to nominate and choose an Assignee or Assignees of the said Insolvent’s estate and effects, in the place and stead of William John Carpenter, the late Assignee, who has been removed from his office by Order of the Court for the Relief of Insolvent Debtors.

With that information, his burial record was easily located:

Burials in the Parish of St. George, Hanover Square, in March 1824
John Henry Smyth Queen Street 31st March 45y

Some calculation indicates that John Henry Smyth was born about 1779, eight years before Ann Frederick. What happened to Ann Frederick and their children? I have been unable to trace the children, but she became a teacher to meet her bills. It would appear that she too became entrapped by debt.

The London Gazette 7 July 1826
Smyth, Ann Frederick, (sued and committed as Ann Smith), first of Robert-Street, King’s-Road, Chelsea, Schoolmistress, and afterwards of Five-Fields, Chelsea, both in Middlesex, Widow.

She can be picked up in the 1841 and 1851 Census returns, residing alone in this period.

1841 Albany Street, Borough of Marylebone, Parish of St Pancras
Ann Smyth 53 Ind[ependent means] S[cotland]
[with other tenants]

1851 9 Gt Ormond St. Finsbury Parish of St George the Martyr
Ann Smythe lodger widow 63 Scotland [no occupation given]
[with a family and other lodgers]

She died in 1857, at Southampton Row, Bloomsbury, in the parish of St Giles, London, and the relevant details on her death certificate are:

Third February 1857 at 15 Southampton Row Ann Frederic Smyth [age] 67 years widow of John Henry Smith a Captain in the Royal Artillery [informant] Ellen Bilboe present at the death 15 Southampton Row Bloomsbury

I would love to learn more about the life of Ann Frederick Mackenzie Stewart and the intriguing John Henry Smyth so let me know if you have any further information!

The Children of Elizabeth Jane: 5. Henrietta William (1791–) was born in Gloucestershire and I think was alive when the family were resident in Fort Augustus. But I do not believe Henrietta William survived to adulthood as she is not mentioned when her two sisters are in the 1804 will of her half-brother Captain Alexander Duncan Cameron “I order that after the decease of my mother Mrs EJ Stewart the whole of the said property of whatever kind is to go or be paid to my cousin John Cameron Esquire Major in His Majesty’s 43d Regiment of Infantry upon condition that he pay an annuity to my half sisters Jane and Anne Stewart.”


2. Harriet Ann Mackenzie (–1789) and her disastrous marriage to Captain Robert Mackenzie

We know nothing of Harriet Ann’s early life, except that her nurse was named Isobell Mill, as mentioned in her will where she requests her father “to continue to pay the sum of two pounds Sterling annually to my Nurse Isobell Mill as long as she survives me”. The first time we see her in the records is in 1780, upon her marriage.

The Scots Magazine May 1780
1780 … May 1. At Edinburgh, Capt. Robert Mackenzie, in the East-India company’s service, to Miss Harriot Anne Mackenzie, second daughter of Dr. Mackenzie, physician, at Ross.

Whilst Harriet Ann was the second of the three daughters, she was the last to marry. Surely her marriage would be a stable one? If only … She married Captain Robert Mackenzie in 1780. He was a close relative of the Earl of Cromartie and a thoroughly bad egg. He proved to be an adulterer and wife beater. This is his memorial in Kilmuir Easter.

the Robert Mackenzie memorial in Kilmuir Easter complete with spelling mistake; photo by Jim Mackay

Captain Robert was a relative of the Earl of Cromartie and resided at Milnmount close to Tarbat House; Dr Mackenzie himself had been in Milnmount for a period several decades earlier. According to the Complete Baronetage (1909) Captain Robert Mackenzie “m. firstly, Margaret, sister of John Mackenzie, of Bayfield. She, from whom he was separated, d. s.p. 1787.” The Baronetage had the name of the sister confused here, and managed to get her year of death wrong as well!

The adultery and violence apparently commenced before they left for India, and the Major’s behaviour did not improve when they arrived. Harriet left him, and sued for divorce before the Supreme Court of Judicature in Calcutta.

contemporary image of the Supreme Court of Judicature (on the right) in Calcutta

The case was summarised by the press in India at the time:

Calcutta Gazette 30 June 1785
On Monday last came on to be tried in the Supreme Court, a cause in which Mrs. Harriet Ann Mackenzie was complainant, and Major Robert Mackenzie, her husband, was defendant. The object of the suit on the part of the Lady was to obtain a divorce a mensa et thoro on the grounds of adultery and mal-treatment. This was opposed by Major Mackenzie, alledging that the circumstances of the mal-treatment charged were highly exaggerated, tho, he confessed the adultery; but at any rate, he contended that the Lady could not now be permitted to avail herself of these charges in consequence of their cohabitation after a full knowledge of all of them. Many witnesses had been examined on both sides, whose evidence was read upon the trial, from which it appeared, that the mal-treatment complained of had commenced in Scotland, since which there had been a cohabitation of two or three years; and that the acts of adultery charged to have happened at Bombay were in the knowledge of Mrs. Mackenzie previous to her arrival with her husband at Calcutta. There was, however, one recent instance of cruelty proved against Major Mackenzie towards his wife on board a budgerow at Chaumpaul Gaut in November 1784, by giving her a blow on the head with his hand, which obliged her to have the aid of a surgeon for her recovery, and it also appeared that the acts of adultery charged were renewed in Bengal without their being in the knowledge of Mrs. Mackenzie, who then lived with her husband. To obviate the effect of these circumstances, it was contended on the part of Major Mackenzie, that his wife afterwards voluntarily consented, and did accordingly accompany him to the station of his duty at Cawnpore; during their progress to which place the utmost cordiality subsisted between them: but that soon after their arrival there, the Lady thought proper to desert her husband, and has ever since lived separate from him. Several parts of the evidence, however, went in a great measure to disprove this voluntary consent on the part of the Lady.
         The Judges delivered their several opinions at considerable length:– They in general laid out of the case every thing which happened previous to the arrival of the parties in Bengal; and concluded that the instance of cruelty there charged, and the renewal of the acts of adultery not having been proved to have been in the knowledge of Mrs. Mackenzie previous to her separation, were sufficient to induce the Court to decree the divorce a mensa et thoro prayed for by the Lady, and they reserved the assessment of an alimony for further consideration.
         Messrs. Davies and Twedale were counsel on the part of Mrs. Mackenzie; and Messrs. Dunkin and Hall on behalf of Major Mackenzie.

So Harriet secured her divorce from Robert Mackenzie. Legal commentaries suggest that had it been just adultery then she may not have been successful, but the maltreatment probably clinched it. It had been strong evidence that medical treatment had been required for the physical violence she had experienced. Note that Robert Mackenzie, by then a Major, tried to argue that the maltreatment was highly exaggerated and while he confessed the adultery, he nevertheles, astonishingly, claimed that since they had cohabited after she was aware of the cruelty and adultery then she must have acquiesced to it.

the Baillie enclosure at Kilmuir Easter with the Robert Mackenzie memorial spotted in red; photo by Davine Sutherland

The career of bad egg Robert Mackenzie was unaffected by the scandal. He was later to marry again, the daughter of Sutherland of Uppat. He lived through to 1809 and was buried in the splendid James Baillie enclosure in Kilmuir Easter (the memorial marked with a red spot). Why here? Well, Mackenzie had purchased Baillie’s property of Milnmount, and Mackenzie’s second wife’s mother was a Baillie of Rosehall. His will mentions no less than five surviving children born outside marriage, so just imagine the life his poor wives had to put up with.

Here are deposited / in the humble hope of / eternal bless / the remains of / ROBERT MACKENZIE / of Royston / Colonel in the service of the Honourable the East India Company / aged 66 / 26th April 1809.

Following her divorce, Harriet did not return to the UK. From the evidence of her will, written in July 1789, she had money and friends in Cawnpore. Life could be very pleasant in India, surrounded by servants.

One of her closest friends was Surgeon Walter Ross Munro, the affluent son of Reverend Joseph Munro of Edderton, whom she may well have known in Easter Ross. It may even have been that he was more than a friend. Several weeks after her death, he had two natural children of his baptised, named Harriet and Robert. Did he name the girl Harriet because Harriet Ann Mackenzie was her mother? Or was it simply in fond remembrance of a good friend?

Another close friend was William Ross of Shandwick who was having an affair with Harriet’s sister Alexie, whom he wished to marry. Alexie at this time was married to Captain Simon Baillie, who would divorce her on evidence of her adulterous behaviour with his half-brother, Evan Baillie. Harriet was in despair over her sister’s behaviour, and in her will was to provide her with much money provided she lived with a respectable family and didn't communicate with any person whose motives “can be deemed dishonorable”. She would also be rewarded financially if she “corrected” herself by getting married!

As for William Ross of Shandwick, he was killed in a duel the following year by David Reid, originally from Tain, as a consequence of his alleged rape of Reid’s sister. Ross made a will before the duel, providing for Alexie, and mentioning money which might be forthcoming from Harriet’s estate if it was ever settled, indicating the difficulties found with Harriet Ann’s codicil to which we will come.

Old Shandwick House, built with money reserved for the purpose by William Ross of Shandwick in his will; the wings were removed to build the new Shandwick House; photo by Astra Bryson

On 4 July 1789 Harriet, who was seriously ill, made her will. She named her father and brother John as executors but had second thoughts about that arrangement and dictated a codicil making her friend William Ross Munro the executor of her affairs in India. This she did not sign as she was so ill, an omission that was to delay the administration of the will by 13 years. She died two days later and a cruel irony – I note that the newspapers in reporting her death still called her “The Lady of Major Robert Mackenzie”.

Calcutta Gazette; or, Oriental Advertiser 23 July 1789
On the 6th Instant at Cawnpore, after a short Illness, Mrs. Harriet Ann Mackenzie, the Lady of Major Robert Mackenzie, of this Establishment.

In her will, Harriet Ann barely mentions her ex-husband. But she did seek to support Maria, one of his natural daughters. She was clearly a kind and helpful lady who deserved better.

Her will reveals so much about her nature and the wider family that I include many of the sections relevant to the family just as they were written in Cawnpore in the Province of Oude in India on 4 July 1789.

         Item having assurance, that the Sum of one thousand Pounds Sterling remitted in the month of March seventeen hund. eighty six [1786], & intrusted to Mr. William Ross of Shandwick, has not been sunk in an annuity I give & Bequeath the said sum, to my Father Alexander Mackenzie Physician in Cromarty for the sum of his Natural life, that is the full use of the interest thereof, preserving the Capital entire, to be Bequeathed at his decease to his youngest Daughter Mrs. Alexander [sic; the copier of the will consistently spells Alexie in this manner] Mackenzie, on the Express condition, that she do reside in some respectable Family rejecting support from, or any communication, with any person whose motives for such assistance can be deemed dishonorable. But should the said Alexander prefer a more splendid provision on terms less creditable; or should she being now single, be so Fortunate as to correct herself in Marriage, where a provision equal to a thousand Pounds is made for her.
         It is my will, that the above mentioned one thousand Pounds, do at the decease of my Father become the property of my Eldest Sister, Mrs Elizabeth Jane Stuart, & her Children By Lieut. William Stuart, to be settled on her & them entirely & perfectly out of the power of her Husband Lt. Willm. Stuart

         Item I give & Bequeath to My Father Alexander Mackenzie for his Natural life, the sum of five hundred pounds Sterling remitted by the House of Messrs. Fergusson & Fairlie Calcutta, to Messrs Gildart & Reid London; and should Mrs Alexander Mackenzie intitle herself, or be intitled by the terms of this will, to the first mentioned sum of one thousand Pounds, then this sum of five hundred Pounds, Shall at my Fathers death be left to Mrs. Eliza Jane Steuart & her Children in form & manner as before, out of the power of her Husband Willm. Steuart; but in the event that the one thousand Pounds becomes the property of Mrs. E. J. Stewart, then this five hundred pounds shall be Disposed of as follows.
         Vizt. I give and Bequeath it to my Niece Charlotte Euphemia Cameron, the interest to assist her Education, & the principal to be paid her on the Day of her marriage, and if she dies unmarried I give it at her Death, to her Brother Evan [sic, actually Duncan] Alexr. Cameron.
         Item– I give & Bequeath to Maria Mackenzie the Natural Daughter of Major Robert Mackenzie of Bengal service all that may remain (after Defraying the expences of my passage to England) of six thousand Sicca Rupees in the hands of Mr. John Fergusson of Calcutta
         Item– I give & Bequeath to Mr. Willm. Ross of Shandwick, the Lawfull interest of the one thousand Pounds in his hands from the time of his receiving the money in December seventeen hund. eighty six, till the time it is Demanded of him, & this I give, to Liquidate the Debt to him, of Fifteen hund. rupees, which I have received at Different times, as the interest at the rate of five per Cent as will be seen by my receipts in the hands of Mr Fergusson; which receipts I wish to be given to my Executors, they making good any Defficiency, if such should be, between fifteen hund. ruppees, & three years & a half interest for the thousand pounds in Mrs Ross hands
         Item– I give to Mrs. Justina Mackenzie my Brother’s wife my three Diamond hoop rings, and my Brothers miniature Picture
         Item– I give to Walter Ross Munro Surgeon in the service of Bengal, my Diamond breast pin, and a plain mourning ring.
         Item– I give to Emelia Ann Macleod, my best enamelled Gold watch, with the Gold Chain, & the trinkets belonging to it, also a locket set with those Diamonds containing the hair of Coll. & Mrs. Macleod, their Gift.
         Item– I give & bequeath to Henrietta Wharton Mackenzie, the Daughter of Wm. Mackenzie of Suddie my plain Gold watch, & Gold chain, and a Gold locket, containing her Brother Alexanders Hair given by him to me before his Death.
         Item– I give to my Niece Jane Stewart my pearl Bracelets eight rows of pearls in each, with Gold sliders fixed to them, and a set of Pearl ornaments for the hair, in the same box.
         Item– I Bequeath to my Sisters Eliza Jane Stewart and Alexander Mackenzie, all my linen & wearing apparel, to be equally divided between them, an Inventory of which will be found in a Drawer with other Letters & papers
         Item– I request my Father to continue to pay the sum of two pounds Sterling annually to my Nurse Isobell Mill as long as she survives me
         and I intreat my Father, and my Brother John Mackenzie of Kindeace, to be the executors of this my last Will Dated at Cawnpore this fourth day of July one thousand seven hundred and eighty nine– H: A: Mackenzie
         Norman Macleod witness Mary Sibbald witness W. Ross Munro witness

Her codicil was a sensible one – but if only she could have summoned up the strength to sign it…

         I hereby appoint and constitute Walter Ross Munro Surgeon in the Bengal Army of sole Executor respecting my Effects and monies in the East Indies and I particularly request him the said Walter Ross Munro Esquire to take especial care to execute that article of my will which bequaths the remainder or whole sum of Six thousand Rupees now in the hands of John Fergusson Esqr. to Maria Mackenzie natural daughter of Major Mackenzie of the Bengal Army.
Norman Macleod W. Ross Munro. Mary Sibbald.

Well, without that signature Walter Ross Munro could not progress the administration of the will and codicil and some of Harriet Ann’s money was lost on gaining legal views on the position. Eventually, in 1802 the Supreme Court of Judicature at Fort William in Bengal approved him. By this time several of the beneficiaries were no more. For instance, Justina Anderson, wife of her brother John Mackenzie of Kindeace, by now called Bayfield, was already dead. Her brother himself would die, from a fall from his horse outside Shandwick House, a few months after the administration of the will was approved. William Ross of Shandwick had died in his duel a year after the death of Harriet Ann. But most of the beneficiaries were still alive, and I am sure that when they did eventually receive their gifts or annuities it would have brought the memory of Harriet Ann Mackenzie sharply back to mind.


3. Alexandra (Alexie) Mackenzie (c1760–1834)


Alexie Mackenzie was the youngest daughter but was the first to marry. This particular marriage was to end in a scandal of the first order, but there was more to come. Alexie’s life was a surprising one.

The Scots Magazine, Volume 40
1778 … Jan. 9. At New-Tarbet house, Simon Baillie, Esq., in the East-India company’s service, to Miss Alexandra Mackenzie, youngest daughter of Dr Alexander Mackenzie, physician in Ross.

A few months later, the couple left for India. There is in the Indian records only one child baptised to the couple, Williamina, but she was later to be claimed by William Ross of Shandwick to be his daughter, and she was baptised a second time in London along with her sister Jane. Williamina would later marry the Honourable and Reverend Richard Fitzgerald King, son of the Earl of Kingston. But at the time in India her baptism appears quite unostentatious:

Christenings in Calcutta
October 1783. 1 Wilhelmenia Alexandra Harriet, Daughter of Lient. Simon Baillie on the Madras Establishment & Alexandria his Wife.

Why Wilhelminia or Williamina? Well, Simon Baillie’s father was William Baillie of Rosehall, so she was named after his father. But that name also suited her as the child of William Ross of Shandwick.

From later records, Williamina had been born on 25 April, so there had been quite a delay before the baptism. Alexie had decided to return to Britain and the baptism was carried out shortly before her departure in November 1783, so clearly she wanted her daughter to be recorded as the legitimate child of herself and Simon Baillie before she left.


In May 1784 Alexie arrived back in Britain, with, presumably, baby Williamina and a female servant from India. On board ship was also Simon Baillie’s half-brother, Ewan Baillie. Alexie went North to Cromarty to see her family and then seems to have toured the country. She may well have dropped off Williamina with her father as the child does not appear in the accounts of her subsequent activities. According to the divorce allegations, a child was born at Woodstock in Spring 1785 and another “at London Sometime in Summer last [1787] or thereby.”

In July 1787, Simon Baillie himself arrived back in Britain and it would be difficult to pass off the children as his when they hadn”t been together for three years.

Now, here is one of the strangest elements of the story. William Ross of Shandwick and Alexie now had two children baptised in London in August 1787. I assume that Simon Baillie had announced his intention to divorce Alexie, and as William Ross wanted to marry Alexie when she was single again, they had the children baptised as if they were already married.

Baptisms in the year 1788 St Marylebone
Augt … 28 Wilhelmina Ross of Willm. & Alexis b. 25 May 1783
Jane Ross of do. do. b. 19 Feb 1787.

What had happened to the child born at Woodstock in Spring 1785? We shall return to him later.

Simon Baillie was keen to secure a divorce, and hence the scandal became the subject of that rare phenomenon of the the time, a divorce case. Some – but not all – of the sensational saga emerged from the legal proceedings, now held in the National Records of Scotland under CC8/6/791 but in all the papers of the time. But the name of William Ross of Shandwick does not appear at all!

Process of Divorce: Simon Baillie v Alexie MacKenzie / 12 and 19 March 1788 / Simon Baillie, son of William Baillie of Rosehall, now a captain in the service of the Honourable East India Company on the Madras Establishment, against Alexie MacKenzie, his spouse, daughter of Doctor Alexander MacKenzie, physician then at New Tarbet, thereafter residing at Cromarty, married Jan 1778.

The paperwork reveals that:

in the month of January [1778] or thereby the Complainer Simon Baillie and Alexie Mackenzie Daughter of Doctor Alexander Mackenzie Physician then at New Tarbatt thereafter residing in Cromarty were Married at New Tarbatt by the Reverend Mr. Walter Ross Minister of Clyne after which marriage they cohabited together as husband and wife, treated and entertained each other at Bed, Board and other Conjugal dutys as became married persons and were acknowledged held & Reputed as Such by their Friends, Neighbours and acquaintances. That in the month of April [1778] of thereby the said Complainer and his said Spouse Alexie Mackenzie went from Britain to Madrass in the East Indies where they accordingly arrived in the month of December thereafter or thereby at which place and in other places in the East Indies belonging to the East India Company aforesaid She and the said Complainer resided and Cohabited together as man and wife until November [1783] or thereby when the said Alexie Mackenzie left India leaving the said Complainer her husband behind her and returned to Britain on Board the Rodney East Indiaman Captain Wakeman Commander and arrived at London in the month of May [1784] or thereby from which period the said Alexie Mackenzie resided in London, Woodstock in Oxfordshire, Bristol, Brighthelmston, and other places in England South Britain and in the Shires of Edinburgh and Cromarty in Scotland until the month of July last [1787] when the said Complainer Simon Baillie also returned from India and arrived at London he having come home in the Resolution a Danish Indiaman Captain James Wemyss Commander.

That Notwithstanding the said Alexie Mackenzie Defender Stood Bound and Obliged by the Laws of God and man to have kept her Body Chaste and pure to the Complainer her lawful Husband Yet the said Defender casting off the fear of God and all regard to her Matrimonial Vows & Engagements and having entirely alienated her affections from the said Complainer her husband Did Soon after her return from India to London in the month of May [1784] as aforesaid give up and abandon herself to a Course of Vicious, Lewd, libidinous and Adulterous practices with Godless, Lewd and wicked men known not to be the Complainer her husband And more particularly In all or one or other of the nights and days of each of the months of June, July, August, September, October, November and December [1784], and in all or one or other of each of the months of the years [1785] and [1786] from the month of January to the month of December in each of these years both Inclusive and in all or one or other of the days of the months January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and bypast days of December Current in this present year [1787] She the Said Defender Alexie Mackenzie has been in the habitual practice while at London, Bristol, Brighthelmston, Woodstock aforesaid, environs thereof and other places in England and in the Countys of Edinburgh and Cromarty aforesaid, environs thereof, and other places in Scotland Since her return from India to Britain as aforesaid, In different Houses, Gardens, Inclosures, Fields and other places, of giving the use of her Body in the act of Carnal Copulation to different Godless Lewd and wicked men one or more known not to be the Complainer her husband But distinct and different persons from him She and they being together by themselves alone (one at a time) In Rooms (wherein there was but one Bed) lying together in naked Bed, with the Doors locked, Bolted or shut upon them and in other Suspected places using indecent freedoms, gestures and motions and behaving otherways in Such unseemly ways and manners with them as was not lawful to be done with any man other than the Complainer her husband By which Illicit, Carnal and Criminal Intercourse and Connections the Defender became Pregnant and has been delivered of two Children, one whereof at Woodstock aforesaid, Sometime in Spring [1785] or thereby and of the other at London Sometime in Summer last or thereby During the whole of which Space the said Simon Baillie her husband was and Continued to be in India as aforesaid and consequently the said Children must have been begotten in Adultery and by Some person or persons different from the Said Complainer Simon Baillie


From all which It is evident that the said Defender Alexie Mackenzie has been guilty of Adultery Therefore the Complainer Simon Baillie Ought to have our Sentence and Decreet Finding and Declaring that the said Alexie Mackenzie Defender has been Guilty of Adultery and therefore Divorcing and Separating her from the Complainer’s Society fellowship and Company in all time coming As also Finding and Declaring that the Complainer Simon Baillie is free of the said Marriage and at liberty to Marry any other free woman whom he pleases (always in the Lord) as if the said Alexie Mackenzie were naturally dead Or as if the said Complainer had never been married to her And farther Finding and Declaring that the said Defender has forfeited and amitted all the rights and priviledges which by Law or practice she is or might be entitled to by and through the marriage after the form and Tenor of the Laws and practice in Scotland used and observed in the like cases
Herefore It is our Will That ye lawfully Summon warn & Charge the said Alexie Mackenzie Defender personally or at her Dwelling place upon fifteen and six days warning if within Scotland and if furth thereof by open Proclamation at the market Cross of Edinburgh and Pier & Shore of Leith upon Sixty [sic] and fifteen days warning to Compear before us vizt. If within Scotland upon the [blank] and if furth thereof upon the [blank] for first and Second dyets in the hour of Cause to answer at the said Complainer’s Instance … At Edinburgh [13 Dec 1787].

Well, the curious thing about this long-winded diatribe is that the “Godless, Lewd and wicked men” with whom Alexie had been carrying on are not mentioned. Subsequently only one man was identified and he was Simon Baillie’s own half-brother, Major Ewan Baillie.

The witnesses on behalf of the wronged husband provided evidence to the marriage, the residences and the behaviour of Alexie and Ewan. Simon’s servant Thomas Ellicoat testified that he:

left India along with the defender on board the Ship Rodney Commanded by Captn Wakeman in Winter about four years ago, and arrived at Falmouth in Six Months and fourteen days thereafter That about four Months after their arrival, went to Cromarty and from thence to Edinburgh in a week or two after. … when the deponent and defender came to Falmouth as abovementioned Major Baillie half Brother to the pursuer, who came to Britain in the Same Ship along with the defender and deponent, Slept with the defender at Falmouth all night in the Same bed, Depones that the Deponent once or twice observed Major Baillie and the defender in bed together in the day time with the Cover of the bed upon them when they were on board the Ship Rodney and that he likeways Saw them in bed together in the Same Manner in St Albans Street London No 11 Immediately after leaving Falmouth and the deponent likeways found the Door of the Room where Major Baillie and the defender were alone together lock’d or bolted and this happened twice when they were in London after coming from Falmouth …

Isabel Shaw deponed that she:

entered to the service of Mrs Baillie defender at Martinmass [1784] and the Defender then lived in the house of Mr Rammage Rose Lane New town Depones that at the time the deponent entered to the defrs service the defender had all the appearances of being with Child … that while the defender staid in Mr Ramages She was Visited by no Gentleman except Major Ewan Baillie half Brother to the Pursuer – Depones that the deponent has several times observed Major Baillie with the defender sitting together on the Settee in the Dining room with his arms about her Waist that Major Baillie likeways attended the defender every night to her bedroom when she was going to bed, and that he remained with her about an hour and Some times more, Depones that the deponent has frequently Observed Major Baillie going in and coming out of the defenders bed room before She was out of bed and one Morning when the deponent came into the defrs bed room with a Message, Major Baillie started up from the bed where he had been Sitting,– Depones that Major Baillie was reckoned by the deponent and everybody in Mr Ramages house to be the father of the Child with which the defender was then pregnant, and that he behaved to be so as no other Gentleman was seen in company with ye defender or visited her except Major Baillie Depones that the deponent was afterwards Informed of the defenders having been delivered of a Child somewhere in England– Depones that besides what is above deponed to with respect to ye defenders being with Child, the deponent had other reasons which convinced her of the defenders being pregnant and which attend Women when in that Situation…

And Margaret McLaren testified that she:

entered to the Service of the defender in November [1784] and the same day the deponent entered the defender came to lodge in Mr Ramages Rose lane New Town and Staid there till Sometime in March following when the defender went to England, Depones that the Deponent had all the reason in the world to Suspect the defenders being with Child when she the defr came to Mr Ramages and She continued to increase in bulk till She went to England … Major Baillie half Brother to the pursuer Visited the defender twice or thrice a day and came in like one of the family or rather like the Master of ye family That the deponent remembers of seeing a Lieutenant Stewart who was married to the defenders Sister visit the defender recently before She went to England, and the deponent thinks he went to England a little before ye defender went, Depones that the Deponent remembers of having seen Major Baillie and the defender very often Sitting together on the sofa both in the Dining Room and Drawing room with his hands about her waist and neck and at these times staying together. That one Evening when the Deponent had brought her a Bason of water to bathe her feet, and afterwards returning into the room, She observed the defenders Legs upon Major Baillies knee and him wiping them with his Napkin; Depones that when the defender went to her bed room at Night Major Baillie very often accompanied her there and on these occasions used to remain a good while with her, That he was in use likeways to go into her bedroom in the Morning before She was out of bed, and the deponent remembers a Short time before the defender left Mr Ramages of going into the defenders bed room in the Morning before she was up, and the deponent then Saw the defender with her hand in Major Baillies hand, and Major Baillie who was Sitting on a Chair at the Side of ye bed, leaning down towards Mrs Baillie defender and continued, as far as the deponent can remember, in the same posture after She came in, Depones that the Deponent never found the door bolted when Major Baillie and the defender were together in the bed room, but She heard Hugh Cameron the Cadie who attended the Major at that time, Say that he found the door bolted but the deponent did not ask him at what time he found it bolted Depones that the deponent proposed to the defender to leave her Service as she did not choose to Stay where She had observed Such behaviour as had past betwixt Major Baillie and ye defender and the deponent was so affected with that behaviour as She knew Major Baillie was not the defenders husband that the deponent could not go abroad and was uneasy when She met with any of her acquaintances least they Should know her being in Such a Service [and thinking] that the Servants in the defenders house were as bad as their Mistress – Depones that the defender was so bulky when She left Ramage’s that any body would have known She was with Child, and the defr was afterwards delivered in England on the Road Southwards That Major Baillie went along with the defender in the Chaise to England, and a Servant named Jean Simpson and the Major’s Servant James likeways went in another Chaise… Depones that the deponent recollects one evening of Seeing the defender come out of the Dining room where she had been with Major Baillie to go to bed in great disorder and undress and without her Mutch and her Black girl behind her carrying her things and the Servants then Informed ye deponent that they heard the defr give a loud cry Sometime before She came out of the dining room …

More evidence was presented, which demonstrated to my mind just how much in love Ewan Baillie was with Alexie.

The reason for Simon Baillie proceeding so forcibly with the divorce becomes clear when you see a marriage notice from a few months later (Kentish Gazette, 13 My 1788):

Last week, at Edinburgh, Captain Simon Baillie, in the service of the East India Company, to Miss Allison, daughter of the late Mr. Allison, Merchant, in Edinburgh.

Even more extraordinarily, in an era when divorces were a rare and scandalous phenomenon, there is another Process of Divorce recorded in the Commissary Court of Edinburgh (CC8/6/886):

Process of Divorce: Mrs Janet Allison v Captain Simon Baillie 24 Sep and 24 Oct 1792 Mrs Janet Allison, spouse of Captain Simon Baillie of the 1st Regiment of European Infantry in the Service of the East Indian Company, against the said Captain Simon Baillie, married May 1788

The best one can say is that Simon must have been very unlucky.

Update January 2024: having taken the opportunity during a recent visit to the NRS to examine the documents within CC8/6/886 Process of Divorce: Mrs Janet Allison v Captain Simon Baillie, I have to say Simon Baillie is revealed as an absolute cad. Simon Baillie was going out to India in 1789 on board the Prince de Kaunitz of Ostend, the old ship of Captain John Mackenzie of Bayfield. By this time the Indiaman was commanded by Captain Pendock Neale, who has quite a history as captain and privateer. Simon Baillie’s second wife Janet Allison was back in the UK at this time and he met two sisters on the ship on the way out to whom he explained his wife had died. He courted and bigamously married one of them (Miss Maria King) on board. She had a baby by him and they lived for some time in Trichinopoly, India, as a couple, although Maria then died. The entry in the India Office Register “Burials at Trichinopoly Christ Church” reads: “8th August 1790 In the Evening died Maria Baillie wife to Captn. Simon Baillie (whether lawful I don’t know) & was buried the following day in the churchyard.”

an East Indiaman off St Helena in the late 1700s or early 1800s; St Helena was a watering-place for both outward and homeward bound ships

Witness accounts were obtained from several of the parties involved – that of Captain Pendock Neale is particularly interesting given his role as Captain of the Prince de Kaunitz. Janet Allison easily won her divorce. I do not know what happened to Janet Allison and Captain Simon Baillie thereafter, but I note that the India Office records for him say “dismissed 1793”, the year of the divorce case, so I suspect that his bigamy and adultery had become too much, even for those times.

The Baillies of Dochfour and Rosehall were a prominent family, and while the scandal of the second divorce seems to have ended the career of Simon Baillie, the scandal of the first divorce does not seem to have affected the career of his half-brother Ewan who went on to great things. But then, the Baillie family lurched from one legal crisis to another. Ewan (c.1743–1820) was the son of William Baillie and his first wife, Elizabeth Sutherland. Ewan had a protracted legal battle (CS271/32193; 1780) with his stepmother, Mary Mackay, to become his father’s Executor, so he was well versed in legal procedure.

He progressed to reach the rank of Major-general in the army, held the colonelcy of the 23rd regiment of native infantry in Bengal, and was for some time commander-in-chief of the forces there. He was created a Baronet 26 May, 1819, the year before his death. He died in Brussels. By his will (PROB11/1635) he left thousands of pounds to many of his relatives although there is no mention of either Alexie or their children.

But were they the children of Ewan Baillie or were they, or at least two of them, the children of William Ross of Shandwick?

Alexie and William Ross of Shandwick

This is not the place to set out the full story of William Ross of Shandwick, and I am very grateful to Henry Reid for providing a copy of his research into his ancestor Andrew Reid of Tain and London and William Ross. Andrew Reid was a good friend and associate of John Mackenzie of Bayfield. William Ross of Shandwick was a good friend of both Harriet Ann Mackenzie and Andrew Reid, and the lover of Alexie Mackenzie.

spiral staircase within Shandwick House, built with money assigned in the will of William Ross of Shandwick, written just before his fatal duel; photo courtesy of Astra Bryson

Ross, arriving rich from India, had purchased from Lord Ankerville in 1786 for £17,600 the old Ross estate of Shandwick, along with the estates of Ankerville and Culliss (Northern Notes and Queries, Volume IV, 1890, page 54). Lord Ankerville had retained Tarlogie, but Ross rented Tarlogie House, near Tain, from him. He had visions of restoring the estate and building a new Shandwick House. He spent the summer of 1787 in Tarlogie House and entertained widely, including the Reid family in Tain. Charlotte Reid subsequently accused Ross of his attempting to rape her one night in the house of Tarlogie and actually raping her on a subsequent occasion.

The Reid brothers in London were furious with Ross when the full story emerged, and a duel took place in London in 1790 in which Ross was fatally wounded. Knowing it likely that he would be killed, Ross had made his will and had also written a long defence of his conduct for publication after the duel. Naturally he denied everything.

Now, by this time Simon Baillie had divorced Alexie (the case had been determined in 1788) and she could have re-married. It is clear from the will of William Ross that he had hoped she would marry him. But Alexie perhaps had other irons in the fire, and perhaps too did not want to marry someone who was accused of rape. His will and his defence are written as if he knew he was going to die. Indeed, when the first salvo of shots was fired without effect normally a duel would cease, honour having been discharged. In this case Ross insisted, when an apology was not forthcoming, on the fatal second round.

There is absolutely no mention of Alexie or their children in his written defence, but they feature prominently in his will. I include all sections relevant to Alexie and her family.

William Ross PROB 11/1192/91
… during the natural life of Alexie Mackenzie otherwise Baillie late the Wife of Simon Baillie a Captain in the Service of the Honble. the East India Company or during so long time as she shall continue single and unmarried one Annuity or clear yearly sum of Three hundred pounds lawful money of Great Britain the same Annuity to be paid to the said Alexie Mackenzie during her life or remaining unmarried half yearly by half yearly payments and the first payment thereof to be made to her at the end of six months from the day of my decease
But in case the said Alexie Mackenzie shall marry again Then it is my will and I direct that the aforesaid Annuity of Three hundred pounds shall cease and determine from the day of such Marriage and be no longer paid or payable and in lieu thereof I hereby direct my Trustees and Executors of this my will to pay her the sum of Two Thousand pounds lawful Money of Great Britain in full Discharge of said Annuity
I give to each of my Daughters Williamina Ross and Jean Ross Children of the said Alexie Mackenzie otherwise Baillie the Sum of five Thousand pounds lawful money of Great Britain to be paid to them at their respective ages of Twenty one years or day or days of Marriage which shall first happen the Interest Dividends and profits of the said respective sums of five thousand pounds or a sufficient part thereof to be in the mean time applied towards the maintenance and education of my said Daughters but in case of the death of both or either of them my said Daughters before they or either of them shall attain the age of twenty one years or be married then and in such case the portion of her so dying shall sink into the residue of my Estate
I give to my Son James Hislop Ross the sum of two thousand pounds lawful money of Great Britain to be paid to him at his age of Twenty five years or at any time betwixt the age of twenty one and twenty five should my Executors think proper so to do and the Interest thereof in the meantime to be applied towards his Maintenance and Education and in case the said James Hislop Ross shall not receive or dispose of by Will or otherwise in his lifetime the aforesaid sum of two thousand pounds then the said sum shall return and be paid or payable to the heir of entail in possession of the Estate of Shandwick for the time
…In case the Sum of one Thousand five hundred pounds including the sum of one Thousand pounds already remitted to me on that account shall be recovered by me or my Executors out of the whole Sum due to me from the Estate of the Deceased Mrs Harriet Ann McKenzie who was the wife of Major Robert McKenzie on the Bengal Establishment Then and in that case it is my Will and I hereby direct the Executors and Trustees of my Will to pay to Mrs Elizabeth Jean Stewart the Wife of Lieutenant William Stewart of the Invalids the Interest of five hundred pounds during her life for her own sole and separate use Independent of and not Subject to the Controul Debts or Engagements of her present or any future taken husband and from and immediately after her death to divide and pay the said Sum of five hundred pounds equally among all the children of the said Elizabeth Jean Stewart share and share alike
…I leave to Mrs Alexie Mackenzie late Mrs Simon Baillie the sum of Two hundred pounds for her Expences until the Annuity left to her by my Will shall be due and also that the plate belonging to me which is now in Turlogy [Tarlogie] and what was originally made for her shall be returned for her
…I bequeath the whole of my Linen to Mrs Alexie Mackenzie for her own use and the use of my Children Williamina and Jane Ross

I am sure you will agree that William Ross of Shandwick was desperately in love with Alexie Mackenzie and wished to provide for her and their children, Williamina and Jean. And we have already seen good evidence from her divorce proceedings that Ewan Baillie had been besotted with her.


Before passing on to “what Alexie did next” note the section in the will of William Ross relating to his illegitimate son James Hislop Ross. That wording of that disposition became the subject of a legal dispute that was resolved in Chancery many years later (Ross v Ross, 1819). James Hislop Ross died in 1810, having attained the age of 25, pointing to a birth year of approximately 1785. It emerged that he “from a paralytic disorder, was, at the time the will was made, in a state of bodily and mental imbecility, from which it was very doubtful whether he would recover”.

Now, William Ross in his will says “my Daughters Williamina Ross and Jean Ross Children of the said Alexie” but he does not say who the mother of James Hislop was. And in 1788 William and Alexie had only Williamina and Jean baptised. But it is still possible that James Hislop was the child born to Alexie in spring 1785 at Woodstock. Of course, her child born at that time may have died, but it is curious that we have a child born to William Ross about 1785 and a child born to Alexie in spring 1785. It all hinges on when William Ross returned from India. It is known that he bought Shandwick in 1786 and he must have been in India when Williamina was conceived in 1782 but I have seen nothing to confirm when he returned to Britain between those two years.

Later days of Alexie

Alexie’s sister Harriet Ann had made a generous disposition to Alexie provided “that she do reside in some respectable Family rejecting support from, or any communication, with any person whose motives for such assistance can be deemed dishonorable.” Remarkably, we do find her some years later in a most respectable family. You couldn't get much more respectable than the Honourable and Reverend Richard Fitzgerald King.

Robert King, Second Earl of Kingston, father of Richard Fitzgerald King

Caroline ms Fitzgerald, Countess of Kingston, mother of Richard Fitzgerald King

Her daughter Williamina had been born in wedlock, when Alexie was married to Simon Baillie. She had been baptised once as Williamina Baillie in Calcutta and secondly as Williamina Ross in London. It was as Williamina Ross that she married Richard Fitzgerald King, son of the Earl of Kingston. And Alexie had adopted the name of Ross as well.

Faversham, St Mary of Charity
Banns of Marriage between Richard Fitzgerald King & Williamina Ross both of this Parish were published on the 22d & 29th of Decr. 1799, & 5th Jany. 1800.
The Honble. Richd. Fitzgerald King of this Parish Batchelor and Williamina Ross of this Parish Spinster Married in this Church by Banns this sixth day of January in the Year One Thousand eight Hundred by me Richd. Halke Vicar This Marriage was solemnized between Us R F King Williamina Ross
In the Presence of Alexie Ross / Dd. Mellefont / Jane Ross

At this most respectable of marriages we have Williamina’s mother (Alexie) and Williamina’s sister (Jane or Jean) acting as witnesses.

Williamina and the Honourable and Reverend King (1779–1856) went on to have at least ten children:

Caroline (1801–1852), born Ipswich, baptised St Clement Ipswich
Isabella (1802–1882), baptised Chertsey, St Peter’s 1806
Robert Henry (1804–1870), born Chertsey
Williamina Alexandria Jane (1806–1892), baptised Chertsey, St Peter’s
George (1812–1868), born & baptised Heston, Middlesex
Eleanor (1814–1854), baptised Heston, Middlesex
Edward (1817–), baptised Walton on Thames
James (1819–after 1881), born & baptised Walton on Thames
Laetitia Mary (1822–1881), born Broadstairs/North Foreland, Kent
Gerald Fitzgerald (1824–1862), baptised Hardingstone, Northamptonshire

The Honourable and Reverend King secured his B.A. in 1799 and his M.A. much later, in 1828, and held a position in St. Mary Hall, Oxford University. He was for a long period Vicar of Great Chesterford and Rector of Little Chesterford in Essex. But you can get a fair idea of where he held other church positions from the baptism locations of his many children!

Alexie resided with her daughter and clerical son-in-law until she died at a respectable age in 1834.

Huntingdon, Bedford & Peterborough Gazette Saturday 11 January 1834
DIED … On Monday last [6 January 1834], at the vicarage, Great Chesterford, (the residence of her son-in-law, the Hon and Rev R.F. King), Alexie Ross, in the 75th year of her age; fondly beloved and deeply lamented.

All Saints, Great Chesterford

Alexie was buried at Great Chesterford on 13th January 1834. I presume she had been up until her death still receiving annuities from the estates of Harriet Ann Mackenzie and William Ross of Shandwick. Her daughter Williamina, now Williamina King, survived only a few years after her, dying in 1837.

True Sun 6 February 1837
On the 1st inst., at Southampton, Williamina, the wife of the Hon. and Rev. R.F. King, aged 53.

Unlike Williamina, Alexie’s daughter Jean, or Jane, never married. I see her in residence in Bedford Terrace, All Saints Parish, Southampton, with Caroline and Eleanor, two unmarried daughters of Williamina and Richard Fitzgerald King, in the 1841 and 1851 Census returns. Caroline and Eleanor both died before their Aunt Jean and provided for their aunt in their wills.

Caroline was the first to die, and her will was witnessed by brother James and sister Eleanor.

1852 Will Caroline King PROB 11/2157
I give to my Aunt Jean Ross All my estate and effects of every kind and I appoint her Sole Executrix of this my Will In witness whereof I have hereto set my hand this eleventh day of June 1852 – Caroline King

Eleanor followed her sister a couple of years later

1854 Will Eleanor King PROB 11/2194
This is the last Will and Testament of me Eleanor King of Southampton Spinster I give the income of all my Property to my Aunt Jean Ross for her life and after her decease I give the following legacies of sterling money (videlicet) To my Sister Laetitia Mary King two hundred pounds To my Sister Isabella Pearson one hundred pounds To my Brother Robert Henry King one hundred pounds I also forgive him after the death of my said Aunt one hundred and fifty pounds which I have advanced him To my Brother James King one hundred and fifty pounds and to my Sister Williamina Alexandria Jane Bull two hundred and fifty pounds And all the rest residue and remainder of my Estate and Effects I give, subject nevertheless to the payment of my debts and funeral and testamentary expenses to my Brother the said James King whom I appoint sole Executor of this my Will

Jean Ross, the daughter of William Ross of Shandwick and Alexie Mackenzie, died as late as 1868, in Laverstock, Wiltshire. There was a large private asylum in Laverstock and it may be that in her final years she suffered from one of the mental ailments that afflict the elderly. Her death certificate reads:

Twenty-sixth January 1868 at Laverstock Jean Ross Female 80 years Gentlewoman Senile Decay. Certified. [informant] Robert Henry King. Present at the Death. Bromeswell Rectory, Woodbridge, Suffolk.

And her probate record reads:

1868 Wills.
ROSS Jean. 16 May. Effects under £300.
The Will of Jean Ross formerly of the Town and County of Southampton but late of Laverstock in the County of Wilts Spinster deceased who died 26 January 1868 at Laverstock aforesaid was proved at the Principal Registry by the oath of the Reverend Robert Henry King of Bromeswell in the County of Sufflok Clerk the Nephew one of the Executors.

With the demise of Jean Ross in 1868, the last child of the three daughters of Dr Alexander Mackenzie and Jane Mackenzie, the three sisters of John Mackenzie of Bayfield, passed away.

The lives of Elizabeth Jane Mackenzie, Harriet Ann Mackenzie and Alexie Mackenzie were remarkably unconventional and at times scandalous. But the one who survived the longest and achieved greatest respectability for herself and her children was Alexie, she who had been the most scandalous of them all.

two views of Marriage from the 1700s


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