Correspondence of Anne Mackenzie, Lady Balcarres, c.1665

Scope and Content

Four letters relating to Anne Mackenzie.

ms1767: Letter, with sign manual, of Anne Lady Balcarres to the king, [Charles II] seeking his support for herself, a widow, and her fatherless children, having outlined her circumstances in greater detail to the earl of Lauderdale [John Maitland].Signed Anne Balcarres.Balcarres, 30 June ny. Seal in black wax.

ms1768: Letter, with sign manual, of Anne Lady Balcarres, to an unknown peer, expressing hope of the support of [John Maitland] Lord Lauderdale in her present circumstances. The recipient would appear to be a close confident.Signed Anna 6 April ny.

ms1769: Autograph letter, signed, Anne Lady Balcarres to John Maitland, earl of Lauderdale, secretary for Scotland at Whitehall, concerning her pension.Signed Anne Balcarres.Balcarres, 5 March ny.

ms1770: Letter, with sign manual, of George Sinclair, 6th earl of Caithness to 'my dear aunt' Anne countess of Balcarres, in London. He had received her recent letter by Archibald Pluscarden. Advised her of a dispute concerning the office of sheriff of Caithness, held during his minority by Sinclair of Murchill [Murtel, Murkell], who now wished to make the office hereditary. He sought her intervention with Lord Lauderdale [John Maitland].Signed Caithness.Edinburgh, 1 May. ny. Seal in black wax.

Administrative / Biographical History

Anne Mackenzie (c.1617-1707), countess of Balcarres and countess of Argyll, was daughter of the first earl of Seaforth. In 1640 she married her cousin Alexander Lindsay, Lord Lindsay of Balcarres, who was later created first earl of Balcarres for his support of Charles II. However his royal support cost them financially with the estates being sequestered. When Lindsay was summoned to France to counsel Charles in exile, Anna went too, living at court of the exiled queen mother Henrietta Mary. Anna was then made governess to the future William III by his mother Princess Mary of Orange in the Hague. After Alexander died in 1659, she returned to Balcarres to try to assure the future for her son Charles, now earl of Lindsay, spending 2 years in London on his behalf, then when he died at the age of 11, she supported her next son Colin as earl. She remarried in 1670 to Archibald Campbell, ninth earl of Argyll, a friend from days spent in the Highlands in 1653. He had had his titles and estates restored and now worked to increase his own power under the guise of repressing first Catholic rebels and then covenanters. James, duke of York, became concerned about his aggrandising powers and indirectly brought about his downfall by the introduction of the Test Act. Argyll was found guilty of treason in 1681 for refusing to take the new oath of loyalty, and while he managed to escape execution by fleeing to Holland with the help of Anne’s daughter Sophia, his estates were forfeited and Anne found herself living in penury again. She carried on managing Balcarres in his absence, but was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle as soon as Argyll returned to Scotland with men to aid Monmouth’s rebellion in 1685. It was quickly quelled and he was executed the same year. Anne carried on supporting both her families, helping her exiled son in law Sir Duncan Campbell, and held things together for the Campbells until the revolution of 1688. She returned to Balcarres to deal with huge debts left by her son Colin who had been imprisoned for support of James VII, and remained there until her death in 1707.

George Sinclair (c.1634-1676), 6th earl of Caithness, succeeded his great-grandfather George Sinclair, 5th earl. He inherited large debts from the misrule of the previous earl and from attacks on his estates and castles during the civil war. He also spent money he did not have on building Thurso Castle. He disponed his land and titles to Sir John Campbell of Glenorchy in 1672, on the agreement that Campbell would inherit them if George died without heirs, which he did in 1676. He was married to Mary Campbell, daughter of the marquis of Argyll. His mother Jean Mackenzie was Anne’s elder sister, who had married John Sinclair, master of Berridale.


Chronological order

Access Information

By appointment with the Keeper of Manuscripts. Access to records containing confidential information may be restricted.

Acquisition Information

Purchased from Sothebys for pound 20, 4 May 1955.


Call numbers used to be ms1767-ms1770

Other Finding Aids

Individual Manuscripts and Small Collections database available as part of Manuscripts Database.

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Paper: single sheets, between 19x23.4 cm and 21.3x33.2cm.

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Maia Sheridan, Archives Hub project archivist, based on material from the Manuscripts Database

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the Keeper of Manuscripts. Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.



Geographical Names