Emilia Anne MacLeod

Emilia, the daughter of a Highland reforming whig, married a lowland tory. The father and husband might not have been so different in character, however: both worked hard in active military service to enjoy their landed estate. It is not very surprising that Emilia, who had seen her father almost lose everything he had worked for as a result of his opposition politics, and whose brother was blown up fighting the French he wanted to appease, chose to marry a supporter of the government.

Lived
c. 1791 - 22 Feb 1830 (her elder sister was born December 1790)
Origin
She was born about the time that her father entered parliament in 1790, when he bought a house at 45 George Street. Their country seat was Dunvegan Castle.
Father
Lieutenant-General Norman Macleod of Macleod, his third daughter. He was known in the family as 'The General' (to distinguish him from other Norman MacLeods). inherited in 1772 and came to live at Dunvegan to try to retrieve the terrible financial situation left by his grandfather 'The Red Man'. They were visited by early travel writers Thomas Pennant and then Boswell and Johnson. While he impressed them with both romantic primitivism and modern comfort, he was desperately trying to stave off the sale of the estate: its income was around £3,235, and interest payments on the estate debt were £3,178. He was very reluctant to sell parts of the estate, as the idea of the chief as the landholder for his clan had hitherto been maintained. He recalled in his Memoirs,
I consider this as the most gloomy period of my life. Educated in a liberal manner, fired with ambition, fond of society, I found myself in confinemnt in a remote corner of the world, without any hope of extinguishing the debts of my family or of ever emerging from poverty or obscurity. A long life of painful economy seemed my only method to perform the duty I owed to my ancestors and posterity.
In 1776 he joined the army and was mostly away until 1789, during which time he managed to keep the debt level. Meanwhile his mother and sisters struggled to reach an agreement with the creditors. They agreed to a reduction in their annuities (eg. his mother gave up £50 of her annuity of £250) and persuaded his step-grandmother and daughters very reluctantly to do the same. In 1777 the tacksmen, also loyal to their chief and determined to save the lands, agreed to a voluntary 7 1/2 per cent rent increase 'in the hope that it may enable MacLeod and his Trustees to re-establish his affairs and preserve the ancient possessions of his family'. This agreement is still preserved by the family as a treasured possession.
      In 1779, after a long negotiation, he sold Harris to Emmeline MacLeod's grandfather Alexander, 'really the hardest man I have ever met with'. Norman had been obliged to borrow money from him, and he refused to budge from his asking price of £15,000, which in fact was a good price at the time, although Norman regretted the sale for the rest of his life. By 1793, the debt had been halved, the annuities reduced, and the rental income maintained despite the sale, so the estate was solvent with free rent of about £1,300 and The General was able to take the estate back from the creditors' trustees into his own hands. During all this period the tenants' welfare was not compromised: pensions to dependents and payments to a doctor were maintained, for example. John Knox, touring the Highlands in 1787 to encourage fisheries, wrote,
This estate has been greatly diminished of late years, on account of debts, and much remains to be discharged. Notwithstanding this circumstance, the proprietor raised no rents, turned out no tenants, used no man with severity, and in all respects, maintained the character of a liberal and humane friend of mankind.' (3)
After his political career ended (see below), his later years were clouded. His eldest son Norman was lost in the Princess Charlotte in 1799 (along with Christian Erskine's brother). The expensive tastes he had acquired on military service in India and his political activities caused him to live beyond the modest income of his estates, and he ran into new debt and was forced to sell further parts of the estate when their value was low. (3 p.539-542) He died in 1801.       During this period, kelp was profitable on the estate and there were active efforts to establish fisheries. The populaton of the whole MacLeod estates was estimated to increase from 11,000 in 1801 to 13,300 in 1831. (3 p.568)
Mother
Sarah Stackhouse, daughter of Nathaniel Stackhouse, second member of Council at Bombay, married in 1784, and died 1822. (4 p.184-8)
Address
Emilia's first child was born at her mother-in-law's house at 20 Castle Street (although it was not baptised at Charlotte Chapel)
Political views
Thanks to a deal by Henry Dundas, her father was returned unopposed as MP for Inverness-shire in 1790 for the government. However, he held liberal views and was a supporter of reform. In 1792 he drafted proposals for reform for the 'delegates of the Scottish Counties' to lay in a bill before parliament. These were carefully moderate: abolition of faggot votes and a lowering of the qualification from £400 Scots to £100 Scots. He was also involved in burgh reform. Dundas attempted to get rid of him to India with vague promises of an appointment, but when he was on the point of departing Norman grew suspicious, asked Dundas for more details, and when these were not given he refused to go. From this point he was the bitter opponent of the administration. He joined the Glasgow branch of the Scots Society of the Friends of the People, and was praised along with Fox, Erskine and Lauderdale by Robert Burns:
Here's Chieftain MacLeod, a Chieftain worth gold,
Tho' bred among mountains of snow.
When war broke out with France and Highland Fencible regiments were being raised, MacLeod was eager to raise one but his offers met with no response. Instead, Sir James Grant raised the Inverness-shire regiment including companies from MacLeod's lands. MacLeod, still an MP, remained an active supporter of the Friends of the People, and apologist for the French Revolution, as it declined in 1793. He took a leading part in the great petition for reform presented to parliament in 1793, which brought the matter to a close when Pitt responded that 'it was not a time to make a hazardous experiment.' After this, MacLeod withdrew from the Friends of the People, but continued to give steady support to Fox in parliament, until the 1796 General Election when he was removed from his seat. (3 p.519-537)
Chapel connection
1809 (wedding)
Married on
1809
Spouse
John Pringle
Children
John Robert (d.1847), James (d.1865), Norman, Katherine (d.1846), Anne Crawfurd (d.1899), and three other daughters.
Related to
Mary MacLeod's neice
Connections
Emilia can be connected to other members of the group not so much through the close-knit inter-relations of Scottish society, but through the tanglings of war and economic turbulence. Emilia and Christian Erskine both lost brothers in the Queen Charlotte catastrophe. Emilia's maternal grandfather and John and Charlotte Elphinstone's father were both Members of Council in Bombay. Emmeline MacLeod's grandfather had bought Harris from her father in 1779 with the fortune he had made in India. Her great-grandfather The Red Man had purchased and furnished The White House near Edinburgh, the debt which her father had to borrow from Emmeline MacLeod's grandfather to repay: the house later became Leonard Horner's family home.

General Norman MacLeod
of MacLeod, 1787
by Johann Zoffany

Sources

  1. Registers of Charlotte Chapel (NAS CH12/3)
  2. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1818
  3. I.F.Grant, The MacLeods (Spurbooks, Edinburgh 1959) p.502-63.
  4. Alick Morrison, The Chiefs of Clan MacLeod (Associated Clan MacLeod Societies, 1986)

Back to index