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.
- c. 1791 - 22 Feb 1830 (her elder sister was born December
- 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
- 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.
- Sarah Stackhouse, daughter of Nathaniel Stackhouse, second
member of Council at Bombay, married in 1784, and died 1822. (4 p.184-8)
- Emilia's first child was born at her mother-in-law's house
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
Here's Chieftain MacLeod, a Chieftain worth gold,
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.
Tho' bred among mountains of snow.
- Chapel connection
- 1809 (wedding)
- Married on
- John Pringle
- 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
- 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
General Norman MacLeod
of MacLeod, 1787
by Johann Zoffany
- Registers of Charlotte Chapel (NAS CH12/3)
- Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1818
- I.F.Grant, The MacLeods (Spurbooks, Edinburgh 1959) p.502-63.
- Alick Morrison, The Chiefs of Clan MacLeod (Associated Clan MacLeod Societies, 1986)
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