Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Anna - Countess of the Covenant

I have just finished reading the fascinating story of Lady Anna Mackenzie - Anna, Countess of the Covenant by Lady Mary McGrigor - and what a tale it is.

Lady Anna was the daughter and co-heiress of Colin Mackenzie, 1st Earl of Seaforth, who aged 19yo, married young Alexander Lindsay, Earl of Balcarres (1640) at the height of the English Civil War.  Both Anna and Alexander were Covenanters - Presbytarians who opposed the return of Catholicism as the religion of Scotland. The Balcarres also were strong supporters of the monarchy under Charles I - and the return of Charles II and the ousting of the Parliamentarians led by Oliver Cromwell.

The Parliamentarians were in the ascendancy, and Alexander fled into the Scottish Highlands following his military defeat.  In a rare and almost unheard of action, Anna accompanied her husband on both his campaign and his exile in Holland, enduring all the hardships along the way.  Anna took her two daughters with her into exile but left behind her two young sons in the care of a family friend.  Their lands forfeited, Anna was granted the role of Governess to the future King William III at the Hanover Court.

The Balcarres returned to Scotland ahead of the return of Charles II of England - Alexander was ill and would die, leaving Anna in a perilous financial situation.  Anna would find some consolation with a second marriage, to Archibald, 9th Earl of Argyll.  However, their adherence to Scottish Presbytarianism put them at odds with the Catholic James, Duke of York (future King James VII & II).  When Argyll attempted to overthrow James, he was convicted of treason, imprisoned - although he would escape both prison and execution with the aid of his daring step-daughter Sophia who, with Anna, suffered in his stead.

Both Anna and Argyll were now confirmed outlaws - their huge estates forfeited, Anna again found herself in dire financial straits.  Argyll meanwhile set about planning for the ousting of James in favour of William of Hanover and his wife Mary (daughter of James).  Argyll would pay the ultimate price for his loyalty to the Hanovers - he was executed (1689).  Anna would spend the remaining years seeking financial compensation from the monarchy for the lost estates of both hers and Argyll's heirs.

Anna would die at the age of 85yo (1708) - "she lived through the reign of four Stewart kings and one who, although his mother was the daughter of Charles I, and his wife was a daughter of James VII & II, was of Dutch nationality."  Anna was said to have been a woman of great virtue, integrity, piety, beauty and intelligence.  She endured much which no doubt molded her into the remarkable woman that she was.

Lady Mary McGrigor successfully brings to life this amazing woman who did much for the monarchy but was largely forgotten by history.

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1 comment:

Tara said...

It sounds like a lovely read! I will definitely check it out. It's always nice to read about the powerful women of history! Thanks for the review.