In its formative years, Earl Marischal Keith was the town’s Feudal Superior, and he appointed a Baron Bailie to represent his interests. The Keith family supported King Charles I during the Civil War - a decision which lead to a long enforced stay in the Tower of London for the Earl and a prolonged visit from Oliver Cromwell’s army, who occupied the town. Cromwell’s New Model Army was only slightly less welcome to the people of Peterhead than the Plague which arrived shortly after the troops.
After James VII’s enforced exile, the Keiths continued to serve the Crown, but were disturbed by the decision to abolish the Scottish Parliament and outraged when new English legislation meant that Queen Anne would be succeeded on her death by a distant German relative rather than the Queen’s own brother James Francis Stuart, regarded by many as the Rightful Heir. With widespread discontent across the whole country, the stage was set for armed rebellion against what many saw as a corrupt and unjust Government.
On 23 September 1715, dramatic events took place in Peterhead which set off a chain of events which would change the town forever. Earl Marischal Keith had a proclamation read at the town’s Market Cross which declared the “pretender” James Stuart as King James VIII. You can download Stephen Calder’s excellent account of what happened next by clicking on the button below.
This picture is a contemporary (if fanciful) illustration which appeared in a news sheet at the time. Clearly drawn by someone who had never visited Peterhead, it shows James Francis Stuart’s arrival in December 1715.