URQUHART, Robert (d. 1741), of Burdsyards, Forres, Elgin.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1690-1715, ed. D. Hayton, E. Cruickshanks, S. Handley, 2002
Available from Boydell and Brewer



Family and Education

o. s. of Thomas Urquhart of Burdsyards, minister of Dallas, Elgin 1688–99 by Finnella, da. of Sir Robert Dunbar, MP [S], of Grangehill, Elgin.  m. contract 2 June 1698 (tocher 6,000 merks), Marie, da. of Duncan Forbes, MP [S], of Culloden, Inverness, sis. of Duncan Forbes† and John Forbes*, 3s. (1 d.v.p.) 1da.  suc. fa. c.1706.1

Offices Held

Lt. 21 Ft. (R. Scots Fusiliers) 1701–c.1702, capt. Mar. 1709–aft. 1717, capt. Ld. Strathnaver’s (William Sutherland*) ft. c.1702–Mar. 1709; commr. justiciary for Highlands [S] 1701–aft. 1702; collector of bishops’ rents [S] 1726–d.2

Provost, Forres; sheriff, Elgin by 1736–?d.3


The 10th laird of Burdsyards, in a line stretching back to a younger son of the Urquharts of Cromarty in the early 15th century, was the first to attain a parliamentary seat, a distinction he owed to his marriage rather than to his ancestry. While his father was a tortured soul preoccupied with matters spiritual, who found a vocation in the Kirk that ultimately he could not sustain, Urquhart’s father-in-law, Forbes of Culloden, was altogether more materially minded – and a man with powerful connexions. In 1701 Urquhart obtained a lieutenancy in a new company of foot in the Royal Scots Fusiliers, raised for the purpose of policing the Highlands. He was also included in both the commission of justiciary and the Elginshire commission of supply. Promotion to a captaincy in Lord Strathnaver’s regiment of foot followed soon afterwards, evidently the result of Forbes’s intercession with the Earl of Seafield, and it was with Seafield’s blessing that Urquhart was eventually returned to Parliament at the general election of 1708. Seafield expected Urquhart to show loyalty to the Court, and included him among those Members who, he said, were ‘my friends, and . . . I hope, will serve her Majesty faithfully in the Parliament’.4

Sent to Flanders in December 1708, having spent the previous two months awaiting transport, Urquhart could not attend the first parliamentary session; and after he transferred back to a company in his old regiment in the following March still found himself on active duty, fighting at Malplaquet where ‘blessed be God my skin was not touched, though my clothes got some scars’. He attended the following session, and voted with the Court. His appearance on a Tory ‘white list’ of those who had opposed the impeachment of Dr Sacheverell was an error. In April 1710 Seafield put him forward to the Duke of Marlborough (John Churchill†) for further promotion: ‘a most faithful servant’ with ‘many recommendations from your Grace’s friends in the House of Commons’ and from Lord Treasurer Godolphin (Sidney†).5

Urquhart surrendered his seat to a fellow army officer, Alexander Grant*, in 1710. A captain’s pay was thought by his patron to be insufficient to fund a parliamentary career. He nevertheless contemplated standing for Elgin Burghs in 1713, but in the end gave his interest to Alexander Reid*, another client of Findlater (the former Seafield). Welcoming the Hanoverian succession, Urquhart fought at Sheriffmuir, where he survived not only being taken prisoner by the Jacobites but being ‘wounded in the belly’, as one report ran, ‘so as his puddings hang out’. He continued active in local politics, serving as provost of Forres and occasionally as its representative to the convention of royal burghs. In 1716 he was appointed to the commission to supervise municipal elections at Elgin. The Forbes connexion eventually brought him a small plum of patronage, his brother-in-law the lord advocate securing for him the collectorship of bishops’ rents (at a combined salary of £400 p.a. for himself and his clerks). In 1730 the annual income from Burdsyards was estimated at about £620 p.a. Urquhart, who held the sheriffdom of his county from 1736, died in January 1741. His eldest son, Duncan†, died unmarried a year later, and was succeeded in turn by his only surviving brother. The estate was sold by Urquhart’s great-grandson, the 13th laird, in 1795.6

Ref Volumes: 1690-1715

Author: D. W. Hayton


  • 1. H. Tayler, Hist. Fam. Urquhart, 224–33; SRO Indexes, liii. 3; CSP Dom. 1700–2, p. 287; NLS, Gordon Cumming mss Dep. 175, box 190, bdle. 38, marriage contracts.
  • 2. CSP Dom. 1700–2, p. 375; 1702–3, pp. 339, 354; Cal. Treas. Bks. and Pprs. 1731–4, p. 595; 1742–5, p. 212.
  • 3. HMC Laing, ii. 242; W. Fraser, Chiefs of Grant, ii. 126–7.
  • 4. Tayler, 224, 233; Diary of Brodie of Brodie (Spalding Club), 420, 456; NLS, ms 9241, f. 8; Reg. PC Scotland, 1684–5, p. 412; 1690, p. 6; APS ix. 74, 146; xi. 24; More Culloden Pprs. ed. Warrand, i. 279–80; ii. 18; P. W. J. Riley, Union, 333; Culloden Pprs. 29; Seafield Letters, 109.
  • 5. More Culloden Pprs. ii. 12–16, 24–25; Marlborough–Godolphin Corresp. 1123, 1137, 1164, 1166; Lockhart Mems. ed. Szechi, 287; Add. 61136, ff. 139, 141.
  • 6. Add. 61136, f. 139; Tayler, 234; SRO, Seafield mss GD248/166/4/2, David Dunbar to Lodovick Brodie, 4 Jan. 1715; Recs. R. Burghs Scotland, v. 141, 272, 397; Recs. of Elgin (New Spalding Club), i. 396; More Culloden Pprs. iii. 10–12; Urquhart mss at Craigston Castle, box 190, bdle. 36, James Wiseman to Urquhart, 1 Aug. 1730; Northern N. and Q. xii. 17; Tayler, 235, 242.