ANSTRUTHER, Sir Robert, 1st Bt. (1658-1737), of Wrae, Linlithgow, and Balcaskie, Fife.
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Family and Education
bap. 24 Sept. 1658, 3rd s. of Sir Philip Anstruther, MP [S], of Anstruther, Fife, by Christian, da. of Sir James Lumsden of Innergellie, Fife, gov. of Newcastle-upon-Tyne 1645–7. m. (1) Sophia (d. 1686), da. and coh. of David Kinnear (d. 1684) of Kinnear, Kilmany, Fife, s.p.; (2) 12 Mar. 1687, Jean, da. and h. of William Monteith (d. by 1691) of Wrae, 5s. (2 d.v.p.) 2da.; (3) his cos. Marion (d. 1743), da. of Sir William Preston, 2nd Bt., of Valleyfield, Fife, 1s. 2da. Assumed name of Kinnear c.1684–6; cr. Bt. 28 Nov. 1694.1
MP [S] Anstruther Easter 1681–2, Anstruther Wester 1702–7.
Burgess and jt. receiver of customs, Anstruther Easter; burgess, Edinburgh 1689, Aberdeen 1698.
Jt. gen. receiver of supply and inland excise [S] 1691–1707; jt. farmer of excise [S] 1696–7; clerk and keeper of cocquet seal, Firth of Forth west of Queensferry 1697.2
Dir. Bank of Scotland 1696.3
After marrying two heiresses in succession, Anstruther completed his fortune with the help of a stint in government office after the Revolution and, almost certainly through the favour of his family’s patrons the Melvilles, was raised to the baronetage. Of his first appearance in the Scottish parliament, as a ‘merchant burgess’ during the Duke of York’s commissionership, nothing is known other than that he joined his brother William in subscribing the declaration against resistance. Their father, an old cavalier, still displayed enough loyalty to earn appointment in 1683 as a commissioner to administer the test and try recusants, but the two sons turned into a different path: William had opposed the Duke of York in 1681 and ranged himself with Presbyterian interests even before the Revolution. Robert showed a commitment to the Williamite regime in 1689–90 in his service on various local commissions, and although he failed to secure his seat in the convention of estates when a double return for Anstruther Easter was decided against him he was given a place as one of the general receivers of supply. Despite burning his fingers in the Darien venture (in which he invested at least £500), and in the ill-starred farm of the Scottish excise, he was able to purchase in 1698 an estate at Balcaskie, in his ancestral county of Fife, where he went on to build ‘a very pretty . . . house, with all modish conveniences of terraces, park and planting’. The same year he served as a commissioner to the convention of royal burghs for the neighbouring burgh of Anstruther Easter. His family had long exercised an influence in the port of Anstruther and he had himself formerly represented the Easter burgh in parliament.4
Anstruther’s opposition to union may have been determined by anxiety over the continuance of his office as general receiver; or, perhaps more likely, his trading interests may have made him nervous. He took part in the protests in 1705 against the treaty act, having been elected to Queen Anne’s Scottish parliament for the other burgh at Anstruther, which he had represented since 1698 at the convention. His record in the parliamentary divisions on the Union was characterized by absenteeism. In all he registered only six votes (five of them on the opposition side), and he abstained in the crucial divisions on the first article and on ratification. It has been suggested that, like his nephew Sir John Anstruther, 1st Bt.*, he may have been subjected to pressure, but whereas Sir John was persuaded to abstain by the Squadrone lord, Rothes, Sir Robert almost certainly took his instruction from the Court Tory Lord Leven. He was at any rate insufficiently trusted either by the Court or the Squadrone managers to merit inclusion among the Scots representatives in the first Parliament of Great Britain.5
In the run-up to the 1708 election, Anstruther set himself against the interest of Lord Rothes in Fife. At a county meeting, called to prepare a loyal address, he argued strongly against making any mention of the Union, as Rothes had proposed, and instead offered an alternative draft ‘wherein’, as Rothes reported, ‘there was not a word of the Union but a long ridiculous compliment to my Lord Leven for his courage, conduct and good success’. When Rothes and his supporters persisted with their version, Anstruther led a breakaway faction in drafting a ‘counter-address’. However, the appearance of his nephew Sir John as Rothes’ candidate necessitated some ‘discreet conduct’, and he seems to have avoided a public commitment to Leven’s nominee. Even so, his return for the county at a by-election in March 1710 should probably be ascribed to Leven’s influence. There was little opportunity for him to shine in the Commons, nor, so far as is recorded, did he make a speech. Anstruther died in March 1737. One of his sons was killed at Preston in 1715; another rose to the rank of general in the service of the Hanoverians.6
Ref Volumes: 1690-1715
Author: D. W. Hayton
- 1. Scot. Rec. Soc. viii. 192; W. Wood, East Neuk of Fife, 302; SRO Indexes, xxxi. 8; Hist. Scot. Parl. 21.
- 2. Scot. Rec. Soc. lix. 35; New Spalding Club, Misc. ii. 477; APS, xi. 156–7; Hist. Scot. Parl. 21; Cal. Treas. Pprs. 1720–8, pp. 68–69; CSP Dom. 1697, p. 539.
- 3. C. A. Malcolm, Bank of Scotland, 293.
- 4. Carstares, State Pprs. 257; APS, ix. 18, 29, 71, 141, 395; Wood, 186–7, 302; Reg. PC Scotland, 1681–2, pp. 705–6; 1683–4, p. 137; 1690, p. 570; R. Sibbald, Hist. Sheriffdoms of Fife and Kinross (1710), 131; Darien Pprs. (Bannatyne Club, xc), 391.
- 5. Info. from Dr P. W. J. Riley on members of Scot. parl.; P. W. J. Riley, Union, 335.
- 6. SRO, Montrose mss GD220/5/159/4, Rothes to Montrose, 30 Mar. 1708; ibid. GD220/5/159/5, same to same, ‘Saturday at night’ .