Off with his head!
the French Revolution, the Scots had invented and were using the
guillotine known as the Maiden. From 1564 up to 1708 when it was
withdrawn from use, over 150 people had been executed with this
Perhaps the most famous victim of the Maiden was Archibald Campbell,
9th Earl of Argyll. In 1685, Archibald rebelled against King James
VII in 1685. He was captured after his disastrous rising and taken
to Edinburgh to face the Maiden. It had long been prophesised that
Archibald would meet a violent death. The portent of his doom was
revealed when it was noticed that he winked as he spoke.
Beheadings on the Maiden were popular events and the crowd expected
a good show. Argyll didn’t disappoint. He noticed that the block
on which his head was to rest was uneven. He took out a rule and
measured it before ordering it should be fixed by a carpenter. Argyll
had never been renowned for his religious convictions, unlike his
Presbyterian father who was also beheaded, but on the scaffold Argyll
played every inch the martyr declaring ‘I die not only a Protestant,
but with a heart-hatred of popery, prelacy, and all superstition
whatever’ before the Maiden took his head clean off.
victim of the Maiden was James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton the Regent
of Scotland, during the reign of King James VI. From 1572 to 1580
Morton was the most powerful figure in the kingdom. In the turbulent
years following the Reformation and the deposition of Mary, Queen
of Scots, Morton had been a strong supporter of the Protestant cause.
As regent he had quelled the ambitions of rival nobles, upheld royal
authority against challenges from the Church and governed the Borders.
In the course of his regency he made many enemies, which eventually
caught up with him during an illicit love affair with Esme Stuart,
a member of the court of young King James VI . The affair upset
the king who regarded Esme as his 'favourite' and Douglas was arrested
for treason in 1580 and executed on the Maiden in 1581.