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Malcolm, Lord Forth

British Isles Genealogy | Chapters From the Family Chest

     In October, 1861, the newspapers announced the news that Lord Forth, had died suddenly whilst staying at an hotel at Gloucester, and that his death was caused by his own hand. He was the second but only surviving son of the Right Hon. George Drummond, fifth Earl of Perth and Melfort, in the peerage of Scotland, and Duc de Melfort and Comte de Lussans in that of France, by his first wife, the Baroness Albertine von Rothberg Rheinweiler, relict of General Count Rapp, a peer of France. Lord Forth was born at Naples in the year 1834, lost his mother before he was ten years old, and entered the army as ensign in the 42nd Foot, at the age of eighteen.  Not long after that the Russian war broke out, and Lord Forth accompanied his regiment to Turkey, where he served some months before proceeding to the Crimea.
     For some reason or other, which has never been satisfactorily explained, the wild and impulsive youth became unpopular in his regiment; and in the end he resigned his commission and retired from the service while the war was going on-a step which caused much ill-natured remark at the time, and gave rise to a story which was most industriously circulated at the time, and which seriously impugned his personal courage. Knowing as I do, from a private source, much that has been said both for and against him, I believe Lord Forth, as a young man in the army, to have been as much sinned against as sinning; and I am of opinion that the treatment which he received while holding her Majesty's commission, acting on a fiery, head-strong, and unrestrained temperament, laid the foundation of his subsequent misfortunes, including an ill-starred and ill-assorted marriage, a matrimonial separation, and an ineffectual attempt to obtain a divorce on the part of both husband and wife; and at last, the tragically end of the young nobleman and his paramour. Had Lord Forth, as the phrase goes, 'shown the white feather in the Crimea,' it is not likely that he would have received, as he subsequently did receive, the medal and clasp for both the Alma and Sebastopol; and I believe that I am stating the worst against him in his character of a soldier, when I say that the act which eventually caused him to resign his commission was an act, not of cowardice, but of insubordination. Now subordination is one of the last virtues learned by a boy who, like Lord Forth, lost his mother at an
early age, and was scarcely ever the inmate of his father's roof afterwards; and who, when he grew to manhood, found himself burdened with a title to keep up, without the means of sustaining it, and was little fitted by his early training for any profession which required obedience, and submission to the control of a superior. I am not seeking to excuse or palliate the reckless of his subsequent career, much less the madness of his suicide; but let us all hope that he will be mercifully judged at the highest of tribunals.
     The Earl of Perth, his father, for many years lived wholly abroad, and it is no secret that when he succeeded in establishing his claim to the earldom, which had been forfeited by his ancestors on account of their zealous adherence to the cause of the unhappy Stuarts, he recovered not a shilling of their once cast revenues, or an acre of the estates which once owned the Earls of Perth as their laird. Rightly or wrongly, almost all those estates are now owned by the Lady Willoughby d'Eresby, as heir of a younger member of the Drummond family, who was raised towards the close of the last century to a peerage, which expired at his death.
Drummond Castle, near Perth, well known to every Scottish tourist as the princely residence of Lord and Lady Willoughby d'Eresby, is the seat where the Drummonds of old kept all but regal state; and I happen to know that the late Lord Forth, some years since, traversed the many miles of the estates of his ancestors, gun in hand, and brought back with him to the hotel at Perth several brace of birds, which he considered that he had a perfect right to shoot without leave or license from the Willoughbies, as he held that the estates were by strict right his father's. I only state facts; I give here no verdict of my own as to the justice of his claim. I would only point to the melancholy end of Lord Forth as one of the distant and remote results-yet still a result-of those odious and infamous penal laws which were so cruelly enforced against the followers of the exiled House of Stuart, down to a comparatively recent date.
     The Earl of Perth, who had, in 1840, succeeded his uncle in the French honors conferred by Louis XIV. on his grandfather, and had thenceforth become head of the family, petitioned the Queen, in 1841, for the formal .restoration of his Scottish titles. It was not, however, till 1848 that he succeeded in establishing his case, by proving his descent before the Committee of the House of Lords for Privileges; and it was only in 1853 that his ancestors' attainder was reversed, and he was formally restored in blood by a special Act of Parliament, and the favor of Her Majesty. In the same year the earl (who in early life had been captain in the 93rd Foot), was appointed major in the Victoria Middlesex Rifles, a commission which he held for very many years. It is almost superfluous to add that the cause of the attainder passed upon the Drummonds was the share which they took in the Scottish rising in favor of the Pretender in 1745 ; and that the same causes which divested them of their patent of nobility here, earned for them. even a higher title at the Court of Le Grand Monarque. They lived mainly at St. Germain, on the most intimate terms with Louis XIV., XV., and XVI., and with the family of the Young Chevalier; and Lord Perth's sister, Lady Clementina Davis, told me that she herself was the very last person born in the royal apartments at St. Germain, before that palace was dismantled as a royal residence, after the outbreak of the first French Revolution.

Chapters From the Family Chests, 1887

Chapters From the Family Chest

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