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Papers of James Murray, 2nd Duke of Atholl

Identifier: Coll-40

Scope and Contents

The collection contains letters to the Duke about the Jacobite Rebellion, 1745-1746, along with a few earlier papers.


  • Creation: 18th century

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Biographical / Historical

James Murray was born on 28 September 1690. He was the third son of John Murray, 2nd Marquis and 1st Duke of Atholl (1660-1724). By June 1714, Lord James had reached the ranks of Captain and Lt.-Col. in the 1st Footguards (King's Company). Then came the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 in support of the 'Old Pretender', James Francis Edward Stewart (1688-1766), and led by John Erskine, 11th Earl of Mar. Lord James joined the Duke of Argyll's government forces at Perth in January-February 1716 and marched in pursuit of the Jacobites to Aberdeen. To the north, at Peterhead, the 'Old Pretender' had arrived from Lorraine just before Christmas, but with the collapse of the Rebellion he sailed from Montrose, Angus, just a few weeks later.

Lord James' older brother, William Murray, Marquis of Tullibardine (1689-1746), had taken part in the indecisive Rebellion and his rights to the family honours and estates were therefore stripped from him by Act of Parliament. These would now pass to Lord James since the eldest brother, John Murray, had been killed earlier at the Battle of Malplaquet in August 1709.

Meanwhile, in 1715, Lord James had been elected MP for Perthshire, and in 1722 he was chosen again. On the death of his father in 1724, he became 2nd Duke of Atholl. His rather than William's succession to the family honours and estates was confirmed by a new Act of Parliament in 1733. That same year he was appointed Lord Privy Seal. In 1734, he received the Order of the Thistle. In 1736, James Murray, now 2nd Duke of Atholl, also inherited sovereignty of the Isle of Man and an English barony through a family connection to the 10th Earl of Derby. Between 1737 and 1741 he was able to sit in Parliament both as an English Baron and a Scottish Peer.

In July 1745, the 'Young Pretender' Prince Charles Edward Stewart (1720-1788) accompanied by William Murray (titular Duke of Atholl) and six other supporters landed at Moidart in the west of Scotland. Within six weeks of the raising of the Jacobite standard at Glenfinnan in August 1745, Charles had overrun Scotland and James Murray had fled southwards. The dispossessed William Murray now took possession of Blair Castle in Perthshire, the family seat.

By December, the Jacobites had reached Derby, and although still undefeated they won practically no support either in the Lowlands of Scotland or in England, and they began a fateful withdrawal to Scotland. James Murray joined the army of the Duke of Cumberland in pursuit of Prince Charles and the Jacobites and arrived in Edinburgh on 30 January 1746. He continued northwards to the Atholl estates and summoned his men to attend him and to join the government troops in their march towards Inverness. In April 1746, at the Battle of Culloden, the last battle to be fought on British soil, the Jacobites were defeated. James Murray, 2nd Duke of Atholl, regained Blair Castle and the Atholl estates.

In 1763, Murray resigned the office of Lord Privy Seal on his appointment as Keeper of the Great Seal and as Lord Justice General. James Murray, 2nd Duke of Atholl, died at Dunkeld, Perthshire, on 8 January 1764.


150 letters (approx)

Physical Location


Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.

Related Materials

Check the local Indexes for references to the Atholl family. In addition, the UK National Register of Archives (NRA), updated by the Historical Manuscripts Commission, notes the following relating to James Murray, 2nd Duke of Atholl: correspondence and papers, 1681-1714, Blair Castle, Ref. NRA(S)0234 NRA 11000 Stewart-Murray; legal correspondence, 1705-1723, National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division, Ref. MS 1403, and correspondence with the 1st and 2nd Marquesses of Tweeddale, 1696-1716, National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division, Ref. MSS 6487, 6488, 7020-7030, 7104 passim; correspondence with the Earl of Dunmore, circa 1703-1710, College of William and Mary, NRA 22219 Murray; letters to Lord Godolphin, 1703-1708, British Library, Manuscript Collections, Ref. Add MS 28055; letters to Duchess of Hamilton, 1713-1716, Private, Ref. NRA(S)2177/C3 NRA 10979 Hamilton; correspondence (15 items) with Lord Leven, 1708-1721, National Archives of Scotland, Ref. GD26/13/152 NRA 29368 Leslie Melville, also correspondence with Earl of Mar, Ref. GD124 NRA 32022 Erskine, and letters to Duke of Montrose, 1703-1717, Ref. GD 220/5 NRA 32572 Graham.

Papers of James Murray, 2nd Duke of Atholl (1690-1764)
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Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
George Square
Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
+44(0)131 650 8379