Show Summary Details

Page of
PRINTED FROM Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single article in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).

Drummond, William, first viscount of Strathallanlocked

(c. 1617–1688)
  • David Stevenson

Drummond, William, first viscount of Strathallan (c. 1617–1688), royalist army officer, was the fifth son of John Drummond, second Lord Maderty (d. 1649×51), and Margaret Leslie, eldest daughter of Patrick Leslie, first Lord Lindores. Drummond attended the University of St Andrews, and served as a captain in the Scottish army in Ireland in 1642–8. He was commissioned on 5 October 1645 and 30 June 1646 to negotiate on the army's behalf with the Scottish committee of estates and the English parliament, and spent several months in London in 1646–7. He was with the contingent of the army which returned to Scotland in 1648 to support the engagement to help Charles I, and was present when it dispersed the marquess of Argyll's levies near Stirling in August.

Facing punishment in Scotland for his support for the engagement, Drummond considered taking part in a scheme Cromwell was considering whereby the Spanish would recruit Scottish troops for service in Flanders, and he was present at Cromwell's invitation in January 1649, when the latter debated with Scottish commissioners opposing the execution of Charles I. However, Drummond left London the day after the execution to join Charles II in the Netherlands. Returning to Scotland in 1650 he was appointed a colonel in the forces opposing Cromwell's invasion in December. He was captured at the battle of Worcester (3 September 1651), but on being granted bail fled to rejoin Charles II in Paris. By 1653 he was back in Scotland, serving with the royalists who had risen in the highlands against English rule. He was sent to the Netherlands to invite Charles II to come to Scotland, but the king dispatched him again to the highlands in November with just 'good words and a few kind letters' (Bishop Burnet's History, 1.111). Now holding the rank of major-general, Drummond had some success in delaying the collapse of the fragmented and demoralized royalist resistance, but in May 1655 he and his friend Major-General Thomas Dalyell obtained passes from the English to withdraw to the continent. High regard for him at this time is indicated by Edward Hyde's description of him in 1653 as 'a very discreet, honest, gallant person' (Firth, Scotland and the Commonwealth, 245n.) and by the comment in 1654 that he was 'not only a good souldier, but a sober, rationall man' (Firth, Scotland and the Protectorate, 123).

With the permission of the king, Drummond and Dalyell served Tsar Alexis I of Russia against the Poles and Tartars in 1655–65. Drummond became 'Lieut-General of the Strangers' (foreign troops) and governor of Smolensk after defeating the Poles near Chausy in 1662 (Dalton, pt 1, 70), and was credited on one occasion with having saved a retreating Russian army from total defeat by his rearguard action with a small body of men. The generals were recalled by Charles II in 1665, as he feared unrest in Scotland during the Second Anglo-Dutch War, and Drummond was appointed major-general of the forces in Scotland in May 1666. The king declared himself 'very sensible of the share' he had in the dispersal of presbyterian dissidents at Rullion Green in November 1666 (ibid., pt 1, 71) and he was sworn of the privy council in January 1667. But the disbanding of the army in Scotland in September left Drummond unemployed, and he is said to have pressed for harsh military repression of dissidents—Gilbert Burnet later alleged that Drummond, being 'ambitious and covetous', was disappointed at the failure to implement a proposal to treat all who refused to denounce the covenants as traitors, as that would have led to 'great dealing in bribes and confiscations' (Bishop Burnet's History, 1.439). Drummond came to be associated with those opposed to the earl of Lauderdale's policies (he represented Perthshire in the 1669–74 parliament), and this led to his imprisonment in Dumbarton Castle between September 1674 and February 1676; he was made an example of in this way, it was said, because he 'was of all the military men he that had the best capacity and the greatest reputation' (ibid., 2.57). In April 1678 he accompanied a delegation of Scottish politicians opposed to Lauderdale to court, and is said to have complained to the king that though he had always been a loyal subject he had been imprisoned without explanation. He had now come to seek employment 'in the ware', and if there was no employment for him he would rather the king hanged him than treated him as a slave (O. Airy, ed., The Lauderdale Papers, 3 vols., CS, new ser., 34, 36, 38, 1884–5, 3.151).

The expected war with France did not take place, and Drummond remained unemployed. These years of respite from military duties allowed him to turn to personal matters. He married Elizabeth Johnston (d. 1679), daughter of Sir Archibald Johnston of Wariston and widow of Thomas Hepburn of Humbie, at Holyrood Abbey on 28 February 1668. The marriage ceremony was held at midnight, doubtless to avoid scandal, as the couple's daughter had been born ten days before. Drummond is said to have been instrumental in having his father-in-law's head removed from the Netherbow Port, Edinburgh, where it had stood since his execution in 1663. Their only son, William, later second Lord Strathallan, was born in 1670. The general also developed his literary interests, completing The Genealogy of the most Noble and Ancient House of Drummond (which was not published until 1831); the work was dedicated to the head of his kin, James Drummond, fourth earl of Perth, in 1681.

The decline of Lauderdale's power eventually brought Drummond renewed employment. He was appointed master-general of the king's ordnance in Scotland (8 September 1682), and in the years that followed he played an active part in the suppressing of disorder in the west and in the highlands. On 4 June 1685 he was made lieutenant-general of all forces in Scotland, and he took part in the suppression of the earl of Argyll's uprising. On a visit to court in March 1686 he resisted pressure from James VII to convert to Roman Catholicism, being, as his brother-in-law James Johnston put it, 'a bad Christian but a good Protestant' (T. B. Macaulay, History of England, 6 vols., 1913–15, 2.774). Drummond's first wife, Elizabeth, died in 1679. He probably contracted a second marriage, to Grisel Drummond, in or before 1685, because their son was baptized in that year without mention of illegitimacy. Drummond was created viscount of Strathallan and Lord Drummond of Cromlix on 16 August 1686; he died on 23 March 1688, and was buried on 4 April 1688 at Innerpeffray, Perthshire, a funeral sermon being preached by Alexander Monro, the principal of Edinburgh University.

Gilbert Burnet's comment about Drummond that there was 'yet too much of the air of Russia about him, though not with Dalziel's fierceness' (Bishop Burnet's History, 1.439), and the rumour that he was (with Dalyell) responsible for introducing the thumbscrew as an instrument of torture to Scotland from Russia, are not backed up by specific allegations against him. Even Sir John Lauder of Fountainhall, who spread the thumbscrew rumour, admitted that in fact it was already used in Scotland under another name—'the pilliewincks' (J. Lauder, Historical Notices, 2 vols., 1848, 2.557). However, he undoubtedly could be brutal. In 1685 he referred to some mutinous soldiers as 'thes miserable unhappy divells' but added 'I wishe they wer all shot to death'—though he admitted that this would be inexpedient (NA Scot., RH15/12/123/70). Burnet refers to Drummond's 'great measure of knowledge and learning, and some true impressions of religion', while Ewen Cameron of Lochiel described him as 'ane honest man, a faithfull and sinscear friend and ane incorruptible patriot; besides he distinguished himsel by his learning and parts' (E. Cameron, Memoirs, 1842, 219).


  • CSP dom., 1642–89
  • Reg. PCS, 2nd ser., vol. 8
  • Reg. PCS, 3rd ser., vols. 1–14
  • C. H. Firth, ed., Scotland and the Commonwealth: letters and papers relating to the military government of Scotland, from August 1651 to December 1653, Scottish History Society, 18 (1895)
  • C. H. Firth, ed., Scotland and the protectorate: letters and papers relating to the military government of Scotland from January 1654 to June 1659, Scottish History Society, 31 (1899)
  • M. D. Young, ed., The parliaments of Scotland: burgh and shire commissioners, 2 vols. (1992–3)
  • D. Stevenson, Scottish covenanters and Irish confederates (1981)
  • transactions of the army in Ireland, NL Scot., Adv MS 33.40.8
  • D. Stevenson, ed., The government of Scotland under the covenanters, Scottish History Society, 4th ser., 18 (1982)
  • S. Murdoch and A. Grosjean, ‘Scotland, Scandinavia and Northern Europe, 1580–1707’,


  • BL, Lauderdale MSS, letters to earl of Lauderdale and Charles II, Add. MSS 23122–23130
  • Buckminster Park, Grantham, corresp. with earl of Lauderdale


  • attrib. L. Schuneman, oils, Scot. NPG
National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh
J. H. Burton & others, eds., (1877–1970)
G. E. C. [G. E. Cokayne], , 8 vols. (1887–98); new edn, ed. V. Gibbs & others, 14 vols. in 15 (1910–98); microprint repr. (1982) and (1987)
G. Burnett, ed. M. J. Routh, 2nd edn, 6 vols. (1833)
, 63 vols. (1885–1900), suppl., 3 vols. (1901); repr. in 22 vols. (1908–9); 10 further suppls. (1912–96); (1993)
J. B. Paul, ed., , 9 vols. (1904–14)