Boyd, William

, a descendant of the preceding, and fourth and last earl of Kilmarnock, was born in 1704, and was but thirteen years old when his father died: he discovered early a genius not unequal to his birth, but found the family estate pretty much encumbered, and great part of the patrimony alienated, which was by no means answerable to his lordship’s generous and noble disposition. It was also his misfortune to be too soon let loose among the gaieties and pleasures of life. As he grew up, instead of applying himself to study, he launched out into the world in pursuit of pleasures which were more expensive than his fortune could support, and by this means considerably reduced his estate, which, from the most probable conjecture, was the true reason of his taking up arms against the king. Indeed, his lordship himself owns in his confession to Mr. Foster (while under sentence), that his rebellion was a kind of desperate scheme, proceeding originally from his vices, to extricate himself from the distress of his circumstances; for he says, “the true root of all was his careJess and dissolute life, by which he had reduced himself to great and perplexing difficulties; that the exigency of his affairs was in particular very pressing at the time of the rebellion; and that, besides the general hope he had of mending his fortune by the success of it, he was also tempted by another prospect of retrieving his circumstances, by following the Pretender’s standard.” It does not appear that his lordship was in the original design of the rebellion: on the contrary, he declared both in his speech at the bar of the house of lords, and in his petition to the king after his sentence, that it was not tilt after the battle of Preston Pans that he became a party in it, having, till then, neither influenced his tenants or followers to assist or abet the rebellion; but, on the contrary, influenced the inhabitants of the town of Kilmarnock, and the neighbouring boroughs, to rise in arms for his majesty’s service, which had so good an effect, that two hundred men from Kilmarnock very soon appeared in arms, and remained so all the winter at Glasgow and other places. It is said, that when the earl joined the | Pretender’s standard, he was received by him with great marks of esteem and distinction; was declared of his privy-council, made colonel of the guards, and promoted to the degree of a general (though his lordship himself says, he was far from being a person of any consequence among them). How he behaved in these stations (quite new to him, and foreign from his former manner of life), we cannot determine; but common fame says, he displayed considerable courage till the fatal battle of Culloden, when he was taken, or rather surrendered himself, prisoner, to the king’s troops, though involuntarily, and with a design to have facilitated his escape: for he acknowledged to Mr. Foster, whilst under sentence, that when he saw the king’s dragoons, and made towards them, he thought they had been Fitz-James’s horse; and that if he could have reached them by mounting behind one of the dragoons, his escape would have been more certain, than when he was on foot. Yet, in his speech to the house of lords, he made a merit of having surrendered himself, at a time when he said he could easily have made his escape, and in this he owned, when in a state of repentance, that he had not spoken truth. His lordship was brought to the Tower, and on Monday the 28th of July, 174-6, was, together with the earl of Cromartie, and lord Balmerino, conducted to Westminster-hall, and at the bar of the lord high-steward’s court, arraigned, and pleaded guilty to his indictment, submitting himself to his majesty’s mercy and clemency. On the Wednesday following, the three lords were again brought from the Tower to receive sentence, when the lord Kilmarnock being asked by the lord high-steward, if he had any thing to offer why sentence of death should not be passed upon him, his lordship, addressing himself to his grace and the whole august assembly, then consisting of an hundred and thirty-six peers, delivered an eloquent speech, after which, sentence of death was pronounced upon him, and he returned to the Tower. After this, he presented petitions to the king, the prince of Wales, and duke of Cumberland, wherein he set forth his family’s constant attachment to the revolution interest, and that of the illustrious house of Hanover; his father’s zeal and activity in support of both in the rebellion in 1715, and his own appearing in arms (though then but young) under his father, and the whole tenour of his conduct ever since that time. But the services of his forefathers could not | satisfy the public demand for justice, nor avail him so far as to procure him pardon. He was beheaded on Towerhill, August 18, 1746, and was interred in the Tower church, with this inscription upon his coffin, viz. “Gulielmus Comes de Kilmarnock, decollat. 18 Augusti, 1746, aetat. suae 42.” His lordship’s whole deportment, from the time he was condemned till his execution, was suitable to one in his unhappy circumstances. He gave the most lively marks of a sincere humiliation and repentance for all his miscarriages, and his behaviour in the hour of death was resigned, but strictly decent and awful. He had himself observed, with great truth, that for a man who had led a dissolute life, and yet believed the consequences of death, to put on an air of daringness and absolute intrepidity, must argue him either to be very stupid or very impious. He was a nobleman of fine address and polite behaviour; his person was tall and graceful; his countenance mild, but his complexion pale; and he had abilities, which, if they had been properly applied, might have rendered him capable of bringing an increase of honour to his family, instead of ruin and disgrace. His lordship lived and died in the public profession of the church of Scotland, and left behind him a widow (who was the lady Anne Livingston, daughter of James earl of Linlithgow and Callander (attainted in 1715), with whom he had a considerable fortune), and three sons, the eldest of whom his lordship had educated in the principles of duty and loyalty to his majesty, and in whose service he fought against the rebels. He succeeded, upon the death of Mary, countess of Errol, in 1758, to her estate and honours, his mother having been undoubted heir of line of that noble family, and he was the sixteenth earl of Errol. He died June 3, 1778, leaving issue. 1

1 Biog. Brit. Sea art. James Foster.