John Drummond, 1st Earl of Melfort

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The Earl of Melfort

John Drummond, 1st Earl (and titular 1st Duke) of Melfort KG KT PC (1649–1714) was a Scottish politician.

He joined the army and was captain of the Scottish Footguards in 1673. He secured the post of deputy governor of Edinburgh Castle in 1679, followed by Lieutenant-General and Master of the Ordnance in 1680. He served as Secretary of State in Scotland under James II and VII from 1684 until 1688, and with his brother James Drummond, 4th Earl of Perth, the Lord Chancellor, practically ruled Scotland until James's abdication. He converted to Roman Catholicism. After the landing of the Prince of Orange, he advocated a wholesale seizure of influential Whigs.

He was created Viscount of Melfort and Lord Drummond of Gillestoun in 1685, and a member of the Privy Council of England in the same year, and Earl of Melfort, Viscount of Forth and Lord Drummond of Riccartoun, Castlemains and Gilstoun in 1686, all titles in the Peerage of Scotland. In 1687, he was appointed one of the founder Knights of the Order of the Thistle. He was further created Baron Cleworth in the Peerage of England on 7 August 1689.

He escaped to France on 16 December 1688, and attended the exiled monarch as Secretary of State for a time in Ireland. However, he was in conflict over policy with the Duke of Tyrconnell and the French ambassador the Comte d'Avaux; this led to his return to France, reaching St Germain in October 1689. The queen, Mary of Modena, then sent him as James's ambassador to Rome. At Rome, he enjoyed considerable social success, but none politically for Pope Alexander VIII had adopted an anti-French position in the Nine Years' War. He remained in Rome until after the election of Pope Innocent XII, but the new pope was no more willing to aid James to regain his crowns than his predecessor. Accordingly, Melfort was recalled to St Germains, where he became James's Secretary of State until June 1694, though the Earl of Middleton became joint Secretary with him on his arrival from England in spring 1693.

File:John Drummond.jpg
John Drummond in 1688

James created him Duke of Melfort, Marquess of Forth, Earl of Isla and Burntisland, Viscount of Rickerton and Lord Castlemains and Galston in the Peerage of Scotland on 17 April 1692, all with a similar remainder to the 1685 viscountcy. He was also made KG at St Germain in 1691. On his resignation, Melfort retired to Orléans and then Rouen, but was allowed to return to court in 1697.

He was outlawed by the government of William III at Westminster on 23 July 1694, and attainted by Act of Parliament on 2 July 1695, when his honours became forfeit, though the attainder did not affect the children of his first marriage. After the death of James II and VII in 1701, the Duke of Melfort was granted the honours and precedence of a French peer by Louis XIV. In France, John and his descendants styled themselves with the title "Duc de Melfort", but this was a French translation of their Jacobite Scottish duchy and not a French duchy.

In 1701, he wrote to his brother, then at St Germain, a letter from Paris, which was sent by mistake to London, ascribing to Louis XIV the intention of restoring James II. He was suspected of treachery to Jacobite interests, and sent to Angers. He was allowed to return to Paris in 1705, but did not reengage in politics. He died at Paris.


  • Edward Corp, 'Drummond, John, styled first earl of Melfort and Jacobite first duke of Melfort (1649–1714)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [1] (subscription required), accessed 17 Feb 2010
Political offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Moray
The Earl of Middleton
Secretary of State, Scotland
with The Earl of Moray
Succeeded by
The Earl of Melville
Preceded by
Various persons as Secretary
of State in England and Scotland
Secretary of State to James II and VII in exile
with The Earl of Middleton (1693–1694)
Succeeded by
The Earl of Middleton
Peerage of Scotland
New creation Earl of Melfort
Viscount of Melfort
Duke of Melfort
Jacobite peerage
Succeeded by
John Drummond
Loss of title — TITULAR —
Earl of Melfort
Jacobite peerage
Peerage of England
New creation — TITULAR —
Baron Cleworth
Jacobite Peerage
Succeeded by
John Drummond