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March 1st 1645

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Ardvorlich murders Kilpont

James Stewart of Ardvorlich was said to be a young man of tremendous strength but also of “violent passions and singular temper.” 

He grew up to manhood in the Covenanting times when Charles 1st was trying to retain his authority in Scotland. It was a time when the Duke of Montrose had just taken over control of the Royalist forces. There was another force of Royalists who had crossed over from Ireland under the command of Alasdair MacCollkeitach the son of the chief of Colonsay and Iona. They made their way across from the west to join up with Montrose in the Atholl country. In the meantime the Covenanting leaders, who exercised control over most of the country, had ordered the Earl of Airth and Menteith to bring out his vassals. This was done and the force placed under the control of Lord Kilpont. Others attached to the same forces included a group under the control of Stewart of Ardvorlich.

The leaders were in fact sympathetic to the Royalist cause but feared to disobey the orders of the Covenanting leaders. However, when they came in contact with Montrose their Covenanting principles showed signs of wilting. They sent a message to the Duke asking for his authority and principles. “I act by Royal authority,”  he said, “and have undertaken to defend it to the utmost of my power against this unnatural rebellion.”  His declaration was enough and the forces under Lord Kilpont promptly joined the Royalist cause.

There was just one difficulty; James Stewart of Ardvorlich had a private grudge against MacCollkeitach who he believed had ravaged certain of his lands in his progress across Scotland. Ardvorlich took his grievance to Montrose who endeavoured to persuade him to put his quarrel aside, but to no avail. He confronted MacCollkeitach and receiving no satisfaction challenged him to a duel. This would indeed have taken place but that Montrose was informed of the affair and forced the two men to forget their quarrel. They shook hands but Ardvorlich’s resentment remained.

His special friend was Lord Kilpont. They shared the same quarters and it was said the same bed. It was to Lord Kilpont that he expressed his anger. It was after Montrose had given a special supper to his chief captains. The two friends at the end of the evening, instead of going straight to their quarters took a stroll around the camp. No doubt both were flushed with drink and once again Ardvorlich reverted to his grievances. He upbraided Kilpont for informing Montrose of the projected duel between himself and MacCollkeitach. Suddenly overcome by fury he stabbed Kilpont several times leaving him lying dead in the grass. Ardvorlich rushed away killing two sentries in the process.

This is one account of the murder but there is another version recounted by Bishop Wishart who was Montrose’ chaplain. Wishart believed that Ardvorlich “had resolved to murder Montrose himself, and, trusting to the great influence he had acquired with Lord Kilpont, he had conceived hopes of prevailing on him to become an associate in the parricide; but that, having in private disclosed his design to Kilpont, he treated the proposal as it deserved and rejected it with horror; whereupon Stewart dreading that he might discover the matter, had fallen upon him quite unguarded and wounded him mortally in several places. Some were of the opinion that he was bribed by the Covenanters to perpetrate this execrable deed; but others thought that he was allured only with the promises or hopes of a reward from them.” 

Whatever might have been the reasons for the murder, Ardvorlich’s movements afterwards were well chronicled. He fled straight to the Covenanting army of the Duke of Argyll. He declared that after joining Montrose he began to repent of the step. He determined to join the Covenanters and informed Kilpont of his resolution, hoping to persuade him to follow the same course. Kilpont strenuously opposed him and in the ensuing scuffle fell mortally wounded. Ardvorlich immediately received a Major’s command in the Covenanting army.

On March 1st 1645 the Scottish Parliament officially pardoned Ardvorlich. “The said James repenting of his error in joining with the said rebels, and abhorring their cruelty, resolves to forsake their wicked company and imparted this resolution to the said Lord Kilpont. But he, out of his malignant disposition, opposed the same, and fell in struggling with the said James…The committee of Estates find that the said James Stewart did good service to the Kingdom in killing the said Lord Kilpont and two Irish rebels and approved of what he did therein…” 

Ardvorlich continued to serve with the Covenanting army and it was said “afforded protection to several of his former friends through his interest with Leslie, when the King’s cause became desperate.” 

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