Archibald Campbell, Earl of Argyle Beheaded

Dan Graves, MSL

Archibald Campbell, Earl of Argyle Beheaded

Archibald Campbell, the first marquess and eighth earl of Argyle, lifted a paper. He still had several more to sign before he died if his estate was to be properly settled. But for a moment, on this day, Monday, May 27, 1661, the papers in front of him no longer seemed to matter. A new thought came to him:

"Here I am, setting my affairs in order," he exclaimed, "but God is sealing my charter to a better inheritance, and saying to me, 'Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.' "

He returned to his papers and completed them. Among them was a letter to King Charles II of England, asking him please to protect his wife and children.

Just two days before, it had looked as if Argyle would escape death. But letters were brought in, showing that he had conspired with Oliver Cromwell against King Charles I, during the war between Parliament and the king. He was pronounced guilty; his head must roll.

Whether you are for king or Parliament in that war, you have to admire the bravery of men and women on both sides. King Charles went to his execution with courage and faith. Now one of his enemies would go with similar courage and faith.

Argyle was a leader of the Scottish Covenanters, a group who insisted that the King of England had no right to dictate the way they should worship. He showed just how strong his faith was after the death sentence was pronounced. His wife met him outside the court, weeping. "The Lord will pay them back for this!" she said.

"Control yourself, Dear. Truly, I pity them. They don't know what they are doing; they may shut me in where they please, but they cannot shut God out from me. For my part, I am as content to be here as in the castle, and as content in the castle as in the Tower of London, and as content there as when at liberty, and I hope to be as content on the scaffold as any of them all."

After they had allowed him two hours with his papers, the guards came and took the marquess to the scaffold. Argyle spoke calmly for a few minutes. His pulse was steady--a physician checked it. Then his head was lopped off by "the maiden" a machine like a guillotine in which an axe blade slid down between grooves from a height of ten feet.

Bibliography:

  1. "Archibald Campbell, Marquis of Argyle." Significant Scots. http://www.electricscotland.com/history/other/ campbell_archibald.htm.
  2. Smellie, Alexander. Men of the Covenant. Revell, 1903. Source of the image.
  3. Taylor, James. The Scottish Covenanters. London: Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co., no date.
  4. Various internet articles, such as http://www.applesofgold.co.uk/archibald_campbell.htm and www.planetpapers.com/Assets/5917.php which describe the "maiden."
Last updated May, 2007.
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