Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Whitford, Walter (d.1686?)

Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 61
Whitford, Walter (d.1686?) by no contributor recorded

WHITFORD, WALTER (d. 1686?), soldier, was the second son of Walter Whitford (1581?–1647) [q. v.], bishop of Brechin. He fought on the side of the king in the civil war, attained the rank of colonel, and, on the overthrow of Charles, took refuge in Holland. In 1649 Isaac Dorislaus [q. v.], who had taken an active part in the trial of the king, was appointed English envoy in Holland, and reached The Hague on 29 April. Among the followers of Montrose who swarmed in the streets of The Hague the feeling against the regicide was especially bitter, and a scheme was laid among them to murder the new envoy. On the evening of 12 May, as Dorislaus was sitting down to supper at the Witte Zwaan, six men burst into his rooms, and while some of them secured his servants, Whitford, after slashing him over the head, passed a sword through his body, and said, ‘Thus dies one of the king's judges’ (Wood, Athenæ Oxon. ed. Bliss, iii. 666). The whole party, leaving their victim dead upon the ground, made their escape, and Whitford succeeded in crossing the frontier into the Spanish Netherlands, where he was in perfect safety. All royalists received the news of the murder with unbounded satisfaction. Even the staid and kindly Nicholas wrote of the assassination as ‘the deserved execution of that bloody villain’ (Carte, Letters and Papers, i. 291). Whitford accompanied Montrose in his last Scottish expedition in 1650, and was taken prisoner after the battle of Carbisdale on 27 April (Hewins, Whitefoord Papers, p. x). He was to have been beheaded on 8 June with Sir John Urry [q. v.], Sir Francis Hay, and other royalist officers, but, while being led to execution, exclaimed that he was condemned for killing Dorislaus, who was one of those who had murdered the last king. One of the magistrates present, hearing this, ordered him to be remanded, and, inquiry confirming his statement, ‘the council thought fit to avoid the reproach, and so preserved the gentleman.’ The part he had taken in the murder of Dorislaus was ‘counted to him for righteousness’ (Wishart, Deeds of Montrose, 1893, pp. 298, 496), and he was given a pass to leave the country on 25 June (Acts of Parl. of Scotl. VI. ii. 575, 580, 588, 594). In August 1656 he was at the court of Charles (Thurloe, State Papers, v. 315), and ten years later Downing wrote to Thurloe: ‘As for Whitford, I did give De Witt two or three times notice of his lodging, and he must have been taken, but that it was always twenty-four hours ere an order could be had; and he removed his lodging every night, and now he has gone to Muscovy, in a ship loaded with ammunition’ (ib. vii. 429). He entered the Russian service (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1663–4, p. 156), but returned to England before 1666, and on 14 July of that year petitioned for the post of town-major of Hull (ib. 1665–6, p. 532). He subsequently petitioned for ‘aid to keep his family from starving,’ stating that he was disabled by old wounds (ib. Addenda, 1660–70, p. 632). Eventually he received a commission in the guards, and his paternal coat-of-arms was charged with three crosses patée, ‘being added at his majestie's speciall command’ (Stoddart, Scottish Arms, ii. 213). He was dismissed from the guards as a papist in 1673 (Wodrow, Hist. of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland, ii. 232). James II granted him a pension on 31 Dec. 1685 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1689–90, p. 382). During his wanderings on the continent he entered the Duke of Savoy's service, and was there when the last massacre of the Vaudois was perpetrated. At the close of his life the remembrance of these atrocities preyed upon his mind. Bishop Burnet says ‘he died a few days before the parliament met (in 1686), and called for some ministers, and to them he declared his forsaking of popery, and his abhorrence of it for its cruelty’ (Burnet, Hist. of his Own Time, p. 433). But according to Wood he was still living in Edinburgh in 1691 (Wood, Athenæ Oxon. iii. 1015). His son Charles was principal of the Scots College in Paris in 1714 (Brit. Mus. Cat. Addit. MS. 28227).

[Balfour's Annales of Scotl. iv. 60; Clarendon's Hist. of the Rebellion, 1888, v. 121; Cary's Memorials of the Civil War, 1842, ii. 131; Gardiner's Hist. of the Commonwealth and Protectorate, i. 73; Nisbet's Heraldry, 1722, i. 377; Stoddart's Scottish Arms, ii. 213; Whitelocke's Memorials, p. 460; notes supplied by Hugh T. Whitford, esq.]