Major-general Montgomery, who was in command of a body of cavalry that was designed either to operate against, or come to terms with, the associate levies under Colonels Ker and Strachan. After Montgomery had passed Stirling and was on the road to Dumbarton, he gave Somerville a commission to try and ascertain if the associate forces were willing to come to an agreement. He accordingly went to Renfrew, and arrived just in time to take part in a concentration of royalist forces on Ruglen, which was intended to check Cromwell's advance on Hamilton. Four Cromwellian regiments of cavalry (Lord Kirkcudbright's, Colonel Strachan's, Ker's, and Halkett's), made a night march on Hamilton, and occupied the town, but, after a sharp encounter, were driven out and dispersed the next morning. Somerville, after sending a message to Montgomery, passed three days with the laird of Cathcart, till the country was clear, and then returned to Cambusnethan. But Cromwell had rapidly regarrisoned Hamilton, and was making the country dangerous for the royalists. Somerville and his father therefore retired beyond Forth, and were present at the coronation of Charles II at Scone on 1 Jan. 1651. With other royalists they then paid their respects to the Duke of Hamilton, who was residing with the Earl of Crawford at the Struthers, Fifeshire. Somerville's father declined an offer of the command of a regiment of foot, but placed his son in the king's guard, again only as a volunteer. When Charles II resolved to march into England, it took all the elder Somerville's ingenuity to remove his son from the royal guard and thus observe his vow that the young man should never leave Scotland. The army's line of march passed within a short distance of the Corhouse, where resided Martha Bannatyne, to whom young Somerville was affianced. At the elder Somerville's request the lady sent her lover a message requesting an interview. The youth came immediately, and once within the walls the ‘iron yett’ closed, and there was no egress till the army was too far off to be rejoined. Young Somerville thus escaped the reverse at Worcester, and was married at Lesmahagow church on 13 Nov. 1651. He was still in his nineteenth year.
Thenceforth in domestic retirement he studied the records of his family, and completed in 1679 his important work, ‘The Memorie of the Somervilles,’ written chiefly for the benefit of his sons, to whom it was addressed. The two closely written folio volumes remained unprinted among the family papers until 1815, when they were edited by Sir Walter Scott, and published with many valuable notes and corrections (Edinburgh, 2 vols. 8vo).
The death of his father on 3 Jan. 1677 left Somerville successor to the family peerage, but, like his father, he declined to assume the title, and it remained in abeyance until it was recovered by his great-grandson, James, thirteenth lord Somerville, whose grandson, John Southey Somerville, fifteenth lord [q. v.], is separately noticed. James Somerville died in 1690. By his first wife, who died in 1676, he had three sons: James, born 26 Aug. 1652; John; and George. On 15 March 1685 he married, secondly, Margaret Jamieson, and had issue a daughter Margaret (b. 1686) and a son Hugh (b. 1688).
[Memorie of the Somervilles (1815); Douglas's Peerage; Par. Reg. of Newhall.]
SOMERVILLE or SOMERVILE, JOHN (1560–1583), condemned for treason against the life of Queen Elizabeth, was the head of an ancient catholic family possessing lands in Warwickshire and Gloucestershire, and having their chief seat at Edstone in the former county. He was eldest son of John Somervile of Edstone, by Elizabeth, daughter of William Corbett, of Lee, Shropshire. He was born in 1560, and educated at Hart Hall, Oxford, then much resorted to by Roman catholics. He married Margaret, daughter of Edward Arden [q. v.] of Park-hall, who, like himself, was an adherent of the ancient faith. In midsummer 1583 he became ‘affected with a frantic humour,’ thinking himself called on to free his religion from persecution, and saying that he ‘must die for the commonwealth.’ On 24 Oct. he was heard to declare that he would go to the court and shoot the queen with his dag. The following day he set out from Edstone for London, making little secret of his purpose, and assaulting with his drawn sword some persons whom he met on the way. Being apprehended, he admitted that he meant to kill the queen, and implicated Edward Arden, the latter's wife, his own wife, and Hugh Hall, a priest, who lived in Arden's house in the disguise of a gardener. With them he was arraigned at Guildhall on 16 Dec. 1583. He pleaded guilty; his companions, who pleaded not guilty, were convicted by verdict of the assize. All were sentenced to death. Hall and the women were pardoned, the priest apparently in order that his evidence might be used in other cases. On 19 Dec. the lieutenant of the Tower delivered up Somerville and Arden for execution. They were brought in the same litter to Newgate and shut up separately. Within two hours afterwards Somervile was found strangled in his cell. His