I found this Victorian advert in the church about Lady Grisell Baillie –
But having never heard of her, I had to find out more;
It turns out she was a Scottish songwriter with a fascinating history.
Born on Christmas Day 1665, she died aged 80 on 6th December 1746, just shy of her 81st birthday and was buried on Christmas Day 1746.
In 1677, when Grisell was just 12 years old, she carried letters from her father to Robert Baillie who was in prison for plotting to assassinate King Charles II of England and his brother James.
Baillie’s idea was that the Catholic King and his brother would be killed and a Protestant heir would take their place on the throne. (Guy Fawkes had a similar idea when he tried to blow up King Charles II grandfather, James I, in the famous Gunpowder Plot of 1605).
The King’s men soon became suspicious of Hume as in the same year, 1677, Grisell was asked to be one of the Maids of Honour at the wedding of Mary (the Protestant daughter of the King’s brother James) to William of Orange. And although Grisell turned down this offer, the King wanted Hume arrested for questioning.
Hume hid in the crypt of Polwarth Church in the Scottish Borders while his daughter, Grisell, smuggled food to him and when news broke of Baillie’s execution in 1684, Hume fled to the Netherlands (home of William of Orange) where his family later joined him.
Catholic King James VII of Scotland (II of England) meanwhile took the throne following the death of his brother Charles II in 1685 but Protestant nobles called for the King’s Protestant son-in-law, William of Orange, to land an invasion army from the Netherlands.
When, in 1688 William did just that, King James fled for France and was replaced by his eldest, Protestant daughter Mary and her husband and invader, William of Orange.
This was to become known as The Glorious Revolution.
The Catholic former king, James, didn’t give up so easily though and made one big attempt to recover his throne from Protestant William and Mary. He landed in Ireland in 1689 with a small army in 1690 and there followed the Battle of the Boyne where James and his “Jacobite” army were defeated by William’s “Williamite” army. James returned to France where he stayed with his Catholic cousin, King Louis XIV (he of the Palace of Versailles and French Revolution fame) until his death.
Sir Patrick Hume and his family including Grisell returned to Scotland in 1690 after James’s ultimate defeat in Ireland and in 1692, Lady Grisell aged 27, married George, the son of the executed Robert Baillie. It was said that Grisell fell in love with George when she first met him aged 12 as she smuggled letters from her father to his.
Some of Lady Grisell’s songs were printed in Allan Ramsay’s Tea-Table Miscellany. The most famous being “And werena my heart light I wad dee” which originally appeared in William Thomson’s Orpheus Caledonius (otherwise known as A Collection of the Best Scotch Songs) which was published in 1725.
Lady Grisell was also memorialised by the Scottish poet, Joanna Baillie (not a known relation but she claimed to be a distant relative) in a poem first published in 1821 in Metrical Legends of Exalted Characters.
What a colourful history lesson.