William Mercer

Born:1605.
Colonel in the army.
Author of “the Speculum Angliae”.
Offered his son as husband of the heiress of Aldie.
Petitioned the crown on account of losses in Ireland.
Died:1684.

Four wives

“For in my tyme I married four fyne wives
For by such matches many bad men thrives
Two maids between two widows, first and last;
The first three failed and now the fourth holds fast
A Murray, Mervyn, Conway and a Duff
My Lady smiles and says these wer enuffe.”

Wild Youth

William was a wild youth, and running away from school, served as a soldier in Denmark and Sweden, according to his own account, without pay. He returned to Scotland before 1630, and on 28 June in that year, Charles I granted a letter of presentation in favour of ‘William Mercer, sone lawfull to Mr. Johnne Mercer, minister at Slaynes, to the parsonage and vicarage of the teyndis, &c., of the kirk and parochine of Glenholme,’ &c. Glenholme was a prebend attached to the Chapel Royal of Stirling, but there is nothing to show that Mercer ever occupied the post, although benefices were often conferred on those who held no orders in the church. About 1638 he seems to have served as an officer in Ireland, where he says in his ‘Angliae Speculum’ that his ‘father’s heir’ was ‘put to sword.’

William subsequently obtained through the Earl of Essex a commission as captain of horse in the parliamentary army in England; and while in this service he published his first volume, ‘Angliae Speculum,’ in 1646.

At the Restoration Mercer made vows of loyalty to the new monarch.
(Source material: Dictionary of National Biography)

Offered his son in marriage

Colonel William Mercer’s offer of his son as husband of the heiress of Aldie.

Sir James Mercer of Aldie and Meikleour was married to Jean, daughter of Sir Thomas Steuart of Grandtully. He had no male heirs but, anxious to retain the family name, he executed a deed of tailzie whereby his eldest daughter, Grissel, was bound to marry a Mercer or someone who would assume the surname and pay off certain family debts.

After Sir James‘ death, the search began for a suitable husband for Grissel. There was no suitable candidate in Scotland of sufficient wealth to pay the debts so the search switched to Ireland where Lieutenant-Colonel William Mercer proposed that his son might marry Grissel. The Colonel came to Grandtully where he had meetings with both Sir Thomas Steuart and his daughter, Lady Jean Mercer. The Colonel who had already published a poetical work entitled ‘Angliae Speculum’ had a propensity for breaking out into verse whenever he felt the occasion appropriate.

While staying at Grandtully he commented upon his own matrimonial life.

For in my tyme I married four fyne wives
For by such matches many bad men thrives
Two maids between two widows, first and last;
The first three failed and now the fourth holds fast
A Murray, Mervyn, Conway and a Duff
My Lady smiles and says these wer enuffe.

‘My Lady’ (Lady Jean Mercer) and her father seem to have been sufficiently impressed by Colonel Mercer for him to return to Dublin and raise a sum of £2,000 to pay off the debts of the Mercer family and return with his son to Scotland. Grissel does not seem to have been consulted in the marriage making, though perhaps she privately made her feelings clear to her mother. Whatever the circumstances when Colonel Mercer and his son arrived in Perthshire, Lady Jean refused to see either the Colonel or his son. The Colonel was distraught and raised an action for damages for breach of verbal treaty of marriage. To influence the Court of Session he once more resorted to poetry.

My son grows melancholie
And when you find he doth deserve the woman
Then make the lady to the lad furth comen
And if all parties be not well content
Then let the ladies call a parliament
And put to votes, I’le pand my life upon
A hundred voices for the lady’s one;
Nor shall they think to bring me to that pass
To come to Scotland and turn back an ass.

He even considered petitioning the King directly but decided against it.

I have made joyful journeys to Whitehall
But am afraid this will be worst of all
Because the Echo answering at the tower
May blow a bullet and break down Micklour
And doing so make massacrs and slaughters
Then must I save My Lady and her daughters.

But it was all to no avail and the Colonel eventually admits defeat.

For Grissel’s of a graver compositione
She grieves to be provoked by oppositione
Nor is it in her father’s will exprest
He says, she marrying Mercer that is best
A Mercer man and meens, as now appears,
There have been Mercers nere nyne hundred years
All that I shall ask is, ad unto the score
My sons and Grissel yet one hundred more
But I am sure, though Grissel grows so good
That for her worth a prince may be allowd
Yet in this caise no man of worth or honour
(Since my young son has set his worth upon her)
Will ever aim it or intend to woo
But do to him as he would do to you.

Colonel Mercer appears to have been a little hard done by though the quality of his poetry was hardly a recommendation.

Grissel never married.

(Source material: http://www.perthshirediary.com)

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