Robert Scott Lauder, R.S.A. (1803-1869)
Robert Scott Lauder, R.S.A. (1803-1869)

Claverhouse ordering Morton to be carried out and shot for having given refuge to Balfour of Burley

Robert Scott Lauder, R.S.A. (1803-1869)
Claverhouse ordering Morton to be carried out and shot for having given refuge to Balfour of Burley
numbered '787' (lower right)
oil on canvas
65 x 97 in. (165 x 246.8 cm.)
Rev. M.B. Grenside; London, Christie's, 5 July 1878, lot 305 (£94.10.0 to Leger?).
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London 10 November 1993, lot 78.
London, Royal Academy, 1844.

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Lot Essay

This pictures depicts a scene from The Tale of Old Morality, a novel by Sir Walter Scott. Set in 1679 during the Covenanter uprising of that year, the hero of the novel, Henry Morton of Milnwood, is sentenced to death by John Graham of Claverhouse, 1st Viscount Dundee and his government forces for giving shelter to Balfour of Burley, a Covenanter
The 17th Century was a turbulent and violent period in Scottish history, and was of particular interest to Walter Scott. Covenanters were Presbyterians who were resistant to attempts by Charles I and his Archbishop of Canterbury to impose a new prayer book and liturgy on the Church of Scotland. They opposed the episcopal government of Charles I (church government by bishops) which they viewed as "popish". Their views were laid down in the National Covenant of 1638. Allegiance to the Covenant spread rapidly through all sections of Scottish society with some members of the Scottish aristocracy allying themselves to the cause as a way to preserve their power against increased English interference in Scottish affairs. This led to the Bishops Wars of 1639-40.
In 1679, they assassinated Archbishop James Sharp, the primate of Scotland. Once a Presbyterian minister and the leader of the Resolutionists; a moderate wing of the Scottish church, Sharp eventually betrayed his former comrades and supported the reintroductions of Episcopalian government for the church in Scotland. As Archbishop of St. Andrews, he sanctioned the violent repression of the Covenanters. Following his murder, the Covenanters rose against the government forces of Claverhouse and routed them at the Battle of Drumclog. However their success was only temporary and three weeks later the Covenanters were soundly defeated at Bothwell Brig by Claverhouse's forces. The victory at Drumclog quickly entered Scottish legend as a potent symbol of the struggle for religious freedom. Numerous romanticized and fictionalized accounts of the battle were written in the years following the event, including The Tale of Old Morality which is not factually accurate. Claverhouse was demonized by historians as Bluidy Clavers for his vehmance in suppressing the rebellion. In fact he recommended clemency for the rebels and was himself connected to the Covenanters by marriage
In The Tale of Old Morality, Henry Morton shelters Balfour of Burley, a friend of his father's; unaware that he has been involved in the murder of Archbishop Sharp. Sentenced to death by Claverhouse for harbouring a wanted man, Morton's friend, and rival for the affections of the Royalist Edith Bellenden, Lord Evandale intercedes on his behalf and he is pardoned. Throughout the novel, Morton is sustained by his love for the Royalist Edith Bellenden, who he eventually marries with the blessing of Lord Evandale after the latter's murder.
It was this mixture of mixture of romance, honour and history that made Walter Scott's novels particularly popular during the Victorian period. Both in book form and as subject matter for artists. The Pre-Raphaelites were particularly attracted to his medieval novels. The popularization of history during the Victorian era for the values it espoused and history's role in the creation of a sense of national identity meant that Scott's work was the perfect reading material for a population with an increasing awareness of and identification with Britain's past.

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