Lady Grange

Other names: 
Rachel Chiesley (or Chiesly)
Born c.1679, died May 1745

Rachel Chiesley was the daughter of Margaret Nicholson, and John Chiesley of Dalry.

In about 1708 James Erskine, Lord Grange (1679–1754), fell in love with her but her father had assassinated Sir George Lockhart, Lord President of the court of session in 1689 and, fearing for his legal career, James Erskine refused to marry her when she became pregnant, until she threatened him with a pistol. According to her, they then lived together for nearly 25 years ‘in great love and peace’. They had four sons and five daughters.

When Lady Grange discovered that her husband had a mistress in London, she followed him about, abused him verbally in public, swore at his relations, drank excessively and allegedly threatened to reveal that he was a Jacobite. Trying to pacify her, he allowed her to manage his estate, but due to her extravagance he replaced her.

In 1732, intending to confront her husband, Lady Grange booked a seat on the London coach but a party of Highlanders burst into her house, tied her up, gagged her and carried her off to the Highlands, apparently on Grange’s orders. She was taken to the island of Heiskir, then to St Kilda, where she was kept for four years. In 1738 she smuggled out a letter and an expedition set off to rescue her, but she had already been moved elsewhere. She died in 1745, still a prisoner, and was buried at Trumpan, in Waternish, Skye. She was certainly scandalously treated by her husband, but he himself was a victim of the marriage laws of the time, which did not allow him to divorce a partner who had become intolerable not only to him but to his entire family.

The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women
Based on an entry by Rosalind Marshall