Sir George “Bluidy” MacKenzie of
Rosehaugh, Kings Advocate.
[Main source: Men of the Covenant,
A Smellie, Deluxe edn,  v II, p 13.(1908].

Sir George MacKenzie of Rosehaugh sits
large in the history of the Covenanters and the later years of the
“Killing Time”, not only for his reputation for pursuing them to the
death, but for being an apostate, and excommunicated for his profligacy
and sinful behaviour.
It is alleged he gained for himself the title “Bluidy” MacKenzie for
his persecution and prosecution of the Covenanters.
It is probable, however, that the epithet came from the belief and legal
tenet, that a murdered person`s body would bleed if touched by the
murderer. McKenzie had used this belief in a court case and secured a

A prominent lawyer, rated second only to
Sir George Lockhart (of whom he was extremely jealous), MacKenzie rose to
become the Lord or King`s Advocate in the autumn of 1679. His elevation to
power came in the aftermath of the Pentland Rising when his predecessor
Sir John Nisbet of Dirleton, had dealt harshly with the prisoners. Nisbet
re-wrote the rules and it was he who moved that delinquents from the
Rising who had not yet been brought to justice, should be tried in their
absence, with no defence and liable to the death sentence. At this time
MacKenzie was against such unprecedented action and held that “Let us not
make snares in place of laws.” Nisbet was eventually forced to resign in 1677.

For all his reputation gained in later
years, as a young man MacKenzie  was cultured and liberally minded.
He was an author, a style setter  as well as a barrister, and
politician being Member of Parliament for Ross-shire. As a poet he was well
known and, indeed, is credited with probably the earliest novel to be
written in Scotland – a boyish romance entitled Aretina, written
when he was twenty five. Two years later he produced The Religious
which contained lofty principles that he would later cast aside
with a vengeance. He wrote:

“My heart bleeds when I
consider how scaffolds were dyed with Christian blood, and the fields
covered with the carcasses of the murthered Christians “

on another page he wrote

“Opinion, kept within
its own proper bounds, is a pure act of mind; and so it would appear that
to punish the body for that which is the guilt of the soul is as unjust as
to punish one relative for another.”

How many doomed Covenanters would have
wished that he had kept to these principles ?;  but as he grew older
his charity degenerated and hardened  into prejudice  and
unrelenting partisanship. Judged  on his writings, including the
history of the Law in Scotland, he would appear an erudite, gracious and
lenient man destined to be a peacemaker .He was, however, the King`s man
through and through and nothing was allowed to interfere with duty to
serve him.

MacKenzie was the nephew of the Earl of
Seaforth who had received his legal training in Aberdeen, St Andrews and
at the continental law school at Bourges. In his early years he was a
defender of the Presbyterians and one of the counsellors to the ill fated
Marquis of Argyle in 1661. In those days MacKenzie professed  ” as to
be a sanctuary to such as are afflicted  and to pull the innocent
from the claws of his accuser.” As an MP he was a thorn in Lauderdale`s
side, especially when in 1669 Lauderdale sought a Union of the Kingdoms.
MacKenzie strongly advocated caution and a calm, dispassionate
consideration. The proposal was eventually dropped to Lauderdale`s great

The high hopes of better times to come
when he was appointed Lord Advocate were soon shattered. He soon rejected
old friends and realised that he was much more of a Royalist than he once
thought, intervening in a long running dispute between the lawyers and the judges 
(appointed by the King) saying ” it was
no dishonour  to submit to their Prince”. Towards the end of his
career he was to boast that

No Advocate has ever screwed the prerogative  higher than I have. I
deserve to have  my statue riding behind Charles the Second in the
Parliament Close”

His relationship with the church became
one of stringent criticism and pursuit with all his powers of oratory,
logic, ridicule and satire. It may well have been easy for him and his
acknowledged skills, to confuse bedazzle and bully both defendant and the
Court or Council holding a trial. During the nine years that he was Lord
Advocate  there was hardly a prosecution of any rank of person in
which he was not involved. He had a a violent temper, insolent approach 
and a wickedly vicious tongue that cowed defendants and even some judges.
He also met with simple men and women who withstood his attacks with an
equally simple and totally committed faith that could not be usurped, such
as James Stewart whom in despair of breaking him, threatened to cut out
his tongue. With Marion Harvey he also failed – in her Testimony she
referred to him as  “That excommunicated tyrant, George MacKenzie,
the Advocate”. His vindictive nature and desire for self aggrandisment 
was revealed in his pursuit of Campbell
of Cessnock
. On occasion he resorted to theatrical displays of the
instruments of torture in the trial chamber  – the thumbkins and the
boot, – to intimidate the prisoner, such as the trial of Alexander Gordon
of Earlston. The similar tactic was used against the Glasgow apothecary
John Spreul but in his case they were actually
used, His artfulness and Machiavellian deceit is on show in his
prosecution of Robert Baillie of Jerviswood. Here he used testimony that
had been promised would not be used as evidence. He carefully reminded the
Court that the defendant was the nephew and son in law of the late
Archibald Johnston,Lord Warriston; and that he
was with William Carstares ( whose evidence he used) a conspirator in the
Rye House Plot.

The high point of
his infamy in Covenanter eyes was reached in his formal excommunication by
Donald Cargill, at Torwood in September 1680.
The reasons for his casting out were given thus:

“Next, I do, by virtue of the same
authority, and in the same name, excommunicate, cast our
of the true Church, and deliver up to Satan, Sir George
Mackenzie, the king’s advocate; for his apostacy, In
turning into a profligateness of conversation, after he
had begun a profession of holiness : for his constant
pleading against, and persecuting to death, the people of
God, and alleging and laying to their charge, things,
which in his conscience he knew to be against the Word of
God, truth, reason, and the ancient laws of this kingdom:
and his pleading for sorcerers, murderers, and other
criminals, that before God, and by the laws of the land,
ought to die; for his ungodly, erroneous, phantastic and
blasphemous tenets, printed to the world in his pamphlets
and pasquils.”

The excommunication may well have had an
unwanted and detrimental effect as there were still five years and the
“Killing Time” to come in which MacKenzie exercised his powers.  The
arrival on the throne of James II (1685) saw new twists and turns as a
result of the Kings` Tolerations and moves to return to a Roman Catholic
ascendancy. For almost two years  (May 1686-Feb 1688) he was out of
office  and replaced by Sir John Dalrymple, the friend of the
Presbyterians. He too was soon removed from office and MacKenzie returned
for the few remaining months before the birth of a son to James and storm
of the Glorious Revolution broke. MacKenzie subsequently dined with the
Archbishop of Canterbury and other prelates during which he pleaded for
episcopacy in Scotland. He similarly wrote to King William to the same
effect. In the spring of 1689 the Scottish Convention offered the crown to
William and Mary and he was out of office. He spent the next two years (
he died in 1691) wandering aimlessly between Oxford and London.