About this artwork

James Graham, Marquis of Montrose, raised an army on behalf of Charles II and won many victories in the Highlands. He was eventually captured by treachery, and is here shown dragged by the public executioner on a cart up the Royal Mile, past the balcony of Moray House, where his greatest enemies, the Marquis of Argyll and his family, were watching. Drummond had a profound knowledge of the buildings of old Edinburgh and was a passionate collector of many of the kinds of object - Highland weapons and costumes - which feature in this picture. He based his story upon a poem by William Edmondstoune Aytoun, which presents Montrose as a betrayed saint or martyr to the Royalist cause.

James Drummond

James Drummond

Drummond was an accomplished artist and antiquarian, who specialised in Scottish history paintings. He studied at the Trustees' Academy in Edinburgh and made many fine drawings, reflecting his interests in arms, armour and architecture. He supported the preservation of Edinburgh's historic buildings, which often feature in his paintings. Drummond researched his subjects thoroughly and planned his compositions along strict academic lines. Detailed drawings of individual figures, figure groups and compositional sketches, in pencil and watercolour, preceded his final painting. Drummond was elected to the Royal Scottish Academy in 1852 and became curator of the National Gallery of Scotland in 1868.