Scottish Noblewomen, the Family and Scottish Politics from 1688-1707

  • Nicola Margaret Cowmeadow

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The Scottish perspective of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 has received limited scholarly attention. The opposite is true of the Union of 1707 and this defining moment, which resulted in the loss of Scottish independence, continues to stimulate debate. The lives of Scottish noblewomen in the years from Revolution to Union have generally been disregarded. This thesis will demonstrate that acknowledging and exploring the experiences of noblewomen augments understanding of this momentous era. Investigating the lives of Scottish noblewomen using their letters to explore how they lived through the Revolution, the ‘ill years’ of King William’s reign, the Darien venture, European war and ultimately the negotiation of Union provides fresh perspectives on the social, economic and political life of Scotland. Recovering the experience of noblewomen engages with a wider process in Scottish history which has transformed understanding in some areas of historical study but has by no means permeated all. Redefining female political activity has illuminated the influence of elite English women in the later eighteenth century. Scottish noblewomen require similar extensive study. The research presented here supports the argument that political analysis alone cannot provide the fullest assessment of this period. Women are revealed as a vital element within social aspects of political manoeuvring and both created and maintained family networks. This research challenges the constricting framework of the public and private dichotomy. It aims to reveal and redefine the responsibilities of noblewomen within an expanded sphere of activity and suggests a much more inclusive role for women than has previously been considered. The formation of a British parliament in 1707 reduced the number of Scots parliamentarians and changed the role of the governing elite in Scotland but did not diminish Scottish women’s influence and participation. This thesis argues that Scottish noblewomen operated with autonomy within patriarchal parameters to support menfolk, exert authority and in some cases wield influence. Demonstrating their roles, abilities and a new form of social politics at work in Scotland is a vital part of understanding the post Union period and the development of British politics.

    Date of Award2012
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorDerek Patrick (Supervisor) & Christopher Whatley (Supervisor)


    • Noblewomen, Union of 1707, Glorious Revolution 1688, women and estate managment, early modern women and politics

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