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Tain, the Heart of Sir Robert's Parliamentary Constituency
Tain, the Heart of Sir Robert's Parliamentary Constituency

Sir Robert Munro, 6th Baronet of Foulis, lived from 1684 to 17 January 1746. As a landowner, soldier and politician he was typical of many Scots who showed unwavering support to the Hanoverian cause during the Jacobite uprisings. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.

Sir Robert Munro's Grave in Falkirk
Sir Robert Munro's Grave in Falkirk

Sir Robert's paternal grandfather Sir John Munro and his father, also Sir Robert, were successively chiefs of the Clan Munro, and the family had a tradition of serving in the British army with the Royal Scots. The younger Robert's chance to follow in the family footsteps came with British involvement in the War of the Spanish Succession at the start of the 1700s, and he became one of many Scots who served under John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, during his continental campaigns.

By 1710, Robert Munro is on record as being a Captain in the Royal Regiment of Foot based at The Hague. When the Treaty of Utrecht brought peace to Europe in 1712, Munro found his military career, temporarily at least, brought to an end.

By then, however, Munro had already been given part of his father's estates, near Evanton in Easter Ross. And in 1710 he was able to secure election (by the limited number of enfranchised voters) to the seat of Tain Burghs in the newly formed Parliament of Great Britain. One of 45 Scottish seats in the Parliament, his constituency covered the burghs of Dingwall, Tain, Dornoch, Wick and Kirkwall: an even larger area in the early 1700s than it seems today. He was to retain the seat through five further elections and 31 years.

In August 1714, Munro was among those who supported the succession of the Hanoverian George I to the thrones of England and Scotland. As a reward he was appointed Captain of one of the three Independent Companies responsible for internal security in the Highlands. Munro's Company was responsible for the whole area north and west of the Great Glen.

At the start of the 1715 Jacobite uprising, Clan Munro was put on a military footing to help support the government. Despite this, the Jacobites, having first occupied Inverness, overran the Munro lands to the north, overcoming resistance from Clan Munro, Clan Sutherland and Clan MacKay. From a Hanoverian point of view this had the advantage of diverting a large part of the Jacobite forces while a government army could be gathered to face them in southern Scotland. In the event, Munro, now promoted to Colonel, led the recapture of Inverness for the Hanoverians on the same day as the main Jacobite threat dissipated after the Battle of Sheriffmuir, on 13 November 1715.

In 1719 Sir Robert Munro's son, George Munro of Culcairn, led a detachment of Government forces during the defeat of the Spanish and Jacobites at the Battle of Glenshiel. Sir Robert, meanwhile, was kept busy as one of three Scots among 13 MPs appointed to be Forfeited Estates Commissioners. Their role was to dispose of the seized estates of 50 Jacobites "in order to raise money out of them for the use of the public".

Sir Robert Munro was able to secure his hold on the Parliamentary seat of Tain Burghs until the election of 1741, which he lost despite (or perhaps because of) an armed raid on Dingwall in 1740 in which the Munros kidnapped councillors likely to support Robert's opponent in the election. An earlier similar incident before the 1721 election had been successful for Sir Robert in electoral terms, but had seen him and his brother each fined £200.

But by the time Sir Robert Munro lost his seat in Parliament, he once more had a regular army position, this time as Lieutenant-Colonel of the 42nd Highlanders, part of the newly-formed Royal Highland Regiment, or Black Watch. After a period of internal security work in the Highlands, the regiment was ordered to London where there was a mutiny by men who felt they had joined on the understanding they would always serve in Scotland. The regiment was then ordered to Flanders, where it served as part of the army of Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, against the French. Here they rapidly earned to reputation among their enemies as the "Highland furies".

In June 1745, Munro was appointed as Colonel of the 37th Regiment of Foot, a regiment manned mainly by English recruits. "Munro's Foot" was amongst the regiments recalled to Britain during the 1745 Jacobite uprising, and amongst those on the Government side beaten by the Jacobites at the Battle of Falkirk Muir on 17 January 1746: the final Jacobite victory of the uprising. This would have been of little consolation to the 350 Government troops killed during the battle, amongst whom was the 62 year old Sir Robert Munro, who, it is said, became cut off from his men and was killed during hand-to-hand combat with six Jacobites of Cameron of Lochiel's regiment. On the orders of the Duke of Cumberland, Sir Robert Munro was buried in Falkirk Churchyard.

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