Full length portrait of John 20th Earl of Crawford and Lindsay, “The Gallant Earl of Crawford” (1702-1749) dressed in Hussars' uniform holding a musket and standing in a highland landscape.
Oil painting on canvas laid onto board and contained in a carved wood frame
Painted circa 1725-30
John Lindsay, twentieth earl of Crawford and fourth earl of Lindsay (1702–1749) was born on 4 October 1702, the son of John, nineteenth earl of Crawford (d. 1713/14), and his wife, Emilia (d. 1711), daughter of James Stewart, Lord Doune, and widow of Alexander Fraser of Strichen. After the death of his mother he was placed under the care of his great-aunt Elizabeth, dowager duchess of Argyll. He attended the University of Glasgow and later (1721–3) the military academy of Vaudeuil, Paris. Crawford inherited an encumbered estate and was financially insecure throughout his life, receiving a pension from 1714. Like his father he sought a military career; he entered the army in 1726 and was a captain in the 3rd foot guards by the end of 1734.
During the 1730s Crawford also began to play a visible part in public life. Having been elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1732, the next year he was made a gentleman of the bedchamber to Frederick, prince of Wales. Also in 1732, he was elected a representative peer. In parliament Crawford took his cue from Archibald Campbell, earl of Ilay, and proved a loyal supporter of Sir Robert Walpole. He was one of the seven representative peers who stuck by Walpole during the excise crisis in 1733, and he helped to frustrate an attempt to elect an opposition slate of Scottish peers in 1734. In the upper house Crawford was a fairly attentive member when in London, though he made no reputation as a speaker; in the debates over Edinburgh's handling of the Porteous riots Lord Hervey commented that Crawford and Lord Findlater made ‘so many long, dull, absurd speeches in broad Scotch … that they fretted everybody who was of their side’ (Hervey, 3.712).
Crawford began to establish a reputation for military prowess and bravery after joining the Austrian army under Prince Eugène as a volunteer in 1735 and distinguishing himself at the battle of Claussen (17 October 1735). He embarked on a lengthier tour of foreign service in 1738 when he arrived in St Petersburg. After declining the Empress Anna's offer of a regiment of horse and the rank of lieutenant-general he joined the army of Marshal Münnich on its march to the Dniester and saw action against the Turks and Tartars. His skilled horsemanship and his prowess with the sword won him great admiration. Crawford then rejoined the Austrians, serving under Marshal Wallis at the battle of Krotzka (22 July 1739), where he was severely wounded in the left thigh. In 1741, after a lengthy convalescence, he returned to England. The wound proved a constant source of pain and difficulty. According to the Gentleman's Magazine it opened twenty-nine times before complications from it eventually proved fatal in 1749.
Meanwhile Crawford had been made in October 1739 colonel of the highland regiment that became the Black Watch, and in December 1740 colonel of the horse Grenadier Guards. In May 1743 he joined the Pragmatic army under John Dalrymple, second earl of Stair, in Germany. At the battle of Dettingen (16 June) he commanded a brigade of cavalry with credit, and after the battle he was one of sixteen officers created knights banneret by George II. Promoted brigadier-general in 1744 he next served under William, duke of Cumberland, in the Southern Netherlands. At the battle of Fontenoy (30 April 1745) he unsuccessfully urged on Cumberland the need to occupy the strategic wood of Barry, and later covered the army's retreat with skill and coolness. On 30 May 1745 Crawford was made a major-general. After the Jacobite rising in Scotland he was appointed to the command of 6000 Hessian troops brought from the continent. He occupied Perth as Cumberland's army proceeded northwards.
However, when the Jacobites captured a series of posts in Perthshire, Crawford and the Hessians began a retreat to Stirling, threatening Cumberland's communications with Edinburgh. The duke curtly ordered them to move in the opposite direction and raise the siege of Blair Castle. When Crawford joined others in urging more lenient treatment towards the highlanders after Culloden, the duke described them as ‘arrant Highland mad’ (Yorke, 1.534). Both men agreed that Crawford would be better posted outside Scotland.
After rejoining the army in the Southern Netherlands Crawford fought at Roucoux (5 October 1746), where he evaded capture by impersonating a French general. Colonelcies and promotion followed: the 25th foot (December 1746), the Scots Greys (May 1747), and on 20 September 1747 he was made lieutenant-general. On service in Scotland, Crawford had met Lady Jane Murray (1730–1747), sixteen-year-old daughter of James, second duke of Atholl. The couple eloped and were married on 3 March 1747. The countess accompanied Crawford back to the continent but was seized with fever and died on 10 October 1747 at Aix-la-Chapelle.
Crawford remained on active service until the conclusion of peace in 1748. In 1749 he returned to his home at Upper Brook Street, London, where he died on 24 December 1749. His body was brought to Scotland, and buried on 18 January 1750 by the side of that of his wife in the family vault at Ceres, Fife.
Horace Walpole told the story that Crawford died from taking ‘a large quantity of laudanum, under impatience at the badness of his circumstances, and at the seventeenth opening of the wound’ (Walpole to Horace Mann, 10 Jan 1750, Walpole, Corr., 20.109–10). He left his estate of Struthers in Fife heavily indebted, and administration was granted to a creditor. He had no children, and was succeeded as earl of Crawford and Lindsay by his kinsman George Lindsay, fourth Viscount Garnock.
Undoubted bravery, far-flung service, generosity of spirit, and courageous persistence in living with a painful wound made ‘the gallant earl’ a hero to his contemporaries. Crawford's posthumous reputation was further enhanced by Richard Rolt's celebratory biography, published in 1753 and reprinted in 1769. Although his one independent command provoked a sharp rebuke from Cumberland, the duke also remarked: ‘If his head was as good as his heart, His Majesty would not have a better officer in his whole army’.
William Cumming, The Piper to the Laird of Grant (signed and dated 1714)
Fanciful portrait of Andrew Macpherson of Cluny, 15th Chief (1640-1666) painted circa 1725 (National Gallery of Scotland)
Alastair Mòr Grant (1714). Another of the series of Grant portraits painted by Waitt in the decade from 1713