Isobel Gourlay was the daughter of Henrie Gourlay, a prominent wine merchant in Edinburgh. Magnus Prince was the son of Henrie — sometimes called Harie — Prince, a merchant in Kirkwall, Orkney, far to the north. Henrie Prince is my 10th great-grandfather. Magnus moved to Edinburgh with his maternal uncle, Patrick Smythe of Braco, and there he learned the business of brewing. He represented the Brewers’ Guild in city government, was later elected city Treasurer, and finally attained the rank of Lord Provost of the city of Edinburgh, making him Sir Magnus Prince. They lived at the foot of Libberton’s Wynd near the Grassmarket, which is now under the George IV Bridge. Can you imagine the parties thrown by the daughter of a wine importer and a brewer?
And even more interestingly, this means Isobel could read and write! Sure, her signature is a bit shaky compared to her brother Hary Junior’s, who was a witness to the contract signing. Hary’s has a grand flourish to it as if he was accustomed to signing and writing all the time — more research into Hary is needed to confirm this. But Isobel’s signature has always fascinated me. She was surely educated to some degree: she donated several artworks to the University of Edinburgh and after Magnus’s death she administered an estate of some wealth. For a woman in 1672, that’s an important accomplishment.
Magnus was elected Lord Provost in 1688 when the Dutch Prince William of Orange and his wife Mary, both Protestants, invaded and deposed their Catholic brethren, King James II and VII in the “Glorious Revolution” (he was King James II of England and Ireland, and King James VII of Scotland; James was also both William’s uncle and Mary’s father!). James was the last Roman Catholic monarch of England, Scotland, and Ireland.
Well, Sir Magnus published his support for King James II and VII in an Edinburgh newspaper. In 1690, James’s forces were defeated in the Battle of the Boyne in County Meath, Ireland, ending the defense of his crown and Magnus’s tenure as Lord Provost. James fled to France to live out the rest of his days at his cousin Louis XIV’s court. William of Orange became King William III and Mary became Queen Mary II. Sir Magnus Prince was removed as Lord Provost of Edinburgh, died shortly thereafter, and was interred at Greyfriars Cemetery in Edinburgh, where several of his children were also laid to rest. No marker remains.
The attached images are of a document I photographed at the National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh, in 2015, in accordance with their photography rules. Have you ever visited a national or regional archive to do genealogy research? I recommend you search their catalogue online first and make note of item reference numbers you may want to review in person. Not all items at held on-site! At PRONI in Belfast, all items are kept in their state-of-the-art new facility in the Titanic Quarter. But at the National Archives of Scotland, some items are held off-site and take several hours to be transferred to your viewing room. Don’t waste your time in a city by not doing your homework first!
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