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Moray, Sir Robert (1608-1673)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0117 MS 246
Held at: Royal Society
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Full title: Moray, Sir Robert (1608-1673)
Date(s): 1657-1673
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: One volume of 493 folios
Name of creator(s): Moray | Sir | Robert | 1608-1673 | Knight | natural philosopher


Administrative/Biographical history:

Founder member of the Royal Society, and one of the earliest Freemasons, Moray was devoted to the causes of the welfare of Scotland, loyalty to his monarch, and in promoting the new experimental philosophy. He was experienced in negotiating affairs of state, and an intimate friend of King Charles II. The son of Sir Mungo Moray of Craigie in Perthshire, he was educated in Scotland and in France, probably a member of the Scottish regiment which joined the French army in 1633. He made a considerable reputation for himself and was favoured by Cardinal Richelieu. In 1641 he was recruiting Scots soldiers for the French, later becoming Colonel of the Scots Guards at the French court. He was knighted in 1643 by Charles I. He was captured by the Duke of Bavaria in November 1643 whilst leading his regiment into battle for the French, and whilst in prison until 1645 was lent a book on magnetism by Kircherus, with whom he entered into correspondence. He tried unsuccessfully to arrange the escape of Charles I in 1646, and in 1651 was engaged in negotiations with the Prince of Wales to persuade him to come to Scotland, thus beginning his long friendship with the future Charles II. After a failed Scottish rising in the Highlands in 1653, his military career was over and he went into exile, in Bruges in 1656, then Maastricht until 1659, where he led the life of a recluse but spent his time in scientific pursuits. It was at this time that many of his letters to Alexander Bruce were written. Late in 1659 he went to Paris and did much, by correspondence, to help prepare for the return of the King to England, especially in relation to religious matters. After the return he was active in promoting the best interests of Scotland and was given high office. He was also provided with rooms at Whitehall Palace, the King's London residence, which included a laboratory, as the King shared his scientific interests. It was Moray who was the chief intermediary between the Royal Society and the King, and other highly placed persons at the Court such as Prince Rupert and the Duke of York. More important than his scientific work for the Society were his powers of organisation and firmness of purpose in establishing it on a sound and lasting basis, including his efforts in obtaining the three founding Royal Charters and his attempts to put the Society on a sound financial footing. In 1670 he and Lauderdale quarrelled, leading to Moray withdrawing from politics. On his death in 1673 he was buried in Westminster Abbey by personal order and expense of the king.


Scope and content/abstract:

Letters from Sir Robert Moray to his friend Alexander Bruce, Earl of Kincardine, also known as 'The Kincardine Papers'. Bruce was sick of the ague in Bremen for part of this time, and the letters were written to alleviate the tedium of of Bruce's illness, hence ranging over topics which might not otherwise have been the subjects of correspondence. They include accounts of chemical experiments in his laboratory, his interest in magnetism, medicine in all its aspects, horticulture, fuel, whale fishing, its risks and profits, coal mining, water wheels and tide mills, stone quarrying and the various qualities of different stones, the pumping works needed for undersea coal mines at Bruce's home at Culross in Fifeshire, even to the trees whose wood was best for pipelines, and the diameter of the bore best suited to the purpose. Familiarity is shown with mathematical and surveying instruments, with music, and all sorts of mechanical devices and especially clocks and watches, more particularly the taking out of a patent in respect of a clock for use at sea for finding longitude. Bruce is advised on the choice of books over a wide range of subjects. Moray includes anecdotes to amuse his ailing correspondent; he describes his quiet life and is enthusiastic about many of his chemical experiments. Notable at the end of the letters Moray added what he described as his Masonic signature - a pentagram which also occurs in his crest.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

In date order of letters.

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

No publication without written permission. Apply to Archivist in the first instance.

Finding aids:

Index to the volume. Letters catalogued in Archive card catalogue.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Presented in 1946 to the Royal Society by Dr C Dobell FRS.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Buckminster Park, correspondence with Duke of Lauderdale etc, 1660-1670; Private, letters to Earl of Kincardine, 1657-1673; Manuscript Collections, British Library, correspondence with Duke of Lauderdale etc, 1660-1670; Manuscripts Division, National Library of Scotland, miscellaneous papers and correspondence with the 1st and 2nd Marquesses of Tweeddale.

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Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Description produced by the Royal Society and revised by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Created 17/05/2002, modified 24/06/2002, revised Sep 2002

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