The Earl of Buchan’s political landscape at Dryburgh, 1786–1829
Dryburgh, David Steuart Erskine, Landscape, Monument, Politics, William Wallace, Walter Scott, National identity
Dryburgh Abbey, Dryburgh estate, Scottish Borders, Scotland, UK
David Steuart Erskine, 11th Earl of Buchan (1742–1829), is best known for founding the Society of the Antiquaries of Scotland in 1780. In 1786 he reacquired the family’s Dryburgh estate, on which stood the ruins of Dryburgh’s medieval abbey, which he thereby protected from stone-robbing, enabling it to be enjoyed today. This paper focuses elsewhere, namely on Buchan’s architectural interventions in the abbey’s landscape, on what motivated him, what he sought to achieve and on what people both at the time and afterwards have made of him and these interventions. It is argued that while Scotland’s elites were striving to downplay the independent nation’s accomplishments, Buchan instead exploited Scottish history and accomplishment to create a political landscape at Dryburgh, centred on his statue of Sir William Wallace, Guardian of Scotland during the Wars of Independence and executed in 1305. It is argued, too, that the nature of Buchan’s politics, as one of the privileged elite who had broken rank from the ruling class, resulted in his reputation being maligned and his creation being generally undervalued by posterity, and in particular by the Scots themselves, the very people to whom he wanted to reach out, to inspire, and to highlight.