With the first factually accurate biography of a great lady’s entire life, Lesley Abernethy introduces Lady Grisell Baillie - the Mistress of Mellerstain. Lady Grisell Baillie’s lifetime encompassed Scotland’s covenanting ‘killing times’ when her heroic youthful efforts ensured her father Sir Patrick Hume’s safety before the entire family fled into exile in Holland. After their return in the ‘glorious revolution’ of 1688, she refused a post of maid of honour to Queen Mary, preferring instead to marry George Baillie. Following her marriage in 1691 she became mistress of George Baillie’s restored estates of Jerviswood in Lanarkshire and Mellerstain in Berwickshire and shortly afterwards began her meticulous accounts.
Through the book, we see how her life was directly affected by the Jacobite risings of 1715 and 1745, and by the financial disasters of the Darien Scheme and the South Sea Bubble. But though strife was a common aspect of her life, she still found great joy. Lady Grisell’s marriage was a lifetime love affair, and her devotion to both close and extended family was exemplary, including organising a journey through mainland Europe to Naples in the hope of saving the life of her son-in-law Lord Binning, suffering from TB. A patron of poets and musicians, she had commissioned portraits from all the outstanding painters of the day, as well as work by eminent silversmiths, furniture makers and architects, including William Adam, chosen as architect for the new house at Mellerstain.
Her copious letters and numerous account books reveal life in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Scotland and England in intimate and sometimes surprising detail, but above all reveal the warm personality of a remarkable, energetic and courageous woman.