Robert Moray

Robert Moray

Sir Robert Moray FRS (10 March 16094 July 1673), was a Scottish soldier, freemason and natural philosopher. He was well known to Charles I and Charles II, and French Cardinals Richelieu and Cardinal Mazarin. He attended the first meeting of the Royal Society on 28 November 1660, and was influential in gaining its Royal Charter and formulating its statutes and regulations.

Moray was the son of Sir Mungo Murray, of Craigie in Perthshire. He attended the University of St Andrews and continued his education in France. In 1633, he joined the Scots Guards, a regiment which fought as mercenaries in the army of Louis XIII (later to become The Royal Scots; now the 1st Battalion, Royal Regiment of Scotland). He became a favourite of Cardinal Richelieu, who used him as an agent (spy). Richelieu promoted Moray to Lieutenant Colonel and sent him to join the Covenanters army in Edinburgh in 1638. He became General of Ordnance in the Scottish Army that invaded England in 1640 in the Second Bishops' War and took Newcastle upon Tyne. Several Freemasons who were members of the Lodge of Edinburgh initiated him into Freemasonry there on 20 May 1641. Although he was initiated into a Scottish lodge, the event took place south of the Scottish border: this is earliest extant record of a man being initiated into speculative Freemasonry on English soil. Thereafter, he regularly used the five pointed star, his masonic mark, on his correspondence.

After Richelieu died on 4 December 1642, Moray took news of his death to Charles I in Oxford. He was knighted by Charles I on 10 January 1643, who sent him back to France. Richelieu had been succeeded by Mazarin as Prime Minister of France, but Moray found himself out of favour in the French court. Following the death of Louis XIII in May 1643, and succession of the infant Louis XIV, Mazarin was became the de facto ruler of France.

Moray rejoined the French Army, becoming Colonel of the Scots Guards. He was sent to campaign in Germany, but was captured by the Duke of Bavaria on 24 November 1643 and was imprisoned in Bavaria. Mazarin refused to ransom him.

At length, Mazarin realised that Moray has useful contacts amongst the Scottish Freemasons, and arranged for his release from Bavaria on 28 April 1645, paying a ransom of £16,500. Charles lost the Battle of Naseby on 13 June 1645, and Mazarin sent Moray to England. Charles I had lost the battle of Marston Moor and surrendered himself to the Scots at Newark. Moray joined Charles I and the Scottish army in Newcastle in 1646, where he tried to persuade the King to escape, disguised as a woman. Charles backed out at the last minute, fearing to be discovered in a ridiculous situation. The Scots sold Charles I to Oliver Cromwell in 1647, in return for enough money to pay off their army. After a second Royalist uprising in 1648, while Charles was confined at Carisbrooke Castle, Charles was tried for high treason at Westminster, and executed on 30 January 1649.

During the Commonwealth period, Moray lived abroad. He helped to persuade the Prince of Wales, the future Charles II, to visit Scotland for his coronation as King of Scotland at Scone on 1 January 1651. Charles then invaded England from Scotland, but was defeated at the Battle of Worcester in September 1651, and forced to escape to France. In Scotland, Moray became Lord Justice Clerk, a Privy Councillor, and a Lord of Session in 1651. He married Sophia Lindsay, daughter of David Lindsay, 1st Lord Balcarres, but she died in chiildbirth on 2 January 1653 and the child was stillborn. Moray joined a Scottish uprising in 1653 which was suppressed by Cromwell, and Moray returned to the continent in 1654. Moray spent time in Bruges in 1656, then in Maastricht until 1659, when he joined Charles in Paris. Following the restoration of Charles II, Moray became the first President of the Royal Society at its first formal meeting on Wednesday 28 November 1660, at the premises of Gresham College on Bishopsgate, at which Christopher Wren, Gresham Professor of Astronomy, delivered a lecture. The twelve in attendance were an interesting mix of four Royalists (William Brouncker, 2nd Viscount Brouncker, Alexander Bruce, 2nd Earl of Kincardine, Sir Paul Neile, William Balle) and six Parliamentarians (John Wilkins, Robert Boyle, Jonathan Goddard, William Petty, Lawrence Rook, Christopher Wren) and two others with less fixed (or more flexible) views, Abraham Hill and Moray. Moray was influential in gaining the new society its Royal Charter and formulating its statutes and regulations.

Moray became a Privy Councillor again in February 1661, and was later a Lord of the Exchequer. His younger brother, Sir William Moray, was Master of the Works to Charles II. The King granted him an apartment at the Palace of Whitehall, where he engaged in chemical experiments. He became a recluse in later life, and, by the time of his death, he was virtually a pauper. He was buried in Westminster Abbey at the order of the King.

Moray had a range of notable friends: James Gregory, Samuel Pepys, Thomas Vaughan, Andrew Marvell, John Evelyn and Gilbert Burnet.


* [ "Sir Robert Moray - Soldier, scientist, spy, freemason and founder of The Royal Society"] , lecture by Dr Robert Lomas at Gresham College, 4 April 2007
* [ London Region archives] , AIM25
* [ Fellow of the month, November 2005 - Sir Robert Moray] from the Royal Society
* [ The first recorded initiation in England] , Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon

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