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The Newgate Calendar - ALEXANDER BALFOUR


A Man of noble Family, who was convicted for the Murder of Mr Syme, escaped from Prison, and lived Fifty Years after the Day fixed for his Execution by the "Maiden" or Guillotine

 THIS man was born in the year 1687, at the seat of his father, Lord Burleigh, near Kinross. He was first sent for education to a village called Orwell, near the place of his birth, and thence to the University of St Andrews, where he pursued his studies with a diligence and success that greatly distinguished him. His father, Lord Burleigh, had intended to have sent him into the army in Flanders, under the command of the Duke of Marlborough, in which he had rational expectation of his rising to preferment, as he was related to the Duke of Argyll and the Earl of Stair, who were major-generals in the army; but this scheme unhappily did not take place. Mr Balfour, going to his father's house during the vacation at the university, became enamoured of Miss Anne Robertson, who officiated as teacher to his sisters. This young lady was possessed of considerable talents, improved by a fine education; but Lord Burleigh being apprised of the connection between her and his son, she was discharged and the young gentleman sent to make the tour of France and Italy. Before he went abroad he sent the young lady a letter, informing her that if she married before his return he would murder her husband. Notwithstanding this threat, which she might presume had its origin in ungovernable passion, she married Mr Syme, a schoolmaster, at Inverkeithing, in the county of Fife. When Balfour returned from his travels, his first business was to inquire for Miss Robertson; and learning that she was married he proceeded immediately to Inverkeithing, when he saw Mrs Syme sitting at her window nursing the first child of her marriage. Recollecting his former threatenings, she now screamed with terror, and called to her husband to consult his safety. Mr Syme, unconscious of offence, paid no regard to what she said; but in the interim Balfour entered the schoolroom, and finding the husband shot him through the heart. The confusion consequent on this scene favoured his escape; but he was taken into custody, within a few days, at a public-house in a village four miles from Edinburgh, and, being brought to trial, was sentenced to die, but ordered to be beheaded by the "maiden," in respect to the nobility of his family, The scaffold was actually erected for the purpose; but on the preceding day his sister went to visit him, and, being very much like him in face and stature, they changed clothes, and he made his escape from the prison. His friends having provided horses for him, and a servant, at the west gate of Edinburgh, they rode to a distant village, where he changed his clothes again, and afterwards left the kingdom. Lord Burleigh, the father, died in the reign of Queen Anne; but had first obtained a pardon for his son, who succeeded to the family title and honours, and who lived near fifty years after his escape, having died, in 1752, a sincere penitent for the murder he had committed.

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