June 1702: Vienna, Austria
By late June, they have arrived in Vienna, via the Court of the Elector of Bavaria at Munich. The war is really beginning to take the foreground by this point, and their arrival on the 25th coincided with the departure of Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor, marching out to take command of the army on the river Rhine. The night before, there was a fine Italian opera performed at the palace in Munich. Wedderburn describes the scene, ‘both sexes were exceeding rich in clothes and the ladies prodigally loaded with jewels, which seemed a greater excess at this time when there are complaints on all hands that the troops want pay, particularly those under the command of the great Prince Eugene, who is like to have a difficult game against an enemy far superior in number’.
Wedderburn has clearly not spent a great deal of time at the Habsburg Court. He goes on to mention Mr Stepney, the English Ambassador, who will introduce Roxburghe to the best of company in due course, but initially will be busy meeting with Lord Paget, who is fresh from the Ottoman Court having brokered a treaty between the Holy Roman Empire and their often fractious neighbours to the East. One gets the sense that Roxburghe has arrived at the very heart of European power politics. This is the big leagues, and for a young man such as he, must have been as much of an eye opener as climbing Mount Vesuvius twice in one day, and probably just as tiring.
July 1702: Prague, Austria Hungary
He arrived in Prague on the 14th July, and this great Habsburg seat was still undergoing something of a reconstruction following the great fire of 1689. Wedderburn excuses his master from not replying to the recent letters received, as he is engaged to go with the Prince of Tuscany, Gian Gastone de’ Medici, second son of Grand Duke Cosimo III, to an assembly, ‘where he will have the opportunity to make acquaintance with the nobility of this place of both sexes, they seem to be very amorous, but I doubt their conversation will prove tempting enough to make him change his resolution for parting hence tomorrow’.
Were I Wedderburn, I would not have been so sure. Gian Gastone was something of a lush. He drank and gambled excessively, and had a string of young men sent to entertain him. Perhaps not the paragon of European nobility Wedderburn hoped he might be.
The court at Prague was not without its pitfalls for an unassuming young aristocrat from lowland Scotland. Travelling seems to be doing the young man some good, Wedderburn writes, ‘the fatness he got in Italy he has lost in his journey and is now of as clean a shape as ever you knew him’.
July 1702: Dresden, Germany
Roxburghe makes the short trip north to Dresden, where he plans to stay for just one or two days before moving on northwards to Berlin. Snippets of wider European news are filtering through to Roxburghe at Dresden, notably the rumour that, ‘the king of Poland is routed by the Swedes and his majesty is missing. True or false I know not. They say too the king of Sweden has sent to the Emperor for liberty to pass through this country’.
In this instance the rumour mill is correct. King of Poland, Augustus the Strong had formed an alliance with Denmark and Russia in an attempt to strip Swedish king (and his own cousin) Charles XII of his possessions. Charles proved unexpectedly talented on the battlefield, knocking the Danes out of the war quickly, and beating the Russians in the field in 1700, enabling him to lay his attentions solely on Poland. In July 1702, the Polish army was defeated at Kliszow, and the Swedes took Krakow, 500 or so kilometres east of Dresden.
August 1702: Berlin, Germany
Roxburghe succeeds in avoiding becoming embroiled in any military matters, and successfully reaches Berlin, from where he writes on the 5th August. He has met John Hamilton, heir to Lord Belhaven here, who is travelling in the opposite direction, towards Italy (if his father permits him).
Hamilton’s father, a testy Parliamentarian, would be in opposition to the Union. When he passed in 1708, his son became 3rd Lord Belhaven, and sit in the House of Lords alongside Roxburghe as a Representative Peer. He would die in a shipwreck in 1721 on the journey to take up the Governorship of Barbados.
All that was in the future in 1702 however, and the two young men resolved to travel home together should Hamilton fail to receive paternal authorisation for onward travel to Italy.
They reach Hamburg by the 22nd August. From that great, historic trading hub, he writes of his future route, still hoping to go via Holland, not seeing formal documentation as too much of an issue. He does consider taking ship from Hamburg, as he is as close to the Humber as to London, but his aversion to maritime travel precludes him from doing so.
September 1702: Amsterdam, Holland
Roxburghe enters Holland in September 1702, and spends time in Amsterdam before heading to the Hague. He writes to his mother that now he is so close to home, the urgency to actually return to Britain seems to have lessened; he adds that so many of his countrymen being at London currently is also ‘troublesome’, but that he will return home before too long.
Indeed, Roxburghe lingers for the rest of the month, bemoaning the lack of things to do and generally feeling restless. He heads inland to visit Utrecht, that great university town and seat of learning, but on returning north, and being ready to sail from Rotterdam, hears of Marlborough’s arrival In the Hague and resolves to remain in Holland until such time as Marlborough returns to Britain.
The end of the Grand Tour
Upon his return from Europe, the young Earl was to be thrown into the bear pit of the Scottish Parliament at a crucial time. The Union with England was looming, and there was many a fractious sitting to get through. His experiences abroad, the wide variety of people he had met along the way, challenges he had faced and overcome, had matured him. Now he had to settle in for the many trials, and rewards, to come.