Colonel Francis Charteris

c.1640 - 1732

Infamous gambler, adulterer and duellist. Born at Amisfield (Dumfries and Galloway), an estate which had been in the possession of his family for many generations. Charteris joined the army and served under the Duke of Marlborough. He was an expert gambler and regularly took significant sums from his fellow officers. John Campbell, later the 2nd Duke of Argyll (1680 - 1743) and other officers brought charges against Charteris resulting in his court-martial in Brussels and return to Scotland in disgrace. His cheating of the Duchess of Queensberry out of £3000 brought James Douglas, the Duke (1662 - 1711), to introduce a bill into parliament which prevented gaming for high stakes. This did not stop Charteris, who continued to gamble and profit from money-lending schemes such that he amassed a considerable fortune and was able to buy several large estates, including Amisfield Park by Haddington (East Lothian).

Charteris married Helen, daughter of Sir Alexander Swinton, and their only daughter Janet married James, the 5th Earl of Wemyss, in 1720.

Charteris was also a founder member of the notorious Hellfire Club. He used agents to attract young women to his houses, with whom he made love. He made little distinction between de-flowering virgins and sleeping with married women. In 1730, he was accused of raping his maid and tried at the Old Bailey (London). He escaped a death sentence only on the appeal of his son-in-law to King George II and Charteris was able to return to Edinburgh, where he died two years later. He was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, although he was so hated that a mob tried to destroy his coffin as it was carried to the grave.

Charteris is featured lurking in the background of Hogarth's satirical painting A Harlot's Progress (1732) in which the artist questioned the apparently rather more lax system of justice which was available to the wealthy.

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