It was a lovely, clear May day when I visited Ham House, a seventeenth-century estate near Richmond in London. Built in 1610, Ham House was a gift from Charles I to William Murray. Murray grew up as a close childhood friend of Charles I, as well as holding the position of “whipping boy” – taking punishments for any negative acts committed by Charles.
Murray was related to some of the leading Scottish Covenanters. He acted as an intermediary during the First Bishops’ War and throughout the remainder of Charles I’s life. With his position uncertain due to the turmoil of war, Murray transferred his property to his wife and daughters. His daughter Elizabeth managed to maintain good relations with Oliver Cromwell, while also secretly aiding the Royalists. Because the estate was only briefly sequestered by the Parliamentarians, the condition of Ham House was not impacted by the Civil War.
Throughout the course of the war until his death in 1655, Murray himself remained active in trying to rally Scotland behind the Crown. Upon Murray’s death, his earldom passed to Elizabeth. Ham House remained under the control of her descendants for the next three hundred years.