Robert MacQueen, Lord Braxfield

Portrait of Lord Braxfield

Robert MacQueen was born near Lanark in 1722 and after studying law in Edinburgh he became a highly respected advocate who specialised in feudal land law. In 1776 he became Lord Braxfield when he accepted a position as a judge and he soon developed a reputation as a cruel and boozy hanging judge.

In 1788 he was appointed Lord Justice Clerk which made him the leading judge in the country. It was in this position that he was called upon to pass the death sentence on Deacon Brodie which he had no hesitation in doing. He was notoriously unsympathetic and once responded to the defence's plea that Jesus Christ, like his client, had been a reformer with the rebuke "Muckle he made o' that. He was hangit."

Lord Braxfield became notorious as the scourge of radicals and sent many men to the gallows. He was also the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson when he began his sadly unfinished novel Weir of Hermiston.

Famous portrait painter Henry Raeburn painted Lord Braxfield towards the end of his life but he was fading fast by then and by all accounts struck a much more imposing and fearsome figure than his portrait would suggest. Another quote attributed to Lord Braxfield which provides further evidence of his character is "Hang a thief when he's young, and he'll no steal when he's auld."

He eventually died in 1799.