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Lord John Grey

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A romantic or a novelist might count the world well lost for love. So far as Grey's own opinion counted, a love that sacrificed honor was less honest than simple lust, and degraded those who professed to glory in it.

Lord John Grey is a secondary character in the Outlander novels and the protagonist of a subseries of historical mysteries, the Lord John novels and novellas. His first appearance is as a young English soldier, age sixteen, before the Battle of Prestonpans in Dragonfly in Amber, and subsequently he appears as the new governor of Ardsmuir Prison, where he strikes up a tenuous friendship with Jamie Fraser. He has had appearances in each subsequent novel, although his appearance in The Fiery Cross is limited to a series of letters exchanged between him and the Fraser family. The Lord John stories take place during the period of time in which Jamie is paroled at Helwater.

Personal History Edit

Lord John William Bertram Armstrong Grey was born around June 1729 to Gerard Grey, Duke of Pardloe and Earl of Melton, and his wife Benedicta Grey, née Armstrong. Grey has three elder brothers: Harold "Hal" Grey, his elder brother from his parents' marriage, and Paul and Edgar DeVane, from his mother's marriage to Captain DeVane. It is unclear just how much older Grey's siblings are, although Grey was about ten when Edgar married.

Grey was enrolled for The Society for the Appreciation of the English Beefsteak, a gentlemen's club, upon his birth by his godfather, who began taking him there for lunch every Wednesday starting when he was seven. As an adult, Grey continues to frequent the club, preferring it to White's, of which he is also a member. At the time of the Lord John series, it is not uncommon for him to sleep at the Beefsteak instead of returning to his mother's home, where he keeps his rooms.

Grey is a fine swordsman, having first begun lessons with one at the age of three; at a young age he once struck Hal on the leg with a sword, doing no lasting damage but leaving a scar.

On Grey's twelfth birthday, he was given a pocket watch by his father, identical to the one his brother received on his own twelfth birthday. The next day, Grey's father was found dead by his mother, having been murdered in the night. Not knowing who had committed the murder and wanting to protect her family, Grey's mother covered it up, making it appear as though Pardloe had committed suicide; at the time, he had been suspected as a Jacobite supporter, and his death was perceived by some as an admission of guilt. The family was dishonored by the allegations, and an attempt to have the dukedom of Pardloe revoked was briefly made.

Thoroughly shamed, Grey's elder brother Hal chose to be referred to by his lesser title, the Earl of Melton, rather than take on one that was associated with such a scandal. As the head of the family, Melton's choice was accepted by his mother, who became known as the Dowager Countess instead of the Dowager Duchess. If John had followed suit, he would have been called the Honourable John Grey, as befitting an earl's younger son. However, John insisted on continuing to be called Lord John, as befitting a duke's younger son. Immediately after his father's death, Grey was sent to Aberdeen, Scotland, to stay with his mother's family and avoid the scandal, although it was not until much later in his life that Grey came to realize this.

Outlander SeriesEdit

In September of 1745, sixteen-year-old Lord John Grey first sees Jamie Fraser by the light of a campfire in the Carryarick Pass while on campaign with his elder brother's regiment. Young Grey recognizes him as the notorious Highlander called Red Jamie, and while he hesitates to attempt capturing the criminal alone, he makes his decision to kill the man when he notices an Englishwoman in the man's company, and assumes she is there against her will. Grey fails to kill Jamie, and feels unbearably foolish when he learns that the woman is in fact Fraser's wife – after having divulged military intelligence about the nearby English army in exchange for the lady's honor. Fraser lets John live, and has him tied to a tree where his fellows will find him in the morning. Grey's parting words include the pronouncement of a debt of honor between them, and he avows that, should he have the chance to discharge that debt, he will do so, and then kill Fraser.

On February 15, 1755, Lord John arrives in Ardsmuir, Scotland, to replace Colonel Harry Quarry as governor of Ardsmuir Prison. He was sent there after his involvement in a hushed-up scandal.

When he learns from Quarry that one of the prisoners under his care is Jamie Fraser, Grey immediately relives the mortification of their encounter nearly a decade before. Despite the suggestion of his predecessor that Grey meet with Fraser, whom the Jacobite prisoners consider their leader, to discuss matters concerning the prisoners' welfare, Grey stubbornly resolves not to face Fraser again.

This notion becomes short-lived when Grey receives word of a man in the nearby village raving about gold in a mixture of French and Gaelic. Grey realizes he must seek Fraser's assistance, as Fraser is the only man in the prison who speaks both languages, and would have no way of acting on the information they obtain. There is also the tantalizing idea that if he, Grey, were able to locate the fabled Frenchman's gold meant for Charles Stuart during the Rising and hand it over to the crown, he might escape his banishment sooner. Though Fraser agrees to translate, the strange man's words make little to no sense, and he dies early the next morning. Thereafter, Grey finally heeds Quarry's advice and has Fraser summoned to meet with him in his quarters every month, with the endgame of discovering more information about the gold.

The two men, though their acquaintance is necessarily formal, develop a certain rapport – they recognize each other as fellow soldiers, and both enjoy discussing literature and playing chess. However, their fragile bond is shattered when Grey, who has found himself attracted to Fraser and falling in love with him, makes a tentative move on the prisoner. Fraser rejects him utterly, and severs all contact with him. Later, Fraser takes the blame for the presence of an illicit bit of Highland tartan in the prison block, and Grey has no choice but to have Fraser flogged as punishment.

Upon the completion of the fortress renovations at Ardsmuir in 1756, Grey is charged with transporting the prisoners to the American colonies. In Fraser's case, however, he makes an exception, and arranges to have him paroled at Helwater, to be quartered with the Dunsany family, who have a long acquaintance with Grey. Throughout Jamie's parole, Lord John visits Helwater periodically to ensure Fraser's welfare.

In September 1764, Lord John told Jamie he would marry Isobel Dunsany and become William's stepfather. Jamie had offered his body to Lord John, who declined. Instead, with gratitude, Jamie kissed him.

In early 1767, Lord John meets Claire again on a ship to the West Indies, though he only knows her as Mrs. Malcolm and does not see her in the daylight, and thus does not recognize her as Jamie's wife. Later, after Claire escaped the ship and Lord John had assumed his position as governor of Jamaica, Lord John meets Jamie at a ball for his arrival as governor, and finally sees Claire for who she really is. During the ball, John meets with Jamie in private to give him a miniature portrait of his son, William, and Claire observes them, unseen, as they embrace with great feeling. After his initial shock at discovering her true identity, John talks privately with Claire and explains how Jamie came to have a son and how he, John, came to be stepfather to the boy.

Lord John offers the use of his pinnace in their search for Young Ian.

In the autumn of 1768, Lord John arrives unannounced at Fraser's Ridge with his stepson, WilliamJamie's illegitimate son. He reveals that his wife, Isobel, died while on the passage to Jamaica with William, and he travels now to his wife's estate in Virginia. Fraser's Ridge is not precisely on the way from Charleston to the estate in Virginia, but Lord John wanted to stop and see Jamie, for various reasons.

While visiting, Lord John contracts the measles, and Claire treats him while Jamie takes William on a hunting trip to protect him from infection. John and Claire speak frankly while Jamie is gone, a tense conversation that perhaps helps them understand each other better. He leaves once he has recovered and William returns with Jamie from hunting.

About a year later, John returns to North Carolina, this time to Cross Creek, where a pregnant Brianna awaits news of Roger and her parents. Lord John stops at River Run in the course of searching for Roger Wakefield, as Jamie had asked him to do months ago, but Brianna apprises him of the developments in the search for Roger. Instead of moving on to Wilmington, Lord John stays on at River Run and keeps Brianna company while they wait for Jamie and Claire to return, hopefully with Roger.

After witnessing Lord John paying a late night visit to the slave quarters, and guessing at his homosexuality, Brianna tries to blackmail Lord John into marrying her, threatening to expose him as a "pederast" if he refuses. Lord John insists she explain how she came to resort to blackmail to solve her problems, and they have a long discussion about her predicament and John's own history. Eventually, John agrees to fake an engagement with her, in order to throw off her other potential suitors while they wait for news of Roger. It is during these months at River Run that Brianna and Lord John become close friends.

In the spring, Lord John hears of Stephen Bonnet's arrest and sentence to hang, and tells Brianna of it. She insists she wants to see Bonnet before his execution, and Lord John reluctantly agrees to take her to him. While in the cellar of the building where Bonnet is being kept, Sergeant Murchison knocks a blow to Lord John's head, rendering John apparently dead. Brianna discovers he is not, and gets Bonnet to carry John's lifeless body out and away from the building, which is set to explode. They get out in time, and Bonnet escapes while John survives.

Lord John is still recovering from his injuries when Jamie and Claire return from their journey in May. Claire inspects the healing wound to John's head, on which another physician performed surgery. Claire returns John's ring to him, which had helped maintain the ruse of his engagement to Brianna.

Lord John does not appear in person in The Fiery Cross, but he and Jamie exchange several letters throughout the novel. Jamie writes to John and tells him that Brianna's son is named Jeremiah Alexander Ian Fraser MacKenzie, "Ian" being the Scottish version of "John", and informs him of his task of forming a militia and leading them to do the governor's bidding. Jamie asks John to look after his family, should anything happen to him.

Later, Brianna finds a letter from Lord John in her father's study, but not the one that the family had all shared earlier. She reads that John has been helping Jamie find out about Stephen Bonnet's whereabouts, at Jamie's request. He has also been on the lookout for an astrolabe for Jamie, but one of these does not appear until some time later, and not from Lord John, but his stepson, William.

In 1775, Grey writes to Jamie Fraser to warn him that Fraser's name is associated with the American rebels and urges him to disassociate himself from such people. Jamie replies that the continued correspondence poses a danger to Grey and thus this link between them must be severed.

In July 1776, Grey is in Wilmington where his stepson William is with his regiment as a lieutenant. Grey meets Brianna MacKenzie and her family, and tells Brianna that William is in fact Jamie's son and her half-brother, but urges her to keep the secret. Jamie visits Grey at an inn, and the two watch Brianna and William talking to each other on the street. As Brianna will be going back to the future in a few months, Jamie asks Grey for a jewel for her pass through the stones, and Grey gives him his gold ring set with a sapphire – Hector's ring.

In July 1776, Grey meets Percy Wainwright – who now uses the name Beauchamp and is a French spy – in Wilmington. Percy wants him to convey a message to the British government that he is willing to provide information on one of Washington's chief officers that could be used to turn that officer, in exchange for the Northwest Territory, which once belonged to France. He also asks him questions about Jamie Fraser, claiming that he is looking for some man and wants to question Fraser, and mentions Grey's step-son William. Grey tells him to stay away from him and his son.

In November 1776, Grey returns to London, where he looks into Beauchamp and finds out that many files pertaining to him have gone missing. However, he learns that a French nobleman is looking for a man named Claudel Fraser, and Beauchamp has been tasked with the search.

Grey also receives a letter from William in which he claims to be in love with Grey's niece Dottie and wants Grey to present his suit for her hand to Dottie's father Hal. Grey doesn't believe William's claims and confronts Dottie in an attempt to figure out what the two are up to, however, he eventually does speak to Hal on William's behalf.

In late December 1776, Grey goes to France to continue his search for information regarding Percy Beauchamp and his connections, which include Denys Randall-Isaacs who currently accompanies William on an intelligencing expedition in Canada. He visits Baron Amandine and meets Dr. Franklin, a prominent Philadelphian. Grey returns to London in March 1777, and he and Dottie leave for Philadelphia in early April, to rescue Dottie's brother Henry who has been seriously wounded and is held prisoner there.

Grey and Dottie arrive in Philadelphia in June 1777. Grey visits the house of Mrs. Mercy Woodcock, a young and married African woman, who nurses Henry. Grey notices that a bond has developed between his nephew and Mrs. Woodcock, and is worried that should she become a widow – her husband is a rebel – Henry might want to marry her, which would cause a family scandal.

On July 4, Grey looks for Dr. Benjamin Rush, who might be able to operate on Henry, whose condition is still serious. Grey finds himself in a taproom where Dr. Rush and other prominent rebels celebrate the first anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. He then notices Percy Beauchamp and the two walk to Southeast Square, where Percy tells Grey the story of Fergus's parents.

The same day, Grey writes letters to his brother Hal, Harry Quarry, a London associate Arthur Norrington who investigates Percy, and to Jamie Fraser. Grey remembers that Claire Fraser experimented with ether, and hopes that she might be inclined to come to Philadelphia to operate on Henry. However, he learns that the Frasers left the Ridge months earlier, intending to visit Scotland.

In September 1777, Grey and Dottie watch British troops commanded by General Howe marching triumphantly into Philadelphia.

In November, William arrives and tells Grey about an excellent Continental surgeon who could help Henry – Denzell Hunter, whom William could fetch from Valley Forge under a flag of truce, along with Hunter's sister and nurse Rachel.

At Christmas, Denzell operates on Henry and becomes engaged to Dottie – they have met in London and fallen in love, and Dottie followed Denny across the ocean.

In April 1778, Claire Fraser comes to Grey's house in Philadelphia, having learned that some months earlier he bought oil of vitriol, which she requires for making ether. They strike a bargain and Claire operates on his nephew Henry.

Grey then learns that the Euterpe has sunk, and as Jamie Fraser is believed to have been on board, Grey delivers Claire news of her husband's death. Grey himself is shattered.

Captain Richardson pays Grey a visit and informs him that he intends to arrest Claire for espionage. Grey proposes to Claire – he can protect her, as well as Fergus's family – and they marry at Grey's house, with William being best man to Grey. Grey and Claire mourn Jamie together and become intimate.

In June, Jamie Fraser, who wasn't aboard the sunken ship, arrives at Lord John Grey's house, followed closely by British soldiers. Grey tries to help him escape, but they are interrupted by William who sees Fraser and realizes the striking resemblance between Jamie and himself. To Grey's horror, Jamie reveals the truth about William's paternity. William is furious with both Fraser and Grey.

As the soldiers come into the house, Jamie pretends to be taking Grey hostage, and William delays the soldiers further, allowing them escape.

Grey and Fraser leave the city, and Jamie thanks Grey for taking care of Claire in his absence. Knowing that Jamie will sooner or later find out that Grey and Claire had sex, Grey admits to him that "he has had carnal knowledge" of Fraser's wife.

On June 16, 1778, Lord John Grey tells Jamie Fraser that he had sex with his wife Claire when they believed Jamie was dead. Jamie assaults him, but they are interrupted by a group of Continental army soldiers who take Grey prisoner, and Jamie lets them. Grey is believed to be a spy, which can get him hanged. However, he is relieved that Jamie is still alive and that Grey himself isn't married to Claire anymore. With help from his niece Dottie and her fiancé Denzell Hunter, Grey escapes the next day. However, he soon encounters another group of rebels, introduces himself as Bertram Armstrong, an American patriot, and finds himself swearing an oath of allegiance to the United States.

While with the Continental army, Lord John encounters Germain Fraser, who promises to keep his identity a secret. However, when General Fraser inspects his troops, Claire notices Grey among the soldiers. Grey surrenders to Jamie and is escorted to his tent, where Claire treats his eye. During the Battle of Monmouth, Percy Beauchamp visits Grey and warns him that his stepson William Ransom is in danger from Captain Ezekiel Richardson. Grey escapes and reaches the British army's camp, where he is reunited with his brother Hal and William. After the battle, William disappears and Lord John and Hal pay Jamie a visit to ask for a letter of introduction to General Arnold. They are searching for William and Hal's son Benjamin, who was taken by rebels months earlier and is rumored to be dead.

They then go to Lord John's house in Philadelphia, where they meet Dottie and William. They inform Dottie and William on the developments regarding Benjamin, and William offers to look for his cousin.

In August, the Greys participate in Dottie's Quaker wedding.

In September, Lord John and Hal are in New York, as John prepares for a journey south, to look for Amaranthus Cowden – a woman who claims to be Benjamin's widow and the mother of his child. Dottie joins Grey, and they arrive in Charleston in late September. When Dottie realizes that she is pregnant, Grey takes her back to New York to her husband Denzell Hunter.

In January 1779, Grey meets William in Savannah when his son calls upon Lieutenant Colonel Campbell to speak on behalf of Jane Pocock, a prostitute arrested for murder. Lord John tries to help him, but their attempts to save the girl fail, and William turns for help to Jamie Fraser. After William and Jamie find Jane dead, Grey visits Campbell to claim her body and meets Claire with Fanny Pocock. Claire gives an account of a conversation she had with Ezekiel Richardson a few days earlier, and warns Grey that Richardson is aware of Grey's homosexuality. They meet again the next day, at Jane's funeral.

On January 15, Grey and Hal find Amaranthus Cowden, who decides to go with them.

Lord John SeriesEdit


John is described by Claire as a sensitive, kindly, and honorable man.

Physical AppearanceEdit

Lord John is described as a man of slight build and shorter-than-average height (about 5'6"), with thick blond hair and large, long-lashed, light blue eyes. Several characters observe that his features, of fine bones and fair skin, are "saved from girlishness only by the firm set of mouth and jaw".[3] John has observed to himself that his beard grows in nearly the same color as his hair, but thick as well, and he keeps his face clean-shaven as a rule. He declines to wear a wig, preferring to wear his own hair, though this is usually bound back to combat its naturally wavy unruliness.

John has a scar on his neck from his brush with death at the Hellfire Club.


Lord John places great value in his relationships, from those with family and friends, to his more intimate sexual relationships.


  • John is the English form of Iohannes, the Latin form of the Greek name Ιωαννης (Ioannes), itself derived from the Hebrew name יוֹחָנָן (Yochanan) meaning "YAHWEH is gracious".[4]
  • William comes from the Germanic name Willahelm, which was composed of the elements wil "will, desire" and helm "helmet, protection".[5]
  • Bertram is derived from the Germanic element beraht "bright" combined with hramn "raven" to result in the meaning "bright raven".[6]
  • Armstrong comes from the Old English earm and strang, meaning "strong arm".[7]
  • Grey has two possible origins: 1) an Anglo-Saxon, Old English nickname for someone with grey hair or a grey beard, derived from the Old English pre 7th Century word "graeg", grey; 2) from the place called "Graye" in Calvados, Normandy, so called from the Old Gallo-Roman personal name "Gratus" meaning "Welcome" or "Pleasing", with the suffix "acum" meaning settlement or village.[8]


  • In Dragonfly in Amber, sixteen year old Lord John gives his name as 'William Grey' when captured by Jamie during a botched rescue attempt. Diana explains in The Outlandish Companion that while writing Voyager, there were too many Williams to keep track of in a small space, and she decided to make 'William' Lord John's middle name. (In the canon, it makes sense that Lord John would use an alias; he also attempts to hide his privileged status by adopting a Hampshire accent.[9]
  • Lord John appears "in person" in 14 of Diana Gabaldon's published works, more than any other character. Jamie Fraser appears in 12, while Claire Fraser and Roger MacKenzie each appear in 9.
  • In 1746 John was attacked in the army's camp and raped. He never tells anyone but began carrying a dagger on him at all times. He considers it to be his lucky dagger during many adventures in the future.

TV SeriesEdit

Main article: Outlander (TV series)

English actor Oscar Kennedy portrays sixteen-year-old Lord John (using the alias "William Grey") in Season Two or the Outlander television adaptation.[10] Australian actor David Berry has been cast to portray adult Lord John Grey in Season Three of the Outlander television adaptation.[11]


Season Two

Season Three

  • TBA

Season Four

  • TBA




  1. Gabaldon, Diana. "David Berry as Lord John Grey!." MSG: 86983.84. Diana Gabaldon. Books and Writers Community. Compuserve. Published 30 August 2016. Accessed 30 August 2016. 
  2. Age as of the end of Written in My Own Heart's Blood.
  3. Drums of Autumn, Chapter 58
  4. Behind the Name: John – accessed 19 June 2014
  5. Behind the Name: William – accessed 17 March 2014
  6. Behind the Name: Bertram – accessed 10 May 2016
  7. Behind the Name Surnames: Armstrong – accessed 10 May 2016
  8. The Internet Surname Database – accessed 19 June 2014
  9. Gabaldon, Diana. "LJG and his accent." MSG: 63980.11. Diana Gabaldon. Books and Writers Community. Compuserve. Published 27 May 2009. Accessed 18 July 2016. 
  10. Outlander Starz Twitter – Oscar Kennedy Casting Announcement, November 16, 2015
  11. Outlander finds its Lord John Grey — exclusive – August 29, 2016.

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