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MORTON, earl of, a title in the peerage of Scotland, conferred by James II. 14th March 1458, on James Douglas of Dalkeith, descended from Sir John Douglas, second son of Sir James de Douglas, of Loudon, who was assassinated by order of Sir David Barclay of Brechin in 1350, and whose eldest son, Sir James Douglas, had, in 1351, a grant of the barony of Aberdour in Fife, from his uncle, William de Douglas, lord of Liddisdale, and some time earl of Athol. The remote ancestor of the noble family of Morton was Andrew, second son of Archibald de Douglas, the second of that illustrious race who bore the name of Douglas. The title is taken from the lands of Mortoune in the parish of East Calder, Mid Lothian, anciently called Calder-Clere; having been at one time the property of the family of de Clere.

James, first earl of Morton, had a safe-conduct into England, as one of the ambassadors from Scotland, 14th June 1491, and again, 28th July 1494. He married Johanna, the widowed countess of Angus, daughter of King James I., and, with two daughters, had a son, John, second earl.

The second earl of Morton was present in the estates of parliament when the settlements on the princess Margaret of England by James IV. were confirmed, 13th May 1504. He was succeeded by his son, James, third earl, who received a safe-conduct 6th February 1516, to go to England. The Douglases of Loudon obtained, in early times, a baronial jurisdiction over many lands, in several shires, which was called the regality of Dalkeith. In 1541, James, third earl of Morton, obtained a charter from James V., confirming this regality. On the abolition of the heritable jurisdictions in Scotland in 1747, the duke of Buccleuch, to whom this regality then belonged, received £3,400 for it. The earl of Morton married Catherine, natural daughter of James VI., by Margaret Boyd, and had 3 daughters; Lady Margaret, married to the earl of Arran, duke of Chatelherault, regent of Scotland; Lady Beatrix, wife of Robert, fifth Lord Maxwell; and Lady Elizabeth, wife of James Douglas, second son of Sir George Douglas of Pittendreich, the brother of the sixth earl of Angus. Having no male issue, he made an entail of his estates and honours in favour of Sir Robert Douglas of Lochleven, who had a charter of the same, 17th October 1540. Afterwards, however, he altered the destination, and a charter of the lands and earldom was granted in favour of his son-in-law, James Douglas, and the Lady Elizabeth, his wife, and the longest liver, in conjunct fee, and the heirs male to be procreated between them, the remainder to others therein mentioned, and the heirs male of their bodies respectively, which was confirmed by royal charger, 22d April 1543. The third earl died in 1553.

His son-in-law, James Douglas, became fourth earl of Morton, in terms of the above-mentioned settlement, and was the famous regent Morton. He left no lawful issue, although he had several natural children. On his execution in 1581, his estates and titles became forfeited to the crown. John, 7th Lord Maxwell, grandson of the 3d earl, obtained, in right of his mother, a new charter of the earldom of Morton, June 5, 1581, and was 5th earl of Morton. The attainder being reversed in Jan. 1585, Lord Maxwell had to relinquish the title, which devolved on the next heir of entail, Archibald, 8th earl of Angus of the Douglas family. The latter, 6th earl of Morton, died, without surviving issue, in 1588. In the superstition of the times he was suspected to have died by witchcraft. This earl, says Calderwood, was “more nor anie of his predecessors, yea, nor anie of all the erles in the countrie, much beloved of the godlie. The king was wont commonly to call him ‘the ministers’ king.’ He gave a proof of his religion and pietie at his last and greatest extremitie; for howbeit he was assured he was bewitched, yitt refused he all helpe by witches, but referred the event to God.”

On the earl of Angus’ death, Sir William Douglas of Lochleven became 7th earl of Morton. He was descended from Sir Henry Douglas of Lugton, who, in the reign of Robert II., obtained a grant of the castle of Lochleven, in the neighbourhood of Kinross, with lands on the shore of the lake. He was the third son of Sir John Douglas of Dalkeith, by Agnes Monfode. In 1566, Sir William Douglas of Lochleven, the near kinsman of the regent Morton, and half-brother to the regent Moray, was selected as the jailer of the unfortunate Queen Mary when she was imprisoned in Lochleven castle, 16th June 1567. She made her escape, it is well known, on the 2d May 1568, by means of George Douglas, youngest son of Sir Robert. The sixth earl died 24th September, 1606. His grandson, William, seventh earl, was a privy councilor, and one of the gentlemen of the bedchamber both to King James CI. And Charles I. On 12th April 1630, he was constituted high-treasurer of Scotland, and held that office till 1635, when he was appointed captain of the yeomen of the guard, and besides being made a knight of the Garter, was sworn a member of the English privy council. In 1641 he was nominated high-chancellor of Scotland, but the appointment being opposed in parliament by his own son-in-law, the famous marquis of Argyle, the husband of his second daughter, Lady Margaret Douglas, the king did not persist in it.

On the breaking out of the civil wars, the earl of Morton, who was then one of the richest noblemen in the kingdom, advanced large sums for the support of the royal cause. Among other estates disposed of for that purpose, the estate of Dalkeith was in 1642 sold to the Buccleuch family. On that account the islands of Orkney and Zetland were, 15th June 1643, with all the regalities belonging to them, granted by royal charter in mortgage to the earl, redeemable by the crown on the payment of £30,000 sterling. In 1646, when Charles I. took refuge with the Scots army at Newcastle, the earl of Morton went to that town to wait on his majesty. He afterwards retired to Orkney, where he died 7th August 1648, in his 66th year. With five daughters, he had four sons.

His eldest son, Robert, ninth earl, mortgaged the islands of Orkney and Zetland, to assist Charles, but died towards the end of the year 1649. His son, William, tenth earl, received in 1662 a new grant of Orkney and Zetland, which had been confiscated by Cromwell, not in his own name, however, but in that of the Viscount Grandison, the brother of his countess, in trust for the Morton family. Both this and the former grant were contested by the lord-advocate, and being reduced, these islands were, by act of parliament, 27th December 1669, annexed for ever to the crown. The earl died in 1681, without surviving issue, when the title devolved on his uncle, the Hon. Sir James Douglas of Smithfield, who was knighted by the earl of Lindsay under the royal standard at the Isle of Rhee for his gallant behaviour. He was a gentleman of the privy chamber to Charles I.

The 11th earl died in 1686. He had, with one daughter, five sons. The eldest, Charles, Lord Aberdour, was drowned at sea on his passage to Holland, unmarried.

The second son, James, twelfth earl, supported the Revolution, and was a privy councilor to Queen Anne. He was one of the commissioners for the Union, which he zealously supported in parliament. The same year (1707) Orkney and Zetland were placed under his jurisdiction as their admiral and hereditary steward and justiciary, having been restored by act of parliament, to himself and his heirs, in the old form of mortgage, redeemable by the crown on payment of £30,000, but subject to an annual feu duty of £500 to his lordship. He died unmarried in December 1715.

His brother Robert, thirteenth earl, described as a man of talent and honour, and well versed in the knowledge of the antiquities of his country, also died unmarried, in 1730, when his next brother, George, became the fourteenth earl of Morton. He was a colonel in the army and M.P. for Kirkwall in the last parliament of Scotland. He steadily supported the Union, and was named one of the members of the House of Commons in the first parliament of Great Britain, February 1707. At the general election of 1715, he was chosen M.P. for Peebles, &c., and in 1722 and 1727, for the county of Orkney. In May 1733, three years after succeeding to the earldom, he was appointed vice-admiral of Scotland, and died at Edinburgh, 4th January 1738, in his 77th year.

His son, James, 15th earl, born at Edinburgh about 1702, was a nobleman of abilities and learning. In 1738, after his accession to the earldom, he was invested with the order of the Thistle, and in 1739 appointed a lord of the bedchamber. On 12th May the same year he was elected one of the sixteen Scots representative peers, and afterwards four times rechosen. He was a frequent speaker in the House of Lords, in which he sat for thirty years. On visiting Orkney in 1739, his lordship had severe contests with Sir James Stewart of Burray, baronet, which, in 1740, formed the subjects of judicial investigation. The earl was assoilzied, and Sir James, being found guilty, was fined and imprisoned for assaulting his lordship.

In 1742, though his revenues from Orkney and Zetland were computed to amount to £3,000 sterling a-year, on the ground that they did not yield a rental equal to the interest of the mortgage, the earl contrived to obtain an act of parliament vesting them irredeemably in himself and his heirs. He also got a temporary lease of the rents of the bishopric of Orkney, and a donation of the rights of admiralty, which, in these islands, had always been considered as distinct from those of the admiralty of Scotland. Being at Paris in 1746, he was confined three months in the Bastile. His countess (Agatha, daughter and heiress of James Halyburton of Pitcur) and child, and a sister of the countess, were also imprisoned, but in separate apartments. The cause of this imprisonment was never known. He returned to England, 3d May 1747, and on the abolition of the heritable jurisdictions the same year, he was compensated for the office of steward and justiciary of Orkney and Zetland with the sum of £7,147.

In 1760 his lordship was appointed lord-clerk-register of Scotland. He established the Edinburgh Philosophical Society, and on 27th March 1764, was elected president of the Royal Society of London. In 1766, after being harassed with complaints, quarrels, and lawsuits, on account of the manner in which the rents, feu-duties, and services were exacted, he sold his estates in Orkney and Zetland, for £60,000, to Sir Lawrence Dundas, grandfather of the first earl of Zetland. His lordship died at Chiswick, October 12, 1768, leaving a distinguished reputation for scientific attainments and philosophical knowledge. At the time of his death he was one of the trustees of the British Museum, and a commissioner of annexed estates. He was twice married. By his first countess, Agatha Halyburton, he had five sons and two daughters. By his second countess, Bridget, eldest daughter of Sir John Heathcote of Normanton, county of Rutland, baronet, he had a son, the Hon. John Douglas, an officer in the army, and a daughter, Lady Bridget Bouverie, she having married the second son of the first earl of Radnor.

Charles, Lord Aberdour, his eldest son, having died young, Sholto Charles, the second son, born in 1732, also in his father’s lifetime styled Lord Aberdour, became 16th earl of Morton. In 1759 he raised a corps of light dragoons, of which he was made captain-commandant. He was one of the lords of police at the accession of George III., and held that office till his death, which took place in Sicily, 25th September 1774, aged 42. He had married at Edinburgh, 19th November 1758, Katherine, fourth daughter of the Hon. John Hamilton, second son of the sixth earl of Haddington, and had two sons, George, seventeenth earl, and the Hon. Hamilton Douglas, who, on the death of Colonel James Halyburton of Pitcur, at Dundee, 9th May 1765, acquired that estate, and thereafter assumed the additional name of Halyburton. He was a lieutenant in the royal navy, and on 30th December 1783, he was sent in command of the barge of the Assistance, 50 guns, then assisting at the evacuation of New York, in search of some deserters, when a dreadful storm arising, on new year’s morning, 1784, the barge was discovered lying on her side on the Jersey shore, and the dead bodies of all her crew on their faces in the mud, whence they had struggled in vain to extricate themselves. The relations of Lieutenant Halyburton, who thus unfortunately died in his 21st year, erected a monument at Sandyhook to his memory and that of his fellow-sufferers. The estate of Pitcur, in virtue of the entail under which it was held, devolved on his aunt Mary, countess of Aboyne.

George, the elder son, 17th earl of Morton, born April 3, 1761, was in 1784 chosen one of the 16 Scots representative peers. He was created a baron of Great Britain by the title of Lord Douglas of Lochleven, Jan. 10, 1791, and appointed chamberlain of the queen’s household in 1792; knight of the Thistle, July 26, 1797. He was vice-president of the Royal Society; vice-president and manager of the Royal Institution; lord-lieutenant of the county of Fife, and colonel of the Fifeshire militia. He died July 17, 1827, without issue, when the British title of Lord Douglas of Lochleven, being to himself and the heirs male of his body, became extinct, and the Scottish honours devolved on his cousin, George Sholto Douglas, Esq., son of the Hon. John Douglas, 2d son of the 16th earl.

George Sholto, 18th earl, born in London in 1789, was educated at Trinity college, Cambridge, where he graduated M.A. in 1810. He was attached to the mission in Spain in 1811, made secretary of legation at Stockholm, in July 1812, and elected a representative peer of Scotland in 1830. In September 1841 he was appointed a lord in waiting to her majesty, an office which he held till June 1849. Reappointed in Feb. 1852, he held the same till Dec. of the same year. In 1843 he was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the Mid Lothian yeomanry cavalry, but resigned in 1844. Deputy-lieutenant of Mid Lothian in 1854. He died March 31, 1858. He had married in 1817, Frances Theodora, eldest daughter of Right Hon. Sir George Henry Rose, G.C.H.; issue, 5 sons and 5 daughters.

Sholto-John, the eldest son, succeeded as 19th earl. Born at Berlin, April 13, 1818, he became a lieutenant 11th hussars in 1843, but retired in 1844. He succeeded his father in that year as lieutenant-colonel of the Mid Lothian yeomanry cavalry, and became lieutenant-colonel commandant in 1852. Married, 1st, Jan. 24, 1844, Helen, daughter of James Watson of Saughton, Mid Lothian; issue, Sholto George Watson, Lord Aberdour, born Nov. 5, 1844; 2dly, in 1853, Lady Alice Lambton, 3d daughter of the 1st earl of Durham. Appointed deputy lieutenant of Mid Lothian in 1848, and of Argyleshire in 1859. In April of the latter year he was elected a representative peer of Scotland.

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