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Braemar Highlands
Part the Second - Chapter V


The Earls of Mar, from their creation in 1057, until their attainder in 1715.

N 1096, when a great crusade of 30,000 Christians set out for the Holy Land, Marticus first Earl of Mar took the command of a party of Scotch devotees. In 1099 he was present at the taking of Jerusalem, and in returning home, died in 1100. He was succeeded by his son Gratanach, or Graitney, as second Earl of Mar. In 1118 his son Morgund succeeded as third Earl, and died in 1160. His son Gilchrist only lived until 1166, and was succeeded by his son Morgund, the fifth Earl, who served King William in many wars. In 1174 the battle of Morwick was fought, where His Majesty was taken prisoner, and continued in confinement until December 1175, when Morgund paid a ransom of Ł300,000, collected throughout the kingdom; and as a reward for his fidelity, he received from King William the lands of .Drumlanrig. After a donation of many lands to the Priory of St. Andrezvs for the salvation of his own soul and that of his wife Agnes Countess of Mar, he died in 1177 and was succeeded by his son Gilbert.

This Gilbert, sixth Earl of Mar, laid the foundation of Kildntmmy Castle in Mar, ‘which/ in the language of my informant, ‘when entire, was the greatest object of national splendour and antiquity in the kingdom.’ Gilbert died in 1181, and was succeeded by his brother Gilchrist, who built a priory for the Culdee canons regular of St. Andrews, in 1213. In 1215 he died, and was succeeded by his brother Duncan, who in the year after made the following donation : ‘ We, Duncan Earl of Mar, for the glory of God, and for the salvation of the souls of His Majesty King William, Morgund Earl of Mar, and Margret his Countess, and for all the souls of the faithful, and for prosperity to His Majesty Alexander II., freely grant the lands and tythings of the Church of Leochel to the Culdee brethren of Monymnsk Priory, dedicated to the Virgin Mary.’

He was succeeded by his son William as ninth Earl of Mar, who by His Majesty Alexander III. was created Great Chamberlain of Scotland in 1264. He died in 1268, and was succeeded by Donald, his son, as tenth Earl of Mar, who again in 1294 was succeeded by his son Graitney, whose sister Isabella married Robert Bruce, afterwards King of Scotland. Graitney was a steady supporter of Bruce, and was rewarded with the hand of Christina, daughter of Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick. He also received the lordship of Garioch by charter from His Majesty.

In 1313 his son Donald succeeded, although in confinement, as he had been taken prisoner by the English at the battle of Methuen, and kept until the battle of Bannockburn, when he and Isabella, wife of Robert Bruce, were given in exchange for the Earl of Hertford. He was called Donald Bain, or White Donald, and was a person of great honour and integrity, a steady friend also of Robert Bruce, and was rewarded with charters of the Thanage of Alveth in Angus, Selene in Fife, and Mount Blairly in Banffshire. Through his daughter Helen, the Earldom of Mar afterwards descended to the Erskine family. In 1330 he was elected Regent of Scotland’ but fell soon after in an engagement with Baliol, and was succeeded by Duncan, his son, as thirteenth Earl of Mar.

In 1342 Duncan was succeeded by Thomas, who, having offended his Royal master, was attainted, and in 1361 went into exile. In 1371 he returned home, and was restored to all his honours, and more than the former degree of Royal favour. On his death in 1377, James Douglas, the husband of his sister Margaret Mar, succeeded in right of his wife as fifteenth Earl. This Earl of Douglas and Mar committed great ravages in England’ but fell at length with his son at Otterbum, when the Earldom of Mar devolved on Isabella Mar, daughter of Thomas the fourteenth Earl. Malcolm Drummond of Drummond’ her first husband, became sixteenth, and Alexander Stuart, her second husband, seventeenth Earl of Mar. On Isabella’s death, as she had no family, the earldom was claimed by Robert seventh Lord Erskine, he being descended from Helen, daughter of Graitney the twelfth Earl of Mar. In 1435 he was succeeded by his son Robert as eighth Lord Erskine and nineteenth Earl of Mar ; and on being served heir to Lady Isabella Douglas, Countess of Mar, before the Sheriff of Aberdeen, April 22, 1438, he afterwards, viz. in 1465, received a charter on the Earldom of Mar, comprehending Strathdon, Strathdee, Cargarff, Braemar, Cromar, and the lordship of Garioch.

When James III. ascended the throne, his brother John was made twentieth Earl of Mar, and in 1480 he was bled to death by command of the king his brother, on the charges of conspiracy and witchcraft. Immediately after his death, Robert Cochrane, a favourite of James III., was made by him Earl of Mar. After the death of Cochrane, who was hanged on the Bridge of Lauderby a number of Scottish noblemen, John Stuart, illegitimate son of James ill., was made Earl ; to whom succeeded Thomas Erskine ; and again, when James IV. ascended the throne, he presented the Earldom to John Stuart by the Countess of Boulogne. This twenty-fifth Earl of Mar died at Edinburgh in 1508, and was succeeded by Alexander Erskine as twenty-sixth Earl of Mar. Alexander, son of John Lord Elphinston, was twenty-seventh, while Alexander, his son, who fell at the battle of Pinkie, was twenty-eighth Earl of Mar; and again, Robert, his son, the twenty-ninth.

In 1541 George Gordon, Earl of Huntly, was created thirtieth Earl of Mar, and in 1542 was appointed administrator, collector, and trustee for Mar, the lordship of the Garloch, the lands and bailiwicks of Braemar and Cromar, all of which the last Earl had forfeited. Changes were, however, the order of the times ; for in 1561 James Stuart, illegitimate son of James V., was made thirty-first Earl. To him succeeded Robert Erskine as thirty-second Earl, and his son Robert as thirty-third.June 4, 1563, John Erskine took his seat in * Parliament as thirty-fourth Earl of Mar. He was governor of Stirling; and while Regent, founded in 1572 the building at the head of the High Streetof that city, known as ‘ Mar's Work! Before his death he appointed his brother Alexander -to be governor of Stirling, until his own son came of age ; and also recommended to him and Lady Mar, his wife, the charge of the young king, now about seven years of age.

The Regent was succeeded by his son John as fourteenth Lord Erskine and thirty-fifth Earl of Mar. The young Earl received his education with the king, whom the Estates of the kingdom had committed to the care of the Dowager Countess of Mar. For the part this Earl took, when grown up, in the raid of Ruthven and subsequent events, he was sent into exile, and his estates forfeited to the Crown; but on sending a very contrite letter to His Majesty he was pardoned, and soon after returned home. Not only was he restored to all his lands and honours, but to such a degree of Royal favour and confidence, that on the 9th of October 1595 King James gave his son Henry in charge to the Earl, by the following letter, written by his own hand :—

 My Lord OF Mar,—Because on the security of my son, I have concredited to you the charge of his keeping, upon the trust I have in your honesty. This I command out of my own mouth, being in the company of those I like. Otherwise than from any charge that comes from me, you shall not deliver him ; and in case God calls me at any time, see that neither for the Queen, Estates, • their pleasure, you deliver him till he be eighteen years of age, and then he can command himself.

‘Given at Stirling\ July 24, 1595.’

In January 1603, the mother of this Earl, the Dowager Countess of Mar, died. The fashions in those days had not been so evanescent as they are now, or her last legacy had not been of much value. I give one or two of the items :—

‘I, Dame Amabelle Murray, Countess of Mar, relict of John umquhile Erl of Mar, Regent of Scotland’ lavis in legacie to Marie Erskyne, my oy (grandchild), my goun of black damas, with the black grogram taftie, to be ain new goun.’

*Item, I laive to Annie Erskyne, my oy, my goun of damask taftie round taillet, the foir breists thairof lynit with plush, and to her twelf elas of whyte grogram taftie of my auin making.

*Item, To my sister, the Lady Abercairney, my goun of chamlet of silk, pastmentit wt bred velvet pastments, the brestis thairof lynit with plush, wt my doublet and skirt of plain black velvet.

*Item, To the Parson of Innernauhtie (Inver-nochtie) and Agnes Bruce his spouse, by attour my former legacie, aught bolls of meale.

‘Item, To William Brogg, chirurgeon> four bolls eat meale.

'Amabelle Murray C. Mar.’

On the 1st of April James took his journey for England with the Earl of Mar and a great retinue. Before, however, they had gone as far as York, the Earl of Mar was compelled to return to Scotland to appease Queen Anne, who had demanded from Lady Mar, Henry, Charles, and Elizabeth, her children ; which Lady Mar could not grant, as the Earl had left her with instructions not to resign them into the hands of any person without an order under his own hand.

Having accommodated matters with the Queen, he prepared to return to England; but considering his having to turn back as an omen of evil—of death, in short—he believed it necessary to make his will. This will is curious, but too long for insertion here. Happily his fears were not verified : he continued to live and enjoy the king’s favour, and not a little degree of his confidence too, as the following copy of an autograph letter from James shows. It was written in September 1607, when Prince Joinville, brother to the Duke of Guise, came over to England, and with the French ambassador made a visit to His Majesty in Edinburgh;—

‘Dear Jock,—As I’m gaing to gie an audience this morning to the French ambassador, I desier you to be sae gude to send me a pair of yeir best silken hose, with the goud clocks at them.—Your affectionat cusine,    ‘JAMES R.’

The Earl died at a very advanced age, in the year 1634, and was succeeded by his son John as fifteenth Lord Erskine and thirty-sixth Earl of Mar. On the breaking out of the rebellion he joined the Covenanters, but soon left them for the Royal party, with whom for the remainder of his life he acted steadily. He was succeeded by his son John, who was also attached to the kings interest. For this adherence he was sentenced to pay a fine of 24,000 merks. After other fines, his whole estate was sequestrated, and during Cromwell’s time he lived in a small cottage at the gate of Alloa House. His estates were restored by Charles II. He died in 1664, and was succeeded by his son Charles as seventeenth Lord Erskine and thirty-eighth Earl of Mar. He was also attached to the interests of Charles II., and was made a member of his Privy Council in 1682. He raised, at his own charge, a regiment of foot, and continued colonel of it until his death. The regiment is still known as ‘ The Royal Scots Fusiliers ’ —the 21st.

After his death, in 1689, his son John succeeded as eighteenth Lord Erskine and thirty-ninth Earl of Mar. Shortly after his accession he was appointed one of the Privy Council for Scotland; and among many other honours and offices, was one of the sixteen Scots Peers in the first British Parliament. He continued in favour until the death of Queen Anne, when, being deprived of all his offices, he went north to the Castle of Kildrummy, and soon after, unfortunately for himself and country, went to Glenlivet, and proclaimed the Chevalier de St. George under the title of James viii.; the sequel of which event belongs to another part of this volume.


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