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A History of Moray and Nairn
Chapter III. The Earldom of Moray


THE MEN OF MORAY A DANGER TO THE STATE—THEY ARE DRIVEN TO THE HILLS, AND THE LAIGH GRANTED TO FOREIGN SETTLERS —THE FREEMEN OF MORAY LOYAL TO BRUCE—THE CASTLE OF ELGIN—KING EDWARD’S PEACEFUL CONQUEST OF SCOTLAND—THE BATTLE OF STIRLING—JOHN, EARL OF BUCHAN, EDWARD’S LIEUTENANT IN MORAY—BANNOCKBURN—RANDOLPH, FIRST EARL OF MORAY —THE RANDOLPHS — THE DUNBARS: “BLACK AGNES OF DUNBAR”—THE DOUGLASES — THE STEWARTS — THE GORDONS: “THE COCK OF THE NORTH”—THE STEWARTS AGAIN: “THE GOOD EARL OF MORAY,” “THE BONNIE EARL OF MORAY ”—EARL FRANCIS, THE ARBORICULTURIST—THE EARL AND THE SHERIFF.

About the time of Malcolm Ceannmor, as we have seen, the title of maormor as the head of the district disappears, and that of earl takes its place.

But it is not until we reach the fourteenth century that we meet with anything approaching to the modern conception of the dignity of the earldom. The feudalisation of the province was a gradual process, which took more than two hundred years to effect.

During the greater part of this period the Men of Moray, a warlike and impetuous race, were a thorn in the side of the Scottish kings. By alliance with others of their kind they had become a powerful body—a great tribe, in fact, consisting of many different clans, yet all in some way or another connected with the Lorn Kings of Dalriada, from whom their first maormors had sprung. Attempts to introduce law and order amongst them had hitherto been in vain. With Celtic tenacity they clung to their old wild ways, and cherished their old warlike habits as if these constituted a moral code of infallible excellence. They were seriously retarding the progress of national civilisation, and not only so, but rapidly becoming a danger to the State.

At length in the reign of Malcolm IV., sumamed “the Maiden” (1153-1165), a serious effort was made to grapple with the evil. The young king—he was only twenty-four when he died—is said by Fordun to have invaded the district of Moravia, and to have removed all the inhabitants “ from the land of their birth, as of old Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, had dealt with the Jews, and scattered them throughout the other districts of Scotland, both beyond the hills and on this side thereof, so that not even a native of that land abode there. And he installed therein his own peaceful people.,, There is undoubtedly some truth in this story, though it is unnecessary to believe it in its integrity. An attempt at the plantation of Moray was certainly made in 1160, with some degree of success. The Men of Moray were driven behind the hills. The fertile lands of the Laigh— betwixt the Spey and the Findhorn—were granted to foreign settlers, and many families were then founded who subsequently rose to high name and estate within the district. As examples we may instance those of De Moravia, whose history will be referred to in the sequel, and of the Inneses, who became in after-years the hereditary enemies of the Dunbars. The charter is still preserved which grants the lands of “Incess,” from whom the family afterwards took its surname, “et Ester-Urecard” (Easter Urquhart) to Berowald the Fleming in 1165. Such settlements, however, were along the seaboard only.

It may well be believed that the extruded inhabitants left nothing undone to harass the foreigners who were now in possession of the lands that had once been their own. From this time, probably, the terror of the Gaelic-speaking people which prevailed through all the subsequent history of Moray took its rise. From this time it became an article of faith with all the inhabitants of the district, in the words of the local proverb, “To speak weil o’ the Hielands, but to dwell in the Laigh.” The periodical visits of the Highland caterans were, it may almost be said, the one and only cause of misery the people of Moray had in the future. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the evil had reached its height “Morayland, quhair all men taks thair prey,” is a phrase that occurs in a letter of the period (1645) written by Lochiel, the head of the Clan Cameron. It is the testimony of an expert.

The wise policy of the Maiden King’s advisers was scrupulously persevered in by his successors. At the beginning of the thirteenth century the freemen of Moray had become, as we shall presently see, a body of sufficient importance to have their grievances represented in the highest quarters.

The year 1290 saw the death of Margaret the Maiden of Norway, the unfortunate child who died on her voyage to Scotland to take possession of the crown, to which she had succeeded as heir to her grandfather, Alexander III. Her death plunged the nation into all the troubles of a disputed succession. Of the thirteen competitors for the crown, the two between whom it soon became apparent the choice would ultimately lie were John Balliol, Lord of Galloway, who claimed in right of his wife, Devorgilla, a daughter of Margaret, eldest daughter of David, Earl of Huntingdon, grandson of King David; and Robert Bruce, Lord of An-nandale, who was a son of Margaret’s younger sister Isobel Meantime, until their respective claims could be adjusted, the affairs of Scotland were administered by a council of regency, consisting of six persons who had been appointed guardians of the kingdom on the death of King Alexander in 1286.

The rival claims of the two competitors naturally produced differences amongst the guardians. Two of their number, William Fraser, Bishop of St Andrews, and John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, were keen partisans of Balliol. It ended by their getting the upper hand of their colleagues and virtually assuming the supreme power.

The arbiter to whom both parties agreed to refer their claims was Edward I. of England; and in 1291 the proceedings in the great competition began. Edward’s first step was to induce parties to acknowledge him as Lord Superior of Scotland, and as such entitled to adjudicate in the matter before him. And that done, the pleadings began.

Amongst the papers lodged in process is an “appellatio” or appeal by Donald, Earl of Mar, on behalf of himself and of the freemen or Crown tenants of Moray. It is a powerful protest in aid of Bruce’s pretensions against the illegal acts of the two guardians and their substitutes. Not only had they “destroyed and depredated” the lands of the peaceful inhabitants of Moray, the earl’s friends and adherents, but they had burned towns and granaries full of corn, had carried away the produce of the country, “and cruelly murdered men, women, and little children.” It was alleged that this was all the fault of the guardians. If they had not permitted such excesses, they had suffered the perpetrators to go unpunished. There was no use to appeal for redress to the men who ought to have been the protectors of the people. Accordingly this “appellatio” was laid before the Lord Superior of the kingdom, who was now the special protector and defender of the country. No special notice seems to have been taken of this document. But as showing on which side the sympathies of the Men of Moray lay from the first, it is of considerable importance to local history.

The story of Balliol’s submission to Edward, of his despicable acceptance of the sovereignty as a fief of the English Crown, of his coronation at Scone on St Andrew’s Day in the year 1292, of Edward’s continued interference in Scottish affairs, of Balliol’s citation and appearance before the English Parliament to answer, like a common delinquent, to a charge preferred against him by one of his own subjects, of his resentment of the indignity, of his attempt to reassert the independence of his country, of his renunciation of fealty to Edward, of the English king’s advance into Scotland to bring his recalcitrant vassal to his knees, of the defeat of the Scottish army at Dunbar in May 1296, of Balliol’s submission in the churchyard of Strathcathro, holding the white wand of penitence in his hand, of his deposition at Brechin, and his subsequent confinement in the Tower of London, — these belong not to local but to national history.

What has a more especial interest for us is Edward’s subsequent march to the north of Scotland to rivet the fetters of his suzerainty upon the paralysed limbs of the men whom he now considered as his Scottish subjects. Fortunately we possess in the Norman-French journal of a person who accompanied the expedition a reliable itinerary of his progress. On the 25th July 1296 Edward with his army crossed the Spey, and encamped on a manor called Rapenache, “in the country of Moray.” This manor of Rapenache cannot now with certainty be identified, but local research has fixed upon the lands of Redhall, near the old ferry of Bellie, where they slope down towards the church of Speymouth, as the spot where Edward passed his first night in the county.

Striking his camp next morning at daybreak and following the course of the via regia—the broad king’s highway—which then, as now, traversed the country from the Spey to the Ness, passing by the priory of Urquhart, the manor of Lhanbride, and the flat wooded lands round Fosterseat, the English army crossed the bum of Linkwood near its confluence with the Lossie, somewhere about the place now known as the Waulk-mill, and then, turning northwards through the Maisondieu lands and the Spittalflat (the Leper Hospital field), entered “la cite D’eign” (Elgin) as evening approached. Here he found “bon chastell et bonne ville,” and accordingly made up his mind to remain a couple of days.

The castle stood on the top of a little hog-backed eminence —“collis leviter et tnodice editus” originally called the Castle-hill, but now known by the name of the Ladyhill, situated at the western extremity of the High Street It commanded a wide and enchanting prospect. It stood in the centre of a flat, almost circular, basin, surrounded by low hills—a basin round which the placid Lossie twisted and twined in a succession of curves graceful as the coils of a serpent Immediately below it, on the north, in the midst of a fertile haugh adjoining the river, stood the monastery of the Blackfriars, embowered in gardens and orchards. A little distance off, towards the east, clustered the quaint gables and thatched roofs of the good town of Elgin, and behind them the imposing outline of its great and grave cathedral. Between these two points the eye caught, or fancied it caught, at times the glint of the sea or the misty outline of the Cromarty hills. Towards the east the principal object of attraction was the hospital of the Maisondieu, while away to the south-west the landscape was obscured by a belt of thick wood, buried amongst whose leafy retreats, invisible, yet by some strange magnetism making its existence felt, stood the beautiful priory of Pluscarden.

Some sort of a royal residence must have existed on the site for a considerable period before this, for Elgin was a king’s burgh in the time of David I., and a castle of Elgin is mentioned as existing as early as the time of Malcolm the Maiden. William the Lion, Alexander II., and Alexander III. had all resided within it But whether this was the structure in which Edward took up his quarters, or whether it was an older and perhaps wooden building, we do not know. Nor does the melancholy fragment of wall which still surmounts the Ladyhill give us much help in forming an idea of what this old stronghold was like. Yet from other sources we learn that the epithet of the old journalist was not misplaced. It was “bon chaste” even in an age which could produce such structures as Bothwell and Dunstaffnage.

It occupied a space of about 240 feet in length and 150 feet in breadth. It was enclosed by a high wall, with, in all probability, towers at its angles, and a crenelated parapet like those of other fortresses of the day. The space within this wall was divided into two courts (pallia) by a transverse wall. In the outer one, where the principal gateway was, stood the men’s barracks and the storehouses. In the inner one was the keep—a building of three or four storeys in height, comprising on its various floors dungeon, hall, armoury, and sleeping-apartments; and probably also a range of wooden buildings containing a hall, wardrobe-room, and royal chamber.

Here also was the chapel, dedicated to the Virgin, from which the height takes its modem name. Long after the castle had been abandoned as a residence, this chapel seems to have been used as a place of public worship. It was certainly in existence in the sixteenth century, though in what condition cannot be stated with accuracy. And though not a single stone of it now remains, it is still remembered by scholars as the prototype of the Temple of Tranquillity of Florence Wilson, better known as Florentius Volusenus (1504-1546), the only philosophical writer of any distinction which the district has produced, and the author of an admirable treatise, 'De Animi tranquillitate,' which, however, has never received the amount of attention which its ethical and literary merits deserve.

As for the castle itself, it was very near the end of its existence. Two years after this, or thereabouts,—the date can only be approximately given,—when the Scots had regained the upper hand, it was razed to the ground, like Inverness and many other of the northern strongholds. But by whose hand and under what circumstances it was demolished remains, and probably must for ever remain, a mystery.

A curious tradition, which is also told of the Castle of Ix>chindorb in Cromdale, preserves the memory of its English occupation, and of its recovery by the Scots. It is said that the “pestilence long hovered over it,” in the shape of “a dark blue vapour,” until it was “ by one sudden great exertion pulled down and buried in the hill.”

Edward remained in Elgin from Thursday the 26th to Sunday the 29th. He had a magnificent reception. He was met on his approach to the city by the local and municipal authorities, with Sir Reginald le Chen of DufTus, the sheriff, at their head, and a band of minstrels “playing on tabors, horns, cymbals, sackbuts, trumpets, and Moorish flutes.” He transacted a good deal of business, too, during his four days’ stay.

He received the submission not only of the burgesses and community of Elgin, and of the bishop and clergy of the diocese, but of many knights and gentlemen of distinction. Robert Wishart, Bishop of Glasgow, one of the ablest statesmen of the time, who had been one of the guardians of the kingdom, also presented himself and took the oath of fealty. Altogether his visit to Elgin was attended with very satisfactory results. Things, indeed, looked so propitious that he made up his mind that there was no need for him to prosecute his journey farther. Not a cloud, even though it were no bigger than a man’s hand, obscured the political horizon. All Scotland lay bound and shackled at his feet. So serene, indeed, was the outlook, that Edward determined to summon a Parliament It was at Elgin that the writs summoning the memorable Parliament that met at Berwick on the 28th August were issued. This done, the king proceeded to garrison all the northern strongholds — Elgin, Forres, Naim, Inverness, Dingwall, and Cromarty — with English troops; and having thus taken effectual measures for the continual peace of the district, he and his army, with the banner of St Cuthbert at their head, set out on their homeward journey.

The Parliament of Berwick was the high-water mark of Edward’s success. One has only to glance over the Ragman Roll to see how complete was his almost bloodless conquest of the kingdom. Scotland had become an English garrison. Edward had trodden down—he believed he had stamped out—its nationality. From the date of that memorable parliament he thought he could sleep in peace. He was destined to be rudely awakened.

In the spring of the following year (1297) an alarming rebellion broke out in the southern districts of the kingdom. The moving spirit of this insurrection was William Wallace, son of Malcolm Wallace of Ellerslie, a country gentleman of no great estate. But he had for his associates such men as Sir Andrew Moray of Pettie and Bothwell; Sir William Douglas, better known as “William Longleg,” seventh Baron of Douglas; James the Steward of Scotland and his son; Sir Alexander Lindesay; Sir Richard Lundin; and Wishart, Bishop of Glasgow, who by this time had apparently repented of his submission to England in the previous year. Very soon the rebellion spread to the north. In a short time all the country from Inverness to Aberdeen was on fire. The royal castles were attacked, and their keepers were slain or captured. Duffus, the residence of Sir Reginald le Chen, the sheriff, was burned, as were also the castles of Forres and Elgin.

The leader of this new and alarming outbreak was Sir Andrew Moray, a son of Andrew Moray, a younger brother of Sir William Moray of Bothwell, the head of the family. Sir William was at that time a prisoner in England, but his brother Andrew was a staunch supporter of the patriotic cause. His death, which occurred before that of his brother Sir William, took place ere he had achieved any distinction. The prestige which attaches to the name of Andrew Moray as the right hand of Wallace in promoting the independence of the kingdom is due, therefore, not to Andrew Moray the elder, as is commonly asserted, but to his son, Sir Andrew Moray.

These Morays derived their surname, though not their origin, from a family which was one of the noblest in the north. Freskinus de Moravia, its founder, Lord of Strabrok in the county of Linlithgow, was one of those settlers whom King David I., by a large grant of territory, had introduced into the district from the south. His elder son, Hugh, is the first authentic ancestor of the Earls of Sutherland; while his younger son, Andrew, holds the same relation to the more locally important family of De Moravia of Duffus and Pettie in Inverness-shire. Somewhere about the middle of the thirteenth century a Walter Moray of Pettie had married the heiress of the Olifards of Bothwell, and had thus added these wide and valuable estates to his own.

The outcome of the fires thus kindled at either extremity of the kingdom was the battle of Stirling (11th September 1297). The English were routed completely. Surrey, the English commander, took to flight Scotland for the moment was free. But Wallace’s satisfaction was chastened, for his brave comrade and colleague in the wardenship of the kingdom, Sir Andrew Moray, met a soldier’s death in the fight.

The disastrous defeat of the Scots, however, at the battle of Falkirk in the following year (1298), brought Wallace’s rule to a termination, and he had to flee the country. It was a crushing blow, but the Scots had no intention of discontinuing the struggle. They immediately chose as governors John Comyn of Badenoch, better known as the Red Comyn, and John de Soulis, and the fight for freedom went on as before.

In 1303 matters had reached such a height that it was plain that if Edward was to retain his suzerainty he could only do so by force of arms. Collecting a great army—an army so great that resistance was impossible—he entered Scotland, burning, pillaging, and devastating wherever he went From Edinburgh he proceeded to Aberdeen, and from thence by Banff and Elgin to Kinloss. At this point he turned southward and struck into the heart of Moray. Scouring the hills and plains, he at last reached Lochindorb.

This old stronghold of the Comyns, Lords of Badenoch, whose owner was, as we have seen, for the time being the senior guardian of the kingdom, is situated in Cromdale, about seven miles from Grantown. It is erected on an island, partly artificial, about a Scottish acre in extent, in the middle of the wild Highland loch of the same name, which is about two miles long by three-quarters of a mile broad. The castle, judging by its existing ruins, was built in the usual quadrilateral form of such structures of the period, and enclosed by walls 7 feet thick and 20 feet high. It had four round towers, one at each of its corners, 23 feet in diameter and two storeys high. These towers were the living-rooms of the garrison. The courtyard within the quadrilateral walls served as a place of security for the stores, the horses, and the cattle of the garrison. On the whole of the southern and on part of the eastern sides of the castle was an outer enclosing wall, which must have added immensely to its strength.

The reduction of Lochindorb was effected without difficulty. And here Edward took up his quarters for a month, occupying himself in receiving the submission of all the chiefs and prominent men of the district. Having fortified the castle and placed a garrison in it, he turned his steps southward, and took up his winter quarters at Dunfermline.

All went well with him for a time after this. Comyn, the one governor, after a last expiring effort of resistance in the neighbourhood of Stirling, submitted to Edward, and was readily admitted into favour. As for John de Soulis, the other, he was absent in France. By the end of 1304 the subjection of Scotland was complete, and Edward was able to hold his Christmas at Lincoln ((with great solemnity and rejoicing.”

The following year, however, was to see the renewal of trouble. The great struggle for Scottish independence had now been going on for ten years—ever since the revolt of John Balliol. Hitherto the Fates had been unpropitious to Scotland. Do as she would, she could not prevail against

Edward’s diplomacy and England’s wealth. The next eight years were to see the turn of Fortune’s wheel. But they were years of such “vassalage,” of such anxiety, and of such suffering to the Scots, that nothing but a firm and abiding faith in the justice of their cause and of their ultimate success could have made them tolerable to those who were the principal actors in the drama.

Fortunately, in Robert the Bruce, the grandson of the unsuccessful candidate for the crown in the days of the “great competition,” his countrymen had a leader who was capable of piloting them to victory. He was now thirty-two years of age. His father, a quiet unambitious man, who had been Earl of Carrick in right of his wife, had on her death in 1292 resigned the earldom in favour of his son when he was only eighteen years of age. His grandfather died in 1295. But it was not till Bruce had attained the ripe age of thirty (1303-4) that he came into full possession of the whole of the family estates, which, besides the earldom of Carrick and the lordship of Annandale, embraced a considerable extent of property in England. Prior to this—in 1297—he had, in obedience to a summons from the warden of the Western Marches, taken an oath of fealty to Edward. Soon after, however, he renounced his allegiance on the ground that it had been extorted from him. Edward immediately confiscated his estates and marched westward to punish him. On hearing of this Bruce burned his castle of Ayr, where he was then living, and retreated to Carrick.

Then comes the battle of Falkirk, at which Bruce was not present, though after it was past and over he allowed himself to be appointed one of the regents of the kingdom. His command, however, was a nominal one only. The true Governor of Scotland during the period prior to his coronation was, as we have seen, John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch.

In 1300 Edward, still bent on bringing his vassal to his senses, devastated his paternal estates in Annandale with fire and sword. But by some means a reconciliation between the two was effected, and shortly after Bruce was restored to favour and summoned to Court.

In 1305, while still residing in England, he received an urgent message from Wallace beseeching him to come and take possession of the crown. It was impossible for Bruce at the moment to accept. But in 1306, after Wallace’s execution, he managed to escape, and on 25th March of that year he was solemnly crowned at Scone as Robert I. of Scotland. Amongst those who were present on that occasion were his four brothers—Edward, Thomas, Alexander, and Nigel; his nephew, Thomas Randolph; and David de Moravia, Bishop of Moray. After his coronation Bruce marched northwards, and in the course of his progress he is said to have visited Moray. Here he was among friends. The Crown tenants of Moray, as has already been mentioned, were staunch supporters of his grandfather. As for the bishop, he had not only assisted at Bruce’s coronation, but he was the friend and relative of Sir Andrew Moray, Wallace’s colleague in the generalship of the Scottish armies.

Yet if he had many friends in the district, he had likewise powerful enemies. Prominent amongst these was John, Earl of Buchan, better known as the Black Comyn, to distinguish him from his cousin the Red Comyn, Balliol’s nephew, the former guardian of the kingdom, whom Bruce had stabbed, but did not murder, in the church of the Franciscans at Dumfries, only a few months before. His wife Isobel was the daughter of Duncan Macduff, tenth Earl of Fife. Husband and wife were on notoriously bad terms. Buchan was a mainstay and prop of English supremacy; his wife was as strong in favour of Scottish independence. Things had lately brought their differences to a height In virtue of a right claimed by her father’s family, the countess had stolen away from her husband and had placed the crown on Bruce’s head at Scone. Incredible as it may appear, Buchan had himself denounced her to Edward. And it was not only with his cognisance, but at his instance, that she was now undergoing the terrible and extraordinary punishment which Edward had invented for her crime. A “kage” of timber was erected outside one of the turrets of Berwick Castle, and in this the unfortunate woman was incarcerated Here she remained for seven wretched years, till the death of her husband admitted of her imprisonment being changed to one more tolerable.

Buchan was custos of Moravia—in other words, Edward’s lieutenant in those parts. We may be sure that it was not want of will that had hitherto prevented his taking the field against King Robert The family to which he belonged were themselves competitors for the crown. Though their claim could scarcely be said to have been seriously entertained, the antiquity, nobility, and importance of the family, which had come over from France, it was said, with William the Conqueror, rendered them formidable opponents. Their pretensions, however, had at all times been greater than their influence. And they lacked that which had all along been the source of the Bruces’ strength—their sympathy with the aspirations of the people to achieve their independence.

It was not till the year 1307 that Buchan essayed to try conclusions with Bruce. He was unsuccessful. Edward Bruce, the king’s brother, met him at Inverurie and defeated him with considerable loss. Buchan was not inclined to take his discomfiture as decisive. Next spring (May 1308) he sent out a thousand of his men, who were stationed at Old Meldrum, to attack the king. Bruce was lying sick on his bed; but on hearing of the assault he rose from his couch, and, calling for his arms and his horse, led his men in person against his persistent foe. This time even Buchan could not pretend to misunderstand the result His troops were chased off the battle-field and pursued as far as Fyvie. After that the earl retired to England, where he died in 1312-13, and so ceased from troubling. The year 1314 saw the battle of Bannockburn and the triumph of the national cause. The independence of Scotland was achieved, and Robert Bruce was king in fact as well as in name.

Amongst his earliest acts was the erection of the province of Moray into an earldom, and the bestowal of the dignity on his nephew Thomas Randolph. It was a judicious step; for faithful though the district had been to him and his, some of the old leaven of turbulence which had characterised it through all its past history still remained, and for the moment it had no territorial head. Not, perhaps, that there was much to fear. Hitherto the predominating influence in the district had been the families of Comyn and De Moravia. But Buchan, the fugleman of the Comyns, was dead. As for the family of De Moravia, which had at one time shown equally strong English proclivities, there was little to be apprehended from it. About a century before the family had been split into three great branches. The elder branch —the descendants of Hugo, elder son of Freskinus, Lord of Strabrok—had since 1232 been Earls of Sutherland; and Kenneth, the existing earl, was destined to be the father-in-law of Bruce’s daughter Margaret The next branch — the descendants of Andrew, the second son of Freskinus—had been represented by Sir Reginald le Chen of Duffus, who had been sheriff of the county and an influential advocate of the English cause. But Sir Reginald had now been dead about two years, and any danger from his influence was consequently at an end. As for the younger branch— the descendants of William, the founder’s youngest son— they were now represented by Sir Andrew Moray of Bothwell, the posthumous son of that Andrew Moray who was killed at the battle of Stirling, and who, as the brother-in-law of Bruce and the warden of the kingdom during the minority of his son David II., was destined to add still further to the lustre of the family name. His death in 1238, at the early age of forty, was one of the most severe blows to which the party of freedom and national independence had to submit. As political factors in local history, therefore, the supremacy of these two powerful families was at an end. From this time forward the successive holders of the earldom of Moray take their place.

The earldom of Moray has been held by seven different families: by the Randolphs from 1314 to 1346; by the Dunbars from 1373 to 1429; by the Douglases from 1429 to 1455; by the royal family of Stewarts from 1457 to 1470; by an illegitimate branch of the Stewarts from 1501 to 1544; by the Gordons from 1549 to 1562; and by another illegitimate branch of the royal Stewarts, in the possession of whose descendants in the female line it still remains, from 1562.

Taken as a whole, few earldoms in Scotland can boast of a bede-roll of names more eminent in the annals of their country. Randolph, the first earl, “Black Agnes of Dunbar,” "the Good Earl of Moray,” and “the Bonnie Earl of Moray” are not merely local magnates, but “ household words ” in Scottish history. The connection of some of these Moray earls with the monarchy—a connection which, though one of blood, was not always one of interests—helped, no doubt, to bring this about. It placed them in the front of their time and forced them to lead the van in battle. Hence the history of the earldom follows more closely than that of many others the history of the kingdom. Hence, also, it embraces a wider scope, and has consequently a wider importance, than that of the bishopric. The bishops of Moray might at times, indeed, wield the labouring oar, but it was the earls who held the tiller of the ship of State. Yet, so far as the district is concerned, the history of the bishopric is by far the more interesting of the two.

Thomas Randolph, first Earl of Moray, was the son of the king’s eldest sister Isobel and of Sir Thomas Randolph of Strathdon, who had been grand chamberlain of Scotland from 1273 to 1296, during the reign of Alexander III. He was one of the earliest associates of his uncle. But after Bruce’s defeat at the battle of Methven in 1306 he had deserted his cause and sworn fealty to Edward. In 1308 he was restored to favour. From that moment his loyalty to his uncle never swerved: he became one of his most trusted generals. Brave to rashness, his brilliant exploits were the wonder and the admiration of the camp. Yet he very nearly cost Bruce the battle of Bannockburn. By some unaccountable oversight, he had neglected to intercept a troop of English horsemen who were stealing forward under shelter of the trees of the New Park, in the direction of Stirling Castle, which it was the object of the enemy to capture. Bruce immediately galloped up to him and reproached him for his carelessness, adding, with stinging reproach, that “a rose had fallen from his chaplet.” Randolph at once started in pursuit He came up with the English at a place now known as Randolph’s Field. A fierce fight ensued. He and his little band were in imminent danger. Sir James Douglas, his great rival, besought the king to let him go to his assistance, and with difficulty obtained it. But he had not gone far when he saw, from the number of empty saddles that met his gaze and from other tokens, that the tide of fortune had turned, and that the English were on the point of discomfiture. He immediately called a halt. “Randolph is winning,” he exclaimed ; “ we must not spoil his victory.” Then he withdrew his men and returned to the king.

Randolph’s career after the battle of Bannockburn was no less glorious. Age and sickness and the sufferings he had endured were beginning to tell upon the king. It was to his nephew, and after him to the devoted Douglas, that he intrusted the completion of his work. Again and again Randolph, sometimes alone, at others accompanied by the king or Douglas, invaded England, devastating the northern parts with fire and sword. Berwick was taken; the “Chapter of Mitton” was won; Edward himself had to fly from Billand Abbey to escape being captured. Wherever there was work to be done it was on Randolph that the burden fell. And sometimes the work was of a kind that one would scarcely have thought to be suited to a rough soldier like him. Thus in 1324, when it was thought necessary to send an embassy to Avignon to put matters right with the Pope, it was Randolph who acted as ambassador. He succeeded so well that he obtained for his uncle the recognition of his royal style and dignity, which the Pope had hitherto withheld. It was Randolph, too, who, with the assistance of the Earl Marshal and three churchmen, concluded a treaty with France, and a renewal of the ancient alliance between the two nations. And when the king died in 1329, it was Randolph who, in terms of the Act of Settlement, became the guardian of the realm and of the infant heir. Three years later, on the 28th of July 1332, his illustrious career was closed by the hand of death.

The charter erecting the earldom is in the most ample terms. It grants “to our dear nephew Thomas Randolph, Miles, in full county and regality, with jurisdiction in the four pleas of the Crown and all other inferior pleas, with the great customs of our burgh of Inverness, and the cocket of the same, with the manor of Elgin, which is hereby created the capital mansion of the county of Moray,” and with all the other mansions, towns, thanages, advocations, lakes, forests, moors, marshes, roads, ways, stanks, mills, fishings in salt water and fresh, rights of hawking and hunting, and the innumerable other pertinents of heritable property in those days, “ all the lands from the water of Spey where it falls into the sea, including the lands of ‘ Fouchabre, Rothenayk, Rothays, and Bcdiamse,* thence following the course of the Spey to the marches of Badenoch, including the lands of * Badenach, Kyncardyn, and Glencarni,’ thence following the march of Badenoch to the march of Lochaber, including the lands of ‘ Louchabre, Maymer, Logharkech, Glengarech, and Glenelg,’ thence following the march of Glenelg to the sea towards the west, thence by the sea to the marches of northern Argyll, from these marches to those of Rossie, from the marches of Rossie till you come to the water of Fome, and from the water of Forne to the eastern sea.” The territory so conceded included lands within the four modem counties of Banff, Elgin, Naim, and Inverness, and covered a tract of no less than 255° square miles. It was a princely donation. It was conferred upon a no less princely man.

Four miles and a half from Forres, on a rising ground not far from the river Findhom, surrounded by an umbrageous forest, stands the castle of Darnaway, the Morayshire seat of its ancient earls. The wide expanse of greensward in front of it, dotted with old timber-trees—some of which are ashes, now, alas! waning to decay—has long been the theme of local admiration. As the old couplet says—

“Darnaway green is bonnie to be seen.
In the midst of Morayland."

As for the castle itself, though built at an unfortunate period of British architecture—the commencement of the present century — it contains a suite of well-proportioned rooms, suited to the requirements of such a residence; while from its commanding position extensive views are obtained across the Moray Firth, reaching to the hills of Sutherland and Caithness. Attached to it is an ancient hall, said to be able to hold one thousand men, with an open roof of fine dark oak similar to those of the Parliament House and of the Tron Church of Edinburgh—a style of roof which, though not uncommon in the larger castles and early public buildings of Scotland, such as the Parliament Houses of Stirling and Linlithgow, and the castles of Doune, Dirleton, and Tantallon, has few remaining examples nowadays. Tradition has it that this roof and this hall are the remains of the castle that Thomas Randolph unquestionably built on this site. Tradition is wrong, of course, as it generally is in matters of detail. The Exchequer Accounts inform us that they were a portion—the only portion now existing—of the castle built by Archibald Douglas, Earl of Moray, about 1450. It is, however, a very interesting old building, and full of historic memories.

Thomas Randolph, by his countess Isobel, daughter of Sir John Stewart of Bonkyl, had a family of four children—two sons and two daughters. His eldest son, Thomas, succeeded him in the earldom, but enjoyed it for only twenty-three days. He was killed at the battle of Dupplin on the 12th August 1332. The career of his brother John, the third earl, was full of vicissitudes. The times were troublous, and his position compelled him to share in the troubles of the times. After the battle of Halidon Hill in 1333, at which the English avenged Bannockburn, he escaped to France, where he remained till the spring of 1335. On his return to Scotland he was appointed co-regent of the kingdom with Robert the Steward. Shortly afterwards he was taken prisoner by the English governor of Jedburgh Castle and carried off into England. His place as one of the guardians of the kingdom was taken by Sir Andrew Moray. He regained his freedom in 1342, having been exchanged for the Earl of Salisbury. The few remaining years of his life were mostly spent in the exciting pursuit of Border warfare. He was slain at the battle of Neville’s Cross near Durham on the 17th October 1346. His wife was that Lady Euphemia de Ross who subsequently by papal dispensation married King Robert II.; but he left no family, and with him the line of the Randolphs, Earls of Moray, comes to an end.

When John Randolph was in exile in France, Moray had again to receive a royal and unwelcome visitor.

Edward of Windsor, better known as Edward III., who had succeeded to the crown of England on the deposition of his father, Edward of Carnarvon (Edward II.), in 1327, had taken up the heritage of animosity towards Scotland, bequeathed to his descendants by Edward I. at his death in 1307. Though David II., the son of Robert the Bruce, was king de facto, Edward preferred to regard John Balliol’s son, Edward, as king de jure. And by his efforts Edward Balliol, during King David’s residence in France, had been crowned at Scone as king of Scotland on 24th September 1332. But even when David, after his return from Chiteau Gaillard, was captured at the battle of Neville’s Cross in 1346, and conveyed a prisoner to the Tower of London, the nation at laige still refused to acknowledge Edward Balliol as their sovereign. Five times during his reign, which lasted fifty years, Edward III. invaded Scotland to maintain Edward Balliol’s pretensions, or to assert his own right to the suzerainty of the kingdom.

In the year 1336, in the course of the second of these expeditions, Edward penetrated into Moray. The ostensible object of his journey was to relieve the castle of Lochindorb, where the widow and heir of David, the late Earl of Atholl, a devoted adherent of the English interests, were residing, and which at the moment was threatened by Sir Andrew Moray, the guardian of the kingdom. The real reason was to recover these districts, which Sir Andrew’s strenuous efforts had, as it seemed to him, only too successfully seduced from their allegiance to his puppet monarch, Edward Balliol.

Edward succeeded in both his objects. The countess and her ladies were relieved; the district was reduced to subjection, “ the whole of Moray ” was consumed with fire, but, to his eternal credit, Edward left the churches and canonical buildings of Elgin untouched. Moray long remembered—it had only too good cause to remember—the coming of its last royal English visitor.

The death of John Randolph brings us into connection with a family which has sunk its roots wider and deeper into the soil of this district than has any other settler family of foreign extraction.

In the reign of Malcolm III. (Ceannmor) the earldom of Northumberland was purchased from William the Conqueror by a certain Gospatric, a man of Celtic descent and of noble family. He had some sort of claim to the dignity in right of his mother; but his recognition by the Conqueror was only conceded on payment of a great sum of money. On his father’s side he was a kinsman of Malcolm Ceannmor, whose hostility to the Conqueror was as much a matter of conviction as of interest Very soon Gospatric began to discover that he had placed himself in a perfectly untenable position by his acceptance of the earldom from William. He had not only become the Conqueror’s vassal, but he had alienated himself as well with his own relations with the people of the district. He joined with his people and Malcolm Ceannmor in supporting the cause of Edgar the Atheling, with the natural result—he was unsuccessful. It ended by William depriving him of his earldom and Gospatric taking refuge in Scotland.

Malcolm received him kindly, and in 1072 “bestowed upon him Dunbar, with the adjacent lands in Lothian.” Gospatric made no attempt to return to England, but settled down for good and all on the lands his generous kinsman had endowed him with ; and taking their name from their possessions, according to the custom of the period, the family which he founded was known by the name of Dunbar from that time forward. In due course they “conquest” great possessions both in Lothian and on the Borders, and became Earls of March—that is, of the Marches.

But it was accident that connected them with Moray. Randolph, the first earl, it may be remembered, left two daughters. Agnes, the elder of the two, was a truly remarkable person. It was an age of heroic women. King Robert’s sister Christina, who defended Kildrummie; Philippa, Queen of England; the Countess of Salisbury ; and the Countess of Montfort, have each and all of them earned a reputation which in those days was seldom conceded to any of their sex. Agnes was no beauty. She was masculine in feature and swarthy in complexion; but she managed to secure a husband, and a distinctly eligible one, in Patrick Dunbar, Earl of March.

“Black Agnes of Dunbar,” as from that time she was called, is one of the most famous heroines in Scottish history. Every one knows how gallantly and manfully, if the expression may be allowed, she defended her husband’s castle of Dunbar for nineteen weeks during his absence. The story is better told in the *Book of Pluscarden* than in any other of the old chronicles, except perhaps the ‘ Chronicle of Lanercost.'

“In the year 1337, on the 15th day of the month of January, Dunbar Castle was besieged by Sir William Montagu, Earl of Salisbury, and the Earl of Arundel, the leaders of the English king’s army; and though they were there half a year, and assailed that castle with divers engines, they could in no wise prevail against it. Nor was there any other captain in command therein but the Countess of the Marches, commonly called Black Agnes of Dunbar, who defended the besieged castle admirably; for she was a very wise and clever and wary woman. She indeed laughed at the English, and would in the sight of all wipe with a most beautiful cloth the spot where the stone from the engine hit the castle wall. The king of England, however, hearing that they had no success whatever there, sent a large army to reinforce them; but this column was broken, put to flight, and destroyed by Sir Laurence Preston, who, however, was himself wounded in the mouth with a spear, and died on the field of battle without the knowledge of his men; and through anger at his death all the prisoners were straightway put to the sword.”

Wyntoun adds an additional graphic touch. “As thai bykeryd thare a day,” he says, William of Spens was shot dead by an arrow discharged from the battlements.

“And than the Mwntagw can say,
This is ane off my Ladyis pynnys,
Hyr amowris thus till my hart rynnys.”

It is impossible to say definitely what was the exact nature of the title by which Black Agnes's husband claimed to be Earl of Moray. In all probability it was based merely on his wife’s inheritance of the earldom lands. That he called himself Earl of Moray, however, is certain. The name of Patrick, Earl of March and Moray, not only appears as witness to royal charters in and after July 1358, but charters granted by himself in that capacity exist George, who succeeded him in the earldom of March, was not his son, as is commonly stated—for Black Agnes left no issue—but his cousin, and at the same time his wife’s nephew. He was the eldest son of Sir Patrick Dunbar by Isabella, younger daughter of Thomas Randolph. He seems to have made no claim to the earldom of Moray.

On George’s death his younger brother, John Dunbar, succeeded him as Earl of March. Whatever may have been the nature of his two immediate predecessors’ right to the earldom of Moray, John Dunbar’s is beyond all cavil. For on the 9th March 1373, a year or two after his marriage to Marjorie, daughter of Robert II., he received from the king a charter confirming the earldom upon himself and his wife, their heirs-male and the longest liver of them, with the exception of the lands of Lochaber and Badenoch, which were specially reserved for the king’s son, Alexander Stewart

“This man,” says Pitscottie, “was married upon King Robert II.’s daughter, and promoted to be Earl of Moray; for it returned again to the king’s house by reason that it failed in the heir-male of Randal; and this was the first Dunbar that bruicked the lands of Moray.” This statement, however, must be qualified, at least to the extent that if Patrick Dunbar’s title was a mere assumption, it received something very closely approaching to royal recognition.

John Dunbar’s death occurred in 1390, and was the result of a wound received by him at a tournament in Smithfield, London, when fighting with the Earl of Nottingham, Earl-Marshal of England, whom he had come specially from Scotland to encounter. He left two sons, and a daughter, Mabella, who was married to Robert, sixth Earl of Sutherland.

Little is known of Thomas Dunbar, his eldest son, who succeeded him. He was taken prisoner at the battle of Homildon in 1402, and is supposed to have died in England. After his death his daughter Euphemia married Sir Alexander Cumyn of Altyre.

Earl Thomas’s successor was another Thomas, his son; and then the earldom passed to the cousin of the latter, James Dunbar, who was also the proprietor of the lands of Frendraught, in Banffshire, in right of his mother, Maud Fraser of Lovat When James I., after his long captivity in England, was permitted by the English king to return to Scotland in 1424, certain Scottish nobles of high rank were sent to England as hostages for his ransom. The Earls of Moray, Thomas and James, were successively of their number. When Thomas was released in 1425, his cousin James seems to have taken his place. He remained in England for about three years. He was murdered at Frendraught in August 1429.

The next name which appears on the earldom lists is that of Archibald Douglas, who married Earl James’s second daughter, Elizabeth. He was a brother of the Earl of Douglas of the day, and sided with him in his hereditary hostility to James II. The Angus or younger branch of the family, on the other hand, took the part of the king, and its head was appointed leader of the royal army. The feud between the two branches of the family culminated in the battle of Arkinholm in 1454-55. The Douglas branch was defeated, and “Archibaldus pretensus comes Moravia” as an old record calls him, was killed. Douglas’s title to the earldom was, like so many others both before and after, in right of his wife only.1 After his death, Lindsay informs us, “ he was convict and forfait for les majestic, and the earldom returned to the kingis handis again.”

Shortly afterwards James II. conferred it on his son David, who, however, died in nonage in 1470, and is thus known in history as the “little Earl of Moray.”

For thirty-one years thereafter no Earl of Moray existed. But on the 12th June 1501 James IV. conferred the earldom on James Stewart, his illegitimate son by Jean or Janet, daughter of the second Lord Kennedy. His life was spent in comparative obscurity, and he died in his castle of Darnaway on the 12th June 1544, having held the earldom for exactly forty-three years to a day.

The next Stewart who enjoyed the title was a man of a very different type. There are few greater problems to the student of our national history than James Stewart, Earl of Moray from 1562 to 1570. And few historical personages have suffered more from the malice of their enemies and the mistaken eulogies of their friends. While to some he is “the Good Earl of Moray,” the patriot, the sincere reformer, the wise holder of the helm of the State, to others he is the incarnation of hypocrisy and self-seeking, a disloyal subject, the evil genius of his sister—a traitor to queen and country, to everything and everybody but himself. Some day, perhaps, his life will be written as it ought to be written, with calm judicial impartiality and a due weighing of the exceptional difficulties of his time and surroundings. Until that time arrives his virtues or his vices must remain as much a matter of controversy and individual opinion as the guilt or innocence of his sister Queen Mary.

He was the natural son of King James V. and of Margaret Erskine, the daughter of the fourth Lord Erskine and fifth Earl of Mar, and he was born in the year 1533. The king, with a view to their providing, had destined all his illegitimate sons to the Church, and accordingly, when James was only three years of age, he was presented to the Priory of St Andrews. It was an office of great emolument and of the highest dignity. The Prior of St Andrews preceded all other ecclesiastical dignitaries of equal rank. If wealth and place and gorgeous vestments had attractions for him, James Stewart might well have rested content with his first preferment; but he was possessed of an inordinate ambition, which even aimed—so at least his enemies asserted—at the highest office in the realm. From his youth upwards his career is that of a man bent on absorbing to himself all power and all authority in the State. And if the methods he employed to attain his object were often tortuous and unjustifiable, they only show the difficulties that beset his path. He gained his object ultimately, as most men do who allow nothing to obscure the goal of their aspirations, in fact if not in name. As Regent, he had the supremacy, the influence, almost the prestige, of a king. None of his predecessors had ever exercised such absolute power or enjoyed such unfettered control. Yet he was not satisfied. The Regent Moray could never forget, and he certainly never forgave, the accident of his birth.

From an early age he coveted the rich earldom of Moray. In 1549, when he was a lad of between sixteen and seventeen years of age, the earldom was for the moment in the gift of the Crown. James, who by this time had conceived a sincere aversion to a clerical life, solicited his sister for it. It was refused, to his infinite chagrin and disappointment, on the advice of the queen-mother, Mary of Guise, who recommended the prior to continue in the Church; and shortly after it was conferred on John Gordon, tenth Earl of Huntly. The charter in his favour is dated 13th February 1549.

The new Earl of Moray belonged to a family which, during the last two hundred years, had become a feudal power of the first importance in the north. It was of Anglo-Norman origin, and took its name from the lands of Gordon in Berwickshire, where it had been planted in the reign of David I. It first made its appearance in the north in the early part of the fourteenth century as the proprietor of the lands of Strath-bogie in Banffshire. James II. conferred upon it the earldom of Huntly. Now the Gordons, Lords of Strathbogie and Earls of Huntly, were a power as great in the north as were the Earls of Argyll in the west—as useful at times to the Crown, and at others as troublesome.

In addition to his Lowland estates, which yielded him a goodly revenue “over all the district now beyond the Caledonian Canal and the lakes it unites,” “the Cock of the North” kept princely state in his Castle of Strathbogie; and events afterwards revealed that its sumptuous furnishings shamed those of the royal palace. He had the flourishing town of Aberdeen, with its university and cathedral, by way of capital. Here he seems to have had a small fleet with which he kept up foreign communications, as little under restrictions from the Court of Holyrood as those of the King of Norway or Denmark might be.

George Gordon, the earl of the day, was one of the most accomplished men of his time. He was also a great politician. In 1536 he had been one of the regents of the kingdom during James V.’s absence in France in search of a wife. As a staunch supporter of the ancient league between the two kingdoms, he had been one of the three Scottish earls whom the King of France in 1545 decorated with the Order of St Michael. He was commander of the Scottish forces at the disastrous battle of Pinkie in 1547, and had been taken prisoner and carried off into England; but he had effected his escape, and had returned to his native country.

It was probably in return for his services and sufferings that the earldom of Moray was conferred on him. Soon after, however, we find the new earl under deep suspicion with the Government. He was seemingly playing a game of his own, which assuredly was not to the liking of the party which now held the reins of power. The Reformation had come. The Lords of the Congregation had gained the upper hand. And the Lord James, the former Prior of St Andrews, was their leader. Queen Mary, now a widow, had returned to Scotland. But as a Catholic, while the Government was Protestant, she was a mere cipher in her brother’s hands. Huntly, after some dallyings with the Protestant leaders not wholly to his credit, was now understood to be the head of the old Catholic party. Overt action on his part was out of the question. But secret negotiations, plottings, and intrigues were not only possible but probable. Moreover, he had a son, a certain John Gordon, “a comely young gentleman, very personable, and of good expectations,” though he was not the heir, whom it was said the queen “ loved entirely.”

A quarrel which this same comely young gentleman, the earl’s fourth son, had with Ogilvie of Findlater was the proximate cause of his father’s undoing. It was far from the actual cause, however. The real causes were the earl’s unpopularity with the leaders of the Protestant party and the Lord James’s enmity towards him. The result of young John Gordon’s tussle with Findlater in the Edinburgh streets had been his imprisonment. But “Scotch prisons,” as Burton remarks, “were ever notorious for their unretentiveness of prisoners of his rank,” and in a short time he was once more at liberty.

In August 1562 the queen, accompanied by her brother the prior, started on a royal progress towards the north. The queen’s Master of the Household, who accompanied the expedition, kept a diary of the journey written in French, and it is of much interest to local readers. The royal party arrived at Elgin from Aberdeen on the 6th of September, and remained there till the 8th. After dinner that day the queen went on to Kinloss, and stayed at the abbey two whole days. She found the accommodation there exceptionally good. On the 10th she went on after dinner to Darnaway, where she supped and slept, and next morning held a council. Then she went on into Nairnshire. On the nth she dined at the castle of Moyness, now non-existent, as the guest of John Dunbar of the family of Westfield, heritable sheriffs of Moray. Passing through Nairn, she continued her journey to Inverness, where she was refused admission to the castle, and had accordingly to take up her quarters in a private house in Bridge Street long known as the “Wine-Shop.” She stayed four days there, and then proceeded to Kilravock. From thence she made her way back to Aberdeen.

An invitation which she received in the course of this expedition to visit Huntly at Strathbogie had been declined. Huntly was given to understand that so long as his son was a fugitive from justice it was impossible to accept it, and it was required that the lad should again “enter himself in ward” This was more than the haughty Gordons could stand. The outcome of the business was that Huntly with his Highland host took the field against his sovereign. At the fight at Corrichie he met his death—smothered, it was said, in his armour. His son, who had so largely conduced to his undoing, was tried for treason and beheaded at Aberdeen. The earl’s body was taken to Edinburgh and sentence of forfeiture pronounced against it.

The opportunity which James Stewart had waited for during the last thirteen years had now arrived. The power of the house of Huntly was broken, at least for the time. The prior obtained the coveted prize. He was created Earl of Moray by the queen at Aberdeen on 1st June 1566.

He had still four years of life before him—four busy years, crowded with affairs of the highest political consequence, vivid ^rith interest His opposition to the Damley marriage, his xetreat to France in 1567, his almost immediate return and appointment to the regency, his defeat of his sister at Lang-'dde in 1568, his struggle with and victory over the Hamilton faction, and, last and saddest and most dramatic scene of all, his assassination by Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh in the streets of Linlithgow on 21st January 1570, rivet the imagination and appeal to the sympathies or the antipathies of the student as the career of few of our historical personages succeed in doing. If he had not been cut off at such an early age— he was only thirty-seven when he was murdered—who shall say that he might not have attained the secret goal of his ambition, the crown itself,—changed the whole course of his country’s history, and proved himself the greatest sovereign for good or for evil that ever sat on Scotland's throne.

Little is known of his connection with the county, beyond the fact that he once held a privy council at Elgin, when amongst other business the revenues of Pluscarden Priory were discussed. The local historian of the day had other things to think about. What concerned him far more was a quarrel which had broken out between the two powerful families of Dunbar and Innes, and bade fair to develop into a healthy hereditary feud. These two families were the largest holders of property of the rank of landed gentry in the county. The Inneses predominated in the east, the Dunbars in the west. What caused the quarrel is not very clear. It may have been, as Young the local historian supposes, mere jealousy of each other’s influence. But on the 6th January 1554 the slumbering ashes of discord were fanned into flame. On that day the Inneses, to the number of eighty persons, all armed, came to the cathedral of Elgin during vespers, “and of ancient feud and forethought felony” cruelly invaded Alexander Dunbar, Prior of Pluscarden; David Dunbar, Dean of Moray; and other laymen, with purpose to slay them “in presence of the holy sacraments.” The Dunbars on their part had come to church that evening with like deadly intent. Their object was the slaughter of William Innes of that ilk and his servants. Which side came off best is not certain. At any rate the battle was not decisive, for we find both parties subsequently invoking the arbitrament of the law. Twenty years of litigation, however, had not settled their differences. And in 1577 the smouldering fire of dissension broke out afresh. On the 18th October of that year a band of Inneses—John Innes, brother-german of Robert Innes of Invermarkie, John Innes alias Long John, Andrew Innes alias Kow-the-gegat, Andrew Innes alias the Scholar—with their followers and others, all “ boden in feir of war with corslets, head-pieces, swords, and shields, made a night attack on the manse of Alexander Dunbar, Dean of Moray, situated within the precinct — now known as the North College” — slew Andrew Smyth, the dean’s servant, broke open the stable door and cut the halters of four of the horses, intending to carry them away. The dean, roused from his sleep by the disturbance, came out of his chamber in his dressing-gown, unarmed save for the dirk which he always carried. One of the John Inneses—we are not told which—immediately attacked him with his sword, wounding him severely both in his head and in his hands. “ And the said John, not satisfied with his blood, most cruelly, horribly, and without mercy slew Elizabeth Dunbar, the dean’s daughter, a girl of thirteen years old, killing her with a thrust of his sword in her breast, and left her dead on the ground.”

This was going a little too far even for a family feud. The Inneses were indicted, fled from justice, declared rebels, and put to the horn. This only made matters worse. Seven months afterwards they paid the dean another nocturnal visit. They went to his country house at Carsehillock and carried off forty sheep—wethers, ewes, and lambs. The king at once granted a commission to the sheriffs of all the northern counties and other local authorities to apprehend the rogues, to destroy their nests, and by every possible means to bring them to justice.

Nothing came of it. Not an Innes could be found. By this time both parties were pretty tired of the strife. When, therefore, mutual friends interposed to appease their dissensions, they readily availed themselves of their good offices. Arbiters were appointed to settle their differences, and in due time they issued their decree arbitral. What its terms were is of no concern to us now. What is of more importance, and infinitely more surprising, is that both parties abode by the award, and that the thirty years' blood-feud was then and there finally brought to an end. A more instructive illustration of the state of society in those days can hardly be found.

To the “Good Earl” succeeds the “Bonnie Earl” of Moray, who is chiefly remembered as the victim of one of the most appalling tragedies in the whole range of our annals.

James Stewart, eldest son of Sir James Stewart of Doune, afterwards Lord Doune, was, like more than one of his predecessors, Earl of Moray by courtesy only. He had married Elizabeth Stewart, eldest daughter of the Regent, and his only claim to the title was in right of his wife. He was one of the handsomest men of his time. An old chronicle describes him as a sort of Amadis—“ comely, gentle, brave, and of a great stature and strength of body.” “ A comely personage, strong of body as a kemp or champion,” is the remark of another observer.

The picture of him at Darnaway—the only authentic portrait of him, so far as we are aware, taken during life—represents him as a young man of three- or four-and-twenty. The head is particularly small in proportion to the body. The shoulders are sloping, but the ill-fitting doublet seems to cover a broad and deep chest The shape of the face is remarkable, owing to the steep slope of the jawbones, which end in a remarkably delicate and exceptionally pointed chin. The hair is of a deep auburn, almost inclined to red, and is thrown back over a high and narrow forehead. A strand of hair, parted from the head above the ear, hangs down like a ringlet rather more than an inch below the side of the face, resembling the side-whiskers of twenty or thirty years ago. The eyes are dark brown, the eyebrows small, the nose long and sensitive and slightly turned up at the point The upper lip is covered with a boyish moustache; the mouth is small, and the under lip of almost girlish delicacy. The ears are prominent, and he wears ear-rings—a couple of linked golden rings to which is suspended a small square jewel. The dress is plain but rich. The doublet is crimson, close-buttoned down the front, with a velvet band of the same colour across the shoulder. He wears a square, apparently lawn or muslin, collar, trimmed with an inch-wide border of lace. And over his right shoulder, fastened behind the neck with a handsome jewel, is a narrow white satin embroidered scarf,—the queen's gift to him, according to tradition. What strikes the observer most is the effeminacy of his face and complexion, and the sweet, almost sad, gentleness of the expression.

There is one other picture of him known to be in existence. It is hidden away out of sight in the charter-room at Doni-bristle. It is as repulsive as the Darnaway picture is pleasing. It represents the naked body of the Earl as it appeared after death, gashed with wounds, horrid with clotted blood and the blue shades of decomposition.1 Tradition has it that it was painted by order of Lady Doune, his mother, after his murder, and sent to the king at Holyrood. It is in all probability the original of the banner which was sent round amongst his tenants in the north to inflame their minds and induce them to take vengeance upon the cruel Huntly.

The story of the murder of the Bonnie Earl of Moray belongs more properly to the history of Fife than to that of Moray. Yet it may not be out of place to narrate it here. Song and legend have embalmed it for all future ages, and transformed a mere private and personal difference into a historical event of the first importance.

Though he had never taken any prominent part in public business, he was a great favourite with the people and the Kirk. He was a still greater favourite, at any rate in certain qoarters, at Court. If the scandal of the day is to be believed, Queen Anne had a warmer regard for him than her jealous lord and master, James VI., approved of. There was probably nothing to justify his suspicions. But to James, who certainly was not an Apollo, and who yet had a very good opinion of his own personal attractions, it was no doubt irritating to listen to the queen's loud and repeated expressions of admiration of the earl “as a proper and gallant man.” Certain it is that the handsome lad did not stand so well in the grace of the king as of the queen. But the reason for this was in all likelihood of a different character.

There are two cuts on the face—one at the top of the nose, right side, another at the side of the nose below the left eye ; two on the right breast; one on the left breast lower down than those on the other side ; four on the right side of the body ; and a severe one on the right thigh. The picture bears the inscription : “1591, Feby. 7. God revenge my cavs. Mtz 24.”

Moray, though not a relation, but merely a connection by marriage, of the late regent, had been inoculated with all his father-in-law's hatred of the Huntly family. And the Earl of Huntly of the day was a persona gratissima at Court The king’s abhorrence of his uncle the regent, and of all associated with him, had thrown him into the arms of his opponent James was one of those weak men who never can see two sides of a question. Like Philip of Spain, after he had taken up an idea he adhered to it as religiously as if it had been an article of faith. There was certainly no reason why Moray should have taken up his father-in-law’s quarrel; there was still less for James to have so earnestly espoused the cause of the opposite party. But, reason or no reason, this was the position of things in the beginning of the year 1592. If it is incorrect to say that any hereditary feud existed between Moray and Huntly, it cannot be denied that their personal relations with each other were anything but friendly.

There had been some trouble between the two about certain fishings on the Inverspey, and litigation had ensued in which Moray had been successful. There had been further differences between them in connection with a certain “Johne Grant, sometime tutor of Ballindalloch,” and his accomplices, “commitaris of slauchter and utheris odious crymes,” whom Huntly, by virtue of his commission of lieutenancy, had gone to apprehend, but whom Moray had “reset” in his castle of “Tamway.” And out of these events had sprung raids and plunderings and slaughters amongst the various clans and families in the north, which bade fair to develop into a healthy feud between the chiefs.

Rightly or wrongly, the king had taken it into his head that Moray was to blame. The crafty Huntly had left no means untried by himself or his friends to poison his mind against him. Thirlestane the Chancellor—that “puddock-stool of a nicht,” as Bothwell called him — was equally unfavourably disposed towards him. And now the poor weak king was firmly convinced that Moray was a disloyal subject,—that he was in sympathy with Bothwell, and knew more of that consummate scoundrel's traitorous designs than it was safe for any loyal subject to know. Yet in granting a commission, as he “ incontinent ” did, to Huntly to pursue with fire and sword “the Earl Bodowell and all his partakers,” he never intended—at least so Sir James Melville assures us—that Huntly should make use of it to avenge his personal quarrel with Moray. Still less was he minded that it should be employed as the instrument of a deed of treacherous savagery. For James, though weak as water, was not cruel, and he had a shuddering horror of bloodshed. Moreover, Moray had powerful friends who were doing all they could to bring about a pacification, and James was too great a coward not to feel the outburst of popular indignation, perhaps of personal violence, towards himself, that would have resulted if he had shown himself insensible to such considerations. Though, as the sequel will show, there was much that was suspicious in the king’s conduct,—though it cannot be doubted that his sympathies were with Huntly, and that Huntly believed he was doing his majesty acceptable service in ridding him of a troublesome subject,—it has never yet been proved that James was an actual participator in the Earl of Moray’s murder, any more than it has been proved that his mother was an active participator in that of Darnley. It suited the popular party in the State to assume that it was so both in the one case and in the other. The research of three hundred years has as yet been unable to make out a conclusive case against either the son or the mother.

Huntly, once armed with his commission, lost no time in acting upon it Moray was for the moment living at his mother’s house of Donibristle near Aberdour, bent on keep-ing out of mischief, and not without a lingering hope that his differences both with Huntly and with the king might speedily be appeased. The old grey house stands close to the sea-shore, and, like so many of the castles along the shores of the Firth of Forth, was provided with a tower and beacon-light to ward off the approach of danger. But on the evening of 7th February 1591-92 the beacon was unlighted. There was nothing to fear. The earl was within doors with his friend Dunbar of Westfield, the heritable Sheriff of Moray, and a few servants. There was no one else in the house. It was towards the gloaming,—at any rate, it was still “on fear daylight.” All of a sudden the house was surrounded with armed men. It was the earl's mortal enemy Huntly, with some scores of his retainers. A rough voice summoned the house to surrender. The demand was refused. The doors were locked, and what preparations were possible were made for a defence. It was plain that the inmates meant to sell their lives dearly. Darkness was beginning to fall. Meantime the besiegers were busy piling straw and other combustibles around the building. Before long the house was in flames. There was but one hope of safety for the imprisoned inmates, and that was to break through the ring of flames and smoke that surrounded them. But in attempting to do so, Dunbar of Westfield and some of the servants were killed. Moray succeeded in passing it in safety, and made his escape to the shore. Here, hidden among the rocks, he might have eluded the vengeance of his enemies, for the night was dark in the extreme and the flames of the conflagration were terrible. But unfortunately, in forcing a passage through the burning belt, the tassels of his hood—his knapskull-tippet— were set on fire, and their light betrayed him. He was discovered, pursued, and slain. Gordon of Buckie struck the first blow. But it is said he compelled Huntly to plunge his own dagger into his victim. In those suspicious days no man was safe even from his fellow-conspirators. “Ah,” exclaimed the wounded man to Huntly as the felon blow descended on his cheek, “you have spoiled a bonnier face than your own.”

After the tragedy the party returned peaceably to Inverkeithing, where they spent the night. But as soon as might be next morning Huntly, still no doubt under the impression that he had done a commendable action, sent Gordon, the Goodman of Buckie, to Edinburgh to tell the news there. The tempest of indignation which followed the announcement surprised and terrified the messenger. Fast as horse and boat could carry him he returned to Huntly, whom, on his arrival, he found at dinner. The earl immediately rose from table and ordered his horse, and, without taking time even to pay his reckoning,1 he galloped off towards Perth, in route for the north, where, surrounded by his family and clansmen, he knew he would be in safety.

Meantime every hour increased the excitement in Edinburgh. The Privy Council met at once, and deprived Huntly of all his commissions of lieutenancy and justiciary. The earl's disfigured body and that of his fellow-victim Dunbar of Westfield were brought over by Lady Doune, his mother, from Donibristie, and exposed in the kirk of Leith, that all men might see with their own eyes the cruel character of the murder. The streets sounded with “comoun rymes and sangs” calling for vengeance upon the perpetrators of the outrage. From every pulpit there came “the public threatening of God’s judgments ” against all who directly or indirectly were implicated in the affair. For by this time the notion had got abroad that there were others of even higher rank than Huntly connected with the business. It was whispered, and more than whispered, that the king himself was “linking on it.” Strange stories began to be circulated,—how that on the day of the murder Huntly had been with the king and had taken leave of him under pretext of going to a horserace at Leith; how that next morning James had fixed the scene of his hunting about Wardie and Inverleith, where he could see the still burning embers of Donibristie; how that after the meeting of the Privy Council he had at a meeting with some of the Edinburgh clergy taken pains “to cleere himself” from all participation in the affair, alleging that “his part was like David’s when Abner was slain by Joab,” and had even desired his clerical visitors “to cleere his part before the people ”—as if a man who knew himself to be innocent had need of any one’s advocacy! Nor as time went on were the suspicions of the people diminished. A proclamation of a raid for the pursuit of Huntly had indeed been made about the nth of February, and an “armey appointit” to convene at the burgh of Perth on “the tenth day of Marche instant” for that purpose. But no one took it seriously. Every one knew, too, that Huntly’s “entering himself in ward” within Blackness Castle, as he did that very day, was a mere form, and possibly, as really turned out to be the case, was a matter of arrangement between him and the king. No one was surprised, therefore, when, after a few days’ confinement there, he was “freed quietlie be his majestie, and past therefra to the castell of Fyndheavin, quhair he remanit in companie with the Erie of Crafurde a certane tyme, and thereafter was freed simpliciter, or upone cautin never fund.” Seven years later—on the 17th April 1599—James advanced him to the rank of marquis. And so the incident ended for the time.

But it had an extraordinary sequel. The “Bonnie Earl's” son James, who succeeded him, not only married, by the express desire and indeed instrumentality of the king, Lady Ann Gordon, the daughter of his father’s murderer, but, no doubt to reconcile him to such an unnatural union, obtained in 1611 a grant of the earldom of Moray in favour of himself and his heirs-male. The new charter is proof, if proof were needed, that the Bonnie Earl had never any real claim to the title.

This James was a quiet unobtrusive man, who neither courted nor attained notoriety. He died at Darnaway on 6th August 1638, and was buried next day in the little secluded kirkyard of Dyke, without any pomp, according to his own directions.

The fourth earl, also a James, was as retiring as his father. He was a Royalist, as was natural. But he lived in the country, and took no part in public affairs. He died in 1653, and was succeeded by his eldest surviving son Alexander. This earl lived in stirring times and shared in their vicissitudes. He was fined by Cromwell for his Royalist proclivities. But when the king had got his own again he received compensation for his sufferings by being appointed to various offices of importance. A Lord of the Treasury in 1678, he was Secretary of State in 1680, High Commissioner of the Parliament of Scotland in 1686, and Knight of the Thistle in 1687. When the Revolution came, the sunshine of his prosperity once again departed, and he was deprived of all his offices. He retired to Donibristie, and died there in 1700,

Since then there have been nine Earls of Moray, exclusive of the present holder of the title.

Francis, the ninth earl (born 1737, died 1810), bitten by the prevailing mania of the day, was a great arboriculturist, and it is recorded that two years after his succession he had planted thirteen millions of trees at his three seats of Doune, Donibristie, and Darnaway, and of these a million and a half were oaks. The oak forest at his Morayshire seat is one of the features of the district. Parts of it, no doubt, are very ancient, for a forest of Darnaway existed as early as the fourteenth century; and the old Gaelic name of the parish of Edinkillie, in which two-thirds of it are situated, is said to signify “The face of the wood.” But the greater part of the forest as it now exists was the pious bequest of Earl Francis to his successors—a bequest for which some of them have had reason to be thankful.

Following its sinuosities, the forest extends to nearly twenty-six miles—or about the distance from Forres to Inverness— and encloses some thousand acres of arable land. The value of the woods in 1830 was £130,000. For many years a considerable trade was carried on in oak bark, which at one time is said to have reached a price of £16 per ton. But of late years this manufacture has largely been given up, owing to the fall in prices. The worth of oak-bark is now only about jQ4 a-ton, which scarcely pays the cost of manufacture. The old and mistaken practice of eradicating the firs in the forest and replacing them with oaks is now fortunately abandoned; and such of the old firs as still remain— forest giants many of them, hoary with age—are protected with wise and loving care.

The earldom estates in the province of Moray are now shrunk to small dimensions, embracing an area of only about 21,669 acres in Elginshire and 7035 in Inverness-shire. It is a curious coincidence, that while the most valuable, though not perhaps the most extensive, estates of the Earls of Moray are now situated in Fife, those of the Earls (now Dukes) of Fife are to be found in Moray.

Before leaving the subject of the earldom it may be proper to explain, so far as this is possible with the very meagre materials at our command, the relation between the two offices of comes or earl and of vice-comes or sheriff.

There can be little doubt that Scotland borrowed the name of sheriff, as it borrowed those of thane and earl, from Saxon England. When the Anglo-Saxon constitution was at the height of its maturity the gemot (meeting) or county court of the shire—which in England was synonymous with county— was presided over by the earl in person, either alone or in conjunction with the bishop. The principal executive local office of the shire, under its head the earl, was the scirgerefa or sheriff. And at its half-yearly courts he was always present in his capacity of assessor to the earl. But as years went on, and as the emergencies of the times rendered the absence of the earl more frequent, the sheriff became the presiding officer of the gemot as the deputy or vice-comes of the earl. Such were the functions of the sheriff in Anglo-Saxon England; and such are the functions of the sheriff in England to this day. He is a mere executive officer whose duties are to see the orders of the superior courts of justice, holden within the county, carried into effect.

But in Scotland it was different. In Scotland the Saxon-tsation of the kingdom, which was the be-all and end-all of Malcolm Ceannmor’s legislation, was perfected by him and his immediate successors in theory only. Officers might, indeed, be appointed with Anglo-Saxon titles. Their functions may have been intended to correspond with those of similar officials in England. But the royal authority was too weak, the districts to which they were assigned were too much wedded to their own old customs to accept them except in name. What was to be the nature and extent of the authority of the thanes, earls, and sheriffs who came into existence about this period was a matter which time alone could decide. The natural process of evolution was left to do its work.

It is impossible with any degree of certainty to trace—at least in its earlier stages—the evolution of the sheriff from a mere local executive office, the vice-comes of the earl, into a royal office embracing both executive and judicial authority of the most extensive order. It is impossible to say when, or in what way, his connection with the comes and his courts was dissevered. But if the establishment of shires—“that is,” according to Sir John Skene, “a cutting or section, like as we say a pair of scheirs quairwith claith is cutted ”—took place, as is generally believed, about the time of David I., the establishment of sheriffs or shire-reeves must have taken place at the same period.

By this time a new element had come into play. Saxonisation had given place, or was giving place, to feudalisation. The authority of the Crown was increasing. The notion underlying the dignity of the earldom was no longer the Saxon one, that the earl was the comrade of the king, but the Norman one, that he was the miles, the soldier of the sovereign.

The rights,—the jurisdiction of the earl within thectnmtatus —his regality, as they were called,—were still conceded in fact as well as in theory. But from this time forward he enjoyed the rights and he held his lands as a fief of the Crown. The loose bonds which had hitherto attached him to his monarch were tightened. From being, like his native predecessors, a more or less independent power, bound merely by contract to discharge certain obligations towards his sovereign, he had now become a dependent authority, whose failure to perform his duties might imply—as in after years it often did imply—forfeiture of his rank and possessions.

In England, as we have seen, the shire was coextensive with the county. In Scotland there might be as many shires within the county as the king chose to create. Within the comitatus of Moray there were two—the shires of Elgin and Forres, and of Naim. Morayshire, a term more commonly used, and seemingly more agreeable to its inhabitants, than Elginshire, is both historically and legally inaccurate. Looking back upon the distinguished history of the province, however, there is much to be said for its preference.

In England the tendency was to depreciate the office of sheriff; in Scotland the reverse was the case. It may be that the king’s sheriff was at first a mere executive officer whose duties were to collect the Crown dues, to execute Crown writs, and to act as coroner within the regality of the earl. But by degrees his claims to an authority, at first co-ordinate with, and very soon superior to, the earl’s rights of regality, were asserted : and till these were finally swept away after the Rebellion of 1725 by the Act 20 George II. c. 50, 1767, there was a subacute rivalry between the two, which was manifested in the constant process of replegiation that went on between the two tribunals.

In accordance with the sentiment of the times the office of sheriff was a heritable one. And there was no impropriety in conferring it, as in other districts of Scotland it often was conferred, on the earl himself. But in Moray this was never the case. The offices of comes or earl and vice-comes or sheriff are never found in combination.

The first heritable Sheriff of Morayshire whose name appears on the records, though, of course, there had been many before him, is Alexander Douglas, who held the office in 1226. The first heritable Sheriff of Nairnshire of whom we learn is Andrew, Thane of Cawdor, who died in 1405. These two examples show, if further proof were necessary, how fallacious is the argument which seeks to connect the office of sheriff with that of the earl Neither of those persons was Earl of Moray, nor had any pretensions to the dignity. Both were, however, feudal officers of high distinction. The Thane of Cawdor was constable of the king’s castle of Nairn. As such he enjoyed the confidence of the king. It was probably to this, and to this only, that he owed his appointment as sheriff of the shire.


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