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The Scottish Nation
Kilmarnock


KILMARNOCK, earl of, a title in the peerage of Scotland (attainted in 1746, and now represented by the earl of Errol) conferred in 1661, on William, ninth Lord Boyd of Kilmarnock, descended from Sir Robert Boyd, the fourth of the name, one of the first associates of King Robert the Bruce (see BOYD, surname of). The first Lord Boyd, the fifth in descent from this Sir Robert, was the son of Sir Thomas Boyd, who slew Sir Alan Stewart of Derneley, and was himself slain in revenge by Sir Alan’s brother, Alexander Stewart, in 1439. The son was created a baron, by the title of Lord Boyd of Kilmarnock, by James II. His great abilities raised him to the highest offices in the state. In 1459 he was one of the noblemen sent to Newcastle, to obtain the prolongation of the truce with England, which had just then expired. On the death of James II. Lord Boyd was made justiciary, and one of the lords of the regency, during the minority of James III. His younger brother, Sir Alexander Boyd of Duncow, was appointed to teach military exercises and accomplishments to the young king; and though the latter was not more than twelve years old, he began to instil into his mind that he was now capable of governing without the help of guardians and tutors, and that he ought to free himself from their restraint. This was done with the view of transferring the whole power of the state of Lord Boyd and himself from the other regents. The king readily consented to what was proposed, and being at Linlithgow at the time, it was necessary to have him removed to Edinburgh, to take upon himself the regal government, which the Boyds effected, partly by force, and partly by stratagem. To protect themselves from the consequences, Lord Boyd and his brother prevailed upon James to call a parliament at Edinburgh in October 1466, in which his lordship fell down on his knees before the king on the throne, and in an elaborate harangue, complained of the hard construction put upon his majesty’s removal from Linlithgow, and that his enemies threatened that the advisers of that affair should one day be brought to punishment, and humbly besought the king to declare his own sense and pleasure thereupon. His majesty consulted a little with the lords, and then replied, that the Lord Boyd was not his adviser, but rather his companion in that journey; and, therefore, that he was more worthy of a reward for his courtesy, than of punishment for his obsequiousness or compliance therein; and this he was willing to declare in a public decree of the Estates, in which provision would be made that this matter should never be prejudicial to the Lord Boyd or his companions. At his lordship’s desire, this decree was registered in the acts of the Assembly, and confirmed by letters patent under the great seal. At the same time the king, by advice of his council, granted him letters patent, constituting him sole regent, and he had the safety of the king, his brothers, sisters, towns, castles, and all the jurisdiction over his subjects committed to him, till his majesty arrived at the age of twenty-one years. The nobles then present solemnly bound themselves to be assistant to Lord Boyd and his brother in all their public acts, under the penalty of punishment, if they failed to perform their pledge, and to this stipulation the king also subscribed. Lord Boyd was now made lord great chamberlain. His son, Sir Thomas Boyd, received the Princess Mary, the late king’s eldest daughter in marriage, and was soon after created earl of Arran.

      A marriage having been about this time concluded by ambassadors sent into Denmark for that purpose, between the young king of Scotland, and Margaret, a daughter of the Danish king, the earl of Arran was selected to go over to Denmark, to act as his brother-in-law James’ proxy in espousing the princess, and to conduct her to Scotland. In the beginning of the autumn of 1469, he accordingly set sail for Denmark, with a proper convoy, and a noble train of friends and followers. The lord chamberlain, the earl’s father, and his uncle, Sir Alexander Boyd, being at this time also absent from court, the occasion was taken advantage of by their enemies to ruin them with the king.

      The Kennedys particularly showed themselves active against them. Their enmity arose from the following circumstance: The Boyds having, on the 10th of July 1466, when the king was sitting in the Exchequer at Linlithgow, ordered a hunting match for his majesty, they, with some other friends, instead of following the chase, turned into the road leading to Edinburgh, in which they had not gone far, before Gilbert Lord Kennedy rode up, and laying his hand upon the bridle of the king’s horse, requested James to return to Linlithgow, bidding him beware of those guides who thus treasonably attempted to carry him away. But the Boyds thought that the possession of the king’s person would guard them from the penalty of the law, and Sir Alexander Boyd, as if he meant to resent the insult offered to the king, after some angry words, gave the Lord Kennedy a blow with his hunting staff, who thereupon quitted his hold of the bridle, and left them to pursue their journey to Edinburgh. But he never forgave the blow he had received, and he eagerly availed himself of the first opportunity that offered to avenge it.

      He now represented to the king that the Lord Boyd had abused his power during his majesty’s minority, and described the lord chamberlain as an ambitious, aspiring man, guilty of the highest offences, and capable of the worst of villanies; he thus succeeded in exciting the fears of the king, who was easily prevailed upon to sacrifice not only the earl of Arran, but all his family, to the resentment of their enemies.

      At the request of the faction adverse to them, the king summoned the Estates of parliament to meet at Edinburgh, November 20, 1469, before which Lord Boyd, his son, the earl of Arran, though absent on the king’s service in Denmark, and his brother, Sir Alexander Boyd of Duncow, were summoned to appear, to give an account of their administration, and answer such charges as should be brought forward against them. Lord Boyd, astonished at this sudden turn of affairs, had recourse to arms; but finding it impossible to stand against his enemies, he made his escape into England. His brother, Sir Alexander, being then sick, and trusting to his own integrity, was brought before the Estates, where he, the Lord Boyd, and his son, the earl of Arran, were indicted for high treason, for having laid hands on the king, and carried him from Linlithgow to Edinburgh, in 1466. Sir Alexander alleged, in his defence, that he and his relatives had not only obtained, in a public convention, the king’s pardon for that offence; but that, by a subsequent act of parliament, it was declared a good and loyal service on their part. No regard, however, was paid either to the pardon he had received, or to the act of parliament he referred to; because they had been obtained by the Boyds when they were in power, and masters of the king’s person. Being found guilty of high treason by a jury of lords and barons, Sir Alexander Boyd was condemned to lose his head on the castlehill of Edinburgh, which sentence was executed accordingly. The Lord Boyd did not long survive his great reverse of fortune, as his death took place at Alnwick in 1470.

      The earl of Arran, though absent on state business, was declared a public enemy, and his estates were confiscated. His affairs were in this situation when he arrived in the Firth of Forth from Denmark with the young queen. Before he landed he received intelligence of the wreck and ruin of his family, and he resolved to return to Denmark. Without staying to attend the ceremonial of the queen’s landing, he set sail with his wife in one of the Danish convoy ships; and on his arrival at Denmark was received with the honours becoming his high birth. Thence he travelled through Germany into France, and went to pay a visit to Charles duke of Burgundy, who received him most graciously, and being then at war with his rebellious subjects, the exiled lord offered his services, which his highness readily accepted. While he remained at the duke of Burgundy’s court, he had a son and a daughter born to him by his countess. But the king her brother recalled his sister to Scotland; and fearing that she would not be induced to leave her husband, he caused other persons to write to her, giving her hopes that his anger towards him might yet be appeased, if she would come over and plead for him in person. Flattered by these hopes, she returned to Scotland, where she was no sooner arrived than the king urged her to sue for a divorce from her husband, cruelly detained her from going back to him, and caused public citations, attested by witnesses, to be fixed up at Kilmarnock, the seat of the Boyds, wherein Thomas earl of Arran was commanded to appear within sixty days; which he not doing, his marriage with the king’s sister was declared null and void, and a divorce granted, according to Buchanan, the earl being absent and unheard. The Lady Mary was afterwards compelled by the king to marry James Lord Hamilton; but it is not certain whether this second marriage took place before or after the earl of Arran’s death, which occurred in 1474, at Antwerp, where he was honourably interred.

      James, only son of Thomas Boyd, earl of Arran, was restored to the estates of his family in 1482, and died in 1484.

      Alexander, the second son of the first Lord Boyd, was made baillie and chamberlain of Kilmarnock for the crown in 1505. He had three sons, Robert, restored to the title of Lord Boyd in 1536; Thomas, ancestor of the Boyds of Pitcon; and Adam, progenitor of the Boyds of Pinkhill and Trochrig.

      The eldest son, Robert, Lord Boyd, had a confirmation from Queen Mary, of all the estates, honours, and dignities that had belonged to Robert, Lord Boyd, his grandfather.

      His son, Robert, fourth Lord Boyd, was one of the promoters of the Reformation in Scotland, and in the movements that followed acted a principal part. But he did not go without his reward, for between him and Glencairn, Henry Balnaves divided 500 of the crowns which he had received from England, for the assistance of the party besieged in the castle of St. Andrews, after the assassination of Cardinal Bethune. Joining Moray and Argyle, when they took up arms in 1565, on occasion of Queen Mary’s marriage with Darnley, he was obliged to retire to England, and was denounced rebel in September of that year. After the murder of Rizzio, he returned, with the other lords, and received a full pardon. He was one of the assize who acquitted Bothwell for the assassination of Darnley, and he signed the bond said to have been given to him by several of the nobility, approving of his project to marry the queen. In Bothwell’s declaration, quoted by Keith, he is stated to have been accessory to Darnley’s murder. Though made a privy councillor after Bothwell’s marriage to the queen, he joined the association for the protection of the prince. He soon, however, returned to the queen’s party, and betrayed to them the confederacy of the nobility. He was with Huntly and his faction at Edinburgh when the associated lords attacked the city on 12th June 1567, but being unable to raise the citizens in the queen’s cause, they were forced to take refuge in the castle. In the following August he began to negotiate with the regent, Moray, and being shortly after reconciled to him, was appointed one of his privy councillors.

      On Mary’s escape from Lochleven, he joined her at Hamilton, and fought for her cause at the battle of Langside, He was one of the commissioners on her part at York and Westminster, and made many visits to her in England. According to Chalmers (Life of Mary, vol. ii. p. 242), he procured from Bothwell in 1569 his consent to a dissolution of their ill-fated marriage, and was the bearer of Mary’s letter to her brother, Regent Moray, requesting that steps should be taken for having it annulled, preparatory to her intended union with Norfolk.

      On a visit to the unfortunate Mary in 1571, he received from her a commission to establish lieutenants in her name; but the same year he joined the party of the regent Lennox. He was present at the election of the earl of Mar as regent, and was chosen one of his privy council. On 8th September that year, he had a remission to himself and his two sons for their fighting against the king at Langside, and all other crimes. He was one of the noblemen employed in carrying through the well-known pacification of Perth in February 1573, and by one of its conditions, “the commendator of Newbottle, the justice clerk, and Lord Boyd were appointed sole judges beneath the Forth, in all actions of restitution of goods spulzied in the late troubles.” He was appointed by the regent Morton an extraordinary lord of session, 24th October, 1573. On Morton’s resignation in 1578, Lord Boyd went to his assistance, and strongly remonstrated with him for having relinquished the regency. On the 8th of May the same year, he was removed from his seat on the bench, but on 15th July following was re-appointed a privy councillor, a visitor of the university of Glasgow, and a commissioner for examining the book of the policie of the kirk, and settling its jurisdiction, and on 25th October was restored to his place on the bench. In 1578 he was one of the commissioners for a treaty with England, and again in 1586.

      After Morton’s return to power, he assisted him in his attempts to apprehend the Lords John and Claud Hamilton, and in the excesses which in May 1579 he committed against their property. On 10th November following he was appointed a member of the new privy council. In 1582 he was engaged in the Raid of Ruthven, and on James’ recovering his freedom in the following year was only pardoned on condition that he should leave the country and retire to France. On his return he was restored to his seat on the bench 22d June 1586, but resigned it on 4th July 1588, and died 3d January 1590, in his 72d year.

      His son, Thomas, fifth Lord Boyd, fought with his father and brother on Queen Mary’s side at Langside, and having been predeceased by his son, the master of Boyd, was succeeded by his grandson, Robert, sixth lord. The son of the latter, also named Robert, seventh lord, died 17th November 1640, without issue, when his uncle, James, became eighth lord. Being a faithful adherent of Charles I., he was fined 1,500 by Cromwell’s act in 1654, and died that year.

      His son, William, third earl, voted for the Union, and when the rebellion broke out in 1715, he steadily supported the government. At the general rendezvous of the fencible men of the district of Cunningham at Irvine, 22d August that year, he appeared at the head of 500 of his own men, well armed, and on this occasion, his son, Lord Boyd, who, as fourth earl of Kilmarnock, joined the Pretender in the subsequent rebellion, appeared in arms at his father’s side, though but eleven years old. In consequence of an order from the duke of Argyle, commander-in-chief of the government forces, Lord Kilmarnock, marched from Glasgow with the Ayrshire volunteers to garrison the houses of Gartartan, Drumnakill, and Cardross, to prevent the rebels from crossing the Forth. He died in September 1717. By his countess, Euphemia, eldest daughter of the eleventh Lord Ross, he had a son, the subject of the following notice.

      William, fourth earl of Kilmarnock, executed for his share in the rebellion of 1745, was born in 1704. His father died when he was but thirteen years of age, and on succeeding to the family estates, he found them much encumbered. He early displayed great abilities, but his love of pleasure overcame his desire for study; and, in his youth, he was so extravagant, that he still more reduced his patrimony. This, it has been conjectured, was the cause of his taking up arms against the king. In his confession to the Rev. Mr. Foster, while under sentence of death, his lordship acknowledged, that his having engaged in the Rebellion was a kind of desperate scheme, to which he had recourse in the hope that he might be extricated from the embarrassment of his circumstances. “The true root of all,” he says, “was his careless and dissolute life, by which he had reduced himself to great and perplexing difficulties; that the exigency of his affairs was in particular very pressing at the time of the rebellion; and that, besides the general hope he had of mending his fortune by the success of it, he was also tempted by another prospect of retrieving his circumstances, by following the Pretender’s standard.” When the rebellion broke out, Lord Kilmarnock was not concerned in it. In his speech at the bar of the House of Lords, and in his petition to the king after his sentence, he declared that it was not till after the battle of Prestonpans that he became a party to it, having, till then, influenced neither his tenants nor his followers to assist or abet the rebellion. On the contrary he had induced the inhabitants of the town of Kilmarnock, and the neighbouring towns, to rise in arms for his majesty’s cause; and, in consequence, 200 men from Kilmarnock soon appeared in arms, and remained so all winter at Glasgow and other places.

      When the earl at last joined the Pretender’s standard, he was received by him with great marks of esteem and distinction. He was declared a member of his privy council, made colonel of the guards, and promoted to the rank of a general; although his lordship himself says he was far from being a person of any consequence among them. He displayed considerable courage till the fatal battle of Culloden, when, finding it impossible to escape, he surrendered himself prisoner to the king’s troops. He was conveyed to the Tower of London; and on Monday, July 28, 1746, he, the earl of Cromarty, and Lord Balmerino, were conducted to Westminster Hall, and at the bar of the lord high steward’s court arraigned for high treason and rebellion. Lord Kilmarnock pleaded guilty to his indictment, and submitted himself to his majesty’s clemency. On the Wednesday following, the three lords were again brought from the Tower to receive sentence, when being asked by the lord high steward, if he had any thing to offer why sentence of death should not be passed upon him, he delivered an eloquent speech, after which he was condemned to be beheaded, and he was taken back to the Tower. He presented petitions to the king, the prince of Wales, and the duke of Cumberland, wherein he set forth the constant attachment of his family to the interest of the Revolution of 1688, and to that of the house of Hanover; and referred to his father’s zeal and activity in support of the crown and constitution during the rebellion of 1715, and his own appearance in arms, though he was then but a boy, under his father, and the whole tenor of his conduct up to the time he had unfortunately engaged in the cause of the Pretender. But the services of his forefathers could not avail him so far as to induce his majesty to pardon him. He was beheaded on Tower-hill, August 18, 1746, and interred in the Tower-church, with this inscription on his coffin, – “Gulielmus comes de Kilmarnock, decollat. 18 Augusti 1746, aetat. suae 42.”      

      Lord Kilmarnock possessed a fine address, and was very polite. His person was tall and graceful; his countenance mild, but his complexion pale. He lived and died in the public profession of the Church of Scotland, and left behind him a widow, who was the Lady Ann Livingston, daughter of James, earl of Linlithgow and Callendar, attainted in 1716, with whom he had a considerable fortune, and three sons, the eldest of whom was the fifteenth earl of Errol, having succeeded upon the death of Mary countess of Errol, in 1758, to her estate and honours, his mother being undoubted heir of line of that noble family. He died June 3, 1778. The seventeenth earl of Errol was created Baron Kilmarnock in 1831. [See ERROL, earl of.]


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