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Historic Earls and Earldoms of Scotland
Chapter 1 - Earldom and Earls of Mar
Section I - First Earl of Mar


THE old district of Mar was very extensive. It commenced in the neighbourhood of Aberdeen, and extended to the border of Badenoch, comprising nearly the whole of the valleys of the Dee and Don and the territory lying between them. As mentioned in the Introduction, in Celtic times the Mormear was the ruler of the tribe of the land; and the old Earls of Mar were descended from the Celtic Mormears, and can be traced from the tenth century onward.

In 1014 Donald, son of Emin, was Mormaer of Mar, and in that year he proceeded to Ireland to assist the Irish in repelling the attacks of the Danes, and he fought and fell in the battle of Clontarf. In the reign of Alexander I. Ruadri was Mormaer of Mar, and he became the first Earl of Mar. He was one of the Earls who gave consent to the foundation charter of the Abbey of Scone by Alexander I., in 1120. He was also a witness to the important charter of David I. to the monks of Dumfermline, about 1126.

Ruadri was succeeded by Morgund, second Earl of Mar. Between the years 1165 and 1171 he granted the church of Tarland to the canons of St Andrews, with its tithes and oblations, land and mill, and also the second tithes of the Earl’s land, and timber from his woods for building purposes. This grant was confirmed by a charter of William the Lion. Earl Morgund and Agnes, his countess, also granted the church of Migvie to the canons of St Andrews.

Morgund was succeeded by Gilchrist, third Earl of Mar. It seems probable that he built the Priory of Monymusk, and by charter he granted to it the churches of St Marnan of Leochel, St. Wolock of Ruthven, St. Andrew of Alford, and Invernochty in Strathdon. He contested the claims of the patronage of the church of St Marnan, of Aberchirder, with William the Lion and the Bishop of Moray, and granted it to the monks of the Monastery of Arbroath.

Gilchrist was succeeded by Gratney, fourth Earl of Mar, of whom little is known. But he appeared, with his son Malcolm, as a witness of charters, under the title of Earl of Mar, and one at least of these charters was confirmed by William the Lion. About the year 1224 he was succeeded by Duncan, fifth Earl of Mar. Earl Duncan granted St Andrew’s Church, in Braemar, to the Priory of Monymusk, with an acre of land on the other side of the Water of Clunie. He also confirmed some of the grants made by his father, Earl Morgund.

A dispute arose between the Earl of Mar and Thomas Durward touching the legitimacy of Earl Morgund and his son Duncan. Durward asserted that Morgund and his son were illegitimate, and on that ground he claimed the Earldom of Mar, in right of his mother, of whom little is known, except that she was the wife of Malcolm Lundin, the King’s hereditary door-keeper. it is pretty certain, however, that the King supported the claim of his doorkeeper, with the aim of breaking up this old Celtic earldom. The dispute for a time was settled by a compromise under which Thomas Durward obtained his great domains in Mar—stretching from Invercanny, on the banks of the Dee, to Alford, on the Don, and from Coull, on the West, to Skene, on the east. Yet the Durwards were not satisfied, and subsequently Thomas Durward’s son claimed the whole Earldom of Mar, and made the utmost efforts to obtain possession of it. This family took the name of Durward from their hereditary office of doorkeepers to the King, and for a time they rose rapidly to power and influence.

This seems the proper place to touch briefly on the origin of the Earldom of the Garioch, which afterwards became connected with the Earldom of Mar. The Earldom of the Garioch was created by William the Lion, and granted by him to his brother, David, Earl of Huntingdon. This new earldom mainly consisted of the territory surrounding the old fort of Dunideer, and lying between the Don and its tributary, the Water of Ury. Earl David, the first historic Earl of the Garioch, was a singularly important personage, inasmuch as he was the ancestor of the subsequent Royal line of Scotland, and also remotely of Great Britain.

He was born in 1144—the third grandson of David I. He married a sister of Randolph, Earl of Chester, and by her he had three sons and four daughters. His eldest daughter, Margaret, married Alan of Galloway, and it was through her issue that John Baliol claimed the Crown of Scotland. His second daughter, Isabella, married Robert de Bruce of Annandale. His youngest daughter, Ada, married Henry de Hastings. And it was the descendants of these daughters of Earl David, who, after the death of. Alexander III. and his granddaughter, the Maid of Norway, claimed the Crown of Scotland.

Earl David died about 1219. Two of his sons, Henry and David, predeceased him; and his third son, John, "the Scot;" succeeded to the earldom of the Garioch. On the death of his mother he became Earl of Chester. After the death of Earl John, the earldom of the Garioch reverted to the Crown; and it was eventually granted as a lordship to the Earls of Mar.

Returning, Duncan, Earl of Mar, was one of the witnesses to a charter by Alexander II. to Ness, his physician, of the lands of Banff, in the fief of Alyth, which was dated at Aberdeen on the 9th of October, 1232. Earl Duncan was succeeded by his son, William, sixth Earl of Mar. He is mentioned among the great barons of Scotland in the letter of fealty granted by Alexander II. to Henry III. of England in 1244.

This Earl, during the minority of Alexander IlI., came into conflict with Alan Durward, who was Justiciary of Scotland, and son of Thomas Durward mentioned before. Durward had married a natural daughter of Alexander II., by whom he had several daughters; and it was alleged in 1252 that he was endeavouring to obtain from the Pope the legitimation of his wife, so in the event of the death of the boy Alexander III., his daughter would be the heiress to the Crown of Scotland. Thus Alan was a great and aspiring personage. He assumed the title and style of Earl of Athole from 1233 to 1235; and not content with the very large part of the Earldom of Mar which his father had obtained for him, in 1257, he claimed the whole Earldom of Mar. In that year a papal rescript was issued, directing an inquest to be held, proceeding on the narrative that "Our beloved son, the nobleman Alan, called the Durward, hath signified to us that, whereas the nobleman William of Mar, of the diocese of Aberdeen, hath withheld the Earldom of Mar, of right belonging to the aforesaid Alan, and the same doth occupy to the prejudice of the said Alan, and that Morgund and Duncan, deceased, to whom the said William asserts his succession to the said earldom, were not begotten in lawful matrimony." Notwithstanding Alan’s great efforts, Earl William continued in possession, and Durward failed in his aim and ambition.

Earl William was one of the most powerful barons of his time in Scotland. He was one of those who were removed from the Government of Scotland by Henry III. of England, in September, 1255, while his opponent, Alan Durward, was one of those who replaced him. Mar was, however, recalled to the king’s councils in the beginning of the year 1257. In November, 1258, he appears, along with Alan Durward, as one of those whom Henry III. undertook to support in the government of the kingdom. He was named among the barons of Scotland to whom Henry III. bound himself to deliver up the child that his daughter Margaret, queen of Alexander III., was about to give birth in England.

He held the office of Great Chamberlain of Scotland in 1252, and again from 1263 to 1266. In 1270 he was sent to England, accompanied by the Abbot of Dunfermline, on a mission for the recovery of the Earldom of Huntingdon. By a charter dated at Falkland on the 23rd of January, 1268, witnessed by his sons, Donald and Duncan, he confirmed to the canons of St Andrews the grants made to them by his grandfather, Morgund, Earl of Mar, of the church of Tarland, and by his grandmother, Countess of Mar, of the church of Migvie; and, further, granted an acre of land, lying between the church and the castle of Migvie, for a manse to the vicar serving the cure. One clause in his charters touches on the questions which had been raised as to the legitimacy of Earl Morgund.

Earl William died in 1273, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Donald, seventh Earl of Mar. He was present at the meeting of the Estates held at Scone on the 5th of February, 1284, in which the barons and bishops bound themselves in the name of the nation to acknowledge the king’s granddaughter, Margaret, the Maid of Norway, as the heir of the Crown of Scotland.

After the death of the Maid of Norway, in September, 1290, it appears that the Earl of Mar became a supporter of the claims of Robert Bruce of Annandale to the Crown of Scotland. In 1291, Donald, Earl of Mar, one of the seven Earls of Scotland, and the king’s freemen of Moray, appealed from William, Bishop of St Andrews, and John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, Guardians of Scotland, to Edward I. for redress of wrongs done to them by under-wardens of Scotland, who had wasted and plundered their towns and lands in Moray, burned their barns, carried away their goods, and slain men and women.

The Earl of Mar was present in the chapel of the Castle of Berwick, on the 3rd of August, 1291, when Edward I. protested that his consent to try the claims of the candidates for the Scottish Crown within the realm of Scotland, should not prejudice the exercise of his right as Lord Superior of Scotland, within the kingdom of England. The same year, on the 24th of July, he was present in the Church of the Friars at Perth, when Edward I. received the fealty of Mary, Queen of Isle of Man, and Countess of Strathearn.

Earl Donald fought at the battle of Dunbar, on the 26th of April, 1296; and shortly after he was taken a prisoner by the English.

He married Muriel, a daughter of the Earl of Strathearn, by whom he had issue. He died in 1297, and was succeeded by his son, Gartney, eighth Earl of Mar. He married Christian Bruce, a sister of Robert I.; while Robert I. married Isabel, a sister of Earl Gartney. The Earl received with his wife the lordship of Garioch, to be held in free regality. He died in 1305, and was succeeded by his son, Donald, ninth Earl of Mar, who was then a boy; and Edward I. ordered that the heir of Mar should be kept in the Castle of Bristol; and soon after ordered that Donald, Earl of Mar, is to be with the king in his own household. He was detained a prisoner in England till after the battle of Bannockburn.

Earl Gartney left two daughters—Ellen of Mar, the eldest, and Janet. Ellen married Sir John Monteith; their daughter, Christian Monteith, married Sir Edward Keith, Great Marischal of Scotland; and their daughter, Janet Keith, married Sir Thomas Erskine; their son, Sir Robert Erskine, as a descendant of Ellen of Mar, became heir to the Earldom of Mar, and claimed it in the following century.

Earl Donald returned to Scotland in 1314, but it appears that he occasionally revisited England. He led one of the divisions of the Scottish army which invaded England in the summer of 1327. After the death of Robert I., the Earl of Mar joined the cause of his cousin, the young Prince David II. On the death of the Earl of Moray, the Regent of Scotland, in 1332, the Earl of Mar was elected Regent of the Kingdom. Shortly after he was slain at the disastrous battle of Dupplin. He was succeeded by his son, Thomas, tenth Earl of Mar.

From an early period the Castle of Kildrummy was the principal seat of the Earldom of Mar. It is one of the oldest castles in Scotland, and in its time was a great stronghold. Probably part of the castle was built about the middle of the thirteenth century. The castle, with its fortifications, covered about three Scotch acres of ground; but it has for long been ruinous. The castle has been repeatedly burned and defaced. It was in the form of a square, opening toward the south, and consisted of six or seven towers and a chapel. It is built of dressed freestone, and the ruins show that the masonry has been excellent The walls are about eighteen feet thick, with rooms within them, and a passage through them, and small holes for watching, which runs round the structure. In the last century one of the towers, called the "Snow Tower," was standing. It consisted of seven vaulted storeys, each about twenty feet in height, making the total height of the tower 140 feet. In the top storey there was then a breach toward the north-east, locally called the "Devil’s Gap," touching which various traditions were current In the bottom of the tower there was a draw-well, whence water was drawn to the top through a round opening in the centre of each storey. There was also another draw-well in the close. There was an underground vaulted passage which led to a small stream upon the north side of the castle. The great hall was on the north side of the close in the form of an oblong square, and over sixty feet in length and forty feet in breadth, with large arched windows. On the north-east side there was a chapel and a burial ground.

This great castle is associated with many important and interesting historic events and touching incidents, which I will subsequently narrate in connection with the personages and chief actors in these events and scenes. In the summer of 1296, when Edward I. was returning southward on his triumphal progress through Scotland, he stayed a night or two at Kildrummy Castle, and thence marched to Brechin. Again, in 1303, when returning southward on his second progress through the kingdom, he stayed some time at the Castle of Kildrummy, and thence proceeded southward by Brechin.

As we have seen, Robert Bruce was a brother-in-law of Gartney, Earl of Mar. Thus Bruce was the uncle of Donald, who became Earl of Mar in 1306, but was a prisoner in England, so in this way it happened that Bruce had command of the Castle of Kildrummy when he entered on the great enterprise of re-taking the kingdom of Scotland.


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