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Historic Earls and Earldoms of Scotland
Chapter III - Earldom and Earls of Huntly
Section XVII


DEATH OF COSMO-GEORGE—ALEXANDER, FOURTH DUKE OF GORDON—HIS MARRIAGE—CREATED A BRITISH PEER—HE RAISED TWO REGIMENTS—THE REEL 0’ BOGIE—THE DUKE AS A LANDLORD—HIS DEATH.

IN 1752 the Duke of Gordon went on a tour through France. While near Amiens he died on the 5th of August, in the thirty-third year of his age. His body was embalmed in France, and thence conveyed to the chapel near Gordon Castle, and afterwards interred in Elgin Cathedral.

He left three sons and three daughters; and was succeeded by his eldest son, Alexander, Fourth Duke of Gordon, then a boy of nine years. Lord William Gordon joined the army at an early age, and served in the East Indies. Subsequently he was appointed a deputy-keeper of St. James’s Park. On the 1st of March, 1781, he married Frances, a daughter of Charles, ninth Viscount of Irvine. He died in May, 1824 Lord George died unmarried on the 1st of November, 1792.

Lady Susan Gordon married, first, John, Earl of Westmorland; and, secondly, Lieutenant-Colonel John Wood-ford. She died on the 11th of December, 1814. Lady Catherine married Thomas Booker, Esq. She died on the 3rd of January, 1797. Lady Anne married the Rev. Alexander Chalmers, minister of the parish of Cairnie.

Alexander, Fourth Duke of Gordon, was born on the 18th of June, 1743. In 1761 he was elected one of the Representative Peers of Scotland. He was created a Knight of the Order of the Thistle in 1775. It appears that Professor Ogilvie, of Aberdeen, acted as travelling tutor to the Duke, who in 1761 visited Italy, and stayed for some time in the country of the Grand Duke of Tuscany.

He married, first, in 1767, Lady Jane, a daughter of Sir William Maxwell, Bart., of Moreth, by whom he had two sons and five daughters. He married, secondly, Mrs. Christie, in 1820, by whom he had no issue.

On the 12th of February, 1784, he was enrolled amongst the British Peers, under the title of Baron Gordon of Huntly and Earl of Norwich, which he inherited through Lady Elizabeth Howard, his great-grandmother. He also inherited the baronies of Beauchamp and Mordaunt, and the lands of Durris, as heir-general of the Earl of Peterborough.

The Duke was a man of great energy and public spirit. His wife, the Duchess of Gordon, was also a highly-gifted lady, with fine personal attractions and remarkable talents. Many of her husband’s enterprises were admirably supported by her active and enthusiastic efforts.

In 1778 he raised a regiment of Fencibles, numbering 960 men. They were recruited on the Duke’s estates in the counties of Aberdeen, Banff, Moray, and Inverness. This regiment was embodied at Aberdeen, and continued in service till 1783, when it was reduced. During the five years that the regiment was embodied only 24 men died.

In 1793, the Duke, assisted by the winning manner and efforts of the Duchess, raised another regiment of Fencibles. He raised over 300 men on his own estates of Badenoch, Lochaber, and Strathspey; and nearly the same number was enlisted on the neighbouring estates; while about 150 were recruited on the Lowlands of the counties of Moray, Banff, and Aberdeen. The uniform of the men consisted of the Highland garb. This regiment was embodied at Aberdeen. In 1794 the regiment was removed to England, and was reviewed by George III. in Hyde Park The regiment, with other fencible regiments, was disbanded in 1799.

The Duke was an accomplished and exceedingly genial gentleman. On the 20th of February, 1793, he was elected Lord Chancellor of the University and King’s College, Aberdeen. The minute records that :—"His Grace is of all others the most natural choice, several of his predecessors having held that office, and his father and many of that family and their connections having been educated here." The Duke continued Chancellor till his death.

When Burns, on the 7th September, 1787, visited Gordon Castle, he wrote the following note :—"Fine palace, worthy of the noble, polite, and generous proprietor. The Duke makes me happier than ever great man did—noble, princely; yet mild, condescending, and affable, gay and kind—the Duchess charming, witty, and sensible - God bless them." Burns greatly admired the Castle and its surroundings, and wrote :—

"Give me the stream that sweetly laves
The banks of Castle Gordon."

The Duke of Gordon himself is the reputed author of a popular version of the song called "The Reel o’ Bogie." It is a characteristic song, and has been long associated with the dance tune of the same name. A few verses may be quoted:-

"In foursome reel’s the Scotch delight,
At threesomes they dance wond’rous light.
But twasomes ding a’ out o' sight,
Danced to the reel o' Bogie.

Come, lads, and view your partners well,
Wile each a blythesome rogie;
I’ll tak’ this lassie to mysel,
She looks sae clean and vogie.

Now, piper lad, bang up the spring;
The country fashion is the thing—
To pree their mou’s ere we begin,
To dance the reel o’ Bogie.

Now, ilka lad has got a lass,
Save yon auld doited fogie,
And ta’en a fling upon the grass,
As they do in Stra’bogie.

But a’ the lassies look sae fain,
We canna think oursel’s to bain,
For they maun hae their come-again,
To dance the reel o’ Bogie.

Now a’ the lads hae done their best,
Like true men o’ Stra’bogie.
We’ll stop a while and tak’ a rest,
And tipple out a cogie.

Come now, my lads, and tak’ your glass,
And try ilk other to surpass,
And wishin’ health to every lass,
To dance the reel o’ Bogie."

William Marshall, who was born in Fochabers on the 27th of December, 1748, was engaged as house stewart and butler to the Duke of Gordon till 1790; and afterwards he acted as factor to the Duke till 1817. Marshall was a famous violin-player, and an able and assiduous composer. Two hundred and eighty-seven of his tunes have been published, in three collections, the first of which appeared in 1793, containing 36 tunes; the second in 1822, embracing 170 tunes; and the third in 1847, which was issued after his death. It is said by eminent authorities on Scottish dance music, that his second collection is the finest ever published by any Scottish composer. Many of his strathspeys were very spirited and popular in the north, such as "The Bog o’ Gight," "The Duke of Gordon’s Birthday," "Gordon Castle," "Craigellachie Bridge," "The Marchioness of Huntly," "The Marquis of Huntly," "Huntly Lodge," "The Duchess of Richmond," and many others.

Marshall was a faithful and trusted servant of the Duke, and a highly-respected man. He died on the 29th of May, 1833, in his seventy-fifth year.

The Duke of Gordon was Lord Superior of the town of Huntly—a burgh of barony—as his predecessors had been for three centuries. He was appointed keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland and Lord-Lieutenant of Aberdeenshire.

He was a very kind and considerate landlord. He was one of those who fully recognised that property and wealth have many responsibilities and important duties attached to them. Thus his example and great influence had a beneficial effect upon others.

He died on the 17th of June, 1827. He had two sons and five daughters, and was succeeded by his eldest son, George, fifth and last Duke of Gordon, Alexander, his second son, joined the army, and died in 1808.

Lady Charlotte Gordon married Charles, fourth Duke of Richmond; and their son afterward inherited the estates of the Dukedom of Gordon.

Lady Madelina married first, Sir Robert Sinclair, Bart; and, secondly, Charles F. Palmer, of Lockly Park, Berks. Lady Susan married the Duke of Manchester. Lady Lousia married the second Marquis of Cornwallis. Lady Georgina married the Duke of Bedford.


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