ALEXANDER, SECOND LORD GORDON—FIRST
EARL OF HUNTLY— APPOINTED LIEUTENANT GENERAL OF THE KINGDOM—GEORGE, SECOND
ACCORDING to some of the
genealogies, Alexander, Lord Gordon, first married Jean Keith, a daughter
of Sir William Keith, Great Marischal of Scotland, and she is said to have
died without issue. There seems, however, to be some doubt as to this
marriage. In 1425 Lord Gordon married Egidia Hay, a daughter and heiress
of John Hay of Tullibody. The following year, on the 8th of January, the
King, upon the resignation of Egidia, granted to them and their heirs the
lands of the barony of Tullibody; also the forests of Boyne and Enzie, and
barony of Kilsaurle; and the lands of Kinmundy in the barony of
King-Edward. By this lady he had a son, Alexander, who succeeded to the
lands of Tullibody, his mother’s heritage, and he became the ancestor of
the Setons of Abercorn. Lord Gordon divorced Egidia Hay, a proceeding
which seems to have been effected without any bad feeling on either side.
Lord Gordon next married Elizabeth,
a daughter of Sir William Crichton, Lord High Chancellor of Scotland, and
by her he had three sons and three daughters—George, his successor;
Alexander of Midmar, and Adam Dean, of Caithness; his eldest daughter,
Janet, married James Dunbar, Earl of Moray; Elizabeth married, first,
Nicol Hay, second, Earl of Erroll; and she married, secondly, John, Lord
Kennedy; Christian married William, Lord Forbes.
Alexander, Lord Gordon, resigned his
lands into the King’s hands for new infeftment on the 3rd of April, 1441,
and on the same day he and Elizabeth his wife received a charter of the
lordships of Gordon and Strathbogie; the lands of Aboyne, Glentanner,
Glenmuick, and others.
So large a portion of the Keith
lands having come into the possession of Lord Gordon, a dispute arose
between him and Sir William Keith, Great Marischal of Scotland. A meeting
to settle matters was held at Cluny on the 1st of August, 1442 at which
Lord Gordon and Sir William Keith, Walter Ogilvie of Beaufort, Sir
Alexander Irvine of Drum, Sir Andrew Ogilvie, of Inchmartin, and others
were present. After careful deliberation, Lord Gordon granted a deed
stating that—"From natural affection, nearness of kin, and for services
done to him, he and his heirs renounced, and discharged all rights and
claims that he or they had, or may have in time to come, in favour of Sir
William Keith, Marischal of Scotland, of all lands, offices, or any part
of them, in possession of Sir William Keith. Lord Gordon also promised to
make Sir William and his son, Sir Robert, sure of the said lands and
offices. He further bound himself and his heirs to pay the penalties named
in an agreement between his deceased father and mother and himself on the
one part, and the said Sir
William Keith and his wife on the other part, if he or
his heirs broke the conditions of this contract; and has sworn the bodily
oath and touched the Holy Book, that he and his heirs shall keep and
fulfil these conditions. Amen."
On the 5th of October, 1443
Alexander, Earl of Ross, Lord of the Isles, and Justiciary beyond the
Forth, granted the barony of King Edward and the patronage of all the
benefices within it to Alexander Seton, Lord Gordon, for his life-time;
and commanded all the tenants to obey him.
The exact date of the creation of
the Earldom of Huntly has not been ascertained. The date usually given is
the year 1449, but there is some evidence that the Earldom was conferred
on Lord Gordon in 1445. Anywise, the new Earl rapidly rose to a commanding
position in the government of the kingdom. The great political question of
the time was the fierce and determined struggle which raged between the
Crown and the House of Douglas. In this contest the first Earl of Huntly
acted a very important and decisive part on the side of the Stuart line.
For nearly ten years the nation from day to day knew not whether Stuart or
Douglas would triumph.
In 1449 the Earl of Huntly was the
King’s tenant in the lands of Buchrom, Kinnimond, and Abergeldie. On the
28th of April, 1451, he received for his services to the Crown, a charter
from James II. of the Lordship of Badenoch and the Castle of Ruthven.
The tragic death of the Earl of
Douglas by the hands of the King in Stirling Castle in February, 1452, was
the signal for civil war, which raged from the Borders to Inverness. The
vassals of the Douglases and their allies—the Earls of Crawford and
Ross—were very numerous and daring, and the King was in great difficulty
and imminent peril. He immediately appointed the Earl of Huntly,
Lieutenant-General of the kingdom. But Huntly himself was in an extremely
difficult position. On the north side of him were the Earl of Ross, and
the two Douglas, Earls of Moray and Ormond, while on the other was the
powerful and fierce Earl of Crawford. Huntly soon mustered a strong force
from the valley of the Deveron, Strathbogie, the valley of the Dee, and
other quarters of the north.
The King had resolved to join Huntly,
and marched to Perth. But the Earl of Crawford, who was at the head of an
army, determined to prevent Huntly from joining the King; and he took up a
strong position about two miles north-east from Brechin. Huntly marched
southward, and on the 18th of May, 1452, the two armies came in sight of
each other. A fierce and severe battle ensued. The Lindsays fought
bravely, and for a time the issue seemed doubtful. Both sides displayed
great bravery, Crawford himself made many desperate efforts to win the
day. At last he was completely defeated, and fled to his Castle of
Finhaven, hotly pursued by Calder of Aswanley. The loss was severe on both
sides. Two of Huntly’s brothers— William and Henry—were slain, and a
considerable number of his vassals. One of Crawford’s brothers and many of
his followers fell upon the field.
The highest point of the rising
ground on the north side of the battlefield is called "Huntly’s Hill," and
upon it there is a large stone, known as "Huntly’s and Bardie’s Stone."
Huntly had to return north to chastise the Earl of Moray and his men, who
had invaded and wasted Strathbogie during his absence at Brechin. He
crossed the Spey, and advanced into Morayshire and inflicted severe
punishment upon the followers of Douglas, Earl of Moray. The final
struggle between the King and the Douglases took place in the south of the
When at Aberdeen on the 7th of
September, 1456, James II. granted a remission to the Earl of Huntly and
his son, Sir George Seton, Master of Gordon, for their depredations on the
Earldom of Mar. The Earldom was then in dispute between the King and Lord
Erskine; and Huntly had occupied the lands of Kildrummy and Migvie in
In 1464 the Earl received from the
King a charter erecting the town of Kingussie, in the Lordship of Badenoch,
into a free burgh of barony. In 1467 the King granted Huntly a charter of
certain lands in Elgin.
The Earl of Huntly, during the
latter part of his life, endeavoured to strengthen his position by
entering into bonds of manrent. On the 8th of July, 1468, William, Lord
Forbes, "becomes man of special fealty, retinue, and service to an high
and mighty Lord, Alexander, Earl of Huntly, and Lord of Badenoch, to serve
him leal and truly for all the days of my life, both in peace and war,
before and against all them that live or die, my allegiance to my
sovereign only excepted." This bond, at the same date and in similar
terms, was repeated in favour of George, Lord Gordon, son and
heir-apparent to the Earl of Huntly; and thereupon the Earl of Huntly
granted to Lord Forbes and his heirs the lands of Abergarden, in the
barony of Aboyne, the lands of Tulyfour, in the Lordship of Tough and the
barony of Cluny, and other lands, all within the Sheriffdom of Aberdeen.
"And if I (Lord Forbes) shall happen to die, as God forbid, without issue
by Christian Gordon, my wife, daughter of the Earl of Huntly, and sister
of Lord Gordon, through which the succession to my heritage fall into the
hands of any other of my kin, male or female, whatsoever they be that
shall succeed me in my heritage of the lands of the Lordship of Forbes,
the heirs succeeding to me shall likewise be men of special service,
manrent, and retinue, as I am to my foresaid Lords."
In this way the succeeding Earls of
Huntly, following the common practice of the times, made many efforts to
secure and extend their power.
Alexander, first Earl of Huntly,
died at Strathbogie on the 15th of July, 1470, and was interred at Elgin.
His kinsman, Richard Forbes, Dean of Aberdeen, mortified certain lands to
the altar of St. Mary for the repose of his soul and that of his Countess,
Elizabeth Crichton. Buchanan’s lines on the Earl may be quoted :—
Enclosed within this tomb lies
Who has added new lustre to an ancient name.
Comely, strong, and in his course of life
by ill unsubdued;
Rich, shunning extravagance, hospitable to all;
Loving peace, ready for war.
Having gone the round of
all the blessings
of a happy life;
He rendered up his soul to heaven, his dust to earth.
He was succeeded by his son George,
second Earl of Huntly. While Lord Gordon, under a strictly fenced and
guarded matrimonial contract, dated the 20th of May, 1455, he married
Elizabeth Dunbar, Countess of Moray, and widow of Archibald Douglas, Earl
of Moray, who was slain at the battle of Arkinholm on the 1st of May the
same year. This marriage did not continue long. As the parties were within
the forbidden degree of relationship, a divorce was obtained. There was no
issue of the marriage.
Huntly next married the Princess
Annabella, a daughter of James I., in 1458, by whom he had issue, four
sons and four daughters. But in July, 1471, he was divorced from her on
account of his marriage with the Countess of Moray, his first wife, as
both ladies were within the third and fourth degrees of relationship.
Their descendants, however, were legitimated.
The Earl married, thirdly, Elizabeth
Hay, a daughter of William, first Earl of Erroll, and by her he had issue,
Although a truce with England was
concluded in October, 1474, to continue for seventeen years, yet Edward
IV. was not friendly to Scotland. He harboured the forfeited Earl of
Douglas, and entered into negotiations with John, Earl of Ross and Lord of
the Isles, with whom he concluded a treaty. When the terms of the treaty
became known to the Government, the Earl of Ross was summoned to appear
before Parliament in Edinburgh and answer to several charges of treason;
but he failed to appear, and sentence of forfeiture was passed against
him. Preparations were then made to invade his territories and reduce him
The Earls of Crawford and Athole led
an expedition against the Earl of Ross. The Earl of Huntly also mustered
his vassals, and captured the Castle of Dingwall. He then led his force
into Lochaber, and induced the Earl of Ross to tender his submission and
petition for pardon. The Earl followed Huntly’s advice, and though the
Earldom of Ross was annexed to the Crown, and the districts of Cantyre and
Knapdale and the Castles of Inverness and Nairn were taken from him, at
the intercession of the Queen, the rest of his lands were restored by
royal charter. He was also created a Lord of Parliament under the title of
Lord of the Isles.
On the 27th of March, 1476, the King
sent a letter to the Earl of Huntly, warmly thanking him for the part he
had taken in the subjection of the Earl of Ross. Shortly after, the King
promised to secure by charter and seizin to the Earl and his heirs 100
merks worth of land in convenient places in the north parts of the
In 1472 Sir Alexander Dunbar of
Westfield gave his letters of faith to "become man to a noble and mighty
lord, my Lord George, Earl of Huntly, Lord of Gordon and Badenoch, in leal
and true manrent and service, in peace and in war, against all deadly in
all the points contained in the oath of manrent, my allegiance to our
Sovereign Lord the King alone excepted. This my manrent and service to
endure for all the days of my life, all fraud and guile excluded and put
away. "At Huntly, the 30th day of June, before these witnesses—Ranald of
Wenton, George Leslie of Quhitecorse; Hugh the Ross, son and heir-apparent
to Hugh the Ross of Kylrawak; William of Seteoun, and many others.