GEORGE, FOURTH EARL OF HUNTLY—HUNTLY CREATED HEREDITARY
SHERIFF OF ABERDEEN.
EARL ALEXANDER was succeeded by his grandson George, a
boy of ten years, the eldest son of John, Lord Gordon. His lot was cast in
a stirring and important period of the nation’s history. He succeeded to a
high position, with its many responsibilities and great opportunities,
amid difficult circumstances.
During his minority the young Earl frequently resided
at Court, where he had many opportunities of observing the proceedings of
personages in high circles and at the centre of authority. For some time
after the departure of the Regent Albany there was an intense struggle of
factions and divided counsels at the head of affairs. The Earl of Angus at
last seized the young King James V., and shortly concentrated all the
power of the Crown in his own hands. Angus kept the King in close
constraint, and, revelling in his usurped power, he exercised a severe
tyranny on all who dared to oppose him. Two attempts were made to rescue
the King from the grasp of the bold and daring noble, in one of which the
Earl of Lennox lost his life; while the chains of the captive were more
firmly riveted than before. The Douglases were complete masters of the
position—Angus himself was Lord High Chancellor, his uncle was Treasurer,
and they compelled the King to sign all deeds which they presented to him.
At last, with the assistance of Archbishop Beaton and others, the King
escaped from Angus in May, 1528, and from that time to the end of his
reign he pursued the Earl and his associates with relentless severity.
It appears that the young Earl of Huntly was seduced
from his allegiance by the Earl of Angus, and that he accompanied Angus in
his flight into England. Afterwards Huntly offered his fealty and homage
to the King, who warmly received him, as they had been often together as
playmates. In 1529 the Earl of Huntly received a charter from the King of
the lands of the Lordship of Strathdee and Cromar, excepting Migvie, for a
rent of £180, twenty marts (cattle), and six bolls of oats.
In 1530 the Earl of Huntly contracted to marry
Elizabeth Keith, a sister of
William, fourth Earl Marischal. This contract is remarkably minute in
details; and contains careful provisions against the contingency of
divorce. The Marischal promised to give Elizabeth five thousand merks as a
tocher; on the other hand, the Earl of Huntly undertook to infeft Earl
Marischal in forty pounds worth of land in the barony of Huntly, under a
letter of reversion. The marriage was consummated, and the Earl by
Elizabeth had nine sons and three daughters.
On the 26th of June,
1532, the Earl of Huntly received a bond of
manrent from Hector Mackintosh, captain of Clan Chattan, which was dated
at Pitlurg, and witnessed by George Gordon of Gight, John Gordon of Longar,
Robert Innes, brother of the laird of Innes, and others. The captain and
his men had wasted the lands of the Earl of Moray—James Stewart, a natural
son of James IV.— and taken possession of the castles of Darnaway and
Halhill. In 1534, Huntly, as
Lieutenant-General of the North, had to execute a commission of fire and
sword against Hector Mackintosh and his men, in which Huntly was assisted
by Grant, the laird of Freuchie.
friendly relations between the Gordons and the Forbeses were broken. It
appears that during the absence of Lord Forbes, his tenants had made
depredations on Huntly’s forest of Corennie. The Earl demanded reparation,
and summoned the offenders. The unfortunate feud between the Forbeses and
the Gordons frequently led to distressing conflicts.
In 1536 Huntly received a number of
bonds of manrent. James Garioch of Kinstair and his son John gave their
bond of manrent to the Earl; and Robert Duguid of Auchinhove. in Lumphanan.
They bound themselves to serve their lord within the kingdom of Scotland
in all his actions and quarrels. In December Hector Maclean of Duart, and
M’Kinnon of Strathardale, visited Strathbogie to arrange about a wadset,
which Earl Alexander had from Maclean’s father, of lands in Lochaber.
Having amicably settled this matter, they gave Huntly a bond of manrent.
25th of June, 1537, at Lenturk, Duncan
Davidson of Auchinhamper gave his bond of manrent to the Earl of Huntly.
The following year, George, Lord Hume, became bound by the truth and faith
in his body "to a noble and mighty Lord, George, Earl of Huntly, Lord
Gordon and Badenoch, Chancellor of Scotland, and Knight of the most noble
order of St Michael. . . . That
we, our kinsmen and friends, shall serve and take a full part, and be for
the said Earl, his kin and men, in all his and their good causes,
quarrels, and just opinions and actions, honest and lawful, as faithfully
as any lord or servant serves his lord and master within this realm,
against all others dedly." In 1541, John Leslie of Syde, son and
heir-apparent to William Leslie of Balquhain, became bound to the Earl of
Huntly— "For as much as my said Lord has given me the sum of four hundred
merks, usual money of Scotland, therefore I am become a true man and
servant to my said Lord, and shall, with my kin, friends, servants,
allies, and tenants, serve, go, and ride with him against all persons,
excepting the King and George, Earl of Rothes." This bond is dated at
Aberdeen on the last day of July, and witnessed by Alexander Irvine of
Drum, William Wood of Bonetown, Alexander Irvine of Coull, Robert Carnegie
of Kynnard and others.
The Earl of Huntly was Hereditary
Sheriff of Inverness and Governor of the Castle of Inverness, as stated in
a preceding section; and on the 3rd of March,
Earl George was by charter created Sheriff of Aberdeen
upon the resignation of David Lindsay, Earl of Crawford; and he was also
Heritable Baillie of the lands belonging to the Bishop of Aberdeen.
In the summer of
Huntly was sent by the King to the Borders with a force to prevent the
English from pillaging the country. The Earl made efforts to secure peace;
but the demands of Henry VIII. soon became insufferable. The King mustered
an army, and advanced towards the Borders, with the intention of invading
England. But the Earl of Huntly and other nobles declined to cross the
Border, and the King was forced to disband the army; and shortly after he
After the death of James V.,
Cardinal Beaton made an effort to obtain the chief place in the
Government. But the Earl of Arran, as next heir to the Crown, was named
Regent, and the Earls of Huntly, Moray, and Argyle were nominated as the
Council of the infant Princess, Mary. The Earl of Huntly was strongly
opposed to the domineering policy of Henry VIII., and for a time declined
to follow the steps of the weak-kneed Regent of Scotland.
On the 31st of March, 1543, Huntly
received a commission of Lieutenancy of the North. By this commission his
right extended from the Mearns to the Western Sea, embracing the whole of
the northern districts of Scotland, all the islands within
Inverness-shire, and those of Orkney and Shetland. The authority given to
him was very comprehensive. He had the power of governing and defending
the people within these limits, and, if necessary, of raising armies and
commanding the people to join them. He was empowered to raise the Royal
banner, and to make such statutes for the preservation of order as he
deemed necessary. He might invade those who rebelled against his authority
with fire and sword; imprison, punish, and execute them; and, if
necessary, he was empowered to treat with the rebels and bring them again
to obedience and order. He held the King’s castles of Inverness and
Inverlochy, and in his own territories he had the castles of Strathbogie,
Bog of Gight, Aboyne, Ruthven in Badenoch, and Drummin in Glenlivat; and
also a number of castles in the possession of members of his own family,
or parties on whom he could place reliance.
In January, 1543, at
Edinburgh, Huntly entered into a bond with David, Earl of Crawford, for
their mutual support of each other; and in March he received a bond of
man-rent from Lord Saltoun. The same year, in May, he had a bond from Hugh
Fraser, Lord Lovat, who bound himself with his men, kin, friends,
servants, allies, and adherents to take part in all the Earl’s actions and
quarrels, in peace and in war, &c. He also received bonds from Ewin
Allanson, captain of the Clan Cameron; and William Mackintosh, captain of
the Clan Chattan.
The Earl of Huntly supported the
policy of Cardinal Beaton against the English and the aggression of Henry
VIII. In the beginning of September, 1543, the Cardinal and Huntly met at
Stirling. Shortly after, a conference between Beaton and the Regent Arran
was held, and they became reconciled. Arran then agreed to act with the
Cardinal, and to oppose the party of the nobles who supported the claims
of Henry VIII.
Serious disturbance had arisen in
the Highlands. Donald Dubh, after a long period of imprisonment, had
escaped, and immediately assumed the character of Lord of the Isles, and
soon gathered a large number of followers. In October, 1544 he invaded and
wasted the lands of Urquhart, Glenmoriston, and Lochaber. On the 8th of
December, 1544, Huntly met the barons and chiefs of the north at Elgin,
and they entered into a bond to assist him in the execution of his office
of lieutenant. Among the names of those who subscribed the bond were the
following :—John, Earl of Sutherland; John, Earl of Athole; Alexander
Fraser, Lord Lovat; William Mackintosh of Dunnochton; James Grant of
Freuchie; John Mackenzie of Kintail; Hugh Ross of Kilravock; John Grant of
Balinadalloch; and a number of others. Huntly led his army against the
Islesmen, and wasted the lands of the Camerons of Lochiel; and in March,
1545, Donald Dubh came to terms, and promised to visit the Queen at
Stirling. But, instead of appearing at Stirling, he entered into a
correspondence with Henry VIII.
While Huntly was lying with his army
at Inverness, Donald Dubh again wasted the lands of Urquhart and
Glenmoriston and carried off a great booty. On the 11th of June the Lords
of Council issued a proclamation against Donald and his men, which
threatened to utterly destroy them. But Donald and his followers treated
those threats with scorn, and continued negotiations with England. He
assumed the title of Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles, and mustered a
force of eight hundred men to assist Henry VIII., who granted him a
pension of two thousand crowns. He died soon after, and was succeeded by
James Macdonald of Islay and Dunivaig, as Lord of the Isles. The new lord
gave Huntly much trouble.
Huntly was appointed Lord Chancellor
of Scotland on the 2nd of June, 1546. On returning north, he mustered the
whole force of the counties of Nairn, Cromarty, and Inverness, and marched
into Lochaber at the head of a strong army. Assisted by his kinsman the
Earl of Sutherland and William Mackintosh, captain of the Clan Chattan, he
apprehended Ewin of Locheil, captain of the Clan Cameron, and Ranald
Macdonald Glass of Keppoch, two of the leaders in the late conflicts. They
were imprisoned in the Castle of Ruthven, in Badenoch, and afterwards
conveyed to Elgin and tried for treason, convicted, and beheaded; and a
number of their followers were hanged.
The Earl of Huntly fought on foot at
the battle of Pinkie, and was taken a prisoner and conveyed to England.