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Historic Earls and Earldoms of Scotland
Chapter IV - Earldom and Earls of Erroll
Section VI


FRANCIS, NINTH EARL OF ERROLL—A DISPUTE BETWEEN LORD KEITH AND LORD HAY—DEATH OF EARL FRANCIS—WILLIAM, TENTH EARL—CORONATION OF CHARLES I.—DEATH OF EARL WILLIAM—GILBERT, ELEVENTH EARL.

THE Earl was excommunicated for non-Conformity to the Protestant religion. He had been for a considerable time confined to his residence of Erroll and a certain distance round it. But in the spring of 1617 the King issued a warrant to relieve the Earl from confinement and the sentence of excommunication: Seeing that he had "given satisfaction to the fathers of the Church concerning matters of religion, there was now no reason to restrain his natural liberty in any way." Yet, on the 28th of March, 1620, the Earl of Erroll was charged to appear before the Lords of the Privy Council for sending his son in company with Patrick Con (younger of Auchrie) to France, "who was known to be a Papist"

On the 20th of January, 1620, the Earl of Erroll received a Commission to hold Justice Courts within the bounds of the barony of Slams and the parish of Turriff. The following year, this commission was renewed to the Earl and his son, Lord Hay, for the suppression of the crimes of theft and reset of theft, with power to them and their baillies to apprehend, imprison, and try offenders for such crimes.

The Erroll family had extensive estates in the parish of Turriff, which included the barony of Delgaty and its fine old castle. The Earls of Erroll frequently resided in this ancient baronial mansion, which stands on a beautiful site amid extensive woods, about three-quarters of a mile from the town of Turriff.

For a period of nearly 350 years, the family of Erroll were superiors of the town of Turriff. It also appears that the Earls of Erroll had a lodging in the town, which stood on a bank on the east side and at the top of the road leading from the town to the railway station.

A dispute arose between William, Lord Hay, son of Francis, Earl of Erroll, High Constable of Scotland, and William, Lord Keith, son of George, fifth Earl Marischal, touching their respective rights and privileges when Parliament was sitting. The dispute came before the Lords of the Privy Council on the 25th of July, 1621. It was then alleged for the High Constable that the guarding and keeping of the Parliament House pertained to the Constable, and that the Marischal ought not to have a guard within the House, and that he has power only to marshal the estates, and, if he have a guard, that its number should be prescribed by the Constable. To this Lord Keith replied that the Marischal, by the privilege of his office, ought to have and always had had a guard within the House, that his office is not subaltern, but as free as any office in the kingdom, and that the Constable ought not to prescribe a number to him. The Lords, having heard both parties, and considered their reasons and allegations, ordered them both to serve in that Parliament as they did in the last Parliament; and advised the Marischal not to bring a confused number of persons as a guard within the house to disturb the Parliament.

On the 2nd of May, 1627, Charles I. issued a commission to inquire into the honours and privileges of the office of the High Constable. The members of the commission named by the King, with full power given to them, were Sir George Hay of Kinfauns, Lord High Chancellor of Scotland; John, Earl of Mar, High Treasurer; James, Marquis of Hamilton; George, Marquis of Huntly; George, Earl of Winton; Alexander, Earl of Linlithgow; John, Earl of Wigton; Sir Archibald Napier of Merchiston, subsequently first Lord Napier; Sir John Skene, President of the Court of Session; Sir Henry Bruce, General of his Majesty’s artillery, and a few others. Along with the Earl of Erroll, and Lord Hay, his son, the commissioners or any six of them were directed to meet and "To examine the laws and Acts of Parliament, the order and custom touching the office of High Constable which prevailed in the kingdom in former times, or from ancient monuments, registers, rolls, and records, also any right, title, or evidence whatsoever that the Earl of Erroll or his son could produce; or otherwise make clear what had been the ancient and accustomed honours, privileges, fees, and immunities belonging to the office of High Constable. . . And especially to consider the honours, privileges, and immunities belonging to the office both in time of peace and war, and the privileges and honour due thereunto about His Majesty’s person, or where the Royal authority is represented either in Parliament, Convention, Council or otherwise. . . And, finally, with power to them to examine and consider such orders, privileges, and immunities which for the credit of the kingdom may be best fitted for the present estate of the time to be added unto the office of High Constable."

It appears the commissioners made no report; and, on the 23rd of June, 1630, another commission was issued by the King, in the same terms as the one quoted from above. In compliance with this, the Lord Chancellor and other officers of the Privy Council prepared a report, which was presented to the King in the beginning of August, 1631. This document has usually been considered as authoritative on the functions and duties of the High Constable’s office; but it is unnecessary to quote it, as the principal parts of it were embraced in a preceding section.

Earl Francis died on the 16th of July, 1631. Dr Arthur Johnston, a distinguished scholar and writer of Latin verse, wrote a funeral lament for Earl Francis, which has been translated thus :—

"Erroll, chieftain of the Hays, is gone, the world’s regret, who was once its pride. He was enrolled among the Peers through his stem of Royal line, ennobled by the blood-red ‘yokes.’ Martial virtue and a thousand trophies, won by his lightning-hand, linked him to the shades of his forefathers. Piety well proved, bequeathed him to heaven. Is there ought beyond this, either for men to win or for Heaven to give?"

He was succeeded by his son William, tenth Earl of Erroll. He married Anne Lyon, only daughter of Patrick, first Earl of Kinghorn, by whom he had issue.

In the summer of 1633, preparations were made for the visit of Charles I. to Scotland, and for his coronation at Edinburgh. In a letter to the Lords of the Privy Council, dated the 11th of May, the King expressed his approval of the report of the commissioners touching the honours, privileges, and functions belonging to the office of the Lord High Constable, but he recommended to them further consideration of the honours and functions of the office, and especially on the coming occasion of the King’s coronation at Holyrood. The Lords of the Council, in a further report to the King, stated very clearly what the duties of the Lord High Constable were in connection with the coronation.

On the 18th of June, 1633, the coronation of Charles I. took place. The King on that eventful morning was conducted from his chamber of presence to the hall of the Castle of Edinburgh by the Lord High Constable on the right hand and Earl Marischal on the left. The whole day the Constable and Earl Marischal carried their batons of office in their hands. In the procession from the castle to Holyrood, the High Constable rode immediately before the King, on the right hand of the Earl of Angus, who bore the Crown, on account of his hereditary privileges of giving the first vote and taking the first seat in Parliament, of leading the vanguard of the King’s army on the day of battle, and of bearing the King’s Crown in the Riding of Parliament.

After the service in the chapel of Holyrood, the Archbishop of St Andrews, the High Constable and Earl Marischal, and the Lyon King, presented the monarch to his people. After the King was crowned and anointed, the High Constable then girt the Sword of State upon His Majesty’s side. Then the Lord Chamberlain loosed the King’s sword, and the King taking it in his hand, offered it, and the Archbishop laid it on the communion table; then the High Constable redeemed it with an offering, and drawing it out of the sheath, he carried it naked before the King.

Earl William died in 1636, and was succeeded by his only son, Gilbert, eleventh Earl of Erroll—a boy of five years. The Earl of Kinghorn was his tutor.

The young Earl, though a minor, was commanded by a committee of Parliament sitting at Perth in December, 1650, to attend at the coronation of Charles II. at Scone, on the 1st of January, 1651. And the part which he acted as Lord High Constable on this occasion is interesting, and may be briefly narrated thus :—The King, robed as a Prince, was conducted from his bedchamber by the High Constable on his right hand and Earl Marischal on the left, to the chamber of presence, and there placed in a Chair of State by Lord Angus, Chamberlain. After a short repose, the noblemen and the commissioners of the barons and burghs entered the hall, and presented themselves before the King. After the reception, the nobleman and the commissioners of the barons and burghs accompanied His Majesty to the Church of Scone; in the procession the High Constable rode on the right hand of the King and Earl Marischal on the left. When the sermon was over, the King solemnly swore the National Covenant, and the League and Covenant, and the King’s oath. After this the King went to the platform and sat down in the Chair of State; and the High Constable and Earl Marischal went to the corners of the platform, and the Lyon King-at-Arms, going before them, spoke to the people, saying—" I do present unto you the King, Charles II." . . . Then the King, supported by the High Constable and Earl Marischal, came down from the platform, and sat down in the chair in which he heard the sermon. The coronation oath was administered to the King. He was next divested of his princely robes, and then invested with his royal robes. The King was conducted to a chair on the north side of the church, the sword was brought by Sir William Cockburn of Langtown, gentleman usher, from the table, and delivered to the Lyon King-at-Arms, who gave it to the Lord High Constable, and he put it in the King’s hand, saying—" Sir, receive this kingly sword, for the defence of the Faith of Christ and the protection of His Church, and of the true religion as presently professed within this kingdom, and according to the National Covenant and the League and Covenant, and for executing equity and justice, and for punishment of all iniquity and injustice." Then the High Constable received the sword from the King, and girt it upon His Majesty’s side. The Crown was placed on the King’s head, and, the nobles and people having sworn fealty to him, then the Lord High Chamberlain loosed the sword from the King, and drew it out, and delivered it into the King’s hands. And the King placed it in the hands of the High Constable, who carried the naked sword before the King. After the King was installed in the throne, he arose, and, supported by the High Constable and Earl Marischal, and accompanied by the Lord High Chancellor, he went out at a door prepared for the purpose, to a platform; and showed himself to the people outside, "and they clapped their hands and shouted for a long time—’ God save the King." Amen.


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