Earls and Earldoms of Scotland
Chapter V - Keiths, Great Marischals
of Scotland, and Earl Marischals
GEORGE, FIFTH EARL MARISCHAL—HIS FOUNDATION OF MARISCHAL
COLLEGE—HIS DEATH—WILLIAM, SIXTH EARL MARISCHAL—ACTED
AT THE CORONATION OF CHARLES I. —WILLIAM,
SEVENTH EARL—HE JOINED THE COVENANTERS-—HOW THE REGALIA WAS PRESERVED.
ALTHOUGH George, fifth Earl Marischal,
was occasionally embroiled in the feuds of the time, yet he served his
King and country admirably. He was a man of the World, as we have seen in
a preceding section. Among the Scottish barons of his time he was reputed
the wealthiest and most distinguished for learning and culture. Having
himself experienced the advantages of education, and keenly felt the
blessing which it would impart to the nation, he resolved to found a new
educational institution in his native country.
During the last forty years of the sixteenth century
great and memorable efforts were made to improve and extend the blessing
of education to all classes of the people, and with this movement the name
and fame of the fifthEarl Marischal is
honourably and justly associated.
His foundation charter of Marischal College is dated
the 2nd of April, 1593. It indicated the advantages of education, which,
in the northern quarters of Scotland, was then deficient. He expressed his
desire to found at New Aberdeen a public gymnasium, in which young men
might be thoroughly trained and instructed in the humane arts, and also in
philosophy and a purer piety, "under the charge of competent and learned
teachers, to whom shall be given from our endowment such salaries as may
The original endowment consisted of—"The manse and
offices, glebes, yards, cloisters, church, and walls, which formerly
belonged to the Franciscan Friars, commonly called the Grey Friars, of
Aberdeen, as they are bounded and marked off by walls lying on the east
side of the street called the Braid Gate; all the lands, crofts, roods,
rigs, orchards, barns, dovecots, tenements, houses, buildings, yards,
acres, annual rents, feu-duties, kilns, offices, and others whatsoever,
belonging to the Preaching and the Carmelite Friars of Aberdeen, commonly
called the Black and White Friars; and the estates and lands belonging to
us in Bervie, once the Chaplainry of Bervie, and also the Chaplainry of
Cowie, commonly called St. Mary’s, belonging to us.
. . To be held of us and our
successors, Earls Marischal, in pure and perpetual alms, rendering
therefor only the offering of pious prayers."
At the end of the foundation charter, the Marischal
says :—"We forbid any
perpetual leasing out of land or feus, whether on pretext of augmentation
or improvement, or for any other reason, or under any name whatsoever." In
this he showed his remarkable sagacity, and the only regret is that his
wise provision was not adhered to.
Earl Marischal married, first, Lady Margaret, a
daughter of Alexander, Lord Home, by whom he had a son, William, and two
daughters. Lady Anne Keith married William, Earl of Morton, and Lady
Margaret married Sir Robert Arbuthnott of Arbuthnott. Secondly, he married
Margaret, a daughter of James, Lord Ogilvie of Airlie, by whom he had a
son, Sir James Keith of Benholm.
In the latter years of his life he lived in retirement
at the castle of Dunnottar. But, sad to say, the evening of the
Marischal’s life was clouded by domestic troubles. Sir James Keith of
Benholm behaved extremely ill to his aged father, who was forced to
complain against him to the Lords of the Privy Council. The Marischal died
at Dunnottar Castle on the 2nd of April, 1623.
He was succeeded by his eldest son, William, sixth Earl
Marischal. In 1623 he issued a charter ratifying his father’s provisions
to Marischal College; but recalled the important grants of the Chaplainry
of Bervie and the Chaplainry of Cowie.
The Marischal was called by a letter from the Privy
Council to attend a meeting at Edinburgh on the 9th of July, 1623. This
meeting was to consider the ways and means of establishing manufactures in
Scotland, especially the woollen manufacture. He was appointed a member of
the Privy Council by Charles I.
Touching the report of the Commissioners on the
privileges, functions, and duties of the High Constable, presented to
Charles I. in July, 1631: on the 21st of the month Robert Keith, writer to
His Majesty’s signet, appeared before these Commissioners as counsel for
William, Earl Marischal, and in name and behalf of the earl protested:—"That
nothing to be done by the said Commissioners in the trial and report to be
made by them to His Majesty touching the privileges due and belonging unto
the office of Constabulary, should be prejudicial to the Earl Marischal—touching
the rights, liberties, and privileges due and belonging unto him in right
of his office as Marischal of the Kingdom, whereof he and his predecessors
have been in possession, or which has been controverted and not decided,
and whereunto it shall be found, after lawful trial, that the said Earl
has just right. This protestation the Commissioners thought reasonable;
whereupon Robert Keith, in name and behalf of the Marischal, asked and
took instruments in the hands of me, Mr. Gilbert Primrose, clerk of His
Majesty’s Privy Council, and to the Commissioners before mentioned."
The Marischal officiated at the coronation of Charles
I. at Edinburgh on the 18th of June, 1633, and in the ceremony performed
the part which belonged to his office. He walked and rode on the left hand
of the King.
He married Lady Mary Erskine, a daughter of John, Earl
of Mar and High Treasurer of Scotland, by whom he had four sons, William,
George, Robert, and John (who eventually became Earl of Kintore), and
three daughters. Lady Mary married John, Lord Kilpont, son and heir of
William, Earl of Menteith and Airth; and Lady Jean married Alexander, Lord
The Marischal died on the 28th of October, 1635, and
was succeeded by his eldest son, William, seventh Earl Marischal. He was
in France when his father died. Returning through England, he stayed for
some time at the Court of Charles I. When he arrived in Scotland the
nation was in a state of great excitement, and shortly after entered on
the momentous Covenanting Struggle.
The Marischal was then a youth in his 20th year,
animated with all the glowing feelings and aspirations which entrance the
mind of the young and vigorous man. In the winter of 1639, he hospitably
entertained a committee of the Covenanters at Dunnottar Castle, who were
returning south from a meeting held at Turriff on the 14th of February.
The Marischal then joined the Covenanters. In the month of March he
accompanied the Covenanting army under the command of the Earl of
Montrose, which marched northward toward Aberdeen. The Marquis of Huntly
held Aberdeen for the King, but on the approach of Montrose at the head of
a superior force, he rode out of the city with 100 horse to Inverurie,
where 5000 Royalists had mustered. A party of the Covenanters took
possession of Aberdeen, and visited the colleges. A number of the leading
citizens fled from the town and offered their services to the King, while
others sought refuge in houses in the neighbourhood of the city. The main
body of the army under Montrose and Earl Marischal, advanced to Kintore,
and encamped at Tilty.
The Marquis of Huntly sought an interview with
Montrose, and they met on the 4th of April, and the following day a
compromise was arranged between them. But a few days later Huntly was
invited to Aberdeen, and entrapped by Montrose, and conveyed a prisoner to
Afterwards, Earl Marischal mustered the Covenanters of
Angus and Mearns; while the Aberdeenshire Covenanters mustered and
encamped in the vicinity of Aberdeen. Earl Marischal and the Forbeses took
possession of Aberdeen; and on the 25th of May they were joined by the
Earls of Montrose, Kinghorn, and Athole, Lord Drummond, the Master of
Gray, and the Constable of Dundee. Their combined force numbered over 6000
men. Yet the position of parties in Aberdeen and the north again changed.
Early in June, 1639, the Covenanters retired from Aberdeen, and the city
fell into the hands of the Royalists.
The Marischal continued to act on the side of the
Covenanters till 1645, when he joined the Royalists and supported the
cause of the King.
After the surrender of Charles I. to the English
Parliament, the Scots sent Commissioners, in the end of December, 1647, to
make a last attempt to treat with the King, then a captive in the Isle of
Wight. He now promised to be the Covenanted King of the Presbyterians, and
entered into a treaty with the Scots, but it came too late; and it was
regarded as an act of treachery to the Long Parliament and the English
army, with whom the King was at the same time openly treating. This
underhand treaty with the Scots is known in history as "the Engagement."
Parliament met at Edinburgh in March, 1648, and agreed
to the Engagement, and commissioned an army to aid the King. The
commission of the General Assembly opposed this, and proclaimed that the
King’s concessions were incomplete. They demanded that the King should
take the Covenant him self, and immediately establish Presbyterianism in
England. Parliament, however, ordered the army to muster and fight for the
King, and the Duke of Hamilton was placed in command of the force.
Earl Marischal raised a troop of horse and joined the
army, and his brother George also accompanied it. The army marched into
England in several divisions, at too long distances from each other.
Cromwell attacked the Scots at Preston on the 17th of August, 1649, and
completely defeated them. Earl Marischal and his brother escaped with
difficulty from the disastrous field. But the Duke of Hamilton was taken
prisoner; and, shortly after, he was tried and beheaded.
On the 23rd of June, 1650, Charles II. arrived at the
mouth of the Spey. There he signed the Covenant and Solemn League and
Covenant, and landed the following day. Thence he proceeded southward, and
was met by Earl Marischal, who entertained the King at Dunnottar Castle.
The Marischal officiated at the coronation of Charles
II. at Scone, on the 1st of January, 1651. On
this occasions as usual, the Marischal was on the left hand side of the
King, and the High Constable on the right. As part of the coronation
ceremony, the King again swore to maintain the National Covenant and the
Solemn League and Covenant.
As the Scots were unable to drive back the English army
in Scotland under Cromwell, they resolved to make a raid across the
Border. But Earl Marischal was hereditary custodier of the Crown jewels
(Regalia), and after being used at the coronation, the Earl placed them
for safety in the Castle of Dunnottar, and the King forbade the Marischal
to leave his charge of the castle. But his brother, George Keith,
accompanied the King and the Scottish army into England. Cromwell, with a
part of his force, followed the Scottish army, and on the 3rd of
September, 1651, a battle ensued at Worcester, in which the Scots and
English Royalists were defeated. The Marischal’s brother, George, was
taken prisoner, sword in hand, fighting heroically. The King escaped and
fled to the Continent.
Earl Marischal himself was taken in Scotland, by
Cromwell’s officers, conveyed to England, and imprisoned in the Tower of
London for nine years. His estates were seized by Cromwell’s
Commissioners, and the rents and revenues lifted by them. So, during the
nine years that the Marischal was imprisoned, his mother had to supply the
means of his support.
Shortly before he was imprisoned, he appointed George
Ogilvie of Barras Governor of the Castle of Dunnottar. As Cromwell’s force
was rapidly subduing the kingdom, it was feared that he would seize and
carry off the Regalia. But Mrs. Ogilvie devised a plan to get it removed
out of the castle, without the knowledge of her husband, that he might not
be compromised when it was missed. The castle was besieged before she got
the scheme carried into effect. She took into her counsel the Rev. James
Grainger, minister of Kinneff, and his wife. One day the minister’s wife
went past Dunnottar, on horseback, to Stonehaven for flax to spin,
accompanied by a servant woman to carry the flax. When returning, she
asked leave of the commanding officer of the beseiging army to visit Mrs.
Ogilvie in the castle, and was permitted to pass followed by her servant
with the bag of flax. On reaching the Governor’s quarters, the servant was
relieved of her burden and sent to another apartment, until the two
mistresses transacted their business, which was to place the regalia in
the bag of flax. When Mrs. Grainger returned from the castle, through the
lines, the officer on duty kindly assisted her to mount her horse; while
the servant knew nothing of what had occurred, or that she was carrying
the crown, sceptre, and sword of the kingdom of Scotland in her flax-bag.
On reaching the manse of Kinneff, the mistress took the bundle. That very
night the minister and his wife made a receptacle for the regalia beneath
the pulpit of the church. Sometimes it was hid there and at other times in
a double-bottomed bed in a room in the manse until the Restoration in
1660, when it was returned to George Ogilvie of Barras, who restored it to
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