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Historic Earls and Earldoms of Scotland
Chapter VI - Earldom and Earls of Findlater, and Seafield
Section I


TERRITORY OF THE EARLDOM—EARLY NOTICE OF THE OGILVIES— SIR WALTER OGILVIE OF AUCHLEVEN—HIS SON, SIR WALTER —-SIR JAMES—HIS FAMILY—SIR JAMES—SIR ALEXANDER, HIS SETTLEMENT OF THE ESTATES TO SIR JOHN GORDON—QUARREL BETWEEN THE GORDONS AND OGILVIES, JAMES OGILVIE—SIR WALTER, FIRST LORD DESKFORD—JAMES, SECOND LORD.

THE lands of the Earldom of Findlater originally consisted of the baronies of Findlater and Deskford, in the parishes of Deskford and Fordyce. Subsequently the territory of the earldom was considerably increased. In 1517, by a charter from the Crown, the baronies of Findlater, Deskford, Keithmore, Auchindoun, Glenliddich, and other lands, with the constabulary of Cullen, fishings on the river Deveron, the lands of BalIhall and others in Forfarshire, were incorporated into one free barony, to be called the barony of Ogilvie. On the accession to the title and the estates of the earldom by Sir Lewis Alexander Grant of Grant, of course, the possessions of the historic chief of the Grants greatly extended the territories of the earldom.

The Earls of Findlater and Seafield were descended from a branch of the Airlie family. At an early period the Ogilvies appear to have settled in Forfarshire, and their surname occurs in the national records about the middle of the thirteenth century. Before the end of the fourteenth century Sir Walter Ogilvie of Aucherhouse was high sheriff of Forfar. He was a man of much energy and ability. While endeavouring to maintain law and order, he lost his life in the following circumstances :—Duncan Stewart, a natural son of Alexander, Earl of Buchan and Lord of Badenoch, led a party of his followers across the mountains which divide the counties of Aberdeen and Forfar, and plundered the lowlands of Forfarshire. Again, in 1392, Duncan appeared with a company of his followers on a pillaging raid; but the landed gentry, headed by Sir Walter Ogilvie, the sheriff, mustered and met him at Gasklune, near the water of Isla. A fierce encounter ensued, in which the lowland party were completely defeated, and the sheriff; his brother, and 50 of their followers were slain on the field.

Sir Walter Ogilvie of Lintrathen was the second son of Sir Walter of Auchterhouse. He was Lord High Treasurer of Scotland in 1425, and Master of the King’s Household in 1430. He married Isabel Durward, the heiress of Lintrathen, by whom he had two sons—Sir John, who succeeded to his father’s estate, and Sir Walter, the direct ancestor of the Earls of Findlater.

This Sir Walter Ogilvie held the lands of Auchleven, in the parish of Premnay, of the Earl of Mar. In 1437 he married Margaret, a daughter and heiress of Sir John Sinclair, laird of Deskford and Findlater, who was killed at the battle of Harlaw. Thus, through his wife, he obtained these two baronies, and added the arms of Sinclair of Deskford to that of Ogilvie. In 1440 he received two charters from James II. of the lands and baronies of Findlater and Deskford.

By his wife he had two sons and one daughter. His second son, Sir Walter Ogilvie of Boyne, was the ancestor of Lord Banff, and of William Ogilvie of Strathearn, Lord High Treasurer of Scotland.

He was succeeded by his eldest son, Sir James Ogilvie of Deskford and Findlater. In 1473, he got a charter of the lands of Blairshinnoch from James III. Subsequently he received charters of other lands; and he purchased the constabulary of Cullen from John Hay, on which he obtained a charter from James III. in 1481.

Sir James married Mary, a daughter of Sir Robert Innes of Innes, by whom he had four sons and five daughters. His second son, Gilbert, became laird of Glassaugh; the third, Alexander, was killed at the battle of Flodden; and the fourth, George, entered the Church. His eldest daughter, Margaret, married James Abercromby of Birkenbog; Marian married Partick Gordon of Haddo; Catherine married William Crawford of Fedderate, Aberdeenshire; Elizabeth married John Grant of Freuchie; and Mary married Alexander Urquhart, sheriff of Cromarty.

He died about 1489, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Sir James. In 1490, he received a charter of the lands and barony of Keithmore, in the parish of Mortlach, and afterwards charters of Langmuir and other lands.

He married a daughter of George, second Earl of Huntly, by whom he had five sons and two daughters. His eldest daughter, Elizabeth, married Sir James Dunbar of Westfield; and the second married the laird of Mackintosh, and had issue.

Sir James died in 1510, and was succeeded by his eldest son, Sir Alexander. In 1517 he received a charter from the Crown by which the baronies of Findlater, Deskford, Keithmore, Glenfiddich, Auchindoun, and other lands, with the fishings on the Deveron and the water of Ythan, the constabulary of Cullen, in the counties of Banff and Aberdeen, and the lands of Ballhall and others in Forfarshire, were all incorporated into one free barony, called the barony of Ogilvie—"To him and the heirs male of his body; whom failing, to his brothers, James, John, Patrick, and George; whom failing, to Gilbert Ogilvie, his uncle; whom failing, to his own nearest heirs male, whatever."

He married, first, Lady Janet Abernethy, a daughter of James, third Lord Saltoun, by whom he had a son, James, and a daughter, Elizabeth, who married Sir Alexander Irvine of Drum; secondly, he married Elizabeth Gordon, a daughter of Adam Gordon, Dean of Caithness, third son of Alexander, first Earl of Huntly.

As indicated by the charter quoted above, his son, James Ogilvie of Cardell, was the lawful heir-apparent to the barony of Ogilvie. But his father thought fit to disinherit him, and probably his second wife, who was a Gordon, had influenced her husband in such conduct. In 1546, Alexander settled the whole lands of the barony on Sir John Gordon, third son of George, fourth Earl of Huntly, only reserving his own and wife’s life-rent. Sir John Gordon was to assume the name and arms of Ogilvie, and, failing his male issue, the succession to the barony was to devolve to his brothers, William, James, and Sir Adam; whom all failing, then to revert to Sir Walter Ogilvie of Boyne, Sir Walter Ogilvie of Dunlugus; whom all failing, to James, fifth Lord Ogilvie of Airlie.

After the death of Alexander Ogilvie, Sir John Gordon married his widow, Elizabeth Gordon, and took possession of the estates. Naturally, James Ogilvie, the lawful heir, considered that he was unjustly disinherited, and a bitter quarrel arose between the Gordons and the Ogilvies, which contributed considerably to the eclipse of the Huntly family.

The Queen Regent, Mary of Lorraine, attempted to settle the matters in question between Ogilvie and Gordon, but she failed. James Ogilvie was Steward of Queen Mary’s household, and he raised an action in the Court of Session to recover the estates from Sir John Gordon. The case was to come before the court in July, 1562, and Sir John Gordon was in Edinburgh and met James Ogilvie in the street. A fight ensued, in which Ogilvie was wounded, and Gordon was imprisoned. On the 25th of July Gordon escaped from prison. He persistently declined to surrender himself, and his action tended much to bring matters to a crisis against the Earl of Huntly.

James Ogilvie accompanied Queen Mary in her progress to the North in 1562; and he was very active in bringing the Ogilvies from Angus and the Mackintoshes in Inverness-shire to her assistance. But Sir John Gordon, when summoned by the Queen to surrender the castles of Findlater and Auchindoun, declined to comply; he also refused to admit the Queen to Findlater Castle. So a company of troops under the command of Captain Stewart was sent to take possession of Findlater Castle; but on the 21st of October Sir John Gordon attacked and defeated them. Sir John Gordon, however, surrendered after the battle of Corrichie, and shortly after he was executed at Aberdeen.

The estates of Findlater and Deskford, and others were forfeited to the Crown, but Sir Adam Gordon, in virtue of the deed of settlement of Alexander Ogilvie, then claimed the estates. But, on the 8th of February, 1563, Queen Mary granted a charter of the whole of the lands and baronies of Findlater, Deskford, and others to James Ogilvie of Cardell, the lawful heir. In spite of this charter, the Gordons still claimed part of Ogilvie’s lands; but, on the 23rd of March, 1566, the matters in question between Ogilvie and Gordon were settled by a submission to a decret-arbitral, which assigned to James Ogilvie the land and baronies of Findlater and Deskford, and to Sir Adam Gordon the lands of Auchindoun and Keithmore.

James Ogilvie married Mary Livingstone, of the Livingstone family, one of the ladies who attended Queen Mary to France by whom he had a son, Alexander. He married Barbara, a daughter of Sir William Ogilvie of Boyne, by whom he had a son, Sir Walter. Alexander died before his father, thus Sir Walter succeeded James Ogilvie, his grandfather.

He was a favourite of James VI. In 1594 the King granted to him a charter of the lands and barony of Keithmore and Auchindoun. Notwithstanding this charter, the Gordons retained possession of these lands, which still form a part of the estates of the Duke of Richmond and Gordon.

He married, first, Agnes, a daughter of Robert, Lord Elphinstone, by whom he had an only daughter, Christina, who married Sir John Forbes of Pitsligo: Secondly, he married Lady Mary Douglas, a daughter of William, Earl of Morton, by whom he had a son and two daughters. Margaret married James Douglas, Earl of Buchan; and Mary married Sir John Grant of Grant.

On the 4th of October, 1616, Sir Walter Ogilvie was elevated to the peerage under the title of Lord Ogilvie of Deskford. He was succeeded by his son James, second Lord Deskford.

He married Lady Elizabeth Leslie, a daughter of Andrew, Earl of Rothes, by whom he had two daughters. Lady Elizabeth married Sir Patrick Ogilvie of Inchmartin, and had issue; and Lady Anne married William, Earl of Glencairn.

On the 20th of February, 1638, Lord Ogilvie of Deskford was created Earl of Findlater by Charles I., by a patent limited to his heirs male.


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