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The Great Historic Families of Scotland
The Erskines of Kellie


THE Erskines of Kellie trace their descent from Sir Alexander Erskine of Gogar, a younger son of the fourth Lord Erskine, and brother of the Regent Mar. The title of Earl of Kellie was conferred by James VI., in 1619, on Sir Thomas Erskine, the eldest surviving son of Sir Alexander, who had been the King’s schoolfellow, and was through life regarded by him with great favour. He assisted in rescuing James from the Ruthvens at Gowrie House, in the year 1600, and was rewarded with the grant of a portion of the fine estate of Dirleton, which had belonged to the Earl of Gowrie. Erskine accompanied James to England, and in 1606 was created Viscount Fenton. He received from the King at various times liberal grants of lands, including the barony of Kellie, in Fifeshire, from which his title was taken when he was advanced to the dignity of Earl. He died in 1639, and was succeeded by his grandson, THOMAS, who died unmarried in 1643. His brother, ALEXANDER, became third Earl. He was a zealous supporter of King Charles during the Great Civil War, was in consequence imprisoned in the Tower of London, was excepted from Cromwell’s Act of Grace and Pardon, and deprived of nearly the whole of his extensive estates. He was allowed, however, to retire to the Continent, but returned to Scotland after the Restoration, and died in May, 1677. His son, ALEXANDER, fifth Earl, took part in the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, and was imprisoned in the castle of Edinburgh for upwards of three years. He was a person of weak intellect, and, in all probability for that reason, was set at liberty without being brought to trial. He brought new talent into the family, however, by marrying a daughter of Dr. Pitcairne, the celebrated Jacobite physician, and poet. The eldest son of this marriage was—

THOMAS ALEXANDER, sixth Earl, the well-known musical composer, who succeeded his father in 1756. He was a remarkably amiable person, and possessed a considerable share of the wit and humour for which both his maternal grandfather and the Erskines were noted; but he is now chiefly remembered for his extraordinary proficiency in musical science. His convivial habits, however, which widely prevailed at that time, weakened his constitution, and impaired his property. He was obliged to dispose of the Kellie estate, retaining only the old castle and a few fields surrounding it. He died unmarried in 1781. A younger brother of this Earl was the Honourable Andrew Erskine, whose vers de société and witty conversation are still traditionally remembered in Scotland.

The ‘Musical Earl’ of Kellie was succeeded by his brother ARCHIBALD, who was an officer in the army. He was for a number of years one of the Scottish representative peers, and it was chiefly owing to his exertions that the legal restraints imposed upon the Scottish Episcopalians were removed. Like his brothers, he was unmarried, and at his death the title devolved on SIR CHARLES ERSKINE of Cambo. He, too, was unmarried, and his two uncles, who held the earldom in succession, died without issue. The title was claimed, in 1829, by the fifteenth Earl of Mar, as heir-male general. His right was allowed by the House of Lords, and the earldom is now conjoined with that of Mar.


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