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The Scottish Nation

KEITH, a surname said to be derived from the German tribe of the Catti, which, about the period of the downfall of the Roman empire, inhabited what is now the electorate of Hesse Cassel, the sovereign of which, among other old titles, was called princeps Cattorum. On being driven from their country, a portion of them, in the first century, are traditionally stated to have landed on the coast of Caithness, the most remote and northern district on the mainland of Scotland, to which they gave their name. They are also said to have given their name to the clan Chattan.

      In all the accounts of the origin of the Keiths it is recorded that in 1010 Robert, the chief of the Catti, in a great victory which Malcolm II. obtained over the Danes at Barrie in Forfarshire, slew, with his own hand, Camus their leader, when the king, dipping his fingers in the blood of the fallen general, drew three perpendicular strokes on the upper part of Robert’s shield, whence his descendants bear three pallets, gules, on a chief. Malcolm also created him heritable great marischal of Scotland, and bestowed on him several lands in East Lothian, still called Keith, the ancient name Catti, in process of time changed to Keithi and Keycht, being at length softened into Keith. According to Sir Robert Sibbald, (Hist. of Fife, p. 94, edit. 1803,) he also got the isle of Inchkeith in the Firth of Forth, which likewise took its name from him. Their alleged descent from the Catti appears to be only one of the fictions of the early chroniclers. The name Keith seems to be the British Caeth, ‘confined or narrow,’ and is supposed to allude to the strait channel hemmed in by the steep banks of Keith water. It is certain that the descendant of Robert, in the reign of David I., Herveus, son of Warin, possessed half of the district of Keith in East Lothian, which was called from him Keith Hervei, and afterwards Keith Marischal. He was a witness to charters of David I., particularly to that of his grant of Annandale to Robert de Burs. His son, Herveus de Keith, king’s marischal under Malcolm IV. and William I., witnessed several charters of the latter, from 1189 to 1196. He had a son, Malcolm de Keith, witness to a donation to the monastery of Kelso in 1185, who predeceased him, leaving two sons, Philip and David.

      Philip, the elder son, great marischal of Scotland, succeeded his grandfather, and died before 1220. By his marriage with Eda, granddaughter and heiress of Symon Fraser of Keith Hundeby, (now Humbie) proprietor of the other half of the district of Keith, he acquired the whole barony of that name.

      His son, Herveus de Keith, and his uncle David, acted as joint marischals of Scotland at the marriage of Alexander II. and the princess Joan of England, at York, on 15th June 1220. He died soon after 1242. His son, Sir John de Keith, great marischal of Scotland, died before 1270.

      Towards the close of the 13th century persons of the name of Keith had become very numerous in Scotland. One of them, Sir William Keith of Galston in Ayrshire, in 1318, when the Scots surprised Berwick, and a number of the garrison and inhabitants had made a sally from the castle, repulsed them with great valour. In 1330 he was one of the knights who accompanied the Douglas to Spain on his expedition to Palestine, with the heart of Robert the Bruce. Three years later, he commanded in Berwick, and in 1335, was ambassador to England; but the following year he was killed at the siege of Stirling.

      Sir John de Keith’s grandson, (the son of his eldest son,) Sir Robert de Keith, great marischal of Scotland, was one of the most illustrious knights of his day. In 1300 he was a prisoner in Cumberland, and in 1305 one of the commissioners chosen by the Scots people for the settlement of the government, as well as appointed a justiciary beyond the Forth. On 26th October 1305, he was one of the guardians of Scotland. In 1308 he joined the standard of Bruce, and distinguished himself at the battle of Inverury, where Comyn of Badenoch was defeated, for which he got a grant of several lands, and particularly a royal seat in Aberdeenshire, called Hall Forest. In 1314, on the approach of the English army under Edward II., to Falkirk, previous to the battle of Bannockburn, Sir Robert Keith and Sir James Douglas were despatched by Bruce to reconnoitre them upon their march. In the battle which followed he had the command of a strong body of cavalry. In Scott’s ‘Lord of the Isles,’ after describing Bruce’s battle array and the position of the right wing under Edward Bruce, he says,

                        “Behind them, screened by sheltering wood,
                        The gallant Keith lord marshal stood;
                        His men-at-arms bear mace and lance,
                        And plumes that wave, and helms that glance.”

To Sir Robert Keith was committed the important charge of attacking the English archers, which he did so effectually, by making a circuit to the right, and assailing them in flank, that he threw them into disorder, creating a confusing from which the English army never recovered, and thus contributing greatly to the signal victory which secured the throne to the heroic Bruce. He was one of the magnates Scotiae, who signed the famous letter to the Pope in 1320, asserting the independence of Scotland. He was one of the commissioners to treat with the English, and a guarantee of the truce concluded with them in 1323. He had from Robert the Bruce a charter of the lands of Keith Marischal, of the office of great marischal of Scotland, &c., to himself and his nearest heirs male, bearing the name and arms of Keith, dated at Berwick-on-Tweed, 7th November 1324; and so high did he stand in the confidence of that monarch, that, in April 1326, he was nominated one of the commissioners to ratify an alliance with the French king, Charles le Bel, at Corbeuil, but does not seem to have gone to France. He witnessed charters of Robert the Bruce in 1328 and 1329, and was slain at the fatal battle of Dupplin, 12th August 1332, when Edward Baliol surprised the royal army under the earl of Mar, and put it to a complete rout. He had a son, Sir John de Keith, who died before his father, leaving a son, Robert, who succeeded his grandfather, and besides being great marischal, was also sheriff of Aberdeen. He fell at the battle of Durham, 17th October 1346, where Edward de Keith and Edmund de Keith, brothers, belonging to a different family, were also slain.

      As Robert died without issue, his grand-uncle, Sir Edward Keith, third son of Robert de Keith, great marischal, succeeded, in terms of the charter and entail of 1324. He died before 1350. He was twice married, and by his first wife, Isabel de Keith, of the family of Galston, he had two sons and two daughters. By his second wife, Christian, only child of Sir John Menteith, lord of Arran, he had an only child, Janet, married to Sir Thomas Erskine of Erskine, and their posterity, in right of Lady Erskine’s mother, Lady Eline, daughter of Gratney, earl of Mar, succeeded to that earldom. John Keith, Sir Edward’s second son, was ancestor of the Keiths of Innerugie and Ludquhairn. The principal branch terminated in two daughters, co-heiresses of Innerugie, namely, Margaret, married to the fourth earl Marischal, and Elizabeth, wife of the seventh Lord Forbes.

      Sir William Keith, great marischal of Scotland, the eldest son, was, in 1357, one of the commissioners to treat for the liberation of David II. In the following year, he was sent to England, on that monarch’s affairs, and again in 1369, as one of the commissioners for a truce, and one of the guarantees thereof. He was present at the coronation of King Robert II., at Scone, in March 1371. He and Margaret his wife, with whom he got large estates in the Mearns, she being the only child and heiress of Sir John Fraser (eldest son of Alexander Fraser, high chamberlain of Scotland, and Mary, sister of Robert I.,) made an excambion of certain lands in the counties of Fife and Stirling, with William de Lindsay, lord of the Byres, for part of the lands of Dunnottar, in the shire of Kincardine. Here he built a strong castle, on a stupendous perpendicular rock, jutting into the sea, which afterwards became celebrated in Scottish history, and the ruins of which are among the most extensive and most majestic of the kind in Scotland. In ancient times the church, as well as the burial-place of the parish, was on the top of this rock, and when Sir William Keith resolved upon building a castle on it, he first erected a church for the parish on a more convenient spot. On pretence, however, that he had encroached on consecrated ground, the bishop of St. Andrews excommunicated him. He immediately appealed to the Pope, Benedict XIII., setting forth the necessity of such a fortress, with the circumstance of his having built another church; on which his holiness issued his bull, dated 18th July 1394, directing the bishop to take off the excommunication, and to allow Sir William to enjoy the castle at all times, on payment of a certain recompense to the church. Dunnottar thenceforth became the principal seat of the family, till the forfeiture of the tenth earl marischal in 1716. Sir William Keith died between 1406 and 1408. This powerful and wealthy baron had three sons and four daughters. Muriella, the eldest daughter, was the second wife of Robert, duke of Albany, regent of Scotland, by whom she was mother of John, earl of Buchan, constable of France, and two other sons.

      John de Keith, eldest son of Sir William de Keith, great marischal of Scotland, married a daughter of King Robert II., from whom, on the resignation of his father and mother, he had a charter, dated 17th January 1374, of all the lands, possessions, and offices belonging to them, reserving their liferent. He died soon after, leaving a son, Robert de Keith, who also died before his grandfather, leaving a daughter, Jean, married to the first earl of Huntly. In Wyntoun’s chronicle (ii. 371) is an account of a conflict, near the kirk of Bourtrie in Garioch, in 1395, between Robert de Keith and Sir James Lindsay of Crawford, who had gone to the relief of his wife, the aunt of the former, by whom she was besieged and molested in her castle of Fyvie in Formartine, in which conflict Robert de Keith was discomfited, with the loss of fifty men, Sir Alexander de Keith, the third son, designed son of Sir William, the great marischal, and brother of the duke of Albany, in the chartulary of Aberdeen in 1403, had the command of the horse at the battle of Harlaw, against Donald, Lord of the Isles, in 1411.

      Sir Robert, the second son, succeeded his father in his estates and as great marischal of Scotland soon after 1406. In 1421, he was one of the commissioners to treat for the liberation of King James I. He was also one of his hostages, his estate being then valued at 800 merks. He married the heiress of Troup in Banffshire, and got with her that barony. By this lady he had three sons and three daughters. John, his second son, obtained from his father a charter of the barony of Troup, 2d June 1413, and from him descended George Keith of Northfield, who, on 24th September 1782, was served heir-male of Sir Robert Keith, great marischal of Scotland, father of John.

      Sir William, the eldest son, one of the guarantees of a treaty of peace with the English in 1457, was by King James II. created earl marischal of Scotland before 4th July 1458. (See MARISCHAL, earl of).


      The Keiths of Craig, Kincardineshire, distinguished themselves in the 18th century by their diplomatic services. About 1480, John Keith, stated erroneously by Douglas, both in his Peerage and his Baronage, to have been of the Keith Marischal family, got from his father the lands of Craig and part of Garvock in the Mearns. The 7th in descent from him, Colonel Robert Keith, had, by his wife, Agnes, daughter of Robert, Murray of Murrayshall, one son, Robert Keith, at one period secretary to the forces, with the combined armies on the continent under the earl of Stair. In 1749 he was ambassador at Vienna, and in 1758 was transferred to St. Petersburg. He was at the Russian court in the summer of 1762, when the empress Catharine, having thrown her husband, Peter III., into prison, where he was murdered a few days afterwards, got herself crowned empress of all the Russias. Mr. Keith died at Edinburgh in 1774. The early part of the first volume of the Memoirs and Correspondence of his son, Sir Robert Murray Keith, K.B., edited by Mrs. Gillespie Smyth (2 vols, London, 1849), is occupied with his correspondence. By his wife, Margaret, second daughter of Sir William Cunningham of Caprington, he had, with other children, The Right Hon. Sir Robert Murray Keith, K.B., a general in the army, and for twenty years the representative of Great Britain at the court of Vienna, of whom afterwards; Sir Basin Keith, who died in 1777, governor of Jamaica, and Miss Anne Keith, in her latter years called Mrs. Murray Keith, the well-known Mrs. Bethune Baliol of Sir Walter Scott, in the Introduction to the Chronicles of the Canongate. Born in 1736, this lady died in 1818. In a letter to Mr. Terry, the celebrated comedian, dated 18th April of that year, communicating the intelligence of her death, Sir Walter Scott says: “She enjoyed all her spirits and excellent faculties till within two days of her death, when she was seized with a feverish complaint, which eighty-two years were not calculated to resist. Much tradition, and of the very best kind, has died with this excellent old lady; one of the few persons whose spirits and cleanliness, and freshness of mind and body, made old age lovely and desirable.” (Lockhart’s Life of Scott, vol. iv. p. 139.) She was the authoress of a song in three stanzas, entitled ‘Oscar’s Ghost,’ inserted in Johnson’s Scots Musical Museum. In a note by Mr. Kirkpatrick Sharp in the edition of that work of 1839 (vol. i.) He says: “Miss Anne Keith resided many years in Edinburgh (51 George Street), keeping house with her elder sister, Miss Jenny, both universally loved and respected. Sir Walter Scott told me that Mrs. Anne Keith amused herself in the latter years of her life, by translating Macpherson’s Ossian into verse. He did not know what became of the MS. after her decease.” Scott’s tale of the Highland Widow seems to have been founded on some story told him by Mrs. Murray Keith, as in contemplating the design of it, he says in his Diary, under date May 27, 1826: “Mrs. Murray Keith’s Tale of the Deserter, with her interview with the lad’s mother, may be made most affecting, but will hardly endure much expansion. The framework may be a Highland tour, under the guardianship of the sort of postilion whom Mrs. M. K. described to me – a species of conducteur who regulated the motions of his company, made their halts, and was their cicerone.”

      Her eldest brother, the Right Hon. Sir Robert Murray Keith, K.B., was born 20th Sept. 1730. He was educated, with his brother Basil, at the High school of Edinburgh, and early entered the army as a cornet of dragoons. In July 1747 he was appointed a captain in the regiment of foot then raised in Scotland for the Dutch service, in which he remained for several years, “greatly esteemed by his brother officers for his skill and judgment, as well as for his politeness and learning.” At this period he wrote a number of poetical pieces, which appeared in a collection entitled ‘The Caledoniad,’ published at London in 1775, in 3 vols. 12mo. One of these, ‘A Paraphrase of the first four verses of Barbara Allan, made on Lord Douglas’ regiment receiving orders to march from Maestricht to San van Ghent, in Dutch Flanders,’ is printed in the Notes to Johnson’s Musical Museum (edition of 1839, vol. iii.) He afterwards obtained a commission in the British army, and in 1760 was commander of a battalion of Highlanders, which distinguished themselves during the German campaigns.

      He was afterwards colonel of the 87th regiment of foot, and in 1769 he was nominated ambassador to Saxony. In 1771, he was appointed envoy at Copenhagen, where his spirited conduct in 1772, in rescuing Carolina-Matilda, the unfortunate queen of Denmark, sister of George III., from the prison into which she had been thrown in the castle of Cronenburgh, obtained for him great praise, and the order of the Bath. On hearing that the queen had been seized and that her death was contemplated, he forced his way into the council, and threatened war against Denmark, if a hair of her head were touched. She was soon after allowed to retire to Zell in Hanover.

      In 1773, Sir Robert was sent to the court of Vienna, and in 1775, on a vacancy occurring in Peebles-shire, he was elected M.P. for that county. He was also a member of the privy council, a lieutenant-general in the army, and colonel of the 10th regiment of foot. He died at Hammersmith, July 7, 1795, in his 63d year. In the obituary of the Gentleman’s Magazine for that year, Part 1, page 535, it is stated that “Sir Robert was corpulent, with a short neck. He died in the arms of his servant, immediately after entertaining company at dinner. His father, Ambassador Keith, as he was called at Edinburgh, died 21st September 1774, almost as suddenly.” Sir Robert Murray Keith was particularly celebrated for his colloquial talents. The Memoirs and Correspondence, Official and Familiar, of Sir Robert Murray Keith; With a Memoir of Queen Caroline Matilda of Denmark; and an account of the Revolution there in 1772; Edited by Mrs. Gillespie Smythe, were published at London in 1849, in 2 vols. 4to.


      The Keiths of Ravelstone, Mid Lothian, became the owners of that estate by purchase in 1726, from Sir Archibald Primrose of Dunipace, baronet, by Alexander Keith, writer in Edinburgh, who claimed, but without any ground, to be descended from Alexander Keith of Pittendrum, Aberdeenshire, 4th son of 3d earl Marischal. He was succeeded by a son, Alexander, an under clerk in the court of session, born in 1705. In 1766, the latter purchased the estate of Dunnottar from the last earl Marischal. He married Johanna, daughter of John Swinton of that ilk, advocate, a kinswoman of Sir Walter Scott, and by her had four sons and two daughters. At his death in 1792 his eldest son, Alexander, succeeded to the estates of Ravelstone and Dunnottar. When George IV. visited Edinburgh in 1822, he was created a baronet, as he exercised on that occasion the office of Knight Marischal of Scotland. On his death in 1832, the baronetcy became extinct, and the estate of Ravelstone went to Sir William Keith Murray of Ochtertyre, baronet, in right of his wife, Sir Alexander’s daughter and heiress. The office of knight marischal was conferred on the earl of Errol, high constable of Scotland; and on his lordship’s death, in 1846, it was bestowed on the marquis of Douglas and Clydesdale, who succeeded his father in 1852m as 11th duke of Hamilton.


For Viscount Keith, see KEITH-ELPHINSTONE, GEORGE.

KEITH, GEORGE, fifth earl Marischal, the founder of a university at Aberdeen, eldest son of William Lord Keith, and Lady Elizabeth Hay, daughter of the sixth earl of Errol, was born about 1553, and succeeded his grandfather in 1581. He studied at King’s college, Aberdeen, and also spent several years at universities on the Continent, when he visited most of the courts of Europe. It is stated that he was kindly received by the landgrave of Hesse, the chief of the Catti, as a descendant of that tribe. At Geneve, where his younger brother, William, his fellow-student, was unfortunately killed in a scuffle, he had for his instructor the celebrated Theodore Beza. After his return to Scotland, he appears to have been involved in some of the turbulent proceedings of those days, as, June 8, 1585, he obtained a remission under the great seal, for being art and part in the slaughter of his kinsman, William Keith, apparent of Ludquhairn; and we learn, from Pitcairn’s Criminal Trials, that in 1595, he was charged before the king and council, for entertaining a deadly feud with the laird of Meldrum. He seems also to have had some connection with the celebrated conspiracy which ended in the Raid of Ruthven, although he afterwards acted as chancellor of the assize of peers which found the earl of Gowrie guilty of treason for his share in that transaction. In 1589 he was sent ambassador-extraordinary to the Danish court, to arrange the marriage of James VI. to Anne of Denmark, when he was at the whole expense of the embassy, which was conducted by him on a most magnificent scale. In 1592 he received a parliamentary ratification of his conduct on this occasion.

      In April 1593 the earl founded the Marischal college of Aberdeen, and endowed it, by charter, with funds sufficient for the maintenance of a principal, three professors, and six bursars, an act of munificence which has transmitted his name with honour to posterity. He reserved to himself and his heirs the nomination to professorships, which appointments are all now in the Crown, in consequence of the forfeiture of the Marischal family since 1716. By subsequent endowments, the number of professorships has bee increased to thirteen. In consequence of the state of decay into which the old structure was rapidly falling, the university was between 1840 and 1844 rebuilt on a more extensive and magnificent plan than formerly, from a design by Archibald Simpson, Esq., architect, Aberdeen, a royal grant of £25,000 having been made for the purpose.

      In June 1609 the earl Marischal was appointed by James VI. his high commissioner to the Scots parliament. In the decline of life he retired to Dunnottar castle, where he died, April 2, 1623. His lordship was twice married, and was succeeded by his eldest son, William, the sixth earl. See MARISCHAL, Earl. The woodcut subjoined is taken from an engraving of his lordship’s portrait in Smith’s Iconographia Scotica.

[portrait of George Keith]

KEITH, GEORGE, a voluminous writer both for and against the Quakers, was born in Aberdeen about the middle of the seventeenth century, where he was a fellow-student with Bishop Burnet, and took his degree of M.A. He quitted the Presbyterian church, in which he had been brought up, and turned a Quaker. He afterwards went to Pennsylvania, where, becoming dissatisfied with the sect, he founded a new one of his own. On his return from America, he entered into the Church of England, took orders, and became rector of Edburton, in Essex. He wrote a great variety of books at first for, and afterwards against, the doctrines of the Quakers, and some against Penn, with ‘Reasons for Renouncing that Sect,’ 1700. He was a believer in the transmigration of souls and the millennium, and is described as an eloquent speaker, and an able disputant. He died about 1715. – His works are:

      Immediate Revelation; or, Jesus Christ the Eternal Son of God. 1668, 1676, 4to.

      Vindication from the Forgeries and Abuses of T. Hick and W. Kiffin. 1674, 8vo.

      The Way Cast up; with a Preface, by Alexander Skein. 1677, 8vo.

      The True Christ owned, as he is True and Perfect God and Man; containing an Answer to a late Pamphlet having this title, The Quakers’ Creed concerning the Man Christ Jesus. Lond. 1679, 8vo.

      Divine Immediate Revelation and Inspiration continued in the Church; or, the Presbyterian and Independent Visible Church in New England. 1691, 8vo.

      An Account of the great Divisions amongst the Quakers in Pennsylvania. Lond. 1692, 4to.

      More Divisions amongst the Quakers; with a Discourse of this Mystery of Iniquity. Lond. 1693, 4to.

      Heresie and Hatred justly returned on the Guilty, &c.,;’ being an Account of the chiefest Passages of a late dispute between him and Delaval; containing also, New England’s Spirit of Persecution transmitted to Pennsylvania, &c. 1693, 4to.

      Truth advanced, in the Corrections of many Gross and Hurtful Errors; with a Chronological Treatise of the several Ages of the world. Lond. 1694, 4to.

      A Farther Discovery of the Spirit of Falsehood and Persecution in Samuel Jennings. Lond. 1694, 4to.

      Gross Error and Hypocrisie detected in George Whitehead and some of his Brethren. Lond. 1695, 4to.

      A Copy of a Paper given into the Yearly Meeting of the People called Quakers; with a Narrative concerning the same; containing also a short List of the Gross Errors of Whitehead, Penn, &c. A farther Discovery of Falsehood and Persecution of Sam. Jennings and his party, in Pennsylvania. A Seasonable Admonition against Mr. Edwards Book, called, an Epistle to Friends. The Antichrists and Sadducees detected among a sect of Quakers; and his Remarks on John Penington’s late Book. Lond. 1695, 4to.

      Thanksgiving for the Deliverance of the King and Kingdom, on Isai. xxxviii. 19, 1696, 4to.

      An Exact Narrative of the Proceedings at Turner’s-Hall, the 11th of June, 1696; also a 2d, 3d, and 4th Narrative of the like Proceedings. Lond. 1696, 4to.

      The Christian Testimony, of some called Quakers in America, at Reading in Berkshire, to some Fundamental Truths of the Christian Religion. Lond. 1696, 4to.

      Explications and Retractions of divers Passages contained in his former Books. Lond. 1697, 4to.

      A Letter to Tho. Curtis, Jenj. Coals, &c., commonly called Quakers, who meet in Sun Lane, Reading, from Wm. Paine, &c. Lond. 1697.

      Second Narrative of the proceedings at Turner’s-Hall. Lond. 1697, 4to.

      A Reprimand for the Author of a Libel, entitled, George Keith an Apostate. Lond. 1697, 8vo.

      Third Narrative of the Proceedings at Turner’s-Hall. Lond. 1698, 4to.

      The Arguments of the Quakers and my own against Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, examined and refuted. Lond. 1698, 4to.

      The Deism of Wm. Penn and his Brethren exposed; containing the Fallacies of W. Penn in his Gospel Truths, &c. A Synopsis of Mr. Penn’s Deism and Scepticism; collected out of his Book called, Rule of Faith and Life, and Judge of Controversy; with a Christian Catechisme for the Instruction of Youth and others, against Quakerism; and a Postscript, concerning the Light within. Lond. 1699, 8vo.

      Some of the many Fallacies of Wm. Penn detected. 1699, 8vo.

      Account of his Travels to Bristol and other Places. Lond. 1699, 4to.

      Bristol Quakerism Exposed. Lond. 1700, 4to.

      A Narrative of the Proceedings at Cooper’s-Hall in Bristol. Lond. 1700, 4to.

      An Account of the Quakers’ Politicks. Lond. 1700, 4to.

      A Serious Call to the Quakers, inviting them to return to Christianity. 1700, 4to.

      Account of a National Church and the Clergy.

      Reasons for Renouncing Quakerism. Lond. 1700, 8vo.

      Sermons. Lond. 1700, 8vo.

      Good Conscience; on 1 Pet. iii. 16. 1700, 4to.

      Apostles’ and Prophets’ Doctrines the Foundation of the Church of Christ, on Ephes. ii. 20-22. 1700, 4to.

      Two Sermons on Luke i. 6. 1700, 4to.

      An Answer to xvii. Queries sent to George Keith by the Quarterly Meeting of the People called Quakers, at Oxford. Oxf. 1701, 4to.

      Fifth Narrative of the Proceedings at Turner’s-Hall. 1701, 4to.

      The Standard of the Quakers Examined; or, an Answer to Robert Barclay’s Apology. Lond. 1702, 8vo.

      Reply to Mr. Mather’s printed Remarks on a Sermon, printed by G.K. 1703, 4to.

      Sermon on 2 Cor. v. 14, 15. 1703, 4to.

      Power of the Gospel in the Conversion of Sinners, on 1 Thess. i. 5. 1703, 4to.

      The Notes of the true Church, on Acts ii. 41, 42. 1704, 4to.

      The Use of the Holy Sacraments, on 1 Cor. xii. 13. 1704, 4to.

      Two Sermons on Rom. i. 16. 1705, 4to.

      Journal of his Travels from New Hampshire to Caratack, on the Continent of North America. Lond. 1706, 4to.

      Against the Quakers, on Heb. xi. 6. 1707, 4to.

      The Magick of Quakerism. Lond. 1705, 8vo. The same. Lond. 1707, 8vo.

      New Theory of the Longitude. Lond. 1709, 4to.

      Sermons preached at Turner’s-Hall, on 1 Pet. iii. 16.

      Two Sermons on Luke i. 6. With a Serious Call to the Quakers, on 2 Cor. xiv. 15.


KEITH, JAMES FRANCIS EDWARD, a distinguished military commander, the youngest son of William Keith, ninth earl Marischal, was born in 1696. He was destined for the law by his father, but his own disposition led to the army, and the breaking out of the Rebellion of 1715 afforded him an opportunity of following the bent of his inclination. By the persuasion of his mother, who was warmly attached to the Stuarts, he joined the standard of the Pretender when he was only nineteen years of age. He was wounded at the battle of Sheriffmuir, and after that event succeeded in effecting his escape into France, where he subsisted for some time on supplies sent from Scotland, and a small annuity granted to him by the Pretender. Having, before leaving home, made considerable progress in classical and general literature under his kinsman, Bishop Keith, he now applied himself with great diligence to the study of mathematics and military tactics. In 1718 he and his brother, the earl Marischal, with several other expatriated adherents of the Stuarts, made an unsuccessful descent, with some Spanish troops, on the Highlands. He afterwards entered the Spanish service, but finding no prospect of promotion unless he became a Roman Catholic, in 1728 he went to Russia, with a letter of recommendation from the king of Spain to the Czarina, the widow of Peter the Great. He was promoted to the rank of major-general, received the command of a regiment of guards, and was invested with the order of the Black Eagle.

      In the revolution which elevated to the throne the princess Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great, he acted a prominent part. The empress fell in love with him and offered to marry him, a fact unknown to all his biographers. He prudently declined the dangerous honour, and accepted an invitation from the king of Prussia to enter his service. Frederick created him field-marshal of the Prussian forces, and governor of Berlin. The empress earnestly solicited his correspondence. “Your letters,” she says, “are health and happiness to me.” His MS. Correspondence with Lords G. and E. Drummond, concerning the Russian empire, 1748-1755, and 1756, was sold at the sale of the library of the Duke of Sussex in 1844. His personal qualities won the confidence of the king, who admitted him to the most familiar intercourse, and travelled with him through a great part of Germany, Poland, and Hungary. He became, in fact, his majesty’s principal adviser and confidential companion. In the subsequent wars of that illustrious monarch, Marshal Keith displayed his usual genius, intrepidity, and zeal; but his career was finally closed by a cannon shot, in the unfortunate and sanguinary battle of Hochkirchen, October 13, 1758, in the 63d year of his age. His body was stripped by the Austrians, but, being recognised, was interred in the neighbouring churchyard. By the special orders of the king, his remains were afterwards removed to Berlin, where there is a noble statue of him, erected by the king of Prussia. Some years after his death a monument was erected to his memory in the churchyard of Hochkirchen by Sir Robert Murray Keith, with an inscription by Metastasio.

      Subjoined is Marshal Keith’s portrait, from an original in the possession of William Douglas, Esq., Liverpool, to whom it descended from his relative, Col. Robert Keith, the last direct male representative of the noble family of Keith Marischal:

[portrait of Marshal Keith]

KEITH, ROBERT, (Bishop Keith,) an eminent scholar and historian, a lineal descendant of Alexander, 4th and youngest son of William 3d Earl Marischal, was born at Uras, parish of Dunnottar, Kincardineshire, Feb. 7, 1681. His father, Alexander Keith, of the family of Pittendrum, was taken prisoner at the battle of Worcester, on the side of Charles II., in 1651, but by the help of two ladies, escaped from prison, and from the losses he sustained by his adherence to the royal cause, he was obliged in 1672 to sell his estate of Cowton in the Mearns, and purchase the smaller one of Uras in the same county. He died when his son Robert, the future bishop, was only two years old, and at the age of seven, his mother, who was the daughter of Robert Arbuthnott of Little Fiddes, also in Kincardineshire, removed with him into Aberdeen, where he obtained an excellent education both at school and at Marischal college. In July 1703, he was appointed tutor to his noble relatives, the young Lord Keith and his brother, afterwards the celebrated Marshal Keith, with whom he continued for seven years. In August 1710, he was admitted to the order of deacon, in the Scots Episcopal church, by Bishop Haliburton of Aberdeen, and in November following he became domestic chaplain to the young earl of Errol, whom, in July 1712, he accompanied on a tour to the continent.

      On his return to Scotland, in the beginning of 1713, he was invited by an Episcopalian congregation in Edinburgh, to become their minister, and was, accordingly, ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Haliburton, May 26 of that year. His talents and learning gave him great influence among the clergy of his own communion, and his known liberal and enlightened principles, at all times rendered his advice of much value in the then depressed state of the Scots Episcopal church. In June 1727, he was chosen to be coadjutor to Bishop Millar of Edinburgh, and with Mr. William Dunbar, elected bishop of Moray, was consecrated on the 18th of that month. In manuscript memoirs of the (Episcopal) church of Scotland, quoted in Stephen’s History of that church (vol. iv. p. 250_, it is stated that “upon the 18th of June, the bishops of Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and Brechin, having seen and considered the unanimous election of Mr. William Dunbar, parson of Cruden, to be bishop of Moray and Ross by the presbytery thereof, did consecrate the said elect; at the same time consecrating Mr. R. Keith, a presbyter in Edinburgh, who was not elected to any particular charge; yet in his diploma he was consecrated as coadjutor to the bishop of Edinburgh, because of his old age and infirmities. This was a woful scene. The Episcopal church in Scotland was miserably rent, it being in the power of those opponents to consecrate an equal or greater number of bishops at large, in order to overwhelm the other; by which means there should be no end of consecrating, nor of that dismal schism of bishops at large, each party being in capacity to consecrate as many bishops as they shall think fit.” Soon after, Bishop Keith was intrusted with the superintendence of Caithness, Orkney, and the Isles. In 1733, on a vacancy occurring, the clergy of the Episcopal church in Fife elected him to be their diocesan, and he assumed the administration of that district. In 1738 he got into a dispute with Fairbairn, bishop of Edinburgh, relative to the ordination of a Mr. Spens belonging to his diocese, who, after having first applied to Bishop Keith, his own immediate superior, in consequence of some delay, was on his application to the bishop of Edinburgh, admitted by him into deacon’s orders. Bishop Keith, in consequence, refused to institute Mr. Spens to the chapel of Wemyss, in the diocese of Fife, till he had made a proper acknowledgment of his irregularity. He also sent an energetic protest to the bishop and clergy of Edinburgh. At an Episcopal synod, held on the 11th July, he acted as clerk, and was directed by them to make a register of the consecrations of all the bishops of the Scottish church since the year 1688, “lest the documents of the Episcopal succession might perish;” which resolution of the synod may perhaps have suggested his well-known ‘Historical Catalogue of the Scottish bishops down to the year 1688,’ first published in 1755.

      In August 1743 Bishop Keith resigned the superintendence of the diocese of Fife, continuing still to perform the functions of bishop in Caithness and Orkney. On the death of Bishop Fairbairn in 1739, it was supposed that the clergy of Edinburgh intended to have elected him his successor, but in a letter to Mr. Auchinleck, one of their number, referred to in Bishop Russell’s Life of Bishop Keith, the latter formally declared that he never solicited the clergy in any shape to elect him, but on the contrary had declined the appointment when it was actually offered to him. At an Episcopal synod held on the 20th August 1743, he was elected primus, as successor to Bishop Rattray of Dunkeld. There had not been a bishop of Edinburgh since 1739, and the clergy of that diocese presented several addresses to the bishops on this and other subjects in dispute between them, relative to the limits of Episcopal jurisdiction and the privileges of the presbyters. To these no answer was returned till Bishop Keith, as primus, on January 25th, 1745, sent them a letter of remonstrance calculated to allay the discontented spirit that had arisen amongst them. They had even entered into a correspondence with Mr. George Smith, one of the non-juring bishops of England, to consecrate one of the Edinburgh clergy as bishop of that diocese, which gave rise to a letter of expostulation from Bishop Keith to him, dated May 22d, 1744. He also drew up a declaration against the insidious conduct of Smith, which was signed by himself and four other of the Scots bishops.

      Justly proud of his descent from the Marischal family, he was, in the year 1750, led into a dispute with Mr. Keith, younger, of Ravelstone, relative to the propinquity of his family to that noble house, and in consequence drew up and published a short genealogical statement, under the title of a ‘Vindication of Mr. Robert Keith, and of his young grand-nephew Alexander Keith, from the unfriendly representation of Mr. Alexander Keith, jun., of Ravelston,’ clearly proving the correctness of his claim to that honourable position. Bishop Russell states, on the authority of Sir Alexander Keith of Revelstone, knight marischal, who died in 1832, that the superior claims of the bishop in behalf of his nephew were unquestionably well founded, and that so long as the Uras branch of the Pittendrum Keiths existed in the male line, the Keiths of Ravelstone were not entitled to the honour which they so groundlessly claimed of being the representatives of the family of the Earls Marischal. In the ‘Vindication’ referred to, the bishop also showed that he was related by marriage to the ducal houses of Douglas and Hamilton, as well as to the Burnets and Arbuthnotts.

      About 1752, he removed from the Canongate of Edinburgh, his usual place of residence, to the villa of Bonnyhaugh, on the Water of Leith, which belonged to himself, and afterwards descended to his daughter and granddaughter, by inheritance. He died there on 20th January, 1757, in the 76th year of his age, having been confined to bed only one day. In the month of March previous to his death, writing to Marshal Keith, he says: “I am just now drinking in a glass of claret all health and happiness to your excellency, and all your connections, whom may God long preserve. I am entered upon the seventy-sixth year of my age, and am obliged to use the hand of another in writing; but I thank God I keep health surprisingly well for my age, though I am much failed in my feet.” He was buried in the Canongate churchyard, where a plain, upright, square headstone, surmounted by an urn, was afterwards erected, with the simple inscription of Bishop Keith.”

      In 1719 the bishop married Isobel Cameron, daughter of the Rev. John Cameron, and had a son, who died young, and a daughter, Katherine, married in 1752 to Mr. Stewart Carmichael, merchant in Edinburgh. With a son, who died in early life, Mrs. Carmichael had a daughter, named Stewartina Catherina, who in 1775 married William Douglas, Esq., merchant, Leith, and left three sons, William (who died at Buenos Yres in 1842, unmarried), Stewart, and Archibald, and four daughters. The direct representation of the bishop’s family, therefore, rests with the descendants of the late Stewart Douglas, Esq., merchant, Glasgow, who left five sons; William, John, Stewart, Archibald, and Charles; the eldest of whom, William Douglas, Esq. of Liverpool (having an only son, Stewart), is the great-great-grandson of the bishop, and likewise nearest of kin, through his grandmother, to Col. Robert Keith, 3d regiment Foot Guards, up to his death in 1780, acknowledged as the nearest male representative of George, 10th Earl Marischal, who died in 1778.

      Bishop Keith’s works are:

      The History of the Affairs of the Church and State of Scotland, from the beginning of the Reformation in the Reign of King James V. to the Retreat of Queen Mary into England, anno 1568. Edin. 1734, fol. A few sheets of a second volume were left in MS.

      Catalogue of the Bishops of the several Sees within the Kingdom of Scotland down to the year 1688; together with other things necessary to the better knowledge of the Ecclesiastical State of the Kingdom in former times. Also, an Account of the first Planting of Christianity in Scotland, and the State of that Church in the earlier ages. Edin. 1755, 4to. This, the most popular and useful of Bishop Keith’s works, was dedicated to his illustrious kinsman, Marshal Keith. The account of the Culdees was written by Walter Goodall of the Advocates’ Library. New edition, under the title of Historical Catalogue of the Scottish Bishops down to the year 1688. By Robert Keith. Also, an Account of all the Religious Houses that were in Scotland at the time of the Reformation. By John Spottiswoode, Esq. Corrected, and continued to the present time, with a Life of the author. By the Rev. M. Russell, LL.D. Edin. 1824.

      Vindication of Mr. Robert Keith, and of his young Grand-nephew, Alexander Keith, to the honour of a lineal descent from the noble house of the Earls Marischal; in answer to The unfriendly Representation of Mr. Alexander Keith, jun. of Ravelston. Edin. 1750, 8vo.

      Dr. Russell says: There is reason to believe that Bishop Keith published, about 1743, some ‘Select Pieces of Thomas a Kempis.’ translated into English. In his Preface to the second volume of these Pieces, he introduced some addresses to the Virgin Mary; for which he thought it necessary to enter into some explanation with his more scrupulous brethren.

      Among his posthumous MSS. there was found a Treatise on Mystical Divinity, in the form of letters addressed to a lady; also, a Scheme of Religion derived solely from the Scriptures, intended, it was thought, for the use of his own family.

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