Search just our sites by using our customised search engine

Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

The Great Historic Families of Scotland
The Keiths

THE Keiths are among the oldest and most illustrious, as they were at one time among the most powerful of the historical families of Scotland. During five centuries they took a prominent part in all the important public events—political and ecclesiastical—- in their own country, and obtained great renown ‘in far lands ayont the sea.’ They were distinguished for their diplomatic ability as well as for their warlike achievements, and were munificent patrons of learning, which they promoted both by their wealth and their pen. Though they ultimately forfeited their titles and estates by their adherence to the cause of the ill-fated Stewart dynasty, the Keiths, throughout nearly the whole of their career, were not only zealous patriots but staunch supporters of civil and religious liberty.

The origin of the Keiths is hid amid the mists of antiquity, and the stories told by the early chroniclers respecting their descent from the German tribe of the ‘Catti,’ who were driven from their own country and took refuge in Caithness, are absurd fictions. All that is known with certainty on the subject is, that in the reign of David I., when Norman, Saxon, Flemish, and Scandinavian settlers in great numbers took up their residence in Scotland, a part of the district of Keith, in East Lothian, was possessed by a baron named HERVELUS, who witnessed the charter by which King David granted Annandale to Robert de Brus. His estate received from him the designation of Keith Hervei, and afterwards of Keith Marischal. Herveus de Keith, the son of this baron, held the office of King’s Marischal under Malcolm IV. and William I., which from this time became hereditary in the family. Philip, his grandson, who died before 1220, succeeded him in his estate and office, and by his marriage with Eda, grand-daughter and heiress of Simon Fraser, obtained Keith Hundeby (now Humbie), the other half of the barony of Keith.

The family soon become numerous and powerful, and spread their branches far and wide throughout the Lowland districts of Scotland. SIR WILLIAM KEITH of Galston, in Ayrshire, fought on the patriotic side in the War of Independence, and distinguished himself by his signal bravery and energy at the capture of Berwick, in 1318.. He was one of the knights who, in 1330, accompanied Sir James Douglas in his expedition to the Holy Land, with the heart of King Robert Bruce. In 1333 he was appointed Governor of Berwick, and two years later was sent ambassador to England. He was killed at the siege of Stirling in 1336.

SIR ROBERT DE KEITH, the fourth in descent from Philip, the Great Marischal, was one of the most celebrated knights of his day. In the year 1300 he was appointed Justiciary of the country beyond the Forth, and in 1305 was chosen one of the representatives of the barons, to consult respecting the government of the kingdom after the death of Wallace. Three years later he repaired to the standard of Bruce, and distinguished himself at the battle of Inverury, where Comyn of Badenoch, the deadly enemy of the patriot King, was defeated. As a reward. for his signal services in this conflict, Sir Robert received a grant of several estates in Aberdeenshire, along with a royal residence called Hall Forest—a donation which led, as in the case of the Gordons and Frasers, to the removal of the family to the north, where they ultimately had their chief seat and estates. Sir Robert de Keith rendered important service to the patriotic cause throughout the War of Independence, and contributed not a little to the crowning victory of Bannockburn. He was despatched by Bruce along with Sir James Douglas to reconnoitre the English army on their march, and to bring him confidential information respecting their numbers and equipments; and to him was entrusted the important duty of attacking and dispersing the English archers, whose deadly clothyard shafts so often overwhelmed the Scottish spearmen. At the head of a small body of cavalry, Sir Robert, making a circuit to the right, assailed the formidable bowmen in flank, cut them down in great numbers, and drove them off the field. The effect of this manoeuvre is portrayed in spirited terms by Sir Walter Scott in his ‘Lord of the Isles.’ After describing the position of the Scottish army, and the manner in which Bruce had drawn up the different divisions, with the right wing under Edward Bruce, protected by the broken bank and deep ravine of the Bannock on their flank, the poet goes on to say— 

‘Behind them, screen’d 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.

* * * * *

‘Then "Mount, ye gallants free!"
He cried; and vaulting from the ground
His saddle every horseman found.
On high their glittering crests they toss,
As springs the wild-fire from the moss;
The shield hangs down on every breast, 
Each ready lance is in the rest

* * * * *

Then spurs were dash’d in chargers’ flanks,
They rushed among the archer ranks;
No spears were there the shock to let,
No stakes to turn the charge were set,
And how shall yeoman’s armour slight
Stand the long lance and mace of might?
Or what may their short swords avail
‘Gainst barbed horse and shirt of mail?
Amid their ranks the chargers sprung,
High o’er their heads the weapons swung,
And shriek, and groan, and vengeful shout
Give note of triumph and of rout
Awhile with stubborn hardihood
Their English hearts the strife made good;
Borne down at length on every side,
Compelled to flight they scatter wide.

* * * * *

Broken, dispersed, in flight o’erta’en, 
Pierced through, trod down, by thousands slain, 
They cumber Bannock’s bloody plain.’

 ‘Although,’ Sir Walter says, ‘the success of this manoeuvre was evident, it is very remarkable that the Scottish generals do not appear to have profited by the lesson. Almost every subsequent battle which they lost against England was decided by the archers, to whom the close and compact array of the Scottish phalanx afforded an exposed and unresisting mark.’

Sir Robert Keith was one of the Scottish magnates who in 1320 signed the famous letter to the Pope vindicating the independence of Scotland. He evidently stood high in the confidence of Robert Bruce, for we find him nominated one of the commissioners to treat for a peace with England in 1323; and he was also appointed, along with other great nobles, to. ratify an alliance with the French king, Charles le Bel. As a testimony of the esteem in which Sir Robert was held by his sovereign, he received from King Robert a charter of the lands of Keith Marischal, and of the office of Great Marischal of Scotland, to himself and to his nearest heirs male bearing the name and arms of Keith. Sir Robert fell at the fatal battle of Dupplin, 12th August, 1332, when the Scottish army was surprised and cut to pieces through the negligence and incompetency of its commander, the Earl of Mar. His grandson, who bore his name and succeeded him in his estates and offices, was killed at the battle of Durham, 17th October, 1346, where David II. was taken prisoner, along with other two chiefs of the Keith family. As he died without issue he was succeeded by his grand-uncle, SIR EDWARD KEITH, who was twice married; his only daughter Janet, by his second wife, Christian Menteith, married Sir Thomas Erskine. Her maternal grandmother, Lady Eline, was the daughter of Gratney, Earl of Mar, of the ancient line, and that title was conferred upon their descendant, Lord Erskine, by Queen Mary, a hundred and twenty years after it had been withheld from Sir Robert Erskine, son of Sir Thomas and Lady Janet Keith. Sir Edward’s second son, John, was the ancestor of the Keiths of Inverugie, an estate which he obtained by his marriage to Mariot Cheyne, the heiress of a family of Anglo-Norman descent, which settled in Scotland in the early part of the thirteenth century. After continuing separate from the main stock for seven or eight descents, this branch of the Keiths fell again into the direct line, by the marriage of the elder daughter and co-heiress of Sir William Keith to the fourth Earl Marischal. Sir Edward Keith died before 1350. His eldest son— 

SIR WILLIAM KEITH, added greatly to the power and possessions of the family by his marriage to the only child and heiress of Sir John Fraser, eldest son of Alexander Fraser, High Chamberlain of Scotland, by his wife Mary, sister of Robert Bruce. He obtained with her large estates in Kincardine or Mearns, which from this time forward became the principal residence of the Keith family. He exchanged with William de Lindsay, of Byres, certain lands in the counties of Fife and Stirling for part of the estate of Dunnottar, in Kincardineshire. Here, about a mile and a half from Stonehaven, he erected an extensive fortress of great strength on the summit of a stupendous perpendicular rock projecting into the sea, and separated from the land by a deep chasm. The only access to it is by a steep and narrow path winding round the rock. Strange to say, notwithstanding its almost inaccessible position, the summit of this insulated rock was occupied by a church and churchyard long before it was made the site of a fortress. When Sir William Keith resolved to erect a castle upon it as a place of safety during the troublous times in which he lived, he took the precaution first of all to build a church for the parish in a more convenient place; but notwithstanding, the Bishop of St. Andrews, who must have been actuated by some personal feeling, thought fit to excommunicate him on the pretence that he had violated consecrated ground. Sir William, however, appealed to the Pope (Benedict XIII.), stating the whole circumstances of the case, the urgent need of such a fortress, and the compensation he had made for the site by building another church. The Pontiff, on learning the real state of matters, issued a Bull, dated 18th July, 1394, deciding the appeal in Sir William's favour, directing the Bishop to remove the excommunication, and to permit the baron to retain possession of the castle on the payment of a certain sum to the Church. Dunnottar thenceforth was the seat of the family, and became the scene of several important events in the history of the country. Though long dismantled and uninhabited, it is still an object of deep interest to Scotsmen, who visit it in great numbers. ‘The battlements with their narrow embrasures, the strong towers and airy turrets full of loopholes for the archer and musketeer, the hall for the banquet, and the cell for the captive, are all alike entire and distinct. Even the iron rings and bolts that held the culprits for security or for torture, still remain to attest the different order of things which once prevailed in this country. Many a sigh has been sent from the profound bosom of this vast rock; many a despairing glance has wandered hence over the boundless wave; and many a weary heart has there sunk rejoicing into eternal sleep.’

[In 1685 Dunnottar was employed as a place of confinement for a body of the Covenanters, 167 in number, including several women and children, who had been compelled to travel on foot from Edinburgh to this spot. They were thrust, men and women together, into a dark underground dungeon in the castle which still bears the name of the ‘Whigs’ Vault,’ having only small windows looking out to the sea, and the floor covered with mire ankle deep. They remained there during the whole summer with little more than standing room, and were subjected to the most shocking tortures by the soldiers who guarded them. A good many died under their sufferings.]

In this impregnable fortress the Keiths established themselves, and continued generation after generation to make their power felt both in their feuds with the neighbouring barons and in the public affairs of the kingdom. Sir William, the builder of the stronghold, died between 1406 and 1408, leaving three sons and four daughters. Muriella, his eldest daughter, became the second wife of Robert, Duke of Albany, Regent of the kingdom during the long captivity of James I. in England, and was the mother of John, Earl of Buchan, the famous Constable of France. Sir William’s eldest son John, ‘a man of great valour,’ says Nisbet, who fought at the battle of Otterburn, married a daughter of King Robert II. He predeceased his father, who was succeeded by his second son, ROBERT. Sir Alexander, his third son had the command of the horse at the battle of Harlaw.

SIR WILLIAM, eldest son of Sir Robert de Keith, was raised to the peerage by James II., about 1458, by the title of Earl Marischal, as a reward for his eminent services, especially in preserving the peace of the northern districts, usually the seat of intestine broils and feuds. His eldest son, who bore his name—the second Earl —unlike the Keith family, who were conspicuous for their loyalty, joined the confederacy of the rebel lords against James III. His eldest son, also named WILLIAM KEITH, succeeded as third Earl in 1515, took a prominent part in public affairs during the minority of James V., and was one of the nobles entrusted with the charge of the young king. His two eldest sons fell at the disastrous battle of Flodden, along with Sir William Keith, of Inverugie and other members of the house. [The pennon of the Earl Marischal borne in that battle, bearing three stags’ heads and the motto ‘Veritas vincit,’ is preserved in the Advocates’ Library, Edinburgh.] Earl William was noted for his sterling honesty, sound judgment, calmness, and moderation, and his earnest endeavours to heal dissensions. From the expression which he frequently used he received the sobriquet of’ Hearken and take heed.’ His grandson— 

WILLIAM, fourth Earl, whose mother was a daughter of Archibald Bell-the-Cat, succeeded him in 1530 and raised the family to its greatest height of wealth and power. He was selected by James V. to accompany him when he went to France, in 1530, for the purpose of marrying a lady belonging to the royal family; and after the death of that prince he was appointed, along with other six of the most influential nobles, to take charge of the person of his infant daughter. He was present at the sanguinary battle of Pinkie, in 1547, where his eldest son was taken prisoner. He seems at that time to have been favourable to the project of marrying the infant Queen to Prince Edward, for Sir Ralph Sadler mentions him as one ‘who hath ever borne a singular fond affection’ to King Henry, and his name appears for 300 marks on the list of that monarch’s pensioners. The Earl is believed to have been, at an early age, favourably inclined towards the Reformed faith, and was a friend of George Wishart, the martyr. He is said by Tytler to have been one of the persons associated with the Earl of Cassilis in the conspiracy to murder Cardinal Beaton. He seems to have retained the respect and confidence of the Queen-Dowager, Mary of Guise, though opposed to her policy, for along with the Earls of Argyll and Glencairn, and Lord James Stewart, he was summoned to the deathbed of that princess, when she expressed her great sorrow for the distracted state of the country, and earnestly recommended them to dismiss both the French and English forces, and to adhere firmly to their lawful sovereign.

When the Confession of Faith was ratified by the Parliament at Edinburgh, 17th July, 1560, Calderwood states that the Earl Marischal thus addressed the Estates, ‘It is long since I had some favour unto the truth and was somewhat jealous of the Roman religion; but, praised be God, I am this day fully resolved; for seeing my lords, the bishops, who, for their learning can, and for the zeal they owe to the truth, would, as I suppose, gainsay anything repugnant to the same, yet speak nothing against the doctrine proposed, I cannot but hold it the very truth of God, and the contrary of it false and deceavable doctrine. Therefore, so far as in me lieth, I approve the one and condemn the other, and do further ask of God that not only I but also my posterity may enjoy the comfort of the doctrine that this day our ears have heard. Further, I protest, if any persons ecclesiastical shall hereafter oppose themselves to this our Confession that they have no place or credit, considering that time of advisement being granted to them, and they having full knowledge of this our Confession, none is now found in lawful, free, and quiet Parliament, to oppose themselves to that which we profess. And therefore, if any of this generation pretend to do so after this, I protest he be reputed rather one that loveth his own commodity and the glory of the world, than the glory of God and salvation of men’s souls.’

The Earl was one of the twenty-four barons selected by the Estates, from among whom the Crown was to choose eight and the Estates six, to administer the Government. On the return of Queen Mary from France, Earl Marischal was sworn one of the Lords of her Privy Council. He took a deep interest in the affairs of the Protestant religion and the Church; and in the General Assembly of 1563 he was a member of the Committee appointed to revise the Book of Discipline. After the intestine strife which followed the murder of Darnley and the imprisonment of Queen Mary in Lochleven Castle, Earl Marischal retired to his castle of Dunnottar, which he so seldom quitted during the protracted civil broils of that period, that he received the sobriquet of ‘William of the Tower.’ His countess, Margaret, daughter and coheiress of Sir William Keith of Inverugie, brought that estate into the family. Inverugie Castle, a massive structure, now in ruins, on the north bank of the river Ugie, about two and a-half miles from Peterhead, was, next to Dunnottar, long a principal seat of the Keiths. It was founded in 1380 by John de Keith, who married Mariot Cheyne. Far distant though it was from Ercildoune, the seat of Thomas the Rhymer, he is said to have visited the place, and to have uttered the following prediction regarding it, from a stone in the vicinity of the castle :—

‘As lang ‘s this stane stands on this craft
The name o’ Keith shall be alaft;
But when this stane begins to fa’
The name o’ Keith shall wear awa’.’

‘The stone,’ says Mr. Ferguson, ‘was removed in 1763; the last Earl Marischal sold the lands in 1766.’

Robert Keith, the younger son of the third Earl, was the last Abbot of Deer, a foundation of the Cistercians, situated in a sheltered hollow on the banks of the Ugie. His nephew, the second son of the fourth Earl, known in history as the Commendator of Deer, obtained the erection of the abbey and the abbey lands into a temporal lordship, 29th July, 1587, ‘to be callit in all tyme cuming, the lordship of Altrie.’ On the death of the Commendator, the estate and title devolved upon his nephew, George, the fifth Earl. Lord Keith, Earl William’s elder son, having predeceased him in 1580, he was succeeded, in 1581, by his grandson— 

GEORGE, fifth Earl Marischal, the founder of Marischal College, Aberdeen. He was educated at King’s College, in that city, where he distinguished himself by his proficiency in classical studies, and in the knowledge of the Hebrew language, and of history and antiquities. He subsequently spent several years at universities in France, along with his younger brother William, and then at Geneva, under the celebrated Beza, who gave him instruction in history, theology, and eloquence. The death of his brother, who lost his life in a riot among the citizens, caused him to leave Geneva and to travel through Germany and Italy, making himself acquainted with the language, and the manners and customs of the people. On his return to his native country he took part in various public affairs, and in 1589 he was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary to the Danish Court, to arrange the marriage of James VI. with Anne of Denmark. With his characteristic munificence, the Earl defrayed the whole expense of the embassy, which was conducted on a scale of unusual splendour. He did good service to the country in 1593 by inquiring into the secret and treasonable transactions of the Popish earls with the Court of Spain, and in 1609 he was appointed Lord High Commissioner to the Scottish Parliament. The memory of this great nobleman has been perpetuated mainly by his enlightened generosity displayed in the establishment of the college which bears his family title. The foundation charter, which is dated 2nd April, 1593, provided for the maintenance of a principal, three professors or regents, and six bursars; and appointed Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, geometry, geography, chronology, natural history, and astronomy to be taught in the college. At subsequent periods several additional chairs and a great number of bursaries were instituted in connection with this seminary, and the professorships were ultimately increased to thirteen. The ancient structure having fallen into decay, a grant of £25,000 was given by the House of Commons between 1840 and 1844, for the purpose of rebuilding it on a more extensive scale; but in 1858 Marischal College and King’s College were incorporated by Act of Parliament into one University.

The arrangement by which the rich temporalities of the Abbey of Deer came into the possession of Earl George, gave great dissatisfaction to his younger brother Robert Keith of Benholm, ‘probably because he had concluded in his own mind [not without reason] that the abbey lands formed a more appropriate estate for a cadet than for the chief of the family, the latter being already a rich man.’ He therefore made an attempt to take forcible possession of the abbey, which he kept for six weeks; but at last the Earl, with assistance from the northern shires and burghs, succeeded in dislodging his law-defying brother. Robert then retired to the Castle of Fedderat, where he stood a three days’ siege, which ended in his coming to a truce with the Earl, and the unseemly quarrel was terminated.

The rental of the abbey thus annexed to the Marischal estates amounted in 1565 to £572 8s. 6d., with thirteen and a half boils of wheat, fourteen chalders and ten boils of bear, [an inferior kind of barley] and sixty-three chalders nine bolls of meal. The yearly revenue of the earldom, augmented by this handsome addition, is alleged to have amounted to the enormous sum, in those days, of 270,000 marks. The estates were so extensive that it was commonly said that Earl Marischal could enter Scotland at Berwick, and travel through the country to its northern extremity without requiring ever to take a meal or a night’s rest off his own lands. But even at this period, when it had reached its greatest height of power and prosperity, a doom was believed to be impending over the family. Earl George survived till 1623, but, happily for himself, he was taken away before the evil days of the Great Civil War, which inflicted so much misery upon the country, and brought his ancient and illustrious house to the brink of ruin.

Patrick Gordon of Ruthven, in ‘A Short Abridgement of Britane’s Distemper, from the Yeares of God 1639 to 1649,’ gives the ‘relacion of a wonderfull vision,’ which, according to popular belief, foretold that the ancient house of the Marischal of Scotland was to date its slow decay and assured overthrow from the day of its ‘sacrilegious meddling with the Abbacy of Deer.’

‘This was a fearfull presiage of the fatal punishment which did hing over the head of that noble familie by a terrible vission to his grandmother, after the sacrilegious annexing of the Abbacie of Deir to the house of Marshell, which I think not unworthie the remembrance, were it but to advise other noblemen thereby to beware of meddling with the rents of the Church, for in the first foundation thereof they were given out with a curse pronounced in their charector, or evident of the first election, in those terms: Cursed be those that taketh this away from the holy use whereunto it is now dedicat; and I wish from my heart that this curse follow not this ancient and noble familie, who hath, to ther praise and never-dieing honour, contemned ther greatness, maintained ther honour, and, both piously and constantly has followed forth the way of virtue from that tym that the valour, worth, and happie fortoun of ther first predecessor planted them; and ever since the carriage of his heart, strength of his arme, and love of his country, made him happily to resist the cruel Danes. George, Earle Marshell, a learned, wise, and upright good man, got the Abbacie of Deir in recompence from James the Sixt, for the honourable charge he did bear in that ambassage he had into Denmark, and the wyse and worthy account he gave of it at his return by the conclusion of that match whereof the royal stock of Britane’s monarchy is descended.

‘This Earl George, his first wife dochter to the Lord Home, and grandmother to this present earle, being a woman both of a high spirit and of a tender conscience, forbids her husband to leave such a consuming moth in his house as was the sacrilegious meddling with the Abbacie of Deir; but fourteen score chalders of meil and beir was a sore temptation; and he could not weel endure the rendering back of such a morsel. Upon his absolute refusal of her demand, she had this vision the night following: in her sleepe she saw a great number of religious men, in ther habit, come forth of that Abbey to the stronge craige of Dunnottar, which is the principal residence of that familie. She saw them also set themselves round about the rock, to get it down and demolishe it, having no instruments nor tools wherewith to perform this work, but only pen-knyves, wherewith they foolishly (as it seemed to her) began to pick at the craig. She smiled to see them intend so fruitless an enterpryse, and went to call her husband, to scoff and jeer them out of it. When she had found him, and brought him to see these sillie religious monckes at ther foolish work, behold the whole craige, with all its stronge and stately buildings, was by ther pen-knyves undermined and fallen in the sea, so as there remained nothing but the wracke of ther rich furniture and stuff floating on the waves of a raging and tempestuous sea.

‘Some of the wiser sort, divining upon this vision, attribute to the pen-knyves the lenth of tym before this should come to pass; and it hath been observed by sundrie that the earles of that house before were the richest in the kingdom, having treasure and store beside them, but ever since the addition of this so great a revenue, they have lessened the stock by heavie burdens of debt and ingagment.’

Dr. Pratt says it is thought to have been in reference to this legend. or to some reproaches of a similar nature which were heaped on the Marischal family at the time, in consequence of their sacrilegious appropriation of the Abbey and its possessions, that they inscribed the unavailing defiance— 

‘They say,
Quhat say they? 
They haif said, 
Let thame say,’

on several of the buildings which they erected. On Marischal College, Aberdeen, which the Earl founded in 1593, and endowed with a portion of the doomed spoil, the inscription in large letters remained on the buildings till 1836, when they were taken down to make room for the present structure. The inscription, however, is preserved in the entrance-hall of the new college buildings.

‘Within seventy years of the time that Patrick Gordon wrote, the whole of the Marischal estates were confiscated, and an additional half century witnessed the extinction of the family. The Commendator —who took his title from Altrie, one of the estates of the abbey lying between Bruxie and Brucklay Castle—left no child to inherit his honours; and so utterly has the name perished that, instead of being called ‘in all time coming the Lordship of Altrie,’ the name scarcely remains even as a tradition.

‘Meddle nae wi’ holy things,
For ‘gin ye dee [do],
A weird I rede in some shape
Shall follow thee.

Altrie is now called Overtown and Newtown of Bruxie.’

WILLIAM, sixth Earl, who succeeded to the family titles and estates on the death of his father, in 1623, left four sons, of whom the two eldest were successively the representatives of the house. The Great Civil War had a fatal influence on the fortunes of the house of Keith. WILLIAM, the seventh Earl Marischal, who inherited the family titles and estates in the year 1635, was a staunch Covenanter; and when the rash and dangerous attempt of Charles and Laud to force a new Service-book on the people of Scotland roused the whole country to arms, the Earl unhesitatingly cast in his lot with the popular party. In 1639, when the young Earl of Montrose, afterwards the famous Royalist general, was sent by the Tables with a powerful army to compel the citizens of Aberdeen to subscribe the Covenant, the Earl Marischal, says Spalding, had one of the five colours carried on that occasion, having this motto drawn in letters: ‘For Religion, the Covenant, and the Country.’ He was subsequently present at the ‘Trot of Turriff,’ as the skirmish was termed in which blood was first shed in this disastrous civil war, and took part with Montrose in the second occupation of Aberdeen, in the ‘Raid of Stonehaven,’ where the Royalist Highlanders were put to flight by the artillery brought from the Castle of Dunnottar, and in the conflict at the Bridge of Dee, where the royalists, under Lord Aboyne, were again defeated, and forced to flee, leaving Aberdeen once more at the mercy of the victorious party. The Earl was one of the nobles who signed the famous Cumbernauld Bond, in 1641, for the support of the royal authority against the designs of the extreme party, headed by the Marquis of Argyll. But though at this juncture he concurred with Montrose in his apprehensions that the Covenanters were pressing demands which infringed on the power and prerogative of the sovereign, he refused to follow that Earl when he deserted his party and went over to the side of the king. In consequence of this refusal he incurred the bitter hatred of his former friend and associate. In 1645, when Montrose marched to the north, after his defeat of the Covenanters at Tippermuir, he encamped at Stonehaven, and sent a letter to Earl Marischal, who had shut himself up in Dunnottar along with a considerable body of clergymen and persons of distinction in the district. The Earl, however, declined to admit the bearer of the letter into his castle, and sent him away without an answer. An application made to Lord Marischal through his brother was equally unsuccessful. All that Montrose wanted, he was told, was that ‘the Earl should serve the king his master against his rebellious subjects, and that if he failed to do so, he would feel his vengeance.’ Marischal, however, declined to comply with this demand, declaring that ‘he would not be against the country.’

In consequence of this refusal, Montrose at once subjected the Earl’s estates to military execution. He first set fire to the houses adjoining the castle, and burnt the grain stacked in the barn-yards. He next committed to the flames the town of Stonehaven, which he burnt to ashes, destroying even the boats of the poor fishermen, thus depriving them of the means of subsistence. The lands and houses of Cowie and the woods of Fetteresso shared the same fate, and the whole district was plundered and laid waste. The Earl was deeply affected when he witnessed from his stronghold the destruction of his property and the ruin of his helpless vassals, who assembled in crowds before the castle gates, imploring him to save them from ruin. Spalding, who seldom misses an opportunity of sneering at the Covenanters, and especially at their clergy, says, ‘The famous Andrew Cant, who was among the number of the Earl’s ghostly company, edified his resolution at once to its original pitch of firmness, by assuring him that that reek would be a sweet-smelling incense in the nostrils of the Lord, rising as it did from property which had been sacrificed to the holy cause of the Covenant.’ When the affairs of the king had become desperate, however, the Earl joined the ‘Engagement,’ and raised a troop of horse to assist in the attempt to rescue him from the hands of the Republicans. He was present at the rout of Preston, from which, more fortunate than most of his associates, he succeeded in effecting his escape. He was one of the Committee of Estates, who were seized by a troop of English horse at Alyth in 1651, and was committed to the Tower, where he remained a prisoner for nine years, having been excepted from Cromwell’s ‘Act of Grace and Pardon’ in 1654. At the Restoration he was sworn a member of the Privy Council, and appointed Keeper of the Privy Seal, but died soon after, in 1661, and was succeeded by his brother GEORGE, eighth Earl.

The circumstance which probably contributed not a little to incense the Protector against the Earl Marischal was the obstinate and protracted resistance which his castle of Dunnottar made to the forces of the Commonwealth after the rest of the country had submitted to its authority. On the surrender of Edinburgh Castle this strong sea-girt fortress had been selected as the most secure place in the kingdom in which to deposit the Scottish Regalia—the crown, sceptre, and sword of state. The small garrison, under the command of Mr. George Ogilvie, of Barras, held out gallantly for many months, but as provisions began to fail the governor foresaw that in the end he would be obliged to surrender. Anxious to prevent the symbols of Scottish sovereignty from falling into the hands of the besiegers, who, he was aware, were eager to obtain possession of them, he formed a plan, in conjunction with the Dowager Countess of Marischal, and the Rev. Mr. Grainger, minister of Kinneff, for conveying the precious ‘honours’ to a place of safety. Mrs. Grainger was the principal agent in carrying the scheme into effect. Having obtained permission from the English general to visit the wife of the governor of the castle, she received from that lady, but without the knowledge of her husband, the crown, which she carried away in her lap. The sceptre and sword, wrapped up in a bundle of ‘hards’ or lint, to be spun for Mrs. Ogilvie, were placed on the back of a female attendant, and mistress and maid were allowed to pass unchallenged through the English camp. On reaching the manse of Kinneff, Mrs. Grainger delivered the crown, sceptre, and sword to her husband, who buried them under the floor of his church. He imparted the secret to no one but the Countess Marischal, who gave out that the Regalia had been carried to the Continent by her younger son, Sir John Keith, and delivered to Prince Charles at Paris. When the castle surrendered, three months afterwards, the disappointment of the English general was extreme on finding that the Regalia had been removed, and every effort was made, but in vain, to discover where they were concealed. The governor was treated with great severity and was imprisoned, and, it is said, was even tortured to make him disclose the secret. His lady was subjected to similar seventies, and her health sunk under the close confinement, but with her dying breath she entreated her husband to preserve inviolate the trust committed to him. The minister of Kinneff and his courageous wife did not escape suspicion and harsh treatment, but nothing could be extorted from them respecting the concealment of the treasure under their charge. The secret was faithfully kept till the Restoration, eight years afterwards, when the Regalia was exhumed and placed under official custody. Rewards were then distributed to the persons who had taken part in the affair, but they were bestowed with more regard to rank and influence than to merit. Sir John Keith, whose only share in the transaction was in giving the use of his name to put the English on a false scent, was made Knight Marischal, with a salary of £400 a year, and was afterwards raised to the peerage under the title of Earl of Kintore. Ogilvie, whose patrimonial estate had been impoverished by the fines and sequestrations imposed by the English, received the merely honorary reward of a baronetcy, and Mrs. Grainger was recompensed with the sum of two thousand marks Scots.

GEORGE KEITH, eighth Earl, in his younger years served in the French army and rose to the rank of colonel. He returned to Scotland when the civil war broke out, but does not appear to have taken any active part on either side until the army of the ‘Engagement’ was raised to rescue Charles I. from the Republican party. He commanded a regiment of foot in that mismanaged enterprise, and fought at the battle of Preston (August 17th, 1648). Three years later he had the command of three regiments at the battle of Worcester, where he displayed the hereditary bravery of his house, but was overpowered by numbers and taken prisoner. He appears to have lived quietly on his estates during the reigns of Charles II. and his brother, James VII. He took no active part on either side at the Revolution. ‘Earl Marshall,’ wrote Claverhouse to Melfort, ‘is at Edinburgh, but does not meddle.’ He died in 1694.

WILLIAM KEITH, ninth Earl, his only son, though he took the oaths to William and Mary, and sat in the Parliament of 1698, steadily opposed the measures of the new Government. He offered a strenuous resistance to the Treaty of Union with England, and entered his solemn protest against the measure when it passed the Estates. The Earl considerably impaired his estates by his magnificent style of living. He was noted for his generosity, and his kindness and liberality to his tenantry and retainers. His marriage to Lady Mary Drummond, eldest daughter of the notorious Earl of Perth, High Chancellor of Scotland under James VII., exercised an injurious influence on the fortunes of his family. He died in 1712, and was succeeded by his eldest son— 

GEORGE KEITH, tenth and last Earl Marischal, who was born about 1693. Of the once vast property of his family, he inherited only the estates of Dunnottar, Fetteresso, and Inverugie. He obtained from Queen Anne the command of a troop of cavalry, and was subsequently appointed captain of the Scottish troop of Horse Grenadier Guards. The Earl was one of the Scottish Tories who acquiesced in the accession of George I., but the new Government very unwisely drove them into opposition by unkind treatment. Earl Marischal was deprived of his command at the same time that his cousin, the Earl of Mar, was dismissed from his office of Secretary of State. On his way down from London he met his younger brother James, afterwards Field-Marshal Keith, going up to ask for a commission. At the instigation of their mother, who was a Roman Catholic and a Jacobite, the two brothers, no doubt smarting under the treatment they had received, repaired to the standard which Mar had set up in Aberdeenshire and took part in the ill-advised and badly managed rebellion of 1715. The Earl commanded two squadrons at the battle of Sheriffmuir. When the Chevalier, shortly after, landed in Scotland, he passed several days at Newburgh and Fetteresso, seats of Lord Marischal, and after the failure of the enterprise, when the ill-starred prince embarked for the Continent at Montrose, he was accompanied by the Earl and Lord Mar. The family titles, with the hereditary office of Grand Marischal, which had been held by the Keiths upwards of four hundred years, were attainted and their estates were forfeited to the Crown.

In the year 1719, Earl Marischal, in conjunction with the Marquis of Tullibardine and the Earl of Seaforth, with the aid of a body of Spanish troops furnished by Cardinal Alberoni, made another attempt to restore the ancient dynasty. They landed in the Western Highlands, near Kintail, where they were joined by a few hundred Highlanders, chiefly belonging to Seaforth’s clan. They were attacked in Glensheil by a body of regular troops under General Wightman, and though they maintained their ground, the Highlanders became convinced that the enterprise was hopeless, and dispersed during the night. The Spaniards, next day, surrendered themselves prisoners of war. Earl Marischal and his brother nobles and the other officers made their way to the Western Isles, and afterwards escaped to the Continent.

During the next thirty years, Earl Marischal led the usual life of Jacobite exiles on the Continent, alternating, as he himself said, betwixt hopes and fears. Finding that his adherence to the Protestant faith made him distasteful to the Spanish Court, he resigned his command in their army and retired to France, where he lived in a quiet and frugal style. He took no part in the Jacobite enterprise of 1745, and shortly after its failure he went to reside in Prussia, where he became a special favourite of Frederick the Great, who in 1750 appointed him his Ambassador Extraordinary to the French Court. The Prussian monarch also invested the Earl with the Order of the Black Eagle, and bestowed on him the Government of Neufchatel. In 1759 Frederick solicited and obtained from the British Government a pardon for the Earl, who thereupon paid a brief visit to his native country, and was presented by William Pitt, afterwards Earl of Chatham, to George II. In the same year Lord Marischal was ambassador from Prussia to Spain. Though an exile, his native land was still dear to him, and he eagerly availed himself of an opportunity which now offered to do it service. His long residence in Spain, where he often said he had left a dear old friend—the sun—and his intimate knowledge of the Spanish language and diplomacy, gave him peculiar facilities for fathoming the secret designs of the Spanish Court. Having discovered, while resident at Madrid, the secret of the famous ‘Family Compact,’ by which the French and Spanish members of the House of Bourbon became bound to treat as their common enemy every Power that might become the enemy of either, or, in other words, to unite in making war upon Great Britain, he communicated this important intelligence to Mr. Pitt, who was at that time Prime Minister. Pitt’s colleagues, unfortunately for the country and for their own reputation, shrank from adopting the vigorous measures which that great statesman proposed when this information reached him; but Earl Marischal’s services were not overlooked. In the year 1760 he paid a visit to England, and was introduced to George III., by whom he was most graciously received. His ancestral estates had been sold, in 1720, to the York Buildings Company for £41,172, but an Act of Parliament was now passed to enable the Earl to inherit any estate that might descend to him, notwithstanding his attainder. This boon was granted in the prospect of his lordship’s succession to the Kintore estates, as next heir to William, fourth Earl of that branch of the Keith family, who was unmarried. On the death of this nobleman, in 1761, the Kintore property, at that time of no great value, but which now yields £33,000 a year, devolved upon his kinsman, Lord Marischal. In the same year an Act of Parliament authorised the King to grant to the Earl £3,618 out of the principal sum and interest remaining due on his forfeited estate. Three years later Lord Marischal purchased back part of the ancient property of his house; and at the earnest entreaties of his relatives he made arrangements to take up his permanent residence in his native country. When the Earl arrived at Peterhead he set out for Inverugie, between two and three miles distant. He went as far as the bridge of Ugie, about a quarter of a mile from the castle, which stands on an elevated ridge enclosed on three sides by the river. He was met there by a numerous body of friends and tenants, who welcomed him with every demonstration of affection and delight; but the venerable nobleman burst into tears at the sight of the ruined and desolate condition of the seat of his ancestors, and could proceed no farther and said 'Stay the "Voyage", Stay the "Voyage".

Dunnottar Castle also was dismantled, and the state of his family mansions and the death of his early friends made the Earl feel sad and lonely in his native land. A letter which he addressed 28th October, 1763, to David Hume, the celebrated philosopher and historian, whom he ironically terms ‘Defender of the Faith,’ casts interesting light on the character and feelings of the venerable nobleman. ‘My health,’ he says, ‘is totally deranged since I am in Scotland. Your advice of creeping nearer to the sun is most agreeable to an old Spaniard, and a sort of Guebre by religion; but £600 a year will not do in London, neither in Paris, though better there than in London. In Paris being ‘already recognised for an owl, I might easily merit also the title of wolf. Then I would be at peace, and I would only see those who might please me. It is terrible in my country to be obliged to receive visits without intermission; and many of those people of whom Alliotus was able to say, "Id genus demoniorum non ejicitur nisi jejunio." (This kind of devils is not cast out but by fasting.) M. D’Alembert will explain this to you; and to tell you the truth, I hope, by fasting from wine, to get rid of several. There is another inconvenience in our country—bigotry; and, I believe, a little hypocrisy.

‘M. D’Alembert said one day at Sans Souci, very pleasantly and justly, that in Germany they still cry "Who goes there?" to Reason. In the north of Scotland they would not cry "Who goes there?" to the poor thing if they saw her; they would begin by throwing a stone at her head.

‘When I passed through Aberdeen, the churches resounded with anathemas against those who should take away their letters on Sunday. Mr. Campbell was one of the most zealous preachers. I understand well that these gentlemen are very glad to be absolute sovereigns of a seventh part of the year; but that is not so agreeable to me, whose vocation was to be a Calmuck Tartar—that is to say, as savage but less solitary than my friend Jean Jacques. These are my griefs—little health of body and few charms of mind, because I should be too much restrained by our lamas.

‘Of the other side, it is sweet and flattering to live in a country where I have reason to believe that everybody wishes me well, which does not prevent me from being wearied. I have some difficulty in getting free from my fellow-countrymen; and then at my age is it worth the trouble? Where am I to go? London and Paris are too dear. The hours of London do not suit my health. Here are three places which are convenient to my purse: Port Mahon—purse and climate, liberty,—society might be awanting to me; Venice—purse, liberty, climate, nearly, the delicious gondola for the infirm old person; but the journey is too long. There remains a third retreat: with the good Father Gardien of Sans Souci. But it is not a sufficient retreat for my old age. My memory fails me, my imagination is getting still weaker. I know very well, by many a learned demonstration of learned metaphysicians, that our immortal soul is always the same. I know it still better as a good Christian, by faith; but I don’t feel it physically by its effects.

‘The Courts require young men. The Queen, the princesses, and the princes must have them. However, my attachment to the Father Gardien attracts me powerfully towards him. I would like much to be within reach of consulting you by word of mouth. I do not think I have ever known a man so free from prejudice. I would also like to consult M. D’Alembert, although I know beforehand that he would advise me to go to the Father Gardien. In this country I dare not speak to anyone; they would all set themselves against me. I must await the sale of one of my lands, and in the coming summer I will take my resolution, either to go towards the sun and free thinking, or to remain to make myself be buried with my ancestors—a solid and still more durable pleasure. Write me, I beg you, and speak also to M. D’Alembert. I rely on the friendship of both, and I am a little like Panurge when he wished to marry, very undecided, or, to speak more correctly, drawn strongly to two sides.’

There are other eight letters from the Earl to the ‘good David’ in the collection of’ Letters of Eminent Men to David Hume,’ all of them exhibiting in a very pleasing light the amiable and benevolent character and quiet humour of the writer. Though quite alive to Rousseau’s faults, he was anxious to obtain protection for him from the persecution of the priests, and advised that he should take refuge in England. And even after the Scottish philosopher had been fiercely attacked by the half-crazed Genevese writer, he entreated Hume to forbear with him. ‘It will be good and humane in you,’ he pleaded, ‘and like le bon David, not to answer.’ In the last of the series, dated Potsdam, 15th August, 1766, the Earl says, ‘I shall be happy to see you here; but I must in conscience tell you, What went you out to see? A reed shaken with the wind. My memory fails me much. You must expect from me no more, if so much, as from an old monkish chronicle of a thousand years, where perhaps you might here and there pick out some notes to clear dates; and every six months makes me considerably less of any use to your intention. All you can count on is truth as far as my memory serves. If after this fair warning you shall resolve to come, you shall be most welcome. I have a room for you, a Spanish olla, Spanish wine, pen, ink, and paper. I dine every day with the King. You will be invited to dine every day and sup every night with the Prince of Prussia. We shall lodge in the same house like a fashionable French husband and lady, without seeing each other. You are well known to the beaux esprits and the ladies. I am good for nothing for either, so that I run risk to see you not often, and we shall want some time in quietness.’

Though the Earl described himself as ‘drawn strongly to two sides,’ it is evident that his leaning was towards Sans Souci, and the King of Prussia earnestly entreated his old friend to rejoin him there. ‘I am not surprised,’ wrote Frederick (16th February, 1764), ‘that the Scots fight to have you among them, and wish to have progeny of yours, and to preserve your bones. You have in your lifetime the lot of Homer after death—cities arguing which is your birthplace. I myself would dispute it with Edinburgh to possess you. If I had ships I would make a descent on Scotland to steal off my cher my lord and bring him hither. The banks of the Elbe do not admit of these equipments. I must, therefore, have recourse to your friendship to bring you to him who esteems and loves you. I was your late brother’s friend, and had great obligations to him: I am yours with heart and soul. These are my titles, these are my rights. You shall live here in the bosom of friendship, liberty, and philosophy. Come to me.’

The venerable nobleman, now in his seventy-eighth year, was unable to resist the importunity of his royal friend, and soon after repaired to Potsdam, where Frederick had built a villa for his residence. Here he spent the remainder of his days, which were protracted far beyond the usual span of human life. The diplomatic agents and travellers who from time to time visited the Prussian Court give an interesting glimpse of the character and latter days of the veteran peer. Sir Robert Murray Keith, who stayed three days with him in 1770, writes, ‘He is the most innocent of God’s creatures, and his heart is much warmer than his head. . . . I really am persuaded he has a conscience that would gild the inside of a dungeon. The feats of our barelegged warriors in the last war, accompanied by a pibroch in his outer room, have an effect on the old Don which would delight you. . . . He talked to me with the greatest openness and confidence of all the material incidents of his life. His taste, his ideas, his manner of living, are a mixture of Aberdeenshire and the kingdom of Valencia; and as he seeks to make no new friends, he seems to retain a strong though silent attachment for his old ones. As to his political principles, I believe him the most sincere of converts to Whiggery and orthodoxy. He is not at all blind, as you imagined. So much otherwise, that I saw him read without spectacles a difficult hand I could not easily decipher.’

Rousseau, to whom Lord Marischal showed great kindness at Neufchatel, has drawn an interesting portrait of the honoured old age of his patron. ‘When first I beheld that venerable man,’ he said, ‘my first feeling was to grieve over his sunk and wasted frame; but when I raised my eyes on his noble features, so full of fire and so expressive of truth, I was struck with admiration... My Lord Marischal, though an old man, is not free from defects. With the most penetrating glance, with the nicest judgment, with the deepest knowledge of mankind, he yet is sometimes misled by prejudices, and can never be disabused of them. . . . Such little eccentricities, like the caprices of a pretty woman, rendered the society of my Lord Marischal only the more interesting, and never warped in his mind either the feelings or the duties of friendship.’

A traveller who visited Berlin in 1777 thus wrote of the Earl: ‘We dined almost every day with the Lord Marischal, who was then eighty-five years old, and was still as vigorous as ever both in body and mind. The King had given him a house adjoining the gardens of Sans Souci, and frequently went thither to see him. He had excused himself from dining with the King, having found that his health would not allow him to sit long at table; and he was, of all those who had enjoyed the favour of the King, the only one who could truly be called his friend, and who was sincerely attached to his person. Of course everybody paid court to him. He was called the King’s friend, and was the only one who had merited that tjtle, for he had always stood well with him without flattering him.’

This venerable nobleman; the last of the main stock of his illustrious house, survived till May 28th, 1778, and was buried in his adopted country. Though not equal to his brother in general ability and military skill, ‘he, too,’ as Carlyle says, ‘was an excellent, cheery old soul, honest as the sunlight; with a fine small vein of gaiety, and "pleasant wit" with him. What a treasure to Frederick at Potsdam, and how much loved by him (almost as one boy loves another), all readers would be surprised to discern.’

Earl Marischal never married. In early life he fell deeply in love with a Roman Catholic French lady, but their difference in religion proved an insuperable barrier to her acceptance of his hand, and she became the wife of Monsieur de Crégny—not, however, without a wistful regret for the loss of ’dear Milord Maréchal.’ The two thus severed never met again until Earl Marischal was in his seventieth year and Madame de Crégny was a grandmother. In anticipation of their meeting, the Earl wrote some verses on the beauty of grey hairs, which he presented to the lady. She wrote of the interview in the following terms, which showed how worthy she was of his affection: ‘When we met again, after the lapse of many years, we made a discovery which equally surprised and affected us both. There is a world of difference between the love which had endured throughout a lifetime and that which burned fiercely in our youth and then paused. In the latter case time has not laid bare defects nor taught the bitter lesson of mutual failings; a delusion has subsisted on both sides which experience has destroyed; and delighting in the idea of each other’s perfections, that thought has seemed to smile on both with inexpressible sweetness, till, when we meet in grey old age, feelings so tender, so pure, so solemn arise that they can be compared to no other sentiments or impressions of which our nature is capable.’

Marshal Keith, the younger brother of the Earl, was one of the most distinguished military commanders of his day. He was educated first by Ruddiman, the distinguished grammarian, and afterwards by Bishop Keith. He was sent to Edinburgh to study law, but his tastes and wishes were all in favour of a military life. After the failure of the Jacobite rising in 1715, he escaped to France, whence, in 1716, he passed to Spain, and served for some time in the Spanish army. Finding his religion an insuperable barrier to promotion, he proceeded to St. Petersburg in 1720 with a letter of recommendation from the King of Spain to the Czar. He was appointed a major-general in the Russian army, received the command of a regiment of guards, and was invested with the order of the Black Eagle. In the war with the Turks (1736-37) he was the first to enter the breach at Oczakow, where he was wounded so severely that he had to be conveyed to Paris for medical advice. He greatly distinguished himself in the war between Russia and Sweden in 1741—44, and when peace was concluded he was sent as Envoy Extraordinary to Stockholm, receiving, on his return to St. Petersburg, the baton of a marshal. General Keith took a prominent part in the revolution which elevated to the throne the Princess Elizabeth, daughter of Peter the Great. The new Empress fell in love with him, and offered to marry him. But the young Scotsman prudently declined the dangerous honour, and, provoked at various affronts put upon him, and dissatisfied especially with the manner in which an officer, junior and much inferior to him in every way, had been promoted over his head, he quitted Russia, and in September, 1747, tendered his services to Frederick of Prussia, who gladly accepted the offer. ‘Field-Marshal your rank, income £1200 a year; income, welcome all suitable.’ ‘Frederick greatly respects this sagacious gentleman,’ says Carlyle, ‘a man of Scotch type; the broad accent with its sagacities, veracities; with its steadfastly fixed moderation and its sly twinkles of defensive humour; not given to talk, unless when there is something to be said, but well capable of it then. Frederick, the more he knows him likes him the better.’

During the eleven momentous years which followed Marshal Keith’s entrance into the Prussian service, he was constantly with Frederick, his mainstay in every scene of difficulty and danger, and his most trusty and judicious counsellor in every perplexity. He fought at Losowitz and Rosbach, and conducted the sieges of Prague and Olmutz. His career was brought to a close at the sanguinary battle of Hochkirch, fought between the Prussians and the Austrians, October 14th, 1758, when he was killed by a cannon-ball, in the sixty-third year of his age. The body of the gallant veteran ‘had honourable soldier’s burial’ in the neighbouring churchyard, from the enemy, who had always respected him on account of his clemency as well as his bravery. Four months after, however, by Frederick’s orders, it was removed to Berlin, of which the Marshal had been governor, and was reinterred there ‘in a still more solemn and public manner, with all the honours, all the regrets; and Keith sleeps now in the Garrison-kirche far from bonny Inverugie, the hoarse winds and sea-caverns of Dunnottar singing vague requiem to his honourable line and him.’ ‘My brother leaves me a noble legacy,’ said the old Lord Marischal. ‘Last year he had Bohemia under ransom, and his personal estate is seventy ducats’ (about £25).

‘Frederick’s sorrow over him ("tears, high eulogies") is itself a monument,’ but twenty years after he caused a statue to be erected in Berlin to the memory of his devoted and faithful friend. ‘A fine modestly impressive monument to Keith’ was erected in 1771, in the Hochkirch church, by his kinsman, Sir Robert Murray Keith, the distinguished diplomatist.

Marshal Keith’s stature was rather above the middle size, but of a make extremely well-proportioned, his complexion brown, his eyebrows thick, and his features very agreeable. But above all he had an air of so much goodness that it quite gained the heart at his very first appearance. He spoke English, French, Spanish, Russian, Swedish, and Latin, and was able to read the Greek authors. His ordinary conversation was in French; he expressed himself with great precision. He had seen all the courts of Europe, great and small, from that of Avignon to the residence of the Khan of Tartary.

ROBERT KEITH the Ambassador, as he was commonly called, belonged to the family of the Keiths of Craig, in Kincardineshire. He was Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, and afterwards represented the British Government at Venice and St. Petersburg. His son—Sir Robert Murray Keith, the eminent diplomatist, who was born in 1731—was educated for the military profession, and served for several years in a Highland regiment, which was employed by the States of Holland. He subsequently acted as adjutant-general and secretary to Lord George Sackville, who commanded the British contingent under Prince Frederick of Brunswick. On the resignation of Lord George, Keith was appointed major in a Highland corps, which had recently been raised for the war in Germany, and though composed entirely of raw recruits, they and their young commander gained great distinction by their conspicuous gallantry in the campaigns of 1760 and 1761. It was for his long and successful diplomatic career, however, that Keith was chiefly noted. In 1769 he was appointed by William Pitt (afterwards Earl of Chatham) British Envoy to the Court of Saxony. Two years later he was transferred to the Court of Denmark, and was fortunately residing at Copenhagen when the Danish Queen Caroline Matilda, sister of George III., was made the victim of a vile conspiracy, and would in all probability have been put to death but for Keith’s spirited interference. His firm yet prudent conduct met with the approbation of the British Court, and King George himself sent him the Order of the Bath as an acknowledgment of his services. In 1772 Sir Robert was appointed ambassador at the Court of Vienna; six years later he was a second time appointed to this important post, and earned for himself the reputation of an able and high-minded diplomatist. He closed his public career with the pacification concluded between Austria, Russia, and Turkey, which was greatly promoted by his exertions. He died in 1795, in the sixty-third year of his age.

Sir Robert’s sister, ANNE MURRAY KEITH, was a delightful specimen of the Scottish gentlewoman of the last century. She was an intimate friend of Sir Walter Scott, and sat to him for the portrait of Mrs. Bethune Baliol, which is not surpassed by anything of the kind in his writings. Like her brother, she was celebrated for her colloquial talents. Sir Walter was indebted to her not only for the outlines of the pathetic story of the ‘Highland Widow,’ but also for many racy anecdotes of the olden time, and quaint and pithy phrases, which he embodied in his novels. When ‘Waverley’ appeared, the shrewd old lady at once detected the author of the anonymous tale; and next time Scott called upon her she told him in direct terms that she was sure it was his production. Sir Walter attempted to repel the charge in his usual manner, but was silenced by the rejoinder, ‘Gae wa’ wi’ ye; do ye think I dinna ken my ain groats among other folks’ kail?’ Mr. Kirkpatrick Sharp says, ‘Miss Anne Keith resided many years in Edinburgh (51, George Street), keeping house with her eldest sister, Miss Jenny, both universally loved and respected. Sir Walter Scott told me that Miss Anne Keith amused herself in the latter years of her life by translating Macpherson’s "Ossian" into verse.’ She was the authoress also of a song entitled ‘Oscar’s Ghost,’ inserted in Johnson’s ‘Scots’ Musical Museum.’ Scott thus notices the death of his ‘excellent old friend,’ as he terms her, in 1818: ‘She enjoyed all her spirits and her 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.’

The greater part of the vast estates of the Keiths had passed away from them, as we have seen, before the close of the seventeenth century. Dunnottar, Fetteresso, and Inverugie alone remained, and ere forfeited on the attainder of the last Earl Marischal. They were exposed to sale in 1728, and, with the exception of a small part acquired by Mungo Graham of Gorthie, were purchased by the York Buildings Company for the sum of £41,172 6s. 9d. The rental amounted to £1,676 6s., of which only £642 4s. 7d. was paid in money. The wadsets on the lands which the company undertook to deal with amounted to nearly £11,000, and the personal debts to £12,000. The Marischal estates, along with those of Panmure, Southesk, and Pitcairn, were let to Sir Archibald Grant of Monymusk and Alexander Gordon of Troup for twenty-nine years at a rental of £4,000 a year, of which £1,045 13s. 4d. was apportioned to the Marischal lands. On the expiry of the lease these four estates were again put up for sale in 1764. Although the rental had nearly doubled, Earl Marischal, who, as we have mentioned, had obtained a pardon in 1759 and a grant of £3,618 out of the balance still unpaid of the price of his estate, with interest since 1721, was enabled to repurchase his estate for a comparatively small sum. It is noted in a contemporary periodical that the four estates ‘were put up to public roup or auction on Monday afternoon, 20th February, 1764, in the Parliament House, before the Lord Ordinary, appointed by the Court judge of the roup. The House was crowded. The Earl of Marischal, the Earl of Panmure, and Sir James Carnegie of Pitarrow, hejr male of the family of Southesk, were there in person, attended by some of their friends, and each purchased what formerly belonged to the family at the upset price, nobody offering against them. The people in the galleries could scarce forbear expressing their joy by acclamation at seeing these estates returned to the representatives of the ancient and illustrious families to which they had formerly belonged.’

Dunnottar was sold in 1761 by the Earl to Sir Alexander Keith of Ravelstone. It is now the property of Mr. Innes of Raemoir. In the Doomsday Book the gross annual value is stated at £5,493 12s. Fetteresso belongs to Mr. R. W. Duff, M.P.; the rental amounts to £4,536 18s. The estate of Peterhead was purchased at several times by the Merchant Maiden Hospital of Edinburgh at a cost altogether of £8,814. As much as £43,905 was expended in a course of years in improvements, raising the total outlay to nearly £53,000. The rental has risen gradually from a few hundreds to about £4,400 per annum, and the value of the estate was estimated in 1861 at £98,363.

 Return to the Great Historic Families of Scotland