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The History of Fettercairn
Chapter XI.—John Earl Middleton and his successors

A SUMMARY of the descent and eventful career of John, First Earl Middleton, as well as a short notice of his heirs and successors may be given. The name of Middleton was adopted from the lands of Midtown or Middleton in the Parish of Laurencekirk. It appears in the Mearns as early as the reign of William the Lion (1165-1214). Humfridus de Middleton was witness to a charter in the reign of Alexander II. (1214-1249), and Humphry of Middleton witnessed a grant to the Abbey of Arbroath in 1272, and swore fealty to Edward I. of England in 1296. About 1317 a Gilbert Middleton appeared as a bold outlaw, heading a band that attacked and robbed the dignitaries of the church. In 1430 William of Middleton, and in 1460 Gilbert, intromitted with the lands of Arbroath Abbey. From 1481 Laurence of Middleton became Sheriff of Forfar, and in 1516 Gilbert his son succeeded in the same office. His wife was Marjory Wishart of Pittarrow. After them came John Middleton and his wife Isobel Falconer of the Halkerton family about 1560. His second wife was Catherine Strachan of Thornton. Their grandson, John Middleton, in 1606, exchanged the lands of Kilnhill and Bent for those of Muirton, Caldhame, and Rosehill. He took the designation of Middleton of Caldhame, and in 1612 was succeeded by his brother Robert, who, sitting in his chair, was killed by the soldiers of Montrose in 1645. His wife was Catherine Strachan. They had four sons: John, who became Earl Middleton; Alexander, the minister of Rayne, and Principal of King's College; Francis, and Andrew who, in 1687, became proprietor of Balbegno. According to one authority they had other three sons: George, Physician to James II. in France; James, a clergyman in Montrose; and William, a Lieutenant-Colonel. John was born in 1619, and at an early age entered the army as a pikeman in Hepburn's regiment ordered to France, but whose Scotch officers were recalled by the Supreme Council of the Covenanters in Edinburgh to resist Charles I. Then in 1639, Middleton, only twenty years of age, became a captain in the army of Montrose, which "for religion, the covenant, and the countrie, entered Aberdeen in order of battel, horsemen, pikemen, musketiers, with muskets, bandeliers, swords, powder, ball, and match; all officers in buff coats, in goodly order, and blue ribbons hanging about their craigs (necks)." Viscount Aboyne blockaded the Bridge of Dee to prevent their crossing, but by a manoeuvre on the part of Montrose, causing Aboyne to withdraw, the passage was effected, and the Covenanting army entered the town. The most notable of the covenanters that fell was a brother of Sir Gilbert Ramsay of Balmain and of Mr Andrew Eamsay, minister of St. Giles; and on the Royalist side, Sir John Seton of Pitmedden—the latter by the warrior,

"Whose name was Major Middleton
That manned the bridge of Dee,
And with him Colonel Henderson
That dung Pittmedden in three."

When Montrose turned Royalist, Middleton's services were not required, and he was left to pursue his own course. His father infefted him in the lands of Caldhame. He married Grizel Durham, daughter of James Durham of Pitkerrow. She had been twice married; first to Alexander Fotheringham of Ballindrone, and next, in 1630, to Sir Gilbert Ramsay of Balmain. This second marriage was dissolved, for Sir Gilbert had a second wife, a daughter of Auchinleck of Ballandro. Middleton's family consisted of a son, Charles, and two daughters, Grizel who married William the tenth Earl of Morton, and Helen, who became the wife of Patrick Lyon, the first Earl of Strath-more. The portraits of this couple are to be seen in Glamis Castle. On the front door lintel of the oldest part of Fettercairn House are the initials of John Middleton and Grizel Durham, [A recent writer doubts whether the Countess of Middleton was the Grizel Durham whose marriage contract with Fotheringham took place in 1608, and whether Sir Gilbert Ramsay had a wife of that name. ] with 1666 the date of its erection. The countess died in September of the same year, and according to a tradition current forty years ago, she was afflicted with blindness; and for the schoolmaster's reading the Bible to her on her deathbed, she bequeathed to him and his successors half an acre of land and a garden, below the village, equal in extent to an old measure called a "boll o'bear."

In 1642 Middleton entered the service of the English Parliament and attained to the rank of Colonel, and after the battle of Edgehill to that of Major-General. After other battles, he, at the head of 3000 dragoons, contributed to the defeat of the king at Newbury. Jealousies and disputes rent asunder the Parliamentarians, consisting of Presbyterians and Independents. Middleton was one of the officers who, under the "self-denying ordinance," resigned in 1644. He then joined the army of his countrymen, and was second in command to Sir David Leslie. They defeated Montrose at Philiphaugh in September, 1645. Montrose escaped to the north and joined the Earl of Huntly. Leslie was rewarded by the Convention of Estates at Glasgow with 5000 merks and a gold chain, and sent for service to England. Middleton's reward was-2500 merks and the command of the forces in Scotland. On his march to Aberdeen with 800 foot and 600 horse soldiers, he took and burnt Braedalbane's Castle of Finlarig on Loch Tay and, as already noticed, the castles of Old Montrose and Kincardine. He subjected Aberdeenshire and the north to the ravages of fire and sword; taking the-castles of Drum, Fyvie, the Earl of Seaforth's and others. The Royalists were defeated, and Middleton was commissioned by the Estates to confer with Montrose. They met, and Montrose agreed that with his generals Crawford,. Hurry, and Graham, he should betake himself beyond seas. Other leaders of the Cavaliers, except Alexander M'Donelr (Collciotach), were likewise pardoned. Middleton found time, in August, 1646, to attend the baptism of a nephew, John, the second son of Alexander, principal of King's-College and University, Aberdeen. The older son, George, succeeded his father as principal, and their portraits are to* be seen in the College. Middleton was appointed Commissioner on the forfeited estates of the Cavaliers, but the Earl of Huntly would not submit, whereupon he was captured and taken to Edinburgh, imprisoned and executed. By permission of the Committee of Estates, a middle party, called the Duke of Hamilton's Engagers, raised an army to-defend Charles I., but to keep up the Covenant. Middle-ton joined them, and became Lieutenant-General of the Horse. The Covenanters, led by Argyle, distrusted them. They marched into his territory in June, 1648, and carried all before them. Middleton at their head entered England to aid the Royalists, but was defeated at Preston, taken1 captive, conveyed to Newcastle and cast into prison. He escaped, however, and joined Lord Ogilvy in an ineffective attempt to produce a Royalist rising in Atholl. From that he retired, and on the arrival of Charles II., in 1650, joined that monarch. He was banned by the Kirk for "Malignancy," and James Guthrie at Stirling pronounced upon him the sentence of excommunication, which after a year was removed by his doing penance in sackcloth in the Church of Dundee. He was Major-General of the Horse in the army of Charles, at the battle of Worcester, on the 3rd of September, 1651. There he was wounded, taken prisoner, and sent to the Tower of London. Cromwell destined him for execution, but he again escaped, hid himself for a fortnight in London, and joined his royal master in France. In 1653 he raised a small force in Holland, returned to Scotland, and fought at several places with •General Monk, and in July, 1654, was defeated at Lochgarry, with the loss of his "white charger, gold, papers, and all his baggage." He fled "over the bogs and over the hills," crossed the sea, and joined the King in Holland, who in 1656 created him an earl. At the Restoration, in 1660, he returned with Charles, and, by letters patent, was confirmed "Comes de Middleton, de Claermont et Fettercairn, &c."; or, Earl of Middleton, Lord of Claermont1 and Fettercairn; and it was provided that these titles should, in all future time, extend to his heirs bearing the surname and arms of Middleton. The Earl was also Commander of the Forces in Scotland, Governor of Edinburgh Castle, and one of the Lords of the Privy Council. In 1661 he was appointed Lord High Commissioner to the Scottish Parliament. As the first man in the kingdom, his rule was so tyrannical and his conduct so disgraceful that he hastened his own downfall. In the words of Bishop Burnett, " It was a mad, roaring time, for the men of affairs were almost perpetually drunk, and he, in the terrible Parliament at Edinburgh, and the ' drunken one' thereafter at Glasgow, enacted laws and passed orders unconstitutional and oppressive' The hurried trial and execution of the Marquis of Argyle, the act in 1662 which deprived some 400 ministers of their benefices, and the fines exacted from nonconforming landlords, were laid to his charge. One of these, James Wood of Balbegno, was fined 2000 (Scots). The people were disgusted and rejoiced at his subsequent humiliation. Having thus abused his power and made the Cabal Ministry, with their leader the Earl of Lauderdale, his enemies, he lost favour with the king, was deprived of his appointments and sent to be governor of Tangier, in Africa, where in decent exile he died, from the effects of a fall down a stair, in 1673. Charles his son, who had represented Winchelsea in Parliament, succeeded him in the estates and titles. He was deputed as Envoy extraordinary to the Court of Vienna, and afterwards he held several high offices at home, being one of the principal secretaries of state for Scotland, also extraordinary Lord of the Court of Session, and a secretary of state for England. He followed James II. to France and had the entire management of the exiled court at St. Germains. His Scotch estates and titles were forfeited in 1695. With John Drummond, Earl of Melfort, he projected an invasion of England and the assassination of William III. He died in 1719. His wife was Lady Catherine, daughter of Robert Earl of Cardigan. They had two sons, John and Charles; three daughters: Elizabeth, who married Edward, son of the Earl of Perth; Mary, who became the wife of Sir John GifFord; and Catherine, who married the Comte de Rothes, officer in the French army. The two sons were taken at sea by Admiral Byng, in the descent which the French intended to make on Scotland in 1708, and were conveyed to the Tower. After three years' imprisonment Queen Anne ordered their release. They returned to France and were no more heard of.

The Middleton estate was burdened with debt, even before the death of the first earl. His son-in-law, the Earl of Strathmore, undertook its management, and disposed of the same to Earl John's grand-nephew, John Middleton of Seaton, Aberdeen, a brigadier in the army of King George I. His father was George, minister of Glamis, who succeeded his father as principal of King's College. His mother was Janet, daughter of James Gordon of Seaton, and through her that property was acquired by the family. She attained the age of one hundred years. Brigadier Middleton1 changed the name of the estate to that of Fettercairn, but a hamlet on the property still retains the name of Middleton. He was succeeded by his son George of Seaton, advocate, who died without issue in 1772. His wife, Lady Diana Grey, daughter of Henry, the third Earl of Stamford, survived him. In 1777 her trustees sold the estate for 15,500 to Mrs Emilia Belsches, widow of William Belsches of Tofts, in the county of Perth. [A son of Robert, the brother of Brigadier Middleton, was Charles, Lord Barham, first Lord of the Admiralty when Nelson won Trafalgar, and ancestor, through his daughter Diana, of the Earls of Gainsborough. Another son, George, was a Captain in the Scots' Brigade, and father of Robert Gambier Middleton, Rear-Admiral, whose son is Colonel William Gambier, retired; and his grandsons, by his sons Alexander and George respectively, are Richard W. L. Middleton, and Robert Middleton, barrister, both in London.]

Editors Note: Got in an email...

Dear Electric Scotland

I see that in your item on Fettercairn you quote the passage from ‘The History of Fettercairn’ dealing with Grizel Durham, wife of John Mddleton, 1st Earl Middleton. In particular, “He married Grizel Durham, daughter of James Durham of Pitkerrow. She had been twice married; first to Alexander Fotheringham of Ballindrone, and next, in 1630, to Sir Gilbert Ramsay of Balmain. This second marriage was dissolved, for Sir Gilbert had a second wife, a daughter of Auchinleck of Ballandro.”

I believe this to be incorrect.

From a variety of online and published sources, the chronology is...

1609 Marriage of Alexander Fotheringham and Grizel Durham (reputed marriage contract which I have not seen)

1620/1621 Sasine referring to Grissel Durham, spouse of Alexander Fotheringham of ‘Balludrone’ [Angus, S1, Vol II.117)

September 1623 Death of Alexander Fotheringham of Balludrone

8 May 1624 Confirmation of testament testamentar of Alexander Fotheringham of Ballindrone [St Andrews Commissary Court CC20/4/8] containing foregoing date of death and including reference to Grissel Durham (I am struggling to read the full document but that bit I can read!)

2 March 1630 Marriage of Sir Gilbert Ramsay of Balmain and Grizel Durham [Monifieth Parish Register]

10 March 1632 Sasine Grissel Durhame, spouse of Sir Gilbert Ramsay of Balmane [Kincardineshire Vol 3. 232, 234]

1639 Marriage of John Middleton and Grizel Durham (reputed marriage contact which I have not seen)

2 June 1640 Sasine Grissel Durham, spouse of John Middiltoun, son of Robert Middiltoun of Caddam (Caldhame) [Kincardineshire Vol 4. 113]

8 July 1651 Sasine Grissel Durham, spouse of John Middiltoun of Fettercarne [Kincardineshire Vol 5. 84, 89]

21 November 1656 Sasine Grissel Durhame, spouse of Sir Gilbert Ramsay of Balmane [Kincardineshire Vol 6.16]

You may make of this what you will. I think it demonstrates quite satisfactorily that the wife of Sir Gilbert Ramsay and the wife of John Middleton were both living at the same time, and therefore that there must be at least two different Grizel Durhams, and that the Alexander Fotheringham who died in 1654 is not the one who married the first of these.

Also, if Grizel Durham was married in 1609, she must have been born no later than 1597, so by the time of her marriage to John Middleton she would have been at least 40, and very probably more, and hence too old to become the mother of three children by John Middleton.

It seems to me that it is more credible that there should be confusion between two ladies of the same name, possibly aunt and niece, than that the marriage of Sir Gilbert Ramsay to Grizel Middleton should have been dissolved.

What do you think?

Anne Burgess

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