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The Scottish Nation

KELLIE, Earl of, a title in the peerage of Scotland (claimed in 1829, from failure of other heirs, by the earl of Mar,) conferred in 1619, on Sir Thomas Erskine of Gogar, first viscount Fenton, eldest surviving son of the Hon. Sir Alexander Erskine of Gogar, fourth son of the fourth Lord Erskine. Sir Alexander, the father, was born about 1521. On the death of his brother, the regent, in 1672, the lords of the secret council, by the admonition of the estates of parliament, gave to him the charge of the education of the young king, James IV., George Buchanan, David Erskine, commendator of Dryburgh, Adam Erskine, commendator of Cambuskenneth, and Peter Young, acting as his preceptors. He was also governor of the castle of Stirling, the residence of King James during his minority. In the beginning of 1578, he favoured the party which opposed the regent Morton, and at the instigation of that nobleman, the earl of Mar, in April ov that year, seized upon the castle of Stirling, turned his uncle out of that fortress, and became master of the king’s person. Sir Alexander’s eldest son, Alexander Erskine, died during the siege. One account states that he was killed; according to another he died of grief for the indignity done to his father, in depriving him of the government of Stirling castle.

      The same year, Sir Alexander was appointed governor of the castle of Edinburgh, sworn a privy councillor, and in 1580 he became vice-chamberlain of Scotland. He died before 1595. His portrait is in Pinkerton’s Gallery of Scottish Portraits, from an original painting in possession of Erskine of Alva. He was twice married, but had issue only by his first wife, Margaret, only daughter of the fourth Lord Home, three sons and three daughters. His third son, Sir George Erskine of Innerteil, was a lord of session from 15th March 1617 till his death in 1646.

      Sir Thomas Erskine, the second but eldest surviving son, and first earl of Kellie, was born in 1566, the same year as James VI. With his younger brother, George, afterwards Lord Innerteil, he was educated with that monarch from his childhood, and in after life received many signal marks of his favour. In 1585 the king appointed him one of the gentlemen of his bedchamber. He was one of the king’s retinue at Gowrie house, Perth, on 5th August, 1600, during the enactment of what is called the Gowrie conspiracy, and as James passed from the dining-room through the hall where his attendants were, he desired Sir Thomas Erskine to follow him. After Alexander Ruthven had been stabbed by Sir John Ramsay, and thrown down the stairs by the king, his body was found by Erskine, Herries, and others, who speedily despatched him. With Herries and Ramsay he attempted to prevent the entrance of Gowrie and his armed servants into the apartment where the king was, and in the scuffle that ensued he was wounded in the hand. For his conduct on this occasion, he received the third part of the lordship of Dirleton, belonging to Gowrie, by charter dated 15th November, 1600. In the following July he accompanied the duke of Lennox (son of Esme d’Aubigny, cousin of the king’s father, Lord Darnley) in his embassy to France.

      On King James’ accession to the English throne in 1603, Sir Thomas Erskine was one of those whom he selected to attend him to London. The same year he was appointed captain of the yeomen of the guard, in the room of Sir Walter Raleigh. Three years afterwards he was, by patent, dated 18th May, 1606, created Viscount Fenton in the Scots peerage, (being the first person raised to that degree of nobility in Scotland,) to him and the heirs male of his body, whom failing, to his heirs male whatsoever. Besides other lands conferred on him at various times, he had charters of the barony of Kellie, in Fifeshire, 13th July 1613, and of that of Fentontower and Dirleton, united into the lordship of Fenton, 9th July 1618. The following year he was created earl of Kellie, in the Scots peerage, by patent dated 12th March 1619, to him and his heirs male, bearing the name of Erskine. Subsequently he was invested with the order of the Garter. He died at London, 12th June 1639, in his 73d year. With a daughter, he had one son, Alexander, Viscount Fenton, who predeceased him in February 1633, leaving, by his wife, Lady Anne Seton, eldest daughter of the first earl of Dunfermline, high chamberlain of Scotland, Thomas, second earl of Kellie; Alexander, third earl; Sir Charles Erskine of Cambo in Fife, baronet, the founder of that branch of the family, of whom immediately, another son, and three daughters.

      The third son, Sir Charles Erskine, just mentioned, joined the royalists under Middleton in 1654, and was taken prisoner in the Braes of Angus, in November of that year. Installed lord lyon king at arms, 25th September 1665, he was crowned by the earl of Rothes, his majesty’s commissioner, and, on 20th August 1666, was created a baronet of Nova Scotia, by Charles II. Two years afterwards, he purchased, from Sir Thomas Morton, the estate of Cambo, parish of Kingsbarns, Fife, which originally belonged to the Camboes of that ilk. His only son, Sir Alexander Erskine of Cambo, second baronet, received the appointment of lord lyon, on his father’s death in 1677, and was crowned king at arms at Holyrood-house, in presence of James, duke of Albany and York, his majesty’s high commissioner, 27th July 1681. He was appointed joint-keeper of the signet in 1711, and chosen M.P. for the county of Fife, at the general election in 1713. In August 1715, when the earl of Mar landed on the Fife coast, to raise the clans for the Pretender, Sir Alexander Erskine joined him at Crail, with other friends of the Jacobite interest; and he was one of the persons summoned by the lord-advocate to appear at Edinburgh within a specified period, under the pain of a y ear’s imprisonment and other penalties, to give bail for their allegiance to the government. He complied with the summons on the 17th September, and was committed prisoner to the castle of Edinburgh, but on the suppression of the rebellion he was released from custody, and died in 1735. He had six sons, three of whom, named Charles, John, and William, who all died unmarried, successively inherited the title and estate. The fourth son, David, predeceased his immediate elder brother, Sir William, the fifth baronet, leaving six sons. The eldest, Sir Charles, succeeded as sixth baronet in 1780. Thomas the fifth son, became ninth earl of Kellie, and Methven, the youngest son, tenth earl. Sir Charles’ eldest son, Sir William, succeeded as seventh baronet, and dying unmarried, his brother Sir Charles became eighth baronet, and subsequently eighth earl of Kellie.

      Colin, the sixth and youngest son of Sir Alexander Erskine, lord lyon, went, when very young, to Rome to study painting, and marrying there a lady of distinction, he settled in that city, and had a son, Charles Erskine, born at Rome, 13th February, 1753, who was much patronised by Prince Charles Stuart. Admitted on the foundation of the Scots college at Rome, he studied the canon law under the first lawyers in Europe, and by Pope Pius VI. was appointed to the office of Promotore della fide, commonly called the Advocato di Diavolo, it being the province of that officer to dispute the claims of the saints to canonization. In 1792 he was sent to England by the Pope, but though not recognised by the government in a public capacity, he was presented at court as a private gentleman. In 1801 he was raised to the rank of cardinal deacon, and when the Pope (Pius VII.) And his college were driven from Rome by the French in 1809, Cardinal Erskine went, like the others, to Paris, where he was compelled to reside till his death, on 19th March 1811. As he had been deprived of all his revenues, he was generously allowed by George III., a pension of £200 per annum.

      To return to the earls of Kellie. Thomas, the second earl, succeeded his grandfather in 1639, and died, unmarried, 3d February 1643.

      His brother, Alexander, succeeded as third earl. He was a staunch royalist, and colonel of foot for the counties of Fife and Kinross, in the ‘Engagement,’ for the rescue of Charles I. in 1648. Indeed, his loyalty was so conspicuous that a patent was made out, creating him an English baron, but before it could pass the great seal the king was decapitated. Immediately after that event he waited on Charles II. at the Hague, and returned to Scotland on 12th June 1649, with the commissioners who had been sent by the Scots estates to the king in the previous month of March. He was with the army which marched with Charles, on his invasion of England in 1651, and having been taken prisoner after the battle of Worcester, was sent to the Tower of London, Although soon allowed to retire to the Continent, he was excepted out of Cromwell’s act of grace and pardon in 1654, and deprived of great part of his extensive estates. After the restoration, he returned to Scotland, and died in May 1677. He married, first, Mary, daughter of Colonel Kilpatrick, governor of Bois-le-Duc in Holland, and by her had one daughter, Lady Anne, who became the wife of her cousin, Sir Alexander Erskine, second baronet, of Cambo, lord lyon king at arms. By a second wife, Mary, daughter of John Dalzell of Glenae, Dumfries-shire, he had, with a daughter, an only son, Alexander, fourth earl, who died 8th March, 1710. The latter married Lady Ann Lindsay, eldest daughter of the third earl of Balcarres, and had a son, Alexander, fifth earl of Kellie, and a daughter, Lady Jean, the wife of John Scott of Harden, and the mother of the celebrated beauty, Mary Scott. The fourth earl’s widow took, for a second husband, James, Viscount Kingston, attainted after the rebellion of 1715.

      Alexander, fifth earl, hd very nearly lost his title and estates by joining Prince Charles at Edinburgh, after the battle of Preston, in 1745. Included in the act of attainder of the following year, he surrendered himself to the lord-justice-clerk at Edinburgh, 11th July 1746, and was committed prisoner to the castle of Edinburgh. After having been detained there three years and a month, on 8th August 1749, he presented a petition to the high court of justiciary, praying to be brought to trial within sixty days, or to be set at liberty, a process which in Scotland is called “running a prisoner’s letters.” He was accordingly liberated on the 11th October. He appears to have been a person of rather weak intellect. It is related of him that one morning during his confinement, he entered the room of his fellow-prisoners, with a list in his hand of the persons whom the government had resolved not to bring to trial, for their concern in the rebellion. This list commenced with his own name, and closed with that of a Mr. William Fidler, who had been an auditor in the Scottish Exchequer. “Oh! Is it not a wise government,” exclaimed the earl, “to begin wi’ a fule, and end wi’ a fiddler?” He died at Kellie, 3d April, 1756. Twice married, by his second wife, Janet, daughter of Dr. Archibald Pitcairne, the celebrated Jacobite physician, poet, and wit, with three daughters, he had three sons, Thomas Alexander, sixth earl, called the musical earl of Kellie, a memoir of whom is given above [this earl found himself under the necessity of selling the estate which gave him his highest title; but to gratify some of his relations he reserved Kellie castle and a few enclosed fields about it;] Archibald, seventh earl; and the Hon. Andrew Erskine, a minor poet, born about 1739. Having entered the army, he held a lieutenant’s commission in the 71st regiment of foot as early as 1759. On its reduction in 1763, he exchanged from half pay into the 24th regiment of foot, then quartered at Gibraltar. He had previously carried on a kind of literary correspondence, in verse as well as prose, with Mr. James Boswell of Auchinleck, the friend and biographer of Johnson, which was published by Boswell at London, in 1763, in one volume 8vo. Mr. Erskine was the author of the song beginning “How sweet this lone vale.” He was a principal contributor to Donaldson’s collection of ‘Original Poems, by Scots Gentlemen,’ published at Edinburgh, in 1760 and 1762, in two volumes 12mo. His ‘Town Eclogues,’ and other poems, appeared in 1773. Like his brother, Lord Kellie, he was remarkable for his social feelings and witty conversation. He died suddenly in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh about the end of September 1793.

      The daughters were, Lady Elizabeth, who married, first, the eminent antiquarian, Walter Macfarlane, of Macfarlane, and after his death, the fourth Lord Colville of Culross; Lady Jane, and Lady Janet, wife of Sir Robert Anstruther of Balcaskie, baronet, and mother of the gallant brigadier-general, Robert Anstruther, who fell a sacrifice to his unwearied exertions in bringing up the rear of the British army under Sir John Moore, in the disastrous retreat to Corunna in January 1809.

      Archibald, seventh earl, born at Kellie castle, 22d April 1736, entered the army when very young, and was major of the 11th regiment of foot on his accession to the title, on the death of his brother in 1781. In the following year he was promoted to the lieutenant-colonelcy of the 104th foot, and soon after quitted the army, after serving for twenty-six years, and devoted himself chiefly to rural occupations. The known attachment of his family to the exiled house of Stuart is supposed to have retarded his promotion, as he was not raised to that rank in the army to which, by his long service, he was so well entitled. At the general election in 1790, he was chosen one of the sixteen Scots representative peers. To his unwearied exertions it was chiefly owing that, in 1792, the restraints which, by the acts of 1746 and 1748, had been imposed on the Scots Episcopalians, were removed by act of parliament. He also used his utmost efforts to procure a modification of the penal laws affecting the Scots Roman Catholics, for which he received various medals, letters, and other testimonials of gratitude from the pope and other Italian ecclesiastics of high rank. He died at Kellie, 8th May 1797, in his 62d year. As he was unmarried, the title devolved on Sir Charles Erskine of Cambo, seventh baronet of Nova Scotia of that family, as above mentioned.

      Charles, eighth earl of Kellie, was a captain in the Fifeshire light dragoons, and died at Folkestone in Kent, 28th October 1799, unmarried, aged. 35. The titles then devolved on his uncle, Thomas, ninth earl, born about 1745, and appointed in 1775, British consul at Gottenburgh, Marstrand, and other ports on the western coast of Sweden. He was elected on the sixteen Scots representative peers, 14th November 1804, on a vacancy, and rechosen at the general election in 1807. The following year he was invested with the insignia of a knight commander of the royal Swedish order of Vasa. Dying without issue, he was succeeded by his brother, Methven, tenth earl of Kellie, upon whose death in 1829, with issue, the fifteenth earl of Mar, as heir-male general, claimed the earldom of Kellie, with the minor honours of Fenton and Dirleton, and his right was allowed by the House of Lords. (See MAR, earl of.)

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