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 Scottish Nation

SEAFORTH, earl of, a title (attainted) in the peerage of Scotland, conferred by James VI. 3rd December 1623, on Colin, second Lord Mackenzie of Kintail, to him and his heirs male. He married Lady Margaret Seton, third daughter of the first earl of Dunfermline, high-chancellor of Scotland, and had by her two daughters. Having no male issue, at his death, 15th April, 1633, his titles devolved upon his brother of the half-blood, George, second earl of Seaforth.

This nobleman was one of those who were opposed to the unconstitutional and high-handed attempt of Charles I. to establish English episcopacy in Scotland. In 1639 he joined a large body of the Covenanters assembled north of the Spey, who were placed under his command. For the purpose of opposing their advance, the Gordons crossed the river, but an agreement was entered into between both parties that, on their repassing the Spey, Seaforth and his men should also retire to their own country. Soon after, on receipt of a dispatch from the earl (afterwards marquis) of Montrose, containing the intelligence of the pacification of Berwick, he disbanded his army, and returned home.

In February 1645, when Montrose, then opposed to the Covenanters, was laying waste part of Moray, a committee of the estates, consisting of the earl of Seaforth, his brother the Hon. Thomas Mackenzie of Pluscardine, the laird of Innes, Sir Robert Gordon, and others, was sitting at Elgin. On hearing of his approach, they went notice through the town, by beat of drum, prohibiting the holding of the fair annually kept there on Fastren’s eve, lest the property brought into the town for sale might be seized by Montrose’s soldiers. They also sent a deputation to treat with him, but he refused to enter into any negotiation. Before, however, his answer could be received, most of the gentry assembled in Elgin had fled from the town in consequence of his rapid advance. The earl of Seaforth remained, and, with his brother, Mackenzie of Pluscardine, Sir Robert Gordon, the lairds of Grant and Findrassie, and several other gentlemen, joined his ranks. On his departure from Elgin, on the 4th March, they accompanied him across the Spey. He then allowed them to return home to defend their estates, first exacting from them a solemn oath of allegiance to the king. At the same time he made them come under an engagement to return to him with all their forces as soon as they could do so. The earl, notwithstanding, again went over to the Covenanters. In a letter which he wrote to the committee of estates, at Aberdeen, he stated that he had yielded to Montrose through fear only, and he avowed that he would abide by “the good cause to his death.” (Spalding, vol. ii. p. 301.) A detachment from the garrison of Inverness sent out to take vengeance on those gentlemen who had joined Montrose, having entered Elgin, took prisoners there, Mackenzie of Pluscardine and his brother the Hon. Simon Mackenzie of Lochslin, and carried them to Inverness, but they were soon released by the intercession of the earl, who was suspected of having connived at their arrest. In June 1646, his lordship was excommunicated by the General Assembly, for having joined the marquis of Montrose. After the execution of the king in 1649, he repaired to Charles II. in Holland, and was nominated by him principal secretary of state for Scotland. He accompanied the king to Scotland, and with Huntly, Athol, Middleton, and others, entered into a “bond and oath of engagement,” in behalf of the king, and the maintenance of the true religion, as then established in Scotland, the national covenant, and the solemn league and covenant. This being sent to General Leslie by Middleton, a negotiation was begun, which was concluded, on the 4th November 1650, at Strathbogie, agreeably to a treaty between Leslie and the chief royalists, by which the latter accepted an indemnity and laid down their arms. The earl died, soon after, in 1651. By his countess, Barbara, eldest daughter of Arthur, ninth Lord Forbes, he had, with two daughters, two sons, Kenneth, third earl, and the Hon. Colin Mackenzie, whose son, George Mackenzie, M.D., a physician practicing at Edinburgh, was author of the Lives and Characters of the most eminent writers of the Scots nation, in 3 vols. Folio.

In the beginning of 1650, a royalist rising took place in the north, under the Hon. Thomas Mackenzie of Pluscardine, brother of the earl of Seaforth, Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty, Col. John Munro of Lumlair, and Colonel Hugh Fraser. At the head of a number of their friends and followers, they entered the town of Inverness, on the 22d February, expelled the troops from the garrison, and demolished and razed the walls and fortifications of the town. They asserted that the parliament had sent private commissioners to apprehend them, but the fact appears to be that the insurrection took place at the instigation of Charles II., then at the Hague, between whom and Pluscardine a correspondence had been previously opened. General David Leslie was sent to the north with a force to suppress the insurgents, and, on his approach, they fled to the mountains of Ross. Urquhart, Munro, and Fraser, speedily entered into terms, but Pluscardine would listen to no accommodation. Being obliged to proceed into Athol, Leslie left a garrison in the castle of Chanonry, and also three troops of horse in Moray, to watch his motions. On his departure, Pluscardine descended from the mountains and attacked the castle of Chanonry, which he retook. He was, thereupon, joined by his nephew, Lord Reay, at the head of 300 men. He was also joined by Lord Ogilvy and General Middleton, who induced him to advance southward into Badenoch, where they were joined by the marquis of Huntly, and took the castle of Ruthven. A portion of his men were surprised and defeated by Leslie at Balveny, and Pluscardine and the rest, on giving security to keep the peace, were allowed to return to their homes. In the Scots army which invaded England under Charles II., and was defeated at Worcester in 1651, the laird of Pluscardine was one of the colonels of foot for Inverness and Ross.

Kenneth, third earl of Seaforth, the elder son of the second earl, was excepted out of Cromwell’s act of grace and pardon, 1654. His estate was forfeited, and he was imprisoned till the Restoration. He had a commission of the office of sheriff of Ross, 23d April 1662, renewed to him and Kenneth, Lord Kintail, his elder son, 31st July 1675. He died in December 1678. By his countess, Isabel, daughter of Sir John Mackenzie of Tarbat, baronet, sister of the first earl of Cromarty, he had, with two daughters, two sons, Kenneth, fourth earl, and the Hon. John Mackenzie of Assynt.

Kenneth, fourth earl, was nominated one of the knights of the Thistle on the revival of that order by James VII. in 1687, and sworn a privy councilor. At the Revolution he adhered to King James, and according to Douglas’ Peerage he followed him to France and attended him to Ireland. He afterwards returned home, and undertook to join Major-general Buchan at Inverness with a body of the northern clans. On the approach of General Mackay to Inverness, after the skirmish of Cromdale in 1690, the earl sent two gentlemen of his clan to him, to endeavour to make his peace with the government. They stated that although in honour he was bound to make appear as if he favoured King James, they were authorized to assure him that he had never entertained any design either of molesting the government or of joining Major-general Buchan in his intended attack of Inverness, and they offered, on the earl’s part, any security that might be required for his peaceable behaviour in future. In reply, Mackay declared that no security short of the surrender of the earl’s own person, as a prisoner, would satisfy him, and that if he failed to comply, his territory would be destroyed by fire and sword. Thereafter, Mackay was waited upon by the earl’s mother, the countess-dowager of Seaforth, and Mackenzie of Coul, who brought him a letter from the earl, stating that he would accede to such conditions as might be agreed upon between them. It was accordingly arranged that the earl should deliver himself into Mackay’s hands, to be kept as a prisoner at Inverness till the privy council should decide as to his future disposal, and to conceal this arrangement from the Jacobite party, it was farther agreed that the earl should allow himself to be seized as if by surprise, by a party of horse under Major Mackay, at one of his seats during the night. The earl, however, disappointed the party sent to apprehend him, in excuse for which, both he and his mother, in letters to Mackay, pleaded the state of his health, which they alleged would suffer from imprisonment. Irritated at the deception practiced upon him, Mackay resolved to visit the earl’s vassals “with all the rigour of military execution,” and accordingly sent orders for a large body of men, to be placed under the command of one Major Wishart, who was to harry the upper part of the earl’s country, while Mackay himself, with his cavalry and three battalions of foot, intended to lay waste the lower parts. Having, however, a warm feeling for the earl’s friends, on account of their being “all Protestants, and none of the most dangerous enemies,” as he says, and being more desirous to obtain possession of the earl’s person than to ruin his followers, he caused information of his intentions to be sent to Seaforth’s camp, by some of his own party, as if from a feeling of friendship to him. Contrary to Mackay’s anticipation, Seaforth surrendered himself, and was committed prisoner to the castle of Inverness. Mackay was directed by the privy council, by warrant, dated 7th October 1690, “to transport the person of Kenneth, earl of Seaforth, with safety from Inverness to Edinburgh, in such way and manner as he should think fit.” In consequence, he was entered a prisoner within the castle of Edinburgh, on 6th November following, whence he was liberated on 7th January 1692, on finding caution to appear when called upon. He was bound not to go ten miles beyond Edinburgh. He was again imprisoned, but made his escape, and was apprehended at Pencaitland on 7th May 1692, and again kept in close confinement, within the castle of Edinburgh. He was afterwards liberated, on giving security for his peaceable behaviour. (Records of the Privy Council). He subsequently went to France, and was by the exiled monarch created marquis of Seaforth. He died at Paris in January 1701. By his countess, Lady Frances Herbert, second daughter of the marquis of Powis, he had, with one daughter, two sons, William, fifth earl, and the Hon. Colonel Alexander Mackenzie.

William, fifth earl, engaged in the rebellion of 1715, and joined the earl of Mar at Perth, with the northern clans, about the beginning of November of that year. His march was at first impeded by the earl of Sutherland, at the head of a considerable number of his own men, and of the Mackays, Rosses, Monroes, and others, but he compelled them to disperse, and at Alness, where he took up his quarters, he collected a large quantity of booty from the lands of the Monroes. After spending some days there, he proceeded to Perth with about 3,000 foot and 800 horse, having left a sufficient force behind to protect his own country, and keep the loyal clans in check. He was at the battle of Sheriffmuir, and afterwards was dispatched to the north, for the purpose of collecting forces, and of attempting the reduction of Inverness, which important town had been captured for the government by a party of the Frasers, Grants, and others, under the command of Simon Fraser of Beaufort, afterwards the celebrated Lord Lovat. The earl afterwards retired into the island of Lewis, where he collected a considerable body of his men. A detachment of government forces under the command of Colonel Cholmondeley, was sent against him, and on the appearance of this force, the earl crossed into Ross-shire, whence he escaped to France. He was attainted by act of parliament, and his estates forfeited. In April 1719, with the marquis of Tullibardine and the earl Marischal, he landed in Kintail, Ross-shire, with a party of Spaniards, and was joined by some Highlanders, chiefly of his own clan. He was dangerously wounded in an engagement with the government soldiers at Glensheil, in which he commanded the Highlanders, and was carried on board a vessel by his followers. With Marischal, Tullibardine, and the other officers, he retired to the western isles, and thereafter escaped to France. Although his estates were forfeited, so strong was the attachment of his clan, particularly the Macraes and Maclennans, to his person and family, that government found it impossible to collect the rents, and for some years they were regularly went to the chief himself in his exile in France. After the passing of the disarming act in 1725, General Wade, who had proceeded to Inverness, for the purpose of carrying it into execution, was waited upon by a body of about 150 gentlemen of the name of Mackenzie, headed by Lord Tarbet, Sir Colin Mackenzie of Coul, and Sir Kenneth Mackenzie of Cromarty. On the part of Seaforth’s tenants and vassals, they stated that they would not give up their arms till they knew how they were to be received; that their rents had for several years been uplifted by Daniel Murdochson, the earl’s factor or servant, and that they were not able to pay them a second time, but if they were discharged of these rents, they would pay them in future to the government, deliver up their arms, and live peaceably. Wade, who, according to Lockhart, was “a good enough tempered man,” at once acceded to this request, and told the deputation that if the clan performed what had been promised, he would endeavour, in the next session of parliament, to procure a pardon for Seaforth and his friends. After being well entertained for two or three days at Inverness, the deputation, accompanied by Wade and a small body of dragoons, went to Castlebran, where the arms of the clan were delivered up, but not until Murdochson had secreted all those of any value. (Lockhart Papers, vol. ii. p. 196).

Wade seems to have been as good as his word, for by letters patent, dated 12th July 1726, the earl was by George I. discharged from the penal consequences of his attainder, so far as imprisonment or the execution of his person was concerned, and King George II. made him a grant of the arrears of feu duties due to the crown out of his forfeited estates. He died in the island of Lewis, 8th January 1740.

The eldest son, Kenneth, Lord Fortrose, was chosen M.P. for the Inverness burghs in 1741, and for Ross-shire in 1747 and 1754. During the rebellion of 1745-6, he showed the utmost zeal in favour of the government. He died at London, Oct. 19, 1761, and was buried in Westminster Abbey. By his countess, Lady Mary Stewart, eldest daughter of the 6th earl of Galloway, he had a son, Kenneth, and six daughters. Mary, the 2d daughter, the 2d wife of Henry Howard, Esq. of Arundel, had a son, General Kenneth Alexander Howard, who, on the decease, without issue, of Richard Howard, 4th earl of Effingham, in the peerage of England, Dec. 11, 1816, succeeded him as 11th Lord Howard of Effingham, and in 1838 was created earl of Effingham in the peerage of Great Britain.

Kenneth Mackenzie, Lord Fortrose’s only son, born at Edinburgh, January 15, 1744, purchased his grandfather’s forfeited estate from the crown. He was created Baron Ardelve and Viscount Fortrose in the peerage of Ireland, in 1766, and earl of Seaforth, in the Irish peerage, in 1771. In 1778, he raised the 78th regiment, called Seaforth’s Highlanders, afterwards the 72d. Appointed colonel, he accompanied the regiment to the East Indies, but died on the passage in August 1781. By his countess, Lady Caroline Stanhope, eldest daughter of the 2d earl of Harrington, he had one daughter, Lady Caroline Mackenzie, married to Count Melford. As the earl died without male issue, his titles became extinct, and his estates were purchased by his cousin and heir-male, Colonel Thomas Frederick Mackenzie Humberston, grandson of Hon. Colonel Alexander Mackenzie, 2d son of Kenneth, 4th earl of Seafield. Colonel Mackenzie Humberston, with 4 daughters, had an only son, Major William Mackenzie, who married Mary, only daughter of Matthew Humberston, a gentleman of an ancient family, Lincolnshire, and had three sons and three daughters.

Colonel Thomas Frederick Mackenzie Humberston, the Major’s eldest son, born in 1754, assumed the surname of Humberston, on succeeding to that estate. Having raised a battalion of foot, he embarked with it in spring 1781, for the East Indies, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. Appointed to a separate command on the Malabar coast, he took the city of Calicut, as well as every other place of strength in the kingdom. Tippoo Saib proceeded against him, but was repulsed, and on attempting to force the fort of Panami held by Humberston, defeated with great slaughter. In 1782 Col. Humberston served with distinction under General Matthews against Hyder Ali, and on that officer being superseded by Col. Macleod, accompanied the latter from Bombay, in April 1783, when he sailed to assume the command. Falling in with a squadron of large ships of war belonging to the Mahrattas, their small vessel was attacked and taken possession of, after a desperate engagement, in which the greater number on board were killed. Among the wounded was Col. Humberston, who died of his wounds at Gerish, a seaport of the Mahrattan, April 30, 1783, aged 28.


SEAFORTH, Baron, a title in the peerage of Great Britain, conferred in 1797, on Francis Mackenzie Humberston, brother of Colonel Thomas Frederick Mackenzie Humberston, above mentioned, whom he succeeded, on his death in April 1783, in his estates of Seaforth and Humberston. In 1784, he was elected M.P. for Ross-shire, and in 1790 re-chosen. In 1792, letters of service were issued to him to raise a regiment, and the Ross-shire Highlanders were, accordingly, embodied, 10th February 1793. Of this corps, the first regiment raised in the war against revolutionary France, he was appointed lieutenant-colonel commandant. It was numbered the 78th, being the same number as that of the regiment raised by the last earl of Seaforth in 1779. In 1794, a second battalion was raised by him. Mr. Humberston was appointed lord-lieutenant of Ross-shire, and created a British peer, by the title of Lord Seaforth, Baron Mackenzie of Kintail, to him and the heirs male of his body, 26th October 1797. Having resigned the command of the 78th foot, his lordship was, in 1798, constituted colonel of the Ross-shire regiment of militia. In November 1800, he was appointed governor of Barbadoes, and early the following year he sailed for that island. During his administration a planter having killed one of his own slaves, was tried for the murder, and acquitted, the law considering that such an act was not murder. When proved, which was very seldom the case, the crime was punishable only by a fine of £15 currency. Lord Seaforth resolved to put an end to the practice of slave-killing, which was not unfrequent on the island. He procured an act from the Barbadian legislature making it felony to kill a slave, and, thereupon, sailed to England, to obtain for it the sanction of the crown. Soon after his return, another slave was killed by his owner. The latter was tried, convicted, and sentenced to be hanged for murder, under the new act. At the time appointed, the condemned prisoner was brought out for execution, but so strong was the public feeling against the new law that the ordinary executioner was not to be found. The governor then required the sheriff to perform his office, either in person or by deputy, but, after some excuses, he absolutely refused. His lordship then addressed the guard of soldiers, stating that “whoever would volunteer to be executioner should be subsequently protected, as well as rewarded then.” One presented himself, and it thenceforth became as dangerous to kill a slave as a freeman in Barbadoes. His lordship’s introduction of this law rendered him very unpopular in Barbadoes, and he quitted that island in 1806. In 1808 he became lieutenant-general in the army. He died 11th January 1815, in his 60th year. With six daughters, he had four sons, all of high promise, who all predeceased him. His eldest daughter, the Hon. Mary Frederika Elizabeth, married at Barbadoes, in November 1804, Sir Samuel Hood, K.B., one of the commissioners for Trinidad, elected M.P. for Westminster in 1806. After his death she took for her second husband Mr. Stewart Mackenzie. Referring to Lord Seaforth’s death and his having outlived the last of his sons, Sir Walter Scott, in a letter to Mr. Morritt, M.P., dated 19th January 1815, says, “What a pity it is he should have outlived his promising young representative. His state was truly pitiable; -- all his fine faculties lost in paralytic imbecility, and yet not entirely so but that he perceived his deprivation as in a glass darkly. Sometimes he was fretful and anxious because he did not see his son; sometimes he expostulated and complained that his boy had been allowed to die without his seeing him; and, sometimes, in a less clouded state of intellect, he was sensible of, and lamented his loss in its fullest extent.” He then refers to a prophecy that when there should be a deaf Caberfae, the house of Seaforth should fail. The chief of the clan Mackenzie was called Caberfae in the Celtic, from a stag’s head forming the crest of the family. It is stated in a note to the above passage in Lockhart’s Life of Scott, (Edition in 1 vol. 8vo, 1845, p. 307), that the prophecy alluded to, is also mentioned by Sir Humphrey Davy in one of his Journals. “It connected the fall of the house of Seaforth not only with the appearance of a deaf Caberfae, but with the contemporaneous appearance of various different physical misfortunes in several of the other great Highland chiefs; all of which are said – and were certainly believed both by Scott and Davy – to have actually occurred.” Mr. Morritt “heard the prophecy quoted in the Highlands at a time when Lord Seaforth had two sons both alive and in good health – so that it certainly was not made après coup.” In Scott’s Poetical Works, (p. 647, Ed. 1841), are some verses on Lord Seaforth’s death. His eldest daughter, the Hon. Mrs. Stewart Mackenzie, succeeded to the family estates.

Return to The Scottish Nation Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus