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Historic Earls and Earldoms of Scotland
Chapter II - Earldom and Earls of Buchan
Section IV


AFTER the extinction of the Comyns and the departure of Henry Beaumont, there were no Earls of Buchan for some time. The extensive territory of the Earldom was much broken up, and divided among other families. None of the subsequent Earls wielded such power and influence in the district and in the government of the kingdom as the Comyns had done.

Henry Beaumont’s claim to the Earldom of Buchan was admitted in 1323. It appears, however, that he failed to obtain possession of the Earldom till after the death of Randolph, Earl of Moray and Regent of Scotland, which occurred on the 20th of July, 1332. Eleven days after the death of Randolph, Edward Baliol appeared in the Firth of Forth with a fleet, and immediately landed his troops on the coast of Fifeshire. His force numbered three thousand men on foot and four hundred cavalry; and his most ardent supporters were Henry Beaumont, who claimed the Earldom of Buchan, Lord Wake of Liddel, and Henry Percy. Among Baliol’s Scottish supporters, the most notable was the Earl of Athole, whose territories in Athole and Strathbogie were forfeited by Robert I. There were many others under Baliol’s banner hungering for land in Scotland, and pretending that they had claims to it. Thus Baliol’s followers were animated by strong motives. Accordingly, they marched to Strathearn with remarkable rapidity and spirit, surprised the Scottish army under Mar, the Regent, at Dupplin on the 11th of August, and completely defeated the Scots. Mar himself, Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick, the Earl of Monteith, and many of the Scots were slain. The following day Baliol took possession of Perth.

On the 24th of September Baliol was crowned at Scone He then proceeded southward to Roxburgh, surrendered the independence of Scotland to Edward III., and gave up Berwick and the territories on the border to his Lord Superior. To support Baliol and ruin Scotland—Edward III., within five years, led in person four successive invasions into the Kingdom. In his last invasion, 1336, at the head of a great army he proceeded to Perth, thence marched to Aberdeen, wasting the country, and burning villages and towns along his route. He advanced through the counties of Aberdeen and Banff, crossed the Spey, and marched onward till he reached Inverness. Sir Andrew Moray, the Regent, wisely avoided a battle, but he harassed the enemy most effectively; and Edward III. returned to England without subduing Scotland. Baliol, when left to his own resources, soon disclosed his nakedness. He became an object of hatred, suspicion, and contempt among all classes of the Scots, and in 1339 he finally fled from the kingdom, and assumed his natural position as a pensioned dependent on England.

In 1335 Henry Beaumont, Earl of Buchan, was staying in his Castle of Dundarg, when he was captured by the Scots. But, on the payment of a very large ransom he was permitted to return to England.

The next Earl of Buchan was Alexander Stewart, the third son of Robert II., who was also Lord of Badenoch. He was a restless and fierce man, and earned for himself the name of "The Wolf of Badenoch." Among other oppressive acts he took possession of some lands which belonged to the Bishopric of Moray. For this he was excommunicated; but he retaliated by advancing with a body of his followers in 1390, and burned down the grand Cathedral of Elgin and a part of the city. Yet the Church of that day was too strong for him, and he was compelled to do penance for his reckless outrage. He died in 1394, leaving no legitimate issue; but he left several natural sons.

Shortly after the burning of the cathedral, one of his sons, Duncan Stewart, led a party of his followers across the mountains which divide the counties of Aberdeen and Forfar, and plundered the Lowlands. In 1392 Duncan made another raid; and the landed men of the district, headed by Sir Walter Ogilvie, Sheriff of Angus, mustered and met him at Gasklune, near the Water of Isla; but he completely defeated them. Ogilvie, the sheriff, his brother, and others were slain. The Government, in a general council held at Perth, ordered Duncan Stewart and his accomplices to be proclaimed outlaws for the slaughter of Walter Ogilvie and others. Another son of the Lord of Badenoch and Earl of Buchan, was Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar, and hero of Harlaw, who has been characterised in preceding sections.

After the death of Alexander Stewart, the Earldom of Buchan was conferred on John Stewart, a son of the Duke of Albany. This Earl gained distinction as an officer in the service of France. He fought in the French army at the battle of Beauge against the English, who were under the command of the Duke of Clarence. In this action, Clarence was slain, the Earl of Buchan having stunned and unhorsed him by a blow of his mace; and the English were defeated. For this Charles VII. conferred on the Earl of Buchan the sword of the Constable of France. He was killed at the battle of Verneuil, on the 27th of August, 1424. He left no legitimate issue, and the Earldom went to his brother, Murdoch, Duke of Albany and Regent of Scotland.

But after the return of James I. in 1424, he resolved to punish the Albany branch of his own kindred. On the 13th of May, 1424, Sir Walter Stewart, eldest son of the Duke of Albany; Malcolm Fleming, brother-in-law of Albany; and Thomas Boyd, a member of the Kilmarnock family, were arrested and imprisoned; and towards the end of this year, the Earl of Lennox, father-in-law of Albany, and Sir Robert Graham, were seized and imprisoned. This was the prelude to a desperate move and tragedy meditated by the King.

He summoned a Parliament, which met at Perth on the 12th of March, 1425. On the ninth day of the Parliament, the Duke of Albany and his son, Sir Alexander Stewart; the Earls of Douglas, March, and Angus; William Hay of Erroll; Sir Alexander Seton of Gordon; Sir Alexander Irvine of Drum; and others—in all thirty barons and knights—were arrested. At the same time the King seized the castles of Falkland and Doune, and imprisoned Albany’s wife in the castle of Tantallon. These proceedings astonished the Scottish barons and knights; but the move was specially directed against the Duke of Albany and his family, so the other barons were released after a very short imprisonment.

In May, Parliament reassembled at Stirling, and prepared to settle the doom of Albany and his family. A court was held in Stirling Castle on, the 26th of May, 1426. Walter Stewart, the eldest son of Albany, was tried before the King and a jury of twenty-one barons; he was found guilty, condemned, and immediately beheaded. The following day, the King’s own cousin, the Duke of Albany, and his son, Alexander, and the aged Earl of Lennox, were tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. They were all executed before the Castle of Stirling. Albany and his sons were men of stalwart and commanding presence, and their hard fate at the hands of the King excited much sympathy amongst the people.

After the execution of the Duke of Albany, the Earldom of Buchan reverted to the Crown; and it remained in the hands of the Crown till after the death of James II., and in 1469 James III. conferred the Earldom of Buchan on James Stewart, the second son of Sir James Stewart, "the Black Knight of Lorne," by Joan Beaufort, the widow of James I. Thus the new Earl was the King’s uncle. The Earl married Margaret Ogilvie, the heiress of Sir Alexander Ogilvie of Auchterhouse, by whom he had issue; and he took the titles of Earl of Buchan and Lord Auchterhouse.

In 1467, James Ill, granted to his uncle and his wife the lands of the Baronies of Strathalva and Down, with the Castle of Banff, and the fishings of the water of Deveron.

When the southern barons entered into a conspiracy against the King, the Earl of Buchan naturally continued loyal. The King crossed the Forth, and passed into the north-eastern counties, where a strong force rallied round him. He then marched southward, and came in sight of the rebellious barons at Blackness in West Lothian, and the Earl of Buchan attacked and drove back the left wing of the insurgent army. Negotiations were opened, and the Earl of Buchan insisted on severe measures against the insurgent nobles; but the Earls of Huntly and Erroll were opposed to this, and they retired to the north. It was evident, however, that Buchan’s view was right. A pacification was arranged in May, 1488, in which the barons promised to return to their allegiance and maintain the rights of the Crown and the peace of the kingdom; and thereupon the King disbanded his army and returned to Edinburgh.

But the disaffected barons remained in arms, with the young Prince James at their head, against his father. The King again mustered an army, and advanced towards Stirling to secure the passage of the Forth, but the gates of the castle were closed against him, as the governor had joined the insurgent barons. On the 11th of June, 1488, the two armies approached each other at a small brook called the Sauchie Burn, about a mile from the field of Bannockburn. An engagement ensued. Although the Royal troops were greatly outnumbered, the action was fiercely contested; but at last the king’s men were driven back and defeated by the charges of the border spearmen. The King, in retiring from the field, was thrown from his horse, and some of the rebels came up and killed him. Thus fell James III., in the thirty-seventh year of his age, and the twenty-eighth of his reign.

The victorious barons passed the night on the field of battle. On the following morning they proceeded to Linlithgow, issued a proclamation, and immediately seized the Royal treasure and the reins of Government The Earls of Buchan, Huntly, and Lennox, Lord Forbes and others, who fought for James III., were summoned to appear before Parliament and answer to a charge of treason. Parliament met at Edinburgh on the 6th of October, 1488, and proceeded to consider the position of those who had been summoned for treason. The Earl of Buchan appeared and tendered his submission; and he was pardoned and restored to power. None of the others who was cited appeared, and consequently their possessions were placed at the disposal of Parliament.

In 1489 the Earls of Huntly and Lennox, Lord Forbes, and others, rose in arms against the party in power. But after a short struggle the rising was suppressed. The new King, James IV., was not at all inclined to treat harshly those who had supported his father; and the young ruler soon became popular.

The Earl of Buchan died in 1499, and was succeeded by his son, Alexander, second Earl of Buchan. He died in 1508, and was succeeded by his son, John, third Earl of Buchan. He married Margaret, daughter of James Scrymgeour of Dudhope, Constable of Dundee, by whom he had issue. John Stewart, Master of Buchan, fought and fell on the disastrous field of Pinkie, in 1547. Earl John was succeeded by his grand-daughter, Christian, Countess of Buchan, in 1551. She married Robert Douglas, second son of Sir Robert Douglas of Lochleven, and in 1574 a charter of the Earldom, together with Earlshill, was granted to him and the Countess. Their son, James Douglas, was served heir to his father in 1583, and to his mother in 1588, as fifth Earl of Buchan. He married Margaret Ogilvie, a daughter of Lord Deskford. The Earl died in 1601, leaving an only daughter as heiress—Mary Douglas, Countess of Buchan.

She married James Erskine, a son of John, twentieth Earl of Mar. Thus James Erskine in right of his wife became sixth Earl of Buchan. He was one of the Lords of the Bedchamber to Charles I., and usually resided in England. The Countess died in 1628, leaving an only son and two daughters. Earl James died in 1640, and was succeeded by his son, James, seventh Earl of Buchan. He died in 1664, and was succeeded by his only son, William, eighth Earl of Buchan. At the Revolution of 1688, the Earl supported the cause of James VII., and appeared in arms against the new Government. He was captured and imprisoned in Stirling Castle, but was not brought to trial. He died in Stirling Castle in 1695, leaving no issue.

His kinsman, David Erskine, fourth Lord Cardross, succeeded to the Earldom as ninth Earl of Buchan. After the succession of George I. he was elected a representative peer in 1715, 1722, and 1727. ln 1697 he married Frances, a daughter and heiress of the honourable Henry Fairfax of Hurst, in the county of Berks, and by her he had three sons and two daughters. He died in 1745, and was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, Henry David Erskine, tenth Earl of Buchan.

He was born on the 17th of April, 1710: and married Agnes, a daughter of Sir James Stewart, Baronet, of Goodtrees, by whom he had issue—David Erskine, Lord Cardross, Henry of Almonddell, and Thomas. His second son, Henry, was born in November, 1746. He studied law, and was called to the Scottish bar in 1768.

He was a man of remarkable talents, and soon obtained a wide practice. He was appointed Lord Advocate in 1783, but had to resign office the same year on a change of Government. He was elected Dean of the Faculty of Advocates in 1786. In 1806, on the return of the Whigs to office, he was again appointed Lord Advocate. He was much esteemed for amiability, brilliant wit, and legal knowledge.

Thomas, the Earl’s youngest son, was born in 1750. He served for a short time both in the army and navy; but resigned his commission and directed his attention to the study of law, and was called to the English bar in his twenty-eighth year. He soon took a foremost place at the bar, and some of his speeches are fine specimens of English forensic oratory. In 1783 he entered Parliament as member for Portsmouth; but his success in the House of Commons was not remarkable. In 1806 he was appointed Lord Chancellor, and received the title of Baron Erskine. He held the Great Seal only for a short time, as he had to retire on the dissolution of the Whig Government in the spring of 1807. In 1817 he published a political fragment entitled "Armata," which contains some good remarks on constitutional law and history.

John Stockdale had published a defence of Warren Hastings, composed by the Rev. John Logan, which it was alleged contained a libel upon the House of Commons, and Erskine undertook the defence of Stockdale. The trial took place on the 9th December, 1789, and the following quotation from Erskine’s speech on the occasion refers to the government of India:-

"Gentlemen, I think I can observe that you are touched with this way of considering the subject, and I can account for it. I have not been considering it through the cold medium of books, but have been speaking of man and his nature, and of human dominion, from what I have seen of them myself amongst reluctant nations submitting to our authority. I know what they feel, and how such feelings can alone be suppressed. I have heard them in my youth from a naked savage, addressing the Governor of a British colony, holding a bundle of sticks in his hand, as the notes of an unlettered eloquence. ‘Who is it’ said the jealous ruler over the desert, encroached upon by the restless foot of English adventure, ‘who is it that causes the river to rise in the high mountains and empty itself into the ocean? Who is it that causes to blow the loud winds of winter, and that calms them again in summer? Who is it that rears up the shade of these lofty forests, and blasts them with the quick lightning at his pleasure? The same Being who gave to you a country on the other side of the waters, and gave ours to us; and by this title we will defend it,’ said the warrior, throwing down his tomahawk upon the ground, and raising the war sound of his nation. These are the feelings of subjugated men all round the globe; and, depend upon it, nothing but fear will control where it is vain to look for affection." Erskine died in 1823.

Earl David died in December, 1767, and was succeeded by his eldest son, David Stewart Erskine, eleventh Earl of Buchan. He married Margaret Fraser, a daughter of William Fraser of Fraserfield, in 1771. The Earl engaged little in public affairs; but he took a keen interest in antiquarian and literary subjects.

He died on the 19th of April, 1829, without issue, and was succeeded by his nephew, Henry David Erskine, twelfth Earl of Buchan. In 1809 he married Elizabeth, youngest daughter of Sir Charles Shipley, and by her had issue. He died in 1857, and was succeeded by his son, David Stewart Erskine. thirteenth Earl of Buchan.

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