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Historic Earls and Earldoms of Scotland
Chapter III - Earldom and Earls of Huntly
Section XIII


THE late Marquis was succeeded by his eldest son, George, second Marquis of Huntly, who during the lifetime of his father was known as Earl of Enzie and Lord Gordon. As mentioned in the last section, he married Lady Anne Campbell, a daughter of the Earl of Argyle. In 1609 he was commissioned to suppress the "Knights of the Morter," otherwise "The Society of the Boyes," a secret organization of Aberdeenshire men, who were rather much inclined to use the dirk, pistol, and claymore upon the slightest occasion and to break the peace by their brawls. They were banded together by an oath to avenge their mutual wrongs, and roamed throughout the country and pillaged whoever they pleased. Their oppression and contempt of the laws attracted the attention of the Privy Council, who denounced them "as an infamous byk of lawlass lymmars and a foul reproach to any country." They were, however, very difficult to suppress, and Enzie’s efforts against them were not very successful.

In March, 1618, he received a Commission of Justiciary to apprehend and try all persons suspected of murder, theft, and reset of theft, within the Lordship of Badenoch and Lochaber. In 1622, he received a commission to proceed against his relative, the turbulent Earl of Caithness; but his efforts were unavailing, and he petitioned to be relieved of the chief duty of his commission against the Earl of Caithness.

In the spring of 1623, he received a licence from the King to go abroad to any part of Christendom and stay for seven years. He was accompanied by a number of young gentlemen, and in 1624 he was appointed captain in the Scots Bodyguard of the King of France. He served with tact and distinction in Alsace and Lorraine, which was recognised and highly appreciated by the French King.

He was recalled by his father to assist in suppressing disorder in the north. He again went to France in 1633, where he stayed until after his father’s death, and returned to Strathbogie on the 23rd of June, 1637, and was heartily welcomed by his friends and retainers.

The second Marquis of Huntly, on his return home, found the kingdom entering on a trying period of its history—the Covenanting struggle. Huntly continued loyal to Charles I., and exerted himself on his behalf. The Covenanters made an effort to induce the Marquis to join them; it is said that they offered him the leadership of the movement, and also promised to discharge the family debt, which then exceeded £100,000. In the event of the Marquis refusing these offers, then they would adopt measures to ruin him and his family. This much is certain, that whatever proposals the Covenanters offered to the Marquis were rejected by him, as he avowed his intention to stand fast to the King’s cause, as his ancestors had done.

He proceeded to Aberdeen and endeavoured to keep the citizens loyal, and encouraged them to take up arms against the Covenanters. On the 16th of March, 1639, the Marquis received a Royal Commission of Lieuteniancy, and mustered his followers; and on the 25th of March, he was at Inverurie with a force of 5000 men. When he received tidings that the Covenanters were marching to the north under the command of the Earl of Montrose, he knew that, without assistance from England, he could not face the enemy. Montrose marched into Aberdeen on the 30th of March, at the head of an army of 6000 men; and the Covenanters of the surrounding country joined him with other 3000 men. Leaving a garrison in Aberdeen, he advanced on Inverurie, where he quartered his troops upon the opponents of the Covenant. Huntly, seeing no hope of aid from the south, sought an interview with Montrose, and they met at Inverurie. On the 5th of April a compromise was arranged, by which Huntly agreed to maintain the laws, liberties, and religion of the Kingdom, but his Roman Catholic friends were not to be pressed to sign the Covenant; Montrose agreed to withdraw from the north if Huntly disbanded his army, which he did, and returned to Strathbogie.

A few days after, the Marquis was invited to Aberdeen under a safe-conduct signed by Montrose and the other leaders of the army, and arrived at the city on the 12th of April. Montrose’s object was soon manifested. He had entrapped Huntly, and made him a prisoner in a very treacherous manner. The Marquis and his eldest son, Lord Gordon, were immediately conveyed as prisoners to Edinburgh. On arriving at the capital, Huntly was pressed to take the Covenant, but he replied—"For my part, I am in your power; and resolved not to leave that foul title of traitor as an inheritance upon my posterity. You may take my head from my shoulders, but not my heart from my sovereign." The Marquis and his son were imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle. Thus the King’s hope of a rising in his favour in the North was blasted.

Yet, Huntly’s second son, James, the young Viscount Aboyne, mustered the clan himself, with the object of preventing Montrose from wasting the lands of Strathbogie. He raised a considerable number of men, and took possession of Aberdeen. But he was soon forced to disband his army. He then went on board a ship and proceeded to the King, who promised him assistance, and appointed him to the office of Lieutenant held by his father. Aboyne returned to Aberdeen, and, being joined by the Farquharsons of Strathdee, he mustered a force of about 2000 men. He advanced to Kintore, and compelled the people to swear allegiance to the King. Shortly after his army was defeated by Earl Marischal in the vicinity of Stonehaven. A few days later a party of the Gordons defeated the advance guard of Montrose’s army. Viscount Aboyne again resolved to make a stand and dispute the passage of the Bridge of Dee. On the 17th of June he ordered his men to muster. Only a small number assembled, but barricades were hastily thrown up at the south port of the bridge. On the following day Aboyne marched to the bridge with 200 musketeers and a small number of mounted men. He held the bridge against Montrose army for two days. But at last Montrose sent a body of men and horse up the south side of the river, moving as if they intended to ford it. This had the desired effect, Aboyne, with a company of the defenders, left the bridge and advanced up the north side of the river; then Montrose opened fire upon them, and at the same time redoubled the attack on the bridge. At four in the afternoon the bridge was taken. Montrose marched in triumph into the city. Aboyne managed with difficulty to escape to England.

Under the arrangements between the King and the Covenanters of the 18th of June, 1639, the Marquis of Huntly and his eldest son were liberated from prison on the 20th of the month. They proceeded to the King in England. During their absence their friends in the north had been subjected to very harsh treatment by the Covenanting generals—Argyle and Munro. While the Marquis was in prison his three daughters, Ann, Henrietta, and Jane, had been married respectively to the Earl of Perth, Earl of Haddington, and Lord Seton. These marriages were arranged by Argyle—Huntly’s brother-in-law. Thus Argyle became bound for each of their tochers, and in 1641, to secure him, Huntly granted wadsets of Badenoch and Lochaber to him. The late troubles had involved the Marquis in many difficulties, from which he endeavoured to extricate himself.

When the struggle between the King and the Scottish Parliament recommenced in earnest, Huntly continued faithful to the Royal cause. In July, 1643, he was summoned to appear before the Scottish Parliament, but he did not appear, and the Committee of Estates—then the ruling body in Scotland—made the utmost efforts to capture him. He had an interview with Montrose in June, 1643. Acting under his commission of Lieutenant of the North, he ordered his clan and vassals to muster at Aboyne; and about 800 men on foot and 200 mounted men assembled. Thence he marched to Aberdeen, and issued a proclamation announcing that he was acting in self-defence. On the 24th of April, 1644, he was excommunicated. The Marquis was placed in an extremely trying position. It appears that he was averse to strong measures.

There is also evidence that the Earl of Argyle had in various ways contrived to hamper the Marquis’s action. The hold that Argyle had acquired over portions of the Gordon estates was used to cripple the Marquis. Argyle managed to induce Lord Gordon and Lewis Gordon, Huntly’s sons, to join the Covenanters and fight on their side. Thus, it was not surprising that on the approach of Argyle at the head of an army of 6000 men, Huntly disbanded his followers. How could he have fought against his own children?

A reward of 18,000 marks was offered for the capture of the Marquis of Huntly. He then fled to the wilds of Sutherland for refuge.

Argyle pillaged the Marquis’s lands. He also wasted the lands of the young laird of Drum, whose wife was Lady Mary Gordon, Argyle’s own niece.

The Earl of Montrose, who had been an ardent Covenanter, turned round to the King’s side, was commissioned by his Majesty, and raised the Royal standard in Perthshire, in August, 1644. He was soon at the head of 3000 men, many of whom were Irish Roman Catholics. In a short time a number of the Highlanders rose at the call of Montrose to fight for the King. He concentrated his men at Blair-Athole. There were then three bodies of armed men in the field against him. Argyle was advancing from the west, another army was stationed at Aberdeen, and a third under Lord Elcho, consisting of the men of Fife and lower parts of Perthshire, to keep him in check if he attempted to advance along the valley of the Tay. Montrose resolved to attack Lord Elcho’s force.

He drew up his men three deep and extended his line to the utmost, and presented a front as long as the enemy’s. On the afternoon of September 1st, 1644, he attacked the Covenanters under Lord Elcho, and the first onset of the Highlanders threw them into confusion, and in an instant Elcho’s army was routed and flying in all directions. Two thousand of the Covenanters were slain in the pursuit. In the evening Montrose was master of Perth.

On the 4th of September Montrose commenced his march on Aberdeen. The Marquis of Huntly could not make up his mind to join with Montrose, which was not surprising, seeing how he had before entrapped and betrayed him. The Covenanters, numbering about 2000 foot and 500 horse, were posted on rising ground on the westward side of the city. On the morning of the 13th of September, Montrose reached the vicinity of Aberdeen. He summoned the Magistrates to surrender the town, but they declined. He then prepared for battle, and placed his horse on the wings of his line. He began the attack, and, after a severe engagement, the Covenanters were completely defeated and fled in confusion. Montrose’s army entered the town, massacred the unarmed citizens on the streets, and sacked the city. These cruel proceedings greatly heightened the hatred of the Lowland people against Montrose.

He appealed to the Gordons for assistance, but they refused to move; and he was forced to betake himself to the mountains. After a time, however, Lord Gordon, Viscount Aboyne, and many of the Gordon clan joined Montrose.

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