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


ON the 2nd of February, 1645, Montrose completely defeated Argyle and all his clan at Inverlochy. He then marched northward by Inverness, and when he reached Elgin, Lord Gordon and his brother Lewis joined him, and Viscount Aboyne also joined the conquering hero. Montrose’s career will be detailed afterwards, and only the battles in which the Gordons were engaged will be noticed here.

Montrose had reached the village of Auldearn on the evening of the 8th of May, intending to follow Hurry (the Covenanting general) the next day. But ere dawn on the morning of the 9th of May, Hurry had fronted round, and hoped by a rapid march to surprise Montrose; and, if an untoward incident had not occurred, it seems probable that he would have accomplished his object; but the night was rainy and wetted the powder in the muskets of Hurry’s soldiers, some of whom fired a volley to clear their barrels. It so happened that Montrose’s sentinels heard the sound of the firing, and thus gave him time to post his army in battle array, which he did admirably. The battle raged with the utmost fury, and was long and fiercely contested. Lord Gordon, Viscount Aboyne, and the rest of the Gordons, fought bravely. The greater part of Hurry’s infantry stood their ground with remarkable courage, and were slain on the field.

But Montrose had soon to contend against forces more numerous than his own. General Baillie advanced from Athole northward, crossed the Dee with 2000 men, and was joined in Strathbogie by Hurry with 100 horsemen, the remnant of the army defeated at Auldearn. Montrose’s force was greatly diminished, and, being unable to fight, he marched up the Valley of the Spey for safety. Baillie remained in the north and ravaged Huntly’s lands.

After a time Montrose had again increased his force. He marched in search of Baillie, and found him in a strong position at Keith. Montrose did not venture to attack him, but marched southward, crossed the Don, halted at Alford, and Baillie followed him. On the 2nd of July, 1645, Montrose placed his men in battle array on an elevated position. Baillie crossed the river and prepared for battle. Lord Gordon commanded the right wing of Montrose’s army; Viscount Aboyne fought on the left; and Glengarry led the centre, consisting of the Macdonalds and the Lochaber vassals of Huntly. The battle began and raged furiously with no apparent success on either side; at last Montrose brought up his reserve, and Lord Gordon attacked the Covenanters in flank; and they were completely defeated. Lord Gordon was slain, and many of the Gordons were wounded. A considerable number of the Covenanters were killed.

At the battle of Kilsyth, on the 24th of August, many of the Gordons fought under the command of Viscount Aboyne. Shortly after this battle, Viscount Aboyne left Montrose, and returned to the north.

The Marquis of Huntly, returned from his retreat in Strathnaver, was preparing to take the field, and led his men in person. Huntly had an interview with Montrose at Bog of Gight, but the Marquis declined to co-operate with him. Huntly proceeded to Aberdeen, and on receiving tidings that General Middleton was advancing against him with a large force, he marched up the valley of the Dee, and occupied the Castle of Kinnord. But Middleton turned aside in pursuit of Montrose; and Huntly then returned to Aberdeen. On the 14th of May, 1646, he defeated Colonel Montgomery and captured 350 prisoners. Shortly after, the King sent orders to Huntly and Montrose to lay down their arms.

Afterwards the King sent a secret message to the Marquis requesting him to take the field, and holding out the hope that he himself would join him. But their intentions were discovered. On the approach of General David Leslie and General Middleton, the Marquis retired to Badenoch. The Castle of Strathbogie was taken, and the other strongholds of the Marquis were successively reduced. The Marquis himself was pursued through Glenmoriston, Badenoch, and Lochaber, and had many narrow escapes. Surrounded by a few faithful and brave men, he lived in dens and sequestered spots. General Middleton lay at Strathbogie, whence he sent out parties of troops to search for the Marquis. For some time he had been lying concealed at the farmhouse of Dalnabo, three miles below Inchroy, when his hiding place was discovered by the agents of the Government. Towards the end of December, 1647, Colonel Menzies, with a company of troops, at midnight surrounded Dalnabo. The Marquis had only ten of his faithful retainers around him, yet they made a heroic stand to protect their master against fearful odds. Six of them were killed and the rest wounded before Huntly was made prisoner. When the news of his capture spread, many of the Gordons and Grants rushed to the rescue. James Grant of Carron placed himself at the head of 400 men, and declared that he would rescue Huntly or die in the attempt. The Marquis thanked them for their devotion, but commanded them not to make any such attempt; and then said, "that now, almost worn out with grief and fatigue, he could no longer live in dens and hills, and hoped that his enemies would not drive things to the worst."

Colonel Menzies immediately conveyed the Marquis to Blairfinde in Glenlivet, and thence to Strathbogie. He was carried under a guard to Edinburgh, where he was imprisoned. When Charles I. heard of his capture, he wrote to the Earl of Lanark, and requested him to make the utmost effort to save the Marquis’s life. The Marquis was confined in prison for 16 months. "During this time Argyle possessed himself of his brother-in-law’s estate, and bought up all the comprisings which affected it; took up his residence in the Gordon castles, levied the rents, and left the Gordons to do as best they might." When in prison, the Marquis heard of the execution of Charles I., and also of the death of his own son, Viscount Aboyne.

The Marquis was brought to trial on the 16th of March, 1649, on a charge of treason. He was convicted, and sentenced to death. On the 21st of March, the Committee of Estates ordered the Magistrates of Edinburgh to receive the person of George Gordon, late Marquis of Huntly, from the constable of the Castle of Edinburgh, and to cause the aforesaid George to be brought to the place of execution, and there to see the sentence of Parliament executed. In his last moments Huntly manifested remarkable fortitude. He said to the people that he was going to die for having employed some years of his life in the service of the King, his master; that he was sorry he was not the first of his Majesty’s subjects who had suffered for his cause, so glorious in itself that it sweetened to him all the bitterness of death. He declared that he forgave those who had voted for his death, although he would not admit that he had done anything contrary to the law; and, after embracing some of his friends, submitted his neck to the fatal instrument, at the Market Cross of Edinburgh, on the 22nd of March, 1649.

By Lady Ann Campbell the Marquis had five sons and five daughters. The sons were—George, Lord Gordon, who fell at the battle of Alford; James, Viscount Aboyne, who died at Paris in the beginning of February, 1649; Lord Lewis, who became third Marquis; Charles, who was afterwards created first Earl of Aboyne; Henry, who entered the service of the King of Poland, and who died at Strathbogie.

The late Marquis was succeeded by his third son, Lewis, third Marquis of Huntly. It is said that he was offered his father’s estates if he satisfied the Church, but he declined to accept the family possessions on such terms. Thus, they continued in the hands of Argyle, who obtained from Parliament an order for the destruction of several of the Gordon strongholds.

During these troublous times Lord Lewis Gordon had sought refuge in a cave two miles from Castle Grant. When there his food was carried to him by Mary Grant, a young lady of such beauty and sympathy, that she obtained "possession of his soul against all the bewitching allurements of home-bred and foreign beauties whatsoever."  This lady was a daughter of Sir John Grant of Freuchie, and Lewis Gordon married her in November, 1644, and with her got 20,000 marks.

Lewis and his younger brother, Charles, continued to be loyal supporters of the Royal cause, and their loyalty to Charles I!. was rewarded. On the 27th of March, 1651, the attainder passed on Lewis Gordon’s father was reversed, and he was restored to the Marquisate of Huntly "with all the titles, honours, and dignities pertaining to his late father, as if there had been no forfeiture." The titles were to descend to him and his heirs male, whom failing to the next apparent heir male of his father.

On the 21st of August, 1651, the Marquis granted a discharge to the Magistrates of Aberdeen for ten men fully armed and equipped, as a part of the 90 men—the city’s porportion of the levy. The Royalists were defeated at the battle of Worcester on the 3rd of September, and Charles II. fled to the continent.

Huntly was very anxious to come to terms with Argyle touching the family estates. Accordingly it was arranged that a meeting should be held at Finlarg Castle, Huntly to be accompanied by eighty men and Argyle by the same number. On the arrival of the Gordons at the appointed castle, whose company of eighty men were mostly Highlandmen, they found the whole district was in arms. Under these circumstances, Huntly’s friends advised him to return home, and not enter into business; but his escort was so surrounded by Argyle’s men, "that it was impossible for him to recoil." Being thus constrained, at last Huntly entered upon the treaty, and signed several papers and writs, "to the great prejudice of his interest and family."— Miscellany of the Old Spalding Club, Vol. IV., pp. 166, 667.

The Marquis’s lot was cast in troublous times. In September, 1653, he entered into negotiations with Colonel Morgan, one of Cromwell’s officers, and agreed that the Lairds of Straloch and Lesmore should become sureties for his keeping the peace. This led to reports being circulated to his prejudice, which had reached the ears of Charles II., who was then abroad. Huntly died in the end of the year 1653, leaving a son, George, then a boy, who succeeded him, and subsequently was created Duke of Gordon.

In 1655 the late Marquis’s widow wrote to the Marquis of Argyle, who then held the Gordon estates, requesting that she might get her portion, or at least a suitable maintenance. He replied that though her request was reasonable, it was not in his power to entertain it, "for the burdens of that family and others are like to bring me in great straits: for in truth I never yet had any annual rent paid in any year I received most, and many years I wanted near altogether, partly in your father-in-law’s default, and likewise in your husband’s. Yet, all that shall never make me fall short in my duty to the family without my own ruin; but yet these things disable me from doing many things which I would willingly do if I were able."

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