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


AFTER the death of Lewis, third Marquis of Huntly, the interests and affairs of the family devolved on his younger brother, Lord Charles Gordon. He acted with remarkable judgment and tact during the period of Cromwell’s government of Scotland, which was an exceedingly trying time for the Scottish nobles. In 1656, an intelligent and observant Scottish clergyman wrote thus:—"Our State is in a very silent condition. Strong garrisons over all the land, and a great army, both of horse and foot, for which there is no service at all. Our nobles—lying in prison, and under forfeitures or debts, private or public—are for the most part either broken or breaking."

On the 3rd of September, 1658, Cromwell died. Shortly after, the Government of the three Kingdoms fell into the hands of the leaders of the armies of the Commonwealth, and they began a scramble for the summit of power; but Oliver’s mantle had not descended upon any of them. General Monk was at the head of the army in Scotland, and he was on intimate terms with Charles, Lord Gordon. Monk collected his forces, and carefully prepared to march into England. On the 2nd of December, 1659, the landowners of Aberdeenshire met at Aberdeen, and elected Lord Gordon as commissioner to confer with General Monk at Berwick. He carried a letter from the barons and lairds of Aberdeenshire to Monk, in which they declared their unanimous resolution to keep the public peace. They also aided him with a sum of money.

Monk marched into England in the beginning of 1660. After various moves, he declared in favour of a free Parliament, which met in March, and resolved to recall the King. So Charles II. entered London on the 29th of May, amid the shouts and applause of the people.

On the 13th of February, 1661, the Marquis of Argyle was placed at the bar of Parliament, and accused of high treason. He was found guilty, condemned, and executed at Edinburgh on the 27th of May.

The Gordon property was restored to George, fourth Marquis of Huntly, who was still under age. His uncle, Charles, Earl of Aboyne, had the management of the Huntly estates—a very difficult and delicate task, owing to the late misfortunes of the family. The young Marquis was naturally much under the influence of his mother, and, in electing his curators, he disregarded the advice of his uncle. Aboyne, however, managed to effect a general settlement of the family affairs in 1665.

The Marquis travelled through a considerable part of Europe, and completed his education abroad. Afterwards he served in the French army, under Marshal Turenne; and also in the armies of the Prince of Orange.

He returned home in 1674. In November, 1676, he married Lady Elizabeth Howard, a daughter of the Duke of Norfolk, by whom he had issue, a son and a daughter.

On the 1st of November, 1684, Charles II. created him Duke of Gordon, with the power of regality over his own lands and vassals: This title did not affect the Earldom and Marquisate, or any other of the early titles of the family. In 1687 he was invested with the Order of the Thistle.

He was appointed Governor of Edinburgh Castle by Charles II.; and he held it at the Revolution of 1683 for James VII. In this crisis he acted with sound judgment and remarkable moderation.

Before the issue of the military operations in England was decided, disturbances arose in Edinburgh. The Roman Catholics were insulted on the streets; and placards were posted up threatening the ministers of the Crown. The Earl of Perth, Lord Chancellor, and head of the Privy Council, had been very servile to James VII., and therefore became an object of hatred, and fled to his own country seat. When at last it became clear that the King’s cause was rapidly falling, crowds gathered on the streets, loud shouts was raised for a free Parliament, and the tumult increased. A few troops attempted to quell the mob, but they were soon overpowered. On Sunday, the 9th of December, a great number of students, apprentices, and others appeared on the streets; and, the Provost having refused to deliver to them the keys of the ports, they then threatened to burn his house. They next proceeded to the Market Cross, and proclaimed a reward of £400 sterling to anyone who should seize the Earl of Perth and bring him there dead or alive.

The following day the Town Council issued a proclamation prohibiting tumults on the streets, which was torn to tatters as soon as it was read, and the officers and drummer prevented from going through the town. All sorts of alarming rumours were rife. It was reported that an army of Irish Catholics was on the eve of landing upon the coast of Galloway, and some said it had landed. The people dreaded a massacre: As the Council had dissolved, the army had been marched into England, and there was an utter collapse of authority. The Duke of Gordon, the Governor of the Castle, though pressed by the extreme Jacobites to open fire upon the citizens of Edinburgh, firmly declined to do this, unless he received an explicit command from James VII.

In January, 1689, the Prince of Orange summoned a Convention of the Estates to meet at Edinburgh on the 14th of March. Preparations for this meeting were immediately commenced, all parties were anxious to return members to decide the future position of the nation. The Whigs secured a majority favourable to the Prince of Orange, though a number of the Barons and all the Bishops still clung to the cause of James VII. The Jacobites calculated on the support of the Duke of Gordon, who commanded the castle, and on Viscount Dundee, whose energy was well known and greatly feared, as they might attempt to intimidate or disperse the Convention. The Parliament House was well within the range of the guns of the Castle.

The Convention assembled at the appointed time. Nine of the Bishops appeared, 42 Peers, 49 members for the counties, and 50 for the burghs. The Bishop of Edinburgh opened the proceedings, and prayed that God would assist them and restore King James. The election of a President was then essayed. The supporters of James proposed the Marquis of Athole; the Whigs proposed the Duke of Hamilton, who was elected by a majority of 40. About 20 of the minority then deserted the cause of King James, and joined the majority. On the 16th of March a letter from the Prince of Orange was read, in which he expressed his desire that the Convention would settle the religion and liberties of the nation upon just grounds, and in harmony with the inclination of the people and the public good. The same day, after some debate, a letter from King James was read; but it contained nothing to raise the hopes of his adherents. He offered to pardon those who returned to their allegiance before the end of the month; while to others no mercy could be shown. His adherents in the Convention were mortified, his enemies were vehement, and the sitting closed in a scene of great excitement.

The Whigs had summoned the Duke of Gordon to surrender the Castle of Edinburgh, but he refused. He might at any moment, if he had thought fit, have opened a cannonade upon the Parliament House or the citizens. It was known that the Jacobites would not yield without a severe struggle, and might attempt some desperate move. Viscount Dundee and Sir George Mackenzie complained that their lives were in danger, alleging that the Covenanters had resolved to slay them, and they appealed to the Duke of Hamilton for protection.

When the Convention met on the 18th of March, tidings were brought into the House that Viscount Dundee was on the Stirling road with a troop of dragoons, and that he had been seen conferring with the Duke of Gordon at the Castle gate. This news threw the members of the Convention into a state of intense alarm, and Hamilton, the President, started to his feet and said—"It is high time that we should look to ourselves. The enemies of our religion and of our civil freedom are mustering all around us; and we may well suspect that they have accomplices even here. Lock the doors. Lay the keys on the table. Let no one go out but those Lords and gentlemen whom we shall appoint to call the citizens to arms. There are some good men from the west in Edinburgh, men for whom I can answer." The majority of the members shouted assent, and what the President proposed was immediately done. Lord Leven went out and ordered the drums to be beat. The Covenanters promptly answered to the call, and mustered in such numbers as overawed all the Jacobites in Edinburgh.

Viscount Dundee, in his brief interview with the Duke of Gordon at the gate of the Castle, had perhaps intimated his intention to attempt a rising on behalf of James VII., though on leaving Edinburgh he retired to his country mansion of Dudhope, in the vicinity of Dundee. He was summoned to appear in his place in Parliament, but he declined. A warrant was then issued for his apprehension, and the Earl of Leven, with 200 men, marched northward in pursuit of him. But Dundee took to the mountains and glens, crossed the Dee and entered the Duke of Gordon’s territory, and concerted his intended rising.

After surmounting many difficulties, and outgeneraling his opponents, his career was terminated in the moment of victory on the field of Killiecrankie.

The Castle of Edinburgh was completely invested by the force appointed to protect the Convention, and all supplies of provisions for the garrison from the outside were cut off. The Duke of Gordon, however, refrained from firing on the Convention or the citizens of Edinburgh; yet held out until the store of provisions in the castle became exhausted. At last, on the 13th of June, 1689, he surrendered on honourable terms, and the garrison marched out of the castle. Afterwards he printed an account of the siege of the castle in French, for the information of the exiled court at St. Germains. He proceeded to London and made his submission to King William.

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