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


IN 1481 a contract of marriage between William, son of Earl Marischal, and Elizabeth, daughter of the Earl of Huntly, was concluded as follows:—"That is to say, that for great favours and kindness which has been between the said Lords, and to be continued among the same (God willing}—William, son and apparent heir to Earl Marischal, shall marry and have to wife Elizabeth Gordon, daughter of the said Earl of Huntly. For which marriage, to be solemnised in the face of the Holy Kirk, the said George, Earl of Huntly, his heirs and assignees, shall pay to the said William, Earl Marischal, his heirs, executors, or assignees, the sum of sixteen hundred marks, usual money of Scotland, at the terms under written, that is to say—at the term of Whitsunday, beginning in the year of God 1481, one hundred marks; and at the term of Martinmas in winter following, another hundred marks, and so forth, year by year and term by term, two hundred marks yearly without any interruption until the said sum of sixteen hundred marks be fully paid. . . . And, further, it is appointed between the parties that William, Earl Marischal, shall infeft by charter and possession the said William, his son, and Elizabeth, his spouse, and to their heirs male, one hundred marks worth of lands to be held of the King, of his lands of the barony of Aden, lying within the Sheriffdom of Aberdeen, and in due form at the sight of the Earl of Huntly, and the expense thereon to be evenly divided between the two Lords. And if their writs be misty and not clear in anything, that they shall be corrected at the sight of the friends of both parties, and especially of William, Earl of Erroll, William, Lord Forbes, Alexander Gordon of Midmar, Master Gilbert de Hey of Ury, James Wishart of Pitarow, and Robert Arbuthnot of that Ilk."

The Earl of Huntly was among the Barons who accompanied the King and his army to the Borders in 1482. The army was well equipped, and Cochrane, one of the King’s favourites, was appointed to command the artillery. When the army reached Lauder a tragic scene occurred. The Barons, headed by the Earl of Angus, met in a church, and after some deliberation they resolved to seize the King and sweep off his favourites. While they were considering how to execute their resolution, a knock was heard at the door; it was Cochrane with a message from the King. When Cochrane entered, the Earl of Angus instantly seized him, and pulled the gold chain from his neck, saying that "a rope would befit him better." "My lords," said Cochrane, "is it jest or earnest?" He was told that it was earnest, and he was quickly bound and placed under guard. A party of the Barons, who were despatched to the royal tent, immediately seized the King’s musician, Rogers, and the rest of the royal favourites. These were then led, along with Cochrane, to the Bridge of Lauder, where they were all hanged. After these executions the Barons disbanded the army, returned to the capital with the King, and imprisoned him in the Castle of Edinburgh.

In the subsequent proceedings of the Duke of Albany, the Earl of Huntly took the side of the King. When the conspiracy of the southern Barons reached a crisis, in 1488, Huntly supported the King. And after the King’s death, Huntly opposed the party of the Barons at the head of the Government for some time; but he became a favourite with James IV., and opposition to the party in power soon ceased. Huntly was made a Privy Councillor; and on the 13th of May, 1491, he was appointed Lieutenant of the North until the King attained twenty-five years of age, and thereafter during His Majesty’s pleasure.

Alexander Home of that Ilk gave his bond of manrent to the Earl of Huntly in 1486, in these terms :—" I, Alexander Home, have become man, by the faith and truth in my body, for all the days of my life, to a right noble and mighty Lord, and my dearest Lord, George, Earl of Huntly, Lord Gordon and Badenoch, counter and against all that live or die, may, my allegiance to our Sovereign Lord the King only excepted. In witness of this my manrent, I have put my seal, with the subscription of my hand." In 1490, Home, who was then Great Chamberlain of Scotland, gave anew his bond of manrent to Alexander Gordon, Master of Huntly.

The same year, Sir John Rutherfurd of Tarland gave his bond of manrent to Lord Gordon, Master of Huntly, thus—"I, Sir John Rutherfurd of Tarland, to be bound and strictly obliged, and by the faith of my body leally and truly, bind and oblige myself, in the straitest style of obligation, to a noble and mighty Lord, Alexander, Lord Gordon, in true manrent, homage, and service, for all the days of my life; that I shall be ready to ride and pass with my Lord at his warning, in all his lawful and honest quarrels, and give leal and true counsel . . . and abide and remain with his Lordship against whosoever, my allegiance to our Sovereign and my senice of law only excepted, because my said Lord is bound to defend me, and give me a fee at his pleasure. . . . In witness of which I have affixed my seal to this at Aberdeen, the 8th of December, 1490."

At Perth, on the 21st of February, 1491, a contract of marriage between the Earl of Bothwell and a daughter of the Earl of Huntly was arranged. It was agreed between "the right noble and mighty Lords, George, Earl of Huntly, and Alexander, Lord Gordon, his son, on the one part, and Patrick, Earl Bothwell and Lord Hailes, on the other part, in form and effect as follows:—that Earl Bothwell shall marry. God willing, and have to wife one of the two daughters of the Earl of Huntly—Margaret or Catherine—. whichever pleases him best . . . Between the date of this agreement and the 20th day of April next, and thereafter as hastely as it may be lawfully, shall solemnise and complete, in the face of the Holy Kirk, this marriage. For which marriage to be completed, God willing, the Earl of Huntly, and Lord Gordon, their heirs, executors, and assignees, shall be thankfully content and pay to the Earl Bothwell, his heirs, executors, and assignees, the sum of two thousand marks of usual money of Scotland, at the following terms—at the fest of Witsonday, two hundred marks, at the fest of St Martin in the winter following, other 200 marks, and so forth till the 2000 marks be fully paid." At the same time the parties for themselves and their friends agreed to a bond of alliance to continue for all the days of their lives, and that they would assist each other to the utmost of their power "in all their actions, causes, and quarrel; moved and to be moved, with their persons, goods, castles, strengths, kin, men, and friends, and all that will do for them, against all men that live and die may, their allegiance to the King excepted; and they shall fortify, supply, maintain, and defend each other in men, kin, and friends, in their honours, lands, heritages, conquests, goods, and all other matters whatsoever, without dissimulation, to the utmost of their power; that when any of them shall know, hear, or se e, scath or personal grievance to the honours, heritages, or goods of the others, then they should tell and show it to them, and do the utmost to defend them."

Alexander Innes of Aberchirder gave a bond of manrent to Alexander, Lord Gordon, Master of Huntly, on the 8th of September, 1491, which was witnessed by Kenneth Mackenzie of Kintail, Alexander Seton of Meldrum, John Leslie of Wardes, Thomas Gordon of Kennardy, and Duncan Thomson of Auchinhamper.

The Earl of Huntly often had difficulties with the chiefs and people on the Highland territories over which he was Lord Superior. After the forfeiture of the Earl of Ross, in 1476, there was much fighting in the Highlands; and part of the Earldom of Ross was wasted. Repeated attempts were made in the name of John, Lord of the Isles, to recover the Earldom of Ross. Alexander of Lochalsh, a natural brother of the Lord of the Isles, could command a considerable number of followers. In 1491 he made a raid into the counties of Inverness and Ross, and wasted the country; but, at last he was defeated by the Mackenzies. The Mackenzies, however, paid little respect to the officers of the Crown; and the Earl of Huntly had to issue a commission of fire and sword against them. In a Parliament held at Edinburgh in May 1493, John, Lord of the Isles, was forfeited. Shortly after he surrendered to the King, and then retired to the monastery of Paisley, where he died in 1498, and was interred in the tomb of his Royal relative, King Robert III.

The Earl of Huntly sometimes accompanied the King in his expeditions to the north. In 1497 Huntly was appointed Lord High Chancellor of Scotland.

In the year 1495 a remarkable character appeared in Scotland Perkin Warbeck —who, according to some authorities, was a son of a Florentine Jew; but, according to his own confession, he was a native of Tournay, in Flanders. This man was persuaded by the Duchess of Burgundy, a sister of Richard III. of England, to personate her nephew, Richard, a brother of Edward V. Thus Perkin, accompanied with six hundred men, attempted to land at Kent in July, 1495; but he was repulsed, and one hundred and fifty of his men were captured and executed. He next made an effort to obtain a footing in Ireland, but failed. Undaunted by these failures, Perkin pursued his mission, and, with his retinue, he arrived at Stirling Castle on the 20th of November, 1495. James IV. was a remarkably romantic character himself, and he at once received Perkin as "Prince Richard of England," and conducted him to apartments in Stirling Castle. Immediately letters were despatched to the Earls of Athole, Strathearn, Huntly, and Earl Marischal, and the barons of Angus, commanding them to meet the King at Perth, that they might have the honour of being presented to Prince Richard. As it was intended to wage war on behalf of the claims of this prince to the throne of England, letters were sent to the sheriffs ordering wappenschaws to be held throughout the kingdom. Perkin soon became a favourite of the King. A personal allowance of £1200 a year was granted to him; while his followers were quartered and maintained among the burghs. He moved through the kingdom in the style of a prince, staying at Perth, Falkland Palace, Aberdeen, Stirling, Linlithgow, and Edinburgh, as suited his pleasure.

Favoured by the King, a marriage was arranged between Perkin and Catherine Gordon, a daughter of the Earl of Huntly, a lady of rare beauty and attraction. The marriage was celebrated, and Perkin then assumed the title of Duke of York.

The King resolved to support the Duke’s claim to the throne of England, and ordered the Crown vassals to muster at Lauder. The preparations for the invasion of England were completed on the 12th of September, 1496. On the 14th the King and the Duke of York made their offerings in the Chapel of Holyrood, and ordered a trental of masses for the success of the undertaking, and then marched southward. The Scots crossed the border and entered Northumberland; and the Duke of York then issued a manifesto to his subjects, declaring that he had come to deliver them from the usurpation and tyranny of Henry VII; but the English people showed no signs of enthusiasm for a new King introduced by a Scottish army. The army plundered Northumberland, and returned to Scotland. On the 8th of October, the King and the Duke had returned to Edinburgh.

After this failure, the Duke’s followers soon fell away. James IV. at last discovered that Perkin’s cause was unpopular among the people, and resolved to send him away. A ship, called the Cuckoo, was equipped at Ayr, and amply stored with provisions. In the middle of July, 1497, the Duke and his Duchess and about thirty attendants sailed from the port of Ayr, under the care of Robert Barton, a skilful mariner; and on the 26th of July he arrived at Cork, where he was coldly received. Thence he sailed, with three small vessels, for Cornwall, and landed at Whitesand Bay on the 7th of September. He assumed to title of Richard IV., and raised his standard. About 3000 men joined him, and he attacked Exeter; but he was captured on the 5th of October, and carried to London. He was executed at Tyburn on the 28th of November, 1499.

Lady Catherine Gordon accompanied her husband when he was defeated in Cornwall. She was taken prisoner at St Michael’s Mount but she was kindly treated. Henry VII. took a great interest in the beautiful prisoner; and after the execution of her husband she lived at the English Court. Subsequently she married thrice. She died in 1537, and was interred in Fyfield Church, where a monument was erected to her memory.

In March, 1500, the Earl of Huntly held a Justiciary Court at Jedburgh, and fined the Earl of Bothwell, who was Warden of the West Marches, £500. This sum represented the pledges or bail for a number of persons dwelling in Liddesdale who had failed to appear in court.

The Earl founded the Castle of Bog of Gight (Gordon Castle) and repaired the Castles of Strathbogie and Aboyne. He died at Stirling in 1500, and was interred at Cambuskenneth.

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