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


EARL GEORGE was succeeded by his son Alexander, Third Earl of Huntly. He married Jean Stewart, a daughter of the Earl of Athole, and by her he had four sons and several daughters. He married, secondly, Elizabeth Gray, by whom he had no issue.

Soon after he succeeded to the Earldom he was appointed Sheriff of Elgin and Forres. He had a tack of the Crown lands of Brachlie, Balnacrief, Calloquhy, and Culmore. In December, 1500, he received from the King a grant of wide territory in Lochaber, which had been in the hands of the Crown since the forfeiture of the late Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles.

In 1503 the Earl of Huntly was commissioned to proceed to Lochaber to let the King’s lands to loyal men, and to expel broken men from the district At the same time the Earl of Argyle was appointed Lieutenant-General of the Isles, and empowered to let the lands of the Islands, and to expel all those whom he pleased. These proceedings led to a rebellion of the Islesmen in 1503.

A grandson of the late Lord of the Isles, known under the name of Donald Dubh, was captured by the Earl of Athole and given up to the Earl of Argyle, who threw him into prison. Donald, however, made his escape from Argyle in 1501; and in 1503 he assumed the title and position of Lord of the Isles. The Government proclaimed him and his supporters rebels. Nevertheless, the Islesmen invaded Badenoch, Lochaber, and the islands of Bute and Arran.

The Earls of Huntly, Argyle, and Crawford were ordered to lead an army against them; and a naval demonstration was also made to cow the Islesmen. Parliament met at Edinburgh on the 11th of March, 1503, and with the sanction of Parliament, the King then proclaimed that—"If any one should apprehend and bring to the King, Maclean of Loch-buy, great Macleod of Lewis, or Macneil of Barra, and others named, they should receive half of these rebels’ lands; and if they capture and bring to the King any other chief, or any Highlandman whatsoever connected with the rebellion, they shall be rewarded therefor according to the value of the lands and goods of the persons taken." A naval and a land attack was made upon the Islesmen, and they for a time were quelled.

When the Earl of Huntly returned from the expedition, the King, for the special and faithful service which he had rendered, granted to him and his heirs the lands of Mamore, in the Lordship of Lochaber.

Yet, in 1505 the Islesmen again revolted. The Earl of Huntly was commanded to march against them from the north, while the King himself, at the head of an army, advanced from the south. A number of the chiefs submitted; but Macleod of Lewis held out, and Huntly besieged and stormed his Castle of Stornoway. Donald Dudh was captured and imprisoned in the Castle of Edinburgh.

In 1505 the Earl of Huntly resigned the lands of the Earldom, and the King re-granted them to him and his heirs, "creating, uniting, and incorporating these lands into one free Barony and Earldom, to be named the Barony and Earldom of Huntly, and the chief messuage of the same, which was formerly called Strathbogie, to be in all future times named the Castle of Huntly." At the same time he received charters of the barony of Fothergill and others in Perthshire; and also the Castle of lnverlochy. In 1506 the King granted to him the lands of Cullarlies, in Aberdeenshire, and the Forest of Cabrach, for his faithful service.

On the 16th of January, 1509 the Earl of Huntly was created hereditary Sheriff of Inverness, which then embraced a jurisdiction over the counties of Inverness, Ross, Sutherland, and Caithness. He had to appoint deputies at Tain, Dingwall, Wick, Inverlochy, and Kingussie. He was also custodier of the Castle of Inverness, and was empowered to erect fortalices and appoint captains.

The Earl made efforts to strengthen his position and influence by bonds of manrent. In 1502 Huntly obtained a bond of manrent from Alexander Seton of Tullibody— "And I shall keep service and manrent to my said Lord, in all his actions, matters, and quarrels . . . . and I shall keep his counsel secret, &c." In 1503 Alexander Crome of Inverernane gave his bond of manrent and became a true man and servant to Alexander, Earl of Huntly—" for all the days of my life." And "I shall keep his counsel if he shows it to me, and if he desires my counsel, I shall give him the best for his honour and profit that I can."

In 1506 Sir William Scott of Balnery gave his bond of manrent to Alexander, Earl of Huntly, "for all the days of my lifetime." And "I shall ride and go with him, and take part in all his matters, actions, causes, and quarrels, in peace and in war, before all living men." This bond is dated at Edinburgh, and witnessed by Robert Innes of Invermerkie, Thomas Copland of Udach, Mr. James Strachin, John of Seton, Mr. John Davidson, and others.

Alexander Reid, laird of Dallaquharny, gave a bond of manrent to Huntly on the 17th of April, 1508. ln 1509, William Robertson, laird of Strowane, became "bound to a noble and mighty lord—Alexander, Earl of Huntly, Lord Gordon and Badenoch—that I shall be a true man and servant to him, and shall be ready to ride and go with him in peace and in war, with my kin and friends, before and against all others except the King, and John, Master of Athole." Robertson had a bond of manrent with the Master of Athole.

On the 30th of November, 1509, at Elgin, John Grant of Freuchie gave his bond of manrent to the Earl of Huntly— "In friendship and service to the said Earl, to honour, assist and serve him, with all the kin, friends, servants, dependants, and partakers that I may make—in all and whatsoever his actions, causes, questions, and quarrels, against all persons whatsoever."

At Inverness on the 10th of March, 1511, Doul Ranaldson gave his bond of manrent to Alexander, Earl of Huntly, thus:—"I, Doul Ranaldson, the son and heir of Ranald Alanson of Alanbigrin . . . bind and oblige myself to a noble and mighty Lord and my Lord Alexander, Earl of Huntly, for his reward, help and supply given to me, that I become and shall be his man and servant, and shall continue his manrent and service during all the days of my life." The same year, at Huntly, on the 25th of June, Duncan Thomson of Auchinhamper gave his bond of man-rent to the Earl of Huntly, thus:—"Forasmuch as my said Lord has given me his letter of maintenance, therefore I bind and oblige myself to become a true man and servant to my Lord for all the days of my life."

In 1519, John, Earl of Athole, gave his bond of manrent to the Earl of Huntly. He bound himself to give Huntly true counsel when he asked it, and to assist him in peace and war, with his kin, servants, and friends. The bond is dated at Perth.

Huntly’s brother, Adam Gordon, had married Elizabeth, a daughter of John, Earl of Sutherland; and a dispute arose touching the succession to the Earldom of Sutherland. Owing to Huntly’s position of hereditary Sheriff of Inverness, it was in his court and before him that his brother Adam tried to get his wife served as heir to her father in the Earldom of Sutherland. This, however, could hardly be effected, as Elizabeth had two brothers, John and Alexander, then living. Nevertheless, the power and influence of Huntly ultimately prevailed; and Adam Gordon’s grandson, John, on the death of his grandmother in 1535, succeeded to the Earldom of Sutherland.

In 1510, John, Lord Gordon, married Margaret Stewart, a natural daughter of James IV., by Margaret Drummond. The Earl, his father, granted to him and his wife certain lands in the lordship of Badenoch, and also the lands of Fothergill in Perthshire. Lord Gordon died at Kinloss on the 5th of December, 1517, and was interred before the high altar of the Abbey. He left two sons—George, who afterwards became fourth Earl of Huntly, and Alexander, Bishop of the Isles and Galloway.

At the battle of Flodden the Earl of Huntly and Lord Home commanded the left wing of the Scots, consisting of the northern clans and the borderers, numbering six thousand men. They attacked the English vanguard and drove it back in disorder; but the English reserve then advanced and kept Huntly in check. After a long and desperate struggle, in which the Earls of Lennox, Argyle, Crawford, Montrose, and many others were slain, the right and left wings of the Scots were completely routed.

Meantime the King and the Earl of Surrey were wrestling in a fierce hand-to-hand combat in the centre. The King placed himself at the head of his spearmen and fought with the utmost fury and bravery, and the English ranks were repeatedly broken and Surrey’s standard threatened. At last the King and his division were completely surrounded by the enemy; still the Scots fought in a circle with their spears extended outward, and repelled their assailants. The King himself fell, mortally wounded in the head, within a spear’s length of the Earl of Surrey. Even yet the Scots continued to fight till night put an end to the contest. The Earl of Huntly escaped from the field, but the Laird of Gight and many of the Gordon clan were slain. In short, there was scarcely a family of note in the kingdom but had lost some of its members on the fatal field of Flodden.

After the battle, Huntly took an active part in the Government of the country, and endeavoured to preserve order, which was a difficult task. The Queen was appointed Regent by Parliament, and Huntly was to assist her in the government of the kingdom. But her frothy disposition speedily led her into actions which rendered this arrangement nugatory, as she married the young Earl of Angus in 1514, which immediately deprived her of the Regency.

A party of the barons were looking to the Duke of Albany as a likely personage to take the reins of Government. As a member of the Royal Family, after the infant King, he was next heir to the throne. He was requested to assume the functions of Governor of Scotland; but the state of society in Scotland offered comparatively few attractions to a man habituated to the gay and fashionable society of France, and he seems to have been very loth to leave the enjoyments of his adopted country, even in exchange for the highest office in the Council of Scotland.

In May, 1515 the Duke of Albany arrived in Scotland, and received a warm welcome from the people. He began his government with bold and severe measures. Lord Home and his brother were apprehended, tried, condemned, and executed for treason. Their lands in the lordship of Gordon, on the Borders, were forfeited; and on the 26th of October, 1516, these lands were granted by the Regent Albany to Alexander, Earl of Huntly.

When Albany returned to France in 1517, he appointed the Earl of Huntly Lieutenant-General of Scotland, excepting the West Highlands, over which Argyle held a commission. As stated in preceding paragraphs, Huntly was firmly allied with the Earl of Athole and many of the lairds in the north, and he was then the most powerful man in the kingdom. But there was much disorder in the country, which was greatly increased by the persistent interference of Henry VIII. with the internal affairs of Scotland. He appears to have had a special animus at the Duke of Albany. He endeavoured to get the young King, James V., into his hands by encouraging his sister to flee into England with her children; he kept a number of paid spies and agents in Scotland for the express purpose of exciting tumults, private quarrels, and rekindling the jealousy of the nobles, in order to distract and discredit the Government of the Regent Albany.

Owing to the able control of the Earl of Huntly, there was less disorder in the north than in the southern quarters of the kingdom. In 1521 Huntly proceeded to Ross, accompanied by many of his allies, to settle his affairs and prevent disorder in that district. He stayed in the Castle of Dingwall for some time, where he granted charters to a number of his adherents.

Huntly was with the army mustered by Albany, the Regent, in September, 1522. Albany marched at the head of the army to the Scottish Border on the Solway; but it appeared that the Earl of Huntly was opposed to an invasion of England in the interest of France; and, on the advice of Huntly, Argyle, and the Earl of Arran, a truce was concluded between Lord Dacre and Albany. The Scottish army was then disbanded.

Albany again resolved to invade England in October, 1523, and the northern clans were commanded to meet Huntly at Stirling. It appears that Huntly was seized with a severe illness, and was unable to accompany the army. He died at Perth on the 16th of January, 1524.

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