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Historic Earls and Earldoms of Scotland
Chapter IV - Earldom and Earls of Erroll
Section IV


IN 1559 Francis and Mary, King and Queen of Scots, appointed the Earl of Erroll Lieutenant between the Water of Erne and the North Water. He was invested with ample power to suppress disorder and rebellion.

Earl George died in January, 1573, and was interred at Erroll. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Andrew, eighth Earl of Erroll.

He married, first, Lady Jane Hay, only surviving child of William, fifth Earl of Erroll, by whom he had three sons and one daughter. He married, secondly, Lady Agnes Sinclair, a daughter of George, fourth Earl of Caithness; and by her he had issue.

While he was Master of Erroll, on the 14th of November, 1572, he entered into an agreement with Andrew Tulidef, son and heir-apparent of Alexander Tulidef of Raneistoun. The agreement was to the effect—"That Andrew Tulidef, of his own free will and by the advice of his dear father and friends, became man and servant, and also with him another riding man, for all the days of his lifetime to the said noble lord. And shall be ready upon horse and foot to serve, upon his lordship’s expenses. And shall be sufficiently equipped with armour and weapons, according to his rank. And shall be leal and true in word and deed, as becoming a faithful servant to his lord and master, and should defend his lord in all cases. For these services his lordship shall be thankfully content to pay each year to Andrew Tulidef sixteen boIls of good oatmeal, to be yearly uplifted and paid out of his lordship’s land of Neder Ardlethin—or, failing this, out of any other lands within the barony of Slains; and the meal to be carried to the said Andrew’s house of Mostoun or Raneistoun between Yule and Candlemas. And, if the sixteen bolls of meal be not paid to the said Andrew, then he shall be free of his servitude and promises. Further, if it happens that the said Andrew’s horse dies or is killed in his lordship’s company or service, then the said lord shall give to him another horse as good as the one lost." This agreement was witnessed by George Hay of Newraw, Neil Neilson, John Stone, and others.

On the 23rd of January, 1580, James VI. addressed a letter charging the provosts and magistrates of Edinburgh, Linlithgow, Stirling, Glasgow, Ayr, Perth, Cupar-in-Fife, St Andrews, Dundee, Aberdeen, and all other burghs in the kingdom, "wherever our presence and palace of honour shall be for the time. Forasmuch as the punishment of trespassers, invaders, and shedders of blood within four miles of our presence, it has pertained and pertains to our High Constable and his deputies to take inquisition of all such persons, who commit crimes, to put them before an unsuspected jury, and any person whatsoever apprehended and being convicted, to be imprisoned and kept in prison until they make satisfaction for their crimes, according to the laws and constitution of the realm. For the effective execution of this, it is necessary that all our prisons and warding-houses in our burghs and other parts of the kingdom, wherever we happen to be for the time, be made patent to our High Constable, his deputes and officers, for incarcerating all persons who commit slaughter or crimes of violence And your assistance and support is requisite for this, so that such criminals and trespassers may receive due punishment for their crimes and offences as an example to others, who disturb us and our right trusty Councillors daily attending and awaiting upon us for the welfare of us and our realm and people. Therefore our will is, and we charge and commend ye and each of you by yourselves and your officers, in your name as ye shall be required herein, to concur, fortify, and assist our right trusty Councillor, Andrew, Earl of Erroll, our High Constable, and William Henderson, his deputy, and their officers in the execution of the office in all time coming, according to the privilege and jurisdiction thereof, of old use and wont in all points."

Earl Andrew in the later years of his life had unhappily serious domestic troubles, which seem to have arisen from his second marriage. It appears that there was a suspicion of the influence of the second Countess over her husband, which might be turned to the prejudice of the children of the first marriage. He died at Slains on the 8th of October, 1585, and was interred there.

He was succeeded by his son, Francis, ninth Earl of Erroll. He married Lady Elizabeth Douglas, a daughter of William, sixth Earl of Morton, by whom he had issue.

On the 17th of September, 1589, the Earl of Erroll entered into a bond of friendship with the Earl of Huntly, which proceeded on the ground—"That, seeing and considering the changes and controversies daily occurring among all classes of this poor realm, to the great disturbance of His Majesty’s good estate and the grief of all his good subjects, and thereby perceiving our own peril and danger in particular, and how necessary it is for us two to knit up a sure friendship, to continue between us as two brothers born of one mother, in all time coming during our lifetime: We therefore become bound to act faithfully to each other, having sworn the great oath and touched the Holy Book, that we shall keep and observe our sure and infallible affection, goodwill, and friendship to each other, in such a way that any of our actions and causes whatsoever— criminal or civil—shall be alike common to us both; to assist, fortify, and defend in the law and by the law against all other persons, the King’s own person only excepted." Further, it was stipulated that no deadly feud should be reconciled or pacified by one of them without the special consent and advice of the other; that no new friendship should be contracted by either of them with any person without the mutual consent of both of them. And in case it should be thought necessary to receive any other noblemen into this bond of friendship, "the same to be done by both of us." And, generally, that nothing shall be done by either of us in prejudice "of this particular bond, under the pain of dishonour, and defamation for ever." This bond is dated at Aberdeen, signed by the two Earls, and witnessed by John Leslie of Balquhain, John Gordon of Buckie, and Captain Thomas Ker.

The part played by this Earl of Erroll along with Huntly in the reaction against Protestantism, was indicated in the preceding chapter. In common with Huntly, he was subjected to persecution, repeatedly excommunicated and confined in prison. After the battle of Glenlivet, in 1594, the old Castle of Slains was almost demolished.

On the 8th of December, 1597, James VI. issued a letter to the Provost and Magistrates of Edinburgh, commanding them not to encroach upon the rights and duties of Francis, Earl of Erroll, High Constable of Scotland; but to assist the Constable and his deputies in the execution of the functions and duties of the office, when required: "Commanding and charging them to readily answer and obey our High Constable and his deputies in all things concerning their office in time coming, under the penalties aforesaid as ye will answer to us thereupon."

In 1596 the King sharply rebuked the baillies of Leith for encroaching on the High Constable’s privileges. It appears that the baillies had tried a man named John Shanks, who should have been tried in the Constable’s Court, and had declined to obey a messenger sent by the King himself. His Majesty therefore wrote:—"We command and charge every one of you, and those that shall be for the time in your places, as ye will answer to us upon your obedience and under the penalties that thereafter may follow. That ye nor your successors in any time hereafter hold court to examine or put to trial any person or persons whatsoever for such crimes committed within the four-mile limit, without a licence from our High Constable or his deputies and substitutes. And if any of you hereafter interpose your authority to stop or impede the same, we will see that you be punished for your contempt."

In February, 1601, the Earl of Erroll received a bond of service from Andrew Hering of Little Blair, upon the special consideration of a free remission, "granted to me by Francis, Earl of Erroll, Lord Hay, and High Constable of Scotland, for the slaughter of the late James Hay, son of the late William Hay of Gourdie, committed by me—thereby finding myself for ever obliged to this noble lord’s clemency. Therefore, of my own accord and free will, I have become a servant to the said noble lord and his heirs and successors for all the days of my life. And faithfully promise henceforth to honour, reverence, serve, and obey him and his heirs and successors, whom I acknowledge as my only lord and master. And I will take part with them in all their actions, quarrels, and affairs whatsoever to the utmost of my power against all persons, excepting the King. This bond is dated at Perth, and witnessed by David Hering, fier of Glasclune; James Ogilvie, fier of Cloway; Sir James Stewart of Ballequhain; and Henry Drummond, tutor of Blair.

One of the most remarkable of this class of documents is that in which the Clan Donachie came under bond to the Earl of Erroll to be faithful to their chief, Robertson, Laird of Strowan. The bond proceeds thus:—"Forasmuch as we understand the loving favour and regard entertained by a noble and potent Lord, Francis, Earl of Erroll, Lord Hay, and High Constable of Scotland, to Robert Robertson of Strowan, our chief, and his house, whereof we are descended: And being most willing for our part to defend our chief to the utmost of our power: Therefore we bind and oblige ourselves faithfully to the said noble Lord, that we shall by his lordship’s advice concur and assist the Laird of Strowan, and maintain his house and estate as far as possible, under the pain of infamy and defamation." The document is dated at Perth on the 19th of May, 1612, and signed by eight of the leading men of the clan.

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