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Historic Earls and Earldoms of Scotland
Chapter V - Keiths, Great Marischals of Scotland, and Earl Marischals
Section II


IN 1457, James II. created Sir William Keith, first Earl Marischal. He was present at the Court held in Aberdeen on the 15th of May, 1457, when Lord Erskine’s claim to the Earldom of Mar was rejected.

His youngest daughter, Lady Egidia, married John, second Lord Forbes. Sir Robert, his eldest son, died in his father’s lifetime; and the Marischal himself died in 1475. He was succeeded by his second son, William, second Earl Marischal.

In the strife and rebellion of the southern barons against James III., the Marischal acted with sound judgment and moderation. He officiated in the Parliament of 1488, in which his duties were to keep guard and order within the House when Parliament was sitting.

He married Mariota, a daughter of Thomas, Lord Erskine, by whom he had issue—four sons. From his youngest son, John, the Keiths of Craig were descended.

He was succeeded by his oldest son, William, third Earl Marischal. In 1481 he married Lady Elizabeth Gordon, second daughter of George, second Earl of Huntly, by whom he had four sons and two daughters.

His eldest son, Robert, Lord Keith, married Lady Elizabeth, a daughter of John, second Earl of Morton, by whom he had two sons, William and Robert. On the 8th of January, 1506, Lord Keith and his wife received a charter of Auchincloich, Tortoll, and other lands. His daughter Lady Elizabeth, married George, fourth Earl of Huntly, in 1530.

In 1512 Earl William received from James IV. a charter as Marischal of Scotland. His two eldest sons—Robert, Lord Keith, and William—accompanied the army mustered by James IV. in August, 1513, which crossed the Tweed on the 22nd and invaded England. But valuable time was lost in besieging and taking the English border castles of Norham, Wark, Etal, and Ford, which gave the enemy an opportunity of mustering his forces and advancing against the Scots. The English army, under the command of the Earl of Surrey, was advancing northward, and messages passed between him and James IV. Although the King was exceedingly brave and determined, as general of an army he had no qualifications whatever; his idea of leadership was simply to make a stand-up fight.

The King, in person, and on foot, led the centre of the Scottish army at the Battle of Flodden on the afternoon of the 9th of September, 1513. He himself fought with the utmost fury and bravery, till he fell mortally wounded in the head by a ball; and many of his barons, knights, and spearmen were slain around him, amongst whom were Lord Keith and his brother William.

When the tidings of this great national disaster became known in Scotland, there was mourning and lamentation among all classes throughout the kingdom. Early in October a Parliament met at Perth, at which Earl Marischal was present. It at once proceeded to the coronation of the infant King, James V., and the ceremony, in which the Marischal officiated, was performed at Scone.

At this trying time the Marischal showed a fine patriotic loyalty to the throne of his country. During the Regency of the Duke of Albany the Marischal supported his government In 1515 he was appointed guardian of the young King’s person, along with Lord Fleming and Lord Borthwick. When Albany, the Regent, visited France in 1517, the young King was conveyed from Stirling Castle to Edinburgh Castle and entrusted to the keeping of Earl Marischal and Lord Erskine.

The Marischal died in 1530, and was succeeded by his grandson (son of Lord Keith, who fell at Flodden), William, fourth Earl Marischal. He was one of the suite of Earls and Barons who accompanied James V. on his matrimonial visit to France in 1536. The marriage of the King of Scots with the Princess Magdalen, the only daughter of Francis I., was celebrated amid great pomp in the church of Notre Dame, on the 1st of January, 1537. The Kings of France and Navarre, many distinguished foreigners, and seven Cardinals, were present at the ceremony. The King stayed in France over eight months. At last he embarked at Dieppe, and landed at Leith with his beautiful Queen on the 28th of May, amid great rejoicings.

In 1541 Earl Marischal was appointed an extraordinary Lord of the Court of Session. James V. appears to have had implicit confidence in the ability and integrity of the Marischal.

The Parliament which assembled on the 12th of March, 1543, selected Earl Marischal and the Earl of Montrose, with the Lords Erskine, Lindsay, Ruthven, Livingston, and Seton, to be the keepers of the infant Queen Mary’s person. The Marischal was at the same time appointed a member of the Privy Council to the Regent

At this time the English Ambassador, Sadler, described the Marischal of Scotland "as a goodly young gentleman, and well inclined to the project of the marriage of Queen Mary with Prince Edward." He further says that "the Marischal has ever borne a singular good affection to Henry VIII."

It appears that from an early period of his life he was inclined to favour the Reformation movement. In 1544, when George Wishart, the martyr, had preached in Dundee, and was interdicted by the magistrates from preaching there again, Earl Marischal and a few other noblemen were present, and endeavoured to induce him to go with them, but he proceeded to Edinburgh.

The Marischal married Margaret, daughter and heiress of Sir William Keith of Inverugie, by whom he had two sons and seven daughters. Thus he united the Inverugie branch to the main line of the family.

He was present with his followers and friends at the battle of Pinkie on the 10th of September, 1547, in which his eldest son William, Master of Marischal, was taken a prisoner. He was confined in England until a ransom of £2000 sterling was paid for his liberation.

The Master of Marischal married Lady Elizabeth Hay, a daughter of George, seventh Earl of Erroll, and had issue, four sons and three daughters. The Marischal’s second son, Robert, was made Commendator of the Abbey of Deer, which was erected into a temporal lordship; and in 1587 he was erected Lord Altire.

Mary the Queen-Mother aspired to the position of Regent of Scotland, and to promote this aim she resolved to visit the French Court She selected Earl Marischal, the Earls of Huntly, Sutherland, Cassillis, and a number of other barons to accompany her; she embarked at Newhaven for France, and landed at Dieppe on the 19th of September, 1550. She immediately proceeded along with her suite to the French Court at Rouen, and they were received with great distinction. The Queen-Mother attained the aim of her visit to France, and returned to Scotland in the end of November, 1551. In April, 1554, she was proclaimed Regent of Scotland amid public rejoicings.

Although Earl Marischal joined the Reformation movement, it appears that he did not approve of extreme measures. He had won the respect, and even the affection of the Queen-Regent, who on her death-bed in the Castle of Edinburgh requested an interview with the leaders of the Reform movement; and the Duke of Chastelherault, the Marischal, the Earls of Argyle and Glencairn, and Lord James Stewart, Prior of St Andrews, proceeded to the Castle, and entered her bed-chamber, and were welcomed by the dying Queen with an expression of kindness which touched their hearts. She advised them to send both the French and English armies out of the kingdom: she expressed her grief that matters had been pushed to such extremities, and ascribed this to the instructions of the French Cabinet, which she was forced to obey, though she herself would have been glad to agree to the proposals of the Scottish Lords. She advised them to adhere to the league with France. Further, she uttered many touching expressions, and asked pardon of all whom she had in any way offended, and declared that she herself freely forgave any injuries she might have received. She embraced and kissed the noblemen one by one, and extended her hand to those of lower rank, as a token of dying charity. The barons were deeply moved, and earnestly requested her to send for some godly and learned man, who might instruct and console her. The following day she received a visit from John Willock, the Reformed preacher, and she cheerfully listened to his exhortations. The succeeding day— 10th of July, 1560—the Queen Regent expired.

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