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


EARL MARISCHAL was present in the Parliament which met at Edinburgh in the beginning of August, 1560. This Parliament had important work before it. All those who had a right by law or custom to a seat in the House were summoned, and there was an unusually large attendance. On the 17th of August the Reformed Confession of Faith was read in Parliament. Only two of the Peers and three of the Bishops dissented; they said that time had not been given to examine the book. Earl Marischal rose and called upon the Bishops to defend the tenets of their Master: he then said :—"It is long since I had some favour for the truth, and was somewhat jealous of the Roman Catholic Religion, but this day has fully resolved me of the truth of the one and the falsehood of the other, for, seeing my lords the Bishops, who by their learning can, and for their zeal they should, hold to the truth, would, as I suppose, gainsay anything repugnant to it, yet say nothing against the Confession we have heard, I cannot but think it is the very truth of God, and the contrary of it false doctrine."

In 1562, his eldest daughter, Lady Anne Keith, married Lord James Stewart, afterwards Earl of Moray and Regent of Scotland.

Not long after, the Marischal retired to his Castle of Dunnottar, where he enjoyed a pretty quiet life. He continued, however, to administer justice in the Mearns.

In 1580 his eldest son William, Master of Marischal, died. The succeeding year the Earl Marischal himself died at an advanced age. He was succeeded by his grandson, George (eldest son of William, Master of Marischal), fifth Earl Marischal.

He was born in 1553, and studied at King’s College, Aberdeen. Afterwards he was sent to France with his brother William, where he stayed for some time, and extended his studies and the scope of his mind. Thence he proceeded with his brother to Geneva, and George became a pupil of the distinguished classical scholar Theodore Beza. It is stated that he formed a very favourable opinion of the abilities of his pupil. After the two brothers had stayed a considerable time in Geneva, a very sad incident happened, for in a tumult amongst the citizens William Keith was killed. After the death of his brother, who was a youth of great promise, George left Geneva. He then travelled in Italy and in Germany, and returned to Scotland.

After he succeeded to the Marischalship he took an active part in public affairs. He took an interest in Church matters and the work of the General Assembly. In 1582 he was appointed a member of the Privy Council.

James VI. became exceedingly anxious to get married and have a queen of his own. Queen Elizabeth desired to counsel and advise the young King as to whom he should marry. But he thought that in so important a matter he should have the liberty of choice, and act on his own feeling and judgment. Accordingly, in July, 1589, the King sent Earl Marischal accompanied by a grand suite, to Copenhagen to conclude the matrimonial match between His Majesty and the Princess Anne of Denmark, and convey her across the sea to Scotland.

When the Scottish Ambassador arrived in Denmark, he found that the Danish Court was exceedingly anxious touching the marriage, and it was soon arranged. For a time great bustle prevailed in the Court The Princess’s mother, the Queen, was especially active—buying silk, cheapening jewellery, or "urging on a corps of 500 tailors, who sat daily stitching and getting up the most princely apparel." Women, guards, and pages, who were to form the suite of the royal bride, were ordered to hold themselves in readiness. A fleet of twelve vessels, with brass cannon, was fitted out to transport the Princess to Scotland. King James forwarded to his Ambassador a mild remonstrance touching the smallness of the Princess’s dowry. The Danish Court, however, declined to add anything to it. At last the squadron, with the young Princess on board of one of the ships, sailed for Scotland; but a terrific storm arose, which disabled the ships, and forced them to land on the coast of Norway, and the voyage for a time was abandoned. When tidings of this reached James VI., he was excited and disappointed. Indeed he felt strongly inclined to punish and execute all the Scottish witches, who, he said, by their unlawful rites and incantations had raised the tempest which delayed his bride. He was in extreme anxiety; and finally he resolved to brave the waves of the ocean himself.

Accordingly, on the 22nd of October, 1589, he embarked at Leith, accompanied by a select suite of his nobles and his favourite minister, Rev. David Lindsay. He landed at Upsal on the 27th, and immediately rode to the palace where his bride awaited him, and "hurried, booted and spurred, into her presence, and, in the fashion of Scotland, attempted to kiss her." The marriage was celebrated in the church of Upsal, on the 23rd of November, 1589, and the ceremony was performed by the Rev. David Lindsay. The King was easily persuaded not to risk himself and his new Queen to the dangers of a winter voyage, and he remained over eight months in Denmark. In the spring he embarked on his voyage home, accompanied by his Queen and a retinue of Danish nobles and ladies, and arrived at Leith on the 1st of May, 1590.

The Marischal’s uncle Robert, Lord Altire, for whom the Abbey lands of Deer were erected into a Lordship, having died in 1589, leaving no male issue, his nephew thus became heir to the Lordship. Accordingly, the King regranted it to Earl George—" as a perpetual monument of his service in connection with the marriage of His Majesty."

In 1593 Earl Marischal and the Earl of Athole were appointed Lieutenants-General of the north. At this time the conflict between the Government and the Roman Catholic Earls was going on, and there was much disturbance and disorder in the north.

In 1604 he was one of the Scottish Commissioners nominated to treat with the English Commissioners touching a union of the two kingdoms. He was appointed Royal Commissioner to the Scottish Parliament, which met at Edinburgh in June, 1609. This Parliament restored the consistorial courts to the bishops.

On the 14th of January, 1619, a commission was given to George, Earl Marischal; William, Lord Keith; the Sheriff of Kincardine and his deputies, the Sheriff of Aberdeen and his deputies, the Captain of the Guard and his company, Sir Robeit Arbuthnott of Arbuthnott, Sir Thomas Menzies, and the Provost of Aberdeen, "to apprehend Duncan Forbes, arid his servant, James Abirdour, who were put to the horn at the instance of Nicolace Home as relict, George and William Keith as sons, Margaret, Geillis, and Sara Keith as daughters, John Bannerman, spouse of the said Geillis; John Forbes, spouse of the said Sara; and the remaining kin of the late Gilbert Keith of Loristoun, for not finding caution to appear to answer the charge of having murdered the said Gilbert Keith.

The Marischal was Sheriff of Kincardineshire, and, on the 18th of January, 1820, a commission was given to him and Lord Ogilvie, the Sheriff of Forfarshire and their deputies; and to the magistrates of Dundee and Brechin, each to act within his jurisdiction—to apprehend and try Thomas Bowman, "a common sorner and vagabond, haunting for the most part within the bounds of Glenesk," who was on the 1st of January denounced as a rebel at the instance of Margaret Blacklaw, relict, Alexander Brockie, son, and Christian, Margaret, Isobel, and Janet Brockie, daughters, with the rest of the kin and friends of the late William Brockie of Craigeouthill, for failing to find caution to appear before the Justice for stealing from the said William Brockie a milk cow, and for the cruel and odious slaughter of him.

On the 14th of June, 1621, Earl Marischal was charged by the Lords of the Privy council to keep the peace, some disputes having arisen between him and neighbouring landlords. The matter is stated in the register thus :—"Forasmuch as it is understood by the Lords of Council that there is great appearance of trouble and unquietness likely to fall out between George, Earl Marischal, on the one side, and Alexander Irvine of Drum on the other; and also between Earl Marischal and Douglas of Glenbervie, touching the casting pf petes, and building of houses, and pasturing upon lands controverted, and such matters, which might receive a civil decision before the ordinary judge: But the said parties, disdaining the ordinary course of law prosecution, and maintaining of their right and possession, they intend by the convoking and assistance of their kin and friends, and in a violent manner, to do their turn: Whereupon great inconvenience cannot fail to occur, the break of His Majesty’s peace, and disturbing of the country: Therefore the Lords of Council ordain letters to be directed charging the said parties to appear personally before the Council and answer to the premises, and abide by such order as shall be taken for the peace and quietness of the country, under the penalty of rebellion: And in the meantime to command and charge the said parties to observe our Sovereign Lord’s peace, keep good rule and quietness in the country, and that none of them presume to molest one another, nor attempt anything hurtful to the peace, under the following penalties :—viz., Earl Marischal under the penalty of 10,000 merks, and each of the other parties under the penalty of 5000 merks."

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