The Gordons are one of the oldest and most illustrious of the historical families of Scotland, and from the twelfth century down to the present day have taken a very prominent part in public affairs. They have shed their blood like water for their sovereign and country, at home and abroad, on the scaffold and the battlefield. They have earned distinction both as statesmen arid warriors, and have filled the highest offices in the Church and the State. Their exploits have been commemorated in song, and ballad, and tradition, as well as in the historic records of the country; and several members of the family have acquired an honourable position among Scottish authors. ‘O send Lewie Gordon hame,’ ‘Kenmure’s on and awa,’ ‘Cauld Kail in Aberdeen,’ and ‘Tullochgorum,’ represent different phases of the character of the ‘gay Gordons,’* gallant as gay. They claim a share in the poetry of Byron, whose mother was a Gordon; and the ‘Genealogical History of the Family of Sutherland,’ ‘The History of the Ancient, Noble, and Illustrious Family of Gordon,’ and the ‘Itinerarium Septentrionale’ of ‘Sandy Gordon,’ besides numerous treatises, historical, classical, and theological, attest the learning and are the fruits of the grave studies of the Gordons. The ‘Gordon Highlanders,’ raised among the clan and led by their chief, have carried the British standard to victory on many a well-fought field, in Holland and Egypt, in Spain and Belgium, at Corunna, Quatre Bras, and Waterloo; and the chiefs of the various branches of the house have been among the bravest and most skilful officers in the British army.
There are few of the ancient families of Scotland respecting whose origin so many absurd and fabulous stories have been told as of the Gordons. According to one account, they came from Greece into Gaul, and thence into Scotland, at least a thousand years ago. Another fabulist traces their origin to Spain, and a third to Flanders. Some writers affirm that the Gordons are descended from Bertrand de Gourdon, who, in 1199, wounded mortally with an arrow Richard Coeur de Lion, while he was besieging the castle of Chalons in the Limoges. But there can be no doubt that the Gordons were originally from Normandy, and that the founder of the Scottish branch of the family came into Scotland in the reign of David I. (1124—53), from whom he received a grant of the lands of Gordon. There is a tradition that the first of the name came from England in the days of Malcolm Canmore, and that, as a reward for his services in killing a wild boar which infested the Borders, he received from that monarch a grant of land in the Merse of Berwickshire, which he called Gordon after his own name, and settling there, he assumed a boar’s head for his armorial bearings in commemoration of his exploit. In all probability the story was invented to account for the arms of the family, and its founder was much more likely to have styled himself ‘de Gordon’ after his lands, than to have given his name to the place where, he settled.
The ancestor of the Gordons had two sons, Richard and Adam. Richard, the elder, who died in the year 1200, appears to have been a liberal benefactor to the monastery of Kelso. His son confirmed by charter his grants of land, and his grandson increased them, and gave lands also to the monks of Coldstream. He died in 1285 without male issue, and his only daughter, Alice, married her cousin, Adam de Gordon, the son of Adam the younger brother of Richard, and thus united the two branches of the family. This Adam is said to have accompanied Louis of France in his crusade for the recovery of the Holy Sepulchre, in 1270, and to have died during the expedition. His son, who was also named Adam, was a supporter of Baliol in his contest with Bruce for the crown, but he died before the commencement of the War of Independence.
His son, SIR ADAM DE GORDON, was one of the most powerful nobles of his time, and took a prominent part in the struggle for national freedom. He was at the outset an adherent of John Baliol, but after the death of that unfortunate monarch, Sir Adam gave in his adhesion to Robert Bruce. He was sent as ambassador to the papal court to submit to the Pope the spirited memorial prepared by the Parliament in 1320, in vindication of the freedom and independence of their country, and succeeded in persuading the Roman Pontiff to suspend the publication of his sentence of excommunication and interdict, and to address an epistle to the English king recommending him to conclude a peace with Scotland. As a reward for his important services, Sir Adam received from Robert Bruce a grant of the forfeited estate of David de Strathbogie, Earl of Athole; but that nobleman, having returned to his allegiance, was allowed to retain possession of his lands.
Sir Adam was killed at the battle of Halidon Hill, in 1333. He was succeeded by ALEXANDER, the eldest of his four sons, who fought with great gallantry by his father’s side, and was one of the few nobles who escaped from that fatal field. He is said to have fallen at the battle of Durham, October 17th, 1346, but his name does not appear in the list of the slain given by Lord Hailes. His son, SIR JOHN, was present at that engagement, and was taken prisoner, along with King David. He was detained in captivity in England until 1357.
The Earl of Athole, who was noted for his rapacity and cruelty, once more joined the English invaders, in 1335, but was defeated by Sir Andrew Moray, the Regent, at Kilblane, near Braemar, and was killed in the battle. His estates were then finally forfeited, and in 1376 SIR JOHN DE GORDON, the son of the Sir John who was captured at Durham, obtained from Robert II. a new charter of the lands of Strathbogie. The Gordon clan were thus transferred from the Borders to the Highlands, though they continued to possess their original estates in Berwickshire till the beginning of the fifteenth century. Their northern domain and lordship received the name of Huntly from a small village near Gordon, and their title was taken from it when the family was raised to the peerage. Sir John de Gordon was a redoubted warrior, and many of his exploits are narrated in the Border annals and traditions of his age.
In 1371-2 the English Borderers invaded and plundered the lands of Gordon. Sir John retaliated as usual by an incursion into Northumberland, where he laid waste and plundered the country. But as he returned with his booty, he was attacked unawares by Sir John Lilburn, a Northumbrian baron, who, with a greatly superior force, lay in ambush near Carham to intercept him. Gordon harangued and cheered his followers, charged the English gallantly, and, after having himself been five times in great peril, gained a complete victory, taking the English commander and his brother captive. According to Wyntoun, Sir John was desperately wounded, but—
‘The’re rayse a welle grete renowne,
And gretly prysyd wes gude Gordown.’
Shortly after this exploit Sir John of Gordon encountered and defeated Sir Thomas Musgrave, a renowned English knight, whom he made prisoner. Wyntoun says of Sir John and the Laird of Johnston, another celebrated Borderer—
‘He and the Lord of Gordown
Had a soverane gude renown
Of ony that war of thare degré,
For full that war of grete bounté.’
Sir John and his clan fought at the battle of Otterburn in 1587, under the banner of the Earl of Douglas, and, along with his renowned leader, he lost his life in that fiercely-contested conflict.
Lord John left three sons, the two younger of whom were known in tradition by the familiar names of Jock and Tam. The former was the ancestor of the Gordons of Pitlurg; the latter of those of Lesmoir and of Craig-Gordon.
His eldest son, SIR ADAM DE GORDON, a young noble conspicuous for his gallantry, fell at the battle of Homildon Hill. When the English archers were pouring their volleys with deadly effect on the closely wedged ranks of the Scottish spearmen, who were falling by hundreds, Sir John Swinton, a brave Border knight of gigantic stature, well advanced in years, exclaimed, ‘Why stand we here to be shot like deer and marked down by the enemy? Where is our wonted courage? Are we to be still and have our hands nailed to our lances? Follow me, and let us at least sell our lives as dearly as we can.’ This gallant proposal won the admiration of Adam de Gordon, whose family were at deadly feud with that of Swinton, and throwing himself from his horse and kneeling down before him, he said, ‘I have not been knighted, and never can I take the honour from the hand of a truer, more loyal, more valiant leader. Grant me the boon I ask, and I unite my forces to yours, that we may live and die together.’ Swinton cordially complied with Gordon’s request, and after having hastily performed the ceremony, he tenderly embraced his late foe. The two knights then mounted their horses, and, at the head of a hundred horsemen, charged fiercely on the English host; but, unsupported by their countrymen, the little band, with its gallant leaders, were overpowered and slain.
Sir Adam was succeeded in his estates by his only child, ELIZABETH GORDON, who became the wife of ALEXANDER DE SETON, second son of Sir William de Seton of Seton. He assumed the name of Gordon, was styled Lord Gordon and Huntly, and carried on the line of the family. He had two sons by the heiress of the Gordons. ALEXANDER, the eldest, was created EARL OF HUNTLY in 1449. He was a good deal employed in embassies and negotiations at the English court. During the rebellion of the Douglases Huntly was appointed by James II. (who placed great confidence in his integrity and judgment) lieutenant-general of the kingdom, and was intrusted with the difficult task of suppressing the rebellion of the Earls of Crawford and Ross, who had entered into a treasonable association with the Earl of Douglas. Marching northward with a powerful army under the royal standard, he encountered Crawford, at the head of his retainers and vassals, on a moor about two miles north-east of Brechin. The battle was fiercely contested, and for a considerable time the issue was very doubtful; but it was decided against the Tiger Earl, as Crawford was called, by the desertion in the heat of the fight of one of his most trusted vassals, Collace of Balnamoon, at the head of three hundred men. Huntly lost two of his brothers, and Gordon of Methlic, ancestor of the Earl of Aberdeen, in this sanguinary conflict. A brother of Crawford, and sixty other lords and gentlemen who fought on his side, were among the slain. The Earl and his discomfited followers fled to Finhaven Castle. On alighting from his horse, the savage Earl called for a cup of wine, and declared with an oath that ‘he wad be content to hang seven years in hell by the breers o’ the e’en [eyelashes] to gain such a victory as had that day fallen to Huntly.’
The Earl of Moray, one of the brothers of the Earl of Douglas, in revenge for Crawford’s defeat, burned Huntly’s castle of Strathbogie and ravaged his estates, and he shortly after surprised and defeated a body of the Gordons in a morass called Dunkinty. This repulse is commemorated in a jeering song which runs thus :—
‘Where did you leave your men,
Thou Gordon so gay?
In the bog of Dunkinty,
Mowing the hay.’
Lord Huntly died 15th July, 1470, and was buried at Elgin. He was three times married. His first wife, daughter of Robert de Keith, grandson of the Great Marischal of Scotland, brought him a fine estate but no children. His second wife, who was daughter and heiress of Sir John Hay of Tullibody, bore to him a son, Sir Alexander Seton, who inherited his mother’s estate, and was ancestor of the Setons of Touch. The Earl’s third wife, a daughter of Lord Crichton, High Chancellor of Scotland, bore to him three sons and three daughters. The title and estates were settled by charter on the issue of this third marriage, and the eldest son succeeded his father in 1470.
GEORGE, second Earl of Huntly, was appointed, with the Earl of Crawford, joint justiciary of the country beyond the Forth. He was a member of the Privy Council of James IlI. Though he was an accomplice of Bell-the-Cat and the other disaffected barons in the murder of the royal favourites at Lauder, in the final struggle between them and James, Huntly supported the cause of that unfortunate sovereign, and, along with the Earl of Athole, commanded the vanguard of the royal army in the battle of Sauchieburn, where the King lost his life. James IV., however, seems to have entertained no hostile feelings towards the Earl, for in 1491 he nominated him his lieutenant in the northern parts of Scotland beyond the North Esk river; and, in 1498, he appointed Huntly High Chancellor of Scotland. He resigned this office in 1502, and died soon after. The Earl was twice married. His first wife, Annabella, daughter of James I., bore to him six daughters and five sons. His eldest son became third Earl. His second son, Adam, married Elizabeth, Countess of Sutherland, and became Earl of Sutherland in her right. William, third son, was the ancestor of the Gordons of Gight, from whom Lord Byron was descended. James Gordon of Letterfourie, the fourth, was admiral of the fleet in 1513. Lady Catherine, the eldest daughter of Lord Huntly, who was regarded as the most beautiful and accomplished woman in Scotland, was given in marriage by the King to Perkin Warbeck, whose claims to the English throne he warmly supported. She accompanied that adventurer to England; after his execution King Henry granted her a pension, and assigned her a post of honour at the English Court, where she was known by the name of the White Rose of Scotland. Lady Catherine afterwards married Sir Matthew Cradock, an ancestor of the Pembroke family. The Earl had no issue by his second wife, a daughter of the first Earl of Errol.
ALEXANDER, third Earl of Huntly, according to Holinshed, was held in the highest reputation of all the Scottish nobility for his valour, joined with wisdom and policy. He contributed greatly to the suppression of a rebellion in the Isles in 1505, and in the following year he stormed the castle of Stornoway, in Lewis, the stronghold of Torquil Macleod, the leader of the insurgents. The Earl, along with Lord Home, commanded the left wing of the Scottish army at the battle of Flodden, 9th September, 1513, and overpowered and threw into disorder the division commanded by Sir Edward Howard. The Earl and his brother, the Earl of Sutherland, were among the few Scottish nobles who returned in safety from that fatal field, but Sir William Gordon of Gight was among the slain, as was also Alexander Gordon, heir-apparent of Lochinvar. When the Queen-Dowager was appointed Regent of the kingdom, the Parliament resolved that she should be guided by the counsels of Huntly, along with Angus and the Archbishop of Glasgow. During the minority of James V. Huntly’s authority was predominant in the north. When the Duke of Albany left the country in 1517, the Earl was nominated One of the Council of Regency, and, in the following year, he was appointed the royal lieutenant over all Scotland, except the West Highlands. He died at Paris, 10th January, 1524. By his first wife, a daughter of John, Earl of Athole, uterine brother of James IV., the Earl had four sons and two daughters. By his second wife, a daughter of Lord Gray, he had no issue. His eldest son, George, died young. John, his second son, also predeceased him, leaving two sons by his wife Margaret, an illegitimate daughter of James IV. Alexander, his third son, was ancestor of the Gordons of Cluny; and the fourth, William, was Bishop of Aberdeen from 1547 to his death in 1577.
Bishop Gordon has obtained an unenviable notoriety for his immoral life and his alienation of the revenues of his diocese. Spottiswood says :—‘ This man, brought up in letters at Aberdeen, followed his studies a long time in Paris, and returning thence was first, parson of Clat, and afterwards promoted to the See. Some hopes he gave at first of a virtuous man, but afterwards turned a very epicure, spending all his time in drinking and whoring. He dilapidated the whole rents by feuing the land, and converting the victual-duties in money, a great part whereof he wasted upon his base children and their mothers.’ The registers of the diocese fully bear out these severe statements respecting the conduct of this unworthy prelate. Mention is made in them of no fewer than forty-nine ‘charters of assedation’ of various portions of the land belonging to the bishopric granted by him during the course of a single year— 1549. The Dean and Chapter of Aberdeen, in a memorial of advice presented to Bishop Gordon in January, 1558, ‘humbly and heartily pray and exhort my lord, their ordinary, for the honour of God, relief of his own conscience, and weil of his diocese, and the eviting of great scandal, that his lordship will be so good as to show edicative example; in special in removing and discharging himself of the company of the gentlewoman by whom he is greatly slandered; without the which be done, divers that are partners say they cannot accept counsel and correction of him who will not correct himself.’
This really affecting appeal, however, had no effect on the bishop. On the 20th October, 1565, he granted a charter of the lands of North Spittal to Janet Knowles (probably ‘the gentlewoman by whom he was greatly slandered’) in life-rents, and to his children, George, John, and William, Elizabeth, Margaret, and Martha Gordon, in feu.
GEORGE, fourth Earl of Huntly, eldest son of Lord John Gordon, succeeded his grandfather in 1524, when only ten years of age. He was educated along with James V., his maternal uncle, and was carefully instructed by the best masters. His frequent intercourse with the Court of France not only polished his manners, but gave him an insight into the inner machinery of public government. At an early age he filled several important offices, and in 1537 he was appointed Lieutenant-general of the country beyond the Forth. The Earl was possessed of almost regal influence in the north, which he frequently exercised in an arbitrary and tyrannical manner. He took a very prominent part in public affairs during the reign of James V. and his unfortunate daughter Mary. In July, 1542, he defeated, at Haddon Rig, near Kelso, Sir Robert Bowes, Warden of the East Marches, who was ravaging Teviotdale at the head of three thousand men, and took six hundred prisoners, including Bowes himself, with his brother and several other persons of note. This defeat so enraged King Henry that he sent an expedition consisting of thirty thousand men into Scotland, under the Duke of Norfolk, with orders to lay waste the country; but they were kept in check by Huntly with a force only a third of that number, and were ultimately compelled to retreat to Berwick.
After the death of King James, Huntly was constituted Lieutenant-general of all the Highlands, and of Orkney and Shetland. In May, 1544, he marched with a numerous army, reinforced by Lord Lovat and the Frasers, against the clan Cameron and the Macdonalds of Clanranald, who were plundering Glenmoriston, Strathglass, and the whole adjoining district. At his approach they retired to their own territories. But as soon as Huntly had separated from the Frasers to return home, they were attacked by the Macdonalds at Loch Lochy, and so fierce was the conflict, that only two combatants on the one side and four on the other survived. Huntly lost no time in retracing his steps, and after laying waste the district, he apprehended and put to death a number of the leading men of the rebellious tribes.
The Earl was appointed High Chancellor of Scotland in 1546. He commanded the vanguard at the battle of Pinkie, 10th September, 1547, and was taken prisoner by the English. He was first sent to London, but was subsequently removed to Morpeth Castle. He promised that, if allowed to return home, he would join the English party and forward the project of marriage between the young Scottish queen and King Edward. He did not mislike the match so much, he said, as the manner of wooing. His offer does not appear to have been accepted; probably its sincerity was doubted. Among the papers, however, in Gordon Castle, there are covenants between Huntly and the Protector Somerset which show that the Earl had agreed to promote the project of an English marriage and alliance, while he was at the same time regarded as the main support of the Roman Catholic party, who were bent on an alliance and marriage with France. He succeeded in making his escape from his prison, in 1548, by the assistance of George Car, a well-known Borderer. ‘George Car,’ says the family historian, ‘came at the appointed time with two horses, the best the Borderers could afford for the purpose, the one being for the Earl and the other for his servant. The appointed night he prepares a good supper for his keepers, and invites them solemnly to it, and to play at cards, to put off the tediousness of the night. At length, as if he had been weary-of playing, he left off, entreating them to continue; and, going to the window, he did by a secret sign observe that all things were ready for his escape, tho’ the night was extremely dark. He began then to be doubtful, sometimes in hope, and other times in fear. At last, without thinking, he burst out into this speech, A dark night, a wearied knight; GOD be the Guide. The keepers, hearing him speaking to himself, asked what he meant by that? He answered that these words were used as a proverb among the Scots, and had their beginning from the old Earl of Morton uttering the same in the middle of the night, when he lay a-dying. Whereupon, that his keepers might have no suspicion of his designed escape, he sitteth down again to cards, after which he suddenly rose from them on the plea of necessity, and went suddenly out with his servant, found the horses furnished by George Car ready, which he and his servant immediately mounted, and on them, with all possible speed, fled to the Scot’s Borders.’
Huntly was now the, recognised head of the Roman Catholic party in Scotland, and when the marriage of Queen Mary to the Dauphin of France was proposed, he received the order of St. Michael from the French King, and, in 1549 he obtained a grant of the earldom of Moray.
The severity of Huntly’s proceedings against the Highland clans had excited a strong feeling of revenge, and a plot was formed for his assassination. Mackintosh, the chief of the clan Chattan, who had been liberally educated by the Earl of Moray, Huntly’s enemy, was at the head of this conspiracy. The plot being discovered, Huntly caused Mackintosh to be apprehended and beheaded at Strathbogie.
In 1554 a violent outbreak took place on the part of the chief of Clanranald, accompanied as usual with rapine and bloodshed, and Huntly was entrusted by the Queen-Regent with full powers to bring the offenders to justice. The expedition, however, was unsuccessful, mainly in consequence of dissensions among the Earl’s followers, and its failure was attributed to his own mismanagement. He was, in consequence, apprehended and committed to prison, was deprived of all his offices, and was sentenced to be banished to France for five years. He was at the same time compelled to renounce the earldom of Moray, and the lordship of Abernethy, with his leases and possessions in Orkney and Shetland. The sentence of banishment, however, was recalled by the Queen-Regent and commuted for a heavy fine, and he was restored to his office of Chancellor, of which he had been deprived.
During the fierce contentions between Mary of Guise and the Lords of the Congregation, Huntly repeatedly interposed, in order to prevent hostilities. On her behalf he signed the agreement with them which led to their evacuation of Edinburgh, but, shortly after, he entered into a bond with the Duke of Chatelherault, and the other Lords of the Congregation, for the support of the Reformation and the expulsion of the French troops from the kingdom. It need excite no surprise that in these circumstances the Queen-Regent, in her last interview with the lords, warned them against the crafty and interested advice of the Earl of Huntly.
The power of the Gordon family had now reached its greatest height. They had succeeded to the vast influence of the old Earls of Ross; and the ‘Cock of the North,’ as the head of the house was termed, exercised almost supreme authority over the vast territory to the north and west of Aberdeen, extending from the Dee as far as the chain of lakes which now form the Caledonian Canal. They possessed also large estates on the fertile east coast of Scotland, which were cultivated by an industrious Lowland tenantry, furnishing them with the means of living in princely state at their castle of Strathbogie, and of maintaining a numerous body of armed retainers. The Earls of Huntly were not only the chiefs of a clan, but the heads of a party almost strong enough to cope with royalty, and the great offices of Lieutenant-General of all the Highlands, King’s Lieutenant over all Scotland, and Lord High Chancellor, which were held by several of them in succession, added largely to their already overgrown power. They possessed a vast number of bonds of man-rent, friendship, and alliance, given to them not only by the minor houses of their own kindred, but by most of the leading families in the north of Scotland, dating from 1444 to 1670, which testify, in a very unmistakable way, the enormous following which could be relied on by the chiefs of the Gordons in all emergencies.
The earliest of these bonds—a hundred and seven in all—was given in 1444 by James of Forbes, who ‘becomes man till ane honourable and mighty Lord, Alexander of Seton of Gordon.’ Among the important and influential persons who, in subsequent times, gave similar bonds to Huntly, was the Earl of Argyll, who, in 1583, promised to ‘concur and take aefeld, true, and plain part’ with the chief of the Gordons, ‘in all his honest and guid causes, against whatsomever that live or die may, our sovereign lord and his authority alone excepted.’ In 1587, Rattray of Craighall binds himself and his dependents ‘to serve the said Earl in all his actions and adoes, against all persons, the King’s Majesty only excepted, and sall neither hear nor see his skaith, but sall make him foreseen therewith, and sall resist the same sae far as in me lies, and that in respect the same Earl has given me his bond of maintenance.’ Similar engagements were entered into by Macleod of Lewis, Colin of Kintail, chief of the clan Mackenzie; Munro of Foulis, Glengarry, Macgregor of Glenstrae, Drummond of Blair, Donald Gorm of Sleat, progenitor of the present Lord Macdonald; Grant of Freuchie, Lady Menzies of Weem, the Earl of Orkney, Lord Lovat, Lord Spynie, Cameron of Lochiel, Menzies of that ilk, Menzies of Pitfodels, the Laird of Luss, Mackintosh of Dunnachtan, Innes of Innermarky, the Laird of Melgund, the clan Macpherson, and numerous other powerful chiefs and lairds.
The rental of the widespread lands of the chief of the Gordons was, of course, correspondingly large, though a great portion of it was paid in kind, as was shown by an incident which occurred in 1556. In that year the Queen-Dowager, on a progress to the northern part of the country, was sumptuously entertained by Huntly in his castle of Strathbogie, which he had recently enlarged and adorned at a great expense. After a stay of some days, the Queen, apprehensive that her prolonged visit, with her large retinue, might put her host to inconvenience, proposed to take her departure. Huntly, however, entreated her to remain, which she agreed to do. On expressing a wish to inspect the cellars and storehouses which furnished the bounteous cheer provided for her, she was shown, among other stores of food of every sort, an enormous quantity of wildfowl and venison. The Frenchmen in the Queen’s retinue asked how and whence a supply so vast and yet so fresh was procured, and were informed by the Earl that he had relays of hunters and fowlers dispersed in the mountains, woods, and remote places of his domains, who daily forwarded to his castle the game which they caught, however distant their quarters might be. D’Oisel, on hearing this reply, remarked to the Queen that such a man was not to be tolerated in so small and poor a kingdom as Scotland, and that his wings ought to be clipped before he became too arrogant.
In the contest between the Reformers and the Romish Church, the fourth Earl, unfortunately for himself and his family, resolved to stand forth as the leader of the Popish party. During the commotions under the regency of the Queen-mother, as we have seen, he had acted a temporising part. He at one time assisted the Regent in her efforts to carry out the Popish policy dictated by her brothers, the Guises. At another he professed to have joined the Lords of the Congregation, though he took care to give no material aid to the Protestant cause, and was present at the famous Parliament of 1560, in which the Romish Church was overthrown. He was courted and feared by each of the contending parties, as Robertson remarks, and in consequence, both connived at his encroachments in the north, and he was thus enabled, by a combination of artifice and force, to add every day to his already exorbitant power and wealth. But there can be no doubt that he had, long before this time, determined to become the leader of the Scottish Roman Catholics, in their life and death struggle with the Protestants. After the death of the French king, Mary’s husband, Huntly, in conjunction with some other Romish nobles, sent an envoy to the young Queen, to invite her, on her return to her own country, to land at Aberdeen, where they were prepared to welcome her as the champion of the old faith, with an army of twenty thousand men. But Mary was aware that the acceptance of this offer would incur the risk of a desperate civil war, and that whether it terminated in victory or defeat, it would be ruinous to her hopes of gaining the English crown. She therefore contented herself with enjoining the envoy to assure the lords and prelates who had sent him of her favour towards them, and her intention to reside in her kingdom.
In carrying out the policy which she adopted at this stage, Mary chose as her chief counsellor her half-brother, Lord James Stewart, the leader of the Protestant lords, and it transpired that she intended to create him Earl of Moray. Huntly was deeply offended at the favour thus shown to his rival, and especially at the prospect of being deprived of the extensive domains attached to the earldom of Moray, which had for some years been in his possession. His disaffection to the Government was not concealed, and there was reason to believe that he was organising his retainers and allies with a view to take up arms in support of the ancient faith, as soon as a favourable opportunity should present itself.
In these circumstances the Queen resolved to make a journey to the north, no doubt by Moray’s advice, though Randolph says it was ‘rather devised by herself than approved by her council.’ In the course of this royal progress, which was to terminate at Inverness, Mary was to visit Huntly at his splendid castle of Strathbogie, by way of doing honour to the northern potentate. It is doubtful, however, whether the Earl regarded the proposal quite in this light, and it could not suit his purposes that his keen-eyed rival should have an opportunity of inspecting closely the state of affairs at the headquarters of the Popish party.
At this time an incident occurred which had an important influence on the relations between the Queen and her potent subject. In a conflict which took place in the streets of Edinburgh, between Sir John Gordon, one of Huntly’s younger sons, and Lord Ogilvy, that nobleman was severely wounded, and Gordon was immediately arrested and committed to prison. He made his escape, however, from the Tolbooth, and took refuge on his estate in the north. His mother persuaded him to submit himself to the pleasure of the Queen, who ordered him to be conveyed to the castle of Stirling. On his way thither he repented of his submission, escaped from his guards, and gathering a strong body of horsemen, bade defiance to the royal authority.
The Queen set out from Edinburgh on her royal progress (11th August, 1562), accompanied by Randolph, the English ambassador, her brother, Lord James, at that time Earl of Mar, Secretary Lethington, and a large body of the nobility. She arrived at Old Aberdeen on the 27th of August. Huntly was evidently afraid to trust himself within her power without knowing whether she came for a peaceful or a hostile purpose, and he sent his wife to wait on her Majesty, and to invite her to his castle of Strathbogie. The Queen declined to accept the invitation, on the ground that she would not visit the Earl so long as his son was a fugitive from justice. Randolph, however, who was the Earl’s guest for two nights, in a letter to Cecil, says, ‘his house is fair, and best furnished of any house that I have seen in this country. His cheer is marvellous great.’ There can be no doubt that both the Queen and her chief counsellor ran considerable risk in venturing into the Gordon territory, and it transpired that while spending a night in the Castle of Balquhain, a stronghold of the Leslies, they both narrowly escaped seizure. At Darnaway Castle, the chief mansion of the earldom of Moray, a meeting of the Privy Council was held, at which the Lord James produced his patent of the earldom of Moray, which he exchanged for that of Mar, ‘both more honourable,’ says Randolph, ‘and greater in profit than the other.’ The conferring this honour upon his rivals seems to have driven Huntly to despair. He immediately assembled his vassals, and advanced with rapid marches towards Aberdeen, with the hope of seizing the Queen’s person. A party of the royal soldiers were attacked near Findlater, one of the Earl’s castles, by his son, Sir John Gordon. Their leader was captured, a number of them killed, and the rest disarmed. ‘This fact,’ says Knox, ‘so inflamed the Queen that all hope of reconciliation was past; and so the said Earl of Huntly was charged, under pain of putting him to the horne, to present himself and the said Sir John before the Queen and Council within six days, which charge he disobeyed, and so was pronounced a rebel.’
A considerable force had at first assembled round the Gordon standard, but the Mackintoshes, whose chief he had beheaded some years before, and several other clans that had hitherto submitted to the iron rule of Huntly, now availed themselves of the opportunity to free themselves from his yoke, under the plea of loyalty. His troops thus gradually melted away until they had dwindled down to between seven and eight hundred men. On the other hand, the royal forces, swelled by the deserters from Huntly’s standard, numbered about two thousand. The Earl, however, with the courage of despair, assumed the offensive. A conflict took place on the declivity of a hill called Corrichie, about fifteen or eighteen miles west of Aberdeen. On the first attack, the clans that had passed from Huntly to the Queen took to flight; but Moray restored the battle, which terminated in the complete defeat of the insurgents. The Earl himself was found dead on the field—smothered, it was said, in his armour, owing to his corpulence, and the pressure of the crowd of fugitives and pursuers. [One of the numerous misstatements, to use the mildest term, of Bishop Leslie, is to the effect that Huntly was taken prisoner and put to death by Moray’s order. In accordance with the barbarous law and practice of the time, Huntly’s dead body was embowellerl and roughly embalmed, in order that it might be brought to Edinburgh, to the meeting of Parliament, where sentence of forfeiture was pronounced upon him. Leslie, who must have known better, says this was done because Moray’s hatred of all good men prompted him to insult even their remains.] Two of his sons, Sir John and Adam Gordon, were taken prisoners. The latter, who was only eighteen years of age, was pardoned on account of his youth; but, three days after the battle, Sir John, who was regarded as the chief cause of the rebellion, was beheaded at Aberdeen. Buchanan says, ‘he was generally pitied and lamented, for he was a noble youth, very beautiful, and entering on the prime of his age.’ He was said to have aspired to the hand of the Queen, and it is alleged that on this account, at the instance of Moray, she witnessed his execution.
There can be no doubt that Huntly had meditated the most violent measures against his sovereign. Randolph states in a letter to Cecil that ‘Sir John Gordon confessed his treasonable designs, but laid the burden of them on his father; that two confidential servants of that nobleman, Thomas Ker and his brother, acknowledged that their master, on three several occasions, had plotted to cut off Moray and Lethington; and that the Queen herself, in a conversation with Randolph, thanked God for having delivered her enemy into her hand. She declared,’ he says, ‘many a shameful and detestable part that he thought to have used against her, as to have married her where he would, to have slain her brother, and whom other he liked; the places, the times, where it should have been done; and how easy matter it was, if God had not preserved her.’
Lord George Gordon, Huntly’s eldest surviving son, was shortly after apprehended in the Lowlands, and having been brought to trial for treason, was found guilty and condemned to death, but was respited, and committed a prisoner to the castle of Dunbar.
The movables in Huntly’s splendid mansion of Strathbogie were divided between the Queen and the Earl of Moray. The inventory of the Queen’s share has been preserved, and, as Dr. Stuart remarks, it enables us to realise the grandeur of Huntly’s style of living, as well as his taste and refinement. The beds carried from Strathbogie to Holyrood were of rich velvets, with ornaments and fringes of gold and silver work; many pieces of tapestry, vessels of gilded or coloured glass, figures of animals, and images of a monk and nun, the marble bust of a man, and a wooden carving of the Samaritan woman at the well, were items in the list.
It is startling to learn that several of the most costly articles of which Queen Mary had thus despoiled her unfortunate subject were employed to deck the apartments in the Kirk of Field which were hastily fitted up for Darnley when he was brought from Glasgow to the place selected for his murder. The hall was hung with five pieces of tapestry, part of the plunder of Strathbogie. The walls of the king’s chamber on the upper floor were hung with six pieces of tapestry, which, like the hangings of the wall, had been spoiled from the Gordons after Corrichie. There were two or three cushions of red velvet, a high chair covered with purple velvet, and a little table with a broad cloth, or cover of green velvet, also brought from Strathbogie.
At the first meeting of Parliament, Huntly’s vast estates were confiscated to the Crown, and the potent house of Gordon was reduced at once to insignificance and penury. Such a signal overthrow of one of the greatest territorial magnates in the kingdom was regarded by the Protestants as a signal judgment upon him for his hostility to the good cause. John Knox, in pointing the moral of Huntly’s downfall, for the benefit of the courtiers, said, referring to the Earl’s public deportment, ‘Have ye not seen ane greater than any of ye, sit picking his nails and pull down his bonnet over his eyes when idolatry, witchcraft, murder, oppression, and such vices were rebuked? Was not his common talk, "When the knaves have railed their fill they will hold their peace"? Have you not heard it affirmed in his own face that God should revenge that his blasphemy, even in the eyes of such as were witness to his iniquity? Then was the Earl of Huntly accused by you as the maintainer of idolatry and only hinderer of all good order. Him has God punished even according to His threatenings, that his and your ears heard, and by your hands hath God executed his judgments.’
In no long time, however, the house of Gordon rose again from its ruins with undiminished splendour and power.
By his countess, a granddaughter of the third Earl Marischal, Lord Huntly had nine sons and three daughters. Alexander, the eldest, who married a daughter of the Duke of Chatelherault, died without issue in 1553. George, the second son, became fifth Earl. Of the other sons, one was a Jesuit and died at Paris, in 1626. Sir Adam of Auchindoun, the sixth son, whom Queen Mary pardoned, was long a staunch and powerful supporter of her cause in the north. On the 9th of October, 1571, he defeated the Forbeses, the hereditary enemies of the Gordons, and the opponents of the Queen’s party, with the loss of a hundred and twenty men. Two hundred hagbuteers were despatched by the Regent to the assistance of the Forbeses, but, in a second encounter, at the ‘Craibstane,’ near Aberdeen, they were again defeated by Gordon: three hundred of them were killed, and two hundred, along with the Master of Forbes, were taken prisoners. ‘But,’ says a contemporary chronicler, ‘what glory and renown he (Auchindoun) obtained by these two victories, was all casten down by the infamy of his next attempt; for, immediately after his last conflict, he directed his soldiers to the castle of Towie, desiring the house to be rendered to him in the Queen’s name, whilk was obstinately refused by the lady, and she burst out with certain injurious words. And the soldiers, being impatient, by command of their leader, Captain Ker, fire was put to the house, whence she and the number of twenty-seven persons were cruelly burnt to the death.’
This atrocious deed has been commemorated in the beautiful and touching ballad entitled ‘Edom o’ Gordon.’
[The description, by the unknown poet, of the scene in which the mother and her children appear, as they see the flames climbing up the battlements and the smoke closing around them, as Mr. Murray remarks, is perhaps unsurpassed in popular poetry; while the picture of the beautiful dead face, smiting even the ruffian soldier with a feeling which he cannot bear, is sketched as if by the hand of Nature herself
‘O then bespake her youngest son,
Sat on the nurse’s knee;
"O mother dear, gie ower your house,
For the reek it smothers me."
Of wad gie a’ my gowd, my bairn,
Sae wad I gie my fee,
For ae blast o’ the westlan’ wind
To blaw the reek frae thee."
The Laird of Towie Castle, one of the chiefs of the Forbes family, was from home when his mansion and family were thus ruthlessly destroyed. The ballad represents him as pursuing the murderers, and states that only five of them escaped his vengeance. There is, unfortunately, no reason to believe that they met with the condign punishment which their shocking crime deserved. As Sir Adam Gordon retained Ker in his service after this inhuman deed, he was regarded by the public as equally guilty.
O then bespake her dochter dear—
She was baith jimp and sma’—.
"O row me in a pair o’ sheets,
And tow me ower the wa’."
They rowed her in a pair o’ sheets,
And towed her ower the wa’,
But on the point of Edom’s spear
She got a deadly fa’.
O bonny, bonny was her mouth,
And cherry were her cheeks,
And clear, clear was her yellow hair,
Whereon the red bluid dreeps.
Then wi’ his spear he turned her ower;
O gin her face was wan!
He said, "Ye are the first that e’er
I wished alive again."
He turned her ower and ower again,
O gin her skin was white!
"I might hae spared that bonny face
To been some man’s delight.
"Brisk and boun my merry men all,
For ill dooms I do guess:
I canna look in that bonnie face,
As it lies on the grass."’
The Ballads and Songs of Scotland. By J. Clark Murray, LL.D.
[Among the papers in the charter-chest of Lord Forbes at Castle Forbes, there is a pungent Latin epigram, written by James Forbes of Corsinday, in 1621, which shows the bitter feeling that the Forbeses cherished towards the Gordons. Referring to the armorial bearings of the Gordon family, it represents the Gordons as boasting that they had performed an exploit which equalled one of Hercules. True, they had both killed a boar, but the one was a fierce wild beast, the other was a domestic pig. The one was a devourer of men, the other fed only on refuse. There was as great a difference between the exploit of the Gordons and that of Hercules, as there was between these two animals.—Second Report of the Historical MSS. Commission, 194.
Sir Patrick, the seventh son of the Earl of Huntly, was killed at the battle of Glenlivet, in 1594.
The Earl’s second daughter, Lady Jean, had a memorable career. She married, on 22nd February, 1566, the notorious Earl of Bothwell; but, in 1567, her marriage was annulled, in order to allow him to become the third husband of Queen Mary. This was done on the plea that he was related to Lady Jean within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity, and that no dispensation had been obtained from the Pope sanctioning their union. It was suspected at the time that a dispensation had been given by the Papal legate, the Archbishop of St. Andrews, the same prelate that declared the marriage null and void from the beginning, and indeed it was asserted by the commissioners at Westminster, that the sentence of nullity ‘for consanguenitie standing betwixt Bothwell and his wiff precedit oralie becaus the dispensation was abstracted.’ This has now been proved to be the case, by the discovery of this important document at Dunrobin. It must, therefore, have all along been in the possession of Lady Jean Gordon; who must, of course, have withheld it by collusion. The motives which led to the suppression of the dispensation by her and her family are very obvious. Her brother, the Earl of Huntly, was closely connected with the Queen at this juncture, and his family estates, which had been forfeited by his father in 1562, were formally restored and his forfeiture rescinded on the 19th of April, the very day on which he and other nobles signed the bond in Ainslie’s tavern, recommending Bothwell, his sister’s husband, as a fit person to marry the Queen. His motive, therefore, for promoting the dissolution of the marriage is quite apparent. After Bothwell’s downfall and flight, Throckmorton, in a letter to Queen Elizabeth, says, ‘Now I hear sayde earle of Huntley can be contented that Bodwell shuld myscarye, to ryd the quene and hys sister of so wicked a husbande.’ The allusion in this letter to Huntly’s sister evidently implies that it was still possible that she might be held to be legally Bothwell’s wife; and this is confirmed by the statement that ‘she hath protested to the Lady Moray that she will never live with the Earl of Bothwell nor take him for her husband.’ Unless she had been aware that the divorce had been collusive and fraudulent, she could not have regarded it as a possible occurrence that she might be called upon to live again with Bothwell as his wife.
With regard to Lady Jean’s own reasons for agreeing so readily to separate from her husband, apart from the question whether this step was taken with the knowledge of the Queen’s affection, real or supposed, for Bothwell, and with a view to the restoration of the fortunes of her house, as was positively asserted by the Earl of Moray, it is doubtful whether she did really sacrifice her feelings by consenting to the divorce. Bothwell, according to all accounts, was a person of violent temper and gross habits, as well as of notorious profligacy, and short as had been the time of their union, it was long enough to disgust a lady whom her son, the Earl of Sutherland, describes as ‘virtuous, religious, and wyse, even beyond her sex,’ and to make her willing, if not anxious, that her connection with her worthless husband should be brought to a termination. It must also be kept in mind that, contrary to custom in such cases, special arrangements were made for the preservation of her legal rights as Bothwell’s wife, and that, though her marriage was annulled, and his estates were twice forfeited before her death, she continued to draw her jointure from them to the end of her long life, and this notwithstanding her own marriage to two husbands in succession, after her separation from Bothwell in 1566. In 1573 Lady Jean married Alexander, twelfth Earl of Sutherland, to whom she bore two daughters and four sons, the youngest of whom, Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonstoun, was the historian of the family of Sutherland. After the death of the Earl, the Countess married Alexander Ogilvie of Boyne, whom she also outlived. She died, May 14th, 1629, having survived, in peace and honour, her divorce from Bothwell the long period of sixty-two years. Her son, Sir Robert Gordon, eulogises in glowing terms her excellent memory, sound judgment, and great understanding, the prudence and foresight with which she managed her affairs ‘amidst all the troublesome times, and variable courses of fortune’ which she experienced. ‘By reason of her husband, Earl Alexander, his sickly disposition, together with her son’s minority at the time of his father’s death, she was in a manner forced to take upon her the managing of all the affairs of that house a good while, which she did perform with great care, to her own credit and the weal of that family.’
GEORGE, fifth Earl of Huntly, as we have seen, was tried and condemned for treason after the battle of Corrichie. A story has been told, on the authority of Gordon of Straloch, respecting an alleged attempt on the part of the Earl of Moray to procure the execution of Lord George Gordon during his imprisonment in Dunbar Castle, without the Queen’s knowledge, though professedly by her authority. But it rests on no trustworthy authority, and carries falsehood on its face. The death of Lord George, who was a condemned traitor, could have been of no service to Moray while other six of Huntly’s sons were alive and at liberty. After Queen Mary had resolved to marry Darnley in spite of the opposition of Moray and the other Protestant lords, she released Gordon from prison, and restored to him his titles and estates. The Earl of Huntly was in Holyrood at the time of Rizzio’s murder, and was supping along with Bothwell and Athole in another part of the palace. Having reason to believe that they were obnoxious to the perpetrators of that dastardly crime, they made their escape through a window of their apartment towards the garden on the north side. When the Queen took refuge in Dunbar, Huntly hastened to the royal standard with his retainers, and was rewarded for his loyalty with the office of Chancellor, of which the Earl of Morton was deprived for his complicity in the murder of Rizzio. He is said to have been present at the memorable conference with the Queen respecting the proposal that she should obtain a divorce from her worthless husband; and there is every reason to believe that he was one of those who subscribed the bond for Darnley’s murder. After that foul deed was executed he accompanied Mary to Seton, about twelve miles from Edinburgh, along with Bothwell, Argyll, and others implicated in the crime. There, according to an entry in a contemporary, ‘Diary of Occurrences,’ ‘they passed their time meryly.’ Huntly and Seton, it was said, played a match against the Queen and Bothwell in shooting at the butts, and the former, who were the losers, entertained the winners to dinner in the adjoining village of Tranent. Huntly was present at the notorious supper of the most influential peers, and members of the Estates, which was held on the 19th of April, in Ainslie’s tavern, and signed the document recommending Bothwell as a suitable husband to the Queen, and promising to promote their marriage,— probably the most shameful deed of that disgraceful period. Huntly’s titles and estates were restored on that same day, no doubt with the distinct understanding that he would further Bothwell’s divorce from his sister.
After the insurrection of the Confederate lords had compelled the Queen to separate from her husband, Bothwell took refuge with Huntly at Strathbogie, and it was not until the attempt of the two earls to raise a fresh force for the Queen’s cause had failed that Bothwell resolved to flee the country. It need excite no surprise that Huntly, whose whole conduct showed that he was as selfish as he was unprincipled, was then ‘contented that Bothwell should myscarye,’ and that in a short space of time he was acting with the nobles who were denouncing the Queen’s marriage, and loudly execrating Bothwell’s conduct. He signed the bond to support the authority of the infant king, and carried the sceptre at the first Parliament of the Regent Moray, 3rd December, 1567. After Mary’s escape from Lochleven Castle the Earl once more changed sides, and joined the association which was formed at Hamilton in support of the Queen. Huntly had gone to the north, in order to raise forces in her behalf, and was on his march with a considerable army to her aid, when the battle of Langside rendered her cause hopeless. He was deprived of his office of Chancellor—a step which no doubt strengthened his hostility to the Regent; but, after uniting with the Hamiltons in an attempt to let loose the Borderers upon England, in order to bring about a war between the two countries, and writing to the Duke of Alva soliciting his assistance, Huntly made his peace with Moray in May, 1569.
After the murder of the Regent, in 1570, the Earl accepted from Mary the office of Lieutenant-General of the kingdom, and collected a strong force at Aberdeen. But he and the other leaders of the party were proclaimed traitors by the new Regent, Lennox, who attacked him on his march southward, and defeated him at Brechin. At a Parliament held at Stirling in 1571, an Act of forfeiture was passed against Huntly and his brother, Sir Adam Gordon, along with other adherents of the Queen. The Earl was one of the leaders of the force despatched by Kirkaldy of Grange against the Regent at Stirling, which had nearly succeeded in taking prisoners the most influential members of the King’s party. Lennox lost his life on that occasion, and Captain Calder, who shot him, declared previous to his execution, that Huntly and Lord Claud Hamilton gave him orders to shoot both the Regent and the Earl of Morton. A treaty of peace was at length concluded, 23rd February, 1573, between the Duke of Chatelherault and Huntly on the one side, and the new Regent, Morton, on the other, by which the former became bound to acknowledge the King’s authority, and the Regent pledged himself to get the Act of attainder against them repealed and their estates restored. The Parliament confirmed these conditions, and Huntly laid down his arms and retired to his northern domains. He died at Strathbogie in 1576. The startling suddenness of his death was regarded by his contemporaries as a divine judgment upon him for his crimes, and especially for his participation in the murder of Darnley, and of Regent Lennox; and marvellous stories were told of the mysterious noises that were heard in the room in which his body was laid, and how several individuals, on opening the door of the room and attempting to enter it, fell down instantly as if dead, and were with difficulty recovered. He was certainly one of the worst of the unprincipled Scottish nobles of that period, blackened with crimes of the most atrocious nature.
GEORGE, sixth Earl and first Marquis of Huntly, succeeded his father when he was a minor. Like him, he was the leader of the Roman Catholic party in the north, and united with the Earls of Crawford and Errol in intriguing with the King of Spain and the Pope, for the overthrow of the Protestant Church and the restoration of Romish supremacy in Scotland. in 1588, however, he professed to give in his adherence to the Reformed faith, and subscribed the Confession, but in his intercepted letters to the Spanish King, he says, ‘the whole had been extorted from him against his conscience.’ In the following year he and his associates took up arms against the Government, but were speedily overthrown, almost without a struggle. He was brought to trial and found guilty of repeated acts of treason, but the King, with whom the Earl was a favourite, and whose policy was to conciliate the English Roman Catholics, would not allow sentence to be pronounced against him. At the time of his marriage and the public rejoicings with which it was accompanied, James set at liberty this potent nobleman, who, however, refused to remain at Court, and retired to his estates in Aberdeenshire, where he appears to have exerted himself to suppress the feuds which at that time raged in the north. His efforts do not appear to have been attended with much success, and he became involved himself in bitter feuds with the Grants, and the clan Chattan, which were not unattended with bloodshed.
A deadly quarrel took place at this time between Huntly and the Earl of Moray, son-in-law of the ‘Good Regent,’ a young nobleman of great promise and of remarkably handsome appearance, who had befriended the clans at feud with the Gordons. A rumour was circulated, which was utterly untrue, that Moray had abetted Bothwell in his attempt to seize the King’s person in 1591. Huntly communicated this fabulous story to James, and importuned him to take proceedings against the traitor. Though the King well knew that Huntly was the mortal enemy of Moray, he granted him a commission to apprehend that nobleman and bring him to trial. Armed with this authority, Huntly, at the head of a body of horsemen, hastened to Dunnibrissle, a mansion on the northern shore of the Firth of Forth, where Moray was then residing. He arrived about midnight, and surrounding the house, summoned the Earl to surrender. Unwilling to put himself in the power of his deadly foe, Moray refused to comply, and with the few retainers whom he had with him, maintained a stout defence against his assailants. Unable to force an entrance, Huntly set fire to the house, and the inmates were compelled to come out, in order to escape being suffocated or burnt to death. Sheriff Dunbar, who was the first to rush out, was mistaken for the Earl, and was at once put to death; but Moray succeeded in forcing his way through the assailants and escaped to the sea-shore. His pursuers, however, followed him down amongst the cliffs, where he was endeavouring to conceal himself, and put him to death with savage cruelty. Gordon of Buckie, who took a prominent part in this foul deed, insisted on Huntly becoming ‘art and part’ in the murder by stabbing the dead body of the Earl.
When the tidings of this atrocity reached the capital next morning, the whole city was immediately in commotion. Loud lamentations were heard on every side for the death of Moray, who was a great favourite with the people, and especially with the Presbyterian party, and the King himself was violently denounced as a participant in the murder. There were various suspicious circumstances which strengthened the general conviction that James was not free from guilt in the matter, notwithstanding his public and solemn protestation of his own innocence. The public indignation grew so strong and threatening that he withdrew in great alarm to Glasgow; but he persisted notwithstanding in his determination to screen Huntly. In a letter which James wrote to him at this crisis, he says, ‘Since your passing herefra, I have been in such danger and perill of my life, as since I was borne I was never in the like, partlie by the grudging and tumults of the people, and partlie by the exclamation of the ministrie, whereby I was moved to dissemble. Alwise I sall remain constant. When you come heree, come not by the ferries, and if ye doe, accompanie yourself as yee respect your own preservation.’
With the hope of putting a stop to the loud clamours for justice, James at length made a show of proceeding against Huntly. The Earl was accordingly summoned to surrender and stand his trial; and having received from the King a secret assurance of safety, he at once obeyed, and on the 10th of March, 1592, he entered himself in ward in the castle of Blackness. But as soon as the popular feeling against him was somewhat allayed, he was set at liberty, on finding security to re-enter and stand his trial, when he should be required. No trial, however, was intended, and none ever took place, and this mockery of justice was terminated by Huntly obtaining the royal pardon and being permitted to return to Court.
The murder of the Earl of Moray was not the only savage deed in which Huntly was implicated. The chief of the clan Macintosh, in conjunction with the Laird of Grant and the Earls of Argyll and Athole, ravaged Huntly’s lands, in revenge for the slaughter of Moray, and Mackintosh burned the castle of Auchindoun, which belonged to the Gordons. Huntly, in revenge for this outrage, not only assailed the hostile sept with his own followers, but let loose upon them all the neighbouring clans who were under his influence, and ‘would do anything,’ as the old phrase was, ‘for his love or for his fear.’ In order to save his clan from extermination, Mackintosh resolved to surrender himself to Huntly, to atone for the offence he had committed. He accordingly proceeded to the castle of the Bog of Gight for this purpose. The Earl was from home, but the chief presented himself to the Countess, a stern and haughty woman, and, after expressing his penitence for the burning of Auchindoun, entreated that his clan should be spared. The lady informed him that her husband was so deeply offended by his conduct, that he had sworn that he would never pardon the outrage till he had brought the offender’s neck to the block. Mackintosh expressed his willingness to submit even to that humiliation, and to put himself at her mercy, and, kneeling down, he laid his head on the block on which the slain bullocks and sheep were broken up, no doubt expecting that the Countess would be satisfied with this token of unreserved submission. But, with a vindictiveness which proved her to be a worthy helpmate to her husband, she made a sign to the cook, who stepped forward with his hatchet, and severed the unfortunate chief’s head from his body.
Another story is told of Huntly which not only exhibits his personal character, but throws light on the manners of the times. The Farquharsons of Deeside had killed Gordon of Brackley, the head of a minor branch of the family. The Earl resolved to inflict condign punishment for this slaughter not only on the actual homicides, but also on the whole sept. He summoned to his assistance his ally, the Laird of Grant, and arranged that he should commence operations on the upper end of the Vale of Dee, while the Gordons should ascend the river from beneath, and thus place the devoted clan between two fires. The Farquharsons, thus enclosed as in a net, and taken unawares, were almost entirely destroyed, both men and women, and about two hundred orphan children were nearly the only survivors. Huntly carried the poor orphans to his castle, and fed them like pigs. About a year after this destructive foray, the Laird of Grant paid a visit to the Bog of Gight, and, after dinner, Huntly said he would show him rare sport. Conducting his guest to a balcony which overlooked the kitchen, he showed him a large trough, into which all the broken victuals left from the dinner of the whole household had been thrown, and on a signal given by the cook, a hatch was raised and there rushed into the kitchen a mob of children, half naked, and as uncivilised as a pack of hounds, who clamoured and struggled each to obtain a share of the food. Grant, who, unlike his host, was a humane man, was greatly shocked at this degrading scene, and inquired who these miserable children were that were thus fed like so many pigs. He was informed that they were the children of those Farquharsons whom the Gordons and the Grants slew on Deeside. Grant must have felt deeply the consequences thus presented to him of the sanguinary raid in which he had taken part, and he put in his claim to be allowed to maintain these wretched orphans as long as they had been kept by Huntly. The Earl, who was probably tired of the joke of the pig-trough, readily consented to get the rabble of children taken off his hands, and gave himself no further trouble about them. The Laird of Grant was allowed to carry them to his castle, and ultimately to disperse them among his clan. They of course bore the laird’s own name of Grant; but it is said that for several generations their descendants continued to bear the designation of the Race of the Trough, to mark their origin.
Huntly had now returned to his own country, but he was very soon involved in fresh troubles and conflicts. In conjunction with the Earls of Angus and Errol, he entered into a treasonable conspiracy to overturn the Protestant religion in Scotland. He was, in consequence, summoned with great reluctance by the King, to answer to the charge brought against him of conspiring, along with other discontented Popish nobles, against the sovereign. Instead, however, of surrendering to stand his trial, Huntly and his associates took refuge in their northern fastnesses. James, indignant at this disregard of his authority, marched against them (17th February, 1593) at the head of a strong body of troops. But on hearing of his arrival at Aberdeen, Huntly and his fellow-conspirators quitted their strongholds, and fled to the mountains, leaving their wives to present the keys of their castles in token of surrender. James placed garrisons in these strongholds, and followed up these steps by the forfeiture of the Popish lords and the seizure of their land; but this was done in such a way as to justify the remark of Lord Burleigh, that the King only ‘dissembled a confiscation.’ In the course of a few months he invited the Countess of Huntly to Court, and, it was believed, even consented to hold a secret meeting at Falkland with Huntly himself. The Protestant party vehemently remonstrated against the lenity which James was showing to the men who were conspirators against his throne, as well as against the Protestant faith; but he would proceed no farther against them than to offer that their offences should be ‘abolished, delete, and extinct, and remain in oblivion for ever,’ provided that they would renounce Popery and embrace the Presbyterian religion. If they refused this offer they were to go into exile. Huntly and the other two Earls declined to avail themselves of these proferred terms, and they entered into a new conspiracy with Francis Stewart, Earl of Bothwell, for the seizure of the King’s person. They were in consequence declared guilty of high treason, their estates and honours were forfeited, and a commission was given to the Earl of Argyll to lay waste their territory, and to pursue them with fire and sword. The Earl accordingly marched to the north at the head of a strong body of men, and encountered Huntly at a place called Glenlivet. After a fierce contest Argyll was defeated with considerable loss. [See CAMPBELLS OF ARGYLL.]
The King, who had reached Dundee on his way northwards, though he seems to have regarded with great complacency the misfortune that had befallen Argyll, [On seeing the Earl return attended only by a small body of his own retainers, James is said to have remarked, ‘Fair fa’ ye, Geordie Gordon, for sending him back sae like a subject.’] was so enraged at the insult to his own authority, that he hastened to the north with his whole army, reinforced by the clans at feud with the Gordons, and reached Aberdeen on the 15th of October, 1594. He thence marched to Strathbogie—the castle of Huntly, who had fled into Caithness— which he caused to be blown up with gunpowder and levelled with the ground. The Earl, finding himself reduced to extremity by the desertion of his followers and by the rigour of the northern winter, which had just set in, implored and obtained the King’s permission to depart out of Scotland, on the condition that he would not return without his Majesty’s consent, or during his exile engage in any new attempt against the Protestant religion or the peace and liberties of his native country.
Huntly did, notwithstanding, return secretly to Scotland in December, 1597, with the connivance of the King. Great offers were made in his behalf by his Countess, and liberal promises were given to the judicatories of the Kirk, that, if allowed to remain, he would abstain from any attempt to overthrow or injure the Protestant Church, would banish from his company all Jesuits and seminary priests, and would even confer with any of the ministers of the Kirk on the subject of religion, and, if convinced by their arguments, would embrace the Protestant faith. On these conditions, which were never meant to be kept, Huntly was again reconciled to the Kirk with much public solemnity, and was suffered to remain in the country, and to retain possession of his castles and estates. As a mark of the royal favour he obtained a grant of the dissolved abbey of Dunfermline, was appointed Lord-Lieutenant of the North, and on the 15th of April, 1599, was created Marquis of Huntly. James had always cherished a great liking for the chief of the Gordons; and Calderwood, under the date of A.D. 1600, says that he and the King ‘passed over the time with drinking and waughting’ (quaffing in large draughts).
Through the interposition of the King, Huntly was reconciled, in 1603, to the Earl of Moray, the son of the ‘Bonnie Earl’ whom he had murdered, and in token of their amity he gave the young nobleman his eldest daughter in marriage.
He was again, however, in trouble with the Protestant clergy, and Mr. George Gladstanes, minister of St. Andrews, was appointed by the General Assembly to remain with the Marquis ‘for ane quarter, or ane half year, to the effect by his travels and labours the said noble lord and his family might be informit in the word of truth.’ The ‘travels and labours’ of this worthy minister, however, failed to induce his lordship to ‘resort to the preaching at the ordinar times in the parish kirk,’ or to cease his efforts to promote the Roman Catholic religion in Scotland, and to shelter and encourage the Jesuits and priests. He was in consequence excommunicated by the General Assembly in 1608, and in the following year was committed to Stirling Castle. He regained his liberty in December, 1610, on his engaging to subscribe the Confession of Faith, and to make satisfaction to the Kirk—a stipulation as discreditable to the clerical leaders as it was to the Popish Earl. He of course speedily relapsed into his old habits, and directed his officers to prohibit his tenants from attending the Protestant Church. For this conduct he was summoned, in 1610, to appear before the Court of High Commission, and on his refusal to subscribe the Confession of Faith he was committed prisoner to the castle of Edinburgh. He was speedily set at liberty by the Lord Chancellor, and proceeded to London, where he was absolved from the sentence of excommunication by the Archbishop of Canterbury, a proceeding which gave great offence to the Scottish prelates, who regarded it as a revival of the old claim of supremacy over the Church of Scotland. The Archbishop of St. Andrews noticed it in a sermon which he preached in St. Giles’s Church, Edinburgh, and stated that the King had promised that ‘the like should not fall out hereafter.’ This admission, however, was not regarded as satisfactory, and the Marquis was obliged to appear before the General Assembly in August, 1616, and there to acknowledge his offence, and to promise that he would educate his children in the faith of the Reformed Church, and continue therein himself. On the faith of this confession and promise, he was absolved by the Archbishop of St. Andrews. He then made oath that he would truly conform to the Established Church, and subscribed the Confession of Faith. It is not easy to decide whether the conduct of the Marquis or of the Assembly in this dishonest proceeding, deserves the more severe condemnation. Though he professed to have been converted four or five times over by the Protestant ministers, there can be no doubt that he was during his whole life a warm adherent of the Romish Church.
Huntly does not appear to have been such a favourite with Charles I. as he was with James, for he compelled the too powerful nobleman to resign the sheriffships of Aberdeen and Inverness for the sum of £5,000; which, however, was never paid. The Marquis became involved in the feud with the Crichtons of Frendraught, and his vassals, uniting with the Gordons of Rothiemay, ravaged the lands of Frendraught, hanged one of his tenants, and carried off a large booty, which they disposed of by public sale. [See THE CRICHTONS OF FRENDRAUGHL] Frendraught hastened to Edinburgh, and complained of these outrages to the Privy Council, who issued an order, in the beginning of 1635, for Huntly to appear before them. He attempted to excuse himself on the plea of old age and infirmity, but the Council were inexorable. He was outlawed for contumacy; and some of his friends were apprehended, and two of them were executed. Having, however, afterwards appeared in Edinburgh, his sentence was reversed, and he was about to be set at liberty, on giving his bond that he and his allies and retainers should keep the peace, when he was accused by Captain Adam Gordon of Park, one of the ringleaders in the attacks upon Frendraught, of being the resetter of the ‘broken-men’ in the north, and the prime mover in the depredations against the Crichtons, and in all the disorders by which the peace of the northern districts had been disturbed. The aged noble was summoned by the Council to appear before them in Edinburgh to answer this charge, and though it was now ‘the dead of the year, cold, tempestuous, and stormy,’ he was compelled to obey. Though he is said to have ‘cleared himself with great dexteritie, beyond admiration,’ he was imprisoned in the castle of Edinburgh, in a room where he had no light, and was denied the company of his lady, who had accompanied him, except on a visit at Christmas. He afterwards obtained permission to live in ‘his own lodging, near to his Majesty’s palace of Holyrood House, with liberty to walk within ane of the gardens or walks within the precincts of the said palace, and no farther.’ His health had now broken down, and finding himself growing weaker and weaker, he expressed a strong desire to return to Strathbogie. He accordingly set out in June, 1636, on his journey northward ‘in a wand-bed within his chariot, his lady still with him.’ He got no farther than Dundee, where he died in an inn, June 13th, and his body was carried on a horse-litter to Strathbogie for burial. He was in the seventy-fourth year of his age, and had possessed the family estates and honours for sixty years.
The Marquis was interred at Elgin, with great magnificence, according to the rites of the Roman Catholic Church. ‘He had torch-lights,’ says Spalding, ‘carried in great numbers by friends and gentlemen.’ His son and other three nobles bore the coffin. ‘He was carried to the east style of the College Kirk, in at the south door, and buried in his own aile, with much mourning and lamentation; the like form of burial with torch-light was seldom seen before.’
If we may rely on the testimony of the clerk of the Consistorial Court of the diocese of Aberdeen, the Marquis of Huntly, notwithstanding the sanguinary feuds, and treasonable intrigues in which he was often engaged, seems to have been highly respected in the north. ‘He was of a great spirit,’ says Spalding, ‘for in time of trouble he was of an invincible courage and boldly bare down all his enemies. He was never inclined to war himself, but by the pride and influence of his kin was diverse times drawn into troubles, whilk he did bear through valiantly. He loved not to be in the law contending against any man, but loved rest and quietness with all his heart, and in time of peace he lived moderately and temperately in his diet, and fully set to building all curious devices. A good neighbour in his marches, disposed rather to give than to take a foot wrongously. He was heard to say he never drew a sword in his own quarrel. In his youth a prodigal spender, in his old age more wise and worldly, yet never counted for cost in matters of credit and honour. A great householder; a terror to his enemies, whom he ever, with his prideful kin, held under subjection and obedience. Just in all his bargains, and was never heard of for his true debt.’
The rent-roll of the Marquis, which has fortunately been preserved, gives a striking idea of the means and influence of this great nobleman. It states in detail the sums of money, and the produce due from each farm on his vast estates. A large proportion of the rent was paid in kind. ‘The silver mail,’ or money rent, amounted to £3,819, besides £636 of teind silver. The ‘ ferme victual’ payable, to the Marquis was 3,816 bolls, besides which there were 55 bolls of custom meal, 436 of multure beir, 108 of custom oats, 83 of custom victual, 167 marts (cattle to be slaughtered at Martinmas), 483 sheep, 316 lambs, 167 grice (young pigs), 14 swine, 1,389 capons, 272 geese, 3,231 poultry, 700 chickens, 5,284 eggs, 5 stones of candles, 46 stones of brew tallow, 34 leats of peats, 990 ells of custom linen, 94 stones of custom butter, 40 barrels of salmon, 8 bolls of teind victual, 2 stones of cheese, and 30 kids. This vast amount of grain and live stock was, of course, devoted to the maintenance of the large body of retainers who were at his command, and ready to support his cause, even against the sovereign himself.
In his latter years, the Marquis occupied himself much in building and planting. In 1602, he rebuilt with great splendour the ancient castle of Strathbogie, now known as Huntly Castle, which, though in a ruinous state, attests the magnificent style in which the chief of the great family of the Gordons lived. ‘He built a house at Kinkail, on the Dee,’ says Sir Robert Gordon, ‘called the New House, which standeth amidst three hunting forests of his own. He built the house of Ruthven, in Badenoch, twice, it being burnt down by aventure, or negligence of his servants, after he had once finished the same. He built a new house in Aboyne; he repaired his house in Elgin; he hath built a house in the Plewlands, in Moray; he hath enlarged and decoreat the house of Bog-Gicht, which he hath parked about; he repaired his house in the old town of Aberdeen.’
The feeling against Roman Catholics ran so high at this time that the Marchioness, a daughter of Esme, Duke of Lennox, the favourite of King James, was compelled to return to France, where she had been born and educated, in order to escape excommunication, which at that time would have incurred forfeiture of her whole property. ‘Thus resolutely,’ says Spalding, ‘she settles her estates, rents, and living, and leaves with sore heart her stately building of the Bog, beautified with many yards, parks, and pleasures—closes up the yetts, and takes journey with about sixteen horse. . . . A strange thing to see a worthy lady, near seventy years of age, put to such trouble and travail, being a widow, her eldest son, the Lord Marquis, being out of the kingdom, her bairns and oyes [grandchildren] dispersed and spread; and albeit nobly born, yet left helpless and comfortless, and so put at by the Kirk, that she behoved to go, or else to bide excommunication, and thereby lose her estate and living. . . . It is said she had about three hundred thousand merks in gold and jewels with her, by and attain the gold and silver plate of both houses of Bog and Strathbogie.’ On her journey southward the Marchioness remained about three months in Edinburgh; but though Charles I. was in the Scottish capital at this time, he was powerless to protect her. She died in France in the ensuing year.
The Marquis of Huntly left by this lady four sons and five daughters. His second son, John, who was created Viscount Melgum and Lord Aboyne by Charles I. in 1627, perished in the burning of Frendraught Castle. [Viscount Melgum was married to Lady Sophia Hay, fifth daughter of the Earl of Errol. This lady was a Roman Catholic, and was ministered to by Gilbert Blackhal, a priest of the Scots’ mission in France, in the Low Countries, and in Scotland, who, in a work which has been published by the Spalding Club, entitled, ‘A brieff narration of the services done to three noble Ladyes,’ has recorded ‘How I came to be engaged in the service of my Ladye of Aboyne,’ and ‘of the services that I rendered to my Lady of Aboyne, in the capacities of priest, chamberlain, and captain of her castle.’] His eldest son, GEORGE, was second Marquis of Huntly. During the lifetime of his father he spent some time at the Court in London, and great pains were taken by the King to educate him in the Protestant religion. On his return to his own country, the Earl of Enzie, as he was termed, became involved, in 1618, in a quarrel with Sir Lauchlan Mackintosh—chief of the clan Chattan, his hereditary enemies—which greatly disturbed the peace of the country. In the end the Earl, who possessed superior influence at Court, induced King James to commit Mackintosh to the castle of Edinburgh, until he should give satisfaction to the heir of the Gordons. In 1623, accompanied by a band of ‘gallant young gentlemen and well appointed,’ he went over to France, and was made Captain of the Scots Bodyguard to the French king, an office of great honour and influence, which had long been held by the Stewarts of D’Aubigny, Earls and Dukes of Lennox. Louis XIII. was at that time assisting the German princes against the House of Austria, and Lord Enzie was sent into Lorraine, and served with great distinction there, and afterwards in Alsace. Louis, on reviving the corps, intended to confer the command on Frederick, Duke of Richmond and Lennox, but on the sudden death of that nobleman in 1624, the honour was transferred to his nephew, Lord Gordon, under the Marshal de Ia Force. The French king cordially acknowledged the signal services rendered to him by the Scottish company in this campaign. The Earl was recalled from Germany by his father, as his assistance was urgently required in suppressing the disorders in the Highlands and in Aberdeenshire. He was created Viscount Aboyne in 1632, with remainder to his second son, James, and his heirs male. He succeeded to the hereditary honours and estates of his family on the death of his father in 1636, and when the ill-advised proceedings of Charles I., in attempting to force an English liturgy on the people of Scotland, had caused them to take up arms in vindication of their rights and liberties, the Marquis of Huntly received a commission from the King as his Lieutenant in the North, and raised the royal standard there.
The Covenanters, who were well aware of Huntly’s great influence in the north, made an earnest effort to induce him to join their party. Colonel Robert Munro, an officer who had served in the German wars, was sent as their envoy to Strathbogie. ‘The sum of his commission to Huntly was, that the noblemen Covenanters were desirous that he should join with them in the common cause; that if he would do so, and take the Covenant, they would give him the first place and make him leader of their forces; and further, they would make his state and his fortunes greater than ever they were; and, moreover, they should pay off and discharge all his debts, which they knew to be about ane hundred thousand pounds sterling; that their forces and associates were a hundred to one with the King; and therefore it was to no purpose to him to take up arms against them, for if he refused this offer, and declared against them, they should find means to disable him for to help the King; and, moreover, they knew how to undo him, and bade him expect that they would ruinate his family and estates.’
The offer was tempting to an ambitious man, but Huntly’s loyalty was proof against the temptation. ‘To this proposition,’ says the contemporary writer, ‘Huntly gave a sharp and absolute repartee, that his family had risen and stood by the kings of Scotland; and for his part, if the event proved the ruin of the King, he was resolved to lay his life, honours, and estate under the rubbish of the King his ruins. But, withal, thanked the gentleman who had brought the commission, and had advised him thereto, as proceeding from one whom he took for a friend and good-willer, and urged out of a good intention to him.’
Huntly’s first step was to seize and fortify the city of Aberdeen. Having learned that a meeting of Covenanters was to be held at Turriff on February 14, he resolved to disperse them, and marched thither at the head of two thousand men. But Montrose having received intimation of Huntly’s purpose, anticipated this movement, and by a rapid march across a range of hills called the Grangebean, reached Turriff before his arrival. The Marquis, finding that he had been forestalled, retreated to Aberdeen without venturing on an attack, alleging that he had authority to act only on the defensive. On the approach of Montrose, however, to Aberdeen, Huntly precipitately retreated northward, and the inhabitants surrendered without resistance to the Covenanting general. It was on this occasion that distinctive colours were for the first time adopted by the Royalist and the Presbyterian parties. Spalding says, ‘Here it is to be noted, that few or none of the haill army wanted ane blew ribbin hung about his craig [neck], down under his left arme, which they called the "Covenanters’ Ribbon." But the Lord Gordon, and some other of the Marquess’s bairnes and familie, had ane ribbin when he was dwelling in the toun of ane reid flesh cullor, which they wore in their hatts, and called it the "Royall Ribbin," as a sign of their love and loyaltie to the King. In despyte and derision thereof, this blew ribbin was worne, and called the "Covenanters’ Ribbon" be [by] the haill souldiers of the army, and would not hear of the "Royall Ribbin," such was their pryde and malice.’
After demolishing the fortifications which Huntly had erected, and compelling the citizens to subscribe the Covenant, Montrose proceeded northwards to Inverury in search of the chief of the Gordons. An interview was arranged between them in the presence of twelve friends on each side, which terminated in Huntly’s accompanying Montrose to the camp at Inverury. The historian of the family of Gordon states that the conference there terminated in an agreement that Huntly ‘should subscribe a paper by which he obliged himself to maintain the King’s authority, together with the liberties and religion of the kingdom,’ and that his friends and followers should be at liberty to sign the Covenant or not, as they inclined. It was also agreed that Montrose should withdraw his army from the north, and that Huntly should immediately disband that remainder of his army he had as yet kept together, and should not trouble or molest any of the Covenanters within the bounds of his lieutenancy. With respect to those of Huntly’s followers who were Roman Catholics, and could not subscribe the Covenant, it was agreed that they should sign a declaration of their willingness to concur with the Covenanters in maintaining the laws and liberties of the kingdom.
Shortly after, a conference was held at Aberdeen of leading Covenanters, and Huntly was invited to attend for the purpose of giving his advice respecting the best method of restoring order, and a regard to law, in the northern district of the country. He accepted the invitation, and, contrary to the advice of his friends, he took with him his two eldest sons. He was first of all advised by Montrose to resign his commission of lieutenancy, to which he agreed. He was then required to give a contribution towards liquidating the debt which had been contracted in raising and paying their forces. He declined to comply with this demand, on the ground that the money was borrowed without his advice or consent. Montrose next requested him to take steps to apprehend some loose and broken men in the north, but he pleaded that, having resigned his commission, he had no longer any authority to act in such a matter. He was, finally, required to reconcile himself to the Crichtons of Frendraught, which he positively refused to do. He was then informed that he and his sons must accompany the Covenanting forces to Edinburgh, and that it was in his choice to do so either as a prisoner, with a guard, or with Montrose himself, at large. He pleaded that he had come to Inverury by invitation of Montrose, on an assurance of safe conduct, with permission to come and go at his own pleasure, and it was not honourable to tell him that he must now go to Edinburgh whether he would or would not. However, since he was left to make his choice, he would rather go to the south as a volunteer than as a prisoner.* Viscount Aboyne, his second son, was allowed to return to Strathbogie in order to provide money for his father, but the Marquis himself, and his eldest son, were conveyed to Edinburgh, where they were imprisoned in the castle. They were, however, soon after set at liberty, in accordance with the stipulation in the treaty between King Charles and the Covenanting forces, 20th June, 1639.
It is difficult to say how far Montrose was responsible for this breach of good faith and of a safe conduct. His defenders allege that he was overborne by the clamorous demands of the personal enemies of Huntly. It is certain, however, that the Gordons laid the blame of this dishonourable deed at the door of Montrose himself. A contemporary chronicler says, ‘For Montrose going along with that action it is most certain, to the best of my knowledge—for I write this knowingly—that it bred such a distaste in Huntly against Montrose, that afterwards, when Montrose fell off to the King, and forsook the Covenanters, and was glad to get the assistance of Huntly and his followers, the Marquis of Huntly could never be gained to join cordially with him, nor to swallow that indignity. This bred jars betwixt them in the carrying on of the war, and that which was pleasing to the one was seldom pleasing to the other. Whence it came to pass, that such as were equally enemies to both (who knew it well enough) were secured, and, in the end, prevailed so far as to ruinate and destroy both of them, and the King by a consequent.’ This state of feeling towards Montrose sufficiently accounts for the vacillating conduct of the Gordons throughout the contest between the Royalists and the Covenanters in the north.
While the Marquis was in durance, his second son, Lord Aboyne, at the head of a party of the Gordons, who were dissatisfied with this treatment of their chief, and of a considerable body of Highlanders, took possession of the city of Aberdeen. Montrose lost no time in marching to the north to suppress this rising. On his approach, Aboyne disbanded his forces and made his escape, while Montrose, after firing and plundering that stronghold of the Royalists, marched from Aberdeen to attack the castles of the Gordons in Strathbogie. Meanwhile, Aboyne, having received a commission of lieutenancy from the King, returned at the head of an army of three thousand foot and five hundred horse, and prepared to act on the offensive. But the Highlanders, unaccustomed to artillery, fled at the first discharge from the cannon.
In April, 1644, Huntly received a new commission from King Charles to act as his Majesty’s Lieutenant-General in the north. But though he collected a large force he did nothing for the royal cause, and in a short time disbanded his army and retreated into Strathnaver, in Sutherlandshire. While the Marquis remained inactive in this remote district, Montrose had been appointed Lieutenant-General of the kingdom, and on raising the royal standard in Athole had been immediately joined by three hundred Gordons from Badenoch. But their chief could not be induced to co-operate cordially with the royal general, and the great body of the clan held aloof. They remembered with strong resentment the treatment they had received from Montrose during his former campaign against them in the service of the Covenanters, and the recent defeat which he had inflicted, at the Bridge of Dee, on Lord Lewis Gordon, the third son of Huntly, who, along with Lord Burleigh, was fighting on the side of the Parliament. In consequence, all the efforts of Montrose to attract the Gordons to the royal standard completely failed. A small body of them, indeed, joined him, but suddenly deserted his standard at a most critical moment, in spite of the exertions of their commander, Lord Gordon, eldest son of their chief. They, however, afterwards returned, and fought with great gallantry at the battle of Alford, where their victory was embittered by the death of Lord Gordon. At a later period, Lord Aboyne rejoined the Royalist army at the head of a considerable body of horse, and fought at the battle of Kilsyth. But when Montrose began his march to the Borders, Aboyne ‘took a caprice,’ says Sir Robert Spottiswood, ‘and had away with him the greatest strength he had of horse.’
After the ruin of the royal cause in the south, Huntly, who was now the only formidable opponent of the successful party, still continued in arms, and fortified the town of Banff. A portion of the Covenanting army stationed in Aberdeenshire made an unsuccessful attempt to dislodge him, and were obliged to retire with loss, and the Marquis proceeded to garrison his castles of Strathbogie, Bog of Gight, and Auchindoun. He was excepted from pardon in 1647, and a reward of one thousand pounds was offered for his apprehension. Middleton was sent against him, but failed to reduce him to submission, though reinforced by three regiments from the south. David Leslie was then despatched to Aberdeenshire with a strong body of horse and foot, and Huntly, finding himself unable to resist the combined force of the two armies, took refuge in his Highland fastnesses. The Covenanting generals reduced all the strongholds of the Gordons in Aberdeenshire, hanging or shooting on the spot the Irishmen in their garrisons, and carrying away prisoners the commanders, of whom the most important were put to death in Edinburgh. The Marquis was hunted from place to place by Middleton, through Glenmoriston, Badenoch, and other remote districts. At length, in the month of December, 1647, he was captured at midnight by Lieutenant-Colonel Menzies, at Dalnabo, in Strathdon. His attendants, ten in number, made a brave resistance, but were all either killed or mortally wounded. His captor, apprehensive of a rescue, carried the Marquis to the castle of Blairfindie, in Glenlivet, about four miles from Dalnabo. The Gordons resident in the neighbourhood flew to arms to rescue their chief. But the Marquis sent them a message dissuading them from the attempt. He was now, he said, almost worn out with grief and fatigue; he could no longer live in hills and dens, and hoped that his enemies would not drive things to the worst. But if such was the will of Heaven, he could not outlive the sad fate he foresaw his royal master was likely to undergo; and be the event what it would, he doubted not but the just providence of God would restore the royal family, and his own along with it.
The Marquis was carried under a strong guard to Edinburgh and imprisoned in the Tolbooth of that city. King Charles, who was at that time confined in Carisbrook Castle, wrote to the Earl of Lanark, who was then in London, entreating him to intercede on behalf of his old and faithful servant; but if any such intercession was made it was without effect. Huntly was kept in prison for sixteen months. After the execution of King Charles and the Duke of Hamilton in England, the Scottish Committee of Estates brought the Marquis to trial on the 16th of March, 1649, on the charge of treason. He was of course found guilty, and condemned to be beheaded at the Market Cross of Edinburgh, on the 22nd of that month. The men who brought this consistent Royalist to the block denounced the execution of King Charles as a great crime, but they had nevertheless no hesitation in sacrificing his most devoted follower, solely on the ground of his steadfast adherence to the royal cause.
On the scaffold the Marquis displayed great calmness and courage. One of the Presbyterian ministers asked him if he desired to be absolved from the sentence of excommunication pronounced against him. He replied that as he was not accustomed to give ear to false prophets, he did not wish to be troubled by him. He addressed the crowd of spectators, declaring that he was about to die for having employed some years of his life in the service of the King, and that he had charity to forgive those who had voted for his death, although they could not convince him that he had done anything contrary to the laws. It must be admitted that both in his public career and in his death, the chief of the Gordons adhered strictly to the principles which he had professed to Sir George Munro at the commencement of the Civil War.
‘The Marquis,’ says Wishart in his ‘Life of Montrose,’ ‘besides his noble birth, in which he was inferior to no subject, was one of that power in the north that he was feared by all his neighbours. He had a great estate, many friends, vassals, and followers; was of a comely personage, and bright spirit, and had stuck close to the King’s interest from the beginning of the troubles. On this account, and on this only, he was so hated by the fanaticks that they resolved to make him a sacrifice.’
Lord Huntly had by his wife, Lady Anne Campbell, daughter of the seventh Earl of Argyll, a family of five sons and three daughters. His eldest son, Lord Gordon, a youth of ‘singular worth and accomplishments,’ served for some time in France, under the Marquis de la Force. When the Civil War broke out, he joined the Covenanters, it was supposed through the influence of his uncle, the Earl of Argyll; but in 1645 he abandoned their cause, and repaired to the standard of Montrose. He had the command of the horse at the battle of Auldearn, in May of that year. He was killed at the battle of Alford, 2nd July. The historian of the family says Lord Gordon was ‘a very hopeful young gentleman, able of mind and body, about the age of twenty-eight years.’ Wishart dwells at length on the general lamentation of the soldiers for the loss of Lord Gordon, ‘whose death seemed to eclipse all the glory of the victory,’ and Montrose himself mourned bitterly that ‘one who was the honour of his nation, the ornament of the Scots nobility, and the boldest assertor of the royal authority in the north, had fallen in the flower of his youth.’
James, Viscount Aboyne, the Marquis’s second son, also fought under the banner of Montrose at Auldearn, Alford, and Kilsyth. He was excepted from pardon by the Estates, and took refuge in France, where he died in 1648.
Lord Lewis Gordon, the third son, succeeded his father as third Marquis of Huntly. Lord Charles, the fourth son, was a staunch Royalist, and after the Restoration was created by Charles II. Earl of Aboyne, and Lord Gordon of Strathavon and Glenlivet. Lord Henry Gordon, the fifth son of the second Marquis, served for several years in Poland, but returned home and died at Strathbogie.
LEWIS, third Marquis of Huntly, repeatedly changed sides during the Civil War, and seems to have shared the feelings of dislike and jealousy which most of the Gordon family cherished towards Montrose. He was restored to his honours and estates by the Parliament held at Perth, 5th March, 1651, at which Charles II. was present. He died in 1653, leaving by his wife, a daughter of Sir James Grant of Grant, three daughters and one son—
GEORGE, fourth Marquis of Huntly and first Duke of Gordon. He was only three years old at the time of his accession to the family honours and estates, and when he reached his sixteenth year the Privy Council, in obedience to a letter from the King, decreed that, ‘in order to the conversion of the Marquis of Huntly and the better ordering of his affairs, his mother should be removed from him and retire with her family to some of his lordship’s houses in the north, before the 1st of August.’ ‘It may be remarked as a curious combination of circumstances,’ says Mr. Chambers, ‘that Charles II., in whose name ran the letter expressing such anxiety for the Protestant upbringing of the young Gordon, was in his private sentiments a Catholic, while Lauderdale, by whom the letter was officially signed, was indifferent to all religion.’ The effort now made for his conversion was not successful. The young nobleman continued a firm Papist to the day of his death.
The Marquis spent a good deal of his early life on the Continent and served in the French army at Oudenarde, in 1671, and at the siege of Maestricht. He fought under the French standard in 1674, in the conquest of Burgundy, and afterwards under Marshal Turenne before the battle of Strasburg. In the following year he served a campaign under the Prince of Orange in Flanders. In 1684 he was created Duke of Gordon by Charles II., in testimony of his appreciation of the steadfast loyalty of his family, the sacrifices they had undergone, and the eminent services which they had rendered to the Crown. He was appointed by James VII. Lieutenant of the North, a member of the Privy Council, one of the Lords of the Treasury, and Governor of Edinburgh Castle. But though a Roman Catholic, the Duke disapproved of the measures adopted by James for the re-establishment of his religion in Scotland, and was in consequence treated with marked coldness by the King and Court.
At the Revolution, however, his Grace remained faithful to the infatuated monarch. When he was about to surrender the Castle of Edinburgh, and was in the act of removing his furniture, he was prevailed upon by Dundee and Balcarres to hold it for James. The Convention required him to evacuate the fortress within twenty-four hours. He returned an evasive answer, and made various excuses for declining to comply with this demand. He entertained great respect, he said, for the Convention, and meditated no harm either to its members, or to the city of Edinburgh. He offered to give security for his peaceable behaviour to the amount of twenty thousand pounds sterling, but he could not give up the castle until he received despatches, which he was hourly expecting, from the Government now established in England. His answer was deemed unsatisfactory. He was proclaimed a traitor to the Estates, and guards were posted to intercept all communication betwixt the garrison and the city.
It was well known that the Duke was by no means resolute in setting at defiance the authority of the Convention, and Dundee, on leaving Edinburgh in trepidation and haste, clambered up the western face of the rock on which the castle stands, held a conference at a postern with his Grace, and urged him to hold out till he should be relieved. The Duke positively refused, however, to fire on the city, as the Jacobites entreated him to do. He sent notice to the magistrates that he was about to fire a salute, but they need not be alarmed, for his guns would not be loaded with ball. The intercourse between the garrison and the citizens seems to have been of the most free and easy kind. Letters and fresh provisions were conveyed to the garrison, and on one occasion a white flag was hung out and a conference was held to state that all the cards in the castle were worn out, and the favour of a fresh supply was requested. But at length the provisions were exhausted, and no relief being practicable, the Duke surrendered the fortress on honourable terms.
After proceeding to London, and making his submission to King William, the Duke of Gordon passed over to Flanders, and, in 1691, paid a visit to the Court of the exiled monarch. He was very ungraciously received, however, and speedily quitted St. Germain’s for Switzerland, where he was arrested and sent to England. But, though regarded with suspicion by the Government, not altogether without reason, and frequently imprisoned, he does not appear to have taken any part in the intrigues and plots for the restoration of the Stewarts. The conduct of his Duchess, a daughter of Henry Howard, Duke of Norfolk and Earl of Norwich, no doubt contributed to rouse the jealousy of the Government. In 1711 she presented to the Faculty of Advocates in Edinburgh a silver medal, having on one side the effigy of James, and on the reverse a miniature map of the British Isles, with the inscription Reddite (restore). The cordiality with which her Grace’s gift was received by the members of the Scottish Bar, and the language employed in their reply of thanks, showed the prevalence of Jacobite opinions and feelings among them, and naturally excited the anger of the Government both against the lawyers and the Duchess. ‘On the accession of George I., in 1714, the Duke was regarded as disaffected to the Hanoverian dynasty, and was ordered to be confined to the city of Edinburgh on his parole. He died at Leith, 7th December, 1716, in the sixty-seventh year of his age. His son—
ALEXANDER, second Duke of Gordon, inherited the Jacobite principles, along with the title and estates, of his house. During the lifetime of his father, the Marquis of Huntly attended the gathering of the Highland chiefs and other Jacobite leaders at Braemar, in 1715, and the smaller but more important meeting at Aboyne Castle. He proclaimed the Chevalier at Castle Gordon, and, accompanied by a large body of horse and foot, he joined the rebel force at Perth on the 6th of October. He fought at the battle of Sheriffmuir, but shortly after returned home, and capitulated to the Earl of Sutherland. In the following April he was brought to Edinburgh, and confined for a short time in the castle. The Duke seems to have been regarded with sympathy by the Government, and no further proceedings were instituted against him. He died in 1728, and his widow, a daughter of the famous Earl of Peterborough, who survived her husband upwards of thirty years, fortunately for her family and the country, educated their four sons and seven daughters in the Protestant faith. For this service the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church sent her Grace a cordial letter of thanks, and the Government, in 1735, settled upon her a pension of £1000 a year. [According to a report common at the time, the efforts of the Duchess to convert her eldest son to the Protestant religion were aided by a casual conversation between him and one of the tenants on his estate, who had received some ill-treatment from his Grace’s factor. He at last made personal application to the Duke, from whom he at once obtained redress. Catching a glimpse of the images within the family chapel, the farmer asked what they were. The Duke answered that they were the representations of certain holy men, to whom good Catholics were accustomed to apply to intercede for them with the Almighty. ‘Such nonsense!’ rejoined the rustic. ‘Would it not be far better to do as I have been doing—speak to the Laird him sel’?’ This chance remark is said to have made a considerable impression on the Duke’s mind.] But she was deprived of her pension for a single act of hospitality shown to the Young Chevalier, in 1745, by laying out a breakfast for him on the roadside, at her park-gate of Preston Hall, as he marched past on his way to England.
The Duchess was noted for her intellectual vigour, intelligence, and activity. In 1706 she brought down from England, to the estates of her father-in-law, the Duke of Gordon, some English ploughs, and men to work them who were acquainted with fallowing—a mode of husbandry heretofore unknown in Scotland. Her advice also induced two of the landed proprietors of the Gordon clan—Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonstoun and Sir William Gordon of Invergordon—to set about the draining and planting of their estates, and the introduction of improved modes of culture, including the sowing of French grasses.
Lord Lewis, the third son of the first Duke—the ‘Lewie Gordon’ of a well-known and spirited Jacobite song—took part in the rebellion of 1745. He escaped to the Continent after the battle of Culloden, and died in France in 1754, but all the rest remained faithful to the reigning dynasty. Lord Adam, the youngest son, was a General in the British army, and served with great activity and zeal both in America and on the Continent. He was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in Scotland in 1782, and in 1796 he was nominated Governor of Edinburgh Castle. He married the widow of the Duke of Athole, the heroine of the song, ‘For lack of gold she’s left me,’—a daughter of Drummond of Megginch. He died without issue in 1801.
COSMO GEORGE, [The name Cosmo was given to the Duke in compliment to Cosmo de Medici III., Grand Duke of Tuscany, with whom his father was on terms of close friendship.] third Duke, succeeded to the family honours and estates in 1728, when he was only eight years of age. He supported the Government during the rebellion of 1745 and was rewarded for his loyalty by receiving, in 1747 the Order of the Thistle. He was elected one of the sixteen representative peers to the tenth Parliament of Great Britain, but he died in 1752, in the thirty-second year of his age, leaving by his wife, a daughter of the Earl of Aberdeen, three sons and four daughters.
Lord George Gordon, his youngest son, obtained an undesirable notoriety in connection with the destructive riots in London which took place in 1780. Lord George was President of a so-called Protestant Association, which busied itself in getting up petitions for the repeal of an Act, passed in 1778, for the removal of some of the disabilities imposed upon the English Roman Catholics. His inflammatory speeches roused the London populace to a state of frenzied violence. A monster petition, praying for the repeal of the Act in question, was carried in procession through the principal streets of the city, to be presented to Parliament. Scenes of violence occurred, even in the lobbies of the House of Commons, and the safety of the members was for some time in peril. The Roman Catholic chapels, and the houses of several eminent men who were favourable to the unpopular Act, including that of Lord Mansfield, were sacked and burned by the mob without hindrance, owing to the cowardice and supineness of the public authorities. The riot was in the end suppressed by the intervention of the military, but not without considerable loss of life. Lord George was imprisoned in the Tower, and brought to trial on a charge of high treason. He was defended by Thomas Erskine, in one of his finest speeches, and was acquitted by the jury. It was generally admitted that he was insane—an opinion which was confirmed some years later by his abandoning the Christian religion and embracing Judaism. It is certainly remarkable that a member of the Gordon family, who had suffered so much for their adherence to the Roman Catholic faith, should have been the leader of an association, formed to prevent the adherents of that religion obtaining equal rights and privileges with their fellow-countrymen. Believers in the transmission of characteristic peculiarities from generation to generation, will not fail to notice the significant fact that Lord George Gordon was the great-grandson of the half-mad Charles Mordaunt, Earl of Peterborough.
The chiefs of the Gordon clan, now restored to their hereditary position in Parliament and in the country, became celebrated for their patriotism, their princely hospitality, and their kindness to their tenantry and their dependents.
DUKE ALEXANDER, the fourth possessor of the ducal title, retained it for the long period of seventy-six years. In 1761 he was elected one of the sixteen representative peers of Scotland, and in 1775 was created a Knight of the Order of the Thistle. A regiment had been raised on the Gordon estates in 1759, which became the 89th Highlanders, and his Grace was appointed one of its captains. In 1778, during the American war, he raised the Gordon Fencibles, of which he became colonel; and in 1793 he raised another regiment of fencibles, called the Gordon Highlanders, which was disbanded with the other fencible corps, in 1799. As his Grace was the great-grandson of Lady Elizabeth Howard, daughter of the Earl of Norwich, that extinct title was revived in his favour in 1784, and he was at the same time created Lord Gordon of Huntly. He was also appointed Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland. The Duke was the author of the excellent humorous song entitled ‘ Cauld kail in Aberdeen,’ but he was best known, and best remembered, as the husband of the celebrated Duchess Jane, one of the leaders of fashionable society in London for nearly half a century, and regarded as one of the cleverest women of her day. Her Grace was the second daughter of Sir William Maxwell of Monreith. Her early years were spent in Hyndford’s Close, off the High Street of Edinburgh, where she seems to have conducted herself with a freedom of manners which would seem almost incredible in the present day. An old gentleman, who was a relative of the Maxwell family, stated that on the occasion when he first made the acquaintance of Jane Maxwell and her sisters, they had been despatched by their mother, Lady Maxwell, to the ‘Fountain Well,’ in front of John Knox’s house, to fetch ‘a kettle’ of water, and Miss Jane was seen mounted on the back of a sow, of which she had made capture, while her sister, Miss Betty, afterwards Lady Wallace, lustily thumped it with a stick. ‘The two romps used to watch the animals as they were let loose from the yard of Peter Ramsay, the stabler, in St. Mary’s Wynd, and get on their backs the moment they issued from the Close.’
In 1767, Jane Maxwell was married to Alexander, fourth Duke of Gordon, then in his twenty-fourth year, whom Lord Kames, his tutor, considered ‘the greatest subject in Britain, not from the extent of his rent-roll, but from a much more valuable property, the number of people whom Providence had put under his government and protection.’ Her beauty, elegance, sprightliness, and extraordinary tact, combined with wit, made her at once a general favourite in the highest circles, and for many years she had an undisputed reign as the queen of society in London and in Edinburgh. She was a zealous supporter of Mr. Pitt, and her mansion in London was long the chief resort of the leaders of the Tory party. Her Grace, amid all the distractions of fashionable and political life, found time to perform many kind and benevolent acts. ‘It was affirmed by those who knew her, that whether it was a young damsel who had to be brought out at an assembly, or a friend to be helped out of a difficulty, or a regiment to be raised, the Duchess of Gordon was ever ready to use her best exertions, and to employ in the cause the wonderful powers of fascination which she exercised over all who came in contact with her.’
Lord Kames addressed a letter to the Duchess, on her marriage, impressing upon her the great responsibility of her position, and he lived to see the day when he could thank God that ‘his best hopes had been realised’ in regard to the manner in which his ‘dear pupil’ had given effect to his views, ‘training the young creatures about her to habits of industry, the knitting of stockings among the young folk of both sexes, and other useful occupations.’ In a letter which her Grace wrote at a late period of her career to her old and attached friend, Henry Erskine, she says, ‘For years I have given premiums for all kinds of domestic industry—spinning, dyeing, &c.—and last year had some hundreds of specimens of beautiful colours from the herbs of the fields, and different woollen productions. But there is an evil I cannot remedy without a sum of money. The children are neglected in body and mind: cold, hunger, and dirt, carries off hundreds. The cow-pox would save many; no doctors for thirty miles makes many orphan families. . . . I wish to add to the comforts of the aged, and take the children—teach them to think right, raise food for themselves, and prepare them to succeed to their fathers’ farms with knowledge of all the branches of farming. A healthy, well-regulated people must be the proud riches of this country: by them we can alone be deffended.’
Robert Burns in the course of his northern tour came to Fochabers, and presuming on his acquaintance with the Duchess of Gordon in Edinburgh, to whom he had been introduced in the course of the preceding winter, he proceeded to Gordon Castle, leaving at the inn his travelling companion, William Nichol, one of the masters of the Edinburgh High School—a jealous, rude, and brutal pedagogue. The poet was received with the utmost hospitality and kindness, and the following entry in his diary showed how highly he appreciated his reception. ‘The Duke made me happier than ever great man did—noble, princely, yet mildly condescending and affable, gay and kind. The Duchess witty and sensible. God bless them!’ His stay was unfortunately cut short by Nichol, whose pride was inflamed into a high degree of passion by the fancied neglect which he had suffered by being left at the inn, and who insisted on proceeding immediately on his journey. Burns, sensible of the kindness which had been shown him by the Duke and Duchess, made the best return in his power by sending them a poem, entitled ‘Castle Gordon,’ which is not one of his happiest efforts. The Duchess had planned a visit of Mr. Addington, afterwards Lord Sidmouth, to Castle Gordon, when Burns should meet him, knowing that the English statesman was a warm admirer of the poetry of the Scottish bard. But the future Premier was unable to accept the invitation, and contented himself with writing and forwarding some verses expressing a warm admiration of the genius of the poet—which, however, had no practical result—and recommending him to be resigned to the want of worldly gear and ‘grateful for the wealth of his exhaustless mind.’
The Duchess of Gordon was noted for her freedom of speech, and not less for her freedom of action. She was a great admirer of Mr. Pitt and a steady adherent of George III. and Queen Charlotte. She had, consequently, no high opinion of the Prince of Wales and the dissolute society which he chose to frequent. Lord Harcourt mentions in his diary that on one occasion ‘Jack Payne,’ the Prince’s secretary, uttered some ribaldry about the Queen in the presence of the Duchess of Gordon. ‘You little, insignificant, good-for-nothing, upstart, pert, chattering puppy!’ said her Grace, ‘how dare you name your royal master’s royal mother in that style!’
In her early days members of the upper classes, both male and female, would sometimes in a frolic make up a party to spend an evening in one of the underground apartments or cellars in the old town of Edinburgh, where they partook of oysters and porter, set out in flagons on a table, in a dingy wainscoted room, lighted by tallow candles. Brandy or rum punch was then served to the company, and dancing followed. When the ladies had taken their departure in their sedan-chairs or carriages, the gentlemen proceeded to crown the evening by a deep debauch. On one occasion, about the close of last century, after the Duchess was a matron in the full height of her popularity as a leader of fashion, she paid a visit to Auld Reekie, and in company with Henry Dundas, the Scottish Viceroy, and other persons of the highest position, made up an oyster-cellar party, and devoted a winter evening to the amusement which they had enjoyed in the days of their youth.
The Duchess had the reputation of being a dexterous matchmaker, which was probably owing to the fact that no fewer than three dukes (Richmond, Manchester, and Bedford) and a marquis (Cornwallis) became her sons-in-law. After her daughters were thus settled to her satisfaction, her Grace said she would now make love to her old husband, but she had unfortunately been anticipated in this praiseworthy resolution. The Duke, whom she had probably a good deal neglected, absorbed as she must have been in fashionable and political engagements, had meanwhile formed an illicit connection with a young woman of the name of Christie, of humble birth, who resided at Fochabers, in the vicinity of Gordon Castle; and, as might have been expected, this liaison alienated his affections from his wife, and must have hardened his heart; for, as the national poet of Scotland justly remarks, the ‘illicit love’
‘hardens a’ within,
And petrifies the feeling.’
The letters which the Duke wrote to Henry Erskine in 1806, show that he had not escaped the demoralising influence of his sinful and degrading connection. He compelled his wife to separate from him, and from her complaints respecting her circumstances, ‘taxes,’ and ‘double prices of everything,’ the poor lady does not appear to have had a very liberal allowance for her support. ‘For all the lightheartedness,’ says Colonel Ferguson, ‘which was her chief characteristic for so many years, her latter end was very sad. She who had shown so much kindness to others came to be in grievous need of some measure of it for herself. Robbed of her political power, estranged from most of her family, not even on speaking terms with her husband, and leading a wandering, almost a homeless life, her case presents a marked instance of the ephemeral character of all human hopes.’
The Duchess died on the 14th of April, 1812. One who knew her well has written of her thus, ‘So the great leader of fashion is gone at last—the Duchess of Gordon. Her last party, poor woman, came to the Pultney Hotel to see her coffin. She lay in state three days, in crimson and velvet, and she died more satisfactorily than one could have expected. She had an old Scottish Presbyterian clergyman to attend her, who spoke very freely to her, I heard, and she took it well.’
In 1820 the Duke married his mistress, by whom he had no legitimate issue. He died in 1827, in the eighty-second year of his age.
GEORGE, the only surviving son of Duke Alexander and his Duchess, became the fifth and last Duke of Gordon of the male line. In his twentieth year he entered the army as an ensign in the 35th Regiment, and in the following year (1791) he exchanged into the 42nd Regiment, in which he served two years. He then obtained a commission in the 3rd Foot Guards, and took part in the Duke of York’s first expedition to Flanders. In 1794 he raised among his father’s retainers the famous regiment of Gordon Highlanders (the 92nd), of which he was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel. His father and mother personally assisted the Marquis in procuring suitable recruits for this gallant body of men, and the Duchess is said to have induced them to join the regiment by placing the enlistment shilling between her lips. The Marquis went out with his regiment to Gibraltar, and on his homeward voyage from Corunna to England, the packet in which he sailed was captured by a French privateer, and though he was robbed of all his effects, he was fortunately allowed to go on board a Swedish vessel, which landed him at Falmouth. The Marquis of Huntly subsequently served for upwards of a year in Corsica, and in Ireland during the rebellion in 1798, when the good conduct and discipline of his regiment were gratefully acknowledged by the people. In the grievously mismanaged and abortive expedition to Holland, in 1799, under the Duke of York, the Marquis was severely wounded at the head of his regiment at the battle of Bergen, October 2nd. The 92nd formed part of the brigade commanded by Sir John Moore, who was so gratified by their gallant conduct that when he obtained a grant of supporters for his armorial bearings as a Knight of the Bath, he chose a soldier of the Gordon Highlanders in full uniform as one of his supporters.
In 1809 the Marquis commanded a brigade in the unfortunate Walcheren expedition, under the incompetent Earl of Chatham. In 1819 he attained the rank of General, and in the following year was appointed Colonel of the 1st Foot Guards, which he afterwards exchanged for the Colonelcy of the 3rd Guards, and received the Grand Cross of the Bath. On the death of his father, in 1827, the Marquis of Huntly succeeded to the dukedom of Gordon, and was appointed Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland. Shortly after he became Governor of Edinburgh Castle. From this time forward his Grace resided chiefly at Gordon Castle, where he dispensed hospitality on a magnificent scale. He died 28th May, 1836, at the age of sixty-six. He was survived by his Duchess, a daughter of Mr. Brodie of Arnhall, who was noted for her piety and benevolence, and the deep interest which she took in the cause of education, and the welfare of the agricultural labourers on the Gordon estates.
As the Duke died without issue, the dukedom, along with the English peerages of Norwich and Gordon, became extinct, the baronies (by writ) of Mordaunt and Beauchamp fell into abeyance, and the marquisate and earldom of Huntly and the earldom of Enzie devolved upon his kinsman, George, fifth Earl of Aboyne. The extensive estates of the family fell to the fifth Duke of Richmond and Lennox, a son of the eldest daughter of Duke Alexander, who succeeded to them under the entail executed by that nobleman, preferring his daughters and their children to his male kinsmen of the Aboyne branch of the family.
A portion of these estates lying in Lochaber were sold after the death of the last Duke of Gordon, to the great regret of the tenantry. But the Gordon estates in the counties of Banff, Elgin, Aberdeen, and Inverness, still, according to the Doomsday Book, comprise 269,290 acres, yielding an annual rental of £69,388.
The present Duke of Richmond (the sixth), who already enjoyed an English, a Scottish, and a French dukedom, was created Duke of Gordon of Gordon Castle, and Earl of Kinrara, in 1876.
George, fifth Earl of Aboyne, who, on the death of the fifth Duke of Gordon, became ninth Marquis of Huntly, was descended from Lord Charles Gordon, fourth son of the second Marquis, who was created Earl of Aboyne by Charles II. in 1660. The title had previously been conferred by Charles I., in 1627, along with that of Viscount Melgum, on the second son of the Marquis of Huntly, who was burned to death in the tower of Crichton of Frendraught. George, the eldest son of the Marquis, was created Viscount Aboyne in 1632, and on his succession to the Marquisate, in 1636, the title of Aboyne devolved on his second son, James, who died without issue in 1649. Earl George was the author of some poems, which have been preserved in local manuscript collections, but have escaped the notice of the historians of Scottish poetry. There is nothing worthy of special notice in the lives of his son and grandson, the second and third Earls, but CHARLES, fourth Earl of Aboyne, was a noted agricultural improver, and set a most praiseworthy example of industry and economy. He succeeded his father in 1732. On coming of age, as his estate was small and burdened with debt, he thought it insufficient to enable him to live in Scotland, in a manner suitable to his rank. He therefore resolved to take up his residence in France, and had sent his luggage to Paris, when he fortunately changed his mind. Setting himself to improve his estate by the introduction of improved modes of agriculture, enclosing and subdividing the fields by the erection of stone fences, arid forming plantations, he increased the value of his property to such a large extent that in no long time it was freed from debt, and yielded a greatly increased rental. He died 28th December, 1794, in the sixty-eighth year of his age. By his first wife, a daughter of the Earl of Galloway, he had a son, who succeeded him, and two daughters, one of whom became the wife of William Beckford of Fonthill, the author of ‘Vathek ‘—‘ England’s wealthiest son,’ as Lord Byron termed him. The Earl’s son, George Douglas Gordon, by his second wife, daughter of the Earl of Morton, inherited through his mother the fine estate of Hallyburton, in Forfarshire, and assumed the name and arms of Hallyburton.
GEORGE, ninth Marquis of Huntly and fifth Earl of Aboyne, was born in 1761. He entered the army before he had completed his seventeenth year, and attained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel of the Coldstream Guards. He visited France in 1783, and his handsome person, gallant bearing, and sprightly manners, characteristic of the ‘gay Gordons,’ combined with his remarkable skill in dancing, made Lord Strathaven, as he was then called, a great favourite at the Court of Louis XIV. Marie Antoinette seems to have taken special pleasure in his society—a preference which attracted the attention of the scandal-mongers at the Court. Mirabeau, in one of his letters to the Count de la Marck, mentions that ‘the Polignacs spoke maliciously of the Queen’s delight in dancing écossaises with young Lord Strathaven, at the little balls which were given at Madame d’Ossun’s.’ His lordship quitted the army in 1792, shortly after his marriage to the second daughter of Sir Charles Cope, with whom he got the estate of Orton Longueville, in Huntingdonshire.
On the death of his father, in 1794, Lord Strathaven succeeded to the titles of Earl of Aboyne and Lord Gordon of Strathaven and Glenlivet. In 1796 he was chosen one of the representative peers of Scotland, and retained that position in successive Parliaments until 1815, when he was created a peer of the United Kingdom, by the title of Lord Meldrum of Morven.
In 1836, Lord Aboyne, on the death of the fifth Duke of Gordon, laid claim to the marquisate of Huntly, as the direct heir male of the first Marquis, and had his claim sustained by the House of Lords. He thus became premier Marquis of Scotland, and head of the ancient, house of Gordon. But his accession to higher honours brought him no addition to his estates or income, and he fell into embarrassed circumstances, mainly in consequence of his purchases of the old Gordon territory in Inverness-shire, and other extensive estates, which if he had been able to hold for a few years would have brought a largely increased price, but in the meantime yielded only a small return. His difficulties were aggravated by the dishonesty of his confidential agent, an Edinburgh lawyer, who embezzled upwards of £80,000, and then absconded. The liabilities of the Marquis amounted to £517,500, but by the judicious management of his trustees, and his own prolonged life, his creditors ultimately received seventeen shillings in the pound. He died 17th June, 1853, within a fortnight of his ninety-third year, leaving a family of six sons and two daughters.
His eldest son, CHARLES, became tenth Marquis of Huntly, represented East Grinstead in Parliament during twelve years, and was member for Huntingdonshire in 1830. He was for some time a Lord-in-Waiting to the Queen. He died in 1863, leaving six sons and seven daughters, and was succeeded by his eldest son, CHARLES, eleventh Marquis of Huntly, who was born in 1847, and married, in 1869, Amy, eldest daughter of Sir William Cunliffe Brooks, Bart.