Kerr, William (1605?-1675) (DNB00)

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KERR or KER, WILLIAM, third Earl of Lothian (1605?–1675), eldest son of Robert, first earl of Ancrum [q. v.], by Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Murray of Blackbarony, was born about 1605. He was at the university of Cambridge in 1621, but he did not graduate, and probably completed his education in Paris. On 6 Nov. 1626 he set out from Paris on a tour through France, Italy, and Switzerland. A journal of the tour is preserved at Newbattle Abbey. In 1627 he accompanied George, duke of Buckingham, in his expedition to the Isle of Rhé, and he witnessed next year the duke's murder by Felton. He also joined the expedition in aid of the States-general against the Spanish forces in 1629, and was present at the capitulation of Bois-le-Duc to the Prince of Orange on 14 Sept. He returned to Scotland in 1630, and about January 1631 married Anne, daughter of Robert, second earl of Lothian, and countess of Lothian in her own right. On 31 Oct. of the same year he was created third Earl of Lothian, and the next brother of Robert, second earl of Lothian, Sir William Ker of Blackhope, on laying claim to the title as nearest heir male, was prevented by the lords of the privy council from assuming it (8 March 1632). The earl was one of the suppliants against the service-book in 1638, and on 28 Feb. signed the national covenant in Old Grey Friars Church, Edinburgh. He also, on 3 Oct., attached his signature to a complaint against the means taken to force the people to sign the king's covenant (Gordon, Scots Affairs, i. 122). He was a member of the assembly of the kirk which met at Glasgow in October of this year, and he supported the action there taken against the service-book. He was also one of the most prompt to lend aid to the covenanters when, in the spring of the following year, they resolved to take up arms. On 22 March—the day succeeding the seizure of Edinburgh—he and other leading covenanters marched out from the city to Dalkeith House, and compelled the lord treasurer Traquair to deliver it up (Balfour, Annals, ii. 321). With a force of fifteen hundred men he also joined the army of Leslie which advanced into England in August 1640 (ib. p. 383; Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1640, p. 447; Robert Baillie, Letters and Journals, i. 257). He was present at the defeat of the royalists at Newbury, and on the arrival of the Scottish army at Newcastle he was appointed governor of the town, with a garrison of two thousand (Balfour, Annals, ii. 388; Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1640-1641, p. 27). Lothian was the supposed author of 'A True Representation of the Proceedings of the Kingdome of Scotland since the late Pacification, by the Estates of the Kingdome, against mistakings in the late Declaration,' 1640. On 7 June 1641 he left Newcastle to attend the meeting of the parliament in Edinburgh. On 16 July he was chosen a member of the committee for the ordering of the house (Balfour,iii. 9), and on the 20th one of the committee of the articles (ib. p. 21). On the conclusion of a treaty with the English on 25 Aug. the Scottish army was disbanded, and Lothian's governorship of Newcastle came to an end. He was one of the commissioners appointed on the king 'anent the preparing of matters left by the treaty' (ib. p. 53), and also served on other important committees.

In 1641 Lothian was named one of the four commissioners of the treasury. In October he was appointed to the command of one of the regiments sent to Ireland, and according to his own statement was lieutenant-general of the Scots army in Ireland, but without payment (Cal.StatePapers, Dom. Ser. 1655-6, p. 296). His regiment remained there till February 1644, but he appears himself to have been in Ireland for only a short period. In November 1641 his name was inserted by the estates in the list of the privy council in place of one of the names which they had deleted from the king's list (Balfour, iii. 149). On 5 March 1642 he obtained a charter of the lordship of Jedburgh, and in December of the same year he was sent by the privy council of Scotland, with the approval of Charles I, on a mission to the court of France in relation to the position of the Scots guard in France. On his return he went to the king at Oxford to give an account of his embassy, but the king would not receive him, and, on account of rumours known afterwards to be unfounded, that he had been engaged abroad in treacherous designs, he was, after being kept for some time under restraint at Oxford, sent a prisoner to Bristol Castle. As his health, weakened by a severe attack of fever in France, suffered from close confinement to one room, the king granted him ultimately the liberty of the town (Baillie, Letters and Journals, ii. 124); but he did not receive his freedom till the following March, and then only by exchange with Sir Charles Goring. Lothian was present at the parliament which met in June 1644, and on 17 July the house approved of his conduct and voted a sum of money to defray his expenses (Balfour, iii. 222). In the same year he joined Argyll in command of the unsuccessful expedition against Montrose. He declined to accept the commission when thrown up by Argyll (Baillie, Letters and Journals, ii. 262). He was one of the commissioners sent to treat with the king at Newcastle in 1647, and, with James McDouall of Garthland, was specially appointed by the Scottish parliament to attend on the king on his journey to Holmby House, where they continued with him for some weeks. The parliament of 1647, in payment of his expenses in the public service, apportioned him 1,500l. out of the 20,000l. agreed to be paid to the Scots army by the parliamentarians, but according to his own statement he never received the money (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1655-6, p. 20). He protested against the 'engagement' of 1648, and after it had been condemned by parliament was appointed to the office of secretary of state, in succession to the Earl of Lanerick, who was deprived by the Act of Classes. He was one of the commissioners sent by the parliament of Scotland in 1649 to protest against proceeding to extremities against the king. According to Clarendon there was a secret understanding between Lothian and Argyll (Hist. of Rebellion, Oxford ed. iii. 384-5), but there is no tangible proof of any such understanding. The commissioners were, according to their orders, proceeding to Holland to communicate with Charles II, when they were arrested at Gravesend by a troop of Cromwell's horse (Balfour, iii. 388). They were treated with courtesy, and sent under a strong escort to Berwick, there to be detained until the estates of Scotland should own their action. This being done, they were permitted to proceed to Edinburgh. Lothian was a member of the second commission appointed by the estates to proceed on 9 March 1650 to treat with the king at Breda. On the arrival of Charles in Scotland in 1650 the kirk desired that Lothian (who apparently declined) should be made general of the Scottish forces (Whitelocke, Memorials). On 9 Aug. he was sent by the committee of the army to the king at Dunfermline to induce him to sign a declaration in favour of the covenanters (Balfour, iv. 77). When, on 4 Oct. following, the king escaped from the thraldom of the covenanters at Perth and joined the northern loyalists, Lothian was appointed one of a commission to induce him to return (ib. p. 115). They succeeded, but had to make terms with the strictly loyalist party and pass an act of indemnity for them on 12 Oct. This procedure was severely blamed by the synod of Perth (ib. p. 119). Along with Argyll, Lothian took an active but unsuccessful part in inducing the extreme covenanters of the west of Scotland to come to terms with the northern loyalists. Subsequently he acted generally in concert with Argyll. On 14 Oct. he was appointed one of a committee to arrange for the king's coronation at Scone (ib. p. 123). According to his own account, he intended to have joined the Duke of Hamilton in his expedition into England in the following year, but could not get ready in time. He was about to sail to join the king when he heard of the battle at Worcester. He also states that when he ceased to be secretary on the triumph of Cromwell, he retired to his own house at Newbattle, and never passed any writs under the great seal, which he preserved until able to offer his services to the king (Correspondence, p. 434). The Laird of Brodie, however, relates that Argyll told him that Lothian had been tampering with the Protector (Diary of the Laird of Brodie, Spalding Club, p. 153). In any case, he endeavoured in 1655 to obtain not merely payment for his expenses in the cause of the covenant, but also compensation for having been deprived of the office of secretary of state in 1652 (Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1655-6, p. 20). At the Restoration he went to London and presented a vindication of his conduct in the past (Correspondence, pp. 431-8). The king promised him some reward, and according to Sir George Mackenzie he received a grant of 1,000l.; but he himself affirmed that he received more promises than revenue. Having refused in 1662 to take the abjuration oath, he was fined 6,000l. Scots, and his finances having been previously in a crippled condition he found it necessary to part with his paternal estate of Ancrum. He died at Newbattle in October 1675.

By his wife he had five sons: Robert, fourth earl of Lothian [q. v.], Sir William Ker, Charles, Harry, and John; and nine daughters: Anne, married to Alexander, master of Salton; Elizabeth, to John, lord Borthwick; Jean, died young; Margaret, died young; Mary, married to James Brodie of Brodie; Margaret, to James Richardson of Smeaton; Vere, to Lord Neill Campbell of Ardmaddie; Henrietta, to Sir Francis Scott of Thirlestane; and Lilias, died unmarried. A portrait of the Earl of Lothian by Jamiesone is at Newbattle Abbey.

[Sir James Balfour's Annals of Scotland; Robert Baillie's Letters and Journals (Bannatyne Club); Gordon's Scots Affairs (Spalding Club); Clarendon's History of the Rebellion; Diary of the Lairds of Brodie (Spalding Club); Correspondence of Sir Robert Ker, earl of Ancrum, by his son William, third earl of Lothian, 1875; Douglas's Peerage (Wood), ii. 137-8.]

T. F. H.