1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Dunfermline, Alexander Seton, 1st Earl of
DUNFERMLINE, ALEXANDER SETON, 1st Earl of (c. 1555-1622), was the fourth son of George, 5th Lord Seton, and younger brother of Robert, 1st earl of Winton. He was sent as a boy to Rome, where he studied at the Jesuits’ College with a view to becoming a priest. He turned, however, to the study of law, and after some years’ residence in France was called to the bar about 1577. He was suspected of Romanist leanings by the officials of the Scottish kirk, and was temporarily deprived of the priory of Pluscardine, which had been granted to him by his god-mother, Queen Mary. In 1583 he accompanied his father, Lord Seton, on an embassy to Henry III. of France. His promotion was now rapid: he was made extraordinary lord of session in 1586 as prior of Pluscardine, ordinary lord of session in 1588 as lord Urquhart, judge in 1593, lord president of the court session in 1598, Baron Fyvie in 1597 and chancellor in 1604. In 1595 he was one of the commission formed by James VI. to control the royal finance. The eight commissioners were known from their number as the Octavians, and were relieved of their functions about two years later. Urquhart’s continued influence was, however, assured, in spite of the animosity of the kirk, by his appointment as lord provost of Edinburgh of nine successive years. He showed considerable independence in his relations with James VI., and dissuaded him from his intention of forming a standing army in readiness to enforce his claims to the English crown. He was entrusted with the care of Prince Charles, afterwards Charles I., after the king’s departure for England, and arranged the details of the union between Scotland and England. He became chancellor of Scotland in 1604, and on the 4th of March 1605 he was created earl of Dunfermline. He died at Pinkie House, near Musselburgh, on the 16th of June 1622.
His son Charles, 2nd earl of Dunfermline (c. 1608-1672), was the offspring of his third marriage with Margaret Hay, sister of John, 1st earl of Tweeddale. He signed the National Covenant and was one of the leaders of the Presbyterian party, but as one of the “Engagers” of 1648 he was prevented from holding any public office, and after the execution of Charles I. he joined Charles II. on the continent. He was made privy councillor at the Restoration, extraordinary lord of session and lord of the articles in 1667, and in 1671 lord privy seal. He died in May 1672. The earldom was then held successively by his sons Alexander (d. 1675) and James; but at the latter’s death, at St Germains on the 26th of December 1694, the title became extinct.
See G. Seton, Memoir of Alex. Seton, first Earl of Dunfermline (1882); and Sir Robert Douglas, Scots Peerage, vol. ii. (1906, edited by Sir J. B. Paul).