1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Huntly, Earls and Marquesses of
HUNTLY, EARLS AND MARQUESSES OF. This Scottish title, in the Gordon family, dates as to the earldom from 1449, and as to the marquessate (the premier marquessate in Scotland) from 1599. The first earl (d. 1470) was Alexander de Seton, lord of Gordon—a title known before 1408; and his son George (d. 1502), by his marriage with Princess Annabella (afterwards divorced), daughter of James I. of Scotland, had several children, including, besides his successor the 3rd earl (Alexander), a second son Adam (who became earl of Sutherland), a third son William (from whom the mother of the poet Byron was descended) and a daughter Katherine, who first married Perkin Warbeck and afterwards Sir Matthew Cradock (from whom the earls of Pembroke descended). Alexander, the 3rd earl (d. 1524), consolidated the position of his house as supreme in the north; he led the Scottish vanguard at Flodden, and was a supporter of Albany against Angus. His grandson George, 4th earl (1514–1562), who in 1548 was granted the earldom of Moray, played a leading part in the troubles of his time in Scotland, and in 1562 revolted against Queen Mary and was killed in fight at Corrichie, near Aberdeen. His son George (d. 1576) was restored to the forfeited earldom in 1565; he became Bothwell’s close associate—he helped Bothwell, who had married his sister, to obtain a divorce from her; and he was a powerful supporter of Mary till he seceded from her cause in 1572.
George Gordon, 1st marquess of Huntly (1562–1626), son of the 5th earl of Huntly, and of Anne, daughter of James Hamilton, earl of Arran and duke of Chatelherault, was born in 1562, and educated in France as a Roman Catholic. He took part in the plot which led to the execution of Morton in 1581 and in the conspiracy which delivered King James VI. from the Ruthven raiders in 1583. In 1588 he signed the Presbyterian confession of faith, but continued to engage in plots for the Spanish invasion of Scotland. On the 28th of November he was appointed captain of the guard, and while carrying out his duties at Holyrood his treasonable correspondence was discovered. James, however, who found the Roman Catholic lords useful as a foil to the tyranny of the Kirk, and was at this time seeking Spanish aid in case of Elizabeth’s denial of his right to the English throne, and with whom Huntly was always a favourite, pardoned him. Subsequently in April 1589 he raised a rebellion in the north, but was obliged to submit, and after a short imprisonment in Borthwick Castle was again set at liberty. He next involved himself in a private war with the Grants and the Mackintoshes, who were assisted by the earls of Atholl and Murray; and on the 8th of February 1592 he set fire to Murray’s castle of Donibristle in Fife, and stabbed the earl to death with his own hand. This outrage, which originated the ballad “The Bonnie Earl of Moray,” brought down upon Huntly his enemies, who ravaged his lands. In December the “Spanish Blanks” were intercepted (see Erroll, Francis Hay, 9th Earl of), two of which bore Huntly’s signature, and a charge of treason was again preferred against him, while on the 25th of September 1593 he was excommunicated. James treated him and the other rebel lords with great leniency. On the 26th of November they were freed from the charge of treason, being ordered at the same time, however, to renounce Romanism or leave the kingdom. On their refusal to comply they were attainted. Subsequently Huntly joined Erroll and Bothwell in a conspiracy to imprison the king, and the former two defeated the royal forces under Argyll at Glenlivat on the 3rd of October 1594, Huntly especially distinguishing himself. His victory, however, gained no real advantage; his castle of Strathbogie was blown up by James, and he left Scotland about March 1595. He returned secretly very soon afterwards, and his presence in Scotland was at first connived at by James; but owing to the hostile feeling aroused, and the “No Popery” riot in Edinburgh, the king demanded that he should abjure Romanism or go into permanent banishment. He submitted to the Kirk in June 1597, and was restored to his estates in December. On the 7th of April 1599 he was created a marquess, and on the 9th of July, together with Lennox, appointed lieutenant of the north. He was treated with great favour by the king and was reconciled with Murray and Argyll. Doubts, however, as to the genuineness of his abjuration again troubled the Kirk. On the 10th of December 1606 he was confined to Aberdeen, and on the 19th of March 1607 he was summoned before the privy council. Huntly thereupon went to England and appealed to James himself. He was excommunicated in 1608, and imprisoned in Stirling Castle till the 10th of December 1610, when he signed again the confession of faith. Accused of Romanist intrigues in 1616, he was ordered once more to subscribe the confession, which this time he refused to do; imprisoned at Edinburgh, he was liberated by James’s order on the 18th of June, and having joined the court in London was absolved from excommunication by Abbot, archbishop of Canterbury; which absolution, after some heartburnings at the archbishop’s interference, and after a further subscription to the confession by Huntly, was confirmed by the Kirk. At the accession of Charles I. Huntly lost much of his influence at court. He was deprived in 1630 of his heritable sheriffships of Aberdeen and Inverness. The same year a feud broke out between the Crichtons and Gordons, in the course of which Huntly’s second son, Lord Melgum, was burnt to death either by treachery or by accident, while being entertained in the house of James Crichton of Frendraught. For the ravaging of the lands of the Crichtons Huntly was held responsible, and having been summoned before the privy council in 1635 he was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle from December till June 1636. He left his confinement with shattered health, and died at Dundee while on his journey to Strathbogie on the 13th of June 1636, after declaring himself a Roman Catholic.
George Gordon, 2nd marquess of Huntly (d. 1649), his eldest son by Lady Henrietta, daughter of the duke of Lennox, was brought up in England as a Protestant, and created earl of Enzie by James I. On succeeding to his father’s title his influence in Scotland was employed by the king to balance that of Argyll in the dealings with the Covenanters, but without success. In the civil war he distinguished himself as a royalist, and in 1647 was excepted from the general pardon; in March 1649, having been captured and given up, he was beheaded by order of the Scots parliament at Edinburgh. His fourth son Charles (d. 1681) was created earl of Aboyne in 1660; and the eldest son Lewis was proclaimed 3rd marquess of Huntly by Charles II. in 1651. But the attainder was not reversed by parliament till 1661.
George Gordon, 4th marquess (1643–1716), served under Turenne, and was created 1st duke of Gordon by Charles II. in 1684 (see Gordon). On the death of the 5th duke of Gordon in 1836 the title of 9th marquess of Huntly passed to his relative George Gordon (1761–1853), son and heir of the 4th earl of Aboyne; who in 1815 was made a peer of the United Kingdom as Baron Meldrum, his descendants being the 10th and 11th marquesses.