1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Kennedy

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KENNEDY, the name of a famous and powerful Scottish family long settled in Ayrshire, derived probably from the name Kenneth. Its chief seat is at Culzean, or Colzean, near Maybole in Ayrshire.

A certain Duncan who became earl of Carrick early in the 13th century is possibly an ancestor of the Kennedys, but a more certain ancestor is John Kennedy of Dunure, who obtained Cassillis and other lands in Ayrshire about 1350. John’s descendant, Sir James Kennedy, married Mary, a daughter of King Robert III. and their son, Sir Gilbert Kennedy, was created Lord Kennedy before 1458. Another son was James Kennedy (c. 1406-1465), bishop of St Andrews from 1441 until his death in July 1465. The bishop founded and endowed St Salvator’s college at St Andrews and built a large and famous ship called the “St Salvator.” Andrew Lang (History of Scotland, vol. i.) says of him, “The chapel which he built for his college is still thronged by the scarlet gowns of his students; his arms endure on the oaken doors; the beautiful silver mace of his gift, wrought in Paris, and representing all orders of spirits in the universe, is one of the few remaining relics of ancient Scottish plate.” Before the bishop had begun to assist in ruling Scotland, a kinsman, Sir Hugh Kennedy, had helped Joan of Arc to drive the English from France.

One of Gilbert Kennedy’s sons was the poet, Walter Kennedy (q.v.), and his grandson David, third Lord Kennedy (killed at Flodden, 1513), was created earl of Cassillis before 1510; David’s sister Janet Kennedy was one of the mistresses of James IV. The earl was succeeded by his son Gilbert, a prominent figure in the history of Scotland from 1513 until he was killed at Prestwick on the 22nd of December 1527. His son Gilbert, the 3rd earl (c. 1517-1558), was educated by George Buchanan, and was a prisoner in England after the rout of Solway Moss in 1542. He was soon released and was lord high treasurer of Scotland from 1554 to 1558, although he had been intriguing with the English and had offered to kill Cardinal Beaton in the interests of Henry VIII. He died somewhat mysteriously at Dieppe late in 1558 when returning from Paris, where he had attended the marriage of Mary Queen of Scots, and the dauphin of France. He was the father of the “king of Carrick” and the brother of Quintin Kennedy (1520-1564), abbot of Crossraguel. The abbot wrote several works defending the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, and in 1562 had a public discussion on these questions with John Knox, which took place at Maybole and lasted for three days. He died on the 22nd of August 1564.

Gilbert Kennedy, 4th earl of Cassillis (c. 1541-1576), called the “king of Carrick,” became a protestant, but fought for Queen Mary at Langside in 1568. He is better known through his cruel treatment of Allan Stewart, the commendator abbot of Crossraguel, Stewart being badly burned by the earl’s orders at Dunure in 1570 in order to compel him to renounce his title to the abbey lands which had been seized by Cassillis. This “ane werry greedy man” died at Edinburgh in December 1576. His son John (c. 1567-1615), who became the 5th earl, was lord high treasurer of Scotland in 1599 and his lifetime witnessed the culmination of a great feud between the senior and a younger branch of the Kennedy family. He was succeeded as 6th earl by his nephew John (c. 1595-1668), called “the grave and solemn earl.” A strong presbyterian, John was one of the leaders of the Scots in their resistance to Charles I. In 1643 he went to the Westminster Assembly of Divines and several times he was sent on missions to Charles I. and to Charles II.; for a time he was lord justice general and he was a member of Cromwell’s House of Lords. His son, John, became the 7th earl, and one of his daughters, Margaret, married Gilbert Burnet, afterwards bishop of Salisbury. His first wife, Jean (1607-1642), daughter of Thomas Hamilton, 1st earl of Haddington, has been regarded as the heroine of the ballad “The Gypsie Laddie,” but this identity is now completely disproved. John, the 7th earl, “the heir,” says Burnet, “to his father’s stiffness, but not to his other virtues,” supported the revolution of 1688 and died on the 23rd of July 1701; his grandson John, the 8th earl, died without sons in August 1759.

The titles and estates of the Kennedys were now claimed by William Douglas, afterwards duke of Queensberry, a great-grandson in the female line of the 7th earl and also by Sir Thomas Kennedy, Bart., of Culzean, a descendant of the 3rd earl, i.e. by the heir general and the heir male. In January 1762 the House of Lords decided in favour of the heir male, and Sir Thomas became the 9th earl of Cassillis. He died unmarried on the 30th of November 1775, and his brother David, the 10th earl, also died unmarried on the 18th of December 1792, when the baronetcy became extinct. The earldom of Cassillis now passed to a cousin, Archibald Kennedy, a captain in the royal navy, whose father, Archibald Kennedy (d. 1763), had migrated to America in 1722 and had become collector of customs in New York. His son, the 11th earl, had estates in New Jersey and married an American heiress; in 1765 he was said to own more houses in New York than any one else. He died in London on the 30th of December 1794, and was succeeded by his son Archibald (1770-1846), who was created Baron Ailsa in 1806 and marquess of Ailsa in 1831. His great-grandson Archibald (b. 1847) became 3rd marquess.

See the article in vol. ii. of Sir R. Douglas’s Peerage of Scotland, edited by Sir J. B. Paul (1905). This is written by Lord Ailsa’s son and heir, Archibald Kennedy, earl of Cassillis (b. 1872).