1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Mar, Earldom of

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22016011911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 17 — Mar, Earldom ofJohn Horace Round

MAR, EARLDOM OF. Mar, one of the ancient divisions or provinces of Scotland, comprised the larger portion of Aberdeenshire, extending from north of the Don southward to the Mounth. Like other such districts, it was in Celtic times under the rule of a mormaer. In the 12th century his place was taken by an earl, but no definite succession of earls appears till the 13th century, nor is any connexion established between them and the mormaers. From the middle of the 13th century the earls were recognized as among “the seven earls of Scotland” and held a great position. Earl Gratney (fl. c. 1300) married a sister of (King) Robert Bruce, who brought him the lordship of Garioch and castle of Kildrummy, which she held against the earl of Athole, an ally of the English (1335). Their son Donald was made regent in July 1332, but was disastrously defeated and slain at Dupplin next month. His daughter and eventual heir, Margaret, brought the earldom to her husband, William, earl of Douglas, and on the accession of her daughter Isabél a troublous time followed.

While she was living as a widow at her castle of Kildrummy, it was stormed by Alexander Stewart, a bastard, who forced her to execute a charter (August 12, 1404) settling the reversion to the earldom on himself and his heirs. This act she revoked by a charter of the 19th of September 1404, which cannot now be found; but on marrying him, on the 9th of December 1404, she granted him the earldom for life, the king confirming this on the 21st of June 1405. After her death in 1408 the earl played a great part, commanding the royal forces at the battle of Harlaw, when the Lord of the Isles was defeated in 1411, and afterwards acting as warden of the Marches. In 1426 he resigned the earldom to the Crown, the king granting it by a fresh creation to him and certain heirs, with reversion to the Crown. On the earl’s death in 1435 the earldom was claimed by Robert, Lord Erskine, as heir of Gratney, earl of Mar, through a daughter; but the Crown claimed as reversionary under the creation of 1426. A long struggle followed, till in 1457 James II. obtained from a justiciary court at Aberdeen a recognition of the Crown’s right to the earldom and its lands, and shortly after bestowed them on his son John as earl of Mar and Garioch. He died unmarried in 1479, and in 1483 his elder brother Alexander duke of Albany received the earldom, but was soon forfeited. James III. created his son John earl of Mar and Garioch in 1486, and after his death unmarried in 1503, James IV. alienated to Lord Elphinstone (1507–1510) many of the Mar lands, including Kildrummy. The title was not revived till 1562, when James Stewart, earl of Murray, held it for a few months.

In 1565 John, Lord Erskine, succeeded in getting returned heir to the earldom, and shortly after (June 23, 1565) Queen Margaret restored the charter to him and his heirs “all and hail the said earldom of Mar.” As earl he took part against the queen in 1567, and in 1571 was made regent of Scotland, which post he retained till his death (1572). His son, earl John (c. 1558–1634), played a great part in the history of the family. His great achievement was the recovery of the Mar estates, alienated by the Crown during the long period that his family had been out of possession, including Kildrummy, the “head” of the earldom. It was in his time that the precedence of the earldom (see below) was settled. John, the next earl (c. 1585–1654) was a Royalist, as was his son John (d. 1668), much to the injury of the family fortune, which was further impaired by the attachment of the family, after the Revolution, to the Stuarts. His son Charles (1650–1689) was arrested by the government just before his death (1689), and the next earl, John (1675–1732), a prominent Jacobite (see below), was attainted, the earldom remaining under forfeiture for 108 years; by the Old Pretender he was created duke of Mar.

Alloa and other Erskine estates of the attainted earl were repurchased for the family, and descended to John Francis Erskine (1741–1825), his heir-male, who was also his heir of line through his daughter. To him, in his eighty-third year, as grandson and lineal representative of the attainted earl, the earldom was restored by act of parliament in 1824. His grandson, who succeeded him in 1828, inherited the earldom of Kellie (1619) and other Erskine dignities by decision of 1835. At his death in 1866, his earldom of Mar was the subject of rival claims, and the right to the succession was not determined till 1875. His estates passed to his cousin and heir-male, who succeeded to his earldom of Kellie and claimed “the honour and dignity of earl of Mar.” But the latter was also claimed by a Mr Goodeve, whose father had married the late earl’s eldest sister, and who assumed the title. It was not suggested that the late earl had more than one earldom of Mar, but Lord Kellie claimed it as descendible to heirs-male under a creation by Queen Mary, and Mr Goodeve as descendible to heirs of line under an earlier creation. The House of Lords decided (Feb. 25, 1875) that Lord Kellie was entitled to the earldom as having been created by Queen Mary in 1565, with a limitation which must be presumed to be to heirs-male of the body. This decision gave great dissatisfaction, but was described as “final, right or wrong, and not to be questioned” by Lord Selborne and the lord chancellor in 1877, and Lord Kellie was thenceforth recognized as holding the earldom on the Union Roll, the only one known, though Mr Goodeve continued to assume the title. The Lords’ decision could not be reversed, but in 1885, after much agitation, a means was found of evading it in practice by the “Earldom of Mar Restitution Act.” By “an equivocation on the facts of the case,” it was recited that “doubts may exist whether the said ancient honour, dignity, and title of peerage of earl of Mar ... was or was not ... by any lawful means surrendered or merged in the Crown” before 1565, and that the House of Lords had decided that Queen Mary’s known charter of 1565 applied only to lands and “did not operate or extend to restore” the peerage dignity, and enacted that “John Francis Erskine Goodeve Erskine” (which last name the claimant had added) should be “restored to” the ancient earldom. His previous assumption of the title was thus rejected as invalid, but from the passing of the act two earldoms of Mar were in existence, that of Lord Kellie being confirmed and allowed the precedence of 1565, while the restored earldom was allowed that of the dignity on the Union Roll, the only one known till then. This precedence had been assigned to it by the Decreet of Ranking (1606), and assigns to it an origin in 1404 (or, as some say, 1395). It is frequently, but absurdly, stated to have been “created before 1014,” and wrongly spoken of as the Premier Scottish Earldom (see Earl). A barony of Garioch is also wrongly said to be annexed to it, but the title is used by the earl’s eldest son in default of any other.

Bibliography.—Minutes of Evidence, 1875 and 1885; Riddell’s Peerage and Consistorial Law; Skene, Celtic Scotland; Lord Crawford’s Earldom of Mar in Sunshine and Shade; articles by G. Burnett (Lyon), Sir H. Barkly, Cornelius Hallen, W. A. Lindsay and J. H. Round in Genealogist (N.S.), vols. 3, 4, 9; Lord Redesdale’s The Earldom of Mar, a Letter to the Lord Clerk Register (reply to Lord Crawford) (1883); J. H. Round’s “Are there two Earls of Mar?” in Foster’s Collectanea genealogica, and “The later Earldom of Mar” in Walford’s Antiquarian Magazine, vol. ii.; also his Studies in Peerage and Family History.  (J. H. R.)