Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gordon, Alexander (d.1524)

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660878Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 22 — Gordon, Alexander (d.1524)1890Thomas Finlayson Henderson

GORDON, ALEXANDER, third Earl of Huntly (d. 1524), was the eldest son of George, second earl [q. v.], by the

Princess Annabella, daughter of James I. As his parents were divorced on account of their relationship being within the forbidden degrees of affinity, he could only be legitimated on the ground of their ignorantia and bona fides (see Riddell's Inquiry into the Laws and Practice of Scottish Peerages, p. 528); but perhaps the actual reason why he succeeded to the earldom on the death of his father was that the king so willed it. He is styled earl in a grant, 30 Jan. 1502-3, to him by the king of certain lands (Reg. Mag. Sig. i. 2689) The historian of the ‘House of Gordon’ erroneously states that he also succeeded his father as lord high chancellor. The most important achievement of the third earl was the assistance he rendered in the subjugation of the western isles. In 1504 he co-operated with the king and the Scottish fleet by attacking them from the north. The following year he stormed the castle of Stornoway, held by Torquil Macleod, one of the principal western chiefs, and compelled Donald Dhu, who claimed the lordship of the isles, to take refuge in Ireland. From this time the independent lordship of the isles ceased to exist (Gregory, Western Highlands, ed. 1881, pp. 96-120). For his great services the king, on 13 Jan. 1505-6, confirmed to him certain lands and baronies, incorporating them into a free barony and earldom, to be called the barony and earldom of Huntly, the principal messuage of the same, formerly called Strathbogie, to be henceforth called the castle of Huntly (Reg. Mag. Sig. i. 2909). In 1509 he was one of the guarantors of a treaty of peace with England. On 24 Oct. of this year he was appointed sheriff and keeper of the castle of Inverness. A grant of lands was given him for the support of a garrison, with power to add to the fortifications. He was in addition bound to build at his own expense on the castle hill of Inverness a large hall of stone and lime upon vaults, with a kitchen and chapel (ib. entry 3286). He was also required to build a fortress at Inverlochy (ib.) His jurisdiction was made to embrace the counties of Inverness, Ross and Caithness, power being given him to appoint deputies for specified divisions of his sheriffdom. It was thus principally by the achievements of the third earl that the house of Huntly became supreme over all the northern regions.

Huntly with Lord Home led the vanguard of the Scots at the battle of Flodden on 9 Sept. 1513, and by a furious charge threw the English right, under Sir Thomas Edmund Howard, into confusion, but Huntly's division was in turn driven back with great slaughter by the charge of a reserve of English horse led by Lord Dacre. He was one of the few Scottish earls who escaped the succeeding carnage, and, the king being among the slain, was, at a parliament held at Perth in the ensuing October, appointed, along with the Earl of Angus and the Archbishop of Glasgow, a council to aid the queen mother in the government. He supported her and Angus against the Earl of Arran's attempts to assume the regency, but afterwards sided with the Duke of Albany against Angus. During the absence of Albany in France in 1517 he was appointed one of a council of regency. On 26 Feb. 1517-18 he was made lieutenant over all Scotland, with the exception of Argyll's territory. He supported Albany on his arrival from France in 1520 (Leslie, History, p. 116). On the plea of a ‘sore leg’ he, however, excused himself from joining the force called by Albany to assemble on 17 Oct. 1523 for an invasion of England (Cal. State Papers, Henry VIII, iii. 3434), and for a similar reason he declined to attend the parliament held at Edinburgh on 23 Nov. after Albany's retreat (ib. 3551). He was again appointed one of the council of regency when Albany shortly afterwards left for France, but he died 21 Jan. 1523-4. He was buried in the choir of the Dominican Church, Perth (Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. p. 714 b); and on 25 June 1525 his widow, Elizabeth Gray, made a grant of certain lands to the Dominicans for the weal of her soul and that of her husband (ib. 714 a). He was twice married: first to Lady Johanna Stewart, eldest daughter of John, earl of Atholl, brother uterine of James II, by whom he had two daughters and four sons (George, who died young; John, father of George, fourth earl [q. v.], and of Alexander Gordon, bishop of Galloway[q.v.]; Alexander, ancestor of the Gordons of Cluny; and William, bishop of Aberdeen [q. v.]); and secondly, to Elizabeth, daughter of Andrew, lord Gray, relict of John, sixth lord Glammis, by whom he had no issue, and who subsequently married George, earl Rothes.

[Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), i. 645-6; William Gordon's House of Gordon, i. 98-126; Bishop Leslie's Hist. of Scotland; Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, vols. i. and ii.; Cal. State Papers, Henry VIII; Donald Gregory's Hist. of the Western Highlands.]

T. F. H.