Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wemyss, David (1678-1720)

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WEMYSS, DAVID, third Earl of Wemyss (1678–1720), baptised on 29 April 1678, was the son of Sir James Wemyss of Caskieberry, who was created a life peer as Lord Burntisland, and died in 1685 [see under Wemyss, James, (1610?–1667)]. His mother was Margaret, countess of Wemyss (1659–1705), only surviving daughter of David Wemyss, second earl of Wemyss (see below). The family was in possession of the lands of Wemyss, Fifeshire, originally part of the estate of Macduff, in the twelfth century. In 1290 Sir Michael de Wemyss was included in the embassy to bring Margaret, the Maid of Norway, to Scotland; and among other notable members of the family were Sir David, who signed the letter to the pope in 1320 asserting the independence of Scotland; Sir John, who assisted in repulsing an attempt of the English to land in Fife in 1547, and in 1568 joined the association in support of Queen Mary after her escape from Lochleven; and Sir John, created a baronet of Nova Scotia, with the grant of New Wemyss in that province, 29 May 1625, created Lord Wemyss of Elcho 1 April 1628, and Earl of Wemyss, Lord Elcho and Methil 25 June 1633, and appointed in 1641 high commissioner to the general assembly which met at Edinburgh on 23 July; he died on 22 Nov. 1649. His only son, the grandfather of the third earl,

David Wemyss, second Earl (1610–1679), while Lord Elcho, commanded a regiment of Fifeshire infantry in the Scots campaign of August 1640; in 1644 at the head of about six thousand men he was routed by Montrose at Tippermuir (1 Sept.), and in August next year he was on the covenanting committee who made the blunder of giving battle to Montrose at Kilsyth, and his detachment was one of the first to take flight (Gardiner, Civil War, ii. 297). He died at Wemyss Castle in July 1679, leaving issue one daughter, the third earl's mother. He did much to develop the mineral resources of the Wemyss estates, and built the harbour of Methil, which for a long period was one of the best on the Fife coast.

The third Earl of Wemyss, in succession to his mother, daughter of the second earl, took the oaths and his seat in parliament on 28 June 1705, and was the same year chosen a privy councillor and named one of the commissioners for the treaty of union with England. After the union he was, 13 Feb. 1707, chosen one of the sixteen representative Scottish peers. In 1706 he had been appointed high admiral of Scotland, and this office having been abolished at the union, he was then constituted vice-admiral of Scotland, and nominated one of the council of Prince George of Denmark, high admiral of Great Britain. At the election of 1708 he was again chosen a representative peer. He died on 15 March 1720. He is described by Macky as ‘a fine personage and very beautiful,’ and Macky further credits him with having ‘good sense’ and being ‘a man of honour’ (Memoirs, p. 250).

By his first wife, Anna, eldest daughter of William Douglas, first duke of Queensberry, Wemyss had two sons—David, lord Elcho, who died on 16 Dec. 1715; and James, who succeeded as fourth Earl of Wemyss, and was father of David Wemyss, lord Elcho [q. v.] The countess died on 23 Feb. 1700. By his second wife, Mary, elder daughter and coheiress of Sir John Robinson of Farming Woods, Northamptonshire, the Earl of Wemyss had no issue; but by his third wife, Elisabeth, fourth daughter of Henry, seventh Lord Sinclair, he had two daughters—Elisabeth, married to William, earl of Sutherland; and Margaret, to James, ninth earl of Moray.

[Fraser's Memorials of the Family of Wemyss, 1888; Macky's Memoirs; Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), ii. 622–3; Foster's Peerage, Baronage, and Knightage.]

T. F. H.