Ker, Thomas (DNB00)

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KER, Sir THOMAS (d. 1586), of Ferniehirst, eldest son of Sir John Ker of Ferniehirst, by his wife Catherine, daughter of Sir Andrew Ker of Cessfurd [q. v.], succeeded his father in July 1562. His father was second son of Andrew Ker of Ferniehirst [q. v.] Sureties were given in August of the same year for his appearance before the council in November (Reg. P. C. Scotl. i. 216), in consequence of the feud between the Kers and the Scotts of Buccleuch, but on 6 Dec. he was freed from all blame (ib. i. 227). In December 1564 he was warded in the castle of Edinburgh for the non-payment of certain teinds to the commendator of Jedburgh (ib. i. 304). He was one of the members of the privy council specially chosen in 1565 on account of the rebellion of Moray and his adherents at the time of the Darnley marriage, and in October attended the queen in the ‘Roundabout Raid’ to Dumfries. While in the southern districts the queen commanded him to raise the royal standard at the head of his followers, and placed herself under his immediate protection. On the escape of the queen from Lochleven in 1568 Ker joined her at Hamilton. Although he signed the bond of Teviotdale, 10 April 1569, in support of the authority of the regent on the borders (ib. i. 651), his maintenance of border thieves compelled the regent to make a special excursion into Liddesdale in the following September (Calderwood, ii. 505). He made no concealment of the protection given by him to the Earl of Westmorland on his flight from England in November, and Douglas of Cavers told Sir Ralph Sadler that ‘his master’ [Sir Thomas Ker] ‘cared not so much for the regent as the regent cared for him’ (Sadler, State Papers, ii. 114). Cavers also affirmed that Ker was well able to raise three thousand men ‘within his own rule.’ Ker and Scott of Buccleuch were supposed to have had some knowledge of the conspiracy against the regent, and on the night of the murder made an excursion into the English borders, ‘not so much for greediness of booty as to provoke the English’ (Calderwood, ii. 513; also Herries, Memoirs, p. 121). In February he met with the Hamiltons and others at Glasgow, whence they sent a letter to Morton declaring their ignorance of the agent in the regent's murder, and professing their willingness to consult with the rest of the nobility for securing justice (Calderwood, p. 529). Ker also about the same time wrote a letter to his father-in-law, Kirkcaldy of Grange, offering to quiet the borders if the queen of England ‘would stay her army’ (ib.) In April, Sussex and Lord Hunsdon entered Scotland, and, besides ravaging the lands of Ker, demolished his castle of Ferniehirst, which remained in ruins till 1598. In 1570 Ker conspired, along with Lord Herries and others, to surprise Edinburgh, but the project miscarried (Herries, Memoirs, p. 130). Subsequently he joined Kirkcaldy of Grange, in the castle of Edinburgh, with ‘seventy spears or thereabout’ (Calderwood, iii. 75). He also brought with him his charter chest, which at the surrender of the castle was destroyed by Morton. By the party of the queen Ker was chosen provost of the city of Edinburgh (Herries, Memoirs, p. 138). He was one of those forfeited at the parliament of the opposite party held at Stirling in August 1571 (Calderwood, iii. 136). Ker took part in the raid of September, in which Lennox was slain. The borderers under him and Scott of Buccleuch began to pillage prematurely, and a sally put the raiders to flight (Herries, p. 148). In the following October Ker assembled a force to attack Jedburgh, and on account of complaints of the inhabitants a bond was on 12 Feb. 1571–2 subscribed for his pursuit (Reg. P. C. Scotl. ii. 117). Some time before the surrender of the castle of Edinburgh he sought refuge abroad, but through the influence of Esmé Stuart, earl of Lennox, he obtained license to return home at the close of 1579. Although believed to have been directly implicated in the murder of Darnley, Ker, at the execution of Morton on 2 June 1581 on the charge of having been ‘art and part in the murder,’ stood ‘in a shott over against the scaffold, with his large ruffles, delighting in this spectacle’ (Calderwood, iii. 575). Shortly afterwards he was restored to his estates, and on 26 Nov. 1583 he received from parliament a formal and full pardon. He continued to be one of the chief supporters of Lennox, accompanying him after the Ruthven raid to Glasgow. On 30 Nov. Ker failed in an attempt to seize Edinburgh (ib. p. 691). At the general assembly of the kirk held in October of this year the session of Haddington were enjoined to call before them the Laird of Ferniehirst, his wife, and his daughter, on the charge of going to mass in France and other parts beyond sea, and also to require them to subscribe the confession of faith (ib. p. 682). In 1584 Ker was appointed warden of the middle marches and keeper of Liddesdale. During a meeting held by him on 27 July 1585 with Sir John Forster, the English warden, a fray arose between the Scots and English, in which Francis, lord Russell, was fatally wounded. The English suspected this to be a deliberate plot of Ferniehirst, prompted by Arran, to break off the conference. The Scottish king talked for a time of sending them into England to be tried, but afterwards changed his mind. On 18 Aug. Ferniehirst appeared before the council and made a declaration absolving Arran from all connection with the murder (Reg. P. C. Scotl. iv. 4). Shortly afterwards Ker was committed to ward in Aberdeen, where he died some time in 1586. He is described by Camden as ‘a stout and able warrior, ready for any great attempt and undertaking, and of an immovable fidelity to the Queen of Scots and the king, her son; having been once or twice turned out of all his lands and fortunes, and banished the sight of his country and children, which yet he endured patiently, and, after so many crosses falling upon him together, persisted unshaken and always like himself.’ He was twice married. By his first wife, Janet, daughter of Sir William Kirkaldy of Grange [q. v.], he had a son, Andrew, who succeeded him, and two daughters: Janet, married, first to Sir Patrick Hume of Polwarth, and secondly to Thomas earl of Haddington; and Margaret, married to Robert, second lord Melville of Monimail. By his second wife, Janet, sister of Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch, he had three sons: Sir James Ker of Crailing; Thomas, who inherited from his father the lands of Oxenhame; and Robert [see Carr, Robert, Earl of Somerset], the favourite of King James; and a daughter, Janet, married to John, lord Balgy.

[Sadler's State Papers; Reg. P. C. Scotl. vols. i–iv.; Lord Herries's Memoirs (Abbotsford Club); Calderwood's Hist. of the Church of Scotland; Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), ii. 133–4.]

T. F. H.