Seton, George (d.1549) (DNB00)

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SETON, GEORGE, fourth Lord Seton (d. 1549), was son of George, third lord Seton (killed at Flodden on 13 Sept. 1513), was grandson of George, second lord (d 1507), and was great-grandson of George, first lord [q. v.] His mother was Lady Janet Hepburn, eldest daughter of the first Earl of Bothwell. In 1484 he was appointed a commissioner for settling certain border difficulties, and in 1497 he was named a conservator of a treaty with the English. Such was his love of learning that after his marriage he continued his studies at the university of St. Andrews and also at Paris; and he is said to have acquired great skill in surgery and other sciences, including music, theology, and astrology. During a voyage to France his ship was captured by some Dunkirkers and plundered; and in revenge he bought a large vessel, named the Eagle, with which he endeavoured to make reprisals by plundering the ships of the Flemings.

The fourth Lord Seton was in 1526 appointed a member of the parliamentary committee ‘pro judicibus,’ and on 12 Nov. 1533 an extraordinary lord of session. In January 1542–3 he was entrusted by the governor, Arran, with the custody of Cardinal Beaton in Blackness Castle. Knox affirms (Works, i. 97) that by buddis (i.e. offers or bribes) given to Seton, the cardinal was permitted to return to St. Andrews. The ‘buddis,’ according to Arran's account, were large sums of money from the cardinal (Sadler, State Papers, i. 37), but, according to another account, an arrangement for an advantageous marriage of two of his daughters (Hamilton Papers, ii. 40). Nominally, the cardinal, though he had returned, was supposed to be still in custody. He went on the bonds of four lords (ib.); and Sir George Douglas assured Sadler that Seton was bound to the governor in ‘life and lands’ for his custody (Sadler, State Papers, i. 107), and that at St. Andrews he was ‘in as sure and strong prison and as strongly kept in his own house’ as if he were detained in the strongest fortress in all Scotland (ib.) But all this was almost self-evident pretence. His removal to St. Andrews was inexplicable if it was intended that he should be kept in custody; and whether Seton were bribed or not, he was well aware that the governor—who probably accused Seton of having received bribes mainly to hide his own pusillanimity—had come to shrink from the responsibility of detaining the cardinal in custody, and that, the cardinal once freed, the governor might be safely defied.

Seton was one of those who took the field against Hertford in May 1544, and during his retreat Hertford, no doubt by special instructions from Henry VIII, took revenge, not merely for this, but for Seton's conni- vance at the escape of Beaton, by burning the castle and church of Seton. Seton is usually stated to have died in July 1545, an error which appears originally to have been the result of a misprint; for Sir Richard Maitland, his particular friend and near neighbour, affirms the date of the death to be 19 July 1549. That this could not have been a clerical error on Maitland's part is clear from his statement that the English were then besieging Haddington, and were masters of East Lothian, on which account the body was first placed in the abbey of Culross, and not removed for burial in the choir of the college hall of Seton until the retirement of the English.

By his first wife, Elizabeth, daughter of John, lord Hay of Yester, Seton had three sons and four daughters: George, fifth lord Seton [q. v.]; John, ancestor of the Setons of Carriston, Fifeshire; James; Marian, married, first to John, fourth earl of Menteith, and secondly to John, eleventh earl of Sutherland; Margaret, married to Sir Robert Logan of Restalrig; Eleanor, married to Hugh, seventh lord Somerville; and Beatrice, married to Sir George Ogilvy of Dunlugas.

Maitland, who describes Seton as ‘a wise and virtuous statesman,’ mentions that he ‘was well experienced in all games, and took pleasure in hawking, and was holden to be the best falconer of his days.’ It was at his request that Sir Richard Maitland undertook to write his ‘History of the House of Seton.’

[Knox's Works; Sadler's State Papers; Hamilton Papers; Maitland's History of the House of Seton; Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), ii. 643–4.]

T. F. H.