The Earls Marischal of Scotland
MARISCHAL: William Keith (d. 1463)
The 4th Lord Marischal of Scotland, William Keith was raised to
the rank of Earl Marischal by King James II in 1455, thus
starting the hereditary line of Earl Marischals. He married Margaret, the
daughter of James, 1st Lord Hamilton. They had two children, William and Janet.
2ND EARL MARISCHAL: William Keith (d. 1483)
Son of William Keith,
1st Earl Marischal. He does not
appear in all Keith peerages.
3RD (2nd) EARL MARISCHAL: William Keith (d. 1530)
Son of William, the 2nd Earl
Marischal, William married Elizabeth, daughter of Alexander Gordon,
1st Earl of Huntly. They had a number of children, including Alexander who
later received Estates at Pittendrum (1513). The 3rd Earl
supported King James III against Barons, and had custody of the young
James V in the 1520s; both of which awarded him with lands and
honours. Both of his sons were killed at Battle of Flodden Field (where
the dead included Sir William Keith of Inverugie and Sir John Keith of
Ludquhairn). His son Robert sired 2 grandsons for the 3rd Earl, William
and Robert Abbot of Deer.
John Skirving who was Standard Bearer to Keith, Earl Marischal, at
the Battle of Flodden in 1513, was wounded but survived, taken
prisoner by the English and imprisoned for several years. He hid the Keith
Banderole around his person so that it wouldn't be found. The Skirving
family presented this historic relic to the Advocates Library in
Edinburgh in the 19th Century. The Banderole is 6 foot in length with 3
stags and the motto "Veritas Vincit". "Truth
4TH (3rd) EARL MARISCHAL: William (1501-1581)
William, 4th Earl Marishal was one of the guardians of Mary Queen of Scots during her
minority, and was a member of her privy council on her return to Scotland. While
refraining from extreme partisanship, he was an adherent of the Reformation.
His contributions to the Keith fortunes came from his marriage to Margaret,
daughter and heiress of Sir William Keith of Inverugie. This marriage nearly
doubled the family lands, reaching into 7 shires: Haddington, Linlithgow,
Kincardine, Aberdeen, Banff, Elgin and Caithness. His estates lay in so many
counties that he could travel from Berwick to John o' Groats eating every
meal and sleeping every night on his own lands.
Earl was reputed to be the wealthiest man in Scotland at one time, but his
extravagant lifestyle began to diminish the family's estate. Upon this
realization, William retired to a private life at Dunnottar Castle in
1567. This self-imposed incarceration lasted for over 17 years, until all
the debts were cleared, and earned him the moniker "William of the Tower".
William died in 1581 and was succeeded by his grandson.
(4th) EARL MARISCHAL: George Keith
founder of Aberdeen's 2nd University (Marischal College) was educated
at its first (King's College) and then in Calvinist Geneva. After
succeeding his grandfather as Earl Marischal (1581) he stood by James
VI after the Ruthven Raid and in 1585 was involved in the
defence of Stirling Castle against those nobles sympathetic to the
Raiders and lately returned from exile. In 1589 he was chosen as the
Emissary to arrange the marriage with Anne of Denmark and to fetch the
bride. Bad weather, for which Keith was subsequently exonerated, forced the
returning party to seek shelter in Norway. The impatient James
sailed from Scotland to meet his bride and the wedding took place in Oslo.
Keith was subsequently a Privy Councillor and much concerned in the congenial
(for a strict Calvinist) task of hunting down and prosecuting his northern
rival, the Catholic Earl of Huntly. The Reformation may also have
triggered his foundation of Marischal College in 1593. In 1609
he became High Commissioner or Viceroy to the Parliament of Scotland. The Earl
was married twice, producing 2 children from the 1st and one from the
2nd. He died at Dunnottar in 1623 -
the stronghold given to the Keith family by
1531. With his first wife, Margaret, the daughter of Alexander Home,
5th Lord Home, he
had a son William, who later became 6th Earl Marischal and 2 daughters. His
2nd wife was another Margaret, the daughter of James Ogilvy, 6th Lord Ogilvy
6TH (5th) EARL MARISCHAL: William Keith
Son of the 5th Earl, William
Keith became the 6th Earl Marischal. He officiated at the coronation of
Charles I, and served in his Privy Council. He married Mary, daughter of
John Erskine (Earl of Marr) and Mary Stewart, and had 3 sons and
2 daughters. The first 2 sons, William and George each served as Earls
Marischal, and the 3rd son, John, became Knight Marischal and Earl
of Kintore. The daughters, Janet (married Alexander Lord Pitsligo) and
(married John Lord Kilpont, son and heir to William, Earl of Airth and
The 6th Earl is perhaps most noted for spending a great deal of the family
fortune. He died in 1635.
7TH (6th) EARL MARISCHAL: William
Keith (d. 1661)
son of the 6th Earl Marischal, William Keith signed the National Covenant
for Religious Freedom and joined the army of James Graham, 1st
Marquis of Montrose, in 1639. Six years later, however, Montrose switched
to supporting the Royalist Army due to the mounting threat of Oliver
Cromwell. This put Montrose at odds with the 7th Earl, who chose to decline
Montrose's offers of negotiation and refused him entrance to Dunnottar to
discuss terms. In retaliation, the Captain's envoy set fire to every house,
barn, stable and even ship in the Baronies of Dunnottar,
Fetteresso and Cowie.
In July 1650, the
young King Charles II arrived in north-east Scotland and stayed a while
at Dunnottar. Outraged by the King's return to Scotland, Oliver
Cromwell, the self-proclaimed Lord Protector, led an invasion to the
north. In some haste Charles II was crowned at Scone, but the
crown and other regalia were then hidden at Dunnottar by order of the
King. Shortly thereafter, the Earl Marischal and a number of other Scottish
noblemen were captured by a troop of Cromwell's forces.
imprisoned in the Tower of London (he was held there for 10 years), the
Earl named George Ogilvy of Barras to serve as Governor of Dunnottar
Shortly thereafter the
castle was under siege from Cromwell's Army, and by May 1652, it remained
the only place in Scotland that still flew the Royal Flag. Under heavy artillery
bombardment that resulted in the partial destruction of the Castle, and with no
hope for reinforcements from Royalists, Ogilvy surrendered after 8 months.
Before the surrender, however, the Scottish Regalia were smuggled away from the
Castle and hidden at nearby Kinneff Church.
The Honours remained in
the custody of Mr Grainger at Kinneff until the Restoration of the
Monarchy in 1660. At the opening of the Scottish Parliament the following year,
the Earl Marischal carried the Crown, his brother, George (later the
the Sceptre, and the younger brother John (later the first Earl of Kintore) the
The 7th Earl thus upheld
the traditions of the Marischalcy but his finances had suffered severely,
partly through his own extravagance, but mainly due to the continuous troubles.
He spent most of the rest of his life in London where he could more easily hide
his poverty. He was married twice, which produced 3 daughters from the
1st marriage but no children from the second. He was, therefore, succeeded by
his brother George in 1661.
8TH (7th) EARL MARISCHAL: George
Keith (d. 1694) Colonel George Keith of Aden
Brother to the previous Earl, George Keith supported his brother and Charles
II during the Restoration. His involvement with the protection of the
Scottish Regalia is noted above. At the time of his brother's death, much of
the families wealth had diminished. Dunnottar Castle, once the pride of
the Keiths', had been badly damaged by Cromwell's forces: the Keep
was vulnerable to the elements and the stately halls had been rifled of their
contents. The Earl Marischal did not have the means to repair the damage, so
Dunnottar served as a military depot. In the summer of 1685 it served
as a prison to 122 men and 45 women Covenanters (resulting from
Charles II's rejection of religious freedom in favour of the Episcopacy).
The 8th Earl served as a Colonel in France, and he married Mary Hay,
daughter of the Earl of Kinoul. They had only 1 son, who became the 9th
Earl upon George's death in 1694.
9TH (8th) EARL MARISCHAL: William Keith (d.
the spring of 1689, Dunnottar housed a garrison of 60 men under
the leadership of William Keith, 9th Earl Marischal. Holding the castle for the
Monarchs William and Mary, the Earl oversaw the imprisonment of 17
Aberdonians accused of being Jacobites. Among the captives was George
Liddel, one of his own appointees at Marischal College. As a staunch
Jacobite sympathizer himself, it is safe to say that these prisoners were
treated far better than the Covenanters that were held there a few years
before. They were released 1 year later upon an Act of Indemnity by order of
the Privy Council.
The 9th Earl sat as a peer
in Parliament at Westminster. He was a Jacobite sympathizer, as
already noted, and opposed the Union of Scotland and England. He is
noted for completing much of the construction of Inverugie Castle, which
became the Keiths' principal home. He married Mary, daughter of James
Drummond, Earl of Perth. They had 2 sons and 2 daughters. During a time
of religious unrest, it is important to note that religion was never an obstacle
for the Keiths' political endeavours: "Here we have [William Keith], an
Episcopalian, his [wife] a Catholic and [son James] a Protestant,
all of them desperate to have a Catholic Stuart King on the throne
William died in 1712.
10TH (9th) EARL MARISCHAL:George
Keith (1692-1778) - Last of the Earl Marischals
Keith, the 10th and last of the Earls Marischal succeeded his father
1712. In his youth he was made Lord Keith, by Queen Anne,
and appointed Captain of her Majesty's Guards. Thus, his service
was long, even though he was Earl for but a few years. In 1715, for
having supported the cause of the Stuart Kings, the English revoked his
titles and estates. Exiled to Europe, George and
his brother James
achieved fame and esteem among the courts of Spain, France, Russia and
Germany. Representing Frederick the Great of Germany, he returned on
a visit to England, was reprieved for supporting the Stuarts, and had
some of his family properties restored to him.... including Dunnottar Castle
. The painting at right shows the Earl in his younger years. George died,
childless, in 1778, and chieftainship of Clan Keith then passed to
the Earl of Kintore."
Keith was the oldest son of William, Lord Keith, who himself was the oldest son
of William Keith, 4th Earl Marischal. The office of "Marischal of Scotland" had
been held by the senior member of the Keith family since Hervey de Keith, who
held the office of Marischal under Malcolm IV was later confirmed as "Great
Marischal of Scotland" by Robert the Bruce. In 1458 the title was
converted into the more standard "Earl Marischal".