Earls of Dunbar (c.1134)


1st Earl of Dunbar, Cospatrick, b.?, a.c.1072, d.1075


The earls of Dunbar were descended from Crinan, Mormaer of Atholl, and Bethoc of Scotland (b.c.984, d.?), daughter of King Malcolm II. Their older son became King Duncan I, and their younger son Maldred (b.c.1015, d.1045) became Lord of Allerdale. Maldred married Ealdgytha, daughter of Ughtred, earl of Northumberland, and Aelgifu, daughter of the Saxon king Ethelred the Unready. Maldred’s son Cospatrick, or Gospatric (b.c.1040, d.c.1075), was made earl of Northumberland by William the Conqueror in 1067, but was deposed in 1072 and fled to Scotland, where Malcolm III, King of Scotland, welcomed him and granted him Dunbar and the adjoining lands. Though an earl by rank, he was not during his lifetime considered to the Earl of Dunbar, the numbering being backdated from the fourth holder of the lands, who was first to be designated as hereditary earl of those lands.


2nd Earl of Dunbar, Cospatrick, b.?, a.1075, d.1138


Cospatrick’s eldest son, Dolfin, was given the title Earl of Cumberland, while his second son, also Cospatrick, inherited the Dunbar estates, although at the time of his death, he held extensive lands in both Scotland and England. He was killed at the Battle of the Standard, fighting on the Scottish side. During his lifetime, he was known as the Earl of Lothian, the area in which Dunbar resides.


3rd Earl of Dunbar, Cospatrick, b.?, a.1138, d.1166


Son of the 2nd Earl. He inherited large areas of Northumberland and well as Lothian and the Scottish Borders, and like his father was also known as Earl of Lothian. He was a great religious patron, and latterly appears to have become a monk himself.


4th Earl of Dunbar, Waltheof, b.?, a.1166, d.1182


Son of the 3rd Earl. It is possible that he served as a hostage to the English King Stephen, and he was the first to be titled Earl of Dunbar rather than of Lothian.


5th Earl of Dunbar, Patrick, b.1152, a.1182, d.1232


Son of the 4th Earl. By this time, the Earl of Dunbar had become one of the most senior nobles in Scotland, and he was heavily involved in the negotiations between England and Scotland, having lands in each. He served as Justiciar of Lothian, Warden of Berwick-upon-Tweed, and Keeper of Berwick Castle.


6th Earl of Dunbar, Patrick, b.?, a.1232, d.1248


Son of the 5th Earl and Ada (b.b.1174, d.1200), an illegitimate daughter of William I, King of Scotland. As with his father, he was closely involved with the running of the kingdom, putting down uprisings in Galloway and Argyll, and acting as envoy to England on behalf of his King. He died on crusade at the siege of Damietta in Egypt.


7th Earl of Dunbar, Patrick, b.c.1213, a.1248, d.1289


Son of the 6th Earl and Eupheme FitzAlan (b.?, d.c.1267), daughter of Walter FitzAlan, 1st Great Steward of Scotland. Patrick aligned himself with the English, paying homage for his English lands to King Henry III. With Henry’s backing, he took sides against the Comyn faction, obtaining the release of King Alexander III from their clutches . He was briefly Regent and Guardian after this, but was finally excluded from power in 1258 when the Comyn prevailed. He remained active, and fought at the Battle of Largs in 1263. He took part in the Parliament that signed the treaty of Norway, and in the one that declared Margaret of Norway as heir to the throne.


8th Earl of Dunbar & March, Patrick, b.c.1242, a.1289, d.1308


Son of the 7th Earl and Cecil Fraser. The 8th Earl was one of the Competitors for the throne in 1291, being a descendant of King William the Lion. As with many other Scottish nobles, he was required to offered fealty to King Edward I on behalf of the lands he held in England. However, and also like so many others, he later rejected Edward in favour of the Scottish crown. He was the first Dunbar earl to take the additional title of Earl of March, the marches being the disputed territories on the border. His daughter Cecilia married James Stewart, 5th High Steward of Scotland, and so was the grandmother to Robert II, the first Stewart king.


9th Earl of Dunbar & March, Patrick, b.c.1285, a.1308, d.c.1369


Son of the 8th Earl and Marjory Comyn, daughter of Alexander Coymn, 6th Earl of Buchan. After the Battle of Bannockburn, Dunbar gave refuge to the fleeing English King Edward II, helping him escape back to England by sea. He later made his peace with Bruce, and was appointed Governor of Berwick after re-taking the Castle in 1318. In 1332, Dunbar was made Guardian of the Realm after the death of the Regent, Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray, and resisted Edward Balliol after the Battle of Dupplin Moor. However, after the disaster of Halidon Hill, he had little choice but to pay fealty to Edward III. On the plus side, Edward ordered the rebuilding of Dunbar Castle, which had been dismantled, in order to house an English garrison. After its completion however, Dunbar conveniently renounced allegiance to Edward, regained his castle, and thereafter continued to campaign against the English alongside Thomas Randolph, the 3rd Earl of Moray, to whose sister Agnes he was married. While Dunbar was away fighting, the English under the Earl of Salisbury laid siege to Dunbar Castle. Agnes, known as Black Agnes because of her dark complexion, took command of the garrison and withstood the siege. In 1346, Edward III was distracted by the failure of a truce with the French, and Dunbar joined in with the Scottish Army under King David II and William Douglas, the Knight of Liddesdale, that was commissioned by King Philip VI of France under the Auld Alliance. However, the Battle of Neville’s Cross proved to be another disaster for the Scots, with Moray killed, and the King captured. It was another eleven years before David was ransomed, with Dunbar acting as envoy and then hostage, although he seems to have been released soon after.


10th Earl of Dunbar & March, George, b.c.1336, a.1369, d.c.1416


There is some dubiety regarding the exact ancestry of the 10th Earl, whether or not he is the son of the 9th Earl and Agnes Randolph or the son of the 9th Earl’s brother John of Dunbar and his wife Isabella, daughter of Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray. Regardless, he inherited vast domains and was a senior figure of the realm. During this period, there was almost constant warfare along the border, ranging from minor acquisitive raids to major incursions. Dunbar and James Douglas, 2nd Earl of Douglas, shared responsibilities as Wardens of the March to counter their English equivalents Percy and Neville. As part of the Auld Alliance, in 1385, France provided men and money to the Scots to aid them. Hearing of this, Richard II of England sent a large invading army into Scotland. However, the Scots retreated, scorching the earth before them, and although Richard reached Edinburgh, destroying towns as he went, he had no choice but to turn back, his troops suffering from severe food shortages. To add insult, while Richard was in Scotland, Douglas and Dunbar invaded England behind him, plundering castles as far south as Newcastle. In 1388, Dunbar accompanied Douglas on an invasion into England following the ending of a short truce, and in response to English border raiding. Although this foray was considered a success, Douglas was killed at the Battle of Otterburn, and Dunbar had to lead the army home. In 1399, Dunbar’s daughter Elizabeth was betrothed to David, Duke of Rothesay, the heir to the throne. However, the new Earl of Douglas, Archibald the Grim, resenting this honour, protested, and with the backing of the Robert, Duke of Albany, the King’s brother, had Elizabeth replaced by his own daughter. For this slight, Dunbar renounced his allegiance to Robert III and left for England, where he obtained the favour of Henry IV, fighting for him against the Scots at the Battle of Homildon Hill, where Douglas was taken prisoner, and aiding him in putting down the Percy revolt, for which he was handed considerable estates in England. In 1408, Dunbar was reconciled with Douglas and returned to Scotland, where, due to his close contacts with the English throne, he was regularly used as an envoy.


11th Earl of Dunbar & March, George, b.c.1370, a.1416, d.1455-1457


Son of the 10th Earl and Christian Seton. He was a mature man on his father’s death, having been engaged in various public tasks as heir to the title, including acting as a Commissioner in the release of Albany’s son Murdoch from the Tower of London. At Albany’s death in 1421, Dunbar was part of the embassy sent to negotiate for the release of the King James I from English captivity, and he was also present at the Coronation at Scone in 1424. For the next few years he was heavily involved in negotiating various truces with the English, but the simmering resentment of the Crown and other nobles towards him because of his wealth and close associations with England ended in a plan to seize his estates. He was arrested and charges of treason brought against him for holding titles and lands forfeited by his father. Although these were trumped up, he had no option but to concede defeat, and retired to one of his manors in England.



Earls of Dunbar (1605)


1st Earl of Dunbar, George Home, b.c.1556, a.1605, d.1611


As a young man, George Home was brought to the Court of King James IV by Alexander Home, 6th Lord Home, where he became established as a favourite. He was knighted in 1590 and was made Privy Counsellor in 1598. When James became King of England in 1603, Home accompanied his master to London and was made Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1605 he was made a Knight of the Garter and given the title of 1st Earl of Dunbar. He died without male children, and his titles became extinct. His daughter Elizabeth married Theophilus Howard, 2nd Earl of Suffolk.