Earls of Glencairn (1488)


1st Earl of Glencairn, Alexander Cunningham, b.c.1425, a.1488, d.1488


The Cunningham were an ancient family from North Ayrshire, descended from a vassal of Hugh de Morville, King Davidís Chancellor and Norman knight. Alexander Cunningham, the son of Sir Robert Cuninghame of Kilmaurs and Anne Motgomerie, was created 1st Lord Kilmaurs in 1450, and was then created 1st Earl of Glencairn by James III shortly before being killed in action at the Battle of Sauchieburn in 1488, Glencairn being an area of Nithsdale in Dumfriesshire that had come into the family previously. By the first Parliament of James IV later in 1488, this new creation was annulled, depriving the 2nd Lord Kilmaurs of the title. This decision was overturned in 1503.


2nd Earl of Glencairn, Robert Cunningham, b.?, a.1503, d.c.1490


Son of the 1st Earl and Margaret Hepburn, daughter of Sir Adam Hepburn of Hailes.


3rd Earl of Glencairn, Cuthbert Cunningham, b.?, a.1490, d.c.1540-1541


Son of the 2nd Earl and Christina Lindsay (b.?, d.1491-1496), daughter of John Lindsay, 1st Lord Lindsay of the Byres. He tried to remove the young James V from the influence of the Red Douglas, but was beaten back at Linlithgow.


4th Earl of Glencairn, William Cunningham, b.c.1493, a.1540-1541, d.c.1547-1548


Son of the 3rd Earl and Lady Marjory Douglas (b.1470-1477, d.?), daughter of Archibald Douglas, 5th Earl of Angus. He was active in the politics of his time, receiving a pension from Henry VIII to advocate pro-English sentiment at the Scottish Court. In 1538 he was one of the envoys who concluded the negotiations for the marriage of James V to the French Mary of Guise. In 1542 he was taken prisoner at the Battle of Solway Moss, and released on his agreement to support the marriage of Henry VIIIís son Edward to Queen Mary. He fell foul of the Regent, Arran, and fled to England, but was later welcomed back to Scotland and entered the Privy Council.


5th Earl of Glencairn, Alexander Cunningham, b.?, a.1547-1548, d.1574


Son of the 4th Earl and Catherine Borthwick, daughter of Sir William Borthwick, 2nd Lord Borthwick. He was one of the first nobles to support Church Reform openly, and welcomed John Knox to his house. In 1557, he joined the Covenant and was one of its sternest advocates. In 1560, when Parliament recognised the new Protestant religion, he became a Privy Counsellor, and took to the field against Queen Mary at the Battle of Carberry Hill and the Battle of Langside. He bore the sword of state at the Coronation of James VI in 1567.


6th Earl of Glencairn, William Cunningham, b.?, a.1574, d.1576-1580


Son of the 5th Earl and Janet Hamilton, daughter of James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Arran.


7th Earl of Glencairn, James Cunningham, b.1552, a.1576-1580, d.c.1630


Son of the 6th Earl and Janet Gordon (b.c.1528, d.1596). He was one of the Protestant Lords who seized James VI in the Ruthven Raid, and was later a Privy Counsellor, and was one of the Commissioners for a tentative Union with England at the time.


8th Earl of Glencairn, William Cunningham, b.?, a.c.1630, d.1631


Son of the 7th Earl and Margaret Campbell (b.?, d.1610), daughter of Sir Colin Campbell of Glenorchy (ancestor of the earls of Breadalbane).


9th Earl of Glencairn, William Cunningham, b.c.1610, a.1631, d.1664-1665


Son of the 8th Earl and Lady Janet Kerr, daughter of Mark Kerr, 1st Earl of Lothian. He was a Royalist during the Civil Wars, he was Privy Counsellor to Charles I, and opposed the sending of a Scottish Army to support the English Parliamentarians. In 1650, Parliament annulled the Letters of Patent for the earldom, a decision which was rescinded at the Restoration. In the meantime, Glencairn was active in the Highlands against the forces of General Monck. He was eventually arrested, but allowed to return home. At the Restoration, he joined Charles II in London and was made a Privy Counsellor again. The following year he was made Lord Chancellor of Scotland. He also became Chancellor of the University of Glasgow.


10th Earl of Glencairn, Alexander Cunningham, b.?, a.1664-1665, d.1670


Son of the 9th Earl and Lady Anne Ogilvy (b.?, d.1660-1661), daughter of James Ogilvy, 1st Earl of Findlater. He married but had no children.


11th Earl of Glencairn, John Cunningham, b.?, a.1670, d.1703


Younger brother of the 10th Earl. He was made a Privy Counsellor in 1689.


12th Earl of Glencairn, William Cunningham, b.?, a.1703, d.1733-1734


Son of the 11th Earl and Lady Jean Erskine, daughter of John Erskine, 4th Earl of Mar. He was a Privy Counsellor, and served as Governor of Dumbarton Castle from 1715 to 1734.


13th Earl of Glencairn, William Cunningham, b.?, a.1733-1734, d.1775


Son of the 12th Earl and Lady Henrietta Stewart, daughter of Alexander Stewart, 3rd Earl of Galloway. He reached the rank of Major-General in 1770.


14th Earl of Glencairn, James Cunningham, b.1749, a.1775, d.1791


Son of the 13th Earl. He was a great supporter and friend of the poet Rabbie Burns. In 1786 he sold the family estate and seat of Kilmaurs.


15th Earl of Glencairn, John Cunningham, b.1750, a.1791, d.1796


Younger brother of the 14th Earl. He served in the Royal Dragoons, and later became a priest in the Church of England. He had no children, and the lack of any male heirs meant that the title became extinct.