Earls of Huntly (1445)


1st Earl of Huntly, Alexander Gordon, b.b.1435, a.1445, d. 1470


Alexander Gordon, originally surname Seton, was the son of Sir Alexander Seton (b.?, d.1440-1441) and Elizabeth Gordon (b.?, d.1438-1439). His mother was the heiress of the Gordons of Huntly, another of the great families of Norman descent that served Scotland well during the wars with England in the Middle Ages, and he inherited the feudal titles of Lord of Gordon and Lord of Huntly, changing his name in the process. He divorced his first wife Egidia Hay and married Elizabeth Crichton, daughter of Lord William Crichton, Chancellor of Scotland at the time. He was raised to the peerage as 1st Earl of Huntly by King James II in 1445, with a remit to smooth tensions between the Crichtons and the Douglas clan, and in 1451 he was also made Lord of Badenoch. One of the principal seats of the Gordon’s was Strathbogie Castle, that formerly belonged to the forfeited Earl of Atholl, and which had been awarded to Sir John Gordon in 1376. After the murder of William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas by the King at Stirling Castle in 1452, the new Huntly was appointed Lieutenant-General. In leading his troops to defend the King, he was met at Brechin by a force of Lindsays led by Alexander Lindsay, 4th Earl of Crawford, the Tiger Earl. In a pitched battle, both sides suffered heavy losses, with Huntly losing two of his brothers, before Crawford fled the field. Huntly then turned north to take on Archibald Douglas, de uxoris Earl of Moray. In later life, Huntly expanded the lands under his control and by subinfeudation built up a layer of loyal retainers.


2nd Earl of Huntly, George Gordon, b.b.1455, a.1470, d.1501


Son of the 1st Earl and Elizabeth Crichton (b.?, d.1479). He married Elizabeth Dunbar, Countess of Moray, daughter of James Dunbar, 4th Earl of Moray, in 1455, after her first husband Archibald Douglas was killed at the Battle of Arkinholm, but they were too closely related (she was his niece) and they obtained a divorce. He then married Annabella Stewart, daughter of King James I, but was forced to have that marriage annulled as she was too closely related to his first wife, although their children were later legitimised. He then married Elizabeth Hay, daughter of William Hay, 1st Earl of Erroll. In 1476 he was responsible for obtaining the surrender of John Macdonald, 11th Earl of Ross, who had been conspiring with the English, to the King. He fought for King James III at the Battle of Sauchieburn, and although on the losing side was held in high regard by the new monarch, and was made Lieutenant of the North in 1491. He was Lord Chancellor of Scotland between 1498 and 1501 but resigned shortly before his death. His daughter Catherine Gordon (b.?, d.1537) married Perkin Warbeck, who famously pretended to be Richard, Duke of York, brother of Edward V of England, to the extent that he persuaded James IV to invade England (though this petered out when support for the impersonator failed to take off amongst the English people). After this failed, Perkin travelled to Cornwall via Ireland, declaring himself Richard IV on landing at Whitesand Bay and attacking Exeter with a small army. He was eventually captured and executed, but Catherine was well treated and taken into the English Court by Henry VII.


3rd Earl of Huntly, Alexander Gordon, b.b.1464, a.1501, d.c.1524


Son of the 2nd Earl and Annabella Stewart (b.c.1432, d.1509). He spent much of his time subduing the Highlands in the name of the King and was responsible for capturing Donald Dubh, the self-styled Lord of the Isles, receiving more and more lands for his faithful service over the years, and was made Hereditary Sheriff of Inverness in 1509. He was a renowned fighter and jointly led the left wing of the Scottish army at Flodden, being one of the few who survived the battle. In 1517 he joined the Council of Regency and in 1518 became Lieutenant of Scotland.


4th Earl of Huntly, George Gordon, b.c.1514, a.c.1524, d.1562


Grandson of the 3rd Earl and Lady Jean Stewart (b.?, d.1510), daughter of John Stewart, 1st Earl of Atholl, and son of John Gordon, Lord Gordon (b.b.1500, d.1517) and Margaret Stewart (b.c.1497, d.?), daughter of King James IV. He was made Lieutenant of the North in 1537 and wielded immense power there, and in 1540 was made Sheriff of Aberdeen as well as being Hereditary Sheriff of Inverness. He commanded the King’s Army at the Battle of Haddon Rig in 1542, and in 1544 was involved in fierce clashes with rebellious Highland clans under Donald Dubh, who had escaped from captivity after a long imprisonment. He was in the Council of Regency that operated under the Earl of Arran and Cardinal Beaton, taking over as Lord Chancellor when Beaton was murdered in 1546. He was captured by the English at the Battle of Pinkie, but escaped in 1548 after refusing to intrigue on England’s behalf and was given as a reward for his loyalty the earldom of Moray and the Sheriffdom of Elgin in 1549. Ever at odds with the wilder Highland clans, he was commissioned by the Queen Regent to pacify the Clan Ranald in 1554 but had to retreat ignobly after some of his allies pulled out, resulting in him being imprisoned and removed from his position as Chancellor, only being released after paying heavy fines. This did not deter him from supporting the Queen Regent against the Protestant Lords of Congregation as head of the Roman Catholic faction in Scotland. Any ideas that the return of Queen Mary from France in 1561 would improve the situation were quickly dispelled as she fell under the influence of her half-brother, James Stewart, one of the leaders of the Reformation, who determined to bring Huntly down. Under pressure, the young Mary transferred the earldom of Moray from Huntly to Stewart, and Huntly promptly withdrew to his own domains. Later in 1562 the Queen made an official progress into the north. In Aberdeen, Elizabeth, Countess of Huntly, met her and pleaded for leniency in the treatment of her son John Gordon (b.c.1535, d.1562), who had been escaped from prison after being arrested for injuring his stepson James Ogilvie in a street fight in Edinburgh. They agreed that John should surrender and live under a ward at Stirling Castle. In a deliberate move to cause trouble, Stewart, the new earl of Moray, agreed, but on condition that the ward would be John Erskine, 6th Lord Erskine (for whom see the earls of Mar), who happened to be Stewart’s uncle and close ally. John immediately refused the offer, which seemed to offend the Queen, and following this, when Huntly invited her to Strathbogie Castle, she refused in turn. When the Queen’s progress reached Inverness, she was denied entry to Inverness Castle. She then captured the castle, executing the Gordon captain, and returned to Aberdeen, where she was denied entry to John Gordon’s own Findlater Castle. Huntly and his son were summoned to appear before her in Aberdeen, but refused to hand themselves over to their enemies.  Although he offered to surrender to Parliament, he was outlawed and marched on Aberdeen. However, he was met by James Stewart at the head of another force. They clashed at the Battle of Corrichie, where Huntly was captured, dying soon afterwards of apoplexy after falling from his horse. John Gordon and several other senior Gordons were executed in Aberdeen and the Huntly titles were later forfeited by an Act of Parliament, with the earl’s possessions at Strathbogie being divided between the Queen and Moray.


5th Earl of Huntly, George Gordon, b.b.1548, a.1562, d.1576


Son of the 4th Earl and Elizabeth Keith, daughter of Robert Keith, Master of Marischal. Initially condemned for treason, although he was not remotely involved, he was confined in Dunbar Castle until 1565, when he obtained a reversal of his father’s attainder from the Queen, who was looking for support in her decision to marry Lord Darnley despite objections from the Protestant lords. He became a close ally of the Queen and James Hepburn, 4th Earl of  Bothwell, his brother-in-law, and his loyalty to Mary after Rizzio’s murder was rewarded by him being made Lord Chancellor in place of the Regent, James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton, who had been forced to flee the country following his part in the murder. He was then intimately involved, along with Bothwell, Archibald Campell, 5th Earl of Argyll and the Secretary of State John Maitland (for whom see the earls of Lauderdale, in the plot, hatched at Craigmillar Castle, to kill Mary’s husband Darnley, who had become a liability to the Crown. Darnley fell ill and was taken to Edinburgh yearly in 1567, where he was murdered in the grounds of his house after escaping an explosion designed to kill him. Bothwell then divorced Huntly’s sister Jean Gordon (b.c.1546, d.1629) in order to marry Mary. This provoked the Protestant lords into action and they moved into Edinburgh, taking over Parliament. Mary and Bothwell gathered a force at Dunbar Castle and then marched on the capital. The two sides met at Carberry Hill, and after several hours of posturing Mary surrendered to the Parliamentary troops without any fighting having taken place. Huntly aided in Bothwell’s escape and met other loyalists at Dumbarton Castle, but then managed to obtain some reconciliation with the Reformers, carrying the sceptre at the first Parliament of the new Regent Moray. After Mary escaped from Lochleven Castle, he set off to support her, but was still in the north of the country when the Battle of Langside took place. He held out until 1570, when he raised another army in support of Mary, which was defeated at Brechin by Morton, and he was declared forfeit. For the next few years there was civil war, with various agreements being made and broken by both sides, the King’s party, as it was now, taking back Dumbarton Castle, while later in 1571 Huntly, with aid from Scott of Buccleuch and the Hamiltons, attacked Stirling and killed the new Regent, Matthew Stuart, 4th Earl of Lennox. Finally, in 1573, a peace deal was negotiated between the various factions, with the new Regent Morton arranging the repeal of the attainder, allowing Huntly to retire to his estates. He collapsed while playing football at Strathbogie Castle and died a few hours later.


6th Earl of Huntly, George Gordon, b.c.1563, a.1576, d.1636


Son of the 5th Earl and Lady Anne Hamilton, daughter of James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran. He was the leader of Scotland’s Roman Catholics and initially conspired with the earls of Crawford and of Erroll to overthrow the Protestant Church. In 1589 he was captured and found guilty of treason, but being a favourite of King James VI was released to his own estates. However, while there he engaged in feuds with local clans, and was also responsible for the death of the young Earl of Moray, husband to the Countess of Moray, Huntly having fabricated a story that implicated him in an attempted kidnap of the King. This act was met with such general outrage that the King was required to make a show of bringing him to justice, and he was kept as a prisoner for a while in Blackness Castle until the furore died down. In 1593 he was again involved in a conspiracy with the earls of Angus and of Erroll, to overturn Protestantism, and the King was forced to step in. When the conspirators refused his summons, James led a large contingent into the north. Huntly fled for the mountains leaving his wife to surrender Huntly Castle. The Church was not placated by this leniency and James was forced to offer strict terms that the conspirators embrace Protestantism. Refusing this option, Huntly was found guilty of high treason and declared forfeit. Archibald Campbell, 7th Earl of Argyll, was given a commission to subdue the Gordon estates but was defeated soundly at the Battle of Glenlivet. In the face of this insult to his authority, the King led an army northwards and Huntly was required to flee the country. In 1597 he was allowed back after his wife, the Countess, had interceded with the King, but only as long as he rejected Catholicism. As a mark of royal favour, he was made Lieutenant of the North and in 1599 he was created 1st Marquess of Huntly, 1st Earl of Enzie  and 1st Lord Gordon of Badenoch, making this the oldest marquessate in Scotland and the second-oldest in the British Isles (the oldest being Winchester).



Marquesses of Huntly (1599)


1st Marquess of Huntly, George Gordon, b.c.1653, a.1599, d.1636


This promotion didn’t bring an end to his machinations and he was hauled before the General Assembly in 1608 and in 1616, finally promising to bring his sons up as Protestants. Needless to say, he remained right to his death a staunch Roman Catholic. His son, John Gordon, Lord Aboyne, was killed in the burning of Frendraught Castle in 1630, which resulted in the ravaging of the lands of the Crichtons of Frendraught, and as a result of complaints to the Privy Council that Huntly was imprisoned in Edinburgh, though an old man, kept in poor conditions and without the company of his wife. His health suffered badly as a result and he died while being transferred back to Strathbogie.


2nd Marquess of Huntly, George Gordon, b.c.1590, a.1636, d.1649


Son of the 1st Marquess and Lady Henrietta Stewart, daughter of Esme Stuart, 1st Duke of Lennox. Heavily influenced by the Court in London, he was raised as a Protestant, and was made a Knight of the Bath in 1610 and a Privy Counsellor in 1616. On his return to Scotland he became involved in clashes with the Mackintosh of Clan Chattan, hereditary enemies of the family, which were settled when the chief of Mackintosh was detained in Edinburgh Castle. He then travelled extensively in Europe, attending at the French Court as Captain of the Scots Bodyguard and serving in Alsace and Lorraine before being summoned back to Scotland to help his father control disorder in the Highlands. In 1632 he was created 1st Viscount Aboyne and soon after succeeded to his father’s titles. Although encouraged to join the Covenanters, he eventually took the King’s Commission in the North, but rather than fight he negotiated a relatively benign truce with Montrose, which held until his second son, James Gordon, Viscount Aboyne (b.?, d.1648-1649) took back Aberdeen from the Covenanters, requiring Montrose to venture back north and drive the Royalists back into the Highlands. In 1644, when Montrose had become a Royalist and raised the royal standard at Atholl, Huntly refused to commit the Gordon clan, though a small body of Gordons under George Gordon, Lord Gordon (b.?, d.1645), Huntly’s eldest son, fought at the Battle of Alford and was killed. Lord Aboyne, mentioned above, led a detachment of the clan at the Battle of Kilsyth but refused to follow Montrose into the Borders. After the collapse of the royal cause, Huntly fortified his fortresses in Banff and Strathbogie, holding out against successive attacks by John Middleton, 1st Earl of Middleton, but when Middleton was joined by General Leslie, 1st Earl of Leven, with added troops, their combined force was too much and Huntly was forced into the Highlands, his Aberdeenshire strongholds taken one by one. He was eventually run to earth by Middleton and taken to Edinburgh, imprisoned in the Tolbooth. King Charles made requests for him to be treated leniently, but after the King’s execution, the Committee of Estates found him guilty of treason. He was finally beheaded as an example for those who took arms against the Kirk and the Scottish Parliament, with his titles again subject to attainder. Lord Aboyne took refuge in France, where he died. Huntly’s youngest son, Charles Gordon, was made 1st Earl of Aboyne in 1660.


3rd Marquess of Huntly, Lewis Gordon, b.b.1620, a.1649, d.1653


Third son of the 2nd Marquess and Lady Anne Campbell, daughter of Archibald Campbell, 7th Earl of Argyll. Born while his father was in the Scots Guards in France, he was named after King Louis XIII. As a young man he raised a regiment of Gordon clansmen to fight against the Covenanters and after the end of the First Bishop’s War went to France to learn soldiering. He then went to England, where he served on both sides during the English Civil War, and then, after succeeding his elder brother as heir, in Scotland, where he fought against the Covenanters of Montrose, before returning to France in exile. He was granted a remission of attainder by Charles II at a Parliament held in Perth in 1651, during the King’s exile in Scotland, but died soon after.


4th Marquess of Huntly, George Gordon, b.1649, a.1653, d.1716


Son of the 3rd Marquess and Mary Grant (b.?, d.1707), daughter of John Grant of Freuchie. He spent a great deal of his early life on the Continent, serving in the French Army and later under the Prince of Orange, before returning to Scotland in 1675. He was granted the title 1st Duke of Gordon in 1684 by Charles II, in appreciation of his family’s loyalty and despite refusing to renounce his Catholicism, and with the subsidiary titles of 1st Marquess of Huntly, 1st Earl of Huntly and Enzie, 1st Viscount of Inverness and 1st Lord Badenoch, Lochaber, Strathavon, Balmore, Auchidon, Garthie and Kincardine.



Dukes of Gordon (1684)


1st Duke of Gordon, George Gordon, b.1649, a.1684, d.1716


After the accession of the Catholic James VII, he was made a Privy Counsellor in 1686 and was a founding Knight of the Thistle in 1687, and was installed as Lieutenant of the North and Governor of Edinburgh Castle. At the Revolution he remained loyal to James VII even though their relationship was never cordial, and was required to surrender Edinburgh Castle. He held out as long as provisions lasted and then surrendered honourably. He submitted to the new King in London and then joined the exiled James in Flanders. James, however, had little interest in his visitor and Gordon returned to England, where he spent the remainder of his life in relative quiet despite his position within the Jacobite community, though he spent a short time in Edinburgh Castle after the failed Jacobite Uprising of 1707.


2nd Duke of Gordon, Alexander Gordon, b.c.1678, a.1716, d.1728


Son of the 1st Duke and Lady Elizabeth Howard (b.?, d.1732), daughter of Henry Howard, 6th Duke of Norfolk. He was a much more active Jacobite sympathiser than his father and in 1715 raised the banner for Prince Charles, joining the Jacobite army in Perth. He fought at Sheriffmuir, after which he was confined in Edinburgh Castle for a time, but no further proceedings were taken against him.


3rd Duke of Gordon, Cosmo George Gordon, b.c.1721, a.1728, d.1752


Son of the 2nd Duke and Lady Henrietta Mordaunt (b.c.1688, d.1760), daughter of General Sir Charles Mordaunt, 3rd Earl of Peterborough. Named after Cosmo de Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, he was raised as a Protestant and sided with the Government at the rebellion of 1745. He was rewarded by being made a Knight of the Thistle in 1747. He was also a Representative Peer from 1747 to 1752.


4th Duke of Gordon, Alexander Gordon, b.1743, a.1752, d.1827


Son of the 3rd Duke and Lady Catherine Gordon (b.1718, d.1779), daughter of William Gordon, 2nd Earl of Aberdeen. Educated at Eton, he was a Representative Peer from 1767 to 1784 and was created a Knight of the Thistle in 1775. He was Captain in the 89th Foot Regiment (which had been raised from Gordon levies), and during the American War of Independence raised another regiment, the Gordon Fencibles. In 1793 he raised a third regiment of Gordons, called the Gordon Highlanders, which was disbanded in 1799. In 1784 he was created 1st Earl of Norwich in the Peerage of Great Britain, a title that had recently become extinct, he being a descendant of its first holder. At the same time he was created 1st Baron Gordon of Huntley, of Huntley in county Gloucester, also in the Peerage of Great Britain, and was Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland from 1794 to 1806 and from 1807 to 1827. He was Chancellor of King’s College, Aberdeen, from 1793 to 1827 and Lord-Lieutenant of Aberdeenshire from 1794 to 1808. In 1819 he inherited the title of 12th Baron Mordaunt, being a great-grandson of the 5th holder of that title, John Mordaunt, 1st Earl of Peterborough. His wife Jane Maxwell was perhaps more celebrated during their marriage than he. She was recognised as a great beauty and witty and intelligent and was the queen of high society in both London and Edinburgh, welcoming Robert Burns to Gordon Castle. In later years she became alienated from her husband, who eventually found affection elsewhere, and they separated, bringing an end to her involvement and influence in political and social circles.


5th Duke of Gordon, George Gordon, b.1770, a.1827, d.1836


Son of the 4th Earl and Jane Maxwell (b.1748, d.1812), daughter of Sir William Maxwell, 3rd Baronet Maxwell of Monreith (in Wigtonshire). Born in Edinburgh and educated at Eton, h joined the army in 1790 and fought for the 42nd Foot Regiment and then the 3rd Foot Guards. In 1794 he raised the Gordon Highlanders (the 92nd Foot) and was appointed Lieutenant-Colonel. He led the regiment in several campaigns, including Gibraltar, Corsica and the Irish Rebellion, and was wounded in 1799 during the disastrous expedition in the Netherlands led by the Duke of York, before rejoining the 42nd Foot in 1806, and led a division during the Walcheren campaign in 1809. He reached the rank of General in 1819 and in 1820 was invested as a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath. From 1820 to 1834 he was Colonel of the 1st Foot. He was Lord-Lieutenant of Aberdeenshire from 1808 to 1936. After succeeding his father he was made Governor of Edinburgh Castle and was Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland from 1828 to 1830. He died without legitimate issue, and the dukedom and all its subsidiary titles became extinct, as did the British peerages awarded to his father. The Huntly estates fell to Esme Stuart, 5th Duke of Lennox, a grandson of the 4th Duke, and the title of Duke of Gordon was re-created for the 6th Duke of Lennox. The original Scottish titles fell to a descendant of the 2nd Marquess of Huntly.



Marquesses of Huntly (1599, continued)


9th Marquess of Huntly, George Gordon, b.1761, a.1836, d.1853


George Gordon was the 5th Earl of Aboyne, a distant cousin of the 5th Duke of Gordon by way of the 2nd Marquess of Huntly.


10th Marquess of Huntly, Charles Gordon, b.1792, a.1853, d.1863


Son of the 9th Marquess and Catherine Cope (b.1771, d.1832), daughter of Sir Charles Cope, 2nd Baronet Cope of Brewern, Oxfordshire. He served as a Tory MP for East Grinstead from 1818 to 1830 and was then elected as a Whig MP for Huntingdonshire from 1830 to 1831. He was Lord of the Bedchamber from 1826 to 1830 and was a Lord in Waiting from 1840 to 1841. He was Lord-Lieutenant of Aberdeenshire from 1861 to 1863. He had a large family of 14 children. Like his father he was a keen cricketer and played first-class cricket for several counties from 1819 to 1843.


11th Marquess of Huntly, Charles Gordon, b.1847, a.1863, d.1937


Son of the 10th Marquess and his second wife Maria Antoinetta Pegus (b.?, d.1893). Educated at Eton and Trinity College Cambridge, he was a Lord-in-Waiting to Queen Victoria from 1870 to 1873 in the Liberal government of William Gladstone and then Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms (government chief whip in the House of Lords) during Gladstone’s second term in office. He was made a Privy Counsellor in 1881 and became Father of the House of Lords in 1930. He was also Rector of the University of Aberdeen from 1890 to 1896. He married twice but had no children.


12th Marquess of Huntly, Douglas Charles Lindsey Gordon, b.1908, a.1937, d.1987


Great-grandson of the 10th Marquess, grandson of Lord Granville Armyne Gordon (1856-1907) and Charlotte D’Olier Roe (b.?, d.1900) and son of Lieutenant-Colonel Granville Cecil Douglas Gordon (1883-1930) and Violet Ida Streatfield (b.1886, d.1968). He reached the rank of Lieutenant in the Gordon Highlanders Territorial Army and fought in the Second World War.


13th Marquess of Huntly, Granville Charles Gomer Gordon, b.1944, a.1987


Son of the 12th Marquess and Mary Pamela Berry (b.1918, d.1998), daughter of James Gomer Berry, 1st Viscount Kemsley. He was educated at Gordonstoun. He lost his seat in the House of Lords after the 1999 Act. As well as being 13th Marquess, he is also 9th Earl of Aboyne, 13th Earl of Enzie, 9th Lord Gordon of Strathavon and Glenlivet, and 5th Baron Meldrum of Morven. He is also Chief of Clan Gordon.



The courtesy title for the heir is Earl of Aboyne.


(Last updated: 01/01/2011)


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