Mar was a one of the original great mormaerdoms in the North-East of Scotland, comprising the area between the rivers Dee and Don as far inland as Badenoch, and, together with Buchan, comprised the original Pictish kingdom of Ce. There are fleeting references to early mormaers, with Muirchertach mentioned around the time of King Malcolm III and Gartnait around the time of Alexander I. There is also record of a mormaer Domnall being present at the Battle of Clontarf in Ireland in 1014. The numbering of the earls has always been difficult for historians to agree on. I take the view that the first earl would have been recognised as such c.1115, and that Alexander Stewart, husband Isabel, Countess of Mar, held his title only de uxoris and not independently of his wife.
Earls of Mar (c.1115)
1st Earl of Mar, Ruadri, b.?, a.c.1115, d.?
Ruadri is mentioned in the Book of Deer c.1130.
2nd Earl of Mar, Morggan, b.b.1147, a.?, d.b.1183
Morggan, alternatively Morgund, was active in the court of Malcolm IV, and was possibly one of those who protested against the Kingís trip to France as a vassal of King Henry II of England. His father was probably Gille Chlerig, who is sometimes considered as a previous holder of unclear relationship to Ruadri. His daughter Alesta married Alan Fitzwalter, 2nd High Steward of Scotland.
3rd Earl of Mar, Gille Crist, b.b.1183, a.c.1183, d.1203
He was not the son of Morggan, and it is possible that, following the old Celtic tradition, he was a sister-son, but this is speculation. His daughter married Malcolm of Lundie, and their son Thomas of Lundin, later Thomas Durward, Usher to William the Lion, would later contest the succession of the earldom, none of Gille Cristís sons taking the title.
4th Earl of Mar, Donnchad, b.?, a.1203, d.1244
Son of Morggan and Agnes de Warenne. At this time, feudal male primogeniture was introduced, allowing his descendants to lay a stronger claim than those of Gille Crist.
5th Earl of Mar, Uilleam, b.?, a.1244, d.1276
Son of Donnchad, and named after King William I. He was a powerful noble and a leading figure in the court of Alexander II, and was responsible for re-constructing Kildrummy Castle as a major fortification. He married Isabel Comyn, daughter of William Comyn of Buchan, an alliance that helped in fighting of the threat of the Durward, who at that time were in the Kingís favour. He was Great Chamberlain in 1252 and also from 1263 to 1266. When Isabel died, he married Muriel, daughter of Maol Iosa, Mormaer of Strathearn.
6th Earl of Mar, Domhnall, b.?, a.1276, d.1297-1302
Son of Uilleam and Isabel Comyn. He supported Robert Bruce, one of the Contenders to the Throne, and his daughter Isabella became the new King Robertís first wife, and mother of Marjorie Bruce.
7th Earl of Mar, Gartnait, b.?, a.1297-1302, d.1305
Son of Domhnall and Helen, daughter of Llywelyn, Prince of North Wales, and brother-in-law to King Robert I. He married Robertís sister Christina Bruce and was awarded with the neighbouring territorial lordship of Garioch. This had formerly been part of the mormaerdom of Mar but had been carved out by Malcolm II as a royal preserve and elevated to a separate earldom by William the Lion, who bestowed it to his younger brother, David of Huntingdon, and it had recently reverted to the crown on the death of the 2nd holder.
8th Earl of Mar, Domhnall, b.c.1302, a.1305, d.1332
Son of Gartnait and Christina Bruce (b.?, d.1357). As a boy, he was held prisoner in England until after the Battle of Bannockburn. In 1332, when the Regent Thomas Randolph died, Domhnall was elected to replace him. When Edward Balliol invaded at the head of an English army, Domhnall led the Scots out to confront them, and was killed at the Battle of Dupplin Moor.
9th Earl of Mar, Thomas, b.1332, a.1332, d.1374
Son of Domhnall and Isabella Stewart (who was possible a daughter of Sir Alexander Stewart of Bonkyl). He was in England when his father was killed, and it was a long time before he could get back to Scotland to claim his earldom. He was heavily involved in the politics of the time, and was Great Chamberlain of Scotland in 1359. He also acted as Ambassador to England. He died childless, although having been married twice, firstly to Margaret Graham, Countess of Menteith, from whom he was divorced, and secondly to Margaret Stewart, Dowager Countess of Angus.
10th Earl (Countess) of Mar, Margaret, b.?, a.1374, d.1391
Sister of Thomas. She married William Douglas, 1st Earl of Douglas, who is sometimes considered de uxoris Earl of Mar, and their son James Douglas, 2nd Earl of Douglas, is sometime considered as the next holder. However he died before his mother at the Battle of Otterburn in 1388 and so should properly be excluded.
11th Earl (Countess) of Mar, Isabel Douglas, b.c.1360, a.1391, d.1408
Daughter of the Countess and William Douglas, 1st Earl of Douglas. The Douglas earldom was inherited by her older brother, and his heirs whatsover, but Isabel took ownership of all other Douglas lands as well as those of Mar. Things get a little complicated here, with various powerful figures negotiating for position. Margaret Stewart, the 9th Earlís second wife, and mother of George Douglas, 1st Earl of Angus, made appeals to the King for her son to be handed the unentailed Douglas lands, though this came to nothing. John Swinton, second husband of Countess Margaret, made a pact with Sir Malcolm Drummond, Isabelís husband, and brother to King Robert IIIís wife Annabelle Drummond, to ensure that any claim to the earldom coming from the Erskine family was doomed to fail. However, no children having appeared, Margaret Stewart pressed for her sonís children to inherit the Mar lands. All of this was thrown wide open when Alexander Stewart (b.1375, d.1435), an illegitimate son of Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan, attacked and killed Sir Malcolm at Braemar Castle in 1402. He followed this by capturing Kildrummy Castle in 1404 and forcing marriage on Isabel, becoming Earl of Mar de uxoris. He was allowed to get away with this outrage because of his close relationship to the Albany Stewarts. Isabel died a few years later without having any children, but Stewart continued to hold the earldom with a tight grip. He is most famous for leading the Kingís army, the Lowland army, against Donald, Lord of the Isles, at the Battle of Harlaw in 1411, which was one of the bloodiest battles in Scottish history. Its cause was over the Earldom of Ross, which was disputed between Donald, who was married to Margaret Leslie, daughter of Euphemia, Countess of Ross, and Alexander Leslie, Margaretís brother, who had married Isabella Stewart, daughter of the Regent, Robert Stewart , 1st Duke of Albany. When Alexander Leslie died, Albanyís second son John Stewart claimed the earldom, forcing Donald to act. The two armies met at Harlaw in Aberdeenshire. Over the course of a long day, many senior nobles and clan chiefs were killed, and Donald eventually withdrew his forces. Following this, Albany formed another large army and marched north, Donald having no option but to retreat before him, and eventually giving up his claim. Alexander Stewart was officially recognised as the Earl of Mar and Lord of Garioch, de uxoris, by King James I in 1424. He died without children, and the earldom of Mar reverted to the crown. The title was used occasionally as an honorific for the youngest son of the reigning king, although claimed by the Erskine family as heirs of one of the 7th Earlís daughters, and only in the 19th century was the earldom awarded to them, though as will be described below, not without substantial complications.
Earls of Mar (1459)
1st Earl of Mar, John Stewart, b.1456-1459, a.1458-1459, d.1479
Youngest brother of King James III. In 1479 he was imprisoned in Craigmillar Castle, accused of treason, and died shortly afterwards in suspicious circumstances, probably on the orders of his brother James III.
Earls of Mar (1482)
1st Earl of Mar, Alexander Stewart, b.c.1454, a.1482, d.1485
Younger brother of King James III. He was already Duke of Albany (for which see for more detail).
Earls of Mar (1486)
1st Earl of Mar, John Stewart, b.1479-1480, a.1486, d.1503
Youngest brother of King James IV.
Earls of Mar (1562)
1st Earl of Mar, James Stewart, b.c.1531, a.1562, d.1570
An illegitimate son of King James V and Lady Margaret Erskine, daughter of John Erskine, 5th Lord Erskine. He was half-brother to Mary, Queen of Scots and acted as her chief adviser. He resigned the title soon afterwards in exchange for becoming 1st Earl of Moray, and later that year he defeated a rebellion led by George Gordon, 4th Earl of Huntly at the Battle of Corrachie. Moray opposed Maryís marriage to Lord Darnley, and attempted a rebellion of his own. He failed to drum up enough support and had to flee to England, returning to Scotland after the murder of Rizzio, when he was pardoned by Mary, though she had in the meantime granted the earldom of Mar elsewhere. When Mary abdicated, he became Regent, and after she escaped from Lochleven Castle, led the forces against her at the Battle of Langside in 1568. His management of the kingdom was considered favourable, but he was assassinated by one of Maryís supporters in 1570.
Lords Erskine (c.1438)
1st Lord Erskine, Robert Erskine, b.?, a.c.1438, d.1451-1452
Son of Sir Thomas Erskine (b.?, d.1403-1404) and Janet Keith, who was a great-granddaughter of Gartnait, 7th Earl of Mar. With no other legitimate heirs available, he claimed the earldom, and obtained sufficient legal agreement from the Sheriff of Aberdeen that he took ownership of the estates. He also, rather presumptively, assumed the title, and granted a number of feudal vassalages as earl. However, final settlement of the earldom was repeatedly delayed by the government during the minority of James II, presumably because of the benefits of its revenues to the Crown, and it was agreed that he should not receive Kildrummy Castle until the King came of age. In 1442, Erskine attended the King in Council to complain that William Crichton, the Chancellor, had not handed over the castle, and that he was therefore free to take it by his own hand, which he duly did. The King then seized Erskineís castle at Alloa in reprisal and granted the earldom to his own son, John Stewart, mentioned above. Various negotiations continued up to the 1st Lordís death.
2nd Lord Erskine, Thomas Erskine, b.?, a.1451-1452, d.c.1493
Son of the 1st Lord and Elizabeth Lindsay, daughter of David Lindsay, 1st Earl of Crawford. He continued his fatherís pursuit of the earldom of Mar, petitioning the King for justice. In 1457, a full Justiciary Court was held to decide the claim. Notwithstanding the charter of 1404, made under duress by Isabel, Countess of Mar, and subsequently renounced by Alexander Stewart, which Erskine could provide, the Kingís supporters prevailed. The King then awarded the earldom to his youngest son, also Alexander Stewart, as mentioned above.
3rd Lord Erskine, Alexander Erskine, b.?, a.c.1493, d.1508-1509
Son of the 2nd Lord and Janet Douglas (b.?, d.1489), possibly a daughter of James Douglas, 1st Earl of Morton.
4th Lord Erskine, Robert Erskine, b.?, a.1508-1509, d.1513
Son of the 3rd Lord and Christian Crichton (b.?, d.1477-1478), daughter of Sir Robert Crichton of Sanquhar. He died at Flodden.
5th Lord Erskine, John Erskine, b.?, a.1513, d.1555
Son of the 4th Lord and Isabel Campbell (b.?, d.1518), daughter of Sir George Campbell of Loudoun.
6th Lord Erskine, John Erskine, b.?, a.1555, d.1572
Son of the 5th Lord and Lady Margaret Campbell, daughter of Archibald Campbell, 2nd Earl of Argyll. Although a Protestant, he was an advisor to Mary, Queen of Scots, and when she discovered his familyís ancient claim to the earldom of Mar, she decided to support his cause. He was created 1st Earl of Mar and Lord of Garioch in 1565, though in the intervening years, substantial parts of the earldom had been handed out by the Crown to various supporters, most notably the Elphinstone family, and in 1510 handed Kildrummy Castle itself to Alexander Elphinstone, 1st Lord Elphinstone. He became a guardian to the future James VI, and in 1571 was made Regent of Scotland.
Earls of Mar (1565/1404/1115 continued)
1st (17th) Earl of Mar, John Erskine, b.?, a.1565, d.1572
Although created 1st Earl of Mar, future events were to obtain a re-numbering, with all the Lords Erskine above becoming de jure Earls of Mar, and the 1st Earl becoming the 17th Earl.
2nd (18th) Earl of Mar, John Erskine, b.c.1562, a.1572, d.1634
Son of the 1st Earl and Annabel Murray (b.?, d.1603), daughter of Sir William Murray of Tullibardine, ancestor of the Earl of Tullibardine. He was educated alongside the young King James VI and became his guardian, although under the control of the Regent, James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton. He was made a Privy Counsellor in 1577, but lost power when Morton was imprisoned for his part in the death of Lord Darnley. He then plotted against the Kingís favourites, being involved in the Raid of Ruthven along with the earls of Angus and Gowrie. This venture collapsed when the King escaped Ruthven Castle, and while James was initially keen to overlook the offences in order not to antagonise the nobles any further, his new controller, James Stewart, 1st Earl of Arran, had other ideas, and most of the conspirators were tried and convicted of treason. Unrepentant, Mar seized Stirling Castle as part of a group of like-minded nobles, but this new rebellion also failed to get off the ground, and Mar, Angus and others were forced to flee to England, with poor Gowrie, who had not been at Stirling, captured, tried, convicted and executed. However, a dispute now arose between the King and John Maxwell, 7th Lord Maxwell (for whom see the earls of Nithsdale), previously a supporter of the Arran regime, and who had been made the new Earl of Morton and Warden of the Western Marches. Maxwell had been recently deprived of the wardenship in favour of his bitter Border rival Johnstone of Johnstone, and had declared open revolt. Mar, together with Angus and others, joined Maxwell in marching on Stirling with a large army. Arran immediately fled to the Highlands, and the King was forced to pardon the rebels, lifting forfeitures and re-instating confiscated estates. Mar then pushed the King for those traditional parts of the earldom of Mar that had been denied his father, using legal proceedings, and was for the most part successful in extending the earldom, ultimately including the retrieval of Kildrummy Castle. He was made a Knight of the Garter in 1603. In 1610, he was made 1st Lord Cardross, and in 1617, under special remainder, he nominated as his heir to the Lordship of Cardross, Henry Erskine (b.?, d.1628) and his heirs-male. Henry was his son by his second wife Lady Mary Stewart, daughter of Esme Stuart, 1st Duke of Lennox. Another of their sons, James Erskine, married the Countess of Buchan and became de uxoris 6th Earl of Buchan. Mar also held the post of Lord High Treasurer of Scotland from 1615 to 1630.
3rd (19th) Earl of Mar, John Erskine, b., a.1634, d.1653
Son of the 2nd Earl and his first wife Anne Drummond (b.1555, d.1592), daughter of David Drummond, 2nd Lord Drummond (for whom see the Earls of Perth). By this time, the Erskine family had grown very powerful, and he tried to increase the ranking of the earldom from its place of seventh in the roll of honour, but without success.
4th (20th) Earl of Mar, John Erskine, b.?, a.1653, d.1688
Son of the 3rd Earl and Lady Christian Hay (b.?, d.1668), daughter of Francis Hay, 9th Earl of Erroll.
5th (21st) Earl of Mar, Charles Erskine, b.1650, a.1688, d.1689
Son of the 4th Earl and Lady Elizabeth Scott, daughter of Walter Scott, 1st Earl of Buccleuch.
6th (22nd) Earl of Mar, John Erskine, b.?, a.1689, d.1737
Son of the 5th Earl and Lady Mary Maule, daughter of George Maule, 2nd Earl of Panmure. Despite being a leading Jacobite, he was appointed as Secretary of State for Scotland in 1706 and helped push the Treaty of Union though Parliament. On the death of Queen Anne, however, he was dismissed from office, after which he returned to Scotland and formed a powerful alliance of Jacobite lords, declaring James VIII as the new King in preference to George I at Invercauld Castle in Braemar. They raised an army and camped at Perth, but waited too long before taking any military action, allowing another Jacobite force in the North of England to be defeated at Preston by Royal troops before making any move southwards themselves. An indecisive battle was fought at Sheriffmuir, the Jacobite superiority in numbers countered by Marís incompetence as a general, and the army pulled back to Perth again, where it was joined by the Old Pretender himself. In early 1716, the Duke of Argyll led a large Royal army out from Stirling Castle, and the Jacobites retreated north, the army dispersing as it went. Leaving the remaining levies to proceed to Aberdeen, Mar fled to France from Montrose with Prince James, where he remained for the rest of his life, the earldom forfeit.
7th (23rd) Earl of Mar, John Francis Erskine, b.1741, a.1824, d.1825
With the earldom forfeit, the 6th Earlís son Thomas Erskine (b.?, d.1766) by his first wife Margaret Hay (b.?, d.1707), daughter of Thomas Hay, 7th Earl of Kinnoull, could not inherit, and had no heirs. On the other hand, the 6th Earlís daughter Frances Erskine (b.?, d.1776), by his second wife Lady Frances Pierrepont (b.?, d.1761), daughter of Evelyn Pierrepont, 1st Duke of Kingston-upon-Hull, married James Erskine (b.?, d.1785), grandson of the 5th Earl and son of James Erskine (b.?, d.1754) and Rachel Chiesly. The earldom was restored to their second son John Francis Erskine by Act of Parliament in 1824, just before he died.
8th (24th) Earl of Mar, John Thomas Erskine, b.1772, a.1825, d.1828
Son of the 7th Earl and Frances Floyer (b.?, d.1798), daughter of Charles Floyer, Governor of Madras.
9th (25th) Earl of Mar, John Francis Miller Erskine, b.1795, a.1828, d.1866
Son of the 8th Earl and Janet Miller (b.?, d.1825). In 1835, he claimed the title of 11th Earl of Kellie as the very distant heir-male, and was successful. However, he died without immediate heir himself, resulting in a complicated situation where the titles Earl of Mar and Earl of Kellie were claimed by his cousin as heir-male, while the titles Earl of Mar and Lord of Garioch was claimed by his sisterís son as heir-general. The situation was partially resolved in 1875, when the Committee of Privileges of the House of Lords declared that the earldom of Mar was newly created in 1565 with succession by heir-male, even though no such patent or charter was ever recorded as having existed, and therefore that the 12th Earl of Kellie was 10th Earl of Mar. However, there was sufficient disagreement and dissatisfaction regarding this decision, hotly debated within the House of Lords for several years, centring on whether or not the original earldom had been surrendered to the crown, that in 1885 an Act of Parliament recognised that the original earldom, with charter dating from 1404, when Alexander Stewart was installed as earl de uxoris, still existed and should correctly fall to the heir-general, as follows below.
26th Earl of Mar, John Francis Goodeve-Erskine, b.1836, a.1866, d.1887
Son of the 9th Earlís sister Frances Jemima Erskine (b.?, d.1842) and William James Goodeve (b.?, d.1861). He claimed the earldom as heir-general, but it was not until 1885 that he was recognised as† earl, de jure, by Act of Parliament. This did not involve the estates of Mar, which had already passed to the earls of Kellie.
27th Earl of Mar, John Francis Hamilton Sinclair Cunliffe Brooks Forbes Goodeve-Erskine, b.1868, a.1887, d.1932
Son of the 26th Earl and Alice Mary Sinclair Hamilton (b.?, d.1924).
28th Earl of Mar, Lionel Walter Young, b.1891, a.1932, d.1965
Grandson of the 26th Earlís sister Frances Jemima Erskine Goodeve (b.c.1832, d.1887) and James Nowell Young (b.c.1824, d.1917) and son of Major Charles Walter Young (b.1862, d.1898) and Constance Barnes Johnson (b.?, d.1936). He never married.
29th Earl of Mar, James Clifton of Mar, b.1914, a.1965, d.1975
Great-grandson of the 26th Earlís sister, grandson of her daughter Alice Young (b.1858, d.1951) and James Horsburgh Lane (b.?, d.1915), and son of Charles Macdonald Lane (b.1882, d.1956) and Jessie Helen Grant.
30th Earl (Countess) of Mar, Margaret Alison Lane of Mar, b.1940, a.1975
Daughter of the 29th Earl and Millicent Mary Salton. The numbering convention is inconsistent, and she is sometimes considered the 31st Countess, and in the Jacobite Peerage 11th Duchess of Mar and 32nd Countess, as this does not recognise the forfeiture and attainder of 1716. She is a non-aligned elected peer in the House of Lords. The earldom of Mar is the only title of that rank to remain in the hands of descendants of the original mormaers and as such is the premier earldom in Scotland.
The courtesy title for the heir is Lord Garioch.
(Last updated: 01/04/2011)