The title Earl of March has been created several times in the Peerage of Scotland and the Peerage of England. The name derived from the marches or boundaries between England and either Wales or Scotland, and was held by several great feudal families that owned lands in these border districts. Later, however, the title came to be granted as an honorary dignity and ceased to carry any associated power.
Its first use was as a subsidiary title of the 8th Earl of Dunbar, who was responsible for the border area between Scotland and England. Because of their geographical position, the earls of Dunbar were often allied with the English, although most of them considered themselves to be loyal Scots. However, these connections with England were eventually the cause of their downfall. The 11th Earl was charged with treason and all his lands and titles forfeit.
The next use was as a subsidiary title of Alexander Stuart, His son John, was Regent to James V, but lost power to the Earl of Arran and retired to France. When he died, he dukedom and earldom both became extinct.
Earls of March (c.1455)
1st Earl of March, Alexander Stuart, b.c.1454, a.1455-1458, d.1485
Younger son of King James II and Marie of Gueldres. He was given the more senior title of 1st Duke of Albany at the same time, under which page more details can be found regarding this creation.
2nd Earl of March, John Stewart, b.1481-1484, a.1485, d.1536
Son of the 1st Earl and Anne de la Tour d’Auvergne. He was raised in France but because of his birthright spent most of his life as heir-presumptive to the Scottish throne. He served as Regent for James V but lost power when the King came of age and returned to France, where he occasionally acted in the interests of James V at the French Court. His only daughter died before him and his titles became extinct.
Earls of March (1580)
1st Earl of March, Robert Stuart, b.c.1517, a.1580, d.1586
Younger son of John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Lennox and Lady Elizabeth Stewart, daughter of Sir John Stewart, 1st Earl of Atholl. His older brother, Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox, having been succeeded by his grandson, James VI, the earldom of Lennox was first re-granted to Charles Stuart, a younger son of the 4th Earl. However his daughter and successor Arbella Stuart was not recognised in Scotland and the title became available again. In order to keep the title in the family, it was then created in 1578 for Robert Stuart, the 4th Earl’s younger brother, along with its subsidiary title of Lord Darnley. However he resigned these titles in 1580 in exchange for the titles of 1st Earl of March and Lord of Dunbar. He became Bishop of Caithness. At his death, the earldom again became extinct.
Earls of March (1697)
1st Earl of March, William Douglas, b.c.1665, a.1697, d.1705
Younger son of William Douglas, 1st Marquess of Queensberry and Lady Isabel Douglas (b.c.1462, d.?), daughter of William Douglas, 1st Marquess of Douglas (for whom see the earls of Angus). He received Neidpath Castle and various estates in Peebles-shire from his father, and served as a Lieutenant-Colonel in a Horse Regiment. After the Revolution he kept a low profile for several years before submitting to the new government in 1697, when he was created 1st Earl of March, 1st Viscount of Peebles and 1st Lord Neidpath, Lyne & Munard. He was Governor of Edinburgh Castle from 1702 to 1704.
2nd Earl of March, William Douglas, b.c.1696, a.1705, d.1730-1731
Son of the 1st Earl and Lady Jane Hay (b.b.1688, d.1729), daughter of John Hay, 1st Marquess of Tweeddale.
3rd Earl of March, William Douglas, b.1725, a.1731, d.1810
Son of the 2nd Earl and Anne Hamilton, 2nd Countess of Ruglen. He succeeded his father as a child in 1731. In 1748, on his mother’s death, he succeeded as 3rd Earl of Ruglen, 3rd Viscount Riccarton and 3rd Lord Hillhouse, and in 1778 he succeeded his distant cousin as 4th Duke of Queensberry. He also claimed the vacant earldom of Cassillis after the death of the 8th Earl of that title, being a grandson of that earl’s sister, though this attempt failed. He was invested as a Knight of the Thistle in 1761 and served as a Representative Peer from 1761 until his death. He was also Vice-Admiral of Scotland from 1767 to 1776 and Lord of Police from 1776 to 1782. He never married, though he had a daughter Maria Emilia Fagnani, by his mistress the Marchesa Fagnani, who married Sir Francis Charles Seymour-Conway, 3rd Marquess of Hertford, and his titles were spread across three separate heirs, the Ruglen title becoming extinct.
4th Earl of March, Francis Wemyss Charteris Douglas, b.1772, a.1810, d.1853
The heir-male within the Douglas family was descended from Lady Anne Douglas (b.?, d.1700), sister of the 1st Earl. She married David Wemyss, 4th Earl of Wemyss, and the earldom of March was inherited by Francis Charteris, the future 8th Earl of Wemyss. The earldoms of Wemyss and March have been united from this time.
For a detailed description of the line from Lady Anne Douglas to Francis Charteris, and for a continuation of this line, please refer to the Wemyss page.
The title of Earl of March was also created several times in the Peerage of England, most notably for Esme Stuart, 3rd Duke of Lennox, but became extinct on the death of the 6th Duke and 4th Earl. The title was created again in 1675 as a subsidiary of Charles Lennox, 1st Duke of Lennox and is used as the courtesy title for the heir of that line.
The title of Earl of March is therefore active in the Peerages of both Scotland and England.
(Last updated: 15/06/2011)