The Scottish Peerage

Go To List of Titles




            A History of the Peerage

            Ranks of the Peerage



            Early Scottish History

            Lords of Parliament

            Privy Counsellors

            Orders of Chivalry


            King and Queens of Scotland

            General Comments on Titles

            Lists of Titles



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I have been interested in the Scottish Peerage for many years, partly due to a general interest in Scottish history, where for many centuries members of the peerage were the main protagonists, and partly due to the historic novels of Nigel Tranter, which turned them into realistic historic figures. This section of my website aims at identifying both the people involved, and, where possible, the history of which these people are a vital part.


Peers can be viewed as being the privileged class of a kingdom holding hereditary titles. Other words that may define them are the nobility or aristocracy (the latter meaning government by a ruling class). The Peerage is then defined as the peers of a kingdom considered as a group. There are examples worldwide of this idea, mostly obviously in France, Spain, Portugal, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Holy Roman Empire, and even in such far-flung locations as Japan, each with their own significant variations.


The Scottish Peerage cannot be properly described in isolation from the rest of the British Isles, most obviously England. Due to the fact that it is the only country with whom Scotland shares a land border, we have a huge shared history of war and peace. Latterly, with the unions first of crowns and then of nations, this produced substantial inter-marriage amongst the nobility. Therefore I shall begin with a more general description of the origins of the concept.



A History of the Peerage


In Britain, the beginnings of the peerage can be seen in the position of the Thane within Anglo-Saxon England. The original meaning of this word is “one who serves”. However, it marked more of a personal relationship involving support and loyalty, rather than a social relationship such as between master and servant. As such, the standing of a thane was based on the power of his lord, with the leading thanes serving the king himself. The custom of granting land to one’s chief retainers as a reward for long service created a system of private landholders, some with extensive domains. Thanes of the king were allowed to have their own thanes, resulting over the years in subdivision, sometimes into very small holdings, or manors. On the other hand, inheritance and intermarriage would sometimes allow particular families to become much more powerful and richer than others.


The idea of the landholding thane developed at roughly the same time as the concept of the Shire in England, which was the king’s attempt to impose an administrative system over an expanding, unified country. The earliest shires were based around particular towns or royal estates, but further north, were organised along more artificial lines, and the concept petered out entirely north of the Tees. Within the shires, the Earl was the king’s chief political representative, with responsibilities for raising and leading militia and presiding over courts. However, many of the great houses had become virtually impregnable in their own domains, and even before the Norman Conquest, King Edward the Confessor had put forward moves to disassociate the earls from the shires nominally within their titular earldoms in order to reduce their independence and the consequent threat of revolt.


The king’s thanes were of particular use in running the shire system, under his direct control and with local knowledge. As the earls were more and more required at court, there was a requirement for a new officer of local government, the Reeve or Sheriff, to perform not only the administrative function of tax-raising, but also to stand in for the absent earls at local courts. After the Norman Conquest, this process was accelerated, with sheriffs assuming the role of government, although the rank of earl retained its influence in parliament and a loose connection to the shires via a fixed stipend. As additional earldoms were created, these would often be titled after smaller and smaller areas of land, until eventually the connection between the shires and the earls withered entirely.


Traditionally, the earliest rank of the peerage within Britain is that of Baron, a term introduced by William the Conqueror to distinguish those land-owning classes who pledged their loyalty directly to the crown, and which formed the backbone of later feudal society in England. Since this layer of nobility included most of the pre-conquest ruling classes, there soon developed a split between the greater barons, those with direct access to the king and who were responsible for large areas of the country, and the lesser barons whose power only covered single manors. The former would become the basis for the House of Lords, while the latter would be controlled by the sheriffs. The use of the title of thane died out relatively soon afterwards. In Scotland, the same split is reflected, with senior ranks of the new nobility being titled Lords of Parliament, while those holders of a feudal barony by Crown Charter, and not considered part of the peerage, are known as lairds.


The extension of the shire concept into Northumbria after the conquest was to have a lasting effect on the Scottish administrative system, it being based on arbitrary divisions of land, previously known as sokes, which may or may not have been a Danish creation, consisting of large estates dependent on a main village. The advent of thanes and shires to Scotland was probably during the reign of Malcolm II, consolidating his rule, though their use was restricted to the eastern side of the country, mostly using land that already belonged directly to the king rather than being part of an existing earldom. In the more strict application of feudalism within Scotland, the position of thane, and later Baron, never supplanted that of the original earl or lord. It did, however, become the basis of the sheriffdom, which is still in use today as the principal local judicial area.


It is important to stress that in England after the Norman Conquest, the earls were a remnant of a defeated political structure, and although powerful, were never considered true peers of the king, rather simply peers of each other, at whatever level of power they could achieve. In Scotland, by contrast, the existing pre-feudal Scottish earls considered themselves at the very least Princes within their own territories, and when kings started to impose a feudal structure on the nobility, they had no choice other than to incorporate these individuals at the highest level. With power backed by armed might and ancient Celtic loyalties, Scottish history was marked by their influence until comparatively recently.


Much of the development of the peerage as outlined above was heavily influenced by the feudal nature of British, especially English, society at the time. I shall now give a brief description of this form of rule.




Feudalism is a term coined in the middle ages to describe the traditional (for this read old-fashioned) obligations between lord and vassal common to many European countries. At its most basic, it is a political system involving reciprocal legal and military obligations between various tiers of society, mostly operating at the upper levels, that is, the nobility. This usually involves the lord (or whatever equivalent) first creating vassals, in a formal ceremony involving homage and oaths of fealty, and an exchange of contractual mutual obligations. The principal obligation of the lord is then the granting of land to such vassals, often the primary reason for the vassal to enter into the agreement. It should be noted that the land was not handed over to the vassal, but only the right to exploit it. Other obligations sometimes placed on the lord are the maintenance and protection of the land, or fief as it was known. In return, the vassal was entitled to collect revenues in terms of rent and produce, often having to yield a percentage of this to the lord. The vassal was also required to provide military aid, most often the primary reason for the lord to enter into the agreement.


Feudalism itself arose naturally amongst the Germanic tribes after the fall of the Roman Empire. In these chaotic times, alliances of groups of strong men for mutual protection made sense. Powerful individuals would attract followers, and there were ample territories available with which to reward loyalty and ability, based on the old Roman manors. The general lawlessness also saw the rise of the professional soldier or guard, which would over time become a privileged position, the follower giving an oath of fidelity. As nations settled down, this class would be used also as messengers and commissioners, taking the king’s law to the wider domains. Further, no state can exist without some source of revenue. However, nobody likes to pay taxes. This encourages kings to grant areas of their own land to followers in return for guaranteed income. Similarly, the obligations of territorial magnates, such as building bridges, maintaining roads, constructing fortresses, and attending various courts, encouraged them to defray the cost by offering tenantry of small areas of land in return for manual labour, tithes of produce, and other practical support.


Most societies described as feudal deviate to a greater or lesser extent from the pure concept. The name is also used to describe some non-European societies such as that of Japan, although the relationship between emperors and nobility, land-owning classes and clans, secular monasteries and military dictators that makes up Japan is hardly that simple.


In Britain, similarly, things are not straightforward. A form of feudalism based on the manorial system was in place well before the Norman Conquest, when another type of feudalism, the baronial system, was superimposed on top. In Scotland, feudalism was much less sophisticated, there being no Roman land reforms to fall back on. The clan system, and the petty kingdoms of the Picts, heavily influenced the nature of the relationships between the nobles and the people. What there was of feudalism stemmed from the oaths of fealty given to the king by his senior nobles, the High King, or Ard Righ, amongst other kings, and the system of thanage. It was not until the time of King David I that the European model was introduced, and then only in part.


The decline of feudalism after a couple of hundred successful years is as a result of many factors. The Crusades brought about an increase in trade, which encouraged the growth of towns, which in turn attracted peasants from the country. With increased trade, there was a growing requirement for payment in money rather than kind. As the noble class became richer, they became less interested in fighting someone else’s wars, and started to pay for soldiers rather than raise levies from their territories. This led to standing armies, and an increase in the monarch’s power at the expense of the nobles, with the effect of centralising government. The Black Death also had a big effect, denuding the land of workers, so that labour costs rose, allowing the common man a degree of independence from his feudal superiors. In England latterly, Henry VIII’s break with the Catholic Church, which resulted in the dissolution of the monasteries, was the last straw. Feudal societies were ultimately replaced by powerful nation-states controlled by a small elite. This newer model has only recently been undermined by the growth of the economic block, but that is entirely another story.


Ranks of the Peerage


The central rank of the peerage is Earl, from the old Norse “jarl”, which equates with chieftain, and carried much power in pre-feudal times, often being associated with earlier independent kingdoms. It is equivalent to the continental rank of Count. In Scotland, Mormaer was the pre-feudal version of Earl, denoting a sub-king, and its usage remained as long as the king spoke Gaelic. As the Scottish nobility became more intertwined with the English, Gaelic was replaced by English and Scots, and use of the word Earl became standard. In contrast to England, the Scottish earldom remained the principal administrative unit until the Union and Earls were responsible for providing large numbers of fighting men as well as performing the tax-raising function. Since there is no feminine form of Earl, the wife of an Earl (and in Scotland sometimes the female holder) bears the rank of Countess.


The highest non-royal title in the peerage is that of Duke, which is considered the equal of Prince, and if fact royal children are born princes but are then raised to the rank of Duke, there being a number of dukedoms used exclusively by royalty, such as Edinburgh and York. The earliest dukedoms were specifically created by the king for members of his family, but over time, senior ranking earls were promoted, usually for political ends. Immediately below Duke is the rank of Marquess (in Scotland sometimes Marquis). The name derives from the marches, or borderlands, between kingdoms, which is more obvious from the feminine form, Marchioness. The number of dukedoms and marquessates in the British Isles is kept to a minimum in order to retain the prestige of the titles. The last remaining rank is that of Viscount, and as the name suggests, is immediately below Earl (or Count).


In Britain, the peerage has evolved over the centuries, and now includes that of life peer, a non-hereditary position given to senior members of the establishment such as judges, politicians (mostly on retiral), and latterly also to other distinguished citizens, such as actors, film directors, athletes, etc. These have the rank of Baron. Prime Ministers were previously entitled to hereditary earldoms created specifically for them. The last such award, that of Earl of Stockton, was given to Harold Macmillan, and is currently held by his son.




Although the principal method of inheritance is primogeniture, there are subtle differences between England and Scotland. In the former, if there are no male heirs and one female, then she may inherit. However, if there is more than one female heir, then the succession is put in abeyance until someone from the set of prospective heirs of the next generation petitions the Crown and is granted the title. In Scotland, if there are no male heirs, the eldest daughter automatically inherits the title. In the event that no suitable heirs are available, the title reverts to the Crown, and may be reassigned at a later date.


The specific nature of succession is often enshrined in law when the title is created, and sometimes this is altered when the title is re-created, or granted a re-issue subject to altered rules of succession. For instance, the current holder may stipulate the sequence of succession amongst brothers, nephews and nieces if he has no children himself.


The heir-male to a title is the closest living relative of the current (or just deceased) holder, through any male line. An heir-general is the closest living relative through either male or female line. This does not indicate the gender of the heir, which, as I have mentioned, may be male or female. Newer titles will often specify that the heir-male has precedence.


In the good old days, peerages were also often forfeited by Act of Parliament, usually as a result of the holder being found guilty of treason. However, many of these would later be restored by petitioning, often by descendants of the guilty party.


Occasionally, an extinct earldom will be enabled by Act of Parliament upon the claim of a descendant. In these cases, the numbering is often backdated for continuity. In such cases, where a person is named as earl after they are dead, they are considered to have held the title “de jure”, that is, by law.




As well as the nominal ranks of Duke, Marquess, Earl, Viscount, Baron, (or in Scotland sometimes Duke, Marquis, Earl, Viscount, Lord), precedence within a rank is defined by creation date. The older the title, of course, the more prestige is attached, especially as these are often historically famous, or cover large areas of land.


Due to intermarriage, it is possible for a single person to hold a number of different titles, all hereditary. In these cases, the holder is referred to usually by only his most senior rank, with lesser titles available for use by the heir as a courtesy. If none such are available, a Viscountcy is often made available.


The British Peerage is separated into various divisions, with slightly different status and benefits:


The Peerage of England, being all titles created in England before the Act of Union in 1707

The Peerage of Scotland, being all titles created in Scotland before the Act of Union in 1707

The Peerage of Ireland, being all titles created by the British monarch as the King of Ireland before the Act of Union in 1801, and some after

The Peerage of Great Britain, being all titles created in Great Britain between 1707 and 1801

The Peerage of the United Kingdom, being titles created since 1801 (excepting some few that remain in the Peerage of Ireland)


A separate and subsidiary tier of the nobility comes in the form of the baronetage. The Baronetage of England was created as an hereditary Order in 1611 to encourage the settlement of Ireland. Similarly, the Baronetage of Nova Scotia was established in 1624 in order to encourage the settlement of the province of Nova Scotia in Canada. In 1707, these two Orders were combined in the Baronetage of Great Britain. A separate Baronetage of Ireland existed from 1619 until 1800. At this time, all previous Baronetages were replaced by the Baronetage of the United Kingdom.


The order of precedence within each rank of the Peerage was formerly of extreme importance, indicating closeness to the monarch and by extension, seniority and influence. Within each division of the Peerage, this has been formalised by several Acts of Parliament, and covers the complete range from Royalty, Great Officers of State (now mostly political), dukes, marquesses, earls, barons, lords of parliament, lords-lieutenant, viscounts, baronets, knights, with wives and eldest sons of all of these. Orders of Precedence are now of less significance than they were in the middle ages, but are still used on ceremonial occasions to avoid unnecessary confusion.


The Jacobite Peerage, consisting of peerages extant in 1588 when James VII was exiled, plus newer titles created by James VII, is not considered in this article.


Early Scottish History


After the Romans left Britain, there was much consolidation amongst the indigenous peoples, and migrations from both the Continent and Ireland, and by the middle of the first millennium, there were four main groupings in Scotland. The Picts ruled the north, east and most of central Scotland; the Scots, whose territory of Dalriada stretched across from the east of Ireland to encompass most of the Scottish isles and western coastline; the Britons of Strathclyde, which at its height stretched down the west of Britain from the River Clyde into Wales; and lastly the Angles, or Anglo-Saxons, the only non-Celt race, who had pushed into south-east Scotland and parts of England. During the 9th century AD, Norsemen began to raid the northern and western fringes of Scotland, eventually driving the Scots eastward, increasing the violent confrontations between Picts and Scots, which eventually resulted in the kings of both peoples being killed. The heir to the Scots throne, Kenneth mac Alpin, then declared himself king of both Picts and Scots. Although his ascendancy was not without problems, it gave a measure of unity with which to deter the Vikings. Over time the Norsemen began to settle in the areas they once raided, creating a Norse-Scottish society which for many centuries maintained its distance politically from the rest of Scotland.


The Vikings also raided and settled in much of England, becoming so powerful that they took the English throne in the person of King Cnut. Cnut was acquisitive in nature, and sent a Northumbrian Anglian army into Scotland to annex the Lothians. However, this move was repelled decisively by an alliance of Scots and Britons, allowing the Scottish king, Malcolm II, to bring this valuable area under his rule. The death of the Strathclyde British king shortly afterwards allowed Malcolm’s grandson Duncan I to succeed first there and then to the Scottish throne, and for a while Scotland existed at its maximum extent. However, Duncan was repulsed while invading Northumbria, the nature of his defeat generating revolt amongst his lords, and he was ousted by MacBeth, Mormaor of Moray. Although MacBeth was an able king, who stabilised the kingdom for 17 years, he was eventually overthrown by Duncan’s son Malcolm, who was brought up in exile in England. With English help, Malcolm raised an army and invaded deep into the north of Scotland, aided by the historic differences between the northern and southern Picts, and defeated MacBeth in battle in 1057.


Scotland would from now on be heavily influenced by English pressure, although it would be another 650 years of never being quite obliging enough before finally uniting in 1707.


The Norman invasion of England drove many Angles and Saxons into Lowland Scotland, which was already a mix of Scots and Britons. This effect magnified the differences between the highland and island Scots and the lowlanders, which was to cause so much instability in the country for so long. Malcolm went so far as to marry Princess Margaret, the sister of the ousted Anglo-Saxon king Edgar Atheling. Margaret introduced many English fashions and customs to the Scottish court, not least in her patronage of Roman Catholicism rather than the Celtic version. Malcolm, as so many Scottish kings, would occasionally court the English when convenient, and then forget his obligations, conducting raids across the border, selfish of the riches of his southern neighbours. He died on one such foray, ignoring the fact that he had paid homage to William the Conqueror after an earlier failed incursion.


Immediately prior to the Norman conquests, the Scottish kingdom was a much smaller country geographically than it is now. Much of the western islands and coastal regions were controlled by maritime clans whose society was modelled on that of the Vikings (who were also their principal enemy); the Shetlands, Orkneys and large parts of the most northern areas still considered themselves to be part of Norway; large areas of Strathclyde, Dumfries & Galloway and the Borders were run as independent lordships only loosely allied to the king. Those areas that formed the core of the kingdom were based on the original Pictish lands, hence contributing the earliest earldoms: Angus, Atholl with Gowrie, Caithness with Sutherland, Fife, Mar with Buchan, Moray with Ross, Strathearn with Menteith. As implied, five of these later subdivided, and this list was expanded as the kingdom grew in extent, adding Lennox (areas around Loch Lomond), Carrick (South Ayrshire), Dunbar (East Lothian) & March (Eastern Borders). Other earldoms of relative antiquity, whose holders played significant parts in Scotland’s history include Crawford, Huntly, Erroll, & Douglas.


After Malcolm, Scotland was ruled by a succession of weak kings, perennially troubled by the wilder elements in the north and west, allowing the Anglo-Normans to take over much land in the lowland areas. In 1124, David I succeeded his brother Alexander I. David was raised in England, and though much improving and modernising the rather primitive and backward nation at this time, cemented the dominance of the Anglo-Norman version of feudalism by distributing large estates to his Norman friends such as de Brus, de Ballieul, de Comines and de Moravia. However, clashes between the Lowlanders and the denizens of the more remote areas continued well after his reign. David’s grandson William the Lion became king on the death of his elder brother Malcolm IV, and is famous for several reasons. His colours of a red rampant lion on a yellow field have become Scotland’s heraldic colours. He also initiated the “Auld Alliance” between Scotland and France that was to have considerable effect, if not always benefit, to Scotland in the ensuing centuries. He also launched an invasion into England to reclaim Northumbria, but was heavily defeated, taken prisoner, forced to place himself under feudal subjection to the English monarch, and his church placed under archiepiscopal jurisdiction of the English Primate. Fortunately, the feudal superiority was later exchanged for a large sum of money when Richard the Lionheart needed to finance a crusade. Additionally, the then Pope rejected the claims for English Episcopal supremacy, and so he came out almost even. In fact, there was relatively little problem with England for the next 100 years or so, though the question of overlordship was never far away.


In the meantime, the Norse-Scots Celtic chieftains of the west and north, many of whom still owing more allegiance to Norway than Scotland, revelled in their degree of independence, and continued to rebel and raid. However, with stability in relations with England, the Scots kings were able to mount their own attacks on the rebel areas. During the reign of Alexander III this reached the point where the King of Norway intervened. A combined host of Norwegians and Islanders under King Haakon of Norway was eventually defeated at Largs. Alexander married the daughter of English King Henry III, and produced an heir in Margaret, who was married off to the King of Norway. Unfortunately, what could have been the beginning of a prosperous time for Scotland was thrown into complete disarray Alexander’s untimely death, thrown from his horse over a cliff.


England was now ruled by Edward I, who wanted to be king over an united British Isles. He suggested that his son marry Alexander’s granddaughter, also Margaret, an infant princess of Norway. However, she died on the boat that was bringing her home, and Scotland was left with no heir. Several candidates then put themselves forward, each claiming to have the most suitable ancestry. Edward of England was asked by the Bishop of Scotland to help in choosing, and selected John Balliol, from whom he obtained and oath of fealty, and agreement to support England in its strife with France. In an effort to show that he was not simply a puppet, Balliol later signed a treaty with France. Angered, Edward invaded Scotland, which had little capability to withstand him, devastating Berwick, and taking over the principal castles of Stirling and Edinburgh. He then put a couple of senior English nobles in charge and returned to England, hoping to be able to concentrate his efforts across the Channel. However, the atrocities committed by his occupying troops incited the Scots far more than any weak king, and the rebellion that would culminate in the Battle of Bannockburn had begun.


It would be impossible to condense the history of Scotland from this point into a few paragraphs. Suffice it to say that the peerage, from what was once a collection of semi-independent Earls and ennobled Lords of Parliament, was a much more recognisable and structured body of nobility, providing all the advisory, military, judicial and fiscal elements required of a kingdom. There were still relatively few senior members of the Scottish peerage, either those who were closely involved in the running of the country or those who could maintain a remoteness from such concerns as geography and historic alliance dictated. However, there would from now on be a steady rise in the creation of titles, fuelled by the need to reward loyalty, and also by the increases in the general population that meant more people were need to maintain law and order and collect taxes. I hope that individual articles on each title will provide much of the historic detail required.


Lords of Parliament


Various minor members of the nobility have been made Lords of Parliament over the centuries in recognition of their capabilities, administrative, political or military. This allowed them to attend parliament along with more senior nobles and clerics. While some of these positions were later forfeited or became extinct, others were preserved as lesser titles when earldoms were created for a particular holder. With the rise of the constitutional governments in both England and Scotland, and the separation of the roles of head of government and head of state, the previous parliament chaired by the monarch was replaced by elected representatives. Since the Act of Union, Lords of Parliament, in the form of Representative Peers, have taken their place in the House of Lords, the second chamber of the British Parliament.


Privy Counsellors


The Privy Council previously consisted of the monarch’s closest advisors, a small group of very powerful men who made decisions on how the country should be run. In modern Britain, this consists of the members of the Cabinet and other distinguished people appointed by the monarch on advice from the government, such as senior judges, as well as the three most senior representatives of the Church of England (the Archbishops of York and Canterbury, and the Bishop of London). Though it is no longer powerful, it is endowed with certain constitutional responsibilities essential for the running of the state, such as granting Royal Assent, issuing Royal charters, and representing the ultimate court of appeal within Great Britain.


Orders of Chivalry


Various Orders of Chivalry, or Knighthoods, were created over the centuries based on military orders of professional soldiers created during the Crusades, and influenced by clerics trying to manipulate religious fervour. These emphasised commitment to certain goals and activities, usually somewhat aggressive towards non-Christians in general. These commitments took the form of vows, with particular concentration on piety as well as military ability. In essence, they became religious orders, and as such sought recognition from the Pope, giving him a certain influence over their policies. When the last Crusader stronghold fell to the Arabs in 1291, there was little use for these organisations, though they had built up large amounts of money and land, and they turned to less pious pursuits. Ultimately they became discredited by their excesses and political interference and faded away. However, with the end of feudalism, the old ideas were rehashed by monarchs looking to replace personal fealty for another type of loyalty. As the Crusades became a thing of the past, they became romanticised, as in the Arthurian writings, and it was convenient for kings to create orders of knights based on the old military orders, with membership voluntary but prestigious, and pandering to idealised notions of heroic chivalry. Knights would swear allegiance not to a set of rules but to the king himself, with any religious overtones played down. Again, over time the usefulness of these organisations faded as the need to bind individuals to one’s person declined. However, the prestige remained, and they became useful as honorific rewards. The current system of orders within the United Kingdom is as follows (with initials in brackets).


The Most Noble Order of the Garter, (KG/LG)

The Most Ancient and Noble Order of the Thistle (KT/LT)

The Most Honourable Order of the Bath (GCB, KCB/DCB, CB)

The Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (GCMG, KCMG/DCMG, CMG)

The Distinguished Service Order (DSO)

The Royal Victorian Order (GCVO, KCVO/DCVO, CVO, LVO, MVO)

The Order of Merit (OM)

The Imperial Service Order (ISO)

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (GBE, KBE/DBE, CBE, OBE, MBE)

The Order of the Companions of Honour (CH)


Officers of State


Since the earliest times, a variety of offices associated with the running of the kingdom have developed, and over time became hereditary, or at least customary for certain families to hold. These include some functions which became purely honorary, such as Lord High Constable, now hereditary to the Hays of Erroll. Others, while remaining honorary, have become part of the parliamentary domain, such as Lord Privy Seal. Others, such as Lord Advocate, have preserved their importance to this day. The full list of Scottish offices of state is as follows:


Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland (now with the First Minister)

Keeper of the Privy Seal of Scotland, or Lord Privy Seal, now extinct, there being a British equivalent held by a member of the Cabinet

Lord Clerk Register, nominally responsible for the keeping of public records

Lord Advocate, chief legal officer of the Scottish Government

Lord Justice Clerk, second most senior judge

Lord President (of the Court of Session), head of the judiciary in Scotland

Lord Justice General, formerly Justiciar, senior high court judge (this is currently combined with Lord President)

Lord Lyon, King of Arms, regulator of heraldry


Lord Great Chamberlain, extinct title, formerly senior prosecuting counsel

Lord High Constable, now honorary, formerly the senior officer of the Scottish army, with judicial powers

Earl Marschal, extinct hereditary title, formerly responsible for protecting the king and custodian of the Royal Regalia

Lord High Admiral, now downgraded to Vice-Admiral of Scotland, there being a British equivalent

Knight Marischal, extinct title first used at the coronation of Charles I


Master of the Royal Household, hereditary now to the Dukes of Argyll

Keeper of Holyrood Palace, hereditary now to the Dukes of Hamilton

Armour-Bearer, formerly squire to the king

Standard-Bearer, one each for the saltire and the royal standard

High Steward, hereditary post until the 1371, when the last High Steward became King of Scotland. This post is now held by the heir-apparent


As well as these, there is the post of Lord-Lieutenant, generally of a county or shire, who acts as the monarch’s representative and has various official tasks to performs. Though these have a history in being responsible for the raising of local militia, there function now is very ceremonial, including presentation of medals, escorting Royal visitors and the like. Scottish Lord-Lieutenants were thin on the ground until permanent posts were established in 1794 by Royal Warrant. They are based around a preserved shire structure that exists outside of local government re-organisation.


In Scotland, the Royal Company of Archers is a ceremonial unit which serves as the sovereign’s bodyguard. The head of the body, the Captain-General, is a post of high honour.


Other ceremonial posts include other members of the Royal Household, such as Gentleman, or Lord, of the Bedchamber, whose duties consist of providing a male consort to the monarch, waiting on him, guarding access, and providing companionship. The holders operate under the direction of the Lord Chamberlain. Many of these posts, such as Captain of the Gentlemen-at-Arms, Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard and Lord in Waiting, are now held by Government chief whips in the House of Lords, while other titles exist for whips in the House of Commons. Most of these titles are British rather than Scottish, but are often held by senior Scottish nobles.




Modern Freemasonry is of comparatively recent invention, and has appealed to those of the nobles classes for its political and charitable connections. However, the concept has its roots in antiquity, and is of general interest, with its vague connections to the chivalric orders, and important contributions by Scots to its development.


Kings and Queens of Scotland


The ultimate noble family is of course the royal line. It therefore makes sense to present this line separately and prior to those listed below.


General Comments


These pages are not meant as a genealogical study, but rather of the peerage in its historical setting. In the particular case of Scotland, it is common for Lords of Parliament to be elevated to Earls, and Earls to be elevated to Marquises or Dukes. As such, the titles of a single hereditary line can change more than once, with the earlier, lesser ones being used to describe the heir apparent. I will therefore approach things from a fiefdom rather than title, for instance, I will list all the titles associated with Huntly, it being first and earldom and then a marquessate, rather than list the earls and marquesses separately.


In the lists below, it is no surprise to note that more and more were created in order to reward certain individuals for services rendered. However, in fact there were often problems finding likely successors to titles. There are may reasons for this. Early death due to illness and warfare was common, especially prior to the Act of Union, and at a later period because of the expansion of the British Empire, followed ultimately by the First World War. Also, the self-preservation endemic to the nobility meant that inter-marriage was the norm, leading to many overlapping family trees. This inbreeding also led to an oppressive society where many junior family members did not marry, or did not have children. The result was that occasionally, male heirs, or any heirs at all, were often to be found five or six generations distant from the main line, this process having to be repeated regularly.


For consistency, I have ignored the distinction between marquess and marquis, and referred to all such peerages as marquess.




The central core of this set of pages is the earldom, and thus the history of any lordships that were promoted to earldoms, and the history of any marquessates or dukedoms raised from earldoms, will be found in the page related to the earldom, even if the names have changed, for example, the lords Glamis were promoted to the earls of Kinghorne, so the central page that covers both is the Kinghorne page, and similarly, although the earls of Cassillis were raised to the marquesses of Ailsa, the central page is the Cassillis page. The history of any baronetcies or UK or British baronies that were involved in the lineage of any of the listed title is included in the relevant pages for completeness.


The following pages explicitly list titles in each of the ranks of the peerage.


Dukes & Marquesses – for all the titles of rank duke or marquess in any of the peerages of the British Isles.

Earls – for a list of all earldoms created in the Peerage of Scotland, whether extinct or extant, and also including later earldoms that were obviously Scottish in origin

Viscounts – for a list of all viscountcies created in the Peerage of Scotland, extinct or extant

Lords of Parliament – for a list of all lordships created in the Peerage of Scotland, extinct or extant


The following is a combined list covering all titles, in any of the peerages covering the British Isles, of the rank of earl or higher that pertain substantially to Scotland.


Abercorn       the lordship thereof was created for James Hamilton, 2nd Baron Paisley, and soon after raised to an earldom. It was raised further to a marquessate in the Peerage of Great Britain, and finally a dukedom in the Peerage of Ireland

Aberdeen      created as an earldom for the then Lord Chancellor of Scotland, George Gordon, the 4th Earl became Prime Minister of Great Britain. It was raised to a marquessate in the Peerage of Great Britain for the 7th Earl

Aboyne          earldom created for Charles Gordon in 1660. The 5th Earl inherited the title of Marquess of Huntly

Ailsa −              marquessate created in the Peerage of Great Britain for the Earl of Cassillis

Airlie             ancient lordship granted to the Ogilvy clan that was later raised to an earldom

Airth              a replacement title given to William Graham, 7th Earl of Menteith

Albany          royal dukedom first created in 1398 for King Robert III’s brother Robert

Ancram         earldom created for Robert Kerr in 1633, later merged with that of Lothian

Angus            ancient earldom that passed from Stewart hands to the Douglas clan

Annandale   ancient independent lordship which became extinct, though the earldom thereof was created for John Murray in 1625, and re-created for James Johnstone, 1st Earl of Hartfell. This second creation was recently backdated after it had also become extinct

Argyll            old and powerful earldom created for Colin Campbell, 2nd Lord Campbell. The title was later raised to a dukedom. The holder is Chief of Clan Campbell

Arran            earldom created twice in the Peerage of Scotland, firstly for Thomas Boyd in 1467, and then for James Hamilton, 2nd Lord Hamilton

Atholl            one of the original earldoms, this title was re-created several times, the last of which was to the Murray family. It was then elevated first to a marquessate and then a dukedom

Avondale −      a subsidiary earldom granted to James Douglas, shortly before he became 7th Earl of Douglas

Balcarres      a comparatively recent earldom of the Lindsay family, it tied with the earldom of Crawford when the incumbent was declared earl of the latter, formerly extinct, title

Ballenbreich − a subsidiary marquessate created for John Leslie, 7th Earl of Rothes, when he was created 1st Duke of Rothes, and which became extinct at his death, though the earldom continued

Bothwell       earldom created for Patrick Hepburn in 1488

Bowmont −      a subsidiary marquessate of the Duke of Roxburghe

Breadalbane − earldom created for John Campbell of Glenorchy in 1681

Buccleuch     the earldom of Buccleuch was created for the Lords Scott of Buccleuch, and was raised to a dukedom by James II and VII

Buchan         a very old title, the earldom has had three distinct creations, firstly granted to the Comyn in the 13th century, and then the Stewarts on two occasions

Bute               a comparatively young earldom created for James Stuart in 1703 that was later raised to a marquessate

Caithness     ancient earldom, which has been created several times in the Peerage of Scotland

Callendar     earldom created for Sir James Livingstone, younger son of Alexander Livingstone, 1st Earl of Linlithgow and closely entwined with that other earldom

Campbell −      a subsidiary earldom created for the 1st Duke of Argyll

Carnwath     earldom created for the 2nd Lord Dalzell in 1639

Carrick          old earldom created out of part of the lordship of Galloway, subsequently falling on the Bruce family, whereon it became a crown title

Cassillis        earldom created for the 3rd Lord Kennedy in 1509

Cathcart       recent earldom in the Peerage of the United Kingdom created for the 10th Lord Cathcart

Cawdor          recent earldom in the Peerage of the United Kingdom created for John Frederick Campbell, 2nd Baron Cawdor, in 1827

Cessford −        a subsidiary marquessate of the Duke of Roxburghe

Clydesdale −   a subsidiary marquessate created for the 1st Duke of Hamilton

Cowal −            a subsidiary earldom created for the 1st Duke of Argyll

Crawford       one of the oldest surviving earldoms in the UK, the title was created in the Peerage of Scotland for Sir David Lindsay in 1398, but lay dormant in the 19th century until reverting to the related line of the earls of Balcarres

Cromartie     earldom created for George Mackenzie in 1702, which was later declared extinct by forfeiture, but eventually revived by members of the Mackenzie family

Dalhousie     earldom created for William Ramsay in 1633, that was later raised to a marquessate in the Peerage of the United Kingdom

Dalkeith −        a subsidiary earldom of the Duke of Buccleuch

Darnley −         a subsidiary earldom of the Duke of Lennox

Delorain        earldom created for Henry Scott in 1706, a son of the 1st Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch

Dirletoun −      earldom created for James Maxwell (b.b.1604) by Charles I. He had no male heirs and the earldom became extinct after his death. His daughter Elizabeth married Sir William Hamilton, 2nd Duke of Hamilton

Douglas         the original powerful earldom was exterminated by the crown, but later a marquessate with this title was created for the Douglas earls of Angus. The marquessate has now passed to the Dukes of Hamilton

Drumlanrig −  a subsidiary earldom of the Duke of Buccleuch, and formerly of the Duke of Queensberry

Dumbarton  earldom created for Major-General George Douglas in 1674-1675, son of the 1st Marquess of Douglas

Dumfries       earldom created for the Lord Crichton of Sanquhar, and later inherited by the Marquess of Bute

Dumfriesshire − a subsidiary marquessate of the Duke of Queensberry

Dunbar         ancient earldom, previously known as Lothian, held by the heirs of the original Earl of Northumberland

Dundee         earldom created in 1660 in the Peerage of Scotland for the then hereditary royal standard-bearer John Scrymgeour.

Dundonald   earldom created for Sir William Cochrane in 1669

Dunfermline − earldom created for Alexander Seton, son of George Seton, 5th Lord Seton, in 1605

Dunmore      earldom created for Lord Charles Murray in 1686

Dysart           earldom created for William Murray in 1643

Edinburgh −   royal dukedom currently held by HRH Prince Philip, king-consort

Eglinton       earldom created for Lord Alexander Montgomerie in 1508

Elgin             earldom created for Thomas Bruce in 1633, now united with that of Kincardine

Enzie −             a subsidiary earldom created for the 1st Marquis of Huntly

Erroll             ancient earldom created for the hereditary Lord High Constable of Scotland, held by the Hay family since the time of King Robert I

Ethie −             original name of the earldom of Northesk

Fife                ancient mormaership that eventually reverted to the monarch and became a Stewart earldom, but was re-created as an Irish Peerage and then a dukedom in the Peerage of the United Kingdom for descendants of the original family

Findlater      earldom created for Lords Ogilvy of Deskford in 1638, later superseded by the earldom of Seafield and becoming extinct due to failure of the male line

Forfar            earldom created for Archibald Douglas, the younger half-brother of the 2nd Marquess of Douglas (for whom see the earls of Angus)

Forth             earldom created for Sir Patrick Ruthven, a descendant of the 1st Lord Ruthven, in 1642. He led the left wing at the Battle of Edgehill, and was made Commander-in-Chief of the Royalist armies. In 1644 he was also created 1st Earl of Brentford. All his honours became extinct on his death

Galloway       previously an independent lordship, the earldom was created for Alexander Stewart, Lord Garlies, in 1623

Garioch         the title Earl of Garioch was created for David, 9th Earl of Huntingdon, c.1180, and was later used as a title for the youngest son of James II

Gifford −           a subsidiary earldom of the Marquess of Tweeddale

Glasgow        earldom created for Lord David Boyle in 1703

Glencairn     earldom created for Alexander Cunningham, Lord Kilmaurs, in 1488, now extinct

Gordon −          this dukedom was first created for the Marquess of Huntly but became extinct, whereupon the title was later granted to the Duke of Richmond & Lennox

Gowrie           earldom created for William Ruthven, 3rd Lord Ruthven, in 1581, which was later forfeited. The title was recreated in the Peerage of the United Kingdom for Alexander Hore-Ruthven, former Governor-General of Australia

Graham −        a subsidiary marquessate of the Duke of Montrose

Haddington  earldom created for Sir Thomas Hamilton in 1627 to replace the earldom of Melrose

Haddo −            a subsidiary earldom created for John Hamilton-Gordon, 1st Marquess of Aberdeen

Hamilton      though no earldom of this name ever existed, the Hamilton family feature heavily in Scottish history and have attracted many titles. The Lords Hamilton was raised as the Earls of Arran, and later still raised as Marquesses of Hamilton, before finally being raised as the Dukes of Hamilton

Hartfell         earldom created for James Johnstone in 1643

Home             earldom created for the 6th Lord Home in 1605

Hopetoun      earldom created for Charles Hope in 1703, now a lesser title of the Marquess of Linlithgow

Huntly          famous earldom of antiquity, the first to be raised to a marquessate

Hyndford      earldom created for John Carmichael, 2nd Lord Carmichael, in 1701

Ilay −                earldom created for Archibald Campbell, second son of the 1st Duke of Argyll in 1706. He succeeded to the dukedom, and this title became extinct at his death

Inchcape       recent earldom created in the Peerage of the United Kingdom for the shipping magnate James Lyle Mackay in 1929

Innes −             a subsidiary earldom created in the Peerage of the United Kingdom for the Duke of Roxburghe

Inverness −     royal earldom currently held by Prince Andrew, Duke of York

Irvine −            earldom created for James Campbell, second son of Archibald Campbell, 7th Earl of Argyll  in 1642. The title became extinct at his early death

Kellie             earldom created for Thomas Erskine in 1619

Kelso −              a subsidiary earldom of the Duke of Roxburghe

Kilmarnock  earldom created for William Boyd, 10th Lord Boyd, in 1661

Kincardine   earldom created for Edward Bruce in 1643, now twinned with that of Elgin

Kinghorne    earldom created for Patrick Lyon in 1606, now twinned with that of Strathmore, and granted twice, one in the Peerage of Scotland and another in the Peerage of the United Kingdom

Kinnoull       earldom created for George Hay in 1633

Kinrara −         a subsidiary earldom of the Duke of Lennox created in the Peerage of the United Kingdom

Kintore          earldom created for John Keith in 1677

Kintyre −         a subsidiary marquessate created for the 1st Duke of Argyll, having previously been a Royal dukedom created for Robert Stuart, a younger son of James VI

Lanark −          earldom created for William Hamilton, who later became the 2nd Duke of Hamilton

Lauderdale  earldom created for Lord John Maitland in 1624

Lennox          ancient earldom which reverted to the monarchy and was re-awarded frequently to members of the Stewart family, latterly as a dukedom

Leslie −             a subsidiary earldom of the Duke of Rothes, which became extinct at his death

Leven            earldom created for Alexander Leslie in 1641, now twinned with that of Melville

Lindsay         earldom created for Lord John Lindsay in 1633, who later also became earl of Crawford. The Crawford title lay dormant after the death of the 6th Earl, but the Lindsay title continued with a distant relative

Linlithgow    earldom created for Alexander Livingstone, 6th Lord Livingston. It was later to become extinct, and the title re-used as a marquessate created for the Earl of Hopetoun

Lorne −             a subsidiary marquessate created for the 1st Duke of Argyll, having previously been a Royal dukedom created for Robert Stuart, a younger son of James VI

Lothian         earldom created for Mark Kerr in 1606

Loudoun       earldom created for John Campbell in 1637

Macduff −         a subsidiary earldom of the Duke of Fife

Mar                ancient earldom that reverted to the monarchy and was awarded several times to family and friends of the king until finally being returned to the Erskine family, who had an ancient claim

March            ancient earldom associated with the “marches” or boundary land in Northumbria, later combined with that of Dunbar. Both titles were later forfeit, and that of March re-created several times for members of the royal family

Marchmont  earldom created for Patrick Hume, Lord Polwarth, in 1697

Marischal     the Earl Marischal is an hereditary office held by the Keith family, previously responsible for the King’s person and Regalia during Parliament, in effect his bodyguard

Melfort          earldom created for John Drummond, younger brother of James Drummond, 4th Earl of Perth. Drummond was a supporter of James II & VII, and escaped to France in 1688, where he was created 1st Duke of Melfort in the Jacobite Peerage. His descendant George Drummond, eventually succeeded to the earldom of Perth by reversal of attainder and was recreated with all his pre-attainder titles. He died without issue and the Melfort title became dormant or extinct

Melrose −         original name of the earldom of Haddington

Melville         earldom created for Lord George Melville in 1690, now a subsidiary earldom of the Earl of Leven

Menteith       ancient mormaership later re-created as an earldom for Malise Graham in 1427

Middleton     earldom created for John Middleton in 1656

Midlothian −   subsidiary earldom in the Peerage of the United Kingdom created for the 5th Earl of Rosebery, who was briefly Prime Minister

Minto             recent earldom created in the Peerage of the United Kingdom for Gilbert Elliot, 1st baron Minto in 1813

Montrose      an original dukedom created for David Lindsay, 5th Earl of Crawford, that was not inherited, the earldom thereof was created for Lord James Graham in 1505, which later became a marquessate and then a dukedom for the second time

Moray            ancient earldom that reverted to the crown and was then awarded several times before settling on a bastard branch of the royal line

Morton          earldom created for Sir James Douglas of Dalkeith

Newburgh    earldom created for James Livingston, 1st Viscount Newburgh, in 1660, and now held by Papal Prince Rospigliosi of the Italian nobility

Nithsdale      earldom created for Robert Maxwell, 9th Lord Maxwell, in 1620. The 5th Earl was attainted after the Jacobite uprising in 1715 and his titles forfeit. The earldom is now considered extinct as there are no heirs to claim reversal of attainder

Northesk       earldom created for John Carnegie in 1662

Orkney          ancient Norse earldom that reverted to the Scottish crown and was used several times before being granted to George Hamilton, in 1696. Through intermarriage, it has for several generations been held by various Irish families

Ormelie −         a subsidiary earldom in the Peerage of the United Kingdom awarded to the 1st Marquess of Breadalbane, it became extinct on the death of the 2nd Marquess

Ormonde       this title has been used for both earldoms and marquessates

Panmure      earldom created for Patrick Maule in 1646

Perth             earldom created for James Drummond, 4th Lord Drummond, in 1605

Portmore      earldom created for David Colyear in 1703, now extinct

Queensberry − earldom created for Douglas of Drumlanrig in 1633, later a marquessate

Ronaldshay −  a subsidiary earldom of the Marquess of Zetland

Rosebery       earldom created for Archibald Primrose, 1st Viscount Rosebery, in 1703

Ross               ancient mormaership that became a royal dukedom, currently extinct

Rosslyn         recent earldom created in the Peerage of the United Kingdom for Alexander Wedderburn, the then Lord Chancellor, with special remainder to his nephew, James St. Clair-Erskine

Rothes           earldom created for George Leslie, 1st Lord Leslie, in 1457, notable because all holders must retain the name of Leslie, meaning that in the case of a female holder, husbands are required to change their name

Rothesay −      royal dukedom held by the heir to the throne

Roxburghe   earldom created for Robert Ker in 1616, subsequently promoted to a dukedom

Ruglen          earldom created for John Hamilton in 1697

Seafield         earldom created for James Ogilvy, Viscount Seafield, in 1701, son and heir to the earldom of Findlater

Seaforth        earldom created for Colin Mackenzie, Lord Mackenize, in 1609, which was eventually forfeit. A separate earldom was created in the Peerage of Ireland for the grandson of the 5th Earl, but this became extinct at his death

Selkirk          earldom created for William Douglas, younger son of the Marquess of Douglas. He later became Duke of Hamilton by marriage and the title was passed to his younger son, a step which was enshrined in law, and had to be used one two further occasions due to the early deaths of its holders

Solway −           earldom created for Charles Douglas, 3rd Duke of Queensberry, but becoming extinct at his death

Southesk       earldom created for Sir David Carnegie in 1633

Stair              earldom created for John Dalrymple, 2nd Viscount of Stair

Stirling         earldom created for Sir William Alexander, Viscount of Stirling

Strathearn   ancient mormaerdom that was forfeited to the Crown, whereupon it was re-created as a Stewart earldom. It is now used occasionally as an honorific granted as a dukedom to junior members of the British Royal Family

Strathmore −  earldom created for Patrick Lyon, 3rd Earl of Kinghorne, and now twinned with that earldom

Strathtay & Strathardle − a subsidiary earldom of the Duke of Atholl

Sutherland   ancient earldom given to the de Moravia, or Murray clan, and now a dukedom

Tarras −           earldom created for Walter Scott in 1660 to make him of equal rank to his wife, Mary Scott, 3rd Countess of Buccleuch, and an early example of a life peerage

Teviot            earldom created for Andrew Rutherford, a career soldier who served Charles II, this became extinct on his death when he was attacked by Moors while serving as Governor of Tangiers

Traquair       earldom created for Sir John Stewart, Lord Stewart of Traquair, in 1633, and now either dormant or extinct

Tullibardine − earldom created for Sir John Murray in 1606, a descendant of whom was created Earl of Atholl

Tweeddale    earldom created for Lord John Hay in 1646, it was later raised to a marquessate

Wemyss        earldom created for John Wemyss, Baron Elcho, in 1633, and now twinned with the earldom of March after the 8th Earl succeeded as heir-male in 1810

Wigton          also spelled as Wigtown, an earldom created for John Fleming, Lord Fleming, in 1606, having previously been a subsidiary earldom of the Earls of Douglas, which they purchased from an earlier Fleming in 1372

Winton          earldom created for Robert Seton, 6th Lord Seton, in 1600, which became extinct due to forfeiture until revived in the peerage of the United Kingdom as a lesser title of the Earls of Eglinton

Zetland         earldom created in the Peerage of the United Kingdom for Lawrence Dundas, 2nd Baron Dundas, in 1838, it was later raised to a marquessate




To get me up and running originally, I used a lot of the information available on Wikipedia. A very good website that I discovered early on is However, some of the families here are less well researched than others. For a reliable source of dates of birth and death and names of spouses, I also used Stirnet. As I started to expand on particular histories, a very good website is Electric Scotland, in particular the page on Great Historic Families. The Undiscovered Scotland website has also provided useful information. For lords of parliament, Cracroft’s Peerage provides information not readily available elsewhere. I have also used individual family and clan pages whenever possible to corroborate and augment descriptions.


If you have any positive or negative comments on the contents of this page or any of its subsidiary pages, including directions on where to find more accurate or extensive information on any individual, title or clan mentioned above, please let me know by contacting me at


Joe McLean, Glasgow


(Last updated: 02/03/2011)