Earls of Wemyss (1633)


1st Earl of Wemyss, John Wemyss, b.c.1586, a.1633, d.1649


The Wemyss family of Fife had reliable claims to be descended from Macduff, ancient mormaer of Fife. Sir Michael Wemyss was in the party of nobles who in 1290 travelled to Norway to retrieve the infant daughter of the recently deceased King Alexander III, and his son David Wemyss was a signatory to the Declaration of Arbroath.  Succeeding generations of the family built up extensive lands in Fife. Sir John Wemyss of Wemyss and Elcho was created 1st Baronet Wemyss of New Wemyss in the Baronetage of Nova Scotia in 1625 and in 1628 he was raised to the Peerage as 1st Lord Wemyss of Elcho. In 1633 he was created 1st Earl of Wemyss and also 1st Lord Elcho & Methel. In 1641 he was Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and became a Privy Counsellor, and took a place on the Committee of Estates.


2nd Earl of Wemyss, David Wemyss, b.1610, a.1649, d.1679


Son of the 1st Earl and Jane Gray (b.?, d.1649), daughter of Patrick Gray, 6th Lord Gray. He led a detachment of Fife infantry in the Scottish Parliamentarian Army, and had the misfortune to lose to Montrose on at least two occasions, including at Kilsyth. He married three times, but, having no sons, he had the patent for the earldom re-issued by the Crown, allowing his daughters to succeed when normally the heir-male would have been found higher up the family tree.


3rd Earl (Countess) of Wemyss, Margaret Wemyss, b.1659, a.1679, d.1705


Daughter of the 2nd Earl and his third wife Lady Margaret Leslie (b.?, d.1688), daughter of John Leslie, 6th Earl of Rothes. Margaret Leslie is noted for producing numerous different earls and countesses during her three marriages, having already been left a widow by Colonel Alexander Leslie, Lord Balgonie, heir to Alexander Leslie, 1st Earl of Leven, and by Francis Scott, 2nd Earl of Buccleuch. The 3rd Countess married her distant cousin, Sir James Wemyss, Lord Burntisland, and after his death married Sir George Mackenzie, 2nd Baronet Mackenzie of Tarbat, who later became 1st Earl of Cromartie, whence she became Countess of Cromartie.


4th Earl of Wemyss, David Wemyss, b.1678, a.1705, d.1720


Son of the Countess and Sir James Wemyss (b.b.1657, d.1682). In 1705 he was made a Privy Counsellor, and was a Commissioner for the Act of Union. He was the last Lord High Admiral of Scotland, the position being abolished at the Union, after which he was converted to Vice Admiral of Scotland, and he was one of the first 16 Scottish Representative Peers from 1707 until his death. Another oft-married individual, his third wife was Elizabeth St Clair (b.?, d.1721), daughter of Henry St Clair, 1st Lord St Clair, and their two daughters both married earls.


5th Earl of Wemyss, James Wemyss, b.1699, a.1720, d.1756


Son of the 4th Earl and his first wife Lady Anne Douglas (b.?, d.1700), daughter of William Douglas, 1st Duke of Queensberry. He was Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland from 1744 to 1745. He married the heiress of Colonel Francis Charteris of Amisfield, a man whose wealth was due to success at gambling, a larger-than-life character who earned the disapproval of the establishment, and who may have been a founder member of the original Hell-Fire club in London. Charteris is a Scottish lowland clan descended from a Norman knight said to have been the son of the Lord of Chartres.


6th Earl of Wemyss, David Wemyss, b.1721, a.1756, d.1787


Son of the 5th Earl and Janet Charteris (b.?, d.1778). Educated at Winchester College and then the military Academy at Angers, he met the Pretender James Stuart in Rome in 1740 and pledged himself to the Jacobite cause. He took part in the Rebellion of 1745 and was Prince Charlie’s aide-de-camp. After the disaster of Culloden he fled to Europe and was attainted, though he assumed the title anyway, and was known as Lord Elcho until his death. He fought for Louis XV of France and received the Order of Military Merit in 1770. He later became a naturalised Swiss subject, marrying the daughter of a local baron. His writings on the Rebellion were the principal source of information used later by Sir Walter Scott.


7th Earl of Wemyss, Francis Wemyss Charteris, b.1723, a.1787, d.1808


Younger brother of the 6th Earl. In 1732 he changed his surname to Charteris as heir to his maternal grandfather’s estates. Not able to succeed his brother officially because of the attainder, he nevertheless assumed the title. He used his wealth to purchase additional lands in East Lothian and constructing Amisfield House and Gosford House.


8th Earl of Wemyss, Francis Charteris, b.1772, a.1808, d.1853


Grandson of the 7th Earl and Lady Catherine Gordon (b.?, d.1786), daughter of Alexander Gordon, 2nd Duke of Gordon (for whom see the earls of Huntly), and son of Francis Wemyss Charteris, Lord Elcho (b.1749, d.1808) and Susan Tracy-Keck (b.?, d.1835) (who had been a maid-of-honour to Queen Charlotte). He spent a period from 1786 to 1788 as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, unusual because of his youth at the time, and was Aide-de-Camp to his grand-uncle Adam Gordon, who was Commander-in-Chief in Scotland from 1793 to 1797. In 1810, on the death of William Queensberry, 4th Duke of Queensberry, he succeeded to the title of 4th Earl of March as heir-male, inheriting Neidpath and other lands in Peebles, and in 1821 he was created 1st Baron Wemyss, of Wemyss in the County of Fife, in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, which gave him and automatic seat in the House of Lords. At that time he also became Lord-Lieutenant of Peebles-shire until his death. In 1826 he finally obtained a reversal of the 6th Earl’s attainder with numbering back-dated. From this point on the earldoms of Wemyss and March have been combined.


9th Earl of Wemyss, Francis Wemyss Charteris, b.1796, a.1853, d.1883


Son of the 8th Earl and Margaret Campbell (b.?, d.1850). He was Lord-Lieutenant of Peebles-shire from 1853 to 1880 and Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland from 1827 to 1830.


10th Earl of Wemyss, Francis Richard Charteris, b.1818, a.1883, d.1914


Son of the 9th Earl and Lady Louisa Bingham (b.1798, d.1882), daughter of Richard Bingham, 2nd Earl of Lucan. He was a Whig MP from 1841 for East Gloucestershire, and from 1846 for Haddingtonshire, retiring in 1883 to join the House of Lords. He was commanding officer of the London Scottish Regiment from its formation in 1859 until 1876. He was President of the London Homeopathic Hospital, having a keen interest in alternative medicine.


11th Earl of Wemyss, Hugo Richard Charteris, b.1857, a.1914, d.1937


Son of the 10th Earl and Lady Anne Frederica Anson (b.1823, d.1896), daughter of Thomas William Anson, 1st Earl of Lichfield. He succeeded his father as MP for Haddingtonshire, but shortly afterwards lost his seat temporarily before being returned in 1886 as an MP for Ipswich. He was Lord-Lieutenant of Haddingtonshire (East Lothian) from 1918 to his death. His daughter Lady Cynthia Mary Evelyn Charteris (b.1887, d.1960) married Herbert Asquith.


12th Earl of Wemyss, Francis David Charteris, b.1912, a.1937, d.2008


Grandson of the 11th Earl and Mary Constance Wyndham (b.1862, d.1937), and son of Hugo Francis Charteris (b.1884, d.1916) and Lady Violet Catherine Manners (b.1888, d.?), daughter of Henry John Brinsley Manners, 8th Duke of Rutland. His father was killed in action during the First World War. Educated at Eton and Balliol College Oxford, he entered colonial administration in Africa, and served with the African Auxiliary Pioneer Force in the Middle East during the Second World War. He was Chairman of the National Trust for Scotland from 1947 to 1967, and President from then until 1991.  He was Chairman of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland from 1949 to 1984, President of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society from 1958 to 1962 and was Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on several occasions. He was Lord Clerk Register from 1974 to 2007, Lord-Lieutenant of East Lothian from 1967 to 1987 and was inducted into the Royal Company of Archers. He was made a Knight of the Thistle in 1967. He was also director of several large companies, including Standard Life and Scottish Television.


13th Earl of Wemyss, James Donald Charteris, b.1948, a.2008


Son of the 12th Earl and Mavis Lynette Gordon Murray (b.?, d.1988). As well as being 13th Earl of Wemyss, he is also 9th Earl of March, 13th Lord Wemyss of Elcho, 13th Lord Elcho & Methel, 9th Viscount of Peebles, 9th Lord Douglas of Neidpath, Lyne & Munard (these two being subsidiary to the earldom of March) and 6th Baron Wemyss of Wemyss. He is also Chief of Clan Charteris.



The courtesy title for the heir was previously Lord Elcho, prior to the amalgamation with the March earldom, and is now Lord Neidpath.


The family seat is at Gosford House near Longniddry in East Lothian.


(Last updated: 13/06/2011)


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