Friday, October 04, 2019

The Nine: Scottish Dukes


10th Duke of Roxburghe,
by Allan Warren       
The Duke of Roxburghe died on 29th August. He was 64, a tragic victim of cancer. Guy Roxburghe was an impressive man in many ways and was given a substantial obituary in ‘The Scotsman’ and The Times. 

However, his achievements would not have been quite so prominently aired had he been plain Mr.

Who are the Scottish Dukes? How relevant are they in 2019?

The oldest and most senior is the Duke of Rothesay (a pleasant town on the Isle of Bute). The title was first given to David Stewart, son of Robert III of Scotland, in 1398. After David’s death it went to his brother, later King James I. Thereafter, the heir apparent to the Scottish Crown has held this dukedom and it is now the title used by HRH Prince Charles when in Scotland.

The other eight dukedoms, with dates of creation, are:

Duke of Hamilton, 1643 (Head of the Houses of Hamilton and Douglas).
Duke of Buccleuch, 1663 (Created for Anne Countess of Buccleuch, widow of the Duke of Monmouth, illegitimate son of Charles II. Chief of Clan Scott)
Duke of Lennox, 1675 (Created for Charles Lennox, illegitimate son of  Charles II)
Duke of Queensberry, 1684 (now held by the Dukes of Buccleuch)
Duke of Argyll, 1701 (Chief of Clan Campbell)
Duke of Atholl, 1703 (Chief of Clan Murray)
Duke of Montrose, 1707(support in the Act of Union, Chief of Clan Graham)
Duke of Roxburghe, 1707 (support in the Act of Union) 

Floors Castle by Kelso. Home of the Duke of Roxburghe.
If you strip out Lennox (lives in England), Atholl (lives in South Africa) and Queensberry (also Buccleuch), we are left with five dukes: Hamilton, Buccleuch, Argyll, Montrose and Roxburghe.

As a body these five are quite impressive: all of them big or massive landowners, four of them clan chiefs and one (Montrose) sits in the House of Lords. The Dukes of Hamilton and Argyll also have ceremonial roles; the latter Master of the Household of Scotland, the former Hereditary Bearer of the Crown of Scotland.

Perhaps more significantly, our dukes own four of the most significant furnished castles in Scotland. The Dukes of Buccleuch have both the magnificent Drumlanrig Castle and charming Bowhill House near Selkirk. The Duke of Argyll has Inveraray Castle (fascinating in its own right and also featured in Downton Abbey!) and the late Duke of Roxburghe was responsible for creating from his splendid home, Floors Castle, with its gardens and grounds, a fascinating and relaxed half day visit.

Inveraray Castle, Argyll, home of the Duke of Argyll.


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Where exactly is the Duchy of Albany?

Doune Castle
Visitors to the very fine Doune Castle will learn that it was built by Robert, Duke of Albany. Robert was the first person to own this enigmatic title which, unusually, has no relationship with any land. It was later given to the sons of kings prior to succeeding, or to younger sons (the best available title short of king). Other Dukes of Albany were Henry Lord Darnley, husband of Mary Queen of Scots, Charles I and James II.

The last Duke of Albany
Queen Victoria’s youngest son, Prince Leopold was created Duke of Albany in 1881, but was a haemophiliac and died aged 30. His son, Charles Edward, also reigning duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, was deprived of his British peerages and honours for having fought in the German Army (eventually as a general) during WWI.

‘Albany’ comes from the Celtic word Alba, the island of Great Britain as opposed to Ierne, Ireland. When the southern part of Britain became Anglo-Saxon, the name settled on the Celtic lands north of the Forth and Clyde. Today it means Scotland and at the Scottish border you’ll see Fàilte gu Alba, Welcome to Scotland.

‘Albany’ is the Anglo-Saxon rendering of Alba (Cf. Brittany, Saxony, Lombardy). The title was first created in 1398  for the said Robert Stewart, builder of Doune Castle, second son of King Robert II, who was a ruthless Regent for three Scottish kings - his father, brother and nephew - who for various reasons were unable to rule effectively.

Charlotte, Duchess of Albany
‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ latterly styled himself ‘Count of Albany’ and Charlotte, his daughter by Clementina Walkinshaw, was titled Duchess of Albany in the Jacobite Peerage. Charlotte herself had three illegitimate children, two girls and a son, Charles Edward, who became an officer in the Russian army. He told such tall tales of his origins and adventures that few believed his claims to royal descent until the 20th century when it was established that he was indeed who he had claimed to be. He died in 1854 as the result of a coach accident near Stirling Castle and is buried at Dunkeld Cathedral, where his grave can still be seen. He married twice but had no children.

But that, apparently, is not the end of the Duchy of Albany. At least not according to His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Albany, who styles himself 7th Duke of Albany due to his descent (6G grandson) from Prince Charles Edward Stuart through Comtesse Marguerite o’Dea d’Audibert de Lussan - not a familiar name to most. It’s a long story, told at length by Prince Michael in his book ‘The Forgotten Monarchy of Scotland’, available from Amazon in paperback £1.64p.




Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Clan Mackay

The Scottish Highlands was at one stage a patchwork of clan territories and I’m drawn to the idea of illuminating this heritage by re-establishing clan lands ‘on the ground’. Roadside signs announcing which bailiwick lies ahead would add character to our countryside and would also be great for tourism: members of the Diaspora would enjoy a surge of excitement, certain that they had arrived ‘home’.

Of course an agreed date would be needed because clan lands grew and contracted over the ages. And even then it wouldn’t be straightforward: the process of fixing the exact location of signs evokes a nice image of red-faced, kilted clan chiefs, tussling with cromachs to establish where boundaries belong.

Fanciful? Not entirely. With, so far as I know, no falling out with their neighbours, Clan Mackay staked out their territory back in 2004 with six "Mackay Country" signs. The lands are in the far North West and so signs were placed at KyleskuAchfary, Forsinard, Dalvina and on the A836 road at the Caithness/Sutherland border.



In Gaelic the name is rendered as Macaoidh, son of Hugh. They claim descent from both Somerled and the Celtic royal house, from both of whom they inherited a robust warrior spirit, much needed in early times as the Earls of Sutherland endeavoured to encroach on “Mackay Country”.

However by the 17th century their neighbours – Sinclairs, Sutherlands, MacLeods and Gunns - were presumably content and gave them relatively little trouble. The Mackays therefore had to go abroad for a fight: in 1626 Sir Donald Mackay took 3000 Mackays to fight for the King of Denmark in the Thirty Years' War. And in 1631 Lord Reay, the clan chief, raised another force for service with Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden; the earliest depiction of the kilt is assumed to be Mackays in the service of Gustavus Adolphus.


General Hugh Mackay of Scourie was a professional soldier. He fought the Turks on behalf of the Republic of Venice (1669), the French on behalf of the Dutch (1674) and commanded the army that faced the Jacobites at the Battle of Killiecrankie (1689), dying in the field at the Battle of Steinkirk (1692), in a doomed attack against the French, ordered by William of Orange (King William III)

During the Jacobite risings. Mackays were unwaveringly Hanoverian and produced two independent highland companies to oppose ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie. It was principally Mackays who won the skirmish at Littleferry near Golspie on 15 April 1746 and captured the Jacobite George Mackenzie, 3rd Earl of Cromartie at Dunrobin Castle.

The Clan Mackay Society is an active organisation, currently encouraging members to celebrate the tercentenary of the Battle of Gleshiel on the 9th of June – another occasion where idealistic Jacobites (this time including Rob Roy MacGregor) were defeated by hard-headed Hanoverians including the MacKays. 

If you venture up to Mackay Country don’t drive past the excellent Strathnaver Museum and find time if you can to walk up to Caisteal Bharraich.

Caisteal Bharraich



Monday, March 25, 2019

The Baronets of Nova Scotia and Bannockburn House


The above plaque, on the wall just by the entrance to Edinburgh Castle, is ignored by just about everyone. However this spot is, in some sense, a part of Nova Scotia, Canada and as a result, Baronetcies of Nova Scotia can be created here  - and were created here from 1624 to 1707.

It was all the idea of Sir William Alexander of Menstrie, courtier, poet and adventurer who took Nova Scotia, other parts of Maritime Canada, (and the present state of Maine) for his king, James VI of Scotland, 1st of England. In return he was given Long Island, New York which he sold! 

However most of the 329 Baronets of Nova Scotia lived happily in Scotland without so much as a look at the Atlantic, let alone crossing it. This was an early example of 'Cash for Honours'.

It is nicely summed up by Electric Scotland. He writes that Sir William suggested to his Majesty that "it might encourage development of a New Scotland if His Majesty were to offer a new order of baronets. The King liked the idea. After all, his creation of the Baronets of England in 1611 and the Baronets of Ireland in 1619 had raised £225,000 for the Crown. King James signed a grant in favour of Sir William Alexander covering all of the lands ‘ between our Colonies of New England and Newfoundland, to be known as New Scotland ’ (Nova Scotia in Latin), an area larger than Great Britain and France combined." 

About 100 of these baronetcies are still in existence. A display of the shields of the Arms of the Baronets of Nova Scotia is on display at Menstrie Castle.

Menstrie Castle
Most of these upwardly mobile lairds and their houses are forgotten by history, but the fine 17th century house of one has just had new life breathed into it. Sir Hugh Paterson of Bannockburn came from a family of staunch Lowland Jacobites and was convicted of treason after joining the 1715 Rising. He returned to Bannockburn and politics after the amnesty of 1717.

In 1746 during the siege of Stirling, Sir Hugh provided lodging for Bonnie Prince Charlie who fell ill of a fever and was nursed by Sir Hugh's niece, Clementina Walkinshaw, later the mother of his only child Charlotte.

Bannockburn House, just by the big Stirling interchange on the M9, was in private hands until bought recently by the community, www.bannockburnhouse.scot .

Bannockburn House




Sunday, March 10, 2019

Camelot by Kelso

Not many people go to Roxburgh Castle nowadays. It's a nice walk along the Borders Abbeys Way where Teviot joins Tweed, but nothing much to see...


In most history books it is only referred to as the place where King James II of Scotland was killed in 1460 by his own cannon exploding beside him (his nine year old son was then crowned James III in Kelso Abbey).

But before it was destroyed, Roxburgh Castle and its associated town to the east on what is now Friars Haugh, were a significant centre of power. In the time of King David I it was for a time the de facto capital of Scotland.

In the Middle Ages the town had as much importance as Edinburgh, Stirling or Perth; indeed it was the first recorded Scottish burgh. Situated on the Tweed, upstream from the major port of Berwick, and close by Dere Street, it was a substantial market town, exporting large quantities of raw wool and hides to Bruges, Ghent and beyond.

At that time the castle may have looked like this (with thanks to Andrew Spratt).


Roxburgh has also been closely associated with King Arthur, inspiring leader of a well disciplined mounted force that won a reported 13 battles, mostly in the lands north of Hadrian's Wall.

Writing about Roxburgh in his 'History of the Borders', historian Alistair Moffat writes, "Cavalry forts have special requirements and the castlemount and the wide haughland between the Tweed and the Teviot provide all of them...The ancient Celtic name of Roxburgh Castle was preserved and before the Angles came to change it, it was called Marchidun: in Old Welsh, the Horse Fort. Medieval and modern Arthurians would have preferred to call it Camelot."