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March, Scottish Earls Of

MARCH, SCOTTISH EARLS OF. The Scottish earls of March were descended from Crinan, whose son Maldred married Algitha, daughter of Ughtred, earl of Northumberland, by Elgiva, daughter of the Saxon king AEthelred. Maldred's son Cospatrick, or Gospatrick, was made earl of Northumberland by William the Conqueror; but being soon afterwards deprived of this position he fled to Scotland, where Malcolm Canmore, king of Scotland, welcomed him and granted him Dunbar and the adjoining lands. Two generations of Cospatricks followed in lineal succession, bearing the title of earl, but without territorial designation. Cospatrick II. witnessed the charter of Alexander I. founding the abbey of Scone in 1115. The 3rd earl, also named Cospatrick, a liberal benefactor of Melrose Abbey, died in 1166, leaving two sons, the younger of whom was the ancestor of the earls of Home. The elder son, Waltheof, was the first of the family to be styled " Comes de Dunbar," about the year 1174. His importance is proved by the fact that he was one of the hostages for the performance of the Treaty of Falaise for the liberation of William the Lion in 1175. Waltheof 's son Patrick Dunbar (the name Dunbar, derived from the family estates, now becoming an hereditary surname), styled sth earl of Dunbar, although his father had been the first to adopt the territorial designation, was keeper of Berwick Castle, and married Ada, natural daughter of William the Lion. His grandson Patrick, 7th earl, headed the party that liberated King Alexander III. in 1255 from the Comyns, and in the same year was nominated guardian of the king and queen by the Treaty of Roxburgh. He signed the Treaty of Perth (July 6, 1 266) by which Magnus VI. of Norway ceded the Isle of Man and the Hebrides to Scotland. His wife was Christian, daughter of Robert Bruce, the competitor for the crown of Scotland.


(1) - 8th earl of Dunbar and 1st earl of March, claimed the crown of Scotland in 1291 as descendant of Ada, daughter of William the Lion. He was one of the " seven earls of Scotland," a distinct body separate from the other estates of the realm, who claimed the right to elect a king in cases of disputed succession, and whose authority was, perhaps, to be traced to the seven provinces of the Pictish kingdom. He was the first of the earls of Dunbar to appear in the records as " comes de Marchia," or earl of March. Like most of his family in later times, he was favourable to the English interest in Scottish affairs, and he did homage to Edward I. of England. His wife Marjory, -daughter of Alexander Comyn, earl of Buchan, took the other side and held the castle of Dunbar for Baliol, but was forced to surrender it to Edward in 1296. In 1298 he was appointed the English king's lieutenant in Scotland.

(2) - (1285-1360), 9th earl of Dunbar and 2nd earl of March, son of the preceding, gave refuge to Edward II. of England after Bannockburn, and contrived his escape by sea to England. Later, he made peace with Robert Bruce, and by him was appointed governor of Berwick Castle, which he held against Edward III. until the defeat of the Scots at Halidon Hill (July 19, 1333) made it no longer tenable. His countess, known in Scottish history and romance as " Black Agnes," daughter of Thomas Randolph, earl of Moray (Murray), and grandniece of Robert Bruce, is famous for her defence of Dunbar Castle against the English under the earl of Salisbury in 1338, Salisbury being forced to abandon the attempt after a fierce siege lasting nineteen weeks. This lady succeeded to the estates and titles of her brother, John Randolph, 3rd earl of Moray. The earldom of Moray passed after her death to her second son, John Dunbar, who married Marjory, daughter of King Robert II. Black Agnes also bore to the earl of March two daughters, the elder of whom, Agnes, after being the mistress of King David II., married Sir James Douglas, lord of Dalkeith, from whom were descended the first three earls of Morton; the younger, Elizabeth, married John Maitland of Lethington, ancestor of the duke of Lauderdale, whose second title was marquess of March.


(1) - (d. 1420), 10th earl of Dunbar and 3rd earl of March, great-nephew of the 8th earl and warden of the marches, accompanied Douglas in his foray into England in 1388, and commanded the Scots after Otterburn. He afterwards quarrelled with the Douglases, because his daughter was passed over in favour of a daughter of Archibald, " the Grim Earl of Douglas," as wife for David, duke of Rothesay, son of Robert III. When Douglas seized March's lands the latter fled to England, where he was welcomed by Henry IV., to whom he was related. He fought on the English side at Homildon Hill; and, having revealed to Henry the defection of the Percies, who were in league with Douglas and Owen Glendower, he fought against those allies at the battle of Shrewsbury (July 23, 1403). Becoming reconciled with Douglas, he returned to Scotland in 1409, and was restored to his earldom by the regent Albany. He died in 1420.

(2) - 11th earl of Dunbar and 4th earl of March, was one of the negotiators for the release of James I. of Scotland in 1423 from his captivity in England, and was knighted at that king's coronation. In 1434, however, on the ground that the regent had had no power to reverse his father's forfeiture for treason, March was imprisoned and his castle of Dunbar seized by the king; and the parliament at Perth declared his lands and titles forfeited to the crown. The earl, being released, retired to England with his son Patrick, whose daughter and heiress Margaret was ancestress of Patrick, sth earl of Dumfries, now represented by the marquess of Bute.

The earldom of March in the house of Dunbar having thus been forfeited to the crown, James II. in 1455 conferred the title, together with that of warden of the marches, on his second son Alexander, duke of Albany; but this prince entered into treasonable correspondence with Edward IV. of England, and in 1487 the earldom of March and the barony and castle of Dunbar were again declared forfeited and annexed to the crown of Scotland.

The title of earl of March was next held by the house of Lennox. In 1576 the earldom of Lennox became extinct on the death without male issue of Charles (father of Lady Arabella Stuart), sth earl of Lennox; and it was then revived in favour of Robert Stuart, a grand-uncle of King James VI., second son of John, 3rd earl of Lennox. But in 1579 Esme Stuart, a member of a collateral branch which in 1508 had inherited the lordship of Aubigny in France, came to Scotland and obtained much favour with James VI. The earldom of Lennox (soon afterwards raised to a dukedom) was taken from Robert and conferred upon Esm6; and Robert was compensated by being created earl of March and baron of Dunbar (1582). Robert died without legitimate issue in 1586, when the earldom of March again reverted to the crown. In 1619 Esme, 3rd duke of Lennox, was created earl of March ; and his son James was created duke of Richmond in 1641. On the death without issue of Charles, 6th duke of Lennox and 3rd duke of Richmond, in 1672, his titles devolved upon King Charles II. as nearest collateral heir-male. In 1675 Charles conferred the titles of duke of Richmond and Lennox and earl of March on Charles. Lennox, his natural son by Louise de Keroualle, duchess of Portsmouth, from whom the earldom of March has descended to its present holder the duke of Richmond and Gordon. (See RICHMOND, EARLS AND DUKES or; and LENNOX.)

The title of earl of March in the peerage of Scotland, by another creation, was conferred in 1697 on William Douglas, second son of William, 1st duke of Queensberry. His grandson William, 3rd earl of March, became 4th duke of Queensberry on the death without surviving male issue of his cousin Charles, 3rd duke of Queensberry, in 1778. Dying unmarried in 1810, the several titles of the duke passed to different branches of the house of Douglas. The earldom of March is stated by Sir Bernard Burke and other authorities to have devolved upon Francis, 8th earl of Wemyss, great-great-grandson of David, 3rd earl of Wemyss, whose wife was Anne, daughter of the 1st duke of Queensberry and sister of the 1st earl of March; and the title is now assumed by the earl of Wemyss. On the other hand, Francis, 8th earl of Wemyss, not having been an heir of the body of the 1st earl of March, Sir Robert Douglas says in The Peerage of Scotland that on the death of the 4th duke of Queensberry in 1810 " the earldom of March, it is supposed, became extinct."

See Andrew Lang, History of Scotland (4 vols., London, 1900- 1907); Sir Bernard Burke, A Genealogical History of Dormant and Extinct Peerages (London, 1866); Sir Robert Douglas, The Peerage of Scotland (2 vols., Edinburgh 1813); Lady Elizabeth Cust, Some Account of the Stuarts of Aubigny in France (London, 1891). (R. J- M.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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