Eglinton, Earls Of
EGLINTON, EARLS OF. The title of earl of Eglinton has been held by the famous Scottish family of Montgomerie since 1508. The attempts made to trace the descent of this house to Roger of Montgomery, earl of Shrewsbury (d. 1094), one of William the Conqueror's followers, will not bear examination, and the sure pedigree of the family only begins with Sir John Montgomerie, lord of Eaglesham, who fought at the battle of Otterbourne in 1388 and died about 1398. His grandson, Sir Alexander Montgomerie (d. c. 1460), was made a lord of the Scottish parliament about 1445 as Lord Montgomerie, and Sir Alexander's great-grandson Hugh, the 3rd lord (c. 1460-1545), was created earl of Eglinton, or Eglintoun, in 1508. Hugh, who was a person of importance during the minority of James V., was succeeded by his grandson Hugh (d. 1546), and then by the latter's son Hugh (c. 1531-1585), who became 3rd earl of Eglinton. This nobleman was a firm supporter of Mary queen of Scots, for whom he fought at Langside, and of the Roman Catholic Church; his son and successor, Hugh, was murdered in April 1586 by the Cunninghams, a family with which his own had an hereditary blood feud. In 1612, by the death of Hugh, the 5th earl, the male line of the Montgomeries became extinct.
Having no children Earl Hugh had settled his title and estates on his cousin, Sir Alexander Seton of Foulstruther (1588-1661), a younger son of Robert Seton, 1st earl of Wintoun (c. 1550-1603), and his wife Margaret, daughter of the 3rd earl of Eglinton. Alexander, who thus became the 6th earl of Eglinton and took the name of Montgomerie, was commonly called Greysteel; he was a prominent Covenanter and fought against Charles I. at Marston Moor. Later, however, he supported the cause of Charles II., and fell into the hands of Cromwell, who imprisoned him. His fifth son, Robert Montgomerie (d. 1684), a soldier of distinction, fought against Cromwell at Dunbar and at Worcester, afterwards escaping from the Tower of London and serving in Denmark. Robert's elder brother, Hugh, 7th earl of Eglinton (1613-1669), who also fought against Cromwell, was the grandfather of Alexander, the 9th earl (c. 1660-1729), who married, for his third wife, Susannah (1689-1780), daughter of Sir Archibald Kennedy, Bart., of Culzean, a lady celebrated for her wit and beauty. Alexander, the 10th earl (1723-1769), a son of the 9th earl, was one of the first of the Scottish landowners to carry out improvements on his estates. He was shot near Ardrossan by an excise officer named Mungo Campbell on the 24th of October 1769. His brother and successor, Archibald, the 11th earl (1726-1796), raised a regiment of Highlanders with which he served in America during the Seven Years' War. As he left no male issue he was succeeded in the earldom by his kinsman Hugh Montgomerie (1739-1819), a descendant of the 6th earl, who was created a peer of the United Kingdom as Baron Ardrossan in 1806. Before succeeding to the earldom Hugh had served in the American war and had been a member of parliament; after this event he began to rebuild Eglinton castle on a magnificent scale and to construct a harbour at Ardrossan.
This earl's successor was his grandson, Archibald William, the 13th earl (1812-1861), who was born at Palermo on the 29th of September 1812. His father was Archibald, Lord Montgomerie (1773-1814), the eldest son of the 12th earl, and his mother was Mary (d. 1848), a daughter of the 11th earl. Educated at Eton, the young earl's main object of interest for some years was the turf; he kept a large racing stud and won success and reputation in the sporting world. In 1839 his name became more widely known in connexion with the famous tournament which took place at Eglinton castle and is said to have cost him £30,000 or £40,000. This was made the subject of much ridicule and was partly spoiled by the unfavourable weather, the rain falling in torrents. Yet it was a real tournament and the "knights" broke their spears in the orthodox way. Prince Louis Napoleon (Napoleon III.) took part in it, and Lady Seymour, a daughter of Thomas Sheridan and the wife of Lord Seymour, afterwards 12th duke of Somerset, was the queen of beauty. A list of the challengers with an account of the jousts and the melée will be found in the volume on the tournament written by John Richardson, with drawings by J. H. Nixon. It is also described by Disraeli in Endymion. Eglinton was a staunch Tory, and in February 1852 he became lord-lieutenant of Ireland under the earl of Derby. He retired with the ministry in the following December, having by his princely hospitality made himself one of the most popular of Irish viceroys. When Derby returned to office in February 1858 he was again appointed lord-lieutenant, and he discharged the duties of this post until June 1859. In this year he was created earl of Winton, an earldom which had been held by his kinsfolk, the Setons, from 1600 until 1716, when George Seton, the 5th earl (c. 1678-1749), was deprived of his honours for high treason. The earl died on the 4th of October 1861, and was succeeded by his eldest son Archibald William (1841-1892). When this earl died in 1892 his younger brother George Arnulph (b. 1848) became 15th earl of Eglinton and 3rd earl of Winton.
See Sir W. Fraser, Memorials of the Montgomeries, earls of Eglinton (1859).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)