Earl of Mar

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Original coat of arms of the Earls of Mar

Earl of Mar is a hereditary British title of nobility , which has been awarded a total of seven times in Peerage of Scotland .

In the Middle Ages , the early title was also synonymous mormaer of Mar called. The Earldom of Mar extended roughly over the area of ​​today's Area Committee Marr in Aberdeenshire . For a long time its most important seat was Kildrummy Castle .

A special feature is that since a legal dispute in the 19th century there have been two parallel titles of Earl of Mar, the award of which was set retrospectively for the years 1404 and 1565 respectively. The Earls of Mar between 1565 and 1836 held both titles - "unrecognized" at their time - in personal union.

Early sources and first creation

The first Mormaer / Earl of Mar was Ruadrí for a long time , first mentioned in 1114/15 as a witness in the founding deed of Scone Abbey . He is also mentioned in the Book of Deer around 1131 . Modern history was probably able to identify even earlier Mormaers of Mar with Muirchertach ( Latinized : Martachus ) and Gartnait (also: Gratnach). They are in documents of King Malcolm III. in connection with culdees or I. Alexander mentioned. An unequivocal assignment is difficult, however. In the Irish Annals , in the description of the Battle of Clontarf, there is a reference to a "Domnall, son of Eimen, son of Cainnech, Mormaer of Mar in Alba" among Brian Boru's companions who were killed .

The first seats of the Mormaers of Mar were Migvie and Doune of Invernochty . The Mormaertum probably switched between two different groups at the beginning, one represented by Morggán , the other represented by Gille Críst . After Donnchadh , a descendant of Morggán, came into his inheritance, it appears that a dispute between the two lines began. The country was subsequently divided into two independent dominions. While Donnchadh retained the title and claimed the richer and more militarily usable highlands, Thomas de Lundin , a descendant of Gille Críst, took over the female line, the lower-lying and agriculturally usable coastal areas.

Domhnall II obtained the title of Lord of Garioch through his wife in 1320 , which has since been assigned to the Earl of Mar as a subsequent title. This first line of Mormaers died out in the male line with Thomas, 9th Earl of Mar , who died childless in 1374. The title was carried on iure uxoris by William Douglas, 1st Earl of Douglas .

15th - 18th century

Mars Wark, an estate owned by the Earls of Mar, is located at the entrance to Stirling Castle . The Earls of Mar ruled the castle in the mid-16th century.

The first last legitimate winner of the first title was Isabel Douglas, 11th Countess of Mar . She married Alexander Stewart on December 9, 1404 , who after official confirmation by the crown in 1405 led the title iure uxoris . Alexander Stewart illegally continued the title even after Isabel's childless death in 1408; It was not until 1426 that he returned the title so that King James I could give it back to him - with new rights. This happened on May 28, 1426 with the special decree that the title "Earl of Mar" could also fall on his illegitimate son Thomas in the absence of legitimate male descendants, but who died childless in 1435 shortly before his father.

Since Stewart left no other legitimate sons, King James I withdrew the title including the associated lands when Stewart died in 1435. Soon afterwards there was a legal dispute between King James II and Robert Erskine, 1st Lord Erskine . The latter was a descendant of Gartnait, 7th Earl of Mar through his mother and therefore the legitimate title heir to Isabel Douglas. The king finally overruled the claims of Lord Erskine and made his youngest son John Stewart , who however died childless before his father in 1479, the new Earl of Mar. He was followed in January 1483 by the second eldest son of James II, Alexander Stewart , whose title was withdrawn from his father that same year due to his alliance with the English.

On March 2, 1486, James III appointed his son John Stewart Earl of Mar, but this award only lasted until his childless death in 1503. The sixth award then took place in 1562 to James Stewart , the illegitimate son of Jacob V. In 1565 he rebelled against Maria Stuart who, in response, recognized the claim to the title of John Erskine , the descendant of Robert Erskine.

His descendant John Erskine, 23rd Earl of Mar , rebelled against the crown during the Jacobite Uprising of 1715 and lost the title of "Earl of Mar" in 1716 by a parliamentary resolution . The title was vacant for over a century.

19th century

In 1824 the Earldom was finally restored by a resolution of Parliament and bestowed on John Francis Erskine , a descendant of the Earl, who was ostracized in 1716. His grandson John Francis Miller Erskine was also able to successfully claim the inheritance of the title Earl of Kellie for himself in 1835 . After his childless death, the family titles (Earl of Mar and Earl of Kellie) were shared between two branches of the family. While the cousin (son of an uncle) of the deceased, Walter Coningsby Erskine , and after him his heirs, should carry on the title "Earl of Kellie", the title "Earl of Mar" went to the nephew (son of the sister), John Francis Erskine Goodeve-Erskine . The latter changed his name to John Goodeve-Erskine.

Litigation over the Earl of Mar

John Goodeve-Erskine was first recognized in his claims and, as Earl of Mar, took on the parliamentary duties of a Peer of Scotland. Nonetheless, Walter Erskine soon petitioned the House of Lords before the Committee on Privileges that he should be awarded the Earl of Mar as well as the Earl of Kellie.

The petition was based on the following arguments:

  1. The original Earldom of Mar was as a territorial earldom "inextricably linked" to the land belonging to it.
  2. At the time, Alexander Stewart received the title independently and did not derive it from his wife's right. The land belonging to it also fell to the crown after his death and was given elsewhere.
  3. Because the original earldom was inextricably linked with the land, the loss of the land must automatically have lost the title.
  4. Since the original earldom thus no longer existed, the title awarded in 1565 was not a restoration of the previously existing one, but rather a newly created one.
  5. Since the certificate of the award of 1565 has not been received, it must be assumed that according to the usual regulation, only male heirs are entitled to succession for the title and not all heirs in general.

Goodeve-Erskine defended himself against this interpretation by making his own arguments for his title claim:

  1. Alexander Stewart, who had illegally taken possession of the land, was expropriated by James I in an equally illegal, tyrannical act of his land. In fact, the land should have been under the control of Robert, Lord Erskine.
  2. The “real” Earls of Mar would never have recognized this double expropriation (by Alexander Stewart and James II).
  3. The bestowal of 1565 by Maria Stuart was therefore not a new creation, but rather a restoration of old rights.
  4. Since the title was thus the restoration of an old territorial title, it could be passed on to all heirs - including women.

The House of Lords Committee on Privileges decided in 1875, to the general dissatisfaction, that the Earldom had actually been rebuilt on July 20, 1565. Therefore, the title can only be passed on within the male line, and the Earl of Kellie can therefore also be used as Earl of Mar. The Lord Chancellor Roundell Palmer declared that this judgment, whether right or wrong, was final and should not be questioned.

The number of votes that viewed the committee's decision as a wrong decision increased in the following years. In 1885, the “Earldom of Mar Restitution Act” was finally passed without dissenting votes in parliament. He explained that due to the doubts about the circumstances of the awarding of the title of 1565 one must assume that there are actually two Earls of Mar. The Earldom, newly created in 1565, should remain with the Earl of Kellie and his male heirs. Nonetheless, the territorial Earldom of Mar still exists and is run by John Goodeve-Erskine and his heirs. In order to clarify any questions about priority , the year 1404 (the year of the unlawful appropriation of the title by Alexander Stewart) was formally declared the year of the creation of the title bestowed on Goodeve-Erskine. Since this act of law, two families are legally entitled to the title of "Earl of Mar".

List of Mormaers and Earls of Mar

The early Mormaers of Mar

Names, order and times cannot be clearly proven historically.

  • Melbridga (around 890)
  • Cainnech (?)
  • Emin (or Emkin, Eimen) MacCainnech (before 1014)
  • Domhnall (or Donald) MacEmin († 1014), fell at the Battle of Clontarf
  • Muirchertach (around 1065–1115)
  • Gratnach (or Gartnait, Gratney) (?)

The early Earls of Mar (around 1114)

Earl of Mar, first bestowal (1404)

This award was established in 1885 by the "Earldom of Mar Restitution Act". It is basically a continuation of the previous title, which is why the usual ordinal number continues counting since 1114, depending on whether the illegitimate 12th Earl Alexander Stewart is counted or not, Robert Erskine is counted as 13th or 12th Earl. Alternatively, counting is restarted from 1404 with Robert Erskine as 1st Earl. The current title holder can be counted as the 31st, 30th or 19th Countess. The following list follows the first mentioned counting variant. Persons who were only awarded the title “Earl of Mar” posthumously are marked with de iure .

The heir ( Heir Apparent ) is the eldest daughter of the current Countess, Susan of Mar, Mistress of Mar (* 1963).

Earl of Mar, second bestowal (1426)

Earl of Mar, third bestowal (1459)

Earl of Mar, fourth bestowal (1483)

Earl of Mar, fifth bestowal (1486)

Earl of Mar, sixth bestowal (1562)

Earl of Mar, seventh bestowal (1565)

This award was established retrospectively in 1875 by the House of Lords Committee on Privileges. Persons who were only awarded one of the two titles "Earl of Mar" posthumously are marked with de iure .

The heir ( heir presumptive ) is the brother of the current Earl, Alexander David Erskine (* 1952).


  • The ballad "The Earl of Mar's Daughter" recorded by Francis James Child in the late 19th century deals with the title of nobility, at least in name.


Web links

Notes and individual references

  1. ^ Iain Moncreiffe of that Ilk, Don Pottinger (ed.): Scotland of Old: Clan Names Map . Bartholomew, Edinburgh 1991, ISBN 978-0-7028-1709-0 .
  2. Paul, 1909 mentions on page 589 “after Armorial of Gelde , c. 1370 "
  3. While the older, territorial titles made it possible to pass on to any descendants (including women), this was usually not possible with the later titles of peerage. Here the title could only be passed on via male descendants, unless a different regulation was explicitly stated in the award certificate.
  4. ^ The ballad The Earl of Mar's Daughter.
  5. The different ordinal number as “11. Earl ”is obtained by counting from the (subsequently determined) award date 1404.