CASE, and ABSTRACT of the EVIDENCE
THE EARL OF EGLINTON,
GEORGE THE FOURTH EARL OF WINTON, LORD SEATON,
The Honour which were so long held by the family of Seaton of Winton, possess an interest beyond even the representation of a Scottish earldom of nearly two centuries and a half, derived from the great antiquity, high achievements, and extended connections of the House. The step by which Lord proposes to establish his right to these honours will connect him with a line of ancestry reaching back to a period and resting upon titles, which he is advised are of rare occurrence. The honours are destined, in the first place, to heirs-male, and ultimately to heirs whomsoever; and Lord Eglinton, by establishing his right to the male representation of the House of Seaton, will place himself, upon the authority of legal evidence, in the highly honourable station of being entitled to be recognized, not only as the head of he principal family, but of the numerous other noble families who claim to be descended from the Seatons in the male line; and he will also unite in his person the Earldom of Winton with that of Eglinton, and the surname and representation of both the noble Houses from which he derives his descent.
Robert first Earl of Winton, with whom Lord is directly to connect himself by the present proceedings, was descended in the direct male line from Dougall Setoun, the first of the family whose Christian name is known. According to Sir Richard Maitland of Lethington, who began about 1545 to write a genealogical account of the family, and carried it down to November 1559, and who is acknowledged to be an authentic and valuable authority, and to Viscount Kingston, who wrote in 1687, and continued to account till that year, this Dougall lived in the time of Alexander the First, son of Malcolm Canmore, who began to reign in 1109, and was either the son or grandson of the first of the family who took the surname of Setoun. It is established that the family, even at that early period, had attained a degree of eminence by the fact, that “Alexander de Settune” appears as one of the witnesses to a charter by King David the First, “Waltero Riddell”, of the lands of “Lilisclive, Wittune”, &c. This charter which is better known as containing the only extant grant of lands made by David the First to a Laic, bears no date, but it must have been granted between 1124 and 1153, the dates of David’s succession and death.
It is stated by Maitland, that Dougall was succeeded by his son Saher de Setoun, and that Saher was succeeded by his son Philip, who lived in the time of Malcolm the Maiden and William the Lion. And this account is confirmed by a series of royal charters, commencing not long after the death of Dougall, granted by William the Lion in favour of this Philip and his successors. These very ancient titles prove not only the existence of the successive members of the family at this early period, now early 700 years ago, but that they then enjoyed those high judicial powers peculiar to the Majores Barones, and possessed the same extensive estates in East and West Lothian, which continued to be inherited by the family down to 1716, when they were forfeited in the person of George the Fifth and last Earl of Winton, the lineal male descendant of the family.
The first of these royal grants is a Charter of Confirmation by William the Lion, dated at “Strinelin” the fifth year of his reign (1169), whereby the King grants “Phillippa de Setune”, the grandson of Dougall), “TERRAM QU Æ FUIT PATRIS SUI, ‘scilicet Setune et Wintune et Wincelburh/ Tenend, sibi et haeredibus suis, de me, et haeredibus meis in fendo et haereditate,’ and there are conferred those high judicial powers which were peculiar to the Greater Barons. In some of the old copies of this charter, the words of the Quae quidem are, “Quae fait Saheri patris sui,” ---thus mentioning Philip’s father by name ‘Saher’. The charter, however, even without the father’s name of Saher, proves that the extensive estates were held in capite of the Crown, not only by Philip, the donee in 1169, but by ‘his Father’.
The next of the early royal charters is also one of Confirmation by King William dated ‘apud Forfar, 16 Junij in the sixth year of his reign, (1170), and confirms ‘Alexandro filio Philippi de Setune, terram quae fui Philippe patris sui, scilicet Setune et ‘Wintune et Wincelburgh, tenend, sibi et haeredibus uis de me et haeredibus meis in feudo et haereditate,’ &c. ‘Sicut carta patri suo inde facta testatur’.
The originals of these two royal charters of the twelfth century remained among the other family muniments in the Winton Charter Chest down to the forfeiture in 1716. They wee transcribed in 1628 by Sir James Balfour, Lord Lyon to Charles he First, and there is prefixed to the copies which have been published, the following minute in Sir James’ own handwriting, preserved among his collections in the Harloian Miscellany, in the British Museum --- ‘Minute of thee Evidences’. “I” (Sir James) had from the Earl of Wintoun for the prouffs of his antiquitie, in anno 1628’. The original charters were also examined and copies at Seaton Palace, early in last century, by Anderson, the well-known antiquary and author of the Diplomata Scotia, on account of their value and extreme rarity, and the following note was affixed by him to the copies: ‘Sept. 24, 1701, I copied these two charters from the originals at Seton, by the ‘noble courtesy of the Earl of Winton’. And it is stated in the notes to the edition of Maitland and Kingston’s History of the House of Setoun, that ‘the transcripts’ (by Anderson) ‘are still preserved, being now, in the possession of Mr. Dillon, one of the members of the Maitland Club. Other antiquaries have also published excerpts from these charters. The earliest of them, namely that by William the Lion to Philip de Setoun in 1169, is still extant, and a copy of it bears a certificate by Mr. A. Macdonald, Depute Lion Clerk, that it was ‘faithfully copied from a transcript made by myself form the “original charter preserved in the General Register House, 14th January 1839”.
Besides these two royal grants, proving three generations of the family to have succeeded each other in the extensive family estates at the early period of the twelfth century, there is another royal charter equally establishing the succession of the next immediate male descendant. This is also a Charter of Confirmation by king William in the seventh year of his reign, whereby the King confirms ‘Bartrnno, filio Alexandri de Settone’, a grant made to him by Patrick Dunbar Earl of March, ‘Terrarum de Richel Kellock, &c.
The successive male descendants of the family fro Bertrand, who obtained the Royal Charter in 1171, down to the first Earl of Winton in 1600, with whom Lord is now directly to connect himself, could, wee this requisite, be equally proved by the title deeds of the family, but this is unnecessary in the present proceedings, although some of the Crown Charters and other documentary evidence, may come to be incidentally noticed. There is one document, however, which may be mentioned for its singular value, as instructing of itself every individual line of the whole chain of male descent even from Philip de Setune, the donee in the Royal Grant of 1169, down to George the third Earl of Winton in 1630, being a period of four centuries and a half. This is a decreet of he Court of Session obtained in 1620, at the instance of George the third Earl of Winton and Robert Seton, his brother. The action in which it was pronounced related to the lands of Langniddrie, which were comprehended in the lands of Neaton, part of those granted by the two charters of William the Lion to Philip and Alexander de Seyton successively, and, in order to establish its object, it was necessary for the pursuers to deduce their propinquity in the male line, through the whole course of descent, from Philip de Setune himself downwards to the succession of George the third Earl of Winton, which was done accordingly, and the descent was satisfactorily established, as it formed he groundwork of the decreet. It is unnecessary to quote from the decreet the whole of the long line of descent, George the third Earl of Winton and Robert his brother, the pursuers, are described as ‘heirs of the deceased Robert (first) Earl of Winton yair feather, unquhill George Lord Seyton, your guidschir, umquhill George Lord Seyton, yair foirgrandschir, &c; and the pedigree is thus traced, step by step, through the whole line back to Philip de Setoun, the donce in the royal charter by William the Lion in 1169. The early members of the pedigree are set down as follows:--Bertrinus Seyton, foirgrandschires guidschir to the ‘said umquhill William Lord Seyton, (the first Lord Seyton, and who forms the middle link in the propinquity), umquhill schir Alexander Seyton, foirgrandschirs grandschire to the said umpuhill William Lord Seyton; Philip Seyton of that Ilk, foirgrandschires foirgrandschir to the said umpuhill William Lord Seyton.
This document is in precise conformity with the royal charters in relation to the three, which alone it mentions, of the four consecutive and earlier members of the family, and equally as the charters, establishes that Philip, the son of Saher, and the donee in the charter 1169, was the father of Alexander de Seton, who was the father of Bertrand Seytoun. Insofar, too, as the pedigree has been here quoted, there are shewn in addition to this Philip, William the first Lord Seaton, who lived before 1366, and George third Earl of Winton, who succeeded in 1607. The whole of the intermediate links during the long period embraced in the decreet, are all equally fixed by this judicial proceeding. The descent resting upon this clear and articulate judicial evidence, is thus carried from the year 1169, in the person of the donee in the Royal Charter of that year, down to 1620, when George the third Earl of Winton similarly held the estates of the Crown. And this document, when joined with the legal evidence contained in the detailed Abstract about to be submitted, establishes, that Lord is actually the heir male of Philip de Settune, who was the donce in the charter by William the Lion in 1169, and who was grandson and heir-male of Dougall de Setoun, recorded by Sir Richard Maitland and Viscount Kingston to have lived in 1109; and, it is submitted, would entitle his Lordship, were he so desirous, to be served heir male, at least to this ancestor, Philip, who lived nearly 700 years ago.
In place, therefore, of the antiquity of the Seaton family resting upon fable or tradition, no less than four generations are established at a period so remote as 670 years ago, by means of three Royal Charters directly in favour of individual members of the family, and two of which contain the lands which the family continued to enjoy down to 1715.
It is thus instructed by the earliest records in Scotland, that in the 12th century the direct ancestors of the Earls of Winton flourished as the baronial family of Seaton, the possessors, holding in capite of the Crown, of the extensive properties of Seaton and Winton, in East Lothian, and of Winchburgh, the principal castle of which was Niddry in Linlithgowshire. These identical properties continued to be enjoyed by their descendants until the forfeiture in 1716, with the exception of Winchburg, or the barony of Niddry, as it was subsequently termed, which, along with the office of hereditary sheriff of Linlihgowshire, was sold in the middle of the 17th century, to enable the family to defray the expenses brought upon them by their loyal adherence to the unfortunate Charles I.
So early as the reign of David the First in 1124, the family had an established surname, by its use respectively by ‘Alexander de Seton’, about 1121, and ‘Philip de Setune” in 1169. And the descendants of the family now enjoy the rare distinction of inheriting high honours from ancestors whose descent is established by such remarkable title-deeds, and who can instruct an uninterrupted and uniform male descent for a period of upwards of seven centuries and a half. The sirname of Setoun, it may be mentioned, was of old variously syllabicated, viz Seatun, Seaton, Setton, and Setun, but are all the same name.
From the earliest period, the Seaton family appears to have been not less distinguished for the conspicuous, part which they took in the affairs of the country than for the unshaken loyalty with which they ever supported in throne of Scotland. The mention of some of the members who are more prominently before the public during the ages in which they lived, will afford an opportunity of introducing to notice some parts of the evidence which exists, in addition to that which has already been stated, by which the great antiquity and unbroken chain of descent of the family in instructed. Sir Christell or Christopher Setoun, the ninth in direct male descent from Dougall, who lived in 1109, is frequently alluded to in Scottish history as the companion in arms of Wallace and of Bruce. In Barbour’s History of Bruce, and Henry’s Metrical History of Wallace, both of whom wrote shortly after the events they commemorate, he is frequently alluded to, and is termed the ‘good’ an the ‘bold’ Baron. It was Sir Christell who so gallantly rescued King Robert Bruce at Methven, and who afterwards married King Robert’s sister, Christian Bruce. Having subsequently been beheaded by Edward of England for his adherence to the cause of his royal relative, Bruce founded a chapel to his memory at Dunfries, where Christopher Seaton, his good brother, was ‘slain in his Majesty’s service’.
One of the royal grants under which the Family held their estates, is by that King, and granted little more than a century after the date of the last of the Royal Charters which have been previously mentioned. It is to Sir Alexander Setoun, the son of Sir Christell, and Bruce’s nephew, the head of the family, and a man of great note and gallantry, of the barony of Tranent, (Travernent,) which had been forfeited in the persons of the co-heiresses of Roger de Quincey, Earl of Winchester, and Constable of Scotland, and who had himself, granted a charter of certain annualrents out of these lands, ‘Seyero de Settone filio Dungalli’, these being the same names as were borne by the first two members of the family.
Besides the patriotism and martyrdom of this intrepid companion and brother-in-law of Bruce, there is recorded in the Histories of Scotland, although at the time studiously suppressed in those of England, the heroic defence of Berwick in 1335, by Sir Alexander Setoun, the grandson of Sir Christopher, who from the ramparts witnesses the death of his two sons, rather than yield that ‘Key’ of his country to the English under Edward, -- See Hector Boece; Satan’s Invisible World Discovered, written about 1661, printed at Edinburgh 1685; Bannatyne and Maitland Club edition, p. 109; and MS History of the Family of Gordon, pages 15 and 16.
William the first Lord Setoun, who was thirteenth in direct male descent from Dougall, lived before 1366, and was the first creatit and maid Lord in the Parliament and he and his posteritie to have ane voit yairin, and be called Lordie. In addition to this record of the fact by Sir Richard Maitland, that William was the first created Lord of Parliament, and consequently Premier Baron of Scotland, the following among other authorities may be referred to; 1st, In the Parliament held at Scone, 26th March 1371, at the coronation of Robert II, there was present amongst the Nobiles Barones, Dus de Seton, 2d, Bond dated 30th January 1387, by Willms de Seton Du ejusd, 3d, Charter dated 10th March 1392, by Willm de Seton Dnm ejusd. 4th, Indentor dated 8th March 1392, by Nobilem virum Dnm Willm de Seton, Dnm ejusd. 5th, Reversion dated 9th February 1412, styles Magnificus et potens Dn Meus Dm Joh de Seton, Dn ejusd. All the preceding title deeds are in the Winton charter chest.
The eldest daughter of William Lord Setoun, named Catherine, was married to Sir Allan Stuart of Darnley, direct male ancestor of Henry Lord Darnley, the husband of Queen Mary, and father of James Sixth, and from whom the Stuart family, who subsequently filled the throne, and also the reigning family, are thus descended.
Sir Alexander Setoun, second son to William first Lord Setoun, was married to Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Adam Gordon, and heiress of that ancient family; and the noble families of Gordon and Huntly trace their descent from that marriage. The immediate issue of this marriage still kept the sirname of Setoun, even when created Lords Gordon and Earls of Huntly, and gave the preference also to the Setoun arms; and it was only eventually that they exclusively adopted the sirname of Gordon, although retaining the former bearing as their descendants continue to do. George Setoun, second Earl of Huntly, Lord Gordon, &c, married the Princess Annabella, daughter of James I, by whom he had several children, of whom numerous descendants among the Scottish nobility exist at this day.
The ducal house of Sutherland in the person of the late Duchess-Countess, sprung from Adam Seton or Gordon, the great-grandson of William first Lord Seaton, who in consequence of his marriage with Elizabeth Countess of Sutherland, became Earl of Sutherland. This house, also, after its junction with the Seaton family, for a time gave the arms of their paternal ancestry the precedence; and when they afterwards took the surname of Sutherland, they still inserted the coat of Seaton, namely, the three crescents within the royal treasure, precisely as borne by the Earls of Winton.
George third Lord Seaton was the means of again allying the family with Royalty, by marrying the Lady Margaret Stuart, daughter and heiress of John Stuart Earl of Buchan, Constable of France, and first Captain of the celebrated Scottish Guard, and Count of Vallens in that kingdom, who fell at the battle of Verneuil in 1424, after distinguishing himself in many conflicts. He was younger son of Robert Duke of Albany, Regent of Scotland, (the son of Robert II,) and father of this Lady Margaret, by Elizabeth Douglas, daughter of Archibald Earl of Douglas and Duke Touraine in France. And in memory of this princely descent and representation, the family of Seaton, the only heirs of the Stuarts Earls of Buchan, have always quartered the arms of the Earldom of Buchan, (the three garbs,) with their own. The several intermarriages of the House of Seton with the Royal Family, upon four different occasions, gave rise to its being said, that ‘the family is come off Princes, and reciprocally Princes are come off the family’. And in consequence of these Royal connections, although the arms of the chief of the family wee simply three crescents, they afterwards obtained the addition of the double treasure.
The adventurous and patriotic spirit of George fourth Lord Seaton, led him, in 1498, in order to avenge the injuries offered to his country and himself by the Flemish pirates, to purchase and equip a ship of ware, known in the histories of the times by the name of the Eagle, by means of which he cleared the Scottish seas of these marauders, but at an expense to himself which made it necessary for him to encumber his estates.
Flodden field proved fatal to the Lord Seaton of the day; whose relict Janet Lady Setoun, daughter of the Earl of Bothwell, survived him for a period of nearly half a century, and was celebrated for her exalted and matronly conduct, which drew around her at her well known residence at the Sciences, in the vicinity of Edinburgh all the female branches of the nobility.
George the seventh Lord Seaton, and fifth of that Christian name, was the well known, faithful, and attached supporter of Queen Mary. He was the ambassador who negotiated her marriage with the Dauphin of France, and was present at the celebration. He took a prominent part on aiding in her escape from Lochleven Castle in 1568, and conducted her to Niddry Castle, one of his seats, and clung to her cause with unswerving fidelity during every vicissitude. It is related, that the Queen, from the respect and favour which she entertained for this Lord Seaton, and the great service rendered to her, would have created him an Earl, at the same time that she created the brother Earl of Murray, but he declined the honour, and preferred his existing rang of Premier, or First Created Baron of Scotland. And it is farther recorded, that the accomplished Princess wrote the following lines, both in Latin and in French, as if uttered by Lord Seaton himself, in commemoration of the circumstance:
Sunt Comites, Ducosque alij, sunt denique Roges
Satoni dominum sit satis esse mihi
Ilya des Comptes, des Roys, des Ducs, aussi,
Cet assez pour moy d’estre Signeur de Seton
This Lord Seaton was forced, after the battle of Langside, when his services could no longer avail, to retire to Flanders, where he for a time lived in exile.
The eldest son of this Lord Seaton, was Robert, created Earl of Winton by James the Sixth of Scotland and First of England, by a patent couched in flattering and emphatic terms. He allied himself with the family, by marrying the eldest daughter of the third Earl; and the third son of that marriage, Sir Alexander Seaton, as adopted into he estates and honours of the house of Montgomerie, and became the sixth Earl of Eglinton, and from whom the present Lord is the direct male descendant. On account of his intrepid courage, he was known by the expressive appellation of ‘Grey Steel’. Earl Robert’s younger brother, after distinguishing himself at Rome for his learning at the early age of sixteen, filled the office of Lord President of the Session, and after obtaining the titles of Lord Urquhart an Fyvie, was raised to the office of Lord High Chancellor of Scotland, and was created Earl of Dunfermline, by patents to him and his heirs-male, and ultimately to his heirs-male and assignees whomsoever. A daughter of this first Earl of Winton, Lady Isabella Seaton, was married to James Drummond, first Earl of Perth, by whom she had an only child, Lady Jane, who was married first to John Earl of Sutherland, and afterwards to Francis Earl of Bothwell.
The estates of the third Earl of Winton were seized in 1639 for his adherence to Charles I, and George Lord Seaton, his eldest son, was among the prisoners at Philiphaugh, where the royal forces, under Montrose, were defeated, and was ransomed for ₤40,000 Scots. His fourth son was created Viscount Kingston and Lord Craigiehall; and the fifth, by his second marriage, became Sir John Seaton, the first of Garleton. The fourth Earl, son of this George Lord Seaton, who had predeceased his father, and to whom Lord claims to be served heir, again intermarried with the family. He was appointed by Charles II. Hereditary Sheriff of East Lothian; and was in command at the engagements of Pentland Hills and Bothwell Bridge. And it was in the person of his son, the fifth Earl, that this chivalrous spirit and steady loyalty to the ancient dynasty of the country led to the forfeiture, in 1716, of their princely estates, and for the time, during which the direct descendants of George the fourth Earl existed, of the high honours which they bore.
The ‘untainted loyalty’ of the family led to the adoption, upon the shield of Robert the first Earl of Winton, of one of their mottos: “Intaminatis fulget honoribus”, and Viscount Kingston remarks, that the Seatoun charter chest contains no Remission, which probably could not be said of any other Scottish Family of note. Their military ardour appears from their ancient war cry of ‘Sett on’, and fro their earliest motto still borne on their arms, of ‘Hazzard yet forward’.
The estates of the family were chiefly situated in East Lothian, although at one time they held extensive estates in Linlithgowshire; and the principal seat, which had for ages been the scene of great magnificence and splendid hospitality, was recognised in the Royal Charters as the Palace of Seaton, in consequence of its being often the place of royal entertainment, and the favourite resort of Queen Mary and her Court, and the residence of Charles I., when in Scotland in 1633. ----See Crown Charters, 1686, &c.; Nisbet’s Essay on Armories, p. 69; Kingston’s Continuation, pp. 59 and 75; Accusations against Queen Mary by the Scotch Commissioners; Balfour’s Historical Works, Vol. II. Pp 195-204.
It has been said, in a work published fifteen years ago, that ‘the family of Seaton, in its general characteristics, affords the best specimen of our ancient nobility. They seem to have been the first who introduced the refined arts, and an improved state of architecture into Scotland. They were consistent in their principles, and upon the whole as remarkable for their deportment and baronial respectability, as for their descent and noble alliances. In consequence of so many other noble families having sprung from the Setons, they were styled Magnæ Nobilitatis Domini; and the learned author of the Diplomata speaks of them there: ‘Clarissima autem have atque ob generis splendorem vetustatemque vix ulli Scoticarum secunda gens’, and a recent authority states, that the House of Winton, on account of its innumerable high connections and ramifications, may be now held the noblest in North Britain. The male representation of this family, and the right to the honours which they bore, have been transmitted to Lord Eglinton, through an unbroken male descent of no less than seven centuries and a half.