The Seton Family



'In Adversitate Patiens –In Prosperitate Benevolus – Hazard Yet Forward'
Motto of George, 7th Lord Seton


Alexander Seton, 6th Earl of Eglinton and 7th Lord Montgomerie.

Hon. Sir Alexander Seton, Knight , 6th Earl of Eglinton and 7th Lord Montgomerie

He was born in 1588 and was baptised with the name of Alexander Seton, the 3rd son of Robert Seton, 8th Lord Seton and 1st Earl of Winton and his wife Lady Margaret Montgomerie, and a grandson of the famed George, 7th Lord Seton. He was born and raised at Seton Palace, with the strong hereditary military training of the Seton's, which benefited him greatly in his career's later years.  Nicknamed 'Greysteel', he continued the distinguished family traditions, becoming a Privy Councillor and carrying the spurs at the Royal Coronation of King Charles I.

His father was a great favorite with the King, and exercised great hospitality at Seton where he frequently entertained James VI and his Queen, and noted that, “he was very hospitable, and kept a noble house, the King and Queen being frequently there, and all French and other ambassadors and strangers of quality were nobly entertained.”  The list of Grand Balls and Masques would fill volumes; the great entertaining traditions he elaborated on from his father and grandfather, were passed to his own sons and heirs.

In his early years, he was granted the Estate of Foulstruther near to Pencaitland as his patrimony, and he showed great promise in service to the Royal House, and was knighted early in life. Given the events of the time, he was engaged into a dispute carrying on from the famed riot in Edinburgh betwen the Seton's and Cunningham's, and on the 2nd of July, 1606, he and his elder brother George Seton (later third earl of Winton), were summoned to appear before the Privy Council to answer for an attack on James Cunningham, 7th Earl of Glencairn, at Perth. The matter was eventually settled on the 23rd of December, when the 'Master' and Glencairn both received an order to subscribe to an assurance.

When Hugh, the fifth earl of Eglinton, died childless and estranged from his wife, he made a resignation and settlement of the Earldom of Eglinton and it's entail on his lineal cousins, the younger sons of Lady Margaret Montgomerie, and to her younger children, 1st Alexander, 2nd Thomas, and 3rd John, and to each of them successively and to their heirs male, with the added provision that the Seton-heir would take and continue the Arms and name of Montgomery.

The settlement was confirmed by a Charter under the Great Seal on 28 November 1611, and the newly made Earl rapidly acquired a wife. On 22 June 1612 Alexander married Anna Livingstone (d. 1632), eldest daughter of Alexander Livingstone, first Earl of Linlithgow. The couple had five sons and three daughters: Hugh Montgomery, the future seventh Earl of Eglinton, and Robert Montgomery were the eldest and the youngest sons.

Within five months of his marriage Alexander had succeeded his cousin as earl of Eglinton after Hugh Montgomerie died on 4 September 1612 and Alexander was infeft in the earldom on 30 October.

The succession was not without controversy, and the 'favourite', the Duke of Buckingham raised much opposition and appealed to the King.  King James hotly challenged the transference of the title as having occurred without his authority, and personally objected and intervened. On 28 April 1613 the privy council decided Seton should be cited to appear on 18 May, to ‘hear and see him discharged of all assuming unto himself the style, title, and name of earl’. And although he initially refused to do so, he ultimately on 15 March 1615 he appeared before the council, apologized for having used the title without the king's permission, and resigned it to the king.

Consequently James, by the previous arrangement, conferred the earldom of Eglinton on Seton, under the designation Alexander Montgomerie, earl of Eglinton, Lord Montgomerie and Kilwinning. It was only through the negotiation and the influence of his powerful uncle Alexander Seton, 1st Earl of Dunfermline and Chancellor of Scotland and his influence with her Majesty Queen Anne, that Sir Alexander Seton of Foulstruther was able to become the 6th Earl of Eglinton.

Tradition states that King James finally agreed owing to the plea of his favourite, Robert Carr, Earl of Somerset, after Eglinton had told him that, though ignorant of the intricacies of the law he knew the use of the sword, and had intimated that he would challenge the favourite to a duel unless the opposition to his assumption of the title was withdrawn. From the incident Eglinton, who was a very skilful swordsman, received the nickname ‘Greysteel’.

However, the also arrangement precluded that he and his heirs take the name of Montgomerie and for that family line to continue, and to no longer to be known as 'Seton', in order that he be adopted into the family and House of Montgomerie.  He thus succeeded on 4th September, 1612, by Right of his mother and became the 6th Earl of Eglinton and took the name of Montgomerie; becoming Alexander Montgomerie.  As a result of the succession process, on 24th March, 1615, he resigned his titles and had a re-grant from King James VI and I, whereupon he obtained the Royal Grants and Confirmations of the Estates and Honours of Montgomerie.

Meanwhile in 1614 the new earl had entered into a feud with the archbishop of Glasgow over the patronage and teinds of eight parishes, which lasted until 1621. In assuming control of the earldom, Alexander had to buy-back the lordship of Kilwinning at a hefty price from Lord Balfour of Burleigh, for 8000 merks. In 1617 King James visited Eglinton during his Scottish tour. In alliance with the earl of Rothes, Eglinton opposed the introduction of the five articles of Perth in 1617–21, and at the parliament of 1621 he was one of the commissioners who voted against them. Yet despite his dissent from Royal policy, Eglinton was one of the Scots nobles who on 7 May 1625 attended the funeral of King James in Westminster Abbey. He also formed one of the procession of the state entry of King Charles into Edinburgh on 15 June 1633; and at the coronation on 18 June he carried the spurs; at the rising of the parliament on 24 June he carried the sword.

As his opposition to the five articles indicates, despite an upbringing and an early adulthood as a Roman Catholic, Eglinton became one of the first staunch Presbyterian nobles, chiefly through the influence of David Dickson (or Dick), minister of Irvine from 1618 to 1640, whom he affirmed was ‘the instrument to reclaim him from popery’, the traditional faith of the Setons. At Eglinton Castle, the Earl kept an elaborate estate, and after Dickson was deprived of his ministry at Irvine for publicly protesting against the articles, the earl obtained his liberty and invited him with full hospitality ‘to come to Eglinton and to visit..., but not to preach there’. Yet on Dickson's arrival he arranged that he should preach in the hall of the castle, and afterwards in the close when the crowd who gathered to hear him became too large for the hall.  And although after two months he was ordered to proceed to prison, Eglinton gained consent for the minister's return to Irvine.

Countess Anna shared her husband's presbyterian commitment, and was a patroness of godly ministers. ‘I sie clearlie the Lord hes appointed yow to be a wessel of honore. This is the crosse of Christ that is upon your ladyship and it will sanctifie the domestick’, Robert Bruce of Kinnaird assured her, while from Temple Patrick, co. Antrim, the presbyterian minister Josias Welsh addressed her as ‘elect ladye’.

Eglinton's commitment to Presbyterianism remained strong owing to his conversations with Robert Baillie, minister of Kilwinning (1631–42). After the riot at St Giles's Church, Edinburgh, against the introduction of the new prayer book in July 1637, Eglinton joined other nobles in a petition condemning the offending book and took an active part in the plans for the preparation of the national covenant, acting as a witness to the oaths of those subscribing to it in March 1638. He also enlisted William Keith, sixth Earl Marischal, the husband of his niece, Lady Elizabeth Seton, to the cause. As an elder commissioner from the presbytery of Glasgow he attended the general assembly of 1638. There he served on the committee appointed for receiving complaints against the bishops.

In May 1639 the Tables appointed he and John Kennedy, sixth earl of Cassillis, to defend Galloway and Ayrshire against Lord Wentworth's Irish army. Summoned to join Lord General Alexander Leslie's army at Duns Law, Berwickshire, Eglinton ‘came away with the whole country at his back’, bringing 1000 foot soldiers, and mounted men including 100 gentry and 200 tenants. In April 1640 the convention of estates deputeed he and Archibald Campbell the Earl of Argyll, to protect the western parts of Scotland from the landing of Irish forces, with Eglinton taking responsibility for the lands south of the Clyde. On the 29th of August, Argyll ordered him to gather boats and ships at Ayr as part of the defensive measures.

After the treaty of London between the King and the Covenanters, he was nominated to the Scottish Privy Council on 17 September 1641, and parliament confirmed his selection on 13 November. He was also one of the committee appointed to inquire into ‘the incident’, the plot against Argyll, Hamilton, and Lanark. In the aftermath of the Ulster rising by the Irish Roman Catholics in October 1641 the earl sent officers from his former regiment to the province to train the foot regiment of Lord Montgomery of the Ards. On 11 March 1642 the privy council commissioned Eglinton as a colonel of foot from the southern lowlands in the army paid for by the English to suppress the Irish rising. The earl accepted the charge four days later.

The regiment of 1116 officers and men in ten companies reached Ulster in May. The earl only accompanied the regiment between 4 August and November. On 28 February 1643 he contributed £6000 to the voluntary loan for the supply of the army. In March 1644 he lost the Coloneletcy to his Lieutenant-Colonel, James Montgomery. Meanwhile on 5 July 1642 the privy council named him to the Ayrshire commission for the apprehension of Roman Catholics. On 3 March 1643 it appointed Eglinton one of the conservators of peace, a joint Anglo-Scottish body for the maintenance of the treaty of London.

In autumn 1643 the convention of estates appointed Eglinton colonel of horse for the shires of Ayr, Renfrew, and Lanark in the army being raised to assist the English parliamentarians against the king. The regiment entered England on 19 January 1644 in the earl of Leven's army. By some time in February the earl and his officers had levied all the regiment's eight troops. Eglinton was present at the siege of York in April–June; he entered the city during one assault with 4000 Scots, and helped to repulse bloodily a sally by the defenders. At the battle of Marston Moor on 2 July his regiment served as the reserve of Fairfax's cavalry on the right wing.

Following the destruction of the parliamentarian horsemen, Eglinton and his officers kept the regiment in place, anchoring the right of the allied line. Shortly afterwards he returned to Scotland, and attended the parliament that met on 28 July. Some time in 1645 the colonelcy of Eglinton's cavalry regiment passed to his son, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Montgomery. After the covenanter debacle at Kilsyth on 15 August 1645 he raised levies to oppose the royalists, but they fled on the approach of Alasdair MacColla. Later that year he was one of the committee of estates appointed to consider the petition of General William Baillie for a trial over his conduct at the battle of Kilsyth. On 30 January 1646 he was named one of the committee of estates.

In 1648 Eglinton strongly disapproved of the engagement to march an army into England for the relief of the king. In March he fought a duel over the matter with William Cunningham, eighth earl of Glencairn. In late May at Irvine he joined with other kirk party leaders to discuss a rising against the engagers, but abandoned the idea. When word of the engagers' defeats in the north-west of England reached Ayrshire in late August, his son Robert raised a force of Ayrshire who started the whiggamore raid by attacking a troop of the earl of Lanark's horse. Eglinton joined with John Campbell, first earl of Loudoun, in raising 6000 men from Kyle, Cunningham, Renfrewshire, and Lanarkshire. He also took Edinburgh Castle on 5 September, then marched north to Falkirk on 12 September. Following the engager surrender the earl led his men home on 29 September. In January 1649 he attended the kirk-party-dominated parliament as one of only sixteen nobles.

On news of the execution of Charles I, he supported the proposal for the recall of Charles II as a ‘covenanted king’. On 22 July 1650, following the king's arrival in Scotland, the estates appointed Eglinton colonel of his majesty's Life Guard of Horse. Previously, on 28 June, he had been named to the purging committee (to free the army of royalists and openly sinful soldiers). Yet despite his staunch commitment to the kirk party, the earl does not seem to have paid much attention to the quality of his new recruits, and while the regiment quickly reached full strength, its reputation for indiscipline became renowned.

On 29 July the king came from Stirling to the army's camp at Leith on the earl's urging. At Dunfermline on 13 August Eglinton attended the first council held by the king since his arrival in Scotland. After the defeat at Dunbar on 3 September, the earl returned to Ayrshire and levied reinforcements for the army, but he refused to serve under the radical Colonel Gilbert Ker and disbanded most of his men; nevertheless 146 of his cavalry recruits had joined his son (now Major-General) Robert Montgomery's horse by December. In early October, when the king tried to join the royalists in the north of Scotland, Eglinton joined with other nobles in Perth and sent him a polite letter asking him to return. Eglinton joined Argyll and other members of the moderate kirk party in opposing the extreme covenanters of the south-west. He proposed that the western remonstrance be condemned as treasonable and scandalous, and be burnt by the public hangman. In his appointment with Argyll and Loudoun to persuade the remonstrant lairds to agree to a union of forces, however, were met with no success.

In spring 1651 Eglinton raised troops for the king but while in Dumbarton with his son Colonel James Montgomery of Coilsfield, Ayrshire, English soldiers captured them in their beds. For betraying them one Archibald Hamilton was hanged at Stirling in April 1651. Eglinton and his son were taken first to Edinburgh Castle, then to Hull, and finally to Berwick. While a prisoner Eglinton was widowed a second time. Some ten years after the death of his first wife on 11 November 1632 he had married Margaret Scott, eldest daughter of Walter Scott, first Lord Scott of Buccleuch, and widow of James Ross, lord of Buccleuch (the marriage took place between November 1642 and March 1644). The flavour of her rigorous piety is caught by a letter to her husband commending his action in sacking a female servant whose misbehaviour was suspected but not proved in which she expressed the wish that ‘God Almighti send a gud tryell of all the wichtis, and send them a hotte fire to burne them with’. She died at Hull on 3 October 1651. On 15 October 1652 he received the liberty of the town of Berwick.

Despite his status, he fell into the hands of the Protector, Oliver Cromwell, who imprisoned him between 1651 and 1660, and which declined his health.

While his subsequently having his liberty was increased for a time, on the 18th of July 1654 the Governor of Berwick was ordered to secure he and his eldest son, Hugh, Viscount Montgomerie, until they produced Robert Montgomery and handed him over to the English, or until they gave security that he would leave the Commonwealth. Although his heir the Viscount was excluded from the Act of Grace and Pardon, the Earl himself was included and his estates returned to him after two years' sequestration. However, in August 1659, General George Monck had him imprisoned yet again to prevent him from rebelling in favour of the king. He was freed by December 1659, when the Scottish shire commissioners at Berwick selected him as one of five direct negotiators with Monck, and while he lived to see the restoration of the king, he unfortunately did not live to see that of Episcopacy, and he died at Eglinton Castle on 7 January 1661, and was buried at his Parish Kirk in Kilwinning on the 14th of February.

For the terms of his succession, on the Viscount's marriage in 1631, he had settled the estates on his son and heir, reserving for himself only a life-rent, and where in turn the Viscount-heir promised not to interfere with the estates during his father's lifetime, and those not having being forfeit, settled them likewise 1655 on the Viscount's own eldest son and heir, Alexander Montgomerie; and his son Hugh Montgomerie, succeeded him at his death as 7th Earl of Eglinton, in 1661.

Sir Alexander was
married firstly to Lady Anne Livingstone, daughter of Alexander Livingstone, 1st Earl of Linlithgow and Lady Helen Hay, on 22 June 1612. He married secondly, Lady Margaret Scott, daughter of Sir Walter Scott, 1st Lord Scott of Buccleuch and Mary Ker, between November 1642 and March 1644.


The titular-representation of the Seton family of Winton: The senior and legitimate male line of the House of Seton devolved upon the Earl's of Eglinton, in consequence of the marriage in 1582 of Robert the first Earl of Winton with Lady Margaret Montgomerie, eldest daughter of Hugh third Earl of Eglinton, to the male-line of the Seton's which had become merged in that of the Earl's of Eglinton. With the extinction of the legitimate Seton male-heirs-decent of the 3rd and 4th Earl's of Winton and the succession falling to the male-line of Robert, 1st Earl of Winton (the 2nd Earl passed the Honours to his brother George, who became 3r Earl of Winton), the present Earl of Eglinton is the lineal heir-male of the body of The Hon. Sir Alexander Seton, 6th Earl of Eglinton's line, and in consequence of the failure of the direct Winton line and of all the male descendants of George, 3rd Earl of Winton, Lord Eglinton is the accepted legal lineal-titular-male representative of Honours of the family of Seton. 

However, it would be important to note that having not reciprocated in the original terms of the Winton succession, and that of Montgomerie's own example; in passing of the Winton-title's and Honours to the senior son of the house and he  assuming the Arms and name of Seton, forsaking that of Montgomerie, as outlined in the Royal regrant of the Winton Honours by George, 4t Earl of Winton and that also of George 3rd Earl of Winton, the Eglinton-Montgomerie's are therefore not considered by the Seton family to be Head of the House of Seton, nor of the Name, and have simply succeeded to the Titles, and inappropriately so.


Arms of the Seton Earls of Winton © The Seton Family 2005

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The original arms of Montgomerie, Earl of Eglinton.

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