The Seton Family



'INVIA VIRTUTE VIA NULLA – Hazard Yet Forward'
Motto of George, 3rd Earl of Winton


George Seton, 3rd Earl of Winton and his two sons, c.1625

George Seton, 3rd Earl of Winton and 10th Lord Seton 

He was born in December 1584, and raised as the second son of the illustrious House of Seton.  He was educated by the Jesuits in France, as well as in Rome, which aroused suspicions among his Presbyterian countrymen of his being ‘popishly affected’.  With his uncle being Chancellor of the Realm and Earl of Dunfermline, his education was well-attended to and he was reared with much of the same tutelage as Prince Charles (later King Charles I) had been under the Chancellor Seton's hand.  George officially became Earl of Winton in 1607 when his elder brother Robert was confined on grounds of insanity and resigned the peerage.

This portrait presented is the finest surviving example of Adam de Colone’s work, and now in the care of The National Portrait Gallery. The portrait by Adam de Colone, oil on canvas, 114.3 by 83.8 cm, depicts George Seton (1584-1650), 3rd Earl of Winton and his two sons, George, Master of Seton (1613-1648) and Alexander Seton, 1st Viscount of Kingston (1621-1691). The inscription records that they are aged 40, 12 and 8, which would date the portrait to c. 1625. He had been a member of the Scottish Privy Council since he inherited the title, and at the time that the portrait was painted he was the Council’s President.

Robert, 2nd Earl of Winton was declared unbalanced and went mad on his wedding night, emptying a chamber pot down his bride's cleavage. The pressures of his duties and offices and Estate detracting from his interests and pursuits, was accordingly for a time kept shut away at Seton, where by agreement he diligently worked away on his building projects, and the management of the family estates, until his death.

Because of Robert's incapacity he was prevailed upon to resign the Earldom in favour of his younger brother George, on 26 June 1606, although this was not put into effect until 12 May 1607. It has been said that his brother George's motivation for the restoring and rebuilding Winton House, was to ensure that his older brother Robert would be honorably and suitably cared for during the remainder of his life, after presenting him with the family honours and estates at such an opportune age, and stage in his life and career. Had his elder brother Robert had issue, George would have doubtless founded an illustrious branch of the family irregardless, but the titles passed to him as a result of Robert's lack of heir.

Nevertheless, George continued the developments that his brother and father had begun at the Palace of Seton, and at Port Seton, as well as through out the many estates under his control in both East and West Lothian.  In 1620, he rebuilt the house of Winton from the foundation, which had been burned by the English of old, and restored the park, orchard, and gardens around it. 

The house was redesigned and built by William Wallace who was appointed King’s Master-Mason for Scotland in 1617. This “ peculiar and beautiful structure, “ as Burton calls it, was prepared accordingly for the Royal visit, with it's magnificent Hall, and it's adjoining apartment, called the “King’s Chamber,” was occupied by Charles I when he came to Scotland to be crowned in 1633. In 1630, Lord Winton built two quarters of the house Seton, beginning at Wallace’s tower, which was all burned by the English, and continued as far as Jacob’s tower.

Because the Palace of Seton had been burned by the English during the wars, and better times (as he thought) were now at hand, upon the rebuilding he caused to be carved on a fine stone tablet “upon the frontispiece of his new building” a crown supported by a thistle between two roses, being the cognizance of the two kingdoms: the emblem enigmatedly signifying the union of Scotland and England.

Under it he caused to be inscribed in deep letters of gold this Latin verse:

“Unio Nune Stoque Cadoque Tuis.” Mylne makes a note upon this, saying : “Ye Union was ye cause of the families ruin.”

Also, upon succeeding to the family's Chiefship and Estates, he became a generous benefactor to his many kinsmen and was very much involved in all of the branches of the Seton House.  He was responsible for securing many of their fortunes and advancements, and elevating the status and stature of whole of the family of the House of Seton, whether in society, or in the Royal Court.  In addition to the administration of the affairs tutelage during the minority of the young Charles Seton, 2nd Earl of Dunfermline, he also was benefactor to his cousin, Sir George Seton of Hailes, who being being a notable example of the family who recieved financial backing from the Earl to acquire titles to the Estates of Crichton and Hailes (in fee). 

He provided assistance for the care and tutelage of the son's of Seton of Pitmedden, and various of the Seton's of Cariston, the Seton's of Parbroath, the Seton's of Meldrum and the Seton's of Barnes.  In the unfortunate events of the son and heir of Sir John Seton, 2nd of Barnes, Alexander Seton, and his outrageous outbursts and domestic disturbances at the house of Barnes which were brought before the Privy Council, the good Earl of Winton here intervened and acted as peacemaker, and removed the young Alexander from his father's home and placed him into the Tolbooth in Edinburgh for his own sake, coming at the request of his father.  And like his father, he employed the services of many of the Seton family in the vicinity of Seton and Tranent, as well as of the family of Touch and Abercorn in the employment of the administration of the Seton Estates. 

In 1639, at the commencement of the outbreak of the Bishops’ War and the first the Scottish rebellion, the Seton Estates were sequestered when Lord Winton left the country and waited upon King Charles to offer his loyal services, for which the rebels did him great injury; and thereafter all through the Civil War he was constantly harassed.

The Earl however, had always maintained his loyalty to King Charles, and established himself greatly in the Royal cause, but was subject to the difficulties of the politics of the time during the Cromwellian-era:

"Cromwell and his army of cavalry domineered in all parts where they came,
 and in especial about Edinburgh, and in East Lothian. The good Earl of
 Winton, to whose well-furnished table all the noblemen and gentlemen had
 ever  been welcome, was pitifully abused by them; his fair house of Seaton
 made a common inn; himself  threatened to be killed, if they had not
 whatsoever they called for; his rich furniture and stuff plundered, and
 all  the enormities that could be offered by Jews or Turks to Christians,
 he suffered daily; and when he complained to those of our nobility who now
 rule all, he got no redress, but [was] ordered with patience to give them
 whatsoever they called for.

In 1645, when Montrose was in command of the Royal forces, the Earls oldest son, George, Lord Seton joined him, but was taken prisoner at Kilsyth by the Covenanter Army in September 1645 following the defeat of the Marquess of Montrose at the disastrous battle of Philliphaugh, and imprisoned remained long “ in hazard of his life” and a ransom of £40,000 was ordered to be paid by his father to ensure his safe return; whereby the family's ancient Estate of Wynchburgh and Niddry Castle in Linlinthgowshire in West Lothian was forced to be sold.

George, Lord Seton was finally liberated on a bond of £100,000 but died at Seton in 1648, leaving, with other children, a son also George, who succeeded his grandfather and became the 4th Earl of Winton.

Like his father, The Earl suffered a long series of petty persecutions from the Presbytery of Haddington on account of his attachment to the Catholic faith. For instance, “Nov. 4, 1648, Presbytery ordained to purge the house of Setoun of popish servants, and proceed both against them and against the Earl of Wintoun if he protect or resset them after admonition”.

When King Charles II came to Scotland in 1650, the Earl of Winton was in continuous attendance on him, but died on the 17th of December of the same year, while preparing to be present at the coronation. He died at Seton on 15 Dec. 1650 of a palsy, and was, according to his wishes, interred among his ancestors in the Church of Seton without any funeral solemnity.

By his first wife, Lady Anne Hay, eldest daughter of Francis, 8th Earl of Errol, he had with four daughters, five sons: George, Lord Seton; Charles; Alexander, Viscount Kingston; and Francis. By his second wife, Elizabeth, daughter of John, Lord Herries, he had, with six daughters, six sons, of whom survived: Christopher, William, John, and Robert.

The surviving children of Lord Winton and Lady Ann Hay were:Lady Anne Hay, Countess of Winton

George, Lord Seton: Who's own son succeeded his grandfather as 4th Earl of Winton.

Alexander, 1st Viscount of Kingston On the latter royal visit the family chronicle records that Winton’s second son, Alexander, greeted the King and his entourage with a Latin oration which resulted in him immediately being knighted. He was created Viscount Kingston by Charles II within days of his coronation at Scone Palace in 1651.

Francis Seton.  He tried to enlist a Jacobite movement in Sussex and when unsuccessful, fled to France.  His descent re-settled in Sussex, England and are the Seton-Winton's.

Elizabeth Seton.  She married in 1637 William Keith, 7th Earl Marischal, by whom she had four daughters, who were all well married. She bought a large fortune to her husband and died in 1650.


By his second wife, Elizabeth Maxwell, only daughter of the seventh Lord Herries, Lord Winton has six sons and six daughters.

Of whom only the following are mentioned, the others dying either young or unmarried, or without succession:

Christopher and William - “ two hopeful gentlemen.” Christopher was a great scholar. The brothers and a preceptor, while going, “on their travels abroad, were cast away at sea upon the coasts of Holland in anno 1648”.

John, 1st Baronet of Garleton.

Robert, Baronet of Windygoul.

Lady Ann Seton.  She married at Winton in April, 1654, to John Stuart, second Earl of Traquair, by whom she had three sons and one daughter, Elizabeth, who died “ a brave hopeful young lady,” at twenty years of age. “it is said that when Lord Traquair married Lady Anne Seton, the Convenanters made him stand at the kirk door of Dalkeith in the sack gown, for marrying a papist; nevertheless, he died of that religion himself, anno 1666.”  After the Earls conversion through his wife’s influence, this noble branch of the Stuarts remained consistently Catholic; and although the title became extinct by the death of the last earl in 1861, Traquair house, the oldest inhabited mansion in Scotland, descended by the will at the death of his sister, Lady Louisa Stuart, in 1875, to her distant kinsman the Hon. Henry Constable-Maxwell, an English Catholic.

Lady Mary Seton.  She married to James Dalzell, fourth Earl Carnwath, by whom she had a daughter, also named Mary, who married Lord John Hay, second son of the Marquess of Tweeddale, a brigardier-general under the Duke of Marlborough.


The Succession of the Title of the Earldom of Winton from George 3rd Earl to his grandson (Gudser), George 4th Earl of Winton was recorded as:

May 12. 1653. GEORGE ERLE OF WINTOUN, Lord Seatoun of Winsh­ burgh and Tranent, heir maíll of George Erle of Wintoun, Lord Seatton of Winshburgh and Tranent, his gudser,-in the lands and barony of West Niddrie, with the landis and barony of Winsh­ burgh, and the landis of Up-Craigie speciallie annexat therto, with advocatioun of churches, &c. all unite into the baronie West Niddrie :—О. Е. 381. N. E. 1521.-the toun and maynes of Kirklistoun ;-the kirklands of Kirklistoun ;-the milne of Kirklistoun ; -the toun and landis of Leswade;-the kirklands of Leswade, and landis of Eglismachan, within the regality of St. Androes and barony of Kirkhstoun, in Linlithgow and Edinburgh respectively : -E. 1101.-the ofîice of justiciarie or justice generall of the justice­ayr courts, aud crownership of the regality of St. Androes C

upon the south syd of the water of Forth, with the ofliceof heretable bailierie of the said lands within the sherrefdoms of Linlithgow, Edinburgh, Stirling, and Haddingtoun :-E. 111.-all united into the barony of Kirkliston, with the burgh of regality and barony of Kìrkliston ;-the templelandis of the lordship of Glasgow extending to 2 husband landis, and in the rentall of the bishoprick of Glasgow to 52 aikers, in the village or territory of Westmddrle and barony of VVinsburfgh:-E. 10т. 12‹1.-——:Ъе teynd shaves _of tl1e landis and maynis o Craigiehall and milne landis therof, Brigend, Cotmore, Burnsholl (or Burnshott), Dolphingstoun, Pilrig, Standingstane, Carlowrie, and Upcraigie, and of the remanent1an­ dis of the barony of Craigiehall, within the parochine of Dalmanie: ­-E. ld.-the temple-landis of Seattoun ;-the temple landis of Т ranent ;-the 5 merk-land of the temple­lands of Duddistoun, and the temple lands of Upcraigie, with privileges of pasturages: -E. 4-(I.-the heretable otiice of bailiary of the foirsaids templelands of Seattoun, Tranent, Duddistoun and Upcraigie, and of _the regality of Torphichen in that pairt therof 211.-united 1_nto the tenandry of Temple­Tranent.­-(See Haddingtqn, Berwick, Stirling, Edinburgh.) XXI- 144‘



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