George Seton, 5th Earl of Winton
GEORGE SETON, 5th and last Earl
of Winton, was possessed
of excellent abilities, but from his early years he displayed a marked
eccentricity of character. He had travelled with his father in travels in France
and the low countries, and benefitted from a good foundation in his education.
However, some family misunderstandings caused him to leave
home while a mere youth, and he spent several years in France as bellows-blower
and assistant to a blacksmith, without holding any intercourse with his family.
On the death of his father the 4th Earl of Winton, Viscount
Kingston the next heir taking for granted that the young 5th Earl
was dead was proceeding to take possession of the title and
estates which were then also being shared by Seton of Garleton who
was also involved in the discrediting claim against the absent Earl, when suddenly the 5th Earl appeared and vindicated his
rights. It was afterwards
ascertained that a confidential servant kept him apprised of what was taking
place at home and in the family, and had sent him notice of his father’s death.
Subsequent to the
fourth Earl of Winton’s death in 1704, it had been seen that the Kingston family
were then considered, in the event of the failure of his two sons, his nearest
heirs-male. In the processes which ensued upon this account between George
the attainted Earl and the Kingston family, Archibald Viscount Kingston, was the
principal party against the latter:
Libelled Summons before the Court of Session, signeted 23rd May 1710, with
execution thereon, dated 24th May 1710, at the instance of Archibald
Viscount of Kingston, nearest and lawful appearand heir to the deceased George
Earl (fourth Earl) of Winton.
The Seton family,
as we have seen previously, had always been noted for their loyalty and their attachment to
the old Church, and the last Earl, though he had renounced the Romish faith,
held firmly to the political creed of his ancestors. In 1712 the Earl of Winton reprinted in a smaller
form the Book of Common Prayer which had been prepared for Scotland in 1637.
This book seems to have been actually used in places in the 18th century and it
exercised a wide influence.
He was living peaceably in
his own mansion at Seton when the rebellion of 1715 broke out. It is probable
that he would, under any circumstances, have taken the field in behalf of the
representative of the ancient Scottish sovereigns; but his doing so was
hastened, if not caused, by the outrageous treatment which he received from a
body of the Lothian militia, who forcibly entered and rifled his mansion at
Seton, as he alleged on his trial, ‘through private pique and revenge.’ ‘The
most sacred places,’ he adds, ‘did not escape their fury and resentment. They
broke into his chapel, defaced the monuments of his ancestors, took up the
stones of their sepulchres, thrust irons through their bodies, and treated them
in a most barbarous, inhuman, and unchristian like manner.’ On this disgraceful
outrage the Earl took up arms against the Government, assumed the command of a
troop of horse mostly composed of gentlemen belonging to East Lothian, and
joined the Northumbrian insurgents under Mr. Forster and the Earl of
Derwentwater. Their numbers were subsequently augmented by a body of Highlanders
under Brigadier Macintosh, who formed a junction with them at Kelso.
insurgents insisted on carrying the war into England, where they expected to be
reinforced by the Jacobites and Roman Catholics in the northern and western
counties. The Scotsmen proposed that they should take possession of Dumfries,
Ayr, Glasgow, and other towns in the south and west of Scotland, and attack the
Duke of Argyll, who lay at Stirling, in the flank and rear, while the Earl of
Mar assailed his army in front. The English portion of the insurgent forces,
however, persisted in carrying out their absurd scheme in spite of the strenuous
opposition of the Scots, and especially of the Highlanders, who broke out in a
mutiny against the English officers.
The Earl of Wintoun disapproved so strongly
of this plan that he left the army with a considerable part of his troop, and
was marching northward when he was overtaken by a messenger from the insurgent
council, who entreated him to return. He stood for a time pensive and silent,
but at length he broke out with an exclamation characteristic of his romantic
and somewhat extravagant character. ‘It shall never be said to after generations
that the Earl of Wintoun deserted King James’s interests or his country’s good.’
Then, laying hold of his own ears, he added, ‘You, or any man, shall have
liberty to cut these out of my head if we do not all repent it.’
But though this
unfortunate young nobleman (he was only twenty-five years of age) again joined
the insurgent forces, he ceased henceforward to take any interest in their
deliberations or debates. The Rev. Robert Patten, who officiated as chaplain to
the insurgents, and afterwards wrote a history of the rebellion, indeed states
that the Earl ‘was never afterwards called to any council of war, and was
slighted in various ways, having often no quarters provided for him, and at
other times very bad ones, not fit for a nobleman of his family; yet, being in
for it, he resolved to go forward, and diverted himself with any company,
telling many pleasant stories of his travels, and his living unknown and
obscurely with a blacksmith in France, whom he served some years as a
bellows-blower and under-servant, till he was acquainted with the death of his
father, and that his tutor had given out that he was dead, upon which he
resolved to return home, and when there met with a cold reception.’
The Earl fought with
great gallantry at the barricades of Preston, but was at last obliged to
surrender along with the other insurgents, and was carried a prisoner to London,
and confined in the Tower. He was brought to trial before the House of Lords,
15th March, 1716, and defended himself with considerable ingenuity. Such was the
sensation of the Earls Trial, the local Printer of the time, Daniel Bridge, was
noted for his own trial for the printing of the Earls Trial proceedings, noted
in the House of Lords Journal, Volume 20, 27th April, 1716.
The High Steward,
Lord Cooper, having overruled his objections to the indictment with some
harshness, ‘I hope,’ was the Earl’s rejoinder, ‘you will do me justice, and not
make use of "Cowper-law," as we used to say in our country—hang a man first and
then judge him.’ On the refusal of his entreaty to be heard by counsel, he
replied— ‘Since your lordship will not allow me counsel, I don’t know nothing.’
He was of course found guilty, and condemned to be beheaded on Tower Hill. ‘When
waiting his fate in the Tower,’ says Sir Walter Scott, ‘he made good use of his
mechanical skill, sawing through with great ingenuity the bars of the windows of
his prison, through which he made his escape.’
Earls of Winton and Nithsdale found means to escape out of
the Tower, and Messrs. Forster and M‘Intosh escaped from
Newgate, it was supposed that motives of mercy and
tenderness in the Prince of Wales, afterwards King George
II, favoured the escape of all these gentlemen.
After his escape, he maintained an active presence in the Scots circles in
France and Rome. Among the many interesting manuscripts preserved in the
archives of the Grand Lodge of Scotland are the Minutes of a Lodge of Scottish
Freemasons existing in Rome in the years 1735,1736 and 1737, from which we find
that the Earl of Winton was himself admitted a Mason under the name (which he
assumed on his attainder) of George Seaton Winton at a meeting held at Joseppe's,
in the Corso, Rome, on l6th August 1735.
(See Hughan's The
Jacobite Lodge at Rome.1735-7. published by the Lodge of Research.
attainder, the Earl maintained active communications with
various tenants on his Estates and directed various affairs
regarding them while in exile. He continued to work to
have his Estates restored, and in 1736, in the Chronological
Table of Private and Personals Acts of the Parliament of
Great Britain, there is recorded under 10 GEO 2, c. 25, the
Act of Restitution for George Seton, Earl of Winton, his Act
submitted as follows:
Restitution of George Seton:
enabling him to sue or maintain any action despite his
attainder and to take or inherit any estate.
During his exile, he
can have had little money, but managed to carry on social
life of a sort. In 1736 his name appears in
the Minute Book of the Masonic Lodge in Rome as having
become a Mason, while the following year he was Grand
In 1740 he was in the Chevalier's Cabinet, vagrant Scots met
him occasionally and, in 1736, Sir Alexander Dick speaks of
having met him and others in a coffee house where they "fell
a singing old Scots songs and were very merry".
In September 1743 Lord Lovat wrote to Lord Grange sending
him a cypher in which Lord Winton is referred to as 'Mr.
Among the legends that float round
this interesting domain, there is one relative to George, fifth Earl of Wintoun.
Prior to departing on his ill-fated expedition, he is said to have buried a
large quantity of plate and other valuables, with the assistance of a blacksmith
in the neighbourhood, in whose fidelity he placed reliance. The recollection of
this buried treasure haunted him in his weary exile on the continent, and he
contrived to return to Scotland, in the hope of recovering what he had so
carefully deposited. The search was fruitless, and he fled in despair. It was
afterwards observed that the family of the blacksmith became opulent farmers in
East Lothian. w. c..
During this time Seton
Palace had fallen into disrepair, but it had been occupied
for some time by Elizabeth Stevenson or Pitcairn. Writing to
Alexander Hay or Drumelzier in February 1757 from France,
Sir George Seton Bt . of Garlston refers to the wrecking of
the house and its contents and says "the auld wife Pitcairn"
had pilfered many things and "furnisht an apartment in
Winton of the debris and plunder of "Seton House". At the
same time he asks Hay if nothing can be done to recover the
family pictures from Lord Somerville, "which he alwaise said
he would give up to the "family" .
The 5th Earl of winton
then, ended his motley life at Rome
in 1749, aged seventy, and with him terminated the main branch of the long and
illustrious line of the Setons. It is however, not without further
controversy, for it will be noted in the claim of the Seton's of Bellingham,
that the Earl married a lady Margaret M'KLear (McClear or McClure, daughter of a
Physician) privately in a Catholic Church in Edinburgh and had an only child and
heir, named Charles Seton who was raised by the Thompson family at Dunterly in
Bellingham. This claim was contested by the Earl of Eglinton in his
Service to claim the Winton Honours.
Male cadets of this family, however, came by
intermarriage to represent the great historic families of Huntly and Eglinton,
besides the ducal house of Gordon, now extinct, and the Earls of Sutherland,
whose heiress married the Marquis of Stafford, afterwards created Duke of
Sutherland. The earldoms of Wintoun and Dunfermline, the viscounty of Kingston,
and the other Seton titles were forfeited for the adherence of their possessors
to the Stewart dynasty, and have never been restored; but the late Earl of
Eglinton was, in 1840, served heir-male general of the family, and, in 1859, was
created Earl of Wintoun in the peerage of the United Kingdom.
Extract Registered Sasine of
Dated 9th April, and recorded 5th June
1697, in the particular Register of Sasines at Edinburgh, in favour of George
Lord Seaton, afterwards fifth Earl. This sasine bears to proceed upon a
disposition by George, the fourth Earl of Winton, dated 7th April
1697, in favour (1st) of the said George Lord Setoune, who is
designed eldest lawful son of Earl George; and (2d) Christopher Seaton, second
lawful son of the said noble Earle. The sasine does not bear that the disposition
was in favour of any other party nomination, although it recites a variety of
general substitutions to heirs to be proreated of the Earl, and his above named
two sons; and, at p. 24, there is recited a provision in favour of Dame
Christian Hepburne, Countess of Wintoune, our spouse, in caise she shall happen
to survive was (the fourth Earl).
This sasine proves the two sons
of George the fourth Earl’s second marriage; and that of 7th April
1697, when the youngest sone would be fourteen years of age, he had no other
issue, male or female.
Disposition and Assignation by George fourth Earl of Winton, of his general
estate, in favour of his eldest sone George Lord Seaton, dated 7th
April 1697, and recorded in the Books of Session, 27th June 1710.
In this Disposition the said
George Lord Seaton is designed, "our eldest lawful son, procreate betwixt us and
Dame Christian Hepburn, Countess of Winton, our spouse".
Bond of provision by the said
fourth Earl of Winton, in favour of Christopher Seaton, he second son dated 7th
April 1697. This bond designs the above Christopher, our second lawful son,
procreate betwixt us and Dame Christian Hepburn, Countess of Winton, our spouse.
Another Bond of Provision by
the said fourth Earl of Winton in favour of Christopher Seaton, his second son,
dated 29th May 1703. This bond also describes Christopher as our
second lawful son.
Disposition and Assignation
by the same to the same, dated 29th May 1703, of an apprising of the
lands of Carrieston, for 9000 merks. In this deed, Christopher is like wise
called the Earl’s second son.
Testament of the said George
fourth Earl, dated 21st February 1704. This testament proceeds as
follows: We nominate, constitute and ordain our well-beloved sons, George Lord
Seaton, our eldest son and apparent heir, and Mr. Christopher Seaton, his
brother-german, procreate betwixt us and our well-beloved spouse Dame Christian
Hepburn, to be our only executors, sold legatees, and universal intromitters
with our haill goods, &c.
Neither this testament, nor any of
the other deeds just described, make mention in any way of any other son or
child of the fourth Earl, other than the two sons, George Lord Seaton and
Christopher; and this, joined to the fact that the testament was executed
twenty-one years after the birth of Christopher the second and youngest son, and
as will immediately be seen, within a month of the Earl’s death, establishes
that there were no other issue of the fourth Earl.
That the said George fourth Earl
of Winton died 6th March 1704, and was succeeded by the above
mentioned George Lord Seaton, his eldest son, as fifth Earl of Winton.
In a printed condescendence
in an action between the children of James Smith (factor for the fourth Earl)
and the said George the fifth Earl, which bears date 24th January
1715, it is stated, that George the fourth Earl had died upon the day of
_________ 1704 years.
General Retour of the Service
of George fifth Earl of Winton to his father, dated 4th July 1710.
This retour designates the parties as follows: Quondam Georgius Comes de Winton
Pater Georgij nunc
Comitis de Winton, Domini Seaton et Tranent, latoris præsentium, ejus unici
legitimi filij nunc viventis procreat, inter illum et quondam Christianam
Comitissam de Winton, ejus sponosam. Obiit ad fidem et pacem S.D.N.Reginæ nune
regnantis; Et quod Dictus Georgius nunc Comes de Winton, est legitimus et
propinquior hæres masculus et lineæ dicti quondam Georgij Comitis de Winton,
proceeded at Edinburgh, in the Macers’ Court, under the commission issued from
Chancery, and before the following jury:
James, Duke of Montrose 2.
William, Marquis of Annandale
3. John, Earl of Laudredale
4. James, Earl of Seafield
5. William. Lord Saltoun
6. _____, Lord Blantyre
7. Lord President Dalrymple of
North Berwick 8. Adam Cockburn of Ormiston,
9. Sir Robert Dundas of Arniston 10 Sir John Lauder of Fountainhall
11 Sir William Anstruther
12 Mr. James Erskine of Grange
13 Sir Gilbert Elliot of Minto
14 Mr. John Murray of Borohill
Sir Dougald Stewart of Blairhall
All Senators of the College of
In a Printed Information,
dated 19th July 1711, in an action between George the fifth Earl and
Archibald Viscount Kingston, it is stated that the above Christopher who was the
fourth Earl’s second son, lived nine months after the Earl, (fourth Earl).
It will be proved that Christopher
himself died 5h January 1705, and therefore the fourth Earl must have died
before April 1704.
Charter of Resignation by
George fifth Earl of Winton, in favour of George Seaton of Barns, dated 31st
March, 1715. In this charter the granter is designed Georgius Comes de Winton,
Dominus Seaton et Tranent, unicus legitimus filius et hæres deservit, et
retornat, quondam nobili et potenti Comiti Georgio Comiti de Winton, nostro
patri, secundum Retornatum Nostrum o Cancellario extractum de data quarto die
mensis Julij anno 1710.
This proves that the fifth
Earl, alive in 1715, was the same Earl who was served by the retour of 1710.
The last described four
documents prove the death of George the fourth Earl, and that he was succeeded
by his eldest son George, as fifth Earl of Winton.
That George fifth Earl of Winton,
having, as has been shown, succeeded his father in 1704, was, of date 16th
March 1716, convicted of high treason; but afterwards, on the 4th
August 1716, escaped from the Tower, and died at Rom the 30th
September 1749; and that he had no issue, having died unmarried.
In Crawford’s Peerage of Scotland, which was published in 1716, there is
no mention of the said George the fifth Earl having been previously married; and
if such had been the case, the fact must have been stated as of more consequence
than several particulars which Crawford does mention regarding his Lordship, and
in conformity with the writer’s rule in other cases where marriage had taken
In Nisbet’s Heraldry, published in 1722, there is likewise the same
silence as to any marriage of the said Earl.
In the Calendar of the House of Lords in 1716 – duplicate in the
Advocates’ Library, published by authority – the proceedings on the impeachment
of this Earl are stated, abridged from the Journal of the House. In the whole
proceedings, there is no mention made of any application by wife or child for
admission to see the attainted Earl, or any reference whatever to the Earl
having any such. This is remarkable, because, during the impeachments of other
Lords before the same tribunal, and at the same period, where the party had a
wife or children, such applications and references were usual, and the
circumstances related; and they were the more to be expected in the present
instance, as the Earl sought delay, grounded upon the non-arrival of witnesses
and friends from the North.
Factory, dated 21st, and Recorded in the Books of Council and
Session the 27th January 1716, by George Earle of Wintoune, Lord
Seton, Baron of Tranent, in favour of Elizabeth Stevenson, relict of Archibald
Pitcairn of that ilk, Doctor of Medicine, which narrates that Forsameikle as our
present circumstances does not allow us to be in Scotland for managing our
affairs, &c, and contains no reference to family or marriage. The testing
clause is as follows: In witness whereof, written by Charles Menzies of
Kinmundie in Scotland, we have subscribed thir presents, at and within the Tower
of London, ye 21st day of January, 1716 years, &c.
This corroborates the other proof that
the fifth Earl was not married.
In Patten’s History of the Rebellion, printed at London, 1717, (p. 130)
it is stated that George Seaton, Earl of Winton, made his escape out of the
Tower, August 4th, 1716.
In the Caledonian Mercury, No. 4567, 16th January 1750, the
attainted Earl’s death is announced as follows: Letters from Rome bring advice
that the Earl of Winton, who was condemned to die in 1715, but escaped from the
Tower, died there the 30th of September last, N.S., aged upwards of
70, and was buried in the place set apart for the Protestants.
The fact of the attained Earl
having gone to Rome after his escape from the Tower, is established by Lord
Orford, who, in speaking of the Pretender, mentions Lord Winton when he (Lord
Orford) was at Rome, as forming one of the Pretender’s slender Cabinet.
In Edinburgh Magazine for 1750, the attainted Earl’s death is likewise
announced as follows: December 19, 1749. At Rome, aged above 70, George Earl
of Winton. His Lordship was engaged in the Rebellion 1715, and surrendered at
Preston in Lancashire, on the 14th November that year, with several
Scots and English Lords, &c, to the Generals Carpenter and Wills. He was
brought to London, December 9th and on the 10th of January
following, was impeached by the Commons of high treason. On the 19th,
the date appointed for the trial, he pled no guilty, and his trial was put off
from time to time, till the 15th of March when he was brought, and
received sentence of death on the 19th; but he escaped from the Tower
soon afterwards, and had lived in foreign parts ever since.
It is to be presumed, that in
giving such accounts of the attainted Earl as the above, if he had left lawful
issue, or had been married, the facts would naturally have been stated. In the London Magazine, January 1750, the attainted Earl’s death is
announced as follows: The late Earl of Winton, at Rome, on December 30th.
He was condemned to die for the Rebellion of 1715; but escaped out of the Tower.
In Sir Robert Douglas’s Peerage of Scotland, published in 1764, it is
expressly stated, that the attainted Earl died at Rome, anno 1749, and having no
issue, in his ended the male line of George Lord Seaton, eldest son of George
second Earl of Winton, and that the male line of Alexander Viscount Kingston,
his (George third Earl’s) second son having also failed, the representation of
this noble family devolved upon the descendants of Sir John, his (third Earl’s)
third son, (Sir John Seaton of Garleton).
N.B. The second Earl in the above
passage should be third; -- the slight numerical difference arising from the
circumstances of the second Earl’s Resignation, as already detailed under Branch
1. p. 4.
This statement was made by
Douglas only fifteen years subsequent to the attainted Earl’s death, when the
facts must have been well known. The Record by Sir Robert Douglas in all that
relates to the Winton family, rests upon far higher and more direct authority
than is usually the case with similar works, as is established by the evidence
which he gave as a witness, and one of the inquest in the service to be
immediately referred to, of Mrs. Mary Seaton or Arrat, youngest daughter of Sir
George Seaton second of Garleton, to her eldest brother Sir George Seaton in
1769, being five years after he published his work. In that service he not only
deponed to the propinquity, and that the genealogy mentioned in the brieve and
claim is true and authentic. But Sir Robert gives as his cause scientia that he
had in his hands the whole papers of the family of Winton when he wrote his book
of the Peerage of Scotland, and examined these; which book he produces to the
It should be noted that in the
Records of the Mason's Lodge in Rome, where George, 5th Earl was a member, it
states that the records of the Lodge there were kept by George Seton Winton (his
name in exile), Earl of Winton, and preserved and passed on by his widow
(c.1799). There is then, evidence to suggest that the 5th Earl of Winton
was indeed married, and likely his second marriage.
Note also: In the in the Chronological
Table of the Private and Personal Acts of the Parliament of Great Britain,
Part 10 (1727-1736), Acts of the Parliaments of Great Britain, for the year
1736, C.25, Restitution of George Seton: enabling him to sue or maintain any
action despite his attainder and to take or inherit any estate. The 5th
Earl of Winton had petitioned from Rome and was given a Restitution by
The earl died at Rome, December 19,1749, and according to usual accounts the
Earl had never been married and the family in the direct line was extinct. An
attempt was made to set aside the accepted belief on this point within our
recollection. A young man named George Seton, who followed the profession of a
saddler, at Bellingham, in the county of Northumberland, arrived in Edinburgh in
1825, and forthwith proceeded to have himself served as heir-of-line to the noble
family of Seton.
At that time, the serving of heirs before bailies
was rather a
loose process, and led to some strange assumptions of dignity. George Seton, the
saddler from Bellingham, succeeded in a process of this nature before the bailies of Canongate. The evidence he appears to have relied on was a
traditional belief that George, fifth Earl of Wintoun, had been married, about
the year 1710, to Margaret M'Klear, daughter of a physician in Edinburgh.
Charles Seton, a son of this pair, was said to have been born in Northumberland
; as evidence of which fact there was produced 'a certificate by Mr Thomas
Gordon, minister at Bellingham, of the birth of Charles Seton, dated 11th June
The birth of Charles Seton was undeniable, but no proper proof was
advanced that he was the son of the attainted Earl of Wintoun, and growing up he
resided as a labourer at Dunterly, in the parish of Bellingham, and George, the
claimant in question was his lawful grandson. From the evidence of witnesses,
there were probable grounds for believing that George Seton was the
great-grandson of the unfortunate earl; but the want of a certificate of the
marriage with Margaret M'Klear settled the invalidity of the claim ; and it was
reduced by the Court of Session.
Later records were
found to show that the family of McKlear was
actually that of George
(also written as: McKlear, McClure),
the Physician and Portioner in Preston, and where
his father George McLair of Prestown, N. B. ,
established his claim, in May, 1664, to be son and
heir of George McLair, — as the Scotch
'Inquisitiones Generales,' abridged by Thomson,
show. George McLair had married Isobel Seton
as her second husband (she married firstly, Normand
Blackadder the Baillie of Cockenzie), eldest
daughter of Robert Seton, Baillie of Tranent and
younger son of the family of the Seton's of St.
Germains by his wife Jean Menies, and a cousin of
the Earl of Winton. Margaret McKlear was the
eldest daughter of George McLain and Isobel Seton.
Among the legends that float round this interesting domain there is one:
"relative to George, fifth Earl of Wintoun that prior to departing on his ill-fated
expedition he is said to have buried a large quantity of plate and other
valuables, with the assistance of a blacksmith that he was acquainted with in the neighbourhood
and in whose fidelity he had placed reliance. The recollection of this buried
treasure haunted him in his weary exile on the continent, and after many years
he contrived to return to Scotland in the hope of recovering what he had so
carefully deposited. Unable to locate the blacksmith, the search was fruitless
and he fled in despair. It was afterwards observed that the family of the
blacksmith became opulent farmers in East Lothian."
This particular story has
more than just a few
elements to give it credibility: in that the 5th Earl having been a blacksmith's
apprentice and bellows-blower during his time in Flanders; was later known to
have been familiar with the local tenants and tradesmen on his estate after his
return and recovery of his title; he
was given to maintaining secrets, and with the actions of Seton of Garleton and the Viscount of Kingston's attempts to seize his title and estates,
the 5th Earl was very distrustful of his extended-family; he had an alliance in
Northumberland with the Earl of Derwentwater prior
to and during the rebellion of 1715 and had
travelled to visit there on many occassions.
These combined with the growing Jacobite activites of the early 1700's leading up to the events of 1715, and the
raid upon the Earl's Palace of Seton and destruction of his Collegiate Church
that when combined is more than sufficient evidence and circumstance to warrant the
hidden cache of valuables to be placed should there be a need. Several sources also
note that the 5th Earl had later visited Scotland in disguise, giving further credence
to the Bellingham-Hancock claim that he had a son and visited him in
Northumberland, and seeked to recover a hidden fortune that had been cached for
All of the above give
enough circumstantial-evidence to warrant renewed investigation into the reality that the 5th
Earl was in fact married. And, oddly enough, from the Masonic records of
Rome there is the mention that the Masonic-records
there were passed on by the 5th Earl of Winton's
widow following his death, proving not only was he
married, but that that he was possibly married twice,
and certainly had a mistress, Elizabeth Stevenson,
who acted on his behalf while he was imprisoned in
London. While the male-line of the 5th Earl
from Margaret Mk'Clear (McLain) in fact died out, the female-line passed to that
of the Seton-Hancock family. However, he may well have had legitimate male-issue from
his second marriage, to which the Winton family who at one time resided in
Ireland during the late 1700's and early 1800's
claim descent from, and also had a son John Seton
from Elizabeth Stevenson.
enough, when the Eglinton-Claim was filed, the line
of the Seton's of St. Germains was ignored, and
should it have been included would have showed not
only the marriage of the daughter of Robert Seton,
Isobel to George McLair of Preston, but also of the
marriage of the Earl of Winton to the
great-granddaughter of Sir John Seton of St.
Germains, Margaret McLair/McKlear.
One of the 5th Earls friends was
Dr. Archibald Pitcairn of that ilk, an eminent Edinburgh physician, who had
married as his second wife in 1693 Elizabeth Stevenson, also a doctor. Dr.
Pitcairn died in 1713, leaving by her two sons and two daughters. One son
Archibald came out in the Rising and was captured and sentenced to death, but
was released through private interest with Walpole (afterwards Earl of Oxford).
On 16th February 1716 Elizabeth
came to the Tower and saw the Earl and brought him a sum of £1000 sterling from
his estates, she having on 27th January been appointed by him his "factrix" .
For this money he gave a receipt. 1 - On a later occasion she brought him a
further sum of £5000. This was only discovered in 1724 when she addressed the
Commissioners of Forfeited Estates, stated what she had done and told them that,
as factrix, she had recouped herself £1120, and claimed the balance of £3879 out
of the Estate.
In the very rare printed pamphlet, in which this appears, she is said to have
put forward some letters to her from a Mrs Corsbie "who was then attending the
"said Earl" in prison. This woman had an alias "Margaret McKlear" . The Earl's
solicitor Charles Menzies W.S., also deponed that this lady "by favour of the
"warders" had access to the Earl. She was in London as a witness for the Earl.
The Earl, through the activity of
Elizabeth Stevenson, had money, and the simplest explanation of his escape from
the Tower was that he had bribed his two warders and walked out. The warders
admitted that they had absented themselves, contrary to orders. It is at least
unnecessary to accept the statement of Lady Cowper ?, that he sawed an iron bar
through with a watch spring - especially as she describes him as "a natural
fool, or mad, though his natural character is that of a stubborn, illiterate,
ill bred brute. He has eight wives". This Lady of the Bed-Chamber was obviously
a poor judge of breeding and may well have invented the story of the watch
Unfortunately Lord Winton never made a recognised
marriage. It was alleged, by a claimant to the Earldom, that he had married
about 1710 Margaret McKlear; but this was never proved. It is however certain
from the evidence of Elizabeth Stevenson referred to above that he had by her a
son John and a daughter Christian, and from them have descended various
Contemporary as well as later historians have been
unfair in their estimation of the character of the
last Earl of Winton.
Thus Mackay says: "he was mighty subject to a
particular caprice natural to his family".
1, without attempting to define that
One of the Counsel pleaded in Court that he was "in that doubtful state of
memory, not insane enough to be within the protection of the law nor sane enough
to do himself the least service".
Justin McCarthy too describes him as "a poor feeble creature, hardly sound in
2 - On the other hand, Sir Walter
Scott considered "he displayed more sense and prudence than most of those
engaged in that unfortunate affair".
3 - Patten too considered that "all
his actions speak him to be master of more penetration than many of those whose
characters suffer no blemish as to their understanding" .** That Winton had a
hot temper is more than likely; it is shown in his portraits, and, as late as
1743, when Lord Elcho met him at the Jacobite Court at Rome, he was temporarily
in disgrace for having quarrelled with a gentleman, and having drawn his sword
in the presence of the exiled 'King James'.