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THE BELLINGHAM CLAIM

 

Reduction of the Service of George Seton, Saddler, as great-great-grandson and heir-male of line of George fourth Earl of Winton.

It is judged proper under this head, to detail the evidence adduced in support of, and that which entirely sets aside, the pretensions of a person who at one time, within the last few years, claimed to be descended from a son of the fifth and attainted Earl, namely, George Seton, A Saddler, in Bellinghamn; and who, by a proceeding before the Bailies of the burgh of Canongate, in the absence of any opposing party, obtained himself, in July 1825, served heir-male of line of George the fourth Earl, who he alleged was his great-great-grandfather; and the evidence shall be stated by which he tried to show that the attainted Earl had been married, and that there was a son born of the marriage, from whom he claimed to be descended.  This examination shall the more readily be entered upon, as of itself it affords the most complete confirmation of the proof that the attainted Earl left no lawful issue, but died unmarried.

There is accordingly, in the first place, producedó

The Retour of a General Service, dated 25th July 1825, which was carried through before one of the Bailies of the burgh of Canongate, and which served a person designed George Seton, residing in Bellingham, in the county of Northumberland, as nearest and lawful heir-male of line in general to the said George fourth Earl of Winton, his great-great-grandfather.  And there is also producedó

Extracted Decree of Reduction of the said General Service, dated 7th July 1826, obtained at the instance of the tutors of Lord Eglinton against the said George Seton, whereby the Lords of Council and Session reduced and annulled the said retour, and whole grounds and warrants thereof; and decerned and declared the same to have been in judgment, and restored the Earl of Eglin ton against the same in integrum, for the reasons and causes stated in the decreet.  These reasons, inter alia, are that the said service proceeded in absence of any contradtictor, and without evidence to prove that the defender (George Seton) was at all connected with the foresaid George fourth Earl of Winton.  Tertio, The defender could not then prove, nor can he now prove, that he is heir-male of the said George fourth Earl of Winton, or indeed of any Earl of Winton whatsoever.  Quarto, The pursuer has evidence which, if it were incumbent on him to adduce, would be sufficient to instruct that, if the said defender was at all descended from the said Earl (which he has by no means proved) it could only have been through an illegitimate line.

This claimant, George Seton, described himself in the proceedings merely as residing in Bellingham, in the county of Northumberland, and as only surviving son of Charles Seton, residenter there, who was only surviving son of Charles Seton, residenter at Dunterly, in the parish of Bellingham, who, it was affirmed, was the only son of George fifth and last Earl of Winton, and who was elder son of George fourth Earl on Winton.  And although he does not any where affirm the legitimacy of the son of the fifth and attainted Earl, from whom he thus says that he is descended, he no doubt claimed to be served nearest and lawful heir-male of line in general to the fourth Earl, as being his great-great-grandfather.  It was alleged that George then attainted Earl had been married about the year 1710 to a person of the name of Margaret MíKlear, daughter of a physician in Edinburgh; and that this was intended to be the date of the alleged marriage is also fixed by one of the productions, which is described as a certificate by Mr. Thomas Gordon, minister at Bellingham, of the birth of (simply) Charles Seton, dated 11 June 1711; this being the son who was said to have been the issue of the marriage.  The marriage was said by some of the witnesses to have taken place in a Catholic chapel in Edinburgh; but there was produced a certificate by the schoolmaster of Tranent, which the list describes to be as to the parish record of Tranent being lost between the years 1685 and 1718, between which period (the list proceeds) George fifth Earl of Winton was married to Margaret MíKlear.  No questions, however, relating to the marriage were put to the only witness examined in Scotland, and who resided in Tranent.  It was said that this Charles Seton, the son of the attainted Earl by Margaret MíKlear, and born in June 1711, afterwards resided as a labourer at Dunterly, in the parish of Bellingham, where he married, in 1740, Ann Dodd, and died there, September 1781, when he would be aged 70; and that the fourth and youngest son of this marriage, Charles Seton, was born at Bellingham, in Northumberland, December 1755, married, 105h March 1790, Margaret MíAllester, and died February 1823; and that the third and only surviving son of this marriage was the said George Seton, who obtained the service on 25th July 1825, as heir-male of line of George fourth Earl of Winton.

There being thus no attempt at proving the marriage, the only evidence adduced was directed solely to the purpose that, according to the impression among the people in the neighbourhood of Bellingham, where the child was said to be born, a marriage had taken place, and that the child was the lawful son of the earl through such marriage.  The evidence consisted of, 1st, The depositions of five persons, whom the claimant himself stated to be aged and infirm and who were all of the class of husbandmen, or widows in Northumberland, and the depositions were taken before a Justice of Peace there in May 1825, previous to the issuing of the brieve in favour of George Seton, or any authority being granted for the purpose; there was also the deposition of a person residing in Tranent, taken also before a Justice of Peace, equally prematurely and without authority, and this last was the only evidence taken in Scotland, 2d, Certain certificates from the parish registers in Northumberland, where the parties resided, purporting to be of the births, marriages, and burials of several members of George Setonís family, from the birth of Charles in 1711, down to the birth of George Seton himself; 3d, Five letters, dated from 1734 to 1750, from Margaret MíKlear to the said Charles Seton, said to have been the son of the attainted Earl; with a book said to contain entries of the births of Charles Setonís own family, and the names of his father and mother, said to be the Earl and Countess of Winton.  All these certificates and letters wee, however, delivered back to George Seton on the day of the service.

The story of this George Seton, as related by his own witnesses, is the following:-- The first is the deposition of a widow names Sarah Thomson, aged 82, and who being interrogated as to her knowledge of Charles Seton who formerly resided at Dunterly in the parish of Bellingham, Depones, that she remembers him upwards of sixty years ago, when he resided at Bearridge, &c, that he afterwards came to Dunterly, aforesaid, where he died about 40 years ago, and that she, this deponent, was at his funeral; also depones having heard that the said Charles was the lawful son of the Earl of Winton; that the Countess of Winton, in the troublesome times, came to Bellingham, and was brought to bed of the said Charles Seton; and that he was brought up by one Michael Thompson; also depones that she has heard the said Earl and Countess were married in a Catholic chapel in Edinburgh; that the said Earl afterwards engaged in the Rebellion, and in consequence lost his rights; also depones that she has seen a mourning ring in the possession of the said Charles Seton, which it was always believed had been sent to him by the Earl of Winton, and that it was a mourning ring for the Countess of Winton; that there were the letters M.Me upon it, which this deponent understood was meant for Margaret MíKlear, which was the Countessís name; as also, depones that it was always reported and believed in the neighbourhood that the said Charles was the son and heir of the Earl of Winton. 

A still more particular account is given by Ann Hope, aged 70, who being interrogated as to her knowledge of Charles Seton, who formerly resided at Bearridge, and afterwards at Dunterly, both near to Bellingham, depones that she has frequently seen him, and now recollects him upwards of 60 years; that she has herd and verily believes that the said Charles Seton was the lawful son and heir of George the fifth Earl of Winton, by Margaret MíKlear, the Countess of Wintoní that she has heard from one Mary Weir and Jean Common, both formerly of the parish of Bellingham, and now long since dead, that the said Countess of Winton was passing through Bellingham aforesaid, on her way to Dilston, the seat of the unfortunate James Earl of Derwentwater; that the said Countess, from fatigue of body and mind, there at Bellingham aforesaid, was taken in premature labour, and there bore the said Charles Seton; and that they, the said Mary Weir and Jean Common, attended the said Countess in her labour; that the said Countess was brought to bed at the house of one William Robson, in Bellingham aforesaid, which said house was at that time the principal inn there; and that the said Mary Weir was the daughter of the said William Robson, and the said Jean Common the servant of the said William Robson; that the said Countess of Winton resided at Bellingham about a month, when she placed the said Charles Seton with one Michael Thompson of Houxtey, near Bellingham aforesaid; that the said Countess then left Bellingham aforesaid in a carriage, attended by a footman, first leaving with the said Michael Thompson a letter directing him where to receive pay for nursing the said child; and that clothing was given to the said Michael Thompson for him, suitable to his birth, rang; and this deponent farther declares, that she has heard from the said Mary Weir and Jean Common, and verily believes the same to be true, that the said Michael Thompson afterwards went to Seaton House in Scotland, and there saw the said Earl of Winton walking in his garden; that the said Michael Thompson told, when he returned home, that the said Earl had requested of him, the said Michael Thompson, to consider the said Charles Seton, as the son of a nobleman, and at that time acknowledged him to be his lawful son, and expressed great concern for his welfare, and happiness; and this deponent farther declares, that she has heard and believes that the said Earl of Winton engaged in the unfortunate Rebellion of the year seventeen hundred and fifteen, and had in consequence to fly abroad for his safety; that she has also heard he returned to Berwick-upon-Tweed in disguise, and wrote to the said Michael Thompson to bring the said Charles Seton to him; that before the said Michael Thompson could go there, the said Earl of Winton was again obliged to fly, from a fear of being discovered, (a large reward at that time being offered for him;) that after this time the payments for the keep of the said Charles were discontinued, and that he was in consequence brought up to manhood by the said Michael Thompson, and worked as a labouring man.

Other witnesses also depone, that they had heard that Lady Seton came to Bellingham, and bore the said Charles Seton there; and that the said Charles Seton was nursed by Michael Thompson, &c:  That the Countess of Winton, in the troublesome time, left Scotland, and came into Northumberland to be out of harms way; at that time, the Earl her husband was in trouble; that, in passing through Bellingham, she was taken in labour, and bore the said Charles Seton, the elder, &c:  That it was always reported in the country that Charles Seton was the Earl of Wintonís lawful son; and that he was in possession of several things, amongst others, a ring and pocket Bible, which were reported to have belonged to the said Earl of Winton; that the ring appeared to be a mourning ring, and that this deponent hath since seen both the Bible and ring in the possession of the present George Seton of Bellingham, the grandson of the elder Charles Seton.

Thomas Common, aged 80, depones, That he has heard the said Michael Thompson received a letter to meet the said Countess at Kelso; that, when he went there, the said Countess did not come, but that the Earl of Winton himself came; that the said Earl then acknowledged the said Charles Seton to be his lawful son, and begged the said Michael Thompson to take care of him, and to give him a good education, and bring him up in the Protestant religion, as he intended him afterwards to travel; that the said Earl paid for his maintenance; and, on parting, that the said Earl asked of the said Michale Thompson how he should know his son, the said Charles Seton, if he should meet him at any future time; that the said Earl then took out two rings, and gave one to the said Michael Thompson for the said Charles Seton, and observed that they would know each other by producing the rings:  Also depones, that he has heard, soon after that time, the said Earl engaged in the Rebellion, and fled abroad for safety, &c:  Also depones, That he, this deponent, has seen letters which came to the said Charles Seton from his aunt, who resided at Prestonpans; that her name was Catharine M,Klear, that this deponent recollects hearing from the said Charles Seton, that he had visited his aunt in Scotland, and that she then gave him a pocket Bible which had belonged to his father, the Earl of Winton; that this aunt was the Countess of Wintonís sister; that the said Countess had then been long dead, &c.

The Claimant George Seton, having fixed the period of the alleged marriage of his great-great-grandfather George the fifth and attainted Earl with Margaret MíKlear, to have been in the year 1710, and by written evidence that the period of the birth of their alleged son was 11th June, 1711, it is only necessary to bear in mind that it was not until the year 1715óthat is, four years after the birth Ė that the Rebellion broke out; and it was not until the following year that the Earl of Winton was convicted of having joined in it.  And, indeed, although some of the witnesses seem to ascribe the cause of the birth taking place in Northumberland generally to the troubles of the times, which had induced the mother to leave Scotland, yet those of them who spoke more precisely, unequivocally state that it was after the birth that the Earl became concerned in the Rebellion.  During the four or five years between the birth of the child and the period of the Rebellion, while the child Charles Seton is said to have been boarded at Bellingham in the most humble way, and while the alleged two interviews between Thompson, with whom he resided, and the Earl, took place at Kelso and at Seaton Palace, the Earl was all the while living at Seaton Palace; and no record nor evidence exists, otherwise than in the depositions which have been cited, that his alleged marriage took place, and far less is there any evidence in relation to the alleged issue of it.  The proceedings in the attainder, bear no mention of the Earl being visited in the Tower by the alleged Countess or the son; and it has not been said, and certainly is not the fact, that any application was ever made for any allowance out of the Earlís forfeited estate to the alleged Countess or the issue of the marriage, as was uniformly the case where the attainted left either widow or child.

 

 


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