Motto of the Seton's of Touch


Hugh Seton, Baron of Touch and Tullibody, Hereditary Armour Bearer to the King

When James Seton, last direct Seton male of Touch, died in 1742 unmarried, his only sibling Elizabeth Seton inherited the estate.  She had married Hugh Smith, and by arrangement, he assumed his wife's surname of Seton and continued the House of Touch and Tullibody.

Hugh held to the Touch family's Jacobite traditions and in 1745 Prince Charles Edward, on his way to the Battle of Prestonpans stayed at Touch on the night of September 13th 1745. He gave to his host Hugh Seton a quaich, a ring and a miniature and General Murray left behind his dispatch book. These were much treasured by the Setons, and are now held in the safekeeping of an Edinburgh Museum.  He cautiously avoided the horrific outcome of the failed Jacobite rising of 1745-46 and retained his estate.

Hugh was a noted Master Freemason, and was Master of the Lodge of Boulogne 1747-48 and the 13th Grand Master Mason of the Grand Lodge of Scotland between 1748-49.  Despite the forfeiture of the Seton lands, after the failure of the Jacobite risings, he maintained close ties with his chief, the 5th Earl of Winton who he fled to Rome and who was there a member of Chevalier's Cabinet, and it is through the Earl of Winton's influence that he became Grand Master Mason of the Grand Lodge. 

Hugh Seton maintained constant correspondence with the exiled Royal House of Stuart throughout the 18th century, his letters in 1775 and 1776 to Louise, Princess of Stolberg for example, concerning the claim of a young Lady (later legitimated the Duchess of Albany) to be recognized as the daughter of the Young Pretender, have been preserved.  Despite his connections with House of Stuart, he travelled extensively throughout Europe and made a personal acquaintance and friendship with the near-relative of the House of Hanover, Adolphus Frederick IV, Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, as well as to have made connections with the later 1st President of the United States of America, George Washington.

Hugh Seton as a traveller wearing Eastern costume of a white turban and gown.A remarkable group of letters, acquired by Queen Mary in 1933 with an old snuff-box which formerly belonged to Hugh, provides a fascinating insight into its history. It was a gift from Adolphus Frederick IV, Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, to Hugh Seton of Touch (Stirlingshire) in April 1769. The Duke was the eldest brother Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III . The Queen corresponded regularly with ‘le cher duc’, although she was constantly exasperated by her lack of success in persuading him to marry.

Hugh Seton, who like George III was a keen agricultural reformer, had met the Duke the previous September. He was entrusted with a number of letters from the Duke to convey to his sister in England, and on his arrival in England Seton wrote to the Duke to confirm the safe delivery of the letters to the Queen at the time of her confinement for the birth of Princess Augusta; he added that he was sending the Duke a gift of a post-chaise (four-wheeled carriage) as a mark of friendship.

The Duke was delighted with the present. In his reply he thanked Seton for his generous gift, in which he drove out daily, and begged him to accept this snuff box, ‘un petit paquet’, ‘wrapped in brown paper’, as a mark of his friendship. The box was probably made in Germany by a French workmaster. It is of superb quality and is elaborately chased in vari-coloured gold with allegories of putti and cherubs, emblematic of the arts and sciences. A miniature of the Duke, by an unidentified German artist, is set into the underside of the lid. It depicts the Duke wearing the star and collar of Garter, which he had received in 1764.

Later, Hugh Seton, together with local lairds, brought families down from the highlands to start the mammoth task of draining the Carse of Stirling for land reclamation. Ditches were dug to float the peat which covered this bogland down to the River Forth, and eventually out to sea. In all an area some 60 square miles was reclaimed, and the rich clay soil which was exposed beneath is now renowned for the production of Timothy hay. 

This was only the start of Hugh Seton’s improvements to Touch. It is to him that we owe the magnificent south front which was commenced in 1757 and continued till 1770 when the Drawing Room ceiling was completed.

As a result of his vast expenditures he found himself in considerable debt and left to travel abroad and seek further fortunes in East India. His portrait, painted in India by James Wales circa 1792–1794 shows Hugh Seton as a traveller wearing Eastern costume of a white turban and gown, and there are interesting stories abound from this period in his life.

His son and heir, Archibald, determined to clear the estate of debt, joined the East India Company and sailed to India in 1779. He rose to high office, accumulated a considerable sum of money but sadly died on his way home at the age of 60 before reaching Touch, on whose behalf he has worked all his life.  Archibald's sister, the heiress Barbara Seton, married Sir Henry Stuart of Allanton, and inherited Touch. Sir Henry took the name of Seton-Steuart and their family remained the lairds of Touch.

Sir Henry James Seton-Stewart, Bart., of Touch House, was the eldest son of Sir Reginald Macdonald Seton-Stewart, Bart., of Staffa, by Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Sir Henry Stewart, Bart, F.R.S., of Allanton. He was born in 1812; succeeded, as third baronet, in 1838; and, in 1852, married Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Montgomery, Esquire. Sir Henry was Hereditary Armour-Bearer and Squire of the Royal Body in Scotland. The heir was his nephew, Alan Henry, elder son of the late Archibald Seton-Stewart, Esquire, by Catherine, daughter of Robert Stein, Esquire. He was born in 1856.


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