The Seton Family



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


Standard of the Scots Guards in France," Les Gardes Eccossais".

Seton's in the 'Gardes Ecossais' in France

The Setons had long-standing connections with France and the Auld Alliance. In 1419 Sir Thomas Seton and his brother each commanded a company of men-at-arms and archers. According to William Forbes-Leith the Seton brothers were “conspicuous amongst the most faithful followers of the Dauphin. Thomas was favoured with the estate of Langeais, and appointed to accompany Charles wherever he went.” Thomas Seton was captain of twenty seven men-at-arms and a hundred mounted archers and was employed as bodyguard to the Dauphin Charles, six years before the founding of the Scottish Guard. Seton's company of 127 men-at-arms and archers can perhaps be viewed as a precursor or progenitor of the Scottish Guard. Thomas Seton was among the many Scots killed during the Battle of Cravant in 1423.

Sir William Seton, the eldest son of Sir John Seton, 2nd Lord Seton, also fought for Charles VII, dying at the Battle of Verneuil in 1424. In The History of the House of Seytoun by Sir Richard Maitland there is a mention of Robert Seton, second son of George, fourth Lord Seton, described as “ane man of armes in France” who died at the Castle of Milan. Robert Seton's son, William, is also described as “ane man of armes in France” and his name appears in the 1558 muster roll of the Scottish Men-at-arms as detailed by William Forbes-Leith.

Francisque-Michel in his work Les Ecossais en France (1862) mentions Graham Seton as an archer in the Scottish Guard about 1467 and George Seton as member of the Guard in 1575. Four Setons are listed in the Guard's muster roll for 1587 and three members of the family are recorded in the roll of 1624.
Sir John Seton of Cariston, a cousin of the Earl of Eglinton, had three sons, two of whom travelled to France. His second son, also called Sir John Seton, is described as “Captain in the Scots Guards in France, married to a daughter of the Count of Bourbon” in George Seton's History of the Family of Seton During Eight Centuries (1896).

Another member of the family and namesake, Sir John Seton, was Lieutenant of the Guard from 1632 to 1640. He is presumed to have been the son of the aforementioned John Seton, Captain of the Guard. By the early 17th century the Scottish Guard had ceased to be an exclusively Scottish company, with Frenchmen making up two thirds of the personnel. In a letter to the Marquis of Hamilton dated 3rd of November 1634 he describes himself as “the last Scots Lieutenant” of the Guard. Rivalries between the Scots and the French came to the fore during this period as William Forbes-Leith recounts in Chapter 11 of The Scots Men-at-arms and Life-guards in France, entitled 'The Last Kings of France – The Last Scots Guards':
Louis XIV. maintained the companies of Scots Men-at-arms and Scots Guards, the only two corps in the French army which had survived the troubles of the sixteenth century, and allowed both companies to remain in possession of their privileges. One of them was to take precedence of the whole French army in virtue of seniority – a most precious privilege […] It was natural that the French should murmur at the distinctions bestowed on the strangers, and the records of the court prove that they frequently met with jealous opposition.

At the funeral of Louis XIII., according to the ceremonial, the Scots Guards were to accompany the corpse from St Germain's to St Denis, and not to leave it till it was deposited in the Bourbon vault. When the corpse reached St Denis, at the church door a disputed point arose regarding the pall between the Scots Guards and the royal footmen who had taken hold of it. The Guards claimed their privileges, and Lieutenant Seton defended their claim in opposition to the Prior, who was in favour of the royal servants. The point was then referred to the Marquis de Sainctot, Master of Ceremonies, who decided in favour of the Guards ; however Lieutenant Seton gave ten pistoles [gold coins] to the royal servants. The corpse was then borne to the midst of the choir by eight Scots Guards.

In 1679 a certain David Seton is recorded as Brigadier of the Guard. The surname Winton appears in the muster rolls of the Guard. In Scotland this name derives from the lands of Winton in Pencaitland, East Lothian, held by the Seton family since the 12th century.

The sixth Earl of Eglinton's father, Robert Seton, Earl of Winton, and grandfather, George Seton, both had strong ties to France. George Seton spent his childhood in France where he was educated. His epitaph at Seton Collegiate Church states: "Being deprived of his most worthy father, when he was a young man, living in France, he returned home, and in a short time afterwards, by a decree of the Estates of the Kingdom, he is sent back to France, and there, as one of the Ambassadors, he negotiated and ratified the marriage between Queen Mary and Francis, Dauphin of France, and the ancient treaties between the French and the Scots."

George Seton married Isabel, daughter and heiress of Sir William Hamilton of Sanquhar, by which he acquired the Manor of Sorn and lands in Kyle in Ayrshire. In 1583 he returned to France as ambassador with the intention of continuing the Auld Alliance. He was accompanied by his sons Robert Seton, future Earl of Winton, who had been educated in France, and Alexander Seton, future Earl of Dunfermline. While in France Lord Seton made efforts to secure the position of Captain of the Scottish Guards for one of his sons, Sir William Seton. Around this time George Seton's sister, Mary Seton, one of the 'Four Marys' who attended Mary, Queen of Scots, retired to the Convent of Saint-Pierre in Rheims, northern France. Mary Seton spent the remainder of her life at this convent which was headed by Renée of Lorraine, sister of Mary of Guise and aunt of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Portrait of George, 7th Lord Seton, and his family, including, second from left, Robert Seton, future Earl of Winton and father of the Earl of Eglinton. The youngest of the sons is William Seton, who later acquired the lands of Kylesmuir in the parish of Mauchline, Ayrshire. Sir Walter Scott described this family portrait of the Setons as a “very curious portrait... painted in a hard, but most characteristic style by Sir Antonio More. The group slope from each other like the steps of a stair, and all, from the eldest down to the urchin of ten years old, who is reading his lesson, have the same grave, haughty, and even grim cast of countenance, which distinguishes the high feudal baron, their father. […] This picture... is one of the most celebrated monuments of art belonging to Scottish history, and cannot be looked on without awakening the most powerful recollection of those feudal times”.

Arms of Seton of Kyllismuir, or KylesmuirArms of the Setons of Kylesmuir. John Seton, second son of William Seton of Kylesmuir, was described as “ane officer in France, wher the said John dyed.”

Illustration of the Eglinton estate from George Seton's History of the Family of Seton. The sixteenth century castle visited by Mary, Queen of Scots was replaced with the castellated mansion shown here by Hugh Montgomery, twelfth Earl of Eglinton, soon after his accession to the Earldom in 1796. In the Dining-room of the twelfth Earls' castle there hung a portrait of Mary Seton, one of the 'Four Marys'. A necklace gifted to Mary Seton by Mary, Queen of Scots was reputedly worn by the Countess of Eglinton.

Archibald Montgomerie, 13th Earl of Eglinton, acquired the Seton Earldom of Winton in 1859. George Seton, 5th Earl of Winton, had been stripped of the title for his adherence to the Jacobite cause in 1715.

The historic importance of the Eglinton line of the Seton family is discussed in A history of the family of Seton during eight centuries by George Seton:
The importance of this distinguished branch of the family has been materially increased since it came to be regarded as inheriting the representation of the House of Seton, after the failure of the Kingston and Garleton branches in the male line. It must be borne in mind that, like several of the cadets who adopted other surnames, the Earls of Eglinton, since the beginning of the seventeenth century, though nominally Montgomeries, have been really Setons, and hence their claim to the headship of the great historic House of Seton.

(from the Irvine's History Notes website)



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