The Lords Seton

Before the Lords were created, the family maintained a tradition of Knights, for thirteen generations until the mid-14th century, and passed this training hereditarily to every son of the House.  Eventually the direct male-line of the Seton's ended with the heiress Margaret de Seton, who married her cousin Alan de Winton, himself a Seton descended from Philip de Seton who had recieved the Charter of the Lands of Winton in 1169, and who's branch of the family had taken their name of Winton from their estate of Winton which they had recieved in patrimony. 

Their son, Sir William Seton was knighted prior to becoming the 1st Lord Seton and was the first ever and first created Scottish Lord of Parliament, which made the Lord's Seton the Premier Baron's of Scotland.

The original line of the Seton's devolved upon Sir Alexander the 3rd who married Christian Cheyne, is known for the conspicuous part which he took in the defence of his country against the invasion of the English as the Governor of the town of Berwick, besieged by Edward III of England in 1333.  He succeeded in sinking and destroying by fire a great part of the English fleet.

The siege eventually converted into a blockade, and as the supplies began to fail and starvation was imminent, the Governor agreed to capitulate by a certain day, and gave hostages among whom was his son, Thomas.  However, before the appointed period, a body of Scottish soldiers marched into Northumberland, and Edward insisted that the town should be surrendered.

The besieged refused, and Edward, enraged at this refusal caused Thomas Seton and his brother William (previously captured) - to be hanged before the gate of the town. Another son of Sir Alexander Seton fell in their country’s cause - during the the attack on the English fleet at Berwick, July, 1333, leaving only two sons remaining, Alexander and John.

Sir John Seton, the younger son founded the Seton's of Parbroath, and the eldest surviving son, the 4th Sir Alexander Seton, married Margaret Murray, and later sought refuge from his sorrows and troubles in a hospital of the order of St. John of Jerusalem, his only child Margaret becoming heiress of the extensive estates.

She married Alan de Wyntoun, a cadet of her own family, and this marriage led to a sanguinary contest between rival, and disappointed suitors, called ‘the Wyntoun’s war’ which according to Wyntoun, the chronicler, caused more than a hundred ploughs to be laid aside from labour. Alan de Wyntoun died in the Holy Land, and his eldest son, Sir William Seton, was created 1st Lord Seton by King Robert II.

The 1st Lord Seton married Catherine St. Clair of Herdmanston, daughter of Sir William St. Clair, a great house at that time and connected with the Sinclairs of Rossyln, noted for the legendary Templar connection.  By her he had two sons and six daughters. 

The eldest son, John, succeeded his father, while the second son, Alexander, married, in 1408, Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of Sir Adam Gordon, and founded a family of Seton blood which rose to fame and importance and the highest ranks of the peerage, in that of the Gordon’s of Strathbogie or Huntly.  In fact, Sir William had arranged for his eldest son John to be wedded to the heiress of Gordon, but John had married Janet Dunbar, daughter of the Earl of March, much to his fathers displeasure.

Sir William became a famous knight in the middle of the fourteenth century, and visited Jerusalem, and through both his own and his wife’s family connections, was also active in the Sinclair-Templar affairs at Rosslyn.  On his return from his crusade to Jerusalem, he took part, in 1383, with the Borderers of Scotland, in that raid into England described so graphically by Froissart (who names him), “for they said there had been such damage done to their lands as was disagreeable to themselves and friends, which they would revenge the very first opportunity.”  They came back with a rich booty in prisoners and cattle. 

The battle of Otterburn, which furnished material for the ballad of Chevy Chase, was fought on the 19th of August, 1388, and Sir William was there.  Friossart’s calling him “le seigneur de Seton” confirms the testimony of Maitland that he was created a Lord of Parliament, as we shall presently see.

Sir William Seton, 1st Lord Seton, belonged to the third Order of Saint Francis, and dying in February, 1409, was buried in the Church of the Franciscan Friars (The Grey Friars) in Haddington, to whom he left by will six loads of coal weekly, out of his coal-pit of Tranent, and forty shillings annually, to be charged on his estate of Barnes.  His widow is described as a virtuous and energetic woman, who got husbands for four of her daughters, and built a chantry on the south side of the parish church of Seton, prepared a tomb for herself there, and made provision for a priest to say mass perpetually for the repose of her soul.

King David II., by charter dated 23 October 1369, confirmed that donation which William de Seton had made to Adam Forest of two carucates of land in the town of Nudreff (Niddry) in the constabulary of Linlithgow.  William de Setoun granted a charter delecto armigero nostro Johanni de Fravayd, probono et fideli services miki impenso et impendento, of the whole lands of  Wester Favayd (Falside), in the barony of Travernent (Tranent), confirmed by King Robert II., 20th June 1371. 

A charter was granted by Robert Duke of Albany, 27 March 1408, confirming that impignoration which our beloved William de Setoun, Knight, had made with consent of our beloved cousin, John de Setoun, Knight, his son and heir, to our beloved son, Walter de Haliburton of Dryltoun, of an annual rent of 50 marks out of his barony of Travernent, as well out if the lands as out of the coal works of the same, for 500 marks due to the said Walter, for the marriage of Elisabeth de Gordoun, daughter and heiress of the deceased Adam de Gordoun, to be held by the said Walter his heirs or assigns, till the said sum of 500 marks is paid by the said William de Setoun, or his heirs, in the parish church of Gulyne.

Gold Medal struck to mark the marriage of George Seton and Isabel Hamilton
© British Museum

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Medal struck to mark the marriage of George Seton and Isabel Hamilton
The Seton Arms
Arms of the Seton Family © The Seton Family 2005
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