Biggar:

from where the Flemings ruled

Map of southern Scotland
WHEN DAVID I SUCCEEDED to the Scottish Crown in 1124 the kingdom he inherited was in respect of law and order little more than a loose federation of principalities in a land whose geophysical structure made lines of communication very difficult and, in winter, often impossible.
To impose his law he introduced feudalism, imported, and granted land to, Flemish and Norman knights in return for their military service, and required the incomers to build motte-and-bailey castles from which law and order could be maintained. The gift of Annandale to the Bruces is one example.
After the Lords of Annandale, perhaps the most famous appointment in the south of Scotland was that of Baldwin Le Fleming of Biggar as Sheriff of Lanarkshire, another post of strategic importance to the nation’s defence against the Galwegians. With the neighbouring Lindsay and Douglas clans the Flemings imposed peace on, and brought prosperity to, a wide area.
Arms of Walter Le Fleming
Baldwin married the so far unnamed widow of Reginald, the fourth son of Alan, Earl of Richmond (and thus cousin to Conan who married the Lady Margaret, sister of King Malcolm IV). She may have been a Lindsay by birth, and thus of one of those influential families in the area claiming Flemish ancestry. (Douglas was another, as was also Bruce in Annandale.)
Baldwin Le Fleming of Biggar
It is in Annandale that we first find mention of Baldwin. He was granted lands at Kirkpatrick (to be known later as Kirkpatrick-Fleming) and there he built Redhall Tower. Beryl Platts in Scottish Hazard (Procter Press) has proposed that he arrived there from the Devonshire lands granted to his family by King William the Conqueror, and that his Flemish origins are probably traceable to Gavere, near Ghent, where the Gavere seigneurs bore also the double tressure flory-counterflory in their arms (but Vert not Argent).
Arms of Gavere Arms of Livingston of Wemyss Arms of Livingston of Dunipace
Gavere
in Flanders
Livingston
of Wemyss
Livingston
of Dunipace
Scotland and Flanders were the only countries to feature the double tressure flory-counterflory in their heraldry, and its source in early Scottish heraldry (remembering that then in the absence of arms in the male line they would be adopted and modified from arms in the female line) can only be from Flemish families. Eighteen miles north of Biggar, at Livingstone (modern spelling), the Livingstons of that Ilk (ext. 1512) bore Argent three cinquefoils Gules, but cadet branches bore the double tressure flory-counterflory, most probably for marriages with the Flemings of Biggar.
Baldwin’s descendants continued to hold Biggar until the twentieth century while their influence, power and wealth waxed and waned with the politics of the different reigns. Robert Fleming of Lenzie achieved international fame when, accompanying Robert the Bruce at the slaying of the Red Comyn, he severed the dead man’s head and offered it to Bruce with the recommendation “Let the deid shaw” (Let the deed show) ~ which thereafter became the motto of the Flemings. Bruce rewarded him with a grant of the lands of Cumbernauld in Dunbartonshire.
Robert Fleming of Lenzie’s son, Malcolm Fleming of Cumbernauld, Sheriff of Dunbartonshire and Governor of Dumbarton Castle, was created Earl of Wigtown, but his grandson, the 2nd Earl, recognising his own inability to govern the troublesome Galwegians, sold his rights in the Earldom to Archibald Douglas, Lord of Galloway. His lands of the Lordship of Wigtown were granted by the King to Sir James de Lindsay, and eventually, having no children, he resigned the barony of Lenzie in favour of his first cousin and heir male, Malcolm Fleming of Biggar.
Malcolm Fleming of Biggar was the son of Patrick Fleming of Biggar the 2nd son of Robert Fleming of Lenzie. His mother was Joan, younger daughter and coheiress of Sir Simon Fraser of Olivercastle, Sheriff of Peeblesshire, for whom the family thereafter quartered the Fraser arms Azure three fraises Argent.
Arms of Fleming of Biggar
His son, Sir David Fleming of Biggar, was high in royal favour, expanded the family properties and occupied several important appointments including two embassies to England. He was murdered by James Douglas of Balveny (who afterwards became 7th Earl of Douglas). His son Malcolm succeeded him, but he too died prematurely, under the axe.
Fleming of Biggar
quartering Fraser
Robert Fleming of Biggar, Malcolm’s only surviving son, became Master of the King’s Household to James II who, in 1451, created him Lord Fleming. His grandson John, 2nd Lord Fleming, was one of the nobles who opposed King James III and replaced him with James IV. He rose to high rank, went on several embassies to France, commanded a warship as Vice-Admiral, and for the last eight years of his life he was Chamberlain of Scotland. He was assassinated while hawking by John Tweedie of Drumelzier in 1524.
The next three holders of the title also died early. Malcolm, 3rd Lord Fleming, was killed at the battle of Pinkie in 1547. James, 4th Lord Fleming, was one of the eight Scottish representatives sent to Paris for the marriage of Mary Queen of Scots to the Dauphin in 1558, and was one of the four who were poisoned there (for opposing French views on the settlement of the Scottish Crown). John, 5th Lord Fleming, fought for the Queen at Langsyde, 1568, but died at Biggar in 1572 of wounds accidentally inflicted by French soldiers firing a salute.
John, 6th Lord Fleming, was an active supporter of King James VI in that monarch’s problems with his overpowerful lords, and was raised by him to the Earldom of Wigtown. His son, John, 2nd Earl, continued that tradition, persecuted Catholics, signed the Covenant, but took no part in the Civil War. John, 3rd Earl, who succeeded his father in 1650, took the Royalist side and fought for Montrose. John, 4th Earl, and William, 5th Earl, maintained their family’s ancestral loyalties, and John, 6th Earl, and his brother Charles, 7th Earl, supported the Jacobites in 1715.
With the death of the childless seventh Earl in 1747, the titles of Earl of Wigtown and Lord Fleming, both of which were remaindered to heirs male only, appear to have become extinct. One claim was made for the title of Lord Fleming, and this was rejected by the House of Lords, but it is still theoretically possible that a successor may be found. The Barony of Biggar, of course, was not extinguished, and passed to the descendants of the 6th Earl.
Arms of Hon. Charles Elphinstone Arms of Hon. Charles Elphinstone-Fleeming Arms of Cornwallis Maude
Hon. Charles Elphinstone
Hon. Charles Elphinstone-Fleeming
Cornwallis Maude ~ arms as first borne
Lady Clementina, heiress niece of Charles, 7th Earl of Wigtown and daughter of John, 6th Earl of Wigtown, (by his wife Lady Mary Keith, daughter of the 9th Earl Marischal), married Charles, 10th Lord Elphinstone, and subsequently inherited the extensive Fleming estates. She left these to her son’s second son, the Hon. Charles Elphinstone, who added Fleeming to his surname (note the idiosyncratic spelling) and adopted the Fleming of Biggar arms, placing Elphinstone in the second quarter.
Of Lady Clementina it may be noted that she was heir of line not only to her paternal ancestry, the Fleming Earls of Wigtown, but also to her maternal uncle, George Keith, 10th and last Earl Marischal, and to the senior line of the Drummonds in which she represented James Drummond, 4th Earl of Perth, her maternal grandfather. (In her huit quartiers her male ancestors were all earls ~ they being the 6th Earl of Wigtown, the 2nd Earl of Dunfermline, the 10th Earl Marischal, and the 4th Earl of Perth, and their Countesses were all from comital houses at least.)
Arms of Fleming of Biggar Arms of Keith, Earl Marischal Arms of Drummond, Earl of Perth
Arms of Earls of Dunfermline
Fleming
Earls of Wigtown
Seton, Earls of
Dunfermline
Keith
Earls Marischal
Drummond
Earls of Perth
Arms of Lady Clementina’s four great-grandfathers
The only son of the Hon. Charles Elphinstone-Fleeming, John Elphinstone-Fleeming, succeeded as the 14th Lord but died childless, leaving the Barony of Biggar to his eldest sister, Clementina. She married Cornwallis Maude, 4th Viscount Hawarden, later 1st and last Earl de Montalt of Dundrum. Their son, Cornwallis, took the Fleming surname (with conventional spelling), and bore the Fleming of Biggar arms, but was killed in action leaving two daughters of whom the elder, Clementina, married but died childless, and the younger, Eveline, died unmarried.
After Clementina died the great Fleming estates were slowly broken up by Trustees and the Barony of Bigger eventually left the family. The present Baron now offers it for sale. In view of its important history it is expected to go at a high price.
Biggar Kirk
Visitors to Biggar should not miss the chance to see the lovely church founded as a Collegiate Church by the 3rd Lord Fleming in 1545/6. One other notable feature from the past is Boghall Tower, the remains of the Fleming castle.
The Barony of Biggar was sold to its new Baron shortly after being featured in the Baronage pages.
Return to the
Properties Page
Baronage Current Contents Page
© 2003 The Baronage Press