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The Lordship of Garioch:

An Ancient Title with Royal Links

Before Aberdeenshire was divided into two maeries, Mar and Buchan, each governed by a mormaer, a Great Steward, they formed a single territory, Mar, recognised as one of the seven original Earldoms of Scotland. After the division Mar consisted principally of the lands watered by the two great rivers the Don and the Dee, and was for the greater part mountainous, whereas Buchan’s rich earth, supported by lesser rivers, was known as “the north-east lowlands”. It was an area in which many battles were fought, in early times against the Norsemen, and famously in 1411 at Harlaw between Alexander, Earl of Mar, and Donald, Lord of the Isles.
Map of location of Garioch
A fairly substantial portion of Mar, the Garioch, about 200 square miles in the east of the territory, became identified separately, probably in the reign of Malcolm Canmore (mid-11th century), and was appropriated as an appanage of the Royal House. Grants made from it by the King included Inverurie to the Leslies (whose chief’s arms are shown here on the left), a family founded by a nobleman believed to have come to Scotland from Hungary in the train of Malcolm’s second wife, the Scottish Catholic and Episcopalian Churches’ most revered Queen, Saint Margaret.
Arms of Leslie
In the next century Roderick, Mormaer of Mar, witnessed the foundation of the Abbey of Scone as Rothri comes and is accordingly deemed to be the first Earl of Mar. His eventual successor, Gratney, 7th Earl of Mar, married the Lady Christian, sister of King Robert the Bruce, and together with her was granted the Lordship of Garioch which passed to their grandson Thomas, 9th Earl of Mar, when Christian died. The arms of the early Earls of Mar are shown here on the right. As will be seen below, they were later quartered with the Erskine arms.
Arms of early Earls of Mar
At Thomas’s death Mar and Garioch passed to his sister Margaret and thence to her daughter, Isabel, who used the style Countess of Mar and Lady of Garioch. Isabel married first Sir Malcolm Drummond of Drummond, brother of Queen Annabell, and after he died in captivity she was forced to marry his probable murderer, Sir Alexander Stewart, bastard son of that Earl of Buchan whose cruelty and rapacity had earned him the title of “the Wolf of Badenoch”. The Buchan arms are here on the left, but the Wolf, son of King Robert II, quartered them with the Royal Arms.
Arms of Buchan
Alexander, the victor at Harlaw, took from his wife the title of Earl of Mar and Garioch. When he died in 1435, a long time after the Countess, the Earldom of Mar was claimed by Robert Erskine of Alloa and Dun, the senior descendant of Gratney and Christian Bruce, but James II refused to recognise his right, appropriated the earldom’s revenues, and granted the lands and regality of Garioch to his Queen, Mary, daughter of Arnold, Duke of Gueldres whose arms appear here on the right.
Arms of Dukes of Gueldres
When Mary Queen of Scots returned to Scotland from France after the death of her husband the Dauphin, she recognised the injustice done to the Erskines and in 1565 restored the Earldom of Mar to John, Lord Erskine, including with this the lands and lordship of Garioch. The family then held onto Garioch, despite their severe financial problems in succeeding generations necessitating temporary alienation of its lands, until their part in the 1715 Rising lost them everything
Two prominent members of the Erskine clan recovered from the Government a substantial proportion of the forfeited Mar lands, financing the purchase in part by judicious sales of outlying areas. A substantial amount, including the Lordship of Garioch, was acquired by William Duff of Dipple and Braco, and during the years that followed, the Duffs became the principal landowners in Aberdeenshire and, with their estates along the southern coast of the Moray Firth, one of the richest families in Scotland.
Pronominal arms of Duff
The Duffs claimed descent from that Chief of the Macduff clan who in the year 1056 AD, in Malcolm Canmore’s army, allegedly slew Macbeth. He is said to have been the Thane of Fife (although there were no such thanes), and, as such, a distinguished figure in Scottish history whose privileges his successors in the Earldom of Fife believed they had inherited. It was those rights, as they had come to be accepted, that the sister of the absent Earl of Fife placed the crown on the head of King Robert Bruce (for which pious act she later suffered seven years in an iron-barred cage exposed to Berwick’s cruel winds).
The Duff Lords of Garioch were advanced to the peerage first as Earls Fife (placing the arms of the ancient Earls of Fife in the 1st and 4th quarters of their shield), and then when the 6th Earl Fife married Princess Louise, eldest daughter of King Edward VII, further advanced as Marquess of Macduff and Duke of Fife. Under the terms of his grandson’s will, the Lordship of Garioch, together with other estates, passed on his daughter’s death to his great-nephew, Alexander Ramsay of Mar, who thus became the most recent Lord of Garioch. He married Lady Saltoun of Abernethy, Chief of Clan Fraser, and died in 2001, the title of Lord of Garioch then passing to the current holder, George David Menking.
Arms of the Duff Earls Fife
Garioch river
Garioch countryside
Pastoral Beauty
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