Saturday, 5 March 2016

1st Earl of Wemyss

THE EARLS OF WEMYSS AND MARCH WERE THE GREATEST LANDOWNERS IN PEEBLESSHIRE, WITH 41,247 ACRES

This ancient family traces its origin to John, baronial lord of Weems, whence the surname was probably derived, who was younger son of the celebrated Macduff, Thane of Fife, the vanquisher of the tyrant MACBETH.

SIR MICHAEL WEMYSS was sent, according to John of Fordun,
in 1290, with Sir Michael Scott, to Norway, by the lords of the Regency in Scotland, to conduct the young Queen MARGARET to her dominions; but Her Majesty unfortunately died upon the journey, at the Orkneys.
Sir Michael swore fealty to EDWARD I in 1296, and he witnessed the act of settlement of the Crown of Scotland by ROBERT I of Scotland, at Ayr, in 1315.
From Sir Michael lineally descended

SIR JOHN WEMYSS, of Wemyss, who married firstly, in 1574, Margaret, eldest daughter of William, Earl of Morton, but by that lady had no issue; and secondly, in 1581, Anne, sister of James, Earl of Moray, by who he had, with other issue,

SIR JOHN WEMYSS, of Wemyss, who was created a baronet in 1625; and elevated to the peerage, as Baron Wemyss, in 1628.

His lordship was advanced to the dignities of EARL OF WEMYSS, Lord Elcho and Methel, in 1633.

This nobleman, though indebted for his honours to CHARLES I, took part against his royal master, and sided with the parliamentarians.

He wedded, in 1610, Jane, daughter of Patrick, 7th Lord Gray, by whom he had six children, and was succeeded in 1649 by his only son,

DAVID, 2nd Earl (1610-79), who married thrice.
His lordship's third wife, Margaret, daughter of John, 6th Earl of Rothes, by whom he had an only surviving daughter, MARGARET, in whose favour his lordship, having resigned his peerage to the Crown, obtained, in 1672, a new patent, conferring the honours of the family, with the original precedency, upon her ladyship.
He died in 1680, when the baronetcy expired, but the other dignities descended, accordingly, to his daughter,

LADY MARGARET WEMYSS, as 3rd Countess of Wemyss.

Her ladyship espoused SIR JAMES WEMYSS, of Caskyerry, who was created, in 1672, for life, Lord Burntisland, having had previously a charter of Burntisland Castle. The issue of this marriage were,
DAVID, successor to the Countess's honours;
Anne, who wedded David, Earl of Leven and Melville;
Margaret, wedded to David, Earl of Northesk.
The Countess of Wemyss espoused secondly, George, 1st Earl of Cromarty, but had no issue by his lordship.

Lady Wemyss died in 1705, and was succeeded by her only son,

DAVID, 4th Earl.
This nobleman was appointed, by Queen ANNE, Lord High Admiral of Scotland, sworn of the Privy Council, and constituted one of the commissioners for concluding the Treaty of Union.
His lordship married firstly, in 1697, Lady Anne Douglas, daughter of William, 1st Duke of Queensberry, and sister of James, Duke of Queensberry and Dover, and of William, 1st Earl of March, by whom he had one surviving son,

JAMES, 5th Earl (1699-1756), who married, in 1720, Janet, only daughter and heiress of Colonel Francis Charteris, of Amisfield, in Haddingtonshire, by whom he had issue, his eldest son,

DAVID, Lord Elcho, having been involved in the rising of 1745, fled into France after the battle of Culloden, and was attainted.

The family honours remained, therefore, from the decease of the 5th Earl, during his lordship's life, under the influence of that penal statute; but at the soi disant 6th Earl's demise without issue, in 1787, they were revived, and inherited by his brother,

THE HON FRANCIS WEMYSS-CHARTERIS (1723-1808), 7th Earl, who wedded, in 1745, Lady Catherine Gordon, daughter of Alexander, 2nd Duke of Gordon, by whom he had issue,

FRANCIS, Lord Elcho (1749-1808).
The heir apparent is (Francis) Richard (Dick) Charteris, styled Lord Elcho (b 1984).

GOSFORD HOUSE, Longniddry, East Lothian, is the ancestral seat of the Earls of Wemyss and March.

It was built by the 7th Earl between 1790 and 1800.


Gosford House was designed by the architect Robert Adam, who died before the mansion was completed.

The 8th Earl knocked down the wings, and his grandson, the 10th Earl, rebuilt them in 1891 to designs by the architect William Young.

The south wing contains the marble hall.

Gosford is built in the neo-classical style.

During the 2nd World War, the Army occupied the house, and burnt out the main rooms of the central block.

It was re-roofed in 1987, and restoration of the central block is an ongoing process, which has been progressed in the last ten years by Shelagh, Countess of Wemyss and March.


The Marble Hall, in the south wing, is arguably the most arresting of Gosford's many fine interior features.

It was completed in 1891 by William Young for the 10th Earl, and rises to a height of three storeys, with a magnificent double staircase leading to a surrounding picture gallery.

The elaborate fireplace, alabaster colonnades and ornate plasterwork reflect the strong Italianate taste of the 10th Earl, while the Palladian screen of Venetian windows are reminiscent of Adam's original designs.

The ponds in the policies were recently restored by James, the 13th Earl.

Gosford can be seen from Edinburgh on a clear day. It is open to the public in the summer.

The grounds boast an unusual and rare example of a Scottish curling-house.

Neidpath Castle, near Peebles, is also owned by Lord Wemyss; as was Amisfield Park, Haddington, which was sold by the family to the local council in 1928.

First published in January, 2014.

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