Earldom of Mar
Creation date1404 (first creation, as ruled by Parliament)
1459 (third creation)
1483 (fourth creation)
1486 (fifth creation)
1562 (sixth creation)
1565 (seventh creation)
Created byJames II (first creation, as ruled by Parliament)
James II(third creation)
James II (fourth creation)
James III (fifth creation)
Mary (sixth creation)
Mary (seventh creation)
PeeragePeerage of Scotland
First holderRuadrí, Earl of Mar
Present holderMargaret of Mar, 31st Countess of Mar (first creation)
James Erskine, 14th Earl of Mar and 16th Earl of Kellie (seventh creation)
Extinction date1479 (third creation)
1483 (fourth creation)
1503 (fifth creation)
1570 (sixth creation)
Former seat(s)Mar's Wark, Kildrummy Castle and Doune of Invernochty

There are currently two earldoms of Mar in the Peerage of Scotland, and the title has been created seven times. The first creation of the earldom is currently held by Margaret of Mar, 31st Countess of Mar, who is also clan chief of Clan Mar. The seventh creation is currently held by James Erskine, 14th Earl of Mar and 16th Earl of Kellie, who is also clan chief of Clan Erskine.

The earldom is an ancient one. The first named earl is Ruadrí, who is known to have been alive in 1128, though an unnamed earl is mentioned as being present at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. In 1435 the earldom was seized by King James II (16 October 1430 – 3 August 1460), and was then granted to several royal children, who produced no heirs. The sixth creation was for James Stewart, illegitimate son of King James V (10 April 1512 – 14 December 1542), who was stripped of the title after a rebellion in 1565.

The title was granted to John Erskine, a descendant of the original earls. In 1866, the previous Earl died childless, and it was unclear whether the earldom should pass to his heir male, or heir general. This led to the two decisions by the House of Lords, which created the two earldoms. In 1875, the House ruled that the earldom given to John Erskine in 1565 was the seventh creation, not a continuation of the first, and that it should pass to heirs male. In 1885, however, the House passed and Parliament enacted the Earldom of Mar Restitution Act, which declared that the first creation of the earldom still existed, and was held by the heir general of the original earls.

Several earls of Mar have been prominent in Scottish history. In particular, John Erskine (d. 1572) served as Regent of Scotland after the abdication of Mary, Queen of Scots, and John Erskine (1675–1732) was a Jacobite commander who fled to France. Lionel Erskine-Young, 29th Earl of Mar (1891–1965) would go on to co-found the Royal Stuart Society to continue support for the Jacobite succession.


The ancient district of Mar

The earldom takes its name from Mar, an ancient province of Scotland running west from Aberdeen along the River Dee beyond Braemar ("upper Mar") to the Mar Lodge Estate. Mar expanded north past the River Don to become the region of Marr, which merged with Buchan to form the county of Aberdeenshire.[1]

9th–14th centuries

The first Mormaer of Mar is usually regarded as Ruadrí (fl. 1131), mentioned in the Book of Deer. Some modern sources give earlier mormaers, i.e. Muirchertach (Latinized as Martachus) and Gartnait (sometimes Gratnach), mentioned respectively in charters of the reigns of king Máel Coluim III (relating to the Céli Dé establishment of Loch Leven) and king Alexander I (relating to the monastic establishment of Scone), though in these cases certain identification with a particular province is difficult. The accounts of the Battle of Clontarf in some of the Irish annals name Domnall mac Eimín meic Cainnig, Mormaer of Mar, as among those killed in 1014 alongside Brian Boru.

The Mormaerdom comprised the larger portion of modern Aberdeenshire, extending from north of the River Don southward to the Mounth hills.[2] Its principal seats were Migvie and Doune of Invernochty. The Mormaerdom may initially have alternated between two kin-groups, represented respectively by Morggán, and by Gille Críst. Gilchrist succeeded Morgund, but was himself succeeded by Donnchadh (Duncan), son of Morgund. On the other hand, we do not know Gilchrist's parentage, and chronologically he could have been an elder brother of Donnchadh.

No definite succession of earls appears till the 13th century, and from the middle of the 13th century the earls were recognized as among "the seven earls of Scotland".[2] There was a settlement in around 1230 between Donnchadh and Thomas Durward, grandson, apparently, of Gilchrist, by which Durward had, it is said, £300 of land, a very large amount, which was scattered around the earldom, particularly at Fichlie, near Kildrummy, and Lumphanan in the lowland area. He also had Urquhart, but that probably had nothing to do with the earldom. Donnchadh got the title of Mormaer and the wealthier and militarily more useful upland parts of Mar. Earl Thomas died childless in 1374, but the earldom passed via Donnchadh's daughter Margaret to her husband William, Earl of Douglas.[2]

15th century

Mars Wark: The Earl of Mar's house in Stirling, situated on the approach to Stirling Castle, the Earl of Mar was governor of the castle during the mid-16th century.

While the eleventh (by some counts) holder of the title, William and Margaret's daughter Isabel Douglas, Countess of Mar, was alone at Kildrummy Castle, Alexander Stewart, following in the steps of his father the “Wolf of Badenoch” and his uncle Robert, Duke of Albany, murdered Sir Malcolm Drummond, Earl of Mar, captured Kildrummy Castle and forced Mar’s widow Isabel Douglas, to marry him. He also forced her to sign a charter on 12 August 1404 yielding the earldom to him and his heirs. She revoked the charter later that year, but on marrying him, she gave him the earldom for life with remainder to her heirs. The King confirmed her last action the next year.[2]

In 1426, Stewart resigned the title so that he could be granted a new one by the King, the new title being more "legitimate". The King did so, but specified that the earldom and associated lands would revert to the Crown upon the death of the Earl. In 1435, the Earl died, and Robert, Lord Erskine claimed the title, but the King claimed its lands under the specifications of reversion made in the patent. The issue remained unresolved until 1457, when James II obtained a court order declaring the lands as crown possessions. Thereafter, he bestowed the title on his son John, who died without heirs in 1479. It was next granted to James' other son, Alexander, Duke of Albany, but the title was then declared forfeit because of Alexander's alliances with the English. James III created his son John Earl of Mar in 1486, upon whose death in 1503 the title became extinct again.[2]

16th–18th centuries

John Erskine, Earl of Mar from 1689 to 1716 (his attainder).

The title was once again created in 1562, for James, Earl of Moray, son of James V, but he, too, could not produce a qualified heir. Moray rebelled in 1565 (see Chaseabout Raid) in protest at the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots, and Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley. Consequently, Queen Mary restored (or created) the earldom of Mar for John, Lord Erskine,[3] heir to the Lord Erskine, heir of the ancient Earls through a cousin of Isabel, who quarrelled with James II about the Earldom. His son, also named John, recovered the Mar estates, alienated by the Crown during the long period that his family had been out of possession.[2] John, the 23rd (or 6th Earl counting from 1565) was attainted for rebellion in 1716 (he was also created Duke of Mar in the Jacobite Peerages of Scotland and Ireland, and Earl of Mar in the Jacobite Peerage of England), and the Earldom remained forfeit for over a century.

19th century

Mar Peerage Restoration Act 1824
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn act for exhibiting a Bill for the Restoration of John Francis Erskine of Mar.
Citation5 Geo. 4. c. 59
Royal assent9 June 1824

In 1824, the Earldom was restored by Act of Parliament (5 Geo. 4. c. 59) to John Francis Erskine, the heir of the attainted Earl, in his 83rd year. His grandson, the ninth Earl, successfully claimed inheritance the earldom of Kellie and associated titles in 1835.

At the death of the 26th Earl of Mar and eleventh Earl of Kellie in 1866, the Earldom of Kellie and the family's estates passed to Walter Erskine, the cousin of the late Earl, and his heir male. Meanwhile, it was assumed that the Earldom of Mar passed to John Francis Goodeve, the late Earl's nephew, and his heir general. Goodeve changed his name to Goodeve Erskine; his claim was agreed upon by all. He even participated in the election of representative peers for the Peerage of Scotland. However, the Earl of Kellie submitted a petition to the House of Lords asking that the Earldom of Mar be declared his, dying before it could be considered. His son, the thirteenth Earl of Kellie, renewed the petition, and the Lords referred it to their Committee on Privileges. The petition made a number of claims:

Goodeve Erskine had different ideas, however. He portrayed the Crown's takeover of the territorial earldom not as pursuant to a charter, but rather as an act of tyranny. He argued:

The House of Lords Committee on Privileges ruled in 1875, to the dissatisfaction of many, that the Earldom of Mar was newly created in 1565, passed only to heirs-male, and therefore belonged to the Earl of Kellie, and not to Goodeve Erskine. The Lord Chancellor, Roundell Palmer, 1st Baron Selborne, declared it to be "final, right or wrong, and not to be questioned".[2]

Earldom of Mar Restitution Act 1885
Act of Parliament
Long titleAn Act for restitution of the ancient dignity and title of Earl of Mar.
Citation48 & 49 Vict. c. 48
Royal assent6 August 1885

However, there was a sentiment that the Lords had decided wrongly. A bill was brought to Parliament, to allow Goodeve Erskine to assume the title, and was passed without dissent. The Earldom of Mar Restitution Act 1885 (48 & 49 Vict. c. 48) declared that because of the doubts relating to the 1565 creation, it would be assumed that there are two Earldoms of Mar. The Earldom created in 1565 would be held by the Earl of Kellie. The ancient earldom, however, was declared to be still in existence, and was given to John Goodeve Erskine. For the purposes of precedence, it is assumed that the earldom held by Goodeve Erskine's heirs was created in 1404.[4]


Early earls

Earls of Mar, first creation (1404) (as decided by Act of Parliament in 1885)

Eardom of Mar
(1st creation)[5][6]
Creation datec. 1014
Created byKing Malcolm II
PeeragePeerage of Scotland
First holderRuadrí, Earl of Mar
Present holderMargaret of Mar,
31st Countess of Mar
Heir presumptiveSusan of Mar, Mistress of Mar
Remainder toheirs general of the body of the grantee
Subsidiary titlesLord Garioch (1320)

Other title: Lord Garioch (1320)

The heir presumptive is the present holder's daughter Susan Helen of Mar, Mistress of Mar (b. 1963).

Earls of Mar and Garioch, third creation (1459)

Earls of Mar and Garioch, fourth creation (1483)

Earls of Mar and Garioch, fifth creation (1486)

Earls of Mar, sixth creation (1562)

Earldom of Mar (seventh creation)
held with
Earldom of Kellie
Creation date1565
Created byMary, Queen of Scots
PeeragePeerage of Scotland
First holderJohn Erskine, 1st and 18th Earl of Mar
Present holderJames Erskine,
14th Earl of Mar
Heir presumptiveHon. Alexander David Erskine
Remainder toheirs male of the body of the grantee
Subsidiary titlesViscount of Fentoun,
Lord Erskine,
Lord Erskine of Dirleton

Earls of Mar, seventh creation (1565) (as decided by the House of Lords in 1875)

Other titles: Earl of Kellie (1619), Viscount of Fentoun (1606), Lord Erskine (1429) and Lord Erskine of Dirleton (1603).

For the first ten earls of the seventh creation see the first creation, above.

The heir presumptive is the present holder's brother, the Hon. Alexander David Erskine, Master of Mar and Kellie (b. 1952), whose heir is his son Alisdair Capel Erskine (b. 1979).[7]

Family tree

In popular culture

"The Earl of Mar's Daughter" is a child ballad documented by Francis James Child.[8]

The Genesis song "Eleventh Earl of Mar" on their album Wind & Wuthering (1977) depicts the failure of the unsuccessful Jacobite campaign and the innocence of the Earl's young son.[9]

Mar is one of the provinces in the board game Britannia.

See also


  1. ^ Smith, Alexander (1875). A New History of Aberdeenshire: In Two Parts. Part 1. Aberdeen: Lewis Smith.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Round 1911, p. 665.
  3. ^ "(136) Page XXXVI - Ancient and modern - Histories of Scottish families - National Library of Scotland". digital.nls.uk. Retrieved 26 August 2023.
  4. ^ Round 1911, pp. 665–666.
  5. ^ Burkes pp1751-3
  6. ^ Debretts pp943-944
  7. ^ Morris, Susan; Bosberry-Scott, Wendy; Belfield, Gervase, eds. (2019). "Mar and Kellie, Earl of (Erskine)". Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage. Vol. 1 (150th ed.). London: Debrett's Ltd. pp. 2363–2369. ISBN 978-1-999767-0-5-1.
  8. ^ "The Child Ballads: 270. The Earl of Mar's Daughter". Retrieved 25 July 2009.
  9. ^ "Wind and Wuthering". www.donaghue.karoo.net.


  1. ^ The first creation dating from 1404, recognizes Alexander Stewart as 12th earl. Some sources discount Stewart from this creation, lowering subsequent numbers by one.