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Finding Auchmedden Castle: Pt. 1

Updated: Aug 22, 2022

Scotland In The 1500s: Making Game of Thrones Blush

Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right
Location of Balmerino, Fife in Scotland

Before Auchmedden

In 1531, Andrew Baird of Scotscraig, Fife in Scotland purchases "the superiority of Laverocklaw, in the parish of Balmerino, from John Kinnaird of Kinnaird." (Bulloch & National Library of Scotland, 1934, p. 3) By 1534, he sold purchased the lands of Glencuithill and Auchmedden. (Erskine, 1836, p. 235) These lands belonged to the Earl of Buchan and were a part of the Barony of Glendouachy.

Record of Charter for the Lands of Glencuthill and Auchmedden

This was a rapidly changing time in Scotland as feudalism still reigned but increasingly individuals gained freedom in royal burghs such as Aberdeen and Banff where local barons held, in theory, less political and judicial power. However, until 2004, rural Scotland still fell under the sway of feudal superiors in varying degrees of authority. In 1537, heritable jurisdictions were still the norm. Auchmedden, as a part of Barony of Glendouachy, fell under the control of a new family.

The Rise of the Erskines

Up until 1551, the Earldom of Buchan was held by various branches of the Stewarts (both famous and infamous). In 1547, John Stewart, Earl of Buchan, passed his earldom to his son. (Paul & Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center, 1904, p. 268) His son, known as the Master of Buchan married into the Ogilivy family that was feuding with the Bairds of Ordinhivas and had a daughter. John, the Master of Buchan, marched to war and that same year was killed at the battle of Pinkie Cleugh. Now, the Earl's grandaughter, born 1547, held the earldom in her own right. (Paul & Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center, 1904, p. 269)

It's important to note that marriages were still contracted in Scotland at this point. In Lowland Scotland, women had little say in their marriage partner. When Christina Stewart's father and grandfather died, she became the ward of the Douglas of Lochleven. In 1549, just a young child, a contract of marriage was created for James Stewart, the Earl of Moray and illegitimate son of James V. (Paul & Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center, 1904, p. 269) Its important to mention the role of wardship. This was not simply foster care or adoption. The guardian was not only had control of the child but also the lands and rent. This existed until the ward married and lands transferred. In many cases, the male Guardian could choose to marry his ward and take all lands and titles.

This is not to say that women had no power or rights. In this case, one woman would change the course of history. Although Christina Stewart, now Countess of Buchan, became the ward of Lochleven, Robert Douglas of Lochleven also died in 1547 at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh. He left behind his children and his wife, Margaret Erskine. It is important to also note that in Scotland at this time, women maintained their own surname. (Wormald 1991, pg 26-27). Margaret, now a widow, was now the Chatelaine of Castle Lochleven, and the guardian of the countess of Buchan. (Paul & Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center, 1904, p. 269) Typically, a widow would then become a ward herself, but Margaret Erskine had a powerful ally.

Margaret Erskine, while married to Robert Douglas of Locheleven, became the mistress of James V. She then gave birth to the aforementioned James Stewart, Earl of Moray. Her husband must have been completely aware of this infidelity, if not supportive, as she bore her husband other children until his death. Margaret, now a widow, became the Chatelaine of Castle Lochleven.

Margaret was not just a romantic fling. Evidence exists that James V debated forcing a divorce between Douglas and Erskine and marrying Margaret to make her his queen. According to letters in England, this plan was known in 1536 by spies in the court and communicated back to the English king, Henry VIII:

"Syr, I here, bothe by the Qwens grace your susster, and dyvers other, that maryage ys borken bytwxt the Kynge's grace your nephewe and Mons de Vaindom, and that He wyll marye a gentyllwoman in Scottland, the Lord of Arskynes douhter, who was with Your Grace the last somer at Thornbery; by whom he hath a chyld, havying a hosband; and Hys Grace hathe found the means to devorse them." (Commission, 1836)

Modernized: "Sire, I hear, both by the Queen's Grace your sister and diverse others that the marriage is broken between the King's Grace your nephew and the Monsieur de Vendôme, and he will marry a gentlewoman in Scotland, the Lord of Erskine's daughter, who was with your Grace the last summer at Thornbury; by whom he has had a child, having a husband, and his Grace has found means to divorce them. And there is great lamentation made for it in this country as far as men dare."

The informant it appears, was Margaret Tudor, the wife of James VI and sister of Henry VIII. If the divorce proceeded, the Earl of Moray, an illegitimate son of the King, James V would have become King. Courtiers moved quickly to block the marriage. Margaret Erskine made her own fate however and nothing could prevent her from control. If Scotland ever needed a powerul queen, it missed the boat with Margaret Erskine.

Margaret's son, James Stewart, the Earl of Moray, did not marry the young Christina Stewart but instead married Agnes Keith, the daughter of William Keith, the 4th Earl Marischal of Dunottar castle and thus forging powerful. Agnes Keith was the second cousin of the George Baird of Auchmedden.(Bulloch & National Library of Scotland, 1934, p. 4) Margaret Erskine was clearly aligned with this as she would later receive annual shipments of Acqua Vitae (Whiskey) from the Agnes Keith. The Earl of Moray would become famous as the advisor to Queen Mary of Scots and later as the Regent of Scotland. He would fortunately be out of the country at the death of Darnley and Rizzio and so never blamed for their assassinations or involved in the assault. Eventually, he would oppose Mary, Queen of Scots and be forced to flee Scotland.

Mary, Queen of Scots, subjected to one cruelty after another saw her support shrink away at Carberry Hill. Arrested, she was forced into prison at Lochleven Castle under the guard of Margaret Erskine. Mary would abdicate in favor of her son, James VI. Being only one, the Earl of Moray returned as Regent of Scotland, a King in all but name. The Bairds of Auchmedden became allies of the Earl of Moray. In 1565, the Earl of Moray granted a charter on Auchmedden and Glencuthill to the Bairds:

Margaret's eldest son inherited the Earldom of Morton through a close relative. Her second son, Robert Douglas then married Christina Stewart and became the Earl of Buchan in his wife's right. The new Earl of Buchan became a strong supporter of the Earl of Moray. Margaret Erskine, not a queen in her own right, but through skill and politics, she raised her children to the Regency of Scotland and to the Earldoms of Morton and Buchan. (The Earl of Moray would be assassinated in 1570.)

Margaret Erskine's influence did not end their as the Earldom of Buchan would eventually fall into Erskine hands in the 1660s. The Erskines, through Margaret, had become powerful.

The Chaotic World of Scotland

It is in the Chaotic time that Bairds of Auchmedden arose and they cemented by marrying into a existing Baird family in Banff. But, as we will see in a future post, the Bairds of Ordinihivas were already causing problems in Banff. However, the Auchmedden Bairds successfully navigated water fraught with the reformation, war, and upheaval. Margaret Erskine become a powerful ally and through her machinations obtained title, position and power for her family on her own through skill, marriage, court intrigue, war, and crafty politics. She represents a powerful woman often overlooked who shook the world and enable the Bairds to become powerful as well.

Was Margaret right and fighting for women's rights and power? Or was she scheming? Was she a pawn? What did I get wrong?

Comment in the post!



  1. Bulloch, J. M., & National Library of Scotland. (1934). The Bairds of Auchmedden and Strichen, Aberdeenshire. In Internet Archive. Peterhead : The Buchan Club.

  2. Erskine, sir D. (1836). Annals and antiquitites of Dryburgh, and other places on the Tweed. In Google Books (p. 235). Oxford University.

  3. Paul, J. B., & Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center. (1904). The Scots peerage; founded on Wood’s edition of Sir Robert Douglas’s peerage of Scotland; containing an historical and genealogical account of the nobility of that kingdom. In Internet Archive. Edinburgh : D. Douglas.

  4. Wormald, Jennie. Court, Kirk, and Community: Scotland, 1470–1625 (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1991), pp. 29–35.

  5. Commission, G. B. R. (1836). State Papers: King Henry the Eighth ; Part IV. - continued. In Google Books. Murray.

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