Saturday, 12 October 2013

(80) Alexander of Menstrie, Earls of Stirling

Arms granted to William Alexander,
1st Earl of Stirling
The Alexanders of Menstrie claimed to be descended from a scion of the Lords of the Isles, Alexander Macdonald, who settled at Menstrie in the late 15th century, and whose descendants took his forename as their surname.  More certainly, Thomas Alexander was ‘of Menstrie’ in 1505/6 when he was one of arbiters in a dispute between the abbot of Cambuskenneth and Sir David Bruce.  Rogers, in his account of the family, traces a continuous but not entirely convincing descent from this Thomas to William Alexander (d. c.1574), who built Menstrie Castle, and then on to Sir William Alexander (c.1570-1640), 1st bt. and 1st Earl of Stirling, the playwright and poet. This descent is followed below, with the addition of as much supporting evidence as can be found.

William had a meteoric rise to rank and royal favour under James I and Charles I, but never achieved the income required to support the dignity of an earldom.  His early life is fairly obscure; he was probably educated in Stirling and later at the universities of Glasgow and Leiden, although he never took a degree.  He accompanied the 7th Earl of Argyll on a grand tour which apparently included visits to France and Italy, but he was back in Scotland by 1600, and published his first plays and poems in 1603-04.  He was presumably introduced to the Scottish court by Argyll before it emigrated to England in 1603, and in Paraensis, of 1604, he sets out good advice from a courtier to a prince.  Although he seems not to have travelled with the King to England he had been appointed a gentleman of the Privy Chamber to Prince Henry by 1607 and was knighted in 1608 or 1609.  On Prince Henry’s death in 1612 he was appointed gentleman usher to Prince Charles, and in 1614, Master of Requests for Scotland.  He was admitted to the Privy Council in 1615, and was part of King James’ entourage on his triumphant visit to Scotland in 1617.  In the 1620s he conceived a scheme for creating a new colony of New Scotland between Newfoundland and New England.  He secured a royal grant of this land and the right to create 100 new baronets ‘of Nova Scotia’, each of whom was to have 30,000 acres of land in the new colony on payment of 1,000 marks, but the number of takers was limited and many of those who did participate took no steps to actually settle the colony.  In 1629, when war with France ended, the fatal flaw in the scheme became apparent: the French had laid prior claim to the area and refused to pay King Charles I the dowry for Henrietta Maria unless New Scotland was ceded to France, which it was in March 1632; the loss cost Alexander many thousands of pounds.  In 1626 Alexander was appointed one of two Secretaries of State for Scotland and in 1627 he was made Keeper of the Signet, which brought him lucrative fees for sealing documents.  He was an important figure in planning King Charles’ coronation visit to Scotland (first proposed in 1627 and more seriously in 1630, but not actually carried out until 1633), and in 1629 secured for his second son, Alexander, the post of Master of Works in Scotland, which he held jointly until 1634.  In anticipation of the royal visit, Alexander fashionably remodelled a town house in Stirling (now Argyll’s Lodging), perhaps to the designs of his son.

In 1630 Sir William Alexander was raised to the peerage as Viscount Stirling and in 1633, as part of the Coronation honours, he was advanced to be Earl of Stirling and Viscount Canada.  In order to support the dignity of these honours he bought estates in central Scotland (Argyll’s Lodging and Tullibody in 1629; Tillicoultry in 1634) with borrowed money which he was unable to repay, despite a series of failed money-making ventures in which he received royal support and encouragement.  As the king’s personal rule broke down in the late 1630s he lost prominence at court and he was further weakened by the death of his two eldest sons in 1637 and 1638.  He died in February 1640, leaving debts of £136,000.

The 1st Earl was succeeded by his infant grandson, William, who died three months later, leaving his uncle, Henry Alexander, 3rd Earl of Stirling (d. c.1647) as head of the family.  Henry married the daughter of an London merchant, Sir Peter Vanlore, and lived in England.  He declined to accept the estates bequeathed by his father or to take responsibility for his debts, and the 1st Earl’s estates were sold by his creditors: Tillicoultry in 1644 to Sir Alexander Rollo of Duncrub; Menstrie and Tullibody in 1648 to Robert Meldrum.  Argyll’s Lodging had been settled on the 3rd Earl’s younger brother Charles for life and he retained it until his death in 1664, but he also died in debt and it was sold in 1666 or 1668 to the 9th Earl of Argyll.

The 3rd Earl died between November 1645 and June 1649 and was succeeded by his only son Henry Alexander, 4th Earl of Stirling (c.1639-90).  In the 1660s he and his sister, Lady Mary Alexander, both married children of Robert Lee of Binfield (Berks) and an old house at Binfield appears to have been the family’s main place of residence thereafter, although his son, Henry Alexander, 5th Earl of Stirling (1664-1739), also had a house at Englefield Green (Surrey), built in 1715 (perhaps the house now called The Old House).  The house at Binfield, which reputedly stood ‘near the eighth milestone on the way to Windsor’, was demolished before 1813.  The 5th Earl lived very privately.  When in 1733 he was brought to court by Sir Robert Walpole, the Caledonian Mercury noted that it was his first appearance there since 1691.  The occasion was apparently the award of a pension of £200 a year, but why this was done is not clear; the Earl of Egmont described him as ‘very covetous and rich in money’, but the circumstances of his life do not suggest any great wealth. The 5th Earl and all his younger brothers having died childless, his property was left to his first cousin, William Trumbull (d. 1760) of Easthampstead Park (Berks) and his nephews, and the Earldom of Stirling became dormant.  Two attempts have since been made to claim it: one by the American general, William Alexander (1726-83), who may have been entitled but whose claim was unproven, and who used the title of 8th Earl of Stirling from 1759 until his death; and by Alexander Humphrys-Alexander (1783-1859), who claim of 1825 was proved fraudulent.

Menstrie Castle, Clackmannanshire

Accounts of Menstrie Castle and Tullibody House have already been given in the post on the Abercromby family of Tullibody and Airthrie, Barons Abercromby.  Nothing is known of the Tillicoultry House which the 1st Earl owned, which was rebuilt by the Earl of Mar for Robert Stewart, Lord Tillicoultry, in the early 18th century and again in the early 19th century.

Argyll's Lodging, Stirling, Stirlingshire

Argyll's Lodging, Stirling.  Image: M.J. Richardson.  Licenced under this Creative Commons licence.

A 17th century tower house built between the town and castle of Stirling, and regarded as Scotland’s greatest surviving town house.  It has a more complex building history than might appear: a modest mid 16th century house was progressively expanded by Adam Erskine, who made it a tower house c.1600; the 1st Earl of Stirling, c.1630 and the 9th Earl of Argyll, c.1670.  The two latest phases of work were probably inspired by the expectation of royal visits to Scotland and there is some excellent surviving interior decoration from the 1670s.  


Argyll's Lodging: the entrance wall of the High Dining Room on the first floor of the Lodging with original decoration from 1675.  Image: Kim Traynor.  Licenced under this Creative Commons Licence

The house is built round three sides of a courtyard which is closed on the west by a wall and gateway.  The oldest part of the house is the north-east corner (mid 16th cent.); the rest of the north range represents the second phase; the main east range and part of the south range Lord Stirling’s work, perhaps designed by his son, Sir Anthony Alexander, who was Master of the Royal Works 1629-37, and the rest of the south range Lord Argyll’s work.  He seems to have connected up the end of Lord Stirling’s house with a pre-existing block to the south-west, which was partly demolished c.1862.  The house was used as a military hospital and later depot from about 1800 until 1964; it then became a youth hostel for thirty years, and in 1996-97 was restored as a museum.

Descent: John Traill sold 1559 to a servant of Adam Erskine.... Adam Erskine (fl. 1562-1608); sold? 1604 to kinsman Sir James Erskine of Craig...  sold 1629 to Sir William Alexander, 1st Earl of Stirling (c.1576-1640); to son, Hon. Charles Alexander (d. 1664), when Stirling Burgh Council foreclosed and sold 1666/8 to Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll (c.1625-85)...John Campbell, 4th Duke of Argyll (c.1693-1770) who sold 1764 to Robert Campbell and James Wright, who sold to War Office as a military hospital...


The Alexanders of Menstrie, Earls of Stirling


Alexander, Thomas (fl. 1505).  Acted as an arbitrator in a dispute between the abbot of Cambuskenneth and Sir David Bruce in 1505/6. He married and had issue including:
(1) Andrew Alexander (fl. early 16th cent.) (q.v.).
He was recorded as 'of Menstrie' in 1505.
His date of death is unknown.

Alexander, Andrew (d. c.1527).  Only recorded son of Thomas Alexander (fl. c.1505). He married Katherine Graham and had issue including:
(1) Alexander Alexander (d. c.1555) (q.v.);
(2) Rev. Andrew Alexander (fl. 1529).
He inherited some lands at Menstrie from his father and had a charter of the estate from the Earl of Argyll in 1526.
He died about 1527.

Alexander, Alexander (d. c.1555).  Only recorded son of Andrew Alexander (d. c.1527). He married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Robert (or Thomas) Douglas of Lochleven and had issue: 
(1) Andrew Alexander (d. c.1555) (q.v.);
(2) William Alexander (d. 1574) of Clow; married Janet Marshall and had issue;
(3) Marion Alexander (d. 1595); married Alexander Murray of Woodend (Perths) and had issue two sons and one daughter; died January 1595;
(4) Isobel Alexander; married James Muschet of Burnbank (Stirlings) and had issue.
He inherited Menstrie from his father.
He died c.1555 (not 1545 as recorded in Burke's Dormant and Extinct Peerage).

Alexander, Andrew (d. c.1555).  Elder son of Alexander Alexander (d. c.1555) and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Robert (or Thomas) Douglas of Lochleven.  He married and had issue:
(1) Alexander Alexander (d. c.1564) (q.v.);
(2) John Alexander (fl. 1572).
He inherited Menstrie from his father in about 1555, but died a few months later.
He died c.1555.

Alexander, Alexander (d. c.1564).  Elder son of Andrew Alexander (d. c.1555); born about 1515.  He married Elizabeth Forbes and had issue:
(1) William Alexander (d. 1574) (q.v.);
(2) James Alexander (fl. 1584), tutor of Menstrie; married and had issue;
(3) John Alexander (d. 1595) of Pitgogar, Muckhart (Perths); married Margaret Dempsterton and had issue;
(4) Elizabeth Alexander (d. 1607); married John Leishman of Stirling (d. before 1590) and had issue; died February 1607;
(5) Marion Alexander; married 10 August 1589 Duncan Paterson of Stirling, Dean of Guild of Stirling in 1592;
(6) Janet Alexander (fl. 1590), married David Forrester of Logie and had issue.
He inherited Menstrie from his father in about 1555.
He died between 14 February 1564 and 6 January 1565.

Alexander, William (d. 1574).  Eldest son of Alexander Alexander (d. c.1564) and his wife Elizabeth Forbes.  He married Elizabeth, daughter of Alan Coutts or Couttie and had issue including: 
(1) Alexander Alexander (d. 158o/81);
(2) Archibald Alexander (d. 1621); merchant of Stirling; Dean of Guild of Stirling, 1599; married 1589, Elizabeth, daughter of Robert Alexander and had issue one son and one daughter; died 13 September 1621;
(3) Andrew Alexander (fl. 1625), married and had issue;
(4) Janet Alexander, married John Burne and had issue;
(5) Elizabeth Alexander (d. 1622); married Alexander Barclay, notary of Stirling and had issue one son; died March 1622.
He inherited Menstrie from his father in about 1564, and built the present Menstrie Castle.
He died before 11 June 1574.

Alexander, Alexander (d. 1580/1).  Eldest son of William Alexander (d. 1574) and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Alan Coutts or Couttie.  He married c.1567, Marion, daughter of Gilbert Graham of Gartavertane and had issue: 
(1) Sir William Alexander (c.1577-1640), 1st bt. and 1st Earl of Stirling (q.v.); 
(2) Janet Alexander, married Walter Cowan of Stirling and had issue; 
(3) Christian Alexander, married 25 September1592 Walter Neisch of Dubbiehead, bailie of Stirling (d. 1606) and had issue; died about 1618.
(4) A daughter;
(5) A daughter.
He inherited Menstrie Castle from his father in 1574.
He died 10 February 1580/81.

1st Earl of Stirling
Alexander, Sir William (c.1577-1640), 1st bt. and 1st Earl of Stirling.  Only son of Alexander Alexander (d. 1581) and his wife Marion, daughter of Gilbert Graham of Gartavertane, born about 1577.  Educated at Stirling and the Universities of Glasgow and Leiden; undertook Grand Tour to France and Italy with 7th Earl of Argyll; returned to Scotland by 1600 and published plays and poems; introduced to the Scottish court by Argyll before it emigrated to England in 1603; appointed a gentleman of the Privy Chamber to Prince Henry by 1607 and was knighted in 1608 or 1609; appointed gentleman usher to Prince Charles, 1612 and Master of Requests for Scotland, 1614; admitted to the Privy Council in 1615, and was part of King James’ entourage on his triumphant visit to Scotland in 1617; granted Nova Scotia and the right to create 100 baronets to settle it, 1621; created a baronet, 1625, Lord Alexander of Tullibody and Viscount Stirling, 1630, and Viscount Canada and Earl of Stirling, 1633; Secretary of State in Scotland 1626-40; Master of Minerals and Metals in Scotland (jointly with his son, John), 1635; involved in various ineffective schemes to make money but never had the means to support the rank he acquired.  He married, 1601, Janet (fl. 1649), daughter of Sir William Erskine and had issue: 
(1) Sir William Alexander (c.1604-38), Lord Alexander (q.v.); 
(2) Hon. Sir Anthony Alexander (d. 1637), educated at Glasgow University; licenced to travel abroad, 1626-29; Master of Works in Scotland, 1629-37 (jointly with James Murray until the latter's death in 1634); knighted, 1635; married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Henry Wardlaw, bt. of Pitreavie but died without issue, 17 September 1637; 
(3) Henry Alexander (d. 1647), 3rd Earl of Stirling (q.v.); 
(4) Hon. John Alexander of Gartmore (d. 1641/2), Master of Minerals and Metals in Scotland (jointly with his father), 1635; Master of the Mint in Scotland, 1635-41; married Agnes (d. c.1636), daughter of Robert Graham of Gartmore and had issue one daughter; 
(5) Hon. Charles Alexander (d. 1664), married, before 1645, Anna Drurie and had issue two sons; 
(6) Lt-Col. Hon. James Alexander (d. 1671), married first, 16 August1656, Margaret (d. 1662), daughter of Capt. Hon. David Scrimgeour and second, c.1668, Grizel, daughter of Hon. James Hay and had issue one daughter; 
(7) Lady Jean Alexander (d. 1670), married first, 1623, Hugh Montgomery, 2nd Viscount of the Ards (d. 1642) and second, Maj-Gen. Robert Munro, son of Obsdale Munro of Foulis; 
(8) Lady Margaret Alexander, married 1620 Sir William Murray (d. 1646), 1st bt., of Dunearn; 
(9) Hon. Robert Alexander (d. by 1638); 
(10) Hon. Ludovic Alexander, died young; 
(11) Lady Elizabeth Alexander (d. 1642); died unmarried, December 1642. 
He inherited Menstrie Castle (Clacks) from his father in 1581, and purchased Argyll's Lodging, Stirling and Tullibody House in 1629 and Tillicoultry House in 1634.
He died 12 February 1640, aged about 64.  He left debts of £136,000.

Alexander, Sir William (c.1604-38), Lord Alexander.  Eldest son of William Alexander (c.1577-1640), 1st Earl of Stirling, and his wife Janet, daughter of Sir William Erskine, born about 1604. Educated at Glasgow University (admitted 1618); commissioner (with Sir John Scot of Scotstarvet) to act for his father in Scotland in the business of the Nova Scotia plantation, 1626; knighted in Whitehall, 1626/7; Burgess of Glasgow 1627 and of Edinburgh 1636; sailed for Nova Scotia and planted a colony at Fort Royal, 1628 but returned the same year; journeyed to Canada again 1629 and returned 1630; Councillor for New England 1634, Privy Councillor in Scotland, 1635, an Extra Lord of Session 1635, received a large grant of lands in New England, to be called the County of Canada, including Long Island, to be called the Isle of Stirling 1635; styled Master of Stirling 1630-33 and Lord Alexander from 1633.  He married, c.1629, Margaret (c.1611-60), daughter of William Douglas, 1st Marquess of Douglas, and had issue: 
(1) William Alexander (c.1632-40), 2nd Earl of Stirling; inherited the estates of his grandfather in February 1640 but died young, May 1640, aged about 8;
(2) Catherine Alexander (c.1633-c.1670), married 28 April 1657, Walter Sandilands, 6th Lord Torpichen (1629-96) and had issue; died before 11 April 1671;
(3) Jean Alexander; 
(4) Margaret Alexander, m. 1670 as his second wife, Sir Robert Sinclair, 1st bt. of Longformacus (d. 1678) and had issue three daughters; 
(5) Lucy Alexander (c.1620-c.1645), married Edward (1605-45), son of Sir Sapcote Harrington, kt.; died before March 1645.
He acquired lands in Nova Scotia for settlement in 1635.
He died in the lifetime of his father, 18 May 1638, aged about 34, and was buried in Stirling church. His widow died in January 1660, aged 49, and was buried in the Douglas vault in St. Bride's Church, Douglas.

Alexander, Henry (d. 1647), 3rd Earl of Stirling.  Third son of William Alexander (c.1576-1640), 1st Earl of Stirling, and his wife Janet, daughter of Sir William Erskine. Educated at Glasgow University (admitted 1625/6); granted a patent (with three others) for export of goods from Scotland to Africa, 1634; admitted a burgess of Stirling and Edinburgh, 1636; succeeded his elder brother in 1637 as Master of Works in Scotland; Agent for the Convention of Royal Burghs; he was a Royalist and was fined as a delinquent in 1645 (£1000, increased to £2000); succeeded his nephew in the earldom, 1640.  He married, 10 December 1637 at Greenwich, Mary, youngest daughter and co-heir of Sir Peter Vanlore bt. of Tilehurst (Berks) and had issue: 
(1) Henry Alexander (c.1633-91), 4th Earl of Stirling (q.v.); 
(2) Lady Mary Alexander (d. 1682), married Robert Lee of Binfield but died without issue; 
(3) Lady Jane Alexander (d. 1707), died unmarried between 14 January and 1 March 1707.
He inherited the titles of his father in 1640 but none of the Scottish estates, to which he declined to be admitted as this would have involved taking on his father's debts; they were sold for the benefit of his father's creditors.
He died between 1645 and 1649.  His widow married 2nd, before 13 March 1654, Lt-Col. John Blount, second son of Sir Walter Blount, 1st bt. of Sodington (Worcs), and died before 27 June 1660.

Alexander, Henry (c.1633-91), 4th Earl of Stirling.  Only son of Henry Alexander (d. 1647), 3rd Earl of Stirling, and his wife Mary, daughter of Sir Peter Vanlore, bt. of Tilehurst (Berks), born about 1633.  MP for Berkshire, 1678; succeeded his father in the earldom c.1645-49.  He married first, 4 January 1664, Judith (c.1645-81), daughter of Robert Lee of Binfield, and second, 20 November 1683, Priscilla (1626-91), daughter of Sir Hugh Windham, bt. of Pilsden Court (Somerset) and widow of Sir Robert Reynolds of Elvetham (Hants), and had issue: 
(1.1) Henry Alexander (1664-1739), 5th Earl of Stirling (q.v.); 
(1.2) Hon. William Alexander (1665-66); born 28 December 1665; died 7 March 1665/6;
(1.3) Hon. William Alexander of Turvell (1667-99), baptised 6 June 1667; educated at Eton; married Mary , daughter of - D'Oyly and widow of Christopher Smith, but died without issue, 24 October 1699; 
(1.4) Lady Mary Alexander (1669-1721), married Capt. John Phillips and had issue; buried 27 March 1721;
(1.5) Lady Elizabeth Alexander (1672-73); 
(1.6) Hon. Robert Alexander (1673-1710), baptised 9 September 1673; educated at St. Edmund Hall, Oxford (matriculated 1693), but died without issue, October 1710; 
(1.7) Lady Jane Alexander (1675-1729), married Dr. Ralph Stubbs but died without issue; 
(1.8) Hon. Peter Alexander (1677-78); baptised 10 May 1677;
(1.9) Hon. Peter Alexander (1679-1729), baptised 23 March 1679; Clerk of the Signet; died unmarried and without issue, November 1729; buried in St Anne's, Westminster;
(1.10) Lady Judith Alexander (1681-1743), married October 1706, Sir William Trumbull of Easthampstead Park (Berks) (d. 1716) and had issue.
He lived at Binfield (Berks) on a property he acquired in right of his wife.
He died 5 February and was buried at Binfield (Berks), 11 February 1690/1, where there is a monument to his memory.  His first wife died 15 December 1681 and his widow before 24 November 1691.

Alexander, Henry (1664-1739), 5th Earl of Stirling.  Eldest son of Henry Alexander (c.1633-91), 4th Earl of Stirling and his first wife, Judith, daughter of Robert Lee of Binfield (Berks), born 7 November 1664 and baptised 14 November 1664 at Binfield.  Educated at Eton (from 1678); succeeded his father in the earldom, 1691; lived in retirement, although he frequently voted in elections for Scottish representative peers; granted a pension of £200 a year in 1733; on his death the peerage became dormant.  He married, about 5 May 1690 at Battersea, Elizabeth (1667-94), only surviving daughter and heiress of Sir Edward Hoby, 1st bt. of Bisham (Berks) and widow of John Hoby MP, but had no issue.
He inherited his parents' house at Binfield (Berks) but lived at Englefield Green (Surrey), in a house built in 1715 (perhaps that now called The Old House).
He died 4 December 1739, aged 75, and was buried at Binfield.  His property was distributed between his cousin, William Trumbull, and his nephews.  At his death the earldom became dormant.

Sources

G. E. Cockayne, Complete Peerage; Burke’s Dormant and Extinct Peerage; Oxford DNB entry on 1st Earl of Stirling; Rev. C. Rogers, Memorials of the Earl of Stirling and the house of Alexander, 1877; Architectural History, 1988, p. 111; Sir H.M. Colvin, A biographical dictionary of British architects, 4th edn., 2008, pp. 65-66.


Location of archives


Alexander family, Earls of Stirling: Berkshire estate and family papers, 18th cent. (Berkshire RO D/ED; D/EZ 91)
Alexander, Sir William (c.1577-1640), 1st Earl of Stirling: family papers 1549-1639, letter book, 1615-35 and correspondence 1612-31 (National Library of Scotland, Adv. MSS 34.2.12-15, MS 2061)


Coat of arms


Quarterly, 1st and 4th, per pale argent and sable a chevron and in base a crescent, all counterchanged; 2nd and 3rd, or, a lymphad sable sails furled and flags flying between three crosses crosslet fitchee gules (for MacDonald). 

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for this information on the Alexanders. I am currently looking at their involvement with Long Island and your blog has been very helpful in making sense of the different Alexanders involved.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have also found your blog very interesting. I found an article that referred to the Countess of Stirling's death which is after this time. 1898

    DEATH SUMMONS COUNTESS DE STIRLING.
    SANTA CRUZ, April 7.— Frances Jane Alexander Shortt, Comtesse de Stirling, known among her friends as the Countess de Stirling, died this morning at her home in East Santa Cruz. She was a woman of a very eventful career and was a relic of royalty of other lands and other days and had all those distinguished manners and courtly etiquette of those of her rank. She was the widow of the late John Alexander Shortt. her Majesty's Consul for thirteen years in Corsica. She was married before to Henry Trefreey Fox, a commander in the royal navy of Great Britain During her life her residence for the most time was abroad, but for the past two years she had resided in Santa Cruz. She was a native of England and 61 years of age. She leave two daughters, Mrs. Tamasier of Penryn and Mrs. Dr. S. J. Wheeler of Oroville. Her funeral will be held from the Roman Catholic church, of which she was a devout member. A few leads here, I'm pretty sure she had one daughter by John Alexander Shortt.
    Anyway here is the link:
    http://cdnc.ucr.edu/cgi-bin/cdnc

    ReplyDelete

Please leave a comment if you have any additional information or corrections to offer, or if you are able to help with additional images of the people or buildings in this post.