ERSKINE, ALEXANDER [SSNE 5044]

Surname
ERSKINE
First name
ALEXANDER

Text source

Mr Alexander Erskine of Cambuskenneth was the third son of John Erskine, Earl of Mar and Marie Stuart, daughter of 1st duke of Lennox born in or after 1595  On 31 May 1608 he received the royal appointment as commendator of Cambuskenneth Abbey.  His father had temporalities of Cambuskenneth, Dryburgh and Inchmahome erected into the temporal lordship of Cardross, which was granted to Alexander by charter on 23 August 1617 with the royal charter on 2 April 1619.  Between 1621 and 1625 he was the faithless lover of Anna Bothwell (died April 1625),  daughter of the 1st Lord Holyroodhouse.  They had a natural son Alexander, who was born in April 1622.  (He apparently pre-deceased his father.)  In February 1625 Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange, commissioned him to raise a company of horse.  His older brother Henry noted that Alexander was then in severe financial difficulties. In June 1625 he was at the court at The Hague of the Princess Elizabeth,  titular Queen of Bohemia and Electress Palatine.  That September he was paying addresses to one of the Princess Elizabeth's ladies-in-waiting surnamed Croft, and he married her sometime later.  They had at least three children – Alexander (who served in a continental army), Thomas (born c.1636), and an unnamed daughter.  In 1627 George Jamesone painted his portrait.  In 1630 he was styled Captain Alexander Erskine of Cambuskenneth.  By 1632 he could be found serving in Lord Gordon's gen d'armes in France. He would go on to play a significant role inCovenanter politics with France.

 

In 1638 Henrietta Maria persuaded Charles I to allow the recruiting of three Scottish regiments for her brother Louis XIII – the earl of Mar nominally commanded one of them.  Alexander was his lieutenant colonel. This Regiment also had permission to raise 500 men in England. On 14 January 1639 Charles directed the Scottish Privy Council to give Alexander a warrant for recruiting 1,000 men, which the council issued on the 29th. In 1639 Lord Erskine raised a force of chiefly Perthshire men using his uncle Alexander’s 29 January warrant. The unit served under Leslie during his northeastern campaign.  Following the evacuation of Aberdeen on 12 April the regiment marched to the Borders, where it quartered in Kelso.  On 3 June it formed part of the force that repulsed the Earl of Holland’s attempt to post the king’s declaration against the Covenanters.  The next day it marched with Leslie to his new camp at Duns Law.  On 20 September 1639 Lieutenant Colonel Erskine received another Privy Council warrant for levying 1,000 men for his regiment.  That warrant allowed him to again recruit men for the Covenanters under the colour of raising a regiment for the king’s brother-in-law.  The origin of the recruits is unknown, however, given the family’s landholdings in the shires of Clackmannan and Stirling, as well as Aberdeen, many of the recruits would have come from those counties.  The estimated strength of the unit varied from 600 to 1,000 of all ranks in ten companies.  Given the time Erskine had to raise the regiment it probably was one of the regiments mustered by Leslie on the Links of Leith in July.  Consequently, it would have reached the army rendezvous between the 20th and 27th.  On the 20 August, the day of the invasion of England, Leslie wrote Cardinal Richelieu that the Covenanters required the regiment, adding that when it arrived in France it would be both trained and experienced.  The regiment may have initially served in the earl of Haddington’s command, which secured the area between the Tweed and Dunbar.  Erskine was killed in the Dunglass Castle explosion on the 30th, leading William Lithgow to write ‘they as martyrs died’.   He was buried at Tyninghame on 1 September. His younger brother Sir Charles Erskine of Cambuskenneth and Alva, knt., was his heir.  The regiment seems to have served in England, which it evacuated in August 1641, reaching France afterwards. By 1642, Erskine's was one of several Scottish regiments in France along side that of Sir Robert Moray.   

Sources: National Library of Scotland, Papers relating to Lord Fraser of Lovat, ff.63-88; The National Archives, SP 16/461/57II, 121; SP 16/464/59II, 134; The Letters and Journals of Robert Baillie, Principal of the University of Glasgow, 1637-1662, ed. Laing, D. (Bannatyne Club, lxxii, parts i-ii, lxxvii, 1841-42), i. 211-2; Fourth Report of the Royal Commission on historical manuscripts, 2 vols. (London, 1874), i. 524, 527; W. Lithgow, A briefe and summarie discourse upon that lamentable and dreadfull disaster at Dunglasse. Anno 1640 (Edinburgh, 1640); The Memoirs of Henry Guthry, late bishop of Dunkeld, ed. Crawfurd, G. (Glasgow, 1748), 70; Registrum magni sigilli regum Scotorum, vol. 6, ed. J.M. Thomson (Edinburgh, 1890), vi. 764; Ibid., vii. 729-30; Records of the Scottish Privy Council,  2nd Ser. vii. 106-7, 136-7, 677, 683; Report on the Manuscripts of the Earl of Mar and Kellie of Mar & Kellie, ed. Paton, H. (London, 1904), 122, 124, 176-8; J. Spalding, Memorialls of the Trubles in Scotland and England, 1624-1645, 2 vols., ed. Stuart, J. (Spalding Club, xxi-xxii, 1850-51), i. 154, 162; E. E.J. Cowan, Montrose: for Covenant and King (London, 1977), 98; Steve Murdoch and Alexia Grosjean, Alexander Leslie and the Scottish Generals of the Thirty Years' War (London, 2014), 65, 108, 150.

 

‘Lady Ann Bothwell’s Lament’ (http://www.contemplator.com/scotland/bothwell.html; http://www.fresnostate.edu/folklore/ballads/GrD81560.html); 

J.B. Paul, The Scots Peerage, 9 vols. (Edinburgh, 1904), v. 617-21; ix. 133; 

C.S. Terry, The Life and Campaigns of Alexander Leslie, first earl of Leven (London, 1899). 108; https://www.nationalgalleries.org/art-and-artists/5061/portrait-man-called-robert-mester-erskine-probably-colonel-alexander-erskine-cambuskenneth-died-1640

 

This article was substantially written by Dr Edward Furgol.

 

Bishops Wars; Covenanters; Wars of the Three Kingdoms.

 

 

Service record

THE DUTCH REPUBLIC, DUTCH ARMY
Departed 0000-01-01
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY
FRANCE, FRENCH ARMY
Departed 0000-01-01
Capacity OFFICER, purpose MILITARY