Thomas Erskine, 1st Earl of Kellie

Arms of Sir Thomas Erskine, 1st Viscount of Fentoun, KG

Thomas Erskine, 1st Earl of Kellie KG (1566 – 12 June 1639) was a Scottish peer.


Thomas Erskine was the eldest surviving son of Sir Alexander Erskine of Gogar and Margaret Home, a daughter of George Home, 4th Lord Home and Mariotta Haliburton.

Thomas was a school classmate and lifelong personal friend of James VI of Scotland (later James I of England).[1] He was a server at the king's table, a "sewar".[2] In 1585 he was made a Gentleman of His Majesty's Bedchamber.

James VI married Anne of Denmark by proxy in 1589 and while waiting for his bride to come to Scotland, wrote a series of poems in Scots now known as the Amatoria. Some manuscript copies include Erskine's name as "Sr Thomas Areskine of Gogar". It has been suggested that Erskine collaborated with the king in writing the poems, or was involving in circulating them.[3]

In November 1592 Erskine was identified with the friends of Duke of Lennox, Sir George Home, Colonel William Stewart, the Laird of Dunipace, and James Sandilands, as a supporter of the king's former favourite James Stewart, Earl of Arran, working for his rehabilitation to the disadvantage of the Chancellor, John Maitland and the Hamilton family. The English diplomat Robert Bowes called this group the "four young and counselling courtiers."[4]

In January 1593 James VI set a tax anticipating the expenses of the birth and baptism of Prince Henry and appointed Erskine Collector General of this tax.[5] At the tournament during the baptism festivities, Erskine performed in a team with the King, dressed as Knights of Malta.[6]

James VI gave his courtiers gifts of jewelry at New Year. In January 1596 Erskine received a "tablet" or locket set with rubies and diamonds and a gold ring set with a table diamond.[7]

He was with the king on the occasion of the Gowrie Conspiracy in 1600, when James rode from Falkland Palace to the house of the Ruthven brothers in Perth, where he was supposedly to be kidnapped or assassinated. Erskine was awarded a third of the land confiscated from the Ruthvens and given the title Lord Erskine of Dirletoun in 1604.[8] He was made a Privy Councilor in 1601 and accompanied the Duke of Lennox on a diplomatic visit to France.

James VI maintained a "secret correspondence" with some of Queen Elizabeth's courtiers, hoping thereby to facilitate his succession to the throne of England. A letter to Sir Robert Cecil was sealed with Erskine's heraldry, and his initials as "T. A" for Thomas Areskine.[9]

At court in England

Thomas Erskine travelled with James to England when James ascended the English throne in 1603. Lady Anne Clifford described a visit to the king at Theobalds in May 1603, noting that the fashion of the court had changed, "we were all lowzy by sittinge in Sir Thomas Erskin's chamber."[10]

He was made Captain of the Guard (1603–1617) and Groom of the Stool in 1604 and created Viscount Fenton (or Fentoun) in 1606. He wrote many letters to the Earl of Mar, and in June 1612 described efforts to reduce the costs of the royal households:

There is much pain taken to draw his Majesty's estate in a right form; the expense is so great and so much more than the receipt, that his Majesty will be forced to retrench both in his own house, the Queen's, and the Prince his house, and this they go about presently. How it shall please women and young folks as yet I can say any thing.[11]

Erskine acquired Kellie Castle from the 5th Lord Oliphant in 1613 and was given the barony of Kellie.[12] In 1615 he was made a Knight of the Garter and Earl of Kellie in March 1619.

Erskine wrote frequently to the Earl of Mar in Scotland with political and court news. He described Anne of Denmark's nosebleed at Oatlands in September 1604, which lasted a day, the "first 12 hours in such abundance as you would not believe".[13]

When King James died in March 1625 the Privy Council drafted a proclamation. Kellie reminded them that James had preferred the title "King of Great Britain", and he assured the council that using "King of England and Scotland" would not please the people of Scotland.[14]

He died intestate[15] in London in 1639 and was buried at Pittenweem, Fife.

Thomas's son Alexander predeceased his father in 1633. He was succeeded by his grandson, Thomas Erskine, 2nd Earl of Kellie.


The Earl of Kellie married three or four times. His first marriage, on 30 November 1587 was to Ann Ogilvie, daughter of Sir Gilbert Ogilvie, of Powrie.[16] A younger brother, James Erskine, married Marie, a daughter of Adam Erskine, Commendator of Cambuskenneth on 17 May 1594.[17]

He married secondly in 1604 Elizabeth Pierrepoint, daughter of Sir Henry Pierrepoint,[18]

Several sources note his third wife was Elizabeth Norreys, widow of Edward Norreys, following a letter of the Earl of Worcester.[19]

He married thirdly, or fourthly, the thrice-widowed Dorothy, daughter of Ambrose Smith of Cheapside.[20][15]


  1. ^ Amy Juhala, 'For the King Favours Them Very Strangely', in Miles Kerr-Peterson and Steven J. Reid, James VI and Noble Power (Routledge: Abingdon, 2017), p. 161.
  2. ^ Register of the Privy Seal, vol. 8 (Edinburgh, 1982), p. 461 no. 2631: Calendar State Papers Scotland: 1581–1583, vol. 6 (Edinburgh, 1910), p. 560: Amy Juhala, 'For the King Favours Them Very Strangely', in Miles Kerr-Peterson & Steven J. Reid, James VI and Noble Power (Routledge: Abingdon, 2017), p. 171.
  3. ^ Sebastiaan Verweij, The Literary Culture of Early Modern Scotland: Manuscript Production and Transmission (Oxford, 2016), pp. 60-1: Jane Rickard, Authorship and Authority in the writings of James VI and I (Manchester, 2007), pp. 56-60: Sarah Dunnigan, Eros and Poetry at the Courts of Mary Queen of Scots and James VI (Basingstoke, 2002), pp. 77-104: Curtis Perry, 'Royal authorship and problems of manuscript attribution in the poems of King James', Notes and Queries 46, 2 (June 1999), pp. 243-246.
  4. ^ Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol. 10 (Edinburgh, 1936), pp. 819, 821.
  5. ^ David Masson, Register of the Privy Council, vol. 5 (Edinburgh, 1882), pp. 116, 131–2.
  6. ^ Michael Bath, Emblems in Scotland: Motifs and Meanings (Brill, Leiden, 2018), pp. 97–101.
  7. ^ Miles Kerr-Peterson & Michael Pearce, 'James VI's 'English Subsidy and Danish Dowry Accounts, 1588–1596', Scottish History Society Miscellany XVI (Woodbridge, 2020), p. 85.
  8. ^ "The Erskines of Kellie". Electricscotland.com. Retrieved 15 February 2010.
  9. ^ John Bruce, Correspondence of King James VI of Scotland with Sir Robert Cecil and others in England (London, 1858), p. 3.
  10. ^ John Nichols, The Progresses, Processions, and Magnificent Festivities, of King James the First, vol. 1 (London, 1828), p. 111: Jessica L. Malay, Anne Clifford's autobiographical writing, 1590–1676 (Manchester, 2018), p. 17: Maria Hayward, Stuart Style (Yale, 2020), p. 191.
  11. ^ HMC Mar & Kellie, supplement (London, 1930), pp. 40-1 modernised here.
  12. ^ "Kellie Castle, Fife | By Scotland Channel". Scotland.com. 1 January 1970. Retrieved 15 February 2010.
  13. ^ HMC Mar & Kellie, vol. 2 (London, 1930), p. 86.
  14. ^ HMC 60 Manuscripts of the Earl of Mar and Kellie, vol. 2 (London, 1930), p. 226.
  15. ^ a b Lundy 2011, p. 606 § 6052 cites Cokayne 2000a, p. 284
  16. ^ Lundy 2011, p. 606 § 6052 cites Cokayne 2000, p. 101
  17. ^ Scottish Antiquary: or Northern Notes & Queries, 'Old Stirling Register-Marriages', vol.7 no.25 (1892), 38
  18. ^ Lundy 2011, p. 606 § 6052 cites Mosley 2003, p. 2611
  19. ^ Edmund Lodge, Illustrations of British History, vol. 3 (London, 1838), pp. 55, 89
  20. ^ Bendall 2010.


  • Bendall, Sarah (May 2010) [2004]. "Barnham, Benedict". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/1488. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  • Lundy, Darryl (27 April 2011). Thomas Erskine, 1st Earl of Kellie. ThePeerage.com. p. 606 § 6052. Retrieved 7 May 2013., Endnotes:
    • Mosley, Charles, ed. (2003), Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 2 (107th in 3 volumes ed.), Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, pp. 101, 2611 and volume 9, page 284.
    • Cokayne, G.E., ed. (2000), The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, VII (reprint in 6 volumes ed.), Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, p. 101
    • Cokayne, G.E., ed. (2000a), The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, XI (reprint in 6 volumes ed.), Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, p. 284

External links

Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
New Creation
Earl of Kellie
Succeeded by
Thomas Erskine

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