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The Scottish Nation

ROSEBERY, earl of, a title in the peerage of Scotland, conferred in 1703 on Archibald Primrose of Carrington, descended from Duncan Primrose, who was settled at Culross in Perthshire, in the reign of Queen Mary. The surname of Primrose was originally derived from lands of that name in Fife. The said Duncan had two sons, Gilbert and Archibald, the former principal surgeon to James VI. And his queen, and father of Gilbert Primrose, D.D., one of the ministers of the Protestant church of Bordeaux in France, afterwards of the French Church in London, chaplain in ordinary to James Vi. And Charles I., dean of Windsor, 1628, and author of several works on religious subjects. The second son, Archibald, was father of James Primrose, who, in 1602, was appointed clerk of the privy council, and on 17th August 1623, clerk of the council for the prince’s revenues in Scotland. This James was twice married, and had nineteen children. His eldest daughter, Alison, was the second wife of the celebrated George Heriot, jeweler to King James VI. On his death in 1641, he was succeeded in his office of clerk to the privy council by his eldest son by the second marriage, afterwards Sir Archibald Primrose of Carrington, appointed thereto, 2d September that year.

A steady royalist, after the battle of Kilsyth, 15th August 1645, Sir Archibald, then Mr. Primrose, joined the marquis of Montrose, and was taken prisoner at the rout of Philiphaugh, 13th September following. In 1646 he was tried by the parliament at St. Andrews, and found guilty of high treason, but by the interposition of the marquis of Argyle his life was spared. He was, however, detained in prison till the capitulation of Montrose in the end of that year. On obtaining his release, he repaired to the king, who was then at Newcastle with the Scots army, and received from him the honour of knighthood. In 1648 he was one of the promoters of the ‘Engagement’ for the rescue of his captive sovereign. He attended Charles II. when he marched into England in 1651, and was created a baronet 1st August of that year. After the battle of Worcester, his estates were sequestrated, and all sums of money due to him ordered not to be paid.

After the Restoration, Sir Archibald was, in August 1660, appointed lord-clerk-register of Scotland, and on 1st June following constituted one of the lords of session, by the title of Lord Carrington. The Records of Scotland having been carried to London by Cromwell, Sir Archibald, in his capacity of lord-register, applied to have them returned. They were accordingly packed up in eighteen casks or hogsheads, when Lord Clarendon, the English chancellor, fancying that the original Covenant signed in 1651 by Charles II., was amongst them, and being anxious to keep it out of the hands of the Scots, had the casks reopened to search for it. The document was not found, but in this way, so much time was lost that the records were sent down in winter, and the vessel, a trader belonging to Kirkcaldy, which conveyed them, being cast away near the Fern Islands, they were irrecoverably lost (Douglas’ Peerage, Wood’s ed. Vol. ii. p. 403.)

His opposition to Lauderdale rendered him so obnoxious to the court that, with the duke of Hamilton and others, he was in 1676 dismissed from the council, and on 11th June of that year, deprived of his offices of lord-clerk-register and a lord of session. He was, however, appointed lord-justice-general, and as such, he presided at the trial of James Mitchell, 7th January 1678, for the attempted assassination of Archbishop Sharp. According to Burnet, (History of his Own Times, vol. ii. p. 129,) “The judge, as he hated sharp, as he went up to the bench, passing by the prisoner, said to him, ‘Confess nothing, unless you are sure of your limbs as well as your life.’ Upon this hint he, apprehending the danger, refused to confess.” Mitchell, it is well known, had previously made a confession on the promise of his life, which was inserted in the records of council. Burnet states that Primrose “fancied orders had been given to raze the act that the council had made, so he turned the books and found the act still on record. He took a copy of it and sent it to Mitchell’s counsel.” When the prisoner prayed that the books of council should be sent for, the lord-justice-general and another judge were for granting the request, but the majority of the court were against them, and the prisoner was condemned. Burnet declares that Primrose said to him his conscience led him to give Duke Lauderdale this warning of the matter, but that he was not sorry to see him thus reject it; and upon it, he said within himself, “I have you now!” He adds, “Primrose did most inhumanly triumph in this matter, and said it was the greatest glory of his life that the four greatest enemies he had should come and consign the damnation of their souls in his hands.”

In consequence of his continued opposition to Lauderdale’s administration, he was removed from office soon after. In July 1679, at the urgent request of the country party, he hastened to London, to support the duke of Hamilton and his friends in their complaints against Lauderdale, but the king approved of the measures of his minister, which became more oppressive than ever. Soon after his return to Scotland, Sir Archibald died 21st November the same year. Having acquired a large fortune, he bought, in 1662, the barony of Barnbougle and Dalmeny, Linlithgowshire, from the fourth earl of Haddington. He was twice married; first, to Elizabeth, eldest daughter and co-heiress of the Hon. Sir James Keith of Benholm, second son of the fifth earl Marischal, and by her had three daughters and five sons; and, secondly, to Agnes, daughter of Sir William Gray of Pittendrum, widow of Sir James Dundas of Newliston, and by her he had two daughters and a son, Archibald, first earl of Rosebery. Margaret, his eldest daughter, became the wife of Sir John Fowlis of Ravelston, and their son, George Fowlis, assumed the name and arms of Primrose, his grandfather, Sir Archibald, having settled upon him the estate of Dunipace, in Stirlingshire, on that condition. He was the father of Sir Archibald Primrose of Dunipace, baronet, who was executed at Carlisle, 13th November 1746, for his share in the rebellion of the preceding year.

Sir William Primrose of Carrington, eldest son of the lord-justice-general, was admitted clerk of notaries 1st November 1666, and succeeded his father, as second baronet, in 1679. He died 23d September 1687. His son, Sir James Primrose of Carrington, third baronet, elected M.P. for the county of Edinburgh in 1703, was created a peer of Scotland, by the title of Viscount Primrose, Lord Primrose and Castlefield, by patent dated at St. James’, 30th November that year, with remainder, in default of the heirs male of his own body, to those of his father, Sir William Primrose. His lordship died 13th June 1706. His eldest son, Archibald, second Viscount Primrose, died, unmarried, in June 1716, when his brother, Hugh, became third viscount. This nobleman served as a volunteer with the earl of Crawford in the Imperial army on the Rhine, and being out on a reconnoitering party, 17th October 1735, he was severely wounded with a musket-ball, which broke his jawbone, and came out a little below one of his eyes. He was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the 33d foot in December 1738, and died 8th May 1741, without issue, when his title became extinct, the remainder being to the heirs male of the body of the first viscount’s father.

The first earl of Rosebery, Archibald Primrose, only son by the second marriage of Sir Archibald Primrose, lord-justice-general, was born 18th December 1661, and in his youth served in the Imperial army in Hungary. Before he was raised to the peerage, he opposed the arbitrary measures of James VII., and on 26th June 1688, was cited before the privy council on a charge of leasing-making on the lord-chancellor, the earl of Perth, and sowing discord among the officers of state, but by the friendly offices of the duke of Berwick, King James’ natural son, he obtained a countermand of the process. At the Revolution he went up to London, and was appointed one of the gentlemen of the bed chamber to Prince George of Denmark, on whose death his salary of £600 a-year was continued to him for life. In 1695 he was chosen one of the members of parliament for the county of Edinburgh, and by patent, dated at Kensington, 1st April 1700, he was created Viscount Rosebery, Lord Primrose and Dalmeny, with remainder, first to the heirs male of his body, and then to the heirs female, and, in default of them, to his heirs of entail in the lands of Rosebery. On the accession of Queen Anne, he was sworn a privy councilor, and created earl of Rosebery, viscount of Inverkeithing, and Lord Dalmeny and Primrose, in the Scottish peerage, by patent, dated at St. James’, 10th April 1703, with remainder to the heirs male of his body, and failing them to the heirs female. He was one of the commissioners for the treaty of union, and afterwards one of the sixteen representative peers of Scotland. He died 20th October 1723, in his 59th year. By his countess, Dorothea, only child and heiress of Everingham Cressy of Birkin, Yorkshire, representative of the ancient English families of Cressy, Everingham, &c., he had six sons and six daughters.

The eldest son, James, second earl of Rosebery, born in 1690, on the death in 1741, of his kinsman Hugh, Viscount Primrose, inherited the family estate and the title of baronet. He died 26th November 1755, aged 65. He married Mary, daughter of the Hon. Lieutenant-general John Campbell, sister of the fourth duke of Argyle. Three of his sons having predeceased him, his fourth son, Neil, born in 1728, became third earl of Rosebery. He was one of the sixteen Scots representative peers, and in March 1771 he was made a knight of the Thistle. He died 25th March 1814. He was twice married, and by his second wife, Mary, only daughter of Sir Francis Vincent, baronet, he had, with four daughters, two sons, Archibald John, fourth earl, and the Hon. Francis Ward Primrose, barrister at law.

Archibald John Primrose, D.C.L. fourth earl of Rosebery, born 14th October 1783, studied at Cambridge, and was M.P., first for Helston, and afterwards for Carlisle. He was created a baron of the United Kingdom, by the title of Lord Rosebery, 17th January, 1828. He became a privy councilor in 1831, and a knight of the Thistle in 1840, and in 1843 was appointed lord-lieutenant of Linlithgowshire. He married, 1st, in 1808, Henrietta, second daughter of the Hon. Bartholomew Bouverie, which marriage was dissolved in 1815, and she died in 1834; 2dly, in 1819, Anne Margaret, daughter of the first Viscount Anson. By his first wife he had two sons and a daughter, viz., Archibald, Lord Dalmeny, born in 1809, M.P. for the Stirling burghs from 1832 to 1847, was a lord of the admiralty from April 1835 till August 1841, married in 1843, Lady Catherine Lucy Wilhelmina, only daughter of the fourth Earl Stanhope, and died 23d January 1851, leaving, besides another son and two daughters, Archibald Philip, Lord Dalmeny, born 7th May 1847; Lady Harriet, born in 1810, married in 1835, Sir John Dunlop of Dunlop, baronet; the Hon. Bouverie Francis, born in 1813, receiver-general of the post-office in Scotland, married in 1838, Frederica Sophia, sister of the first earl of Lichfield, with issue. The offspring of the second marriage were Lady Anne, born in 1820, married in 1848, the Right Hon. Henry Tufnell, with issue; and Lady Louisa, born in 1822.

Lord Rosebery
By The Marquess of Crewe, K.G., in two volumes (1931) (pdf)
Volume 1  |  Volume 2

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