The Magazine of Scottish Heritage
Vol. 29, No. 2
Mar/Apr 1991
By Archie Mckerracher
These are Your People
The Erskines

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Alexander, 3rd Lord Erskine, and de jure (rightful) 15th Earl of Mar, was given the guardianship of the young James IV, and this was the start of the Erskines' hereditary guardianship of five generations of royal heirs. Alexander built a massive tower house in Alloa in 1497 with eleven-foot thick walls, and this was the home of the Erskines for the next three centuries Alexander's son Robert, 4th Lord Erskine and 16th Earl of Mar, was killed at Flodden in 1513 along with his king. Fighting beside him was his relative, Erskine of Dun and his two sons, who were all also killed.

John, 5th Lord Erskine was given the guardianship of the young James V from 1513-28, and later James Stewart, illegitimate son of James V and finally in 1543 the nine-month old Marv, Queen of Scots, was given into his care. She was to spend the first five years of her life at Alloa Tower and Stirling Castle. His son James, 6th Lord Erskine, was created Earl of Mar by Mary Queen of Scots in 1565, who was moved by conscience' to correct the errors of her predecessors. But what she should have done was simply confirm him in the older title for, by her action, she effectively created two Earldoms, the ancient one and the new creation. This was to cause major headaches for later peerage lawyers, and led to the eventual splitting of the title.

Thomas and John Erskine
by Godfrey Kneller held at Alloa Tower

The Earl of Mar was made Governor of Stirling Castle and in 1567 was made guardian of the young James VI who was raised first at the modest Erskine home of Alba Tower. However, the Earl erected a magnificent Renaissance town house at the top of Broad Street in Stirling, near the castle, using stones from Cambuskenneth Abbey, as more fitting for a prince of the realm. It became known as 'Mar's Wark' and was probably never finished. Only a part of the elaborately carved east wing survives today. The Earl was appointed Regent of Scotland in September 1571 and died a year later. He. was succeeded by his son John who had been educated alongside the young James VI, who called him 'Jockie 0' the sclates' because of his mental agility with sums written on the slate boards then used in the schoolroom. Despite the childhood friendship, John Erskine was exiled in 1583-85 for his part in the Ruthven Raid when the young king was held captive for ten months by ultra Protestants.