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The Lairds of Callendar

16th and 17th Centuries

    About a century after this, the Lord Livingston of the day was constituted by Act of Parliament, 24th April, 1545, along with John Lord Erskine, governor and keeper of the infant Queen Mary, whom he accompanied in that capacity into France, in 1548, and died there about 1553. These lords received for the care of their young Queen, £80 a month from the last of November, 1545, to the last of February, 1548, when they sailed with her to France; and thanks were formally given to them in the Parliament held at Haddington, 20th July, 1548, for the manner in which they had executed their trust. The youngest daughter of this Lord Livingston was one of the four Maries, selected and adopted by the Queen mother, Mary of Guise, from the noblest families of the land to be the playmates and schoolfellows of her royal daughter. In the plaintive words of the old melody:

"There was Mary Seton, and Mary Beaton, 
And Mary Fleming, and me." 
    Me being Mary Livingston.

    There is still to be seen at Westquarter House, the last remaining mansion of the family, a large, antique, and very beautiful cabinet, the doors of which are enriched with various flowers traced in bead-work, which belonged to the Queen; and was the united work of her four Maries. In her wanderings, adversities, and captivities, Queen Mary ever found these faithful attendants at her side; they accompanied her to France, attended her while she remained there, and returned with her to Scotland. Exchanging the brilliant gaiety of Paris for the fanatic gloom of Edinburgh,  the true-hearted maidens never failed in their devotion to Mary Stuart: their romantic attachment to their royal and ill-fated mistress endeared them to the people; their memories have been united in the melody of many a ballad, and enshrined in the songs of their native land. The name of Mary Livingston, traduced and calumniated by the harsh and ungallant John Knox, yet lingers in the traditions of the neighbourhood of Callendar: she is still talked of as having married her father’s "galopin," or menial-groom, who is said to have treated her cruelly. This is no farther true than that she married John Sempill, of Beltrees, (John Sempill, the Dancer, as John Knox styles him,) a younger son of Robert, third Lord Sempill, that he may have held the situation of equerry to Lord Livingston, then a great officer of state, and that hence he may have been denominated his "galopin," perhaps to heighten the story. But such appointments in the establishments of the greater barons were given to the younger sons of the noblest families; and this at least is certain, that Sempill was at one time an equerry or page in the royal household: of this, the evidence still remains. By a charter, dated 9th March, 1564, ratified by Act of Parliament 19th April, 1567, Queen Mary, “in consideration of the long continued services of Mary Livingston, her Majesty’s familiar servitrice, and John Sempill, son of Robert Lord Sempill, her daily and family servitour,” granted to them the lands of Auchtermuchty and others, until they should be provided in an estate of £500 a-year. The story that the marriage was unhappy may be as apocryphal as that the husband was a groom.

    Amid all the vicissitudes of fortune, William, sixth Lord Livingston (the brother of the Queen's Mary), was the steady and unflinching adherent of his royal and hapless mistress; he joined her after her escape from Lochleven, fought gallantly for her at Langside, and, after that fatal day, accompanied her to England to share her captivity. Thither he was shortly afterwards followed, in the same loyal service, by his wife, a daughter of Malcolm, third Lord Fleming. On the 26th of February, 1569, Nicholas Whyte writes to Secretary Cecil, "the greatest person about her (Mary) is the Lord Livingston, and the Lady his wife which is a fair gentlewoman."

    The son of these faithful followers of an unhappy queen was Alexander, seventh Lord Livingston, who married Lady Eleanor Hay, daughter of Andrew, seventh Earl of Erroll, and to their care the Princess Elizabeth, afterwards Electress Palatine and Queen of Bohemia, and her sister, were committed. 

Livingston of Callendar 16th Century
Livingston of Callendar
16th Century

The Queen of Bohemia has been usually regarded as the only daughter of James the Sixth; but it appears from a charter of that king, erecting Falkirk into a free burgh or barony in favour of the Lord Livingston, dated 13th March, 1600, that there was another daughter whose existence has generally escaped the notice of historians. This charter sets forth "the great care, extreme diligence and solicitude of our said trusty cousin and councillor Alexander Lord Livingston, and Dame Helenor Hay, his spouse, in divers years by past with regard to our two legitimate daughters, by undertaking their education, in their own society. And also, we clearly understanding our foresaid illustrious, trusty cousin and councillor, to be justly due the sum of £10,000, money of this realm of Scotland, for the food, nourishment, sustenance, and education of our said two daughters, and their body-servants, during the foresaid space. Therefore, in full satisfaction of the said sum and for the good, faithful, long and honourable service to us and our most illustrious progenitors done and performed by the said Alexander Lord Livingston and his predecessors in defence of the kingdom against all foreign and intestine foes, &c., we now give, grant, and dispose to the foresaid Alexander Lord Livingston," &c., &c.  It is believed that this charter is the only document extant establishing the existence of another daughter of James the Sixth, besides the Princess Elizabeth. But although this charter bears to be “ in full satisfaction” of all previous services, the royal  gratitude did not stop here, and, the same year, in further recognition and reward of the good deeds of himself and his predecessors, Alexander, seventh Lord Livingston, was created Earl of Linlithgow, Lord Livingston and Callendar, on the 25th December, 1600, at the baptism of Prince Charles; and within little more than thirty years after (on the 19th June, 1633), the third son of tho first Earl, the Hon. Sir James Livingston, who had won great military renown in the wars in Bohemia, Germany, Holland and Sweden, was raised to a separate peerage as Lord Livingston of Almond, and on the 16th October, 1641, farther advanced to the dignity of Earl of Callendar.

    But the sunshine of kingly favour was not limited to the main line of Livingston; it shed its beams abundantly on the younger branches. In 1627, Sir John Livingston of Kynnaird, descended from Robert, the second son of Sir John Livingston, third Laird of Callendar, was created a baronet of Nova Scotia; his son and successor, Sir James, was one of the gentlemen of the bed-chamber to Charles the First, by whom he was created Viscount of Newburgh, 13th September, 1647; Lord Newburgh, faithful to his king, was excepted from Cromwell's Act of Grace, 1654; and fled out of England, and joined Charles the Second at the Hague. He continued with his Majesty during his exile, and on the Restoration was constituted Captain of the Guards, and created Earl of Newburgh, Viscount Kynnaird, and Baron Livingston of Flacraig, to him and his heirs whatsoever, by patent dated  31st December, 1660. These titles are now vested, by a decision of the House of Lords, in the Princess Giustiniani, who has been naturalized by Act of Parliament, and is the present Countess of Newburgh. The history of the house of Newburgh is very curious, and would in itself form an interesting chapter in the romance of Peerage succession. The Kilsyth branch was raised to the peerage as Viscount Kilsyth and Baron Campsie, 17th August, 1661, and the Teviot family (a cadet of Kilsyth) obtained a baronetcy 29th June, 1627, and the Viscounty of Teviot, 4th December, 1696. The Westquarter baronetcy dates from the 30th May, 1625.

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