John Erskine, Earl of Mar (1558–1634)

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Arms Sir John Erskine, 18th Earl of Mar, KG

John Erskine, Earl of Mar (c. 1562 – 14 December 1634)[1] was a Scottish politician, the only son of another John Erskine. He is regarded as both the 19th earl (in the 1st creation) and the 2nd earl (in the 7th).


John Erskine was born in 1558, though the precise date is unknown. Together with King James VI of Scotland he was educated by George Buchanan. After attaining his majority he was nominally the guardian of the young king, who was about seven years his junior, and who lived with him at Stirling; but he was in reality something of a puppet in the hands of the regent, James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton; and he lost power and position when Morton was imprisoned.

He married his first wife, Anne Drummond (1555 - 1587) in October 1580. Anne was the daughter of Lord David Drummond (d. 1571) and Hon. Lilias Ruthven (d. 1579).[2] Their marriage was cut short by Anne's early death in 1587, but the marriage did produce John's son and heir, John Erskine.

He was concerned in the seizure of James VI in 1582 (a plot known as the raid of Ruthven); but when James escaped from his new custodians the earl fled into the west of Scotland. Then leaving his hiding-place the Earl of Mar seized Stirling Castle, whereupon James marched against him, and he took refuge in England. Queen Elizabeth I interceded for him, but in vain, and after some futile communications between the governments of England and Scotland the Earl of Mar and his friends gathered an army, entered the presence of the king at Stirling, and were soon in supreme authority (1585). The Earl of Mar was restored to his lands and titles. Henceforward he stood high in the royal favor; he became governor of Edinburgh Castle and was made tutor to James's son, Prince Henry.

In 1592 he married his second wife Mary, daughter of Esmé Stewart, 1st Duke of Lennox. Their daughter, Lady Mary Erskine, married William Keith, 5th Earl Marischal.[3]

In 1601, the earl was sent as envoy to London; here Elizabeth I assured him that James should be her successor, and his mission was conducted with tact and prudence. Subsequently, Mar and the King continued a secret correspondence with Robert Cecil. After the Union of the Crowns, having joined the English privy council, the Earl of Mar was created Lord Cardross in 1610; he was a member of the Court of High Commission and was Lord High Treasurer of Scotland from 1615 to 1630. He died at Stirling on 14 December 1634.

John (c. 1585–1654), his only son by his first wife, succeeded to his earldom; by his second wife he had five sons, among them being James (died 1640), earl of Buchan; Henry (died 1628), whose son David succeeded to the barony of Cardross; and Charles, the ancestor of the earls of Rosslyn.


  1. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Online (ODNB), "John Erskine, eighteenth or second earl of Mar," by Julian Goodare.
  2. ^ ODNB, "James Drummond, first Lord Maderty," by Michael Wasser; Calendar of State Papers relating to Scotland, and Mary, Queen of Scots...1574-1581, (Edinburgh, 1907), pp. 447, 449.
  3. ^ "Lady Mary Erskine at". Retrieved 2012-08-17. 
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
John Erskine
Earl of Mar
Succeeded by
John Erskine