Robert Kerr, 1st Earl of Ancram

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Robert Kerr, 1st Earl of Ancram by Jan Lievens[1]

Robert Kerr (or Carr), 1st Earl of Ancram (c. 1578–1654), was a Scottish nobleman and writer.


He descended from a third son of Sir Andrew Kerr of Ferniehurst, and entered public life as laird of Ancrum in Roxburghshire. He was born about 1578, and succeeded to the family estate in 1590 on the death of his father, who was assassinated by his kinsman, Robert Key, younger of Cessford. He was cousin to Robert Carr, the favourite of James VI. Kerr appears to have also been honoured at an early age with court favour. Soon after the king’s accession to the English throne, Kerr occupied a considerable station in the household of Prince Henry. The household of that time was more splendid and consisted of more people than the present royal household. He subsequently was employed by Prince Charles, who became his patron through life. Charles mediated a match between Sir Robert and the Lady Anne Stanley, daughter of the Earl of Derby.[2]

In 1620, Kerr was involved in a fatal quarrel with a young man named Charles Maxwell, who insulted him without provocation as he entered the palace at Newmarket. In a duel that followed, Sir Robert killed Maxwell. Even though Maxwell's friends acquitted Kerr of blame, the king's strict rules for prevention and punishment of duels forced him to flee to Holland, where he remained about a year. During his exile, he collected pictures, for which, like his royal master, he had good taste. He eventually presented those he brought back with him to the prince. He was also distinguished by his literary taste.[2]

On the accession of Charles I to the throne, in 1625, Sir Robert Kerr, as an experienced his favour.[clarification needed] In that year, he was made a gentleman of the bedchamber, and on 24 June 1633, when the king was in Scotland at his coronation, he was elevated to the peerage, under the titles of Earl of Ancram and Lord Kerr of Nisbet, Langnewton, and Dolphinstoun. Previously, his son William, by his first wife Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Murray of Blackbarony, had married his relative, Anne, Countess of Lothian in her own right, and had been, by the king, endowed with full participation in that title. It was therefore arranged, in the patent granted to Kerr, that his own title should descend to the children of his second marriage. Thus, he was father of two peers.[3]

Unlike others who owed everything to this prince, the Earl of Ancram remained the prince's steady adherent during the whole of his troubles—though he was unable to prevent his eldest son, the Earl of Lothian, from acting a conspicuous part on the opposite side. On the death of Charles, Kerr took refuge in Holland, where he spent the remainder of his days in solitary afflictions and poverty, and died in 1654, in the seventy-sixth year of his age. Jan Lievens painted him marvelously. His son Charles, inherited his title, but ultimately merged with that of Lothian.[4]


He had two sons by his first marriage to Elizabeth Murray:

Stanley Kerr (d. bef. May 1672)[citation needed]
William Kerr, 1st Earl of Lothian(bef. 1615 – c. October 1675)

He had one son and two daughters by his second marriage to Anne, daughter of William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby:[citation needed]

Charles Kerr, 2nd Earl of Ancram (August 6, 1624 – September 1690)
Vere Kerr
Elizabeth Kerr


  1. ^ Jan Lievens portrait of Robert Kerr in the National Galleries of Scotland
  2. ^ a b Chambers (1840), p. 315
  3. ^ Chambers (1840), pp. 315, 316
  4. ^ Chambers (1840), p. 316


  • Chambers, Robert (1840), A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen, Volume 3, Blackie and Son.

This article incorporates text from a work in the public domain: "A biographical dictionary of eminent Scotsmen", Robert Chambers (1840)

Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
New creation
Earl of Ancram
Succeeded by
Charles Kerr