William Boyd, 4th Earl of Kilmarnock

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Portrait of William Boyd, from The Newgate Calendar

William Boyd, 4th Earl of Kilmarnock (12 May 1705 – 18 August 1746), was a Scottish nobleman.

William Boyd was educated at Glasgow. He married Lady Anne Livingstone, only daughter and heiress of James [Livingston], 5th Earl of Linlithgow, by his wife Lady Margaret Hay, sister of Lady Mary Hay, suo jure Countess of Erroll, and 2nd daughter of John [Hay], 12th Earl of Erroll, on 15 June 1724. The family resided at the Boyd's castle in Kilmarnock until fire destroyed it in 1735. They were an important enough couple to have had their portraits painted by Allan Ramsay c. 1743.

Like his father in the Jacobite rising of 1715, William initially supported the Government side, but in the rebellion of 1745, owing either to a personal affront, to the influence of his wife or to his straitened circumstances he deserted George II and joined Charles Edward Stuart, the Young Pretender.[1]

Made a Privy Counsellor to Charles, he was appointed a colonel of guards and subsequently a general. He fought at Falkirk and Culloden, where he was taken prisoner[1] after mistaking a group of Hanoverian soldiers on the battlefield for his own and taken to the Tower of London for trial. He was tried at the end of July 1746 and was found guilty of High Treason. Initially he was sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered, but because of the level of his rank his sentence was commuted to beheading. He was executed at Tower Hill on 18 August 1746[1] and buried in St. Peter's Church within the Tower. Earl Kilmarnock has remained infamous for his support of Bonnie Prince Charlie and for being one of the last three nobles to be executed in Britain.[2]

Effigies of Earl of Kilmarnock Lord Balmerino with a scene of execution.

Before his execution, he wrote to a friend from prison about his indebtedness to the shoemakers of Elgin: "Beside my personal debts mentioned in general and particular in the State, there is one for which I am liable in justice, if it is not paid, owing to poor people who gave their work for it by my orders. It was at Elgin in Murray, the Regiment I commanded wanted shoes. I commissioned something about seventy pair of shoes and brogues, which might come to 3 shillngs or three shillings and sixpence each, one with the other. The magistrates divided them among the shoemakers of the town and country, and each shoemaker furnished his proportion. I drew on the town, for the price, out of the composition laid on them, but I was afterwards told at Inverness that, it was believed, the composition was otherwise applied, and the poor shoemakers not paid. As these poor people wrought by my orders, it will be a great ease to my heart to think they are not to lose by me, as too many have done in the course of that year, but had I lived I might have made some inquiry after: but now it is impossible, as their hardships in loss of horses and such things, which happeened through my soldiers, are so interwoven with what was done by other people, that it would be very hard, if not impossible, to separate them. If you'll write to Mr Innes of Dalkinty at Elgin (with whom I was quartered when I lay there), he will send you an account of the shoes, and if they were paid to the shoemakers or no; and if they are not, I beg you'll get my wife, or my successors to pay them when they can......"

On his coffin was a plate with the inscription,

Comes de Kilmarnock
Decollatus 18º die Augusti 1746.
Ætatis suæ 42º.

Execution of the Earl of Kilmarnock and Cromarty, and Lord Balmerino


William Boyd, Lord Boyd (1725–1728) [3]

Captain Hon. Charles Boyd (1728–1780) [5]
Captain Hon. William Boyd (1728–1782) [6]



  1. ^ a b c Wikisource Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Boyd, Robert Boyd, Lord". Encyclopædia Britannica. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 353.
  2. ^ http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/3117?docPos=2
  3. ^ http://www.thepeerage.com/p2990.htm#i29894
  4. ^ http://www.thepeerage.com/p2990.htm#i29894
  5. ^ http://www.cracroftspeerage.co.uk/online/content/kilmarnock1661.htm
  6. ^ http://www.cracroftspeerage.co.uk/online/content/kilmarnock1661.htm

William C. Lowe, ‘Boyd, William, fourth earl of Kilmarnock (1705–1746)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2006 accessed 14 Nov 2016

William Boyd (1705–1746): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/3117

Masonic offices
Preceded by
The Earl of Leven
Grand Master of the
Grand Lodge of Scotland

Succeeded by
The Earl of Wemyss
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
William Boyd
Earl of Kilmarnock
Succeeded by