The Legend and Tradition of the Keiths

By 1308 however, he had returned to his native Scotland to aid the cause of Robert the Bruce along with his brother Sir Edward of Sinton. Sir Robert commanded the Scots cavalry at Bannockburn in 1314.

In the Perth parliament of 1320, King of Scots Robert the Bruce rewarded Keith with a substantial grant consisting of the forest of Kintore and lands in Buchan along with the title “Great” Marischal. The estates of the Keiths were further extended during the 14th century to include the Dunnottar estate, south of Aberdeen as well as lants in Caithness and near Peterhead.

The Earldom of Marischal was created in 1458 for William Keith (c.1425-1483) following his role as one of the guarantors of the 1457 truce with England. This elevation secured the Keith’s status as loyal supporters of the Scottish crown and derived from their hereditary office, rather than from the granting of any Royal estates.

By the time of William, 4th Earl Marischal, the Keith family estates were so large that the earl was said to have been able to travel from Berwick to the Northern extremity of Scotland eating every meal and sleeping every night on his own land.In true Keith family tradition, George, 5th Earl Marischal was one of the most influential and powerful men of his day in Scotland. In 1589 he was sent to Denmark as an ambassador to negotiate the marriage of James VI to Anne of Denmark and was the founder of Marischal College, Aberdeen in the year 1589.

William, 6th Earl Marischal succeeded to the estates in 1623 and thence by descent to his son William 7th Earl who died, passing the title of 8th Earl Marischal to his younger brother George.The sons of William, 9th Earl Marischal, were distinguished for their participation in the Jacobite rising in the year 1715 and in exile, their service to Frederich II of Prussia. George, 10th Earl Marischal, was a central figure in the uprising of 1715 and served under Friedrich II as ambassador at Paris and Madrid, earning the Order of the Black Eagle as Governor of Neufchatel. His brother James (later known as Jacob von Keith) was Field Marshall under Friederich II and awarded the Orders of St. Andrew of Russia and the Black Eagle of Prussia.Both brothers received pardons for their part in the Rising: James in 1740 and George in 1759.

George, 10th and last Earl Marischal, lived much of his life in exile on the Continent and died in 1778 in Potsdam.Until 1662, and the marriage of John, youngest son of the 6th Earl Marischal, Dunnottar Castle had remained the principal seat of the Keith family. During the siege of Dunnottar in the winter of 1651-2, John played a crucial role in protecting the Scottish regalia from falling into the hands of Cromwell’s soldiers. In a scheme devised by his mother, the young Keith acted as a decoy while the regalia was taken from the castle and hidden in Kinneff church. On the surrender of the castle, it was represented that the regalia had been delivered to Charles II in France. In recognition of his loyalty, John Keith was appointed Knight Marischal of Scotland at the Restoration and created 1st Earl of Kintore in 1667. In 1661 he purchased the chartered lands of Caskieben, Aberdeenshire, which he renamed Keith Hall.
William, 4th Earl of Kintore died in 1761 without a direct heir, leaving the Earldom dormant until 1778 when, following the death of George, 10th and last Earl Marischal, the title of Chief of the Name and Arms of Keith was conferred upon his nephew Anthony Adrian Falconer, 5th Earl of Kintore and Baron Falconer of Haulkertoun. His mother Katherine, daughter of William, 2nd Earl of Kintore had married David, 5th Lord Falconer of Haulkertoun in 1703, thus aligning the two distinguished Scottish lines of Keith and Falconer, the latter whose name originated from the family’s early services as falconers and hawkers to the king.
This sporting tradition was upheld by Anthony Adrian, 7th Earl of Kintore . His son William Adrian, Lord Inverurie died whilst hunting in December 1843. The Earldom of Kintore passed then to Francis Alexander, 8th Earl, and upon his death in 1880, to his eldest son Algernon, 9th Earl of Kintore.Algernon, 9th Earl of Kintore, K.T., P.C., G.C.M.G., was a prominent and celebrated politician, appointed First Government Whip in the House of Lords in 1885, and served as Governor of the Colony of South Australia between the years 1889 and 1895. He died at Keith Hall on the 3 March 1930 and was succeeded firstly by his son Arthur, and secondly by his daughter Ethel, heir presumptive to the Earldom of Kintore and Barony of Keith, and wife of John Lawrence, 1st Viscount Stonehaven.James Ian Keith, 12th Earl of Kintore (1908–1989) succeeded as 2nd Viscount Stonehaven, 2nd Baron Stonehaven, 3rd Baronet, 4th of Ury in 1941. Ian did much to revive interest in the Clan. He was succeeded by Michael Canning William John Keith, 13th Earl of Kintore (1939–2004).James William Falconer Keith, 14th Earl of Kintore (b. 1976) is the current chief and his apparent is Tristan Michael Keith, Lord Keith of Inverurie and Keith Hall (b. 2010).It was customary for the Scottish nobility in the 15th and 16th centuries to write romantic histories that stretched back before the time when written history was available. Early modern society in Scotland was intensely interested in genealogy, and heraldry particularly from the 16th century. It was an age when elite families demonstrated a new level of historical consciousness, placing their lineage in a context which advertised their prestige. Noble families set great store by compiling genealogies that served as a record of their ancestry anchored in Greco-Roman mythological tradition, even if history required some embellishment of the truth. What better then, to have an origin legend which emulated the story of Aeneas, a Trojan whose manifest destiny was to become the ancestor of the Romans.According to the legend, a ship containing Chatti fugitives was caught in a storm at sea and driven ashore at Caithness. Here the survivors were attacked by Scottish wildcats and nearly overcome. The Chatti people were a Germanic tribe that resisted Roman rule but were eventually overcome in 50 AD. Those who remained in the homeland became part of the neighbouring Franks, while a colony fled down the Rhine to Batavia in modern day Netherlands. This was the jumping-off point for emigration to the very edge of the known world and a place of safety from Roman persecution. Supposedly this happened during the reign of King Corbred who (according to George Buchannan) ruled for eighteen years from 55 AD (and was the brother of Boudicca, Queen of the Icini). 17th century historian, Sir Robert Gordon put the date of the migration at 82 AD. In Scotland the Chatti intermingled with the indigenous people (whom the Romans called Picts) and later the Scots forming the various tribes that make up the Clan Chattan Confederation.
According to accounts, a warrior of the Chatti slew the Dane Camus at the Battle of Barry in 1010. For his valour, Scots King Malcolm II dipped his fingers into the blood of the slain and drew them down the shield of the warrior, thereafter named “Marbhachair Chamuis”, or ”Camus Slayer”. Ever since then, so the legend goes, the chief of the Keiths has carried on his arms the three or four red lines on a gold background or “pales”. Sir Robert de Keith (d 17 October 1346) had three red pales on his arms and his brother Sir Edward de Keith of Syntoun (d before 1351) had four.
The Battle of Barry’s supposed site was in Carnoustie at the mouth of the Lochty Burn. An account of the battle was first recorded by 16th century Scots historical writer, Hector Boece, a sort of Dan Brown of his time. The first record of the battle can be found in Boece’s Historia Gentis Scotorum, written in 1527 and popularised following a translation by John Bellenden into Scots in 1536. No such battle exists before Boece. While George Buchanan (ca. 1579) also mentions the battle in Rerum Scotarum Historia, his account borrows liberally from Boece, who is thought to have based much of his work on John of Fordun’s, Chronica Gentis Scotorum (ca. 1360). Fordun makes no mention of any battle at Barry. Boece is no longer regarded as a credible historical source.
Supposedly, seeing that the battle was lost, Camus fled to the hills, pursued by the purported ancestor of the Marischals of Scotland, who caught up with and slew him at Brae Downie where the Camuston Cross supposedly marks his grave. The Camuston Cross is now thought to be a Pictish monument, dating from the previous century to the battle. Near the Camuston Cross in 1607 Pattrick Maule (future husband of Lady Mary Erskine, the widow of the 6th Earl Marischal) disinterred a body which he identified as being Camus:“Here a huge skeleton was dug up, supposed to have been the body of Camus; it appeared to have received its death by a wound on the back part of the head, seeing a considerable part of the skull was cut away…Archaeological evidence casts more doubt. Robert Dickson in 1878 pointed out a lack of weapons and the presence of female skeletons. Subsequent finds pointed to the area being a Pictish cemetery. Among the remains are those of a female aged between 40 and 50 with osteoarthritis, who apparently died of tuberculosis. The burials there are Christian; lying face up and in an east-west orientation with the head at the western end of the grave (to view the coming of Christ on Judgment day).No evidence of a person called Camus exists outside Boece and his followers. A theory is that the name is likely to have been a misunderstanding of the name ‘Camuston’, or as it is in Boece’s account (as translated by Bellenden), Camustane. ‘Camus’ is not a Scandinavian name.The Chatti origin legend gained new ground during the reign of King Charles II from the work of Sir Aeneas Macpherson of Invereshie (1645‐1705). Sir Aeneas’ ‘Loyal Dissuasive’ was dedicated to the 9th Earl Marischal and reminded his own chief, Duncan of Cluny, of the assistance provided to the Cluny patriarch by the 8th earl and his brother, the Earl of Kintore, in their successful claim to the Clan Chattan chiefship over the rival MacIntosh claim. In Loyal Dissuasive Sir Aeneas says “the Illustrious family of the Keiths is come of the Clan Chattan, … the Earls of Marishal have from age to age owned no less themselves”.The legend was invoked in 1756 when Ewan Macpherson of Cluny, wrote to the exiled Earl Marischal and to Field‐Marshal James Keith, to inform them of his escape after hiding in the cave in the Scottish Highlands called ‘Cluny’s Cage’ since the defeat of the Jacobite army in April 1746. The Earl’s reply said he took “… a real concern in what regards you and your clan as being of the same origin, if old tradition does not fail” while James Keith replied that he was “not ignorant of the connection”.