Sir John Seton, 1st Baron of Barnes

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About Sir John Seton, 1st Baron of Barnes

Biographical Summary

"Sir John, who had from his father a charter of the lands of Eat and West Barnes, dated 10 May 1583... ...He was brought up at the Court of Spain. Lord Kingston states that King Philip II made him a Knight of Santiago, a Gentleman of the Bedchamber and Caballero de la boca, and granted to him and his heirs a pension of two thousand crowns yearly. In 1575 he visited the English Court, and was well received. He was appointed Master of the Horse 9 May 1581, having been so styled on the tenth of the previous month, when he received instructions for his conduct as envoy to the Court of England... ...On 8 July 1587 he was appointed for life Comptroller of the Royal property, and on 17 February 1587-88 he was admitted an Extraordinary Lord of Session. He died in May 1594. Sir John married on 8 September 1588 (contract dated 10 and 12 of the previous month) Anna, youngest daughter of William, seventh Lord Forbes, and was by her ancestor of the Setons of Barnes."

SOURCE: The Scots peerage, Vol. VIII, page 588-589

Other References


"The Seton's of Barnes line were for a time, generally known by their more significant estate, as the Seton's of Hailes (or Haillis) and occasionally as the "Seaton's of Mionylangan (Moneylagan) in Ireland after acquiring that estate, and stems from Sir John Seton, Lord Barnes: 3rd son of George Seton, 7th Lord Seton and his wife Isabel Hamilton; brother to the 1st Earl of Winton, and to the great Chancellor of Scotland, Alexander Seton 1st Earl of Dunfermline.

His initial rearing was at the Palace of Seton, and had the influences of foreign dignitaries and the Scottish Royal family of Queen Mary and James VI. He was vice Prior of Pluscarden, and showed great promise as a young man, being studious and yet showing great wisdom in his youth. Likewise, he displayed great talents in the art of military service, of law and of languages, being proficient in Scots and English, as well as French, Latin and Spanish. With his father's and grandfather's constant services on the Royal family, it is of no wonder that he was influenced by the activities at Court, and in the Diplomatic Service.

While in France with his father and brothers he demonstrated the high sense of honour, dignity and service and style, also portrayed by his father and grandfather, and served in the Scots Guards in France; serving the French Royal Court as well as the influential family of Guise. From these connections he was introduced to the Ambassador of the Spanish Court, and being able to serve as an Ambassador-liaison for his father on many occasions, greatly impressed the Spanish Ambassador by his talents. He was referred to the Court of King Phillip II by the Spanish Ambassador with the highest regards, and having received an invitation from the Court there, was presented with a Commission from Queen Mary to serve as an Ambassador in Spain.

Sir Richard Maitland of Lethington wrote in his 'History', that Sir John Seton was a brave young man who after being sent to France and Rome for his education he went to Spain, to the court of King Phillip II, by whom he was made Knight of the Royal Order of St Jago, at that time the order of knighthood in that kingdom of greatest esteem; In memory whereof, he and his heirs, bear a sword in their coat of arms, being the Badge of that Order.

It was during the time of the troubles of Queen Mary Stuart, that Sir John had relayed information between his father and the Spanish Court, trying to bring assistance to her aid, on several occassions. Where King Phillip had been proposed as a husband to the young Queen and who had a great interest in supporting her throughout her life, Sir John was liaison between the King of Spain and the Scottish Royal House, before being recommended with the highest honours from the Spanish Ambassador in France. Queen Mary Stuart then sent him on a commission as a Diplomat and Ambassador to the Royal Court of King Phillip of Spain.

Given his skills and mastery of many talents and of his sense of honour and loyalty, King Phillip later preferred him to be a gentleman of his chamber, and "Cavalier de la Boca" (which is Master of the Household): he also carried the golden key at his side, in a blue ribbing; all which, were the greatest honours King Phillip could give to any of his subjects, except to be made a Grandee of Spain. For his many services, he had a pension granted to him and his heirs, of two thousand crowns yearly. While Maitland of Lethington was later at the Court of the King of Spain, he noted of the reputation of Sir John Seton that, "I was certainly informed of the truth of all this."

At the heights of his favour with King Phillip of Spain, was commanded home by King James the Sixth, unwilling to want so gallant a subject out of his court and service. Upon his return home, King James preferred him to be Treasurer of his House and was in great favour with his Majesty. He was created Lord Barnes (1587 to 1594) of the Lords of Session in Parliament as an Ordinary Lord, in the place of his younger brother Alexander promoted. Following his services and reputation in Spain, he was likewise created Master of the Kings Household (like that of his father), and Master of the Kings Horse, and was added Treasurer of the Royal Household as well.

He was and active member of the Scottish Parliament during his tenure on the bench as Lord Barnes (Barns/Barnis), and many legal documents are to be found within the Records Office in Edinburgh, noting Sir John Seton and having his Seal upon them. He was also was part of the coalition that had begun to put forward the succession of King James to the English crown, along with his two brother's who were at that time Robert, 8th Lord Seton; and Alexander, Lord Fyvie and Prior of Pluscarden. As vice Prior of Pluscarden, he had acquired various lands, including those in the Lordship of Galloway, On 29 July 1592 he had a charter of the lands of Culcaigreis and others, in the lordship of Galloway-under-Cree, which he sold to Thomas Maclellan of Bombie.

His initial residence was at the Seton's mansion at St. Germains House, beside the Palace of Seton and which had at that time consisted of the main block, tower and courtyard. However, given the impressions that were left upon him from his service in Spain, Sir John had begun a great building at the Barnes in the Spanish Castellated style, vault height before his death, intending that building round a court. He also had been presented with the castle of Garleton, near to Barnes and which he rebuilt the ruin with a formalized courtyard, which remains can still be seen to this day.

The ruins of his planned 16th century residence of Barnes are of unusual type: an example of axial planning, it is a rectangle 162'6" by 126'8" with the major axis NE-SW; the walls are of rubble masonry and average 1.8m in width, with a square courtyard. Square towers project externally from the angles and between these are spaced intermediate towers - two on the NW, one on the SE, and one centrally on the SW. At the highest the walls are 14' but only the vaulted ground floor of the dwelling portion remains. The walls are laid out in a highly formal symmetrical Spanish-style, which was very advanced for its time, defining a square, intended to enclose a courtyard, with well-defined corner towers. The remains of Barnes Castle, are in relatively poor condition and have been used latterly as a farm-store.

It was not doubted, if he had lived some time after the King's coming to the crown of England he would have highly advanced him in honour and fortune, and given his stature and positions, and having already been knighted and being both a Baron and Lord of Parliament, he would have likely been made an Earl as his two brothers had been before him. He did however marry Anna Forbes, the eldest daughter to the 7th Lord Forbes, by whom he had two sons and one daughter. His second son died a young man, and he himself died in the strength of his age, a young man, having contracted an illness (likely the Plague) and was buried in the College Kirk of Seton, and he was succeeded by his eldest son, also "Sir John Seton, 2nd of Barnes".

Although the later Arms registered for the Seton's of Barnes contain a "sword supporting an imperial crown", the Seal of Sir John Seton of Barnes is differenced with a cross-crosslet fitchy, which is readily mistaken for a sword, and for which cross-crosslet fitchy supporting a crown is the symbol of the Knights of St. Iago (or of St. James/Santiago)."

Information and photo source:

(Added by MTD 12/3/2013) .............................................................................................................................................................................

Athelstaneford and the Garleton Hills

A panoramic walk along the spine of a modest range of hills offering substantial views over the surrounding countryside and coastline.

Walk Description

STAGE 2 [Photo of castle ruins]

Turn left after the bridge and follow the field margin uphill to reach a farm track and a path junction. Now upon the ridge turn right along the track to pass the small fort atop Seaton Law and reach the remains of Barnes Castle, a curious vaulted fortification that was never finished after being commissioned by Sir John Seton of Barnes who died in 1594. Continue past the ruins - now reappropriated for use as farm storage - to reach Barney Mains farm.

(Added by MTD 12/3/2013) ______________________________________



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Sir John Seton, 1st Baron of Barnes's Timeline

Angus, , Scotland
Seton, East Lothian, Scotland
Age 36
June 11, 1594
Age 41
Age 41