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About William Keith

Wikipedia Biographical Summary

"William Keith, 4th Earl Marischal (d. 7 October 1581) was a Scottish nobleman and politician...

...William Keith was the son of Robert Keith, Master of Marischal and Lady Elizabeth Douglas, daughter of John Douglas, 2nd Earl of Morton. He succeeded his grandfather, William Keith, 3rd Earl Marischal. He was one of the earls who accompanied James V to France for his marriage to Madeleine of Valois, daughter of King Francis I of France. The wedding took place on 1 January 1537 at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and was followed by days of Jousting at the Louvre...

...He was married to Margaret Keith, eldest daughter of William Keith younger, of Inverugie, with whom he obtained large estates. He and Margaret had twelve children:

  • William Keith, Master of Marischal (died 1580).[8]
  • Hon. Robert Keith, 1st Lord Altrie (died 1596).[9]
  • John Keith, probable Rector of Duffas.[9]
  • Agnes Keith, Countess of Moray (or Annas), m. 1st to the Regent Moray, 2nd. to Colin Campbell, 6th Earl of Argyll. She died 16 July 1588 at Edinburgh.[9]
  • Alison, m. to Alexander Abernethy, 6th Lord Saltoun (died 1587).[9]
  • Mary, m. to Sir John Campbell of Calder (dispensation for consanguinity).[9]
  • Beatrice, m. to Sir John Allardice of Allardice. She died 19 May 1596.[9]
  • Joneta, m. to James Crichton of Frendraught.[9]
  • Margaret, m. to John Kennedy of Blairquhan.[9]
  • Elizabeth, m. to Sir Alexander Irvine of Drum.[9]
  • Isobel, m. Alexander Strachan of Thornton. She died August 1595.[9]

Barbara, promised in m., failing her sister Isobel, to Alexander Strachan; m. Alexander Forbes of Pitsligo.

Keith's chief residence was Dunnottar Castle in Aberdeenshire.

When he died on 7 October 1581, he was succeeded by his grandson, George Keith, son of William, Master of Marischal; George became the 5th Earl Marischal."

SOURCE: Wikipedia contributors, 'William Keith, 4th Earl Marischal', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 18 November 2012, 00:55 UTC, <,_4th_Earl_Marischal&oldid=523588745> [accessed 30 November 2012]


  • William Keith, 3rd Earl Marischal [1]
  • M, #108331, b. 1506, d. 7 October 1581
  • Last Edited=8 Sep 2014
  • Consanguinity Index=2.17%
  • William Keith, 3rd Earl Marischal was born in 1506.2 He was the son of Robert Keith, Master of Marischal and Lady Elizabeth Douglas.3 He married Margaret Keith, daughter of Alexander Keith and Janet Gray, before June 1538.4,3 He died on 7 October 1581.5
  • He succeeded to the title of 3rd Lord Keith [S., 1451] circa 1527.3 He succeeded to the title of 3rd Earl Marischal [S., 1458] circa 1527.3 He was invested as a Privy Counsellor (P.C.) [Scotland].3 He held the office of Extraordinary Lord of Session in 1541.3 He fought in the Battle of Pinkie on 10 September 1547.3 He held the office of Extraordinary Lord of Session in 1561.3 He held the office of Extraordinary Lord of Session in 1573.3
  • Child of William Keith, 3rd Earl Marischal
    • Lady Margaret Keith6 d. 11 Mar 1619/20
  • Children of William Keith, 3rd Earl Marischal and Margaret Keith
    • Lady Alison Keith+3 d. Aug 1567
    • William Keith, Master of Marischal+5 d. bt 9 Aug 1580 - 10 Aug 1580
    • Lady Anne Keith+7 d. 16 Jul 1588
    • Lady Beatrice Keith+2 d. 19 May 1596
    • Lady Johanna Keith+8
    • Robert Keith, 1st Lord Altrie9 b. c 1529, d. bt 18 Mar 1596 - 19 May 1596
  • Citations
  • [S11] Alison Weir, Britain's Royal Families: The Complete Genealogy (London, U.K.: The Bodley Head, 1999), page 242. Hereinafter cited as Britain's Royal Families.
  • [S5623] Unknown compiler, compiler, "re: Mackenzie Family"; Ancestral File (18 September 2011), unknown repository, unknown repository address. Hereinafter cited as "re: Mackenzie Family."
  • [S37] BP2003 volume 2, page 2195. See link for full details for this source. Hereinafter cited as. [S37]
  • [S6] G.E. Cokayne; with Vicary Gibbs, H.A. Doubleday, Geoffrey H. White, Duncan Warrand and Lord Howard de Walden, editors, The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, Extant, Extinct or Dormant, new ed., 13 volumes in 14 (1910-1959; reprint in 6 volumes, Gloucester, U.K.: Alan Sutton Publishing, 2000), volume IX, page 183. Hereinafter cited as The Complete Peerage.
  • [S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume VIII, page 479.
  • [S8] BP1999 volume 1, page 99. See link for full details for this source. Hereinafter cited as. [S8]
  • [S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume I, page 159.
  • [S37] BP2003. [S37]
  • [S6] Cokayne, and others, The Complete Peerage, volume I, page 117.
  • From:


  • William Keith, 4th Earl Marischal1,2
  • M, #2918, b. circa 1506, d. 7 October 1581
  • Father Robert Keith, Lord Keith b. c 1481, d. a 5 Apr 1514
  • Mother Elizabeth (Beatrix) Douglas d. b 25 Jul 1527
  • William Keith, 4th Earl Marischal was born circa 1506; Underage in 1525.3 He married Margaret Keith, daughter of Sir William Keith and Margaret Gray, circa 30 June 1538.2 William Keith, 4th Earl Marischal died on 7 October 1581.
  • Family Margaret Keith
  • Children
    • Elizabeth Keith+
    • Agnes Keith+2 d. 16 Jul 1588
    • Mary Keith
    • Alison Keith d. Aug 1567
    • Beatrice Keith
    • Janet Keith+
    • Margaret Keith
    • William Keith, Lord of Keith+ d. 9 Aug 1580
    • Barbara Keith+4 d. b 1584
    • Alexander Keith
    • Robert Keith, Lord of Altrie b. c 1537
    • Isobel Keith+ b. c 1550, d. Aug 1595
  • Citations
  • [S183] Unknown author, Burke's Peerage, 1938, p. 1459.
  • [S16] Douglas Richardson, Magna Carta Ancestry, 2nd Edition, Vol. III, p. 599-600.
  • [S11585] The Scots Peerage, Vol. VI, edited by Sir James Balfour Paul, p. 42.
  • [S11566] The Scots Peerage, Vol. IV, edited by Sir James Balfour Paul, p. 73-74.
  • From:


  • Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 30
  • Keith, William (d.1581) by Thomas Finlayson Henderson
  • KEITH, WILLIAM, fourth Earl Marischal (d. 1581), was the eldest son of Robert, lord Keith (eldest son of William, third earl Marischal), by Lady Elizabeth Douglas, eldest daughter of John, second earl of Morton. His father having been slain at the battle of Flodden in 1513, he succeeded to the title on the death of his grandfather about 1530. On 27 Jan. 1531–2 he received a grant of lands, tenements, and crofts in Kincardine and adjoining hamlets. He accompanied James V in 1535 when he went to France to be married to Madeline, daughter of Francis I. On 2 July 1541 he was made an extraordinary lord of session. He was described by Sir Ralph Sadler in 1543 as ‘a goodly young gentleman,’ well inclined to the English king, ‘but not well willing to have the child’ (the young Princess Mary) ‘delivered out of the realm’ (State Papers, i. 99). By the parliament which met in March of this year he had been chosen a member of the privy council, and one of the keepers of the young queen (Acta Parl. Scot. ii. 414–15). In June of the following year he signed the agreement to support the authority of the queen-mother as regent against the Earl of Arran. Nevertheless he not only continued favourable to an English alliance, but at an early period manifested his sympathy with the principles of the reformers. He was present in 1544 at a sermon preached by George Wishart at Dundee after the inhibition of him ‘in the queen's and governor's name,’ and was so favourably impressed with his doctrine that he besought him ‘to have remained, or else to have gone with him in the country’ (Knox, i. 126). In the following year he was consulted in connection with the plot of King Henry of England for the murder of Cardinal Beaton, but he cautiously refused any direct approval. He was present at the battle of Pinkie in 1547. After a peace had been concluded with England he in September 1550 accompanied the queen-dowager on her visit to France. In September 1553 he was named a commissioner for the borders (Reg. P. C. Scotl. i. 150). ‘Allured’ by Glencairn, he attended ‘an exhortation’ of Knox in May 1556, in ‘the great lodging of the Bishop of Dunkeld’ at Edinburgh, and with certain others was so ‘well contented with it’ that he advised Knox to write to the queen regent ‘somewhat that might move her to hear the word of God’ (Knox, i. 252). But notwithstanding his apparent sympathy with the reformers, the earl manifested great caution in giving them practical aid, maintaining generally a position of neutrality during the whole crisis of the conflict. He accompanied the queen regent when she made her entry into Perth on 29 May 1559 (Calderwood, i. 560), but he nevertheless gave her no substantial support in her contest with the lords of the congregation. In 1560 he remained with her in the castle of Edinburgh, to which she had withdrawn on the arrival of the English forces. He was one of the noblemen called to speak with her on her deathbed (Knox, ii. 71), and she appointed him her executor-testamentary, but on the ground that he could not well perform the duties of the office ‘by reason of the frailty and weakness of his body’ he renounced it, expressing at the same time his willingness unofficially to do what he could to aid in the recovery of her debts (notarial instrument, 2 Oct. 1560, in Hist. MSS. Comm. 3rd Rep. p. 412). On 17 July 1560 he subscribed the confession of faith in the face of parliament, affirming that it was long since he had some favour to the truth, but praise be to God he had that day fully resolved (Calderwood, ii. 38). When urged to subscribe the contract with England he, however, according to Randolph, used ‘more delays than men judged he would’ (Cal. State Papers, For. Ser. 1560–1, entry 409), and Randolph also expressed the opinion that ‘he was too well schooled by Mr. James Makgill to do his country any good’ (ib. entry 454). On 27 Jan. 1560–1 the earl subscribed the ‘Book of Discipline’ (Knox, ii. 129). On the return of Queen Mary from France he was elected a member of the privy council (Reg. P. C. Scotl. i. 157). Constitutionally averse to extreme measures, he was one of those who opposed the proposal to deprive the queen of the mass (Knox, ii. 291). Nevertheless he continued to retain the confidence of the kirk, and took an active interest in its affairs. In 1563 he was appointed by the assembly one of a committee to revise the ‘Book of Discipline’ (Calderwood, ii. 247). But although a constant supporter of the principles of the Reformation, and the father-in-law of the regent Moray, he did not intermeddle in any of the plots of the day. About the time of the death of Darnley he practically withdrew from public life, spending his time in retirement at his stronghold of Dunnottar, whence he acquired the name of ‘William of the Tower.’ His place in the privy council was in his absence taken by his son William, master of Marischal. On 31 July 1576 the earl was summoned before the council to answer ‘for not keeping the points of the general band,’ but excused himself from appearing on account of his ‘present inability for travel’ (Reg. P. C. Scotl. ii. 548). He had the reputation of being the wealthiest man in Scotland, his yearly rental being estimated at two hundred and seventy thousand marks, while so widely was his property scattered that it is said he could journey from Berwick to the northern limits of the country, eating his meals and sleeping every night on his own estates. He died on 7 Oct. 1581. By his wife Margaret, daughter and coheiress (with her sister Elizabeth, wife of Lord Forbes) of Sir William Keith of Inverugie, Banffshire, he had two sons: William, lord Keith, master of Marischal, who predeceased him in August 1580, and Robert, lord Altree, and seven daughters, all married: (1) Anne, first to the regent Moray, and secondly to Colin, sixth earl of Argyll, (2) Elizabeth, to Sir Alexander Irvine of Drum, (3) Alison, to Alexander, lord Salton, (4) Mary, to Sir John Campbell of Calder, (5) Beatrice to John Allardice of Allardice, (6) Janet, to James Crichton of Frendraght, (7) Margaret, to Sir John Kennedy of Balquhan.
  • [Knox's Works, ed. Laing; Sadler's State Papers; Calderwood's History of the Church of Scotland; Cal. State Papers, Scott. Ser. and For. Ser. reign of Elizabeth; Peter Buchan's Ancient and Noble Family of Keith; Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), ii. 191–3.]
  • From:,_William_(d.1581)_(DNB00)


  • A Genealogical History of the Dormant: Abeyant, Forfeited, and Extinct ... By Sir Bernard Burke
  • Pg.303
  • This great and illustrious family has held from the earliest ages the dignified post of Great Marischals of Scotland. With out attempting to trace the line of hereditary Great Marischals of Scotland from the year 1010, when Robert, the direct ancestor of this family was invested with that dignity by King MALCOM II., we will commence with Sir WILLIAM KEITH, Great Marischal of Scotland, the 11th in direct descent from the founder of the family, and who d. prior to 1476. he was created Earl Marischal of Scotland prior to 1458. By Mary, dau. of Sir James Hamilton, of Cadzow, he had, with other issue, a son,
  • WILLIAM KEITH, 2nd Earl Marischal. He m. Muriella, dau. of Thomas, 1st Lord Erskine, by whom he had issue,
    • I. WILLIAM 3rd earl.
    • II. Robert.
    • III. Alexander, of Auquhorsk, ancestor of the late Rev. Dr. George Skene Keith.
    • IV. John, of Craig, ancestor of the late Sir Robert Murray Keith, K.B., a distinguished ambassador.
  • The eldest son,
  • WILLIAM KEITH, 3rd Earl Marischal, d. 1530. He m. 1482, Lady Elizabeth Gordon, dau. of George, 2nd Earl of Huntley, and grand-dau. of JAMES, 1st King of Scotland and Queen Jane Beaufort, by whom he had issue,
    • I. .... etc.


William Keith, 3rd Earl Marischal (known as "William of the Tower"), was chosen by Queen Mary as one of 12 peers to manage the kingdom in her absence.

He married Margaret, daughter and heiress of Sir William KEITH of Inverugie, and had two sons and two daughters (Buchan says he had 7 daughters).

  • 1. The eldest son (Buchan says youngest), William, married Elizabeth, daughter of George HAY of Errol (in 1543) but was killed in riot in Geneva (before his father's death) ...leaving a son, George, and daughters, Mary (married Sir Robert ARBUTHNOT), Barbara (m. Alexander FORBES of Pitsligo), and one more who m. William KEITH of Ludquhairn.
  • 2. The Earl's 2nd son, Robert Keith, commendator of Deer, received from King James the VI a temproral Lordship, Lord Altree. This Robert had only one daughter, the peerage "failed", the estate falling to the family of Marischal (1551).
  • The Earl's daughters were Anne (married 1st in 1562 to James, Earl of MURRAY, who was Queen Mary's brother; married 2nd to Colin, Earl of Argyle), and Lady Jean (some say Janet), who married John Lord GLAMMIS (ancestors of the present Queen Elizabeth of England).

William died in 1581, succeded by a grandson.



William Keith was the son of Robert Keith, Master of Marischal and Lady Elizabeth Douglas, daughter of John Douglas, 2nd Earl of Morton.[1] He succeeded his grandfather, William Keith, 3rd Earl Marischal.[2] He was one of the earls who accompanied James V to France for his marriage to Madeleine of Valois, daughter of King Francis I of France. The wedding took place on 1 January 1537 at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and was followed by days of Jousting at the Louvre.[3]

He fought at the Battle of Pinkie in 1547, in which the Scots were defeated by the English forces led by Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset in a bloody battle that was part of the War of the Rough Wooing.[4] Keith was said to have been in favour of the proposed marriage between the infant Mary, Queen of Scots, and Prince Edward of England, son of King Henry VIII.[5] He held the Office of Extraordinary Lord of Session in 1541, 1561, and lastly in 1573. In 1561, he was a member of Queen Mary's Privy Council.[5] Later, the Earl Marischal retired with his great fortune to a secluded life at Dunnottar Castle becoming known locally as "William of the Tower."[6] The Earl died on 7 October 1581[2]


view all 20

William Keith's Timeline

July 24, 1506
Scotland, United Kingdom
Age 13
Scotland, United Kingdom
Age 15
Inverugie, Banff, Scotland
Age 20
Probably Dunottar, Kincardineshire, Scotland
July 14, 1530
Age 24
Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland
Age 25
Dunottar, Kincardineshire,, Scotland
Age 25
Age 28
Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Age 28
Scotland, United Kingdom