John, 8th Earl of Sutherland

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John Sutherland

Also Known As: "de Moravia"
Birthdate: (56)
Birthplace: Dunbeath, Caithness, Scotland
Death: 1508 (52-60)
Immediate Family:

Son of Sir John de Moravia, 7th Earl of Sutherland; John Sutherland; Margaret Magdaline Baillie and Margaret Sutherland
Husband of Finvola MacDonald and Margaret Fingole thane Calder
Father of Elizabeth Sutherland, 10th Countess of Sutherland; John, 9th Earl of Sutherland and Alexander Sutherland
Brother of Alexander, Master of Sutherland; Nicholas Sutherland; Thomas Beg Sutherland; Janet Dunbar of Westfield and Robert Sutherland
Half brother of Thomas Mor Sutherland

Occupation: 8th Earl of Sutherland
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About John, 8th Earl of Sutherland

Burke's Peerage entry -

JOHN SUTHERLAND, 8th Earl of Sutherland, in whose favour his father resigned the Earldom 22 Feb 1455/6, but who was found incapable of managing his own affairs 1494; married 1st 1467 Finvola (allegedly killed in a robbery just after a narrow escape from drowning while crossing the River Unes by ferry), daughter or grand-daughter of Archibald/Celestine Macdonald (see BOSVILLE MACDONALD OF SLEAT, Bt), and had:

  • 1a JOHN SUTHERLAND, 9th Earl of Sutherland; like his father was found incapable of managing his affairs; died unmarried July 1514
  • 1a ELIZABETH Sutherland, Countess of Sutherland in her own right; married c 1500 Adam Gordon of Aboyne (died 17 March 1537/8), 2nd son of 2nd Earl of Huntly (see HUNTLY, M), who accordingly was styled Earl of Sutherland; she resigned the Earldom 10 Nov 1527 to their eldest son, though reserving the life-rent to herself and her husband, and died Sept 1535, having had, with four daughters:
  • 1b Alexander, Master of Sutherland; born c 1501; married c 16 June 1520 Lady Janet Stewart (married 2nd by 13 May 1532 Sir Hew Kennedy of Girvanmains, Ayrshire; married 3rd by 4 Nov 1544 1st Lord Methven (see MORAY, E); married 4th 3rd Lord Ruthven, see CARLISLE, E), eldest daughter of 2nd Earl of Atholl of the 1457 created (see MORAY, E), and died in the lifetime of the father & vm 15 Jan 1529/30, having had:
  • 1c JOHN, 11th Earl
  • 2c Alexander, killed by a fall from his horse at Elgin 1552
  • 1c Janet; married 1537 Sir Patrick Dunbar of Cumnock and Westfield in Moray
  • 2c Beatrice; married William Sinclair of Dunbeath and died 1529
  • 2b John, whose only child married George Gordon of Cochlarachie
  • 3b Adam; killed Battle of Pinkie 10 Sept 1547
  • 4b Gilbert, of Garty; married Isabel (persuaded by her cousin the 4th Earl of Caithness (qv), long an enemy of the Earls of Sutherland, to poison her nephew-in-law the 11th Earl, his wife and son when they were her guests at her house of Helmsdale; supposedly committed sucide in prison while awaiting trial for their murder), daughter of Alexander Sinclair of Dunbeath, and had issue

The 8th Earl married 2nd Margaret, seemingly widow of John Munro, 11th of Foulis (see MUNRO OF FOULIS-OBSDALE, Bt), and allegedly daughter of Sir William Calder of Calder, and (?)by her(?) had:

  • 2a Alexander (possibly an illegitimate s); initially disputed right to the Earldom with his half-bro, claiming an entail existed by which the title passed to him, but waived his claim July 1509 (he never produced the entail, so its very existence must remain doubtful); born 1498; married the daughter of Iye Roy Mackay of Strathnaver and was killed in a skirmish c 1520, leaving issue

The 8th Earlmarried 3rd Catherine (living 1512) and died c 1508 Page 6 No. 21

(21) John, eighth Earl of Sutherland, died 1508. He married Catherine, who survived him, and had:

  • 21(a) John (No. 22 below).
  • 21(b) Elizabeth (No. 23 below).

He had also two natural sons by Miss Ross of Balnagown:

  • 21(c) Alexander Sutherland, died 1520. He is said to have married a Mackay, and had a son:
  • 21(c)1 John Sutherland.
  • 21(d) George Sutherland.

John, 8th Earl of Sutherland (son of John, 7th Earl of Sutherland)

John, eighth Earl of Sutherland, who was the second, but eldest surviving, son of the seventh Earl, is first mentioned in the resignation made in his favour by his father on 22 February 1455-56. Pursuant to this John Sutherland was secured in the earldom by the usual forms, under reservation of the liferent of certain lands to his father and mother. The life of this Earl was not very eventful. His record consists chiefly of charters received and charters granted by him, while he was also frequently involved in litigation.[1] Sir Robert Gordon charges the Earl with unkindness to his mother, and with ruthless cruelty towards some of his own relatives, but he says nothing about the probable cause of these and other short-comings, namely the Earl's mental weakness. A brieve of idiotry was issued by King James IV. in 1494,[2] and after the usual proceedings the Earl was, by a jury, declared incapable of managing his own affairs, and he was placed under the care of a tutor, Sir James Dunbar of Cumnock. The latter was directed by the Lords of Council on 9 February 1497-98 to convoy the Earl and his son to hte presence of King James IV., where they were to be delivered to the King, doubtless as the legal custodier of the Earl in his unfortunate condition, and of his son the heir. Sir James was to provide the expenses of the journey, and the Earl and his son were to be brought in freedom honourably to the King 'that he may consider and provide how they may be rulit according to their estate effering to their living.'[3] About the same time Alexander Sutherland of Dirlot had spoiled 'Dunrobin,' carrying off a quantity of household furniture and grain, which he and his accomplices were ordered to pay to Sir James Dunbar, the Earl's curator.[4] But although the Earl's affairs were administered by a curator he seems to have been held responsible for his actions. On 15 November 1501, decision was given in two action raised against him for spoliation. In the first of these Kinnaird of Skelbo complained against the Earl for spoliation and withholding the rents of the lands of Doll and Terrell. The defence was that they were the Earl's own heritage, and he was assigned a date on which to produce writs before the Justice Air at Elgin.[5] In the second case the complainers were his own sister Janet, widow of Alexander Dunbar of Kilcolmkill, and James Dunbar her son, who charged the Earl with taking up the rents of Kilcolmkill due to her as terce and to her son. All parties were present in Court when the case was decided, and the Earl was ordained to cease his spoliation and to pay the rents to the proper parties.[6] This is the last appearance of him on record, and he is said to have died in 1508.

Sir Robert Gordon says this Earl married a daughter of Alexander Macdonald, Lord of the Isles, though no proof is forthcoming. Sir Robert adds that this lady was nearly drowned while crossing the ferry at Unes, and was found in a state of weakness and slain by a robber. She must have been his first wife. His second wife was apparently Fingole (said to have been a daughter of William of Calder, Thane of Cawdor), widow of John Monro of Fowlis,[7] who died some time before April 1491. She must have been the mother of Alexander named below, as he had a brother, Mr. Robert Monro. In February 1497-98 there were preparations for a divorce between her and the Earl, which the Lords of Council referred to the Vicar-General of Caithness.[8] The Earl married a third time, as between 1509 and 1512 a Catherine, Countess of Sutherland, is credited with her terce from the earldom.[9]

The Earl had issue by first marriage:--

  • 1. John, ninth Earl of Sutherland.
  • 2. Elizabeth, afterwards Countess of Sutherland.

The Earl had another son:--

  • 3. Alexander, of whose legitimate status there is much doubt. Sir Robert Gordon asserts definitely that he was illegitimate, and that his mother was a daughter of Ross of Balnagown. But there is some reason for uncertainty as to this in view of the facts stated above. He was born in 1491, and in 1509, when only eighteen, he opposed the service of his brother John as heir to their father, and requested that curators ad lites should be appointed to himself. This was done, and they advised him to renounce his right in and to the earldom in favour of his brother John and sister Elizabeth, and her husband Adam Gordon, reserving his right of succession if their heirs wholly failed. As a compensation he was secured in lands worth forty merks yearly, which sum was duly paid to him. In 1514 he, being now of age, appeared by a procurator, Mr. Robert Munro, designed his brother, and opposed the service of his half-sister Elizabeth as heir to her brother Earl John, but did not found his pretenstions on his right of blood, but on an alleged deed of entail in his favour, which, however, he did not produce. In 1515 he committed various acts of spoliation, among other feats taking possession of Dunrobin, and was incarcerated in Edinburgh Castle for wrongfully uplifting certain duties belonging to the Crown. In the year 1518 he was again in the north, and a second time seized Dunrobin Castle, which, however, he was obliged to surrender. He was killed in a conflict near Kintradwell, in the parish of Loth, in 1519 or 1520. He married a daughter of Iye Roy Mackay of Strathnaver, and had issue.[10] His descendants continued till 1829, and may still exist.
  • [1] Sutherland Book, i. 62-64.
  • [2] Acta Dom. Conc., 378, 379.
  • [3] Ibid., MS. vii. 174.
  • [4] Ibid., viii. 66, 9 July 1498.
  • [5] Ibid., xi. 4a.
  • [6] Acta Dom. Conc., xi. 4b; History of the Monros, 28.
  • [7] See Acta Dom. Conc., 92*.
  • [8] Ibid., vii. f. 114.
  • [9] Exch. Rolls, xiii. 268, 447.
  • [10] The Book of Mackay, 78; Hist. of House and Clan of Mackay, 1829, 105.

Sources: Balfour Paul, J. (1911) The Scots Peerage, vol. 8. Edinburgh: David Douglas.

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John, 8th Earl of Sutherland's Timeline

Dunbeath, Caithness, Scotland
Age 28
Dunbeath, Caithness, Scotland
Age 39
Age 56
Age 56