It is a curiosity of our
history that the only county name to be transported from Normandy belonged originally to
a castle in the parish of Lisieux, and became
planted in Wales. The first person on record as
having brought it to Scotland was Robert of
Montgomery, who obtained a grant to lands in
Renfrewshire and witnessed charters between 1165
and 1177. It was his descendant who captured
Harry Hotspur at the battle of Otterburn in 1338,
after Douglas had been killed and buried by the
braken bush. So the ballad tells:
The Percy and Montgomery met,
That either of other were fain;
They swapped swords, and they twa swat,
And aye the blood ran down between.
"Now yield thee, yield thee,
"Or else I vow I'
ll lay thee
"To whom must I yield,"quoth
"Now that I see it must be so?"
Hotspur had to build the castle of
Polnoon as his ransom; and by marrying the heiress of Sir
Hugh Eglinton, John Montgomery also acquired the baronies
of Eglinton and Ardrossan. Their grandson Alexander was
created 1st Lord Montgomerie in 1449, and became a member
of the King'
s Council and ambassador to England.
Hugh the 3rd Lord was amongst those
who fought against James III at Sauchieburn in 1488,
where the King lost his life. He received the island of
Arran with the custody of Brodick Castle, and in 1508 was
created 1st Earl of Eglinton. The 3rd Earl remained a
devout Catholic at the Reformation and was among those
who fought for Queen Mary in her final defeat at Langside. He was declared guilty of treason by Parliament
and warded in Doune Castle. As soon as he was released he
attempted to secure toleration for Catholics in those
harsh days of Calvinism triumphant. But the tables were
turned when the 3rd Earl'
s daughter Margaret married
Robert Seton, 1st Earl of Winton, and their son Alexander
succeeded as 6th Earl of Eglinton. For he was a staunch
Presbyterian, who fought with the Covenanters in the wars
of Charles I. He also supported Charles II as a
Covenanted King, and in 1659 he was imprisoned by General
Monk after the death of Cromwell, lest he should take up
arms again in the royalist cause. He must have laughed
when, in the following year, Monk himself marched to
London with his Coldstream Guards and placed Charles II
on the throne there.
Alexander Montgomerie, the court poet
of the reign of James VI, was a second son of Hugh of
Hessilhead Castle in Ayrshire, a kinsman of the Eglintons. By 1577 he was in the suite of the Regent
Morton, and James VI gave him a pension. But somehow he
fell into disgrace, and left Scotland in 1586. He was
deprived of his pension, and imprisoned on the Continent.
His allegorical poem "The Cherrie
and the Slae"appeared in 1597, while his flyting in
the traditional manner with Sir Patrick Hume of Polwarth
was published in 1621, some ten years after his death, as
Flyting betwixt Mantgomerie and Polwart. The famous song,
"Declare, ye banks of Helicon", is now
considered a rather doubtful attribution to Alexander Montgomerie.
Archibald, 18th Earl of Eglinton
(b.1939) is the Chief of the Montgomerys and lives at
Skelmorlie castle in Ayrshire,