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Reference list

Lord chancellors of Scotland in the Oxford DNB

The Scottish chancery is first recorded in the early twelfth century and appears to have been imported from England, albeit on a smaller scale than its prototype. The earliest identifiable chancellor is found in the service of Alexander I (r. 1107–24), but so deficient are the sources that little can be said of him or of most of his successors before the fourteenth century, and the sequence of known office-holders has many gaps.

As in England, the chancellors were keepers of the great seal and all were ecclesiastics until the mid-fourteenth century. From the mid-fifteenth century incumbents were increasingly likely to be laymen, invariably so (except for a single exception under Charles I) after 1546. The office of chancellor of Scotland was absorbed into that of the chancellor of England in 1707, to constitute the dignity of chancellor of Great Britain.

All the Scottish chancellors from September 1483 are included in Oxford DNB, but only a relatively small proportion of their predecessors. This list therefore provides details of chancellors with entries in the Oxford DNB. In addition it includes the keepers of the great seal (later styled lord keepers), who performed the duties of the lord chancellor but without enjoying the latter's dignities and emoluments.

To the 1300s

in or before 1136–c.1141William Cumin (d. c.1160)
1161/2–1164Ingram (d. 1174), bishop of Glasgow, 1164–
c.1188–1189Roger (d. 1202), bishop of St Andrews, 1189–
1199–c.1202William Malveisin (d. 1238), bishop of Glasgow
1231–1247William of Bondington (d. 1258), bishop of Glasgow
1247×51–1252Robert Kenleith (d. 1273), abbot of Dunfermline
1255 (Feb–Sept)Gamelin (d. 1271), bishop of St Andrews, 1255–
1255–1257Richard of Inverkeithing (d. 1272), bishop of Dunkeld
1273?–c.1279William Fraser (d. 1297), bishop of St Andrews, 1279–
c.1301–c.1305Nicholas Balmyle (d. 1319/20), bishop of Dunblane, 1306/7–


1308–1328Bernard (d. 1330/31), bishop of Sodor, 1328–
1340–1346Sir Thomas Charteris (d. 1346)
1353–1370Patrick Leuchars (d. in or after 1383), bishop of Brechin
1370–1377John Carrick (d. 1380/81)
1377–1390John Peebles (d. 1390/91), bishop of Dunkeld
1422–1425/6William Lauder (d. 1425/6), bishop of Glasgow
1426–1439John Cameron (d. 1446), bishop of Glasgow; keeper of seal until 1427
1439–c.1444; 1447–1453William Crichton of that ilk, first Lord Crichton (d. 1453)
1454–1456William Sinclair, third earl of Orkney and Caithness (b. after 1407, d. 1480)
1460–1482Andrew Stewart, Lord Avondale (c.1420–1488)
1482–1483John Laing (d. 1483), bishop of Glasgow
1483–1488Colin Campbell, first earl of Argyll (d. 1493)
1488 (Feb–June)William Elphinstone (1431–1514), bishop of Aberdeen


1488–1492Colin Campbell, first earl of Argyll (d. 1493)
1493–1497Archibald Douglas, fifth earl of Angus (c.1449–1513)
1497–1501George Gordon, second earl of Huntly (1440/41–1501)
1501–1504James Stewart, duke of Ross (1476–1504)
1510–1513Alexander Stewart (c.1493–1513), archbishop-designate of St Andrews
1513–1524; 1525–1526James Beaton (c.1473–1539), archbishop of St Andrews
1527–1528Archibald Douglas, sixth earl of Angus (c.1489–1557)
1528–1543Gavin Dunbar (c.1490–1547), archbishop of Glasgow
1543–1546David Beaton (1494?–1546), archbishop of St Andrews
1546–1562George Gordon, fourth earl of Huntly (1513–1562)
1563–1566James Douglas, fourth earl of Morton (c.1516–1581)
1566–1567George Gordon, fifth earl of Huntly (d. 1576)
1567–1573James Douglas, fourth earl of Morton (c.1516–1581)
1573 (Jan–Sept)Archibald Campbell, fifth earl of Argyll (1538–1573)
1573–1578John Lyon, eighth Lord Glamis (c.1544–1578)
1578–1579John Stewart, fourth earl of Atholl (d. 1579)
1579–1584Colin Campbell, sixth earl of Argyll (c.1542–1584)
1584–1585James Stewart, earl of Arran (c.1545–1596)
1586–1595John Maitland, first Lord Maitland of Thirlestane (1543–1595); keeper of the seal until 1587
1599–1604John Graham, third earl of Montrose (1548–1608)


1604–1622Alexander Seton, first earl of Dunfermline (1556–1622)
1622–1634George Hay, first earl of Kinnoull (bap. 1570, d. 1634)
1635–1638John Spottiswoode (1565–1639), archbishop of St Andrews
1638–1641James Hamilton, second earl of Cambridge [see Hamilton, James, first duke of Hamilton (1606–1649)]; keeper of the seal
1641–1660John Campbell, first earl of Loudoun (1598–1662); royalist lord chancellor during the 1650s
1652–1655Alexander Jaffray (1614–1673); keeper of the seal under the Commonwealth
1655–1660Samuel Desborough (1619–1690); keeper of the seal under the Commonwealth
1660–1664William Cunningham, eighth earl of Glencairn (1610/11–1664)
1664–1681John Leslie, duke of Rothes (c.1630–1681); keeper of the seal until 1667
1682–1684George Gordon, first earl of Aberdeen (1637–1720)
1684–1688/9James Drummond, fourth earl of Perth (1648–1716)
1692–1696John Hay, first marquess of Tweeddale (1626–1697)
1696–1702Patrick Hume, first earl of Marchmont (1641–1724)
1702–1704James Ogilvy, first earl of Seafield (1663–1730)
1704–1705John Hay, second marquess of Tweeddale (1645–1713)
1705–1707James Ogilvy, first earl of Seafield (1663–1730)