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date: 08 December 2022

Erskine, John, styled twenty-second or sixth earl of Mar and Jacobite duke of Marfree

(bap. 1675, d. 1732)

Erskine, John, styled twenty-second or sixth earl of Mar and Jacobite duke of Marfree

(bap. 1675, d. 1732)
  • Christoph v. Ehrenstein

John Erskine, styled twenty-second or sixth earl of Mar and Jacobite duke of Mar (bap. 1675, d. 1732)

by Sir Godfrey Kneller, c. 1715 [right, with his son, Thomas Erskine, Lord Erskine]

in the collection of the Earl of Mar and Kellie at Alloa Tower; photograph courtesy the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Erskine, John, styled twenty-second or sixth earl of Mar and Jacobite duke of Mar (bap. 1675, d. 1732), Jacobite army officer, politician, and architect, was born on the lowland family estate at Alloa, Clackmannanshire, and baptized at Alloa parish church on 21 January 1675. He was the first of four surviving children of Charles Erskine, twenty-first or fifth earl of Mar (1650–1689), and his wife, Lady Mary Maule (1655–1710?), eldest daughter of George, second earl of Panmure.

Family background and education

Throughout his life Mar took immense pride in the fact that his father's family was considered to be among the oldest in Scotland, with special ties to the royal Stuart dynasty due to his ancestors' status as hereditary keepers of Stirling Castle and guardians of the royal princes. In fact his first action in the Scottish parliament, where he took his seat in September 1696, was a protest to be put first on any list of the Scottish aristocracy. However, his pride in his ancestry was disproportionate to the family's financial situation. The Erskines had accumulated crushing debts during the civil war, and further mismanagement had reduced the estate to the principal holdings of Alloa, on the Firth of Forth, and Braemar, as well as Kildrummy in Aberdeenshire. These two highland estates were damaged almost beyond repair by the Jacobite forces in spring 1689, probably because Mar's father had by then joined the new government after some prior hesitation. Ranking among the lowest third of his peers in terms of rental income, Mar thus inherited 'more debt than estate' (Master of Sinclair, Memoirs of the Insurrection in Scotland in 1715, 1858, 58) when he succeeded his father in May 1689 as twenty-second or sixth earl (dependent on a disputed creation in 1565).

Little is known about Mar's formal education, which was probably somewhat eclectic. He remarked later to his son 'you have been more luckie in your education than I was' (Mar's legacies, 178). He certainly received some schooling, possibly at Linlithgow, in the 1680s, and went on to attend a few lectures at the University of Edinburgh in 1691–2. By then he had acquired a working knowledge of Latin, but he did not learn any other foreign language in his youth. It was only in his late forties that he developed his French beyond mere phrases. He did, however, take to drawing and architectural design. In the 1690s the Episcopalian minister Alexander Edwards introduced him to the technicalities of garden design, architecture, and drawing. Henceforward, Mar was 'infected with the desease of building and gardening' (Stuart Papers, 5.21), and remained so until his death.

Later in life Mar acquired a reputation for being rather indifferent in religion, but there are frequent remarks hinting at his conviction that the Episcopal church deserved pride of place in Scotland—being, as he put it, 'a medium betwixt the bare unbecomeing nakedness of the Presbiterian service in Scotland, and the gadie, affected, and ostentive way of the Church of Rome' (Mar's legacies, 186). Accordingly, a private chapel was set up at Alloa about 1700.

Personally, Mar seems to have been not without charm, and even later political enemies referred to him as being a witty conversationalist. There are conflicting descriptions of his physical appearance, but it is certain that he was of low stature, and most probably had some kind of physical disability in the form of a small hump on his back.

Court politician, 1696–1714

From the moment he took his seat in the Scottish parliament in September 1696 to the end of his political career in Britain nineteen years later, Mar was a court politician proper. On the one hand, he needed the salary. But equally important was the boost to his self-esteem that office provided. Although he frequently complained to his brother that he was 'extreamlie wearie of the post I'm in' (Mar to Erskine, 1707, NA Scot., Mar and Kellie MSS, GD 124/15/496/27), he tried hard to emulate his ancestors and also enjoyed being at the centre of political life. An obvious choice of patron for the eager novice was the first duke of Queensberry, who was just emerging as the leading Scottish magnate at court. Quickly, Mar worked his way into the duke's inner circle, and, as a result of this patronage he became a member of the Scottish privy council as early as April 1697. Yet he was desperate to secure a position that was financially more rewarding, and he certainly expected more than the military command (as colonel of a regiment on foot until 1706) which Queensberry was able to grant him in 1701.

Mar's rise at court began when he joined the first commission for the negotiation of the union between Scotland and England. Although the discussions in London came to nothing during winter 1702–3, he once again distinguished himself as an able spokesman and was increasingly seen as Queensberry's lieutenant. His marriage on 6 April 1703 to Lady Margaret Hay (1686–1707), daughter of Thomas, earl of Kinnoull, considerably advanced the connection to the duke of Queensberry on account of Lady Mar's close friendship with the duchess. When his patron was out of favour in 1704, Mar led the opposition to the government of the marquess of Tweeddale 'with so much art and dissimulation that he gained the favour of all the Tories, and was by many of them esteemed an honest man and well inclined to the royal [Stuart] family' (G. Lockhart, ‘Scotland's Ruine!’ George Lockhart of Carnwath's Memoirs of the Union, ed. D. Szechi, 1995, 85). It soon became clear that the move towards Jacobitism was nothing but a tactical decision. In fact, after Queensberry's return to power Mar 'returned'—in the harsh words of the Jacobite sympathizer George Lockhart of Carnwath—'as the dog to the vomit and promoted all the Court of England's measures with the greatest zeal imaginable'.

Further progress was swift. Owing to his administrative abilities and success as informal deputy of the duke, Mar was made one of the commissioners for the negotiations of the Anglo-Scottish union, and on 29 September 1705 was additionally appointed secretary of state within Scotland, with a salary of £1000. He was certainly the most active speaker for the union, and his reports to London about the Scottish proceedings during the next sixteen months provide the most intimate insight into the negotiations. Although Mar was at no stage able to match magnates such as Queensberry, Argyll, or Hamilton, either financially or in terms of a clientage, he succeeded in establishing himself firmly as a major power in Scottish politics. He successfully campaigned in late 1706 for his younger brother James Erskine, Lord Grange, to gain an influential legal office, secured a number of positions for his relatives, and in early 1707 became himself sheriff-principal of the sheriffdom of Aberdeen.

By that time Mar's reputation as a skilful amateur architect and garden designer had so advanced among the Scottish aristocracy and gentry that they frequently turned to him for detailed advice about their estates. He had started with small designs for his estate, including a pigeon house or a garden pavilion in 1704; by 1710, probably with the help of James Gibbs (1682–1754), who owed his career solely to Mar's patronage, he was producing elaborate and detailed architectural plans. Several of these were eventually printed, and the 216 surviving plans 'are among the most vivid and colourful of all Scottish architectural drawings' (Gow and Bailey, 251). About twenty different projects can be identified, and the architectural correspondence which Mar conducted throughout his life hints at several of his contributions to buildings and gardens of the British aristocracy. Most members of the Queensberry interest were beneficiaries of his advice, but he also designed plans for English estates such as Bretton Hall and Rokeby Park in Yorkshire. In addition he took some responsibility for the design of the famous House of Dun built for David, Lord Dun. Mar's own estate, Alloa House, Clackmannanshire, gained a reputation for its garden. The combination of a late geometric outline with large vegetable gardens, orangery, orchards, ornamental parterres, and a park of over 2500 acres was at that time unique in Scotland, and visitors 'spok with delight of everything but the filthy naked statues' (David Dalrymple to Mar, 1708, NA Scot., GD 124/15/897). Daniel Defoe gave an overall enthusiastic account of Mar's gardens at Alloa: 'There is, in a Word, every Thing that Nature and Art can do, brought to Perfection', with the town also 'pleasant, well built and full of trade' (D. Defoe, A Tour through the Whole Island of Great Britain, letter 13). It was this second aspect with which Mar was most concerned, and his attempts to improve trade proved to be the catalyst for Alloa's industrial development.

Just before the union debate entered the final stage, Mar's son, Thomas, was born in late autumn 1706. After the birth his wife's health deteriorated, and she died on 26 April 1707, just days after her husband took up residence in London. The union negotiations had brought Mar into close contact with the English court circle, especially Sidney, earl of Godolphin, and Robert Harley. These connections proved vital during his further advance in London. He was immediately sworn of the privy council in May 1707. When the Scottish secretaryship ceased with the abolition of the Scottish privy council, Mar was appointed keeper of the signet in early summer 1708. Since Godolphin wanted to rely on the experienced court politician, this office included virtually all the responsibilities and rights of the previous post. Moreover, Mar had already been chosen as one of the representative peers of Scotland in February 1707, and was re-elected in 1708, 1710, and 1713.

Always sensitive to the change of political atmosphere, Mar increasingly sought the company of Robert Harley, who became his major English patron. The marriage of Harley's daughter Abigail to Mar's brother-in-law George Hay, Viscount Dupplin (and later eighth earl of Kinnoull), certainly eased the way, and Harley secured him a pension of £3000 as early as 1709. In the subsequent Sacheverell crisis Mar voted in favour of the high-church clergyman, and convinced several other Scottish lords to do the same. Thus after the tory victory in the election of 1710 he emerged as the leader of the Scottish court party, and following the death of the duke of Hamilton in 1712 he also became patron to the Scottish Jacobite MPs. It certainly helped him to gain some credit among the Scottish Jacobites that he was now publicly voicing concern about the development of the union, about which 'we had fine hopes … and I think not without good reason, but these hopes have proved vain' (Mar to James Erskine, 1714, NL Scot., MS 5072, fol. 26).

The last two years of Queen Anne's reign saw Mar at the zenith of his career. In London he moved into a fashionable house at Privy Gardens, Whitehall, after being appointed to the re-established secretaryship for Scotland in autumn 1713. The dedication to Mar of an elaborate map of Scotland, printed by the publisher and cartographer Hermann Moll, confirms his status as a major improver, architect, and politician, while Godfrey Kneller's portrait depicts him in lavish attire proudly presenting his nine-year-old son. Arguably his most interesting move was his marriage on 20 June 1714 to Lady Frances Pierrepont (1690–1761), Lockhart's 'buxom vigorous young woman [with] £8000 of portion' (Letters of George Lockhart of Carnwath, ed. D. Szechi, 1989, 103); she was the second daughter of the whig politician Evelyn, then earl (later duke) of Kingston, and younger sister of the scholar Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Thus, just weeks before Queen Anne's death, Mar was able through marriage both to gain new funds for his estate, which was still thousands of pounds in debt, and to attempt to strengthen his ties to the whigs with a view to securing his continued employment.

The Jacobite rising of 1715

The first contact between Mar and the exiled Stuart court probably dates from 1710, but it was only after Queen Anne's death in August 1714 that Mar became seriously engaged in Jacobite conspiracy. It is not unlikely that he had grown up with some sentimental Jacobite feelings, but those had always remained hidden behind his need for profitable court positions. Yet by late 1714 he was running out of options. Keeping up high spirits immediately after the queen's death, he claimed in a letter to his brother that 'I can make as good terms with the other side [the Hanoverian whigs] for myself as any of them' (Mar and Kellie MSS, 2.505). However, his central role in the former tory administration negated any efforts to stay in office, since it very quickly became clear that leading tory ministers, with the exception of the earl of Nottingham, had no political future under the new king, George I. Furthermore, it was increasingly apparent that the arrears of £7000 still due to him would not be forthcoming.

Mar's exact role in the overall planning of the Jacobite rising of 1715 is difficult to ascertain. On the one hand, he continued to show outward obedience to the new monarch and even presented an address of loyalty, which included the signatures of twelve highland chiefs. Moreover, he does not appear to have played a major part in orchestrating the initial phase of the rising. Although he was a member of a group of conspirators in London, he apparently had no direct contact with Henry St John, Viscount Bolingbroke, who led all planning from the continent. On the other hand, he boycotted the Scottish election in March 1715, regularly met with James Butler, the duke of Ormond, the major English Jacobite, and, in his first surviving letter to the exiled Stuart court, dating from early July 1715, drew up a detailed invasion scheme. Here he emphasized that there was 'no hope of succeeding in it without the assistance of a regular force' (Stuart Papers, 1.520) and asked for at least 20,000 weapons, should there be no foreign assistance. In the latter case he proposed a landing of the Pretender (James Stuart) near Newcastle at the end of September, and advocated a quick joining of the Jacobite forces from Scotland and northern England. Although such scenarios played a role in the plans of the Stuart court, the Scottish and northern risings were never properly co-ordinated with a proposed central rising in the south. Late in July 1715 it became obvious that the plans for the southern rising were an open secret to the government, and the threat of impeachment, which already endangered the earl of Oxford, reached Mar himself. It was most probably a combination of fear of arrest, self-serving careerism, and sentimental attachment to the Stuart family that, at that stage, turned Mar into the only Jacobite to take the initiative.

On 9 August 1715, one day after the birth of his daughter Frances, Mar left London and embarked from Gravesend with some servants and the professional soldier George Hamilton, who acted as his military adviser throughout the rising. He landed near Elie in south-east Fife, and a short ride took him to the estate of the earl of Kinnoull, his former father-in-law, where the small party of eighteen horse was joined by the family's son John Hay. The Erskines' estate at Braemar saw the first council of war, thinly disguised as a hunting party, or tindal, on 27 August. On 6 September the standard of 'James the 8th and 3rd' was raised at Braemar among 600 followers. The lack of a proper commission from the Stuart court did not prevent Mar from excelling at the things he did best: sending out orders, canvassing, and gathering supplies. With the help of the printer Robert Freebairn he also took great care in distributing Jacobite propaganda, which skilfully played on Scottish patriotism and anti-union sentiment.

At the beginning of October the Jacobite forces had risen to almost 20,000 men. Apart from Stirling Castle, Mar controlled all of Scotland north of the Firth of Forth. It was undoubtedly the most serious Jacobite threat the British government had faced. Yet it now became apparent that Mar had no military experience whatsoever. Instead of keeping the initiative by laying siege to Stirling Castle and pushing south, he dallied for over a month, thus allowing the government forces under the duke of Argyll to build up strength and move into more favourable positions. The Jacobites' two remarkable military manoeuvres—a quick capture of Perth and the crossing of the Firth of Forth with 2000 men—were most probably based on the initiative of Mar's subordinates. By contrast Mar's conduct throughout the 'Fifteen was 'marked with a disastrous combination of chronic indecision and strategic incompetence' (MacInnes, 200).

These failings were once again in evidence in the one and only battle for which Mar took charge, having on 22 October received a belated royal commission to act as sole commander of the Jacobite forces; on the same date he was appointed duke of Mar in the Jacobite peerage of Scotland. Although the number of soldiers in Mar's force had dwindled somewhat, the Jacobite army still outnumbered the duke of Argyll's forces by three to one, and a decision was finally made to march towards Stirling. About noon on 13 November the two armies met at Sheriffmuir, near Dunblane. After some serious but indecisive fighting which had put both armies into confusion, and parts of them into retreat, Mar and about 4000 Jacobites began to close in on Argyll's remaining 1000 men, who were waiting for a final attack, poorly protected by some mud walls. But Mar, probably under the illusion of having won the battle already, did not order his forces to advance. The government army had lost three times as many men (about 660) as the Jacobites; this made it possible for Mar to claim victory before retreating to Perth. It was obvious, however, that in more than one respect 13 November was the turning point of the rising, by preventing the Jacobites' further advance into the central lowlands. The city of Inverness surrendered to the government forces on the same day, and in the north of England the rising suffered a decisive blow with the capitulation of the English Jacobites at Preston. Moreover, the arrival of James III in Scotland on 22 December failed to stop the numbers dwindling in the Jacobite army.

What followed was a mere six-week epilogue to the rising. Though some were rejoicing at Aberdeen and Dundee, fewer than 5000 Jacobites were still present at Perth when their proclaimed king made his entrance on 9 January 1716. Moreover, a reinforced government army now equipped with heavy artillery was advancing rapidly. To delay its approach Mar gave the order to burn several villages between Perth and Stirling, thus denying shelter and supplies to Argyll's forces, but also fuelling the contempt with which he was increasingly viewed by some of his fellow Jacobites. On 30 January the Jacobites were forced to leave Perth and retreat north. Mar, who had started the 1715 rising, also finished it when on 4 February he persuaded the Pretender to write a farewell letter to the Scots. Sailing from Montrose the next day, James and Mar left behind a perplexed Jacobite army whose leading figures never forgave Mar for his apparent betrayal. On 17 February he was attainted by the Hanoverian authorities and his earldom forfeited.

Jacobite politician and double agent, 1716–1724

In March 1716 Mar arrived in Paris, and one month later he was back in office, this time as James's adviser and secretary of state. The Pretender seems to have had some admiration for Mar, whom he regarded as an experienced politician and, more importantly, as the one man who had raised arms for the Stuart cause in 1715. Yet from the beginning Mar was deeply involved in the internal power struggle at the Jacobite court. Quarrels about who had been responsible for the failure of the rising broke out, and Mar, who himself blamed Bolingbroke, was made the scapegoat by a number of court commentators. His reputation suffered further following his alleged mismanagement of the growing number of exiled Jacobites who now sought refuge at court, thus seriously stretching Jacobite finances. That Mar's solution was seen to favour his own relatives undoubtedly contributed to the increasing tension between the different Jacobite clientage networks. Important leaders such as the duke of Ormond and George Keith, Earl Marischal, had been deeply suspicious of Mar's dealings from the start. This internal struggle prevented the Jacobite court from developing a coherent policy on occasions when the international diplomatic situation would have allowed an alliance with a European power against Hanoverian Britain.

Renewed hostilities between Hanover and Sweden presented just such an opportunity in 1716. The fact that the Swedish king, Charles XII, was widely perceived as a protestant war hero undoubtedly influenced the Jacobites' decision to strengthen the ties with the Swedish court, as a way of counteracting the deep anti-Catholic sentiment hindering the Jacobite movement in Britain. Mar organized diplomatic connections to Charles XII and ordered the English Jacobites to raise money for an invasion force. He probably only realized himself in February 1717 (after the capture of Swedish diplomats in London) that Charles XII had been interested only in the money, and certainly never seriously considered an invasion of England. Mar's other attempt to establish further contact with Peter the Great of Russia proved equally unsuccessful on a political level, though it led to the recruitment of a vast number of Jacobite exiles by the tsar.

In winter 1717 the two constant companions of Jacobite exiles—boredom and homesickness—struck Mar at Urbino: '[I would] die of the spleen', he remarked, 'were it not for building castles in the air of several kinds' (Stuart Papers, 5.367). Yet his renewed enthusiasm for architectural drawings was not the only activity with which he fought the despairing mood at the exiled court. Within his limited means he also acted as a patron to musicians, architects, and painters. In his letters he frequently alluded to the lack of court culture in England, combining his Jacobite hopes with his aesthetic preferences for baroque music and architecture. 'Let us hope still', he wrote to his friend James Gibbs, 'there are more polite days a coming when arts will thrive and good performances be cherished by those who have a right taste' (ibid., 2.92).

Nor had Mar cut all ties to his former whig friends. Seeing his political fortunes at the Stuart court slip away (because of Ormond's and Marischal's preparations for another rising with Spanish assistance in early 1719), he resigned his post, renewed an old acquaintance with John Dalrymple, second earl of Stair, and embarked on an attempt to re-establish contact with Westminster. He probably had a hand in his own arrest at Geneva on behalf of the British government in May 1719. After thirteen months of negotiations he succeeded in obtaining payments from Lady Mar's jointure, as well as further financial promises from London and £1000 from the earl of Stair.

Having taken up residence with his family in Paris in 1720, Mar was now interested in acquiring a full pardon, though he also worked hard to remain the major figure in the local Jacobite community. He even informed James III about all his dealings with the British government, pledging his loyalty while carefully hiding the details of his negotiations. In the end this duplicity led to a complete loss of confidence in him by both the Stuart court and London, but for a few years Mar managed to deceive many—and probably even himself—about his real status as a double agent. His role became widely known only in the aftermath of the Atterbury plot, when in May 1722 the British agent Charles Churchill forced Mar to commit himself by writing an incriminating letter to the Jacobite bishop Francis Atterbury, which eventually led to Atterbury's treason trial and his exile. In a desperate attempt to free himself of ongoing rumours and allegations, Mar made a 'fatal mistake' in 1724 (Gregg, 192) when he freely gave his papers to Atterbury. The bishop, distrustful ever since the Swedish affair of 1717, now found proof of Mar's double game and finally convinced the court in Rome to withdraw all confidence from him, though not before he had been elevated to the earldom (1717) and dukedom (1722) of Mar in the Jacobite peerages of England and Ireland respectively.

As Mar's political future darkened, his architectural plans for Alloa became more and more elaborate, while showing a detailed knowledge of the continental discourse on design and architecture. The political allusions to Scottish patriotism in his designs are so obvious that 'they can be understood as an apology … for his political career' (Stewart, 5). Together with his writings, these plans illustrate Mar's ideological point of view, which, though it always remained secondary to his personal ambition, must be seen as a strong undercurrent in his life. Not unlike his former friend Andrew Fletcher of Saltoun, Mar emphasized the Scots' virtuous and martial spirit. In his 'Jewels of Scotland' (printed in 1896 by the Scottish History Society as part of 'The earl of Mar's legacies') he included detailed advice about a Scottish constitution, suggested an alliance of Scotland and Ireland in a union based on their common Celtic culture, and proposed specific improvements, including the construction of a Forth and Clyde canal, and a plan for a new part of Edinburgh that resembles very much the New Town that was later built. His last letter to the Stuart court dates from May 1727, but his Jacobite career as an architect was far from over, as he kept working on an almost visionary plan for a structure in London that he described as a 'Palace worthy of the Grandeur of the King', referring to James III (Friedman, 115).

Last years and historical reputation

The London newspapers regularly reported on the allegedly extravagant lifestyle of Mar and his family. Despite some government payments, however, their financial situation was precarious. In Paris, Mar was already 'treated with insolence by the servants and tradespeople' (A. Raitt to Erskine, 1724, NA Scot., Mar and Kellie MSS, GD 124/15/1247/9). As the years of genteel poverty went on, Lady Mar developed clear signs of severe clinical depression slowly descending into madness. Early in 1728 she was sent back to England to be taken into custody by her sister, Mary. Although—or perhaps because—Mar was, apparently, genuinely devoted to his wife, he did not hesitate to use her case as grounds for a further request for a full pardon from the crown. Obviously homesick, he began a correspondence with the diplomatist Horatio Walpole (later Baron Walpole of Wolterton) and also tried to use his connections with Cardinal Fleury to advance his cause. Although he finally received a limited pardon, his bid for a return to Scotland was explicitly rejected by the prime minister Sir Robert Walpole.

Without regular financial resources, Mar was forced to leave Paris at the end of 1729 to avoid his creditors. Only his daughter, Frances, accompanied him, first to Antwerp and then to Spa. Distrusted by both the Jacobite community and the British government, with no chance of securing a pardon and with limited funds, Mar spent the last three years of his life in a dismal state. Moreover, his health deteriorated. For over a decade he had been suffering from gout, scurvy, and some sort of chronic gastritis, and now his condition worsened markedly. In the winter of 1731–2 he and Frances moved to another fashionable spa, Aix-la-Chapelle. There Mar's last architectural drawing, showing yet another version of his beloved Alloa, was finished in March 1732, with his daughter's assistance. She was also present two months later when Mar died, at Aix-la-Chapelle. His burial place is unknown, but his daughter probably took his remains to Scotland when she visited Alloa for the first time, in November 1732. Mar had desired to be buried in the parish church of Alloa and had even designed a monument in black and white marble for that purpose. His death was reported by the Gentleman's Magazine, but he had vanished from the political scene to such a degree that no one—including the Jacobite community—took notice.

Even before his death a Jacobite friend had remarked that 'no man had ever a more glorious game to play & play'd it worse than he has done from first to last' (Lewis Innes to James III, 1729, Stuart papers, Royal Archives, Windsor Castle, 131/174). George Lockhart's contemporary judgment of Mar as 'a man of good sense but bad morals' (Scotland's Ruine!, 85) was probably the kindest comment about him in the next two centuries. By the early nineteenth century his poor reputation was firmly established. James Hogg called him 'another Richard III, deformed in his person, but possessed of ambition and an intriguing genius beyond any man living' (J. Hogg, The Jacobite Relics of Scotland, 2 vols., reprinted 1874, 2.223). His famous nickname, Bobbing John, which in his lifetime had probably referred only to his physical disabilities, became a synonym for his frequent political double play. It was in the twentieth century, however, that his reputation reached rock-bottom. For historians of Jacobitism, Mar simply was a 'rat' or at best an 'evil genius' (A. Tayler and H. Tayler, The Old Chevalier: James Francis Stuart, 1934, 101); by the 1980s Mar was 'a self-centred, monstrously incompetent poltroon' (Lenman, 154). At the same time he has also been rediscovered as one of the most important early modern Scottish art patrons and amateur architects, thus confirming Walter Scott's gentle judgment of his being 'a man of fine taste' (Tales of a Grandfather, 1828–30, chap. 63). Arrogant, self-centred, easily offended, and incompetent in things military he certainly was, but he also emerges from his numerous letters as a skilful estate manager, a connoisseur of music and art, a patron of architects, and a charming conversationalist.


  • E. Gregg, ‘The Jacobite career of John, earl of Mar’, Ideology and conspiracy: aspects of Jacobitism, 1689–1759, ed. E. Cruickshanks (1982), 179–200 [most detailed account of Mar's life]
  • S. Erskine, ed., ‘The earl of Mar's legacies to Scotland … 1722–27’, Wariston's diary and other papers, Scottish History Society, 26 (1896), 151–247
  • NA Scot., Mar and Kellie MSS, GD 124
  • Mar's plans, NA Scot., RHP 13526–13528
  • Calendar of the Stuart papers belonging to his majesty the king, preserved at Windsor Castle, 7 vols., HMC, 56 (1902–23)
  • Report on the manuscripts of the earl of Mar and Kellie, HMC, 60 (1904)
  • Royal Arch., Stuart papers
  • M. Stewart, ‘Lord Mar's plans, 1700–1732’, M.Litt diss., U. Glas., 1988
  • B. Lenman, The Jacobite risings in Britain, 1689–1746, 2nd edn (1995)
  • P. W. J. Riley, The English ministers and Scotland, 1707–1727 (1964)
  • J. Baynes, The Jacobite rising of 1715 (1970)
  • I. Grundy, Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1999)
  • GEC, Peerage, new edn
  • T. Friedman, ‘A “Palace worthy of the Grandeur of the King”: Lord Mar's designs for the Old Pretender, 1718–30’, Architectural History, 29 (1986), 102–33
  • T. C. Smout, ‘The Erskines of Mar and the development of Alloa, 1689–1825’, Scottish Studies, 7 (1963), 57–74
  • P. W. J. Riley, The union of England and Scotland: a study in Anglo-Scottish politics of the eighteenth century (1978)
  • I. Gow and R. Bailey, ‘Survey of all other public collections’, Scottish architects' papers: a source book, ed. R. Bailey (1996), 234–60
  • D. Szechi, ‘“Cam ye o'er frae France?”: exile and the mind of Scottish Jacobitism, 1716–1727’, Journal of British Studies, 37 (1998), 357–90
  • M. Bruce, ‘The duke of Mar in exile, 1716–1732’, TRHS, 4th ser., 20 (1937), 61–82
  • J. R. Moore, ‘Defoe's hand in “A journal of the earl of Marr's proceedings”’, Huntington Library Quarterly, 17 (1953–4), 209–28
  • A. I. MacInnes, Clanship, commerce, and the house of Stuart (1996)
  • R. Wills, The Jacobites and Russia, 1715–1750 (2002)



  • J. Smith, mezzotint, 1703 (after G. Kneller), NPG; repro. in R. Sharp, The engraved record of the Jacobite movement (1996), p. 181 ff. [including a variation of 1707]
  • G. Kneller, double portrait, oils, 1715 (with his son), priv. coll.; on loan to Scot. NPG [see illus.]
  • G. F. Ramelli, miniature, 1719
  • engraving, 1719–1720, repro. in Stewart, ‘An exiled Jacobite's architectural activities: Lord Mar's “House J”, its variants and related projects (1716–1731)’, Journal and Annual Report of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, 14 (1987), 12
  • R. Page, engraving, 19th (after G. Kneller), U. Aberdeen, MacBean collection, B2 189
  • J. Cook, engraving, 1845 (after W. Hassell), U. Aberdeen, MacBean collection, B2 192
  • Chomel, engraving, U. Aberdeen, MacBean collection, B2 186
  • S. Freeman, engravings (after G. Kneller), U. Aberdeen, MacBean collection, B2 187, 188
  • P. Vanderbank, engraving (after W. Hassell), repro. in G. V. Bennett, The Tory crisis on church and state, 1688–1730: the career of Francis Atterbury, bishop of Rochester (1975), 223
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British Library, London
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National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh
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Historical Manuscripts Commission
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Transactions of the Royal Historical Society
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Royal Archives, Windsor Castle, Berkshire [with gracious permission of her majesty the queen]
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National Archives of the United Kingdom, Public Record Office, London
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University of Aberdeen Library
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Huntington Library, San Marino, California
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G. E. C. [G. E. Cokayne], , 8 vols. (1887–98); new edn, ed. V. Gibbs & others, 14 vols. in 15 (1910–98); microprint repr. (1982) and (1987)