Open main menu

George Gordon, 5th Earl of Huntly (died 19 October 1576), was Lord Chancellor of Scotland and major conspirator of his time.

George Gordon
Died(1576-10-19)19 October 1576
Title5th Earl of Huntly
OfficesSheriff of Inverness
Lord Chancellor of Scotland
PredecessorGeorge Gordon, 4th Earl of Huntly
SuccessorGeorge Gordon, 6th Earl of Huntly
Spouse(s)Anne Hamilton
ParentsGeorge Gordon, 4th Earl of Huntly
Elizabeth Keith


Second son of the 4th Earl, he was Sheriff of Inverness from 1556. As Captain of Badenoch, he was in charge of carrying letters sent from Edinburgh to Mary of Guise in Inverness from Dunkeld throughout the summer of 1556.[1] Mary, Queen of Scots came north to reduce the power of the Gordons and take Inverness Castle in 1562. The Earl was captured at Corrichie with his other sons, John Gordon and Adam Gordon, and the Earl suddenly died. John, the eldest, was executed three days later. George (called Lord Gordon) was imprisoned at Kinneil House.[2] He was attainted and sentenced to death for treason in 1563. He was then imprisoned at Dunbar castle until the marriage of Queen Mary to Darnley in 1565, when his lands and dignities were nominally restored.[3]

He allied himself with James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, who was married to his sister Jean, and joined Queen Mary at Dunbar after Rizzio's murder in 1566. He became Lord Chancellor of Scotland in 1567, and joined Bothwell in the plot to murder the Regent Moray at Jedburgh. He signed the bond at Craigmillar Castle for Darnley's murder, and accompanied Bothwell and Mary on the visit to Darnley before his murder.

His estates were fully restored after Bothwell's acquittal in 1567. Bothwell's divorce from his sister was facilitated by his influence over her, and he witnessed the marriage contract between Mary and Bothwell. He connived at the capture of the Queen, and accompanied her to Edinburgh, escaping to the north after her flight. He joined the partisans at Dumbarton Castle, and after a temporary agreement with Regent Moray he conspired for her deliverance from Loch Leven Castle in 1567. After the Queen's escape to England in 1568, he held all the north in alliance with Argyll, but received Mary's order to disperse.

Huntly made an agreement with Regent Moray at St Andrews on 14 May 1569. Huntly was to make up his quarrel with the Earl of Morton, repress rebellion amongst his former allies, and surrender a royal cannon kept at Huntly Castle. In return, Regent Moray would give the Earl and his followers a remission for all their crimes against the King since 11 June 1567, and promised an Act of Parliament to forgive his role as 'pretended Lieutenant to the Queen's Grace' between August 1568 and March 1569.[4]

After this temporary submission, continuing the Marian civil war, he gained possession of Edinburgh Castle, held a parliament, and captured Regent Lennox at Stirling. His brother Adam Gordon of Auchindoun was his lieutenant in the north, and fought for Queen Mary in Aberdeenshire and the Mearns.

In 1572 the Earl came to terms with the Regent Morton. He died at Strathbogie, four years later. An eyewitness description of his death, compiled by Richard Bannatyne describes how he suffered a stroke, or a collapse caused by food-poisoning, while playing football. After the Earl died a number of alleged supernatural events occurred beginning with the sudden collapse of one of the servants. Three companions also collapsed and when revived complained of feeling cold. After the Earl's body was embalmed and taken to the chapel, his brother sat in the hall and heard unexplained sounds from the earl's chamber.[5]


He married Anne, daughter of James Hamilton, Duke of Châtellerault and had a daughter Jean, and his successor, George Gordon, 6th Earl of Huntly.[6]


  1. ^ Accounts of the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland, vol. 10, (1913), 314.
  2. ^ J. Bain ed., Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol. 1 (1898), p. 662, 665, 668
  3. ^
  4. ^ Miscellany of the Spalding Club, vol. 3 (1846), pp. 241-245.
  5. ^ Robert Pitcairn, Robert ed., Bannatyne's Memorials of the Transactions in Scotland, (1834), pp. 334-5: Charles McKean, The Scottish Chateau (Sutton, 2001), 109.
  6. ^

External linksEdit

  • "Gordon, George (d.1576)" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
George Gordon
Earl of Huntly Succeeded by
George Gordon
Political offices
Preceded by
4th Earl of Morton
Lord Chancellor of Scotland
Succeeded by
4th Earl of Morton