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Earls in the Peerage of Scotland

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Originally there were seven Earldoms in Scotland, these representing the seven provinces (each one consisting of two districts) of the Pictish Kingdom into which, prior to the ninth century, "transmarine Scotland", i.e. the country north of the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Clyde, was divided. These provinces were: (1) Angus, now co. Forfar, with Mearns, now co. Kincardine; (2) Athole with Gowry, now the north and east part of Perthshire; (3) Strathearn with Menteith, now the southern part of Perthshire; (4) Fife with Fothreve, both of which now form the county of Fife; (5) Mar with Buchan, now together forming Aberdeenshire and Banffshire; (6) Moray with Ross, now forming Inverness-shire and Ross-shire; and (7) Caithness with Sutherland. The district on the west being the Kingdom of Dalriada (now part of Argyllshire) was not originally part of the Seven but in the tenth century the province of Argyll was added, which included not only the Dalriada, but the entire western seaboard of Scotland as far north as the old province of Caithness, which latter province was then omitted as it had previously passed into the hands of the Norwegians. The ruler of each of these districts originally bore the title of "Ri" (i.e. King), being inferior only to the "Ard-Ri" (i.e. High King); but in the tenth century (with the exception of Argyll, and occasionally of Moray) each such ruler was styled "Mormaer" (i.e. Great Maer or Steward). It was in the foundation charter of the Abbey of Scone dated 1114/5 that the Mormaers of most of these provinces occur for the first time under the name of Earls.

From the time when the Celtic King Malcolm III (1057-98) had married the Saxon Princess Margaret, there had been an increasing Saxon influence in the government of the Celtic provinces, while the object of King David I (1124-53) was to introduce the feudal system of Norman England into Scotland, and adapt her institutions to feudal forms. The relation of the Old Celtic Earls, or Mormaers, towards the Crown gradually changed to that of feudal lords, holding their lands as an Earldom of the Crown. The creation of six additional Earls, namely Menteith, Garioch, Lennox, Ross, Carrick and Caithness formed part of the feudalising scheme.

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