THE KELSO EARLDOM OF ANCIENT SCOTLAND
April 25th, 1057 was coronation day for Malcolm 111, King of Scotland. Gathering around him that at the stone of Scone were the principal barons of Scotland. Among them was the Vinget Calco of Chalchou (born 1022). Some 18 years earlier, Calco, Malcolm and the other Scotish nobles had been banished to the north of England at the hands of Macbeth who had assassinated King Duncan of Scotland. Now the nobles had their revenge as Macbeth was slain at the battle of Birmam Wood and the kingdom was restored to the ancient line of Celtic monarchs. That dynasty had begun 843 with Kenneth 1 as the first King to reign over the combined lands of Picts and Scots.
Vignet of Chalchou was from a long line of Celtic barons. The Domain over which he ruled comprised parts of what became the shires of Dumbarton, Lanark, Renfrew and Ayr in the west of Scotland on both sides of the River Clyde. Upon his coronation, Malcolm created the first Earls of Scotland. An Earl was the highest rank a non-royal noble could obtain. Vinget of Chalchou, Major Baron, became the first Earl of Alcluyd. The word Alcluyd means “Hill of Clyde” and when anglicized it is “ Alclyde”. The name was derived from the name of the great manor house of the Earldom on a hill several hundred feet above the north shore of the Firth of Clyde on the east side of the River Leven. The modern city of Dumbarton, a suburb of Glasgow, is located on this site today.
The Celtic word Chalchou derives from a word, which means, “chalk height” and was probably descriptive of the area of residence of Vinget and his predecessors. As Scotland was gradually anglicized, Chalcchou became Kalchou, Kelsou and finally Kelso. Vingnet of Chalchou was a prominent member of King Malcolm's court and is the earliest member of the Kelso family to be part of recorded history.
When William of Normandy invaded England in 1066, Edgar, heir to the English throne, along with his family fled to Scotland for refuge. Edgar's sister Margaret became the second wife of King Malcolm and under her influence the language and customs of Scotland rapidly became anglicized. Margaret was a pious Christian and began a program of building churches, monasteries and abbeys throughout the country. She enlisted the support of the Earls and Barons who controlled most of the wealth. One of her supporters was the second Earl of Alcluyd Vignet (the son of the first Vignet) whose name appears on the Charter of the Monks of Durham.
In 1124, Madach de Chalchou, Third Earl of Alcluyd, celebrated the coronation of King David 1 by becoming a principal sponsor of the abbey of Kelso. Kelso is the anglicized form of Chalchou and since the abbey was in the English speaking southeastern part of Scotland, it received the spelling originally, more than 170 years before the family name was completely anglicized. The abbey town of Kelso remains today at the junction of the Tweed and Teviot rivers near the English border. The town of Kelso was never a part of the Kelso domain in Western Scotland.
Roland de Kelsou, fourth Earl of Alcluyd, gained renown by leading the armies of King Malcolm 1V. Roland was slain by the English in a battle near Carlisle in 1188.
John de Kelsou, the sixth Earl of Asceles (Latin for Alcluyd), lived in a manor house near the town of Largs on the shore of the Firth of Clyde. In 1263 The army of Norway picked this spot to launch an invasion to spread their domain in western Scotland and overthrow King Alexander 111. John's oldest son Peter was killed in that invasion, but his second son, Arnald, led a counter attack on the Norwegians and was personally responsible for killing Hakon, the nephew of Norway's King Haco. The Norwegians were soundly defeated and retreated from Scotland. This battle marked the end of centuries of Norwegian (Viking) aggression against England and Scotland.
KELSO TIES TO ROYALTY
The relationship between the Kelsos and the royalty of Scotland and England can be seen clearly by considering the progeny of three Scottish noblemen who were prominent in the last half of the thirteenth century. All three were the heads of families that gained control of adjoining Earldoms in that point of land which is located between the River Clyde on the east and the Firth of Clyde on the west. The three noblemen were Alexander, the fourth High Stewart of Scotland, Robert Bruce V1 and Arnald de Kelsou, the seventh Earl of Asceles. The Stewart and Bruce lines were both descended from French noble families that had accompanied William the Conqueror when he invaded England in 1066. Arnald, as we have seen, was descended from a long line of Celtic Barons of Scotland.
The three families developed close relationships over the next three hundred years through the marriage of Arnalds progeny with those of Alexander and Robert. In the next eleven generations, no less than six men of Arnald's inheriting lines would be marrying daughters descended from Alexander and Robert. After the merging of the Stewart and Bruce family lines there would be four more marriages between the daughters of the merged line and Arnald's direct inheriting line.
FROM TRANQUILITY TO TURMOIL IN SCOTLAND
John de Kelsou, eighth Earl of Asceles, third feudal Lord of Kelsoland, became Lord of the Free Barony of Kelsoland during a period known as Scotland's Golden Age. This was a period of approximately eighty years from 1214 to 1295 in which there were no wars between England and Scotland. This peaceful period began to come to an end in 1286 when the Scottish King, Alexander 111 died in an accident.
The King's only surviving descendant was his granddaughter Margaret who was a three-year old Princess in the Royal family of Norway. The deceased King left no children, brothers, sisters or near cousins to succeed him and soon there were thirteen claimants vying for the throne of Scotland. King Edward 1 of England intervened and claimed the throne for Margaret. He announced that Margaret would become the bride of his son, three year old Edward 11. In this manner he would unite England and Scotland under the Crown of England.
Many of the Scottish noblemen, including the Stewart, Bruce and Kelsou families felt that uniting Scotland and England was better than certain civil war that was rapidly developing among the claimants to the throne. In July of 1290, representatives of King Edward met with the Great Council of Scottish Tenants-in-Chief and an agreement was reached to bring Princess Margaret to Scotland. One of names affixed to this “memorable letter” of the Great Council was that of John Kelsou who signed his name “John de Kelsou, Earl of Asceles”. This is the last occasion upon which written documentation indicates the title of “Earl” in reference to the Kelso family.
Unfortunately, Princess Margaret died on the voyage from Norway to Scotland and the country's political turmoil escalated. In 1295 Hugo de Kelso, Major Baron, Fourth Lord of Kelsoland, succeeded to the Lordship of Free Barony and soon found himself deeply involved in the struggle between the various claimants to the throne. Hugo's cousin John Comyn was one of the claimants. Another was Robert Bruce, first cousin of Hugo's wife Aleonore and a third was Patrick Dunbar, Aleonore's brother! Because of these close relationships among the Scottish nobility, family after family was torn apart in the choosing of sides. It was cousin against cousin and even brother against brother.
A fourth claimant was John Balliol. King Edward 1 intervened again and placed Balliol on the throne. However in exchange for this favour King Edward made Balliol a vassal and claimed Sovereignty of the English Crown over Scotland. Balliol rebelled this humiliation and went to war with King Edward. With Scottish allegiance greatly divided, Balliol and his forces were completely defeated in April of 1296. Scotland was placed under military occupation and the Stone of Scone was removed to Westminster Abbey, Where it remains to this day Under the English throne.
Hugo de Kelso and others in Western Scotland resisted Edward's rule for about another year, but in July 1297, Kelso and the Bruce and Stewart families all made their submission to King Edward. They promised their allegiance and support to the English King in exchange for full ownership of their lands and titles. However one of their fellow citizens in Ayrshire, William Wallace (Braveheart), refused to submit and was soon at the head of a large army. The English King called upon the Scottish nobles to prove their allegiance by opposing Wallace. Baron Hugo de Kelso, Sir John de Graham and Sir John Stewart joined Wallace in his fight. Hugo left his beautiful manor house overlooking the Firth of Clyde in the care of his wife, Aelenore, his two sons, Richard and Andrew and daughter Aelenore. He would never see them again.
King Edward brought his vast army northward and met the army of William Wallace at Falkirk in July 1298. When the Scottish cavalry saw the overwhelming superiority of the English army, most of them retired from the battlefield without striking a blow. Baron Kelso was among those who chose to remain and fight with the army. The army of Wallace was completely destroyed and Wallace was captured and taken London where he was hanged.
While Wallace had lost the battle, Scotland still waged war, now under the leadership of aelenore's cousin Robert Bruce who was crowned King of Scone in March 1306. Fighting continued for eight more years until King Robert achieved final victory over the English at Bannockburn in June 1314.
In April 1315, Robert called together a Parliament so that he could be officially crowned King of Scotland. Richard de Kelso, fifth Lord of Kelsoland, son of Hugo, was one of the members of that Parliament who signed the deed of ratification which spelled out the order of succession to the throne.
King Robert's second wife, Elizabeth, Gave birth to a daughter Matilda in 1316. Princess Matilda became the second wife of Richard de Kelso, fifth feudal Lord of the Free Barony of Kelsoland. Matilda bore Richard a son John, who became the heir to the Barony of Kelsoland and the progenitor of all future Kelso descendants.
John de Kelso, seventh Lord of Kelsoland (Robert de Kelso, sixth Lord of Kelsoland, had not lived long), married Elizabeth Flemyn, daughter of the Earl of Callander. Their son, Thomas married Elizabeth Flemyn, granddaughter of King Robert 11, son of Princess Marjory. Thereby all subsequent Kelsos became descendants of King Robert Bruce 1 through both his daughter Marjory and Matilda.
It can be said that the Kelsos have lines of kinship from almost all the kings of Scotland and England beginning in the ninth century and extending even into the twentieth century. These lines of kinship and descent are established through six marriages during ten generations of Kelsos extending from John de Kelsou who died in 1291 until Lord Archibald Kelso who died in 1601. There seven traceable lines of descent from seven Scottish Kings who reigned from 843 to 1040. There six lines of descent from eight Kings who ruled between 829 and 1016, and up to sixteen lines of descent from King Robert Bruce 1 and his heirs. Thus the Kelso family has a substantial traceable kinship to virtually all the legitimate royalty of Scotland and England even to the present Royal house of England.
THE COSTLINESS OF KINGLY KINSHIP
As we have seen, the Kelsos were trusted kinsmen to many Scottish Kings. As such they were among those closest to the King during battle or when the King's life was in danger. In October 1346, King David 11 was leading his army at the battle of Neville's Cross near Durham. One of his personal bodyguards was Richard Kelso, son of Robert, sixth Lord of Kelsoland. The English captured King David and Richard was killed trying to protect King David. In 1488, Major Baron John Kelso, n ninth Lord of Kelsoland, was killed while siding with King James 111 against a faction of the Scottish nobility. In 1513, Lord John Kelso, tenth Lord Kelsoland, died along with King James 1V at the Battle of Flodden Field.
It seems the more closely a Kelso was allied to the Royal family, the less opportunity he had to live a life of normal length. It can readily be seen why the Kelso family did not increase numerically until well into the seventeenth century when the Royal relationship was no longer a factor.
RELIGION, POLITICS AND THE LOSS OF THE KELSO'S TITLE
Lord Thomas Kelso, twelfth Lord of Kelsoland, was a member of the Scottish Parliament during the regency of Mary Guise, mother of Queen Mary, in the mid 1500's. Mary Guise was a Catholic and Lord Kelso was a leader of the Protestant opposition. Written records indicate that Lord Kelso “was a man of most energetic character and a zealous adherent to the cause of the Reformed Church”. However, upon young Queen Mary's active ascension to the throne, Lord Kelso gave the new Monarch his complete loyalty during her turbulent reign from 1561 to 1567.
In 1567, Mary was deposed in favour of her one year old son, James V1. Mary was imprisoned for eleven months before escaping to form an army to reclaim her throne. Lord Thomas Kelso's son Archibald joined her army, but it was defeated at the battle of Langsayde in 1568 and Archibald went to prison for a few months.
Lord Thomas Kelso died in 1573 and Archibald succeeded to his father's estate and seat in Parliament. His name appears on the roles of the Scottish Parliaments in the years 1585, 1593, 1595, 1598 and 1600. Late in life, Archibald married his second wife, Catherine Ruthven. Catherine was the daughter of the Earl of Gowrie who had been executed for high treason in 1584 by King James V1. In 1600, King James was visiting Gowrie Castle and Catherine's two brothers were murdered under mysterious circumstances. The Ruthven family blamed the King for their deaths, but the King claimed that he had merely foiled their attempt to murder him. In 1601, King James called a Parliament and it declared, “forfeit the lands and goods of all the Ruthven family”. Since Archibald Kelso had married a Ruthven, he was stripped of his title, his lands and his seat in Parliament.
A few months later Lord Archibald died as the last Kelso to be a member of titled Scottish nobility. In November 1601, by Royal Decree, the lands of the estate were restored to Lord Archibald's eldest son, David, but there is no written record of the name Kelso having born a title or having a seat in Parliament since that infamous day in 1601. Lord Archibald Kelso was the eighteenth and last of a continuous line of Scottish nobility which had lasted for 543 years.
David Kelso married Elizabeth Stewart, great, great, great granddaughter of King Robert 111 (reigned 1390-1406) and they had two sons, Archibald and Robert. David died in 1610 and Archibald followed in 1613. Robert had a son, Henry, who died without male heirs, so the inheriting line was re-established through Lord Archibald's second son William and William's son Robert.
Even though the Kelsos had lost their claim to nobility, they continued to be involved in the military and political life of Scotland and they continued to suffer the consequences. In 1644 civil war broke out in England, when the Puritans under Oliver Cromwell revolted against King Charles 1. Scotland sent an army of 10,000 men to aid Cromwell. Major Robert Kelso was a member of that army's Cavalry and was subsequently wounded in the battle of Marson Moor in July 1644.
After Oliver Cromwell died in 1658 and the English Crown was restored to King Charles 11. The primacy of the Episcopal Church was re-established and the Government began to punish all those opposed the Church and the Crown. Beginning in 1661, there were twenty-five years of brutal suppression of those who would not conform. According to written records in 1662 Robert of Kelsoland was fined 4,800 pounds and was subjected to other “ruinous fines for harboring persecuted Covenanters”. Kelso's neighbor, William Gordon, was similarly fined and in 1666 his two sons were executed in Edinburgh. Fortunately, that same fate did not befall Robert's sons, John and William.
John Kelso, the eldest son, became the progenitor of the inheriting line. John's descendants tended to remain in the British Isles while those of William migrated to the New World. The written record of John's inheriting line has been carefully preserved down to 1910 when it was in the hands of Captain Barrington Kelso, Royal Navy retired. A letter written in 1909 to Clarence Kelso ( a Kelso researcher in America) indicates that Barrington had no heirs and the family name and title would pass to a cousin. Unfortunately, his letter does not identify the cousin.
In the late 1600's and early 1700's, in the face of religious persecution, many Scottish Presbyterians fled across to the Antrim Mountains of Northern Ireland. William, younger brother of John, was one of those and during the first half of the eighteenth century a number of his descendants migrated to colonial America. Some other members of the various Kelso families also migrated to Australia and New Zealand. By these and other means the number of Kelso families in Scotland were reduced. So much so that the Kelso Clan was reduced to only two or three branches. Two of these left Scotland. One establishing itself in Wales, the other in Cornwall.
The furthest our Kelso family has been traced back so far is to Edward or Richard Kelso who was born in England or Wales about 1840. His parents names are unknown, but his name was that of quite few Kelsos who had gone before. Unfortunately nothing is known of his life, until he married Caroline Elizabeth Winter in Cardiff, Wales on 1st October 1864. Caroline was born on 4th December 1842 at Shore, Leith, Scotland, the daughter of John Winter and Isabella nee Norrie.
Edward/Richard, was a ship’s captain, it is thought that he was also the owner. The ship was based at Cardiff, this is the reason that most of their children were born their, at the home of Caroline’s sister Maria Porter. Sometime before 1888 Edward’s ship caugfht fire in Cardiff Harbour and was burnt. After this they went back Glasgow, where Edward and Caroline are thought to have lived in Pollock Sheils, Scotland. Edward died in the Chalmers Hospital, Edinburgh on 5th September 1888.
After Caroline returned to Glasgow she and her sister invested their money in the Kelso Arcade
Caroline died at Blantyre, Scotland in 1919.
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