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in the style of Earl of Lennox. The date of his irregular service is 23d July 1473. The date of his infeftment is 27th July 1473, wherein he is only styled " John Lord Dernely."* That infeftment being completed, however, and including expressly the principal messuage, the inevitable feudal consequence was the assumption of the title of the earldom. Accordingly, the date of the new royal charter which he then received of those other lands, resigned in security of Lord Avandale's liferent, is 6th August 1473, and in that charter he is styled "John Earl of Levenax."f Upon the 2d of October 1473, he has his newly acquired rights and privileges proclaimed in the usual form of a royal precept, ordaining the tenants of the Lennox to obey him as Earl.| Thereafter his name is to be found for a short time in the records of Parliament as Comes de Levenax, and not merely as Dominus de Dernele.
Thus the basis of Dernely's first assumption is manifest. It was no new erection in his favour of a forfeited fief. He took up the honours as his inheritance, and by service to that ancestor who is said by modern historians to have fallen under forfeiture. He claimed the earldom under the existing investiture of his family, namely, the charter of confirmation by Robert III. to Earl Duncan, &c. with a remainder to the heirs-general of that nobleman. But, at the same time, Dernely only established his character by infeftment taken upon a retour inept and reducible in every line of it, and which, accordingly, was reduced.
* Dernely Papers.
t It is recorded, Mag. Sig. vii. 59. Andrew Stewart, in the part of his history entitled, " General view of the steps taken by John Lord Derneley, for asserting his right to the estate and honours of the old Earls of Lennox," had missed the important link afforded by this charter; and Mr Hamilton, in his Case for Woodhead, is also in error, when he says, " Dernely, on the 10th October 1473, obtained a precept from James III., charging the free tenants and inhabitants of the earldom and lordship of the Levenax, to obey and answer to him; and in this deed he is for thejirst time addressed by the style of Earl of Levenax."—P. 68
% Dernely Papers. Andrew Stewart, p. 185, says, the 2d of October. Mr Hamilton, p. 68, says the 10th of October. Both of these authors had the advantage of inspecting these papers, which came into the Montrose family with the Dernely property.
There is no evidence extant that Elizabeth Menteith took any steps against this usurpation, though it is possible, considering the lapse of more than three centuries and a-half since the period, that the evidence of resistance on her part may have been lost. Any such resistance, however, could only have been instituted upon the ground of a prior right to the earldom,—a dignity which, on the other hand, it is equally possible that Napier of Merchiston, though highly respectable, may not have felt himself sufficiently powerful to sustain, and, therefore, made no attempt to assert. Haldane of Gleneagles, however, had, as will be shown, technical pleas to urge, totally apart from any claim to the honours of Lennox, and which were of a nature to be listened to, even in those days, with the highest respect.
This gentleman, who was of considerable account at court, seems to have been himself not a little imbued with the spirit of times, when might was right. Original deeds shall be afterwards quoted which justify the surmise, and which go to prove such to have been his disposition, at least in regard to the rights and privileges of his wife's sister Elizabeth Menteith, and her spouse John Napier. It was not likely that such a character would remain inactive when he really had the law on his own side. But I must here state very generally the legal steps instantly taken by him on his return from his embassy, reserving a more particular view of the state of his process for the chapter which affords a reply to the modern case founded for Gleneagles upon the proceedings in question.
Upon his return in 1475, he protested against Lord Dernely's assumption of the honours of Lennox, but laid no express claim to those honours, either for himself or spouse. He complained to the King, that his royal letters of protection from all pleas, &c. had been treated with contempt, and broken by the proceedings of Dernely in his, Haldane's, absence,—that he had an interest as well as his spouse, Agnes Menteith, to have been specially called and heard in any process affecting an appropriation of the Lennox; and in evidence of this plea he produced his own charter to a pro indiviso quarter of that fief, upon which he had been infeft before his departure. He also urged, as a secondary plea, the prior right of his wife Agnes Menteith, over Dernely, to the superiorities of the fief, and asserted, that Dernely had frequently offered Agnes contentation for these superiorities. But he made no allusion in this complaint to the rights of Elizabeth Menteith, or to the fact, that Dernely offered in like manner to that lady, contentation for her right to the superiorities of the Lennox. The King remitted this complaint to the Lords of his Council, and certain other Barons, who found, that Royal letters of protection in favour of his Majesty's ambassador had been infringed and broken by the proceedings of Lord Dernely; and upon this deliverance letters passed the privy-seal, reducing and annulling all the proceedings founded upon that nobleman's brieves of inquest, and placing matters precisely in statu quo by expressly reserving all rights to all parties.
Haldane's protest, with which he commenced his attack upon the service of Dernely, is dated 26th April 1475.* A Parliament was held on the 20th November following, in which Dernely still sat as " Comes de Levenax." On the 4th of December following, the King granted a commission of lieutenancy, " Johanni Comiti de Levenax."f On the 12th of January following, (that is still in the year 1475, according to the Scottish calendar of that period,) the letters of reduction referred to above pass the privy seal, and in these letters he is only styled " John Lord Dernely." On the first of July 1476, six months after this decree of reduction, and seven after the date of the commission of lieutenancy, a new Parliament was held, and the first person named as taking his seat, after the Comites and among the Domini, is " Dernele."|
For thirteen years thereafter, a fact not attended to by the historians of Scotland, in every public record of that nobleman's name extant, he is styled Lord Dernely, and not Earl of Lennox, until the first Parliament of the succeeding reign in 1488, when he reappears under the higher dignity, after a progress of events which, as we shall see, was favourable to his usurpation. During the interval, some private and fruitless attempts to compromise matters with Haldane of Gleneagles occurred, of a very confused and irregular nature, to be noticed in the sequel.
* Gleneagles Papers.
t "Rex. ded.it Uteram locum tenentis Johanni Comiti de Levenax
infra bondas et vie. de Renfrew, Are, Wigtoune, Sfc Mag. Sig. vii.
% See the Records of the Scottish Parliament of the periods.
Thus between the period of the death of Duchess Isabella about the year 1460, being that in which James II. was killed, and the period of the death of James III. in 1488, the rights and pretensions to this Comitatus remain in the following extraordinary position:
1. It is not annexed to the Crown, either by forfeiture or usurpation, but is left to be taken up by the heirs-general of Earl Duncan, in terms of the remainder stipulated in the marriage-contract of his eldest daughter, and confirmed by the charter of Robert III.
2. In the year 1460, probably shortly after the death of the Duchess Isabella, Lord Dernely attempts to obtain brieves of inquest to be served to his share of the Lennox, but is obstructed in this legal claim by the chancellor himself, the illegitimate grandson of the Duchess.
3. The Lennox remains in non-entry; and at length, in the year 1471, the chancellor obtains a Royal grant (the King being a minor) of a liferent possession of the whole fief.
4. In the year 1472, the chancellor obtains letters of legitimation under the Great Seal,—a process which materially improved his hereditary status, but could not confer a right to inherit honours.
5. In April 1473, John Haldane obtains infeftment upon his special charter to a fourth part of the Lennox, pro indiviso, and departs on his embassy.
6. In July 1473, Lord Dernely is retoured in the principal messuage and one-half of the Lennox, in the irregular manner narrated, and assumes the title.
7. In November 1473, Elizabeth Menteith obtains her retour in a pro indiviso quarter of the fief, as an heirgeneral of Earl Duncan through his younger daughter,