Robert Kerr of Ferniehurst

Robert Kerr born in 1578, was the head of the Ferniehurst branch of the Kerr/Ker family and was one of many Scots who followed king James to England, (including his cousin Robert Carr, later Earl of Somerset) and held a number of positions at court including that of Captain of the King's Body Guard until 1613 and shortly after the death of Prince Henry in 1612, the appointment of Prince Charles.

He later became involved in an argument with a Charles Maxwell of Terregles and fought a duel on the 1st February 1620 which resulted in the death of said Charles Maxwell. Although Robert was tried and convicted of manslaughter at the Cambridge Assizes, he was pardoned by the king and his punishment limited to six months voluntary exile abroad. On his return to England he became one of Charles's inner circle of courtiers advising the king on Scottish affairs.

His eldest son William married into another branch of the Kerr family and obtained the title of Earl of Lothian in 1631. No doubt it was regarded as rather inappropriate that the son should thus be ennobled whilst the father remained a mere commoner and therefore Robert was raised to the same dignity as Earl of Ancram, (together with title of Lord Kerr of Nisbet, Langnewton and Dolphinstoun) on the occasion of Charles' Scottish coronation on the 24th June 1633.

Robert remained a fervent loyalist throughout his life, which placed him on the opposite side of the political fence from his son William one of the leaders of the Covenanting party. Unfortunately having spent rather to much money on turning his home at Ancrum into a grand house worthy of an earl he suffered financial problems in his later life. After the execution of Charles I, he briefly returned to Scotland before retiring to Holland partly to place himself out of reach of his creditors. There he died in poverty at Amsterdam sometime after the 9th December 1654.

The later Earls of Ancram

Robert was married twice, firstly to Elizabeth Murray, daughter of John Murray in 1605, and secondly to Anne Stanley, daughter of William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby in 1621. His eldest son William Kerr was the offspring of this first marriage and as he had already obtained his own earldom, the grant of the title of Earl of Ancram was made with a special remainder giving preference to the heirs male by his second wife.

Thus it was his younger son by his second marriage, Charles Kerr, who became the 2nd Earl of Ancram and served for many years as a Member of Parliament firstly for Thirsk and then later Wigan (being a Scottish peer he wasn't prevented from sitting in the English House of Commons).

Charles died in September 1690 without surviving issue and therefore the title passed to his nephew Robert Kerr, son of his elder brother William, who therefore already held the title of Earl of Lothian. This Robert was subsequently created Marquess of Lothian in 1701 since when the title of Earl of Ancram has been used as a courtesy title by the heir apparent to the marquessate.

In recent years, the 'Earl of Ancram' was therefore Michael Andrew Foster Jude Kerr, eldest son of the 12th Marquess of Lothian; although Michael preferred not to use the courtesy title 'Earl of Ancram' as such. Rather he adopted Ancram as his surname and was styled as Michael Ancram, under which name he continues to be known as leading member of the Conservative Party despite succeeding to the marquessate on the 11th October 2004.

Since the aforementioned Michael Ancram is the father of two daughters, there is no current 'Earl of Ancram'.

Apparently the Marquesses of Lothian hold the title of Earl of Ancram twice; once because it was inherited by William Kerr in 1690 and once because his son Robert Kerr was specifically created Earl of Ancram when he gained his marquessate in 1701.

The title originally appears to have been Earl of Ancrum after Ancrum although Ancram now appears to be the favoured variant used by the Kerr family.


Thereafter see Marquess of Lothian


  • The 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica entry for LOTHIAN, EARLS AND MARQUESSES OF.
  • Kerr/Ker genealogy at
  • Excerpts from Karr-Carr Collector Vol 2 Jan 1984 No 1. reproduced at
  • Kerr Clan History
  • Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)
  • A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain at

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