The Earl of Dalhousie is a title in the Peerage of Scotland created in 1633; Dalhousie itself lies not far from Edinburgh; the name Dalhousie being a corruption of the Old French 'Dalwolsie' meaning 'a meander in the river' which conveniently describes the location of Dalhousie Castle which is to be found near to a bend in the river Esk.

The Ramsays of Dalhousie

Although there is a tradition that the Ramsays are descended from an unnamed German pirate who decided to join William the Conqueror's expedition to England in 1066, historically speaking the founder of the family is presumed to have been the Simundus de Ramesie or Simon de Ramsay of Huntingdonshire who arrived in Lothian in the twelfth century, being only one of a number of Anglo-Norman immigrants who came to Scotland during the twelfth century.

During the thirteenth century one branch of the family obtained the barony of Dalhousie in Midlothian and thus there was a William Ramsay of Dalhousie who signed the Ragman Roll at Berwick in 1296, but later became one of the signatories of the Declaration of Arbroath. His presumed son Alexander Ramsay later became celebrated as a 'Scottish patriot' for his capture of Roxburgh Castle during the Second Scottish War of Independence in 1342. David II made him Constable of Roxburgh and Sheriff of Teviotdale in return; however his predecessor in that office, one William Douglas, the Knight of Liddesdale took offence and seized hold of poor Andrew, throwing him into a cell at Hermitage Castle where he died of starvation on the 20th May 1342.

It was however not until the seventeenth century that the family achieved the distinction of a peerage title when George Ramsay of Dalhousie was created Lord Ramsay of Melrose on the 25th August 1618, although within a few months he'd changed his mind and resigned that title, being alternatively created the Lord Ramsay of Dalhousie on the 5th January 1619, although with precedence backdated to the earlier title. George died sometime before the 22nd July 1629 and was succeeded by his son William, 2nd Lord Ramsay, who was later elevated to the rank of Earl of Dalhousie and additionally created the Lord Ramsay of Carrington on the 29th June 1633. Despite this mark of favour, the 1st Earl later raised and commanded his own regiment of horse which fought in the Covenanter army against the Royalists at both Marston Moor in 1644 and Philiphaugh in 1645. However following the execution of Charles I, he came out in support of Charles II for which offence he was heavily fined by Oliver Cromwell in 1654. The 1st Earl died in November 1672 and was succeeded by his George, the 2nd Earl who was himself dead by the 8th May 1674, and followed by his son William the 3rd Earl who died a few years later sometime after the 28th February 1682 leaving three sons.

The eldest son George now, the 4th Earl, died unmarried in 1696 having been killed in the Netherlands by a Mr Hamilton. He was succeeded by his brother William 5th Earl, a Brigadier-General who fought in the War of the Spanish Succession and died unmarried in Spain in October 1710, by which time his younger brother James had already been killed in action at the battle of Almanza in 1707. Thus with the death of the 5th Earl the title passed to his first cousin once-removed, also named William. The 6th Earl later died on the 8th December 1739, and since his son George had died a matter of months before on the 25th May, the title passed to his grandson Charles. The 7th Earl later died unmarried on the 29th January 1764, and the title passed to his uncle George. It was the 8th Earl who inherited the extensive estates of his maternal uncle, William Maule, Earl of Panmure in 1782, much of which in accordance with the terms of the late Earl's will later passed to his second son, William Ramsay later created the Baron Panmure in 1831. He later served as High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland from 1777 to 1783 and died on the 4th November 1787 to be succeeded by his eldest son George.

The 9th Earl was a schoolboy friend of the poet and novelist Sir Walter Scott, later joined the army, commanded the 7th Division during the Peninsular War and fought at the battle of Waterloo, reaching the rank of general. On the 11th August 1815 he was created Baron Dalhousie of Dalhousie Castle in the peerage of the United Kingdom, in recognition of his military services and afterwards served as the Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia from 1816 to 1819, (which is why there is a Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia), Governor-General of Lower Canada between 1819 and 1828 and then as Commander-in-Chief in India from 1829 until 1832.

The 9th Earl died on the 21st March 1838 and was succeeded by his son James, who joined Robert Peel’s second Administration in 1843, firstly as Vice-President and then from 1845 as President of the Board of Trade. The Conservatives lost office in 1846 and were replaced by a Liberal administration led by the Lord John Russell. In 1847 Russell offered James the post of Governor-General of India, which he accepted having already declined an offer of a cabinet post on the grounds that it would "involve the loss of public character". No sooner had James set foot in India than the Second Sikh war broke out, which he managed to bring to successful conclusion, becoming responsible for a significant enlargement of British territory in India, as during the term of his office Britain annexed the Punjab, in addition to the provinces of Berar, Pegu, Nagpore, and Oudh. Rich rewards duly followed; he was made a member of Order of the Thistle in 1848, elevated to the rank of Marquess in 1849, and awarded an annual pension of £5,000 on leaving office in 1856. Sadly all those years spent in India had affected his health and he died at the age of forty-eight on the 19th December 1860. He died leaving two daughters, thus rendering both his own marquessate and his father's barony of Dalhousie extinct.

The later Earls of Dalhousie

The earldom however passed to his cousin Fox Maule-Ramsay, who was the only son of William Ramsay Maule, 1st Baron Panmure, the second son of the 8th Earl. Fox had been the Member of Parliament for Perthshire since 1835 and served as Secretary of State for War in the Liberal government between 1846 and 1852. With his father's death in April 1852 he took his seat in the House of Lords as the Lord Panmure and served again as Secretary of State for War from 1855 to 1858. After succeeding as the 11th Earl in 1860 he later died childless on the 6th July 1874 rendering the title of Baron Panmure extinct whilst the earldom passed to his cousin, George Ramsay.

The 12th Earl served in the Royal Navy where he reached the rank of Admiral and served as the Commander-in-Chief of the South American Station between 1866 and 1869, after which he was created a peer of the United Kingdom as the Baron Ramsay of Glenmark on the 12th June 1875. He died on the 20th July 1880, and was succeeded by his son John William the 13th Earl, who was briefly Secretary of State for Scotland in 1886, before his death on the 25th November 1887. His son Arthur George, the 14th Earl, returned to the military traditions of the family and fought in both the Boer War and World War I and died on the 23rd December 1928. His son the 15th Earl subsequently died unmarried on the 3rd May 1950, and the title passed to his younger brother Simon who had served in World War II during which he became a prisoner of war. He returned to become the Conservative Member of Parliament for Forfar in 1945 before moving to the House of Lords on becoming the 16th Earl. He later served as the Governor-General of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland between 1957 and 1963, and Lord Chamberlain to the Queen Mother from 1965 until 1992. He died on the 15th July 1999 and was succeeded by his son James Hubert.

James Hubert Ramsay is the current and 17th Earl of Dalhousie, and also holds the titles of Lord Ramsay of Dalhousie, Lord Ramsay of Carrington, Baron Ramsay of Glenmark, and is recognised as the Chief of the Name and Arms of Ramsay. Educated at Ampleforth, James spent some time in the Coldstream Guards, and thereafter followed a career in the City where he has been the director of such financial institutions as Hambros Bank, Enskilda Securities and Capel-Cure Myers Capital Management. His eldest son and heir apparent is Simon David Ramsay, known by his courtesy title of the Lord Ramsay.

The Ramsays of Dalhousie no longer live at Dalhousie Castle, which is now a hotel, and now base themselves at Brechin Castle which they received as part of the Panmure inheritance of 1782.

(including one solitary Marquess)


As Lord Ramsay

As Earl of Dalhousie


  • The Ramsays, from The Great Historic Families of Scotland by James Taylor, 1887
  • The entry for DALHOUSIE, CHIEF OF RAMSAY from Burke's Peerage and Baronetage 106th Edition
  • BP
  • A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain at
  • Stirnet Genealogy at
  • Dalhousie Castle: Chronological History

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