Earls of Lothian

The Kers or Kerrs were one of the most prominent families in the Middle March, on the border between Scotland and England, divided into the two branches of Cessford and Ferniehurst. Mark Kerr, (the second son of an Andrew Kerr of Cessford), was the abbot of Newbattle Abbey in Midlothian until he became a Protestant in 1560 and was thus able to marry whilst retaining control of the abbey's lands. On his death in 1587 his son also named Mark Kerr, was able to persuade James VI to grant him the former estates of the monastery as a barony, and was later in October 1591 dignified with the title of Lord Newbattle1. He was later the Master of Inquests from 1577 to 1606 and on his retirement from this office was rewarded on the 10th July 1606 when he was created Earl of Lothian. Mark Kerr married a Margaret Maxwell by whom it is said he had a total of thirty-one children, although no more than a dozen or so are listed (which may of course be an indication of infant mortality rates at the time.)

Mark Kerr died on the 8th of April 1609 and was succeeded by his eldest son Robert, the 2nd Earl, who himself died without sons in on the 6th March 1624 (he committed suicide). In order to maintain the family name he had earlier in 1621 procured a charter from Charles I which stipulated that his daughter Anne would only succeed to his estates on the condition that she married another member of the Kerr family. However at the time of Robert's death in 1624, his daughter was unmarried and thus his brother William Kerr of Blackhope, assumed the title of Earl of Lothian. When in 1631 Anne finally married another William Kerr, son of a Robert Kerr, 1st Earl of Ancrum (from the Ferniehurst branch of the family) this William Kerr was created Earl of Lothian on the 16th October and the William Kerr of Blackhope was forbidden to use the title.

It was William Kerr who thus became 3rd Earl of Lothian, signed the Scottish national covenant in 1638 took part in the march into England in 1640, and fought at the battle of Newburn. He later became governor of Newcastle-on-Tyne but during the English Civil War gave up the military life in preference for that of a politician and became a Scottish Secretary of State in 1649. William died at Newbattle Abbey in October 1675 and was succeeded by his eldest son Robert who also inherited the title of Earl of Ancram on the death of his uncle Charles Kerr in 1690. He was a supporter of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and as such was duly rewarded with his elevation to the rank of Marquess of Lothian on the 23rd June 1701.

Marquesses of Lothian

Robert Kerr the 1st Marquess died two years later in 1703, and was succeeded by his eldest son William, the 2nd Marquess, who had been a Scottish peer in his own right since 1692 under the title of Lord Jedburgh when he was one of the keenest advocates of union with England.

The 2nd Marquess was duly succeeded by his son William, the 3rd Marquess in 1722, and his grandson William Henry, the 4th Marquess in 1767. William Henry, was a soldier who commanded three squadrons of cavalry at the battle of Culloden, later served under the Duke of Cumberland in France in 1758, and reached the rank of general in the army shortly before his death at Bath on the 12th April 1775.

William, the 6th Marquess was most notable for marrying Henrietta Hobart, daughter and heiress of John Hobart, 2nd Earl of Buckinghamshire, thus bringing Blickling Hall and the substantial Norfolk estates of the Hobarts into the possession of the Kerr family, and for building the Waterloo Monument at Penielheugh near Jedburgh. On the 17th April 1821 he was created Baron Ker of Kersheugh, which being a title in the Peerage of the United Kingdom guaranteed him a seat in the House of Lords, a privilege which he enjoyed for the next three years until his death on the 27th of April 1824.

The 7th and 8th Marquesses both died at a comparatively young age; the 8th in particular died without issue on the 6th July 1870 at the age of 37 after which the title passed to his younger brother Schomberg Henry Kerr the 9th Marquess, a politician who rose to the giddy heights of Secretary of State for Scotland and also added to the family wealth by exploiting the Lothian Coalfields.

In 1900 Robert Schomberg Kerr followed his father as 10th Marquess but died in 1930 without male heirs. He was succeeded by Philip Henry a grandson of the third son of the 7th Marquess who duly became the 11th Marquess. He was a civil servant in South Africa and later Secretary to David Lloyd George when he helped draft the Treaty of Versailles. Subsequently appointed as British Ambassador to the United States he died at Washington, on the 12th December 1940 without issue.

His successor was Peter Francis Walter Kerr, a descendant of the fourth son of the 7th Marquess, who served in the Scots Guards during World War II, later joined the diplomatic service and was a Conservative politician who served as a Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Foreign Office and as a whip in the House of Lords. The 12th Marquess died on the 11th October 2004 at the age of 82 and was succeeded by his eldest son Michael Andrew Foster Jude Kerr, who is the current and 13th Marquess of Lothian; in addition to which he holds the Scottish titles of Earl of Ancram (twice), Earl of Lothian, Viscount of Briene, Lord Ker of Newbattle, Lord Jedburgh, Lord Ker of Nisbet, Langnewtoun and Dolphinstoun, and Lord Ker of Newbottle, Oxnam, Jedburgh, Dolphinstoun and Nisbet, together with the title of Baron Ker of Kersheugh, County Roxburgh, held in the Peerage of the United Kingdom.

Michael Andrew Foster Jude Kerr is much better known as Michael Ancram, under which name he is recognisable as a leading Conservative politician and the current Deputy Leader of the party.

The Marquis of Lothian is also regarded as the hereditary chief of the Clan Kerr. As such they have adopted the motto "Sero Sed Serio" which translates as 'late but in earnest' and is a reference to their late, but decisive participation in the Battle of Ancrum Moor in 1545.



As Earls of Lothian

The 4th Earl became the 1st Marquess in 1701

As Marquesses of Lothian


1 Some sources state that Mark Kerr was created Lord Newbattle on the 28th October 1587, whilst others claim that he was not created Lord Newbattle until 1596; the year of 1591 is confirmed in the Scotsman source below.
2 The author of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica refers to the Ferniehurst branch as one 'r' Kers whilst the Cessford branch are two 'r' Kerrs, but most other sources use the Kerr variant for both and reserve the use of 'Ker' for the Kers who obtained the Roxborough title. The Kerr variant has been used here.
3 Some internet sources state that the title of Earl of Lothian became extinct with the death of Robert Kerr 2nd Earl in 1624 and was thus re-created in 1631 for William Ker/Kerr who is thus shown as the 1st Earl of an new creation. This however would be incorrect as the title passed to the 2nd Earl's daughter (and in any case Robert Kerr had two brother's still living at the time).


  • The 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica entry for LOTHIAN, EARLS AND MARQUESSES OF.
    See http://1911encyclopedia.org/index.htm
  • Kerr/Ker genealogy at http://www.stirnet.com/HTML/genie/british/kk/ker01.htm
  • Gazetteer for Scotland entries for:
    Mark Kerr (Lord Newbattle and 1st Earl of Lothian)
    William Schomberg Robert Kerr (8th Marquess of Lothian)
    Schomberg Henry Kerr (9th Marquess of Lothian)
    See http://www.geo.ed.ac.uk/scotgaz/
  • Alasdair Steven Obituary of the 12th Marquess From the Scotsman 13 October 2004
  • Burke's peerage Kerr-Marquesses Of Lothian
    www.burkes-libraries.com/sites/Contents/ book/scotland/FHP/Peerage/fhp-KERR(MARQUESSESOFLOTHIAN).asp
  • Excerpts from Karr-Carr Collector Vol 2 Jan 1984 No 1. reproduced at http://www.angelfire.com/retro/clan_kerr/Carr.htm
  • Kerr Clan History http://www.myclan.com/clans/Kerr_60/default.php
  • Charles Arnold Baker The Companion to British History (Longcross Press, 1996)
  • A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain at www.thepeerage.com

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