A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Lennox, the ancient county of Dumbarton, comprehending the whole of the modern county of Dumbarton, a large part of Stirlingshire, and part of the counties of Perth and Renfrew. The original name was Leven-ach, ` the field of the Leven,' and very appropriately designated the basin, not only of the river Leven, but also of Loch Lomond, anciently called Loch Leven. Levenachs, in the plural number, came to be the name of all the extensive and contiguous possessions of the powerful earls of the soil; and, being spelt and written Levenax, was easily and naturally corrupted into Lennox. In the 13th century Lennox and the sheriffdom of Dumbarton appear to have been co-extensive; but afterwards, in consequence of great alterations and considerable curtailments upon the sheriffdom, they ceased to be identical.

In or soon after 1174 King William the Lyon created the two new earldoms of Garioch and Levenach, and bestowed them on his brother, David, Earl of Huntingdon, who, however, in 1184 appears to have resigned the earldom of Levenach in favour of Aluin, first of a line of Celtic earls. Maldwin, the third earl, obtained from Alexander II. in 1238 a confirmatory charter of the earldom as held by his father; but was not allowed the Castle of Dumbarton, nor the lands, port, and fisheries of Murrach. In 1284 Earl Malcolm concurred with the ` Magnates Scotiæ ' in swearing to acknowledge Margaret of Norway as heir-apparent to Alexander III.'s throne; and in 1290 he appeared in the assembly of the states at Birgham, and consented to the marriage of Margaret with the son of Edward I. Next year, when Margaret's death opened the competition for the Crown, Malcolm was one of the nominees of Robert Bruce; and, resistance to England becoming necessary, he, in 1296, assembled his followers, and, with other Scottish leaders, invaded Cumberland and assaulted Carlisle. While Sir Alexander Menteith, the captor of the patriot Wallace, was governor of Dumbarton Castle, and sheriff of Dumbartonshire, in favour of Edward I., Malcolm went boldly out, and achieved feats as a supporter of Robert Bruce; and he continued, after Bruce's death, to maintain the independence of the kingdom, till, in 1333, he fell with hoary locks, but fighting like a youthful warrior, at Halidon Hill.

In 1424, after the restoration of James I., Earl Duncan became involved in the fate of his son-in-law, Murdoch, Duke of Albany, the Regent; and for some real or merely imputed crime, which no known history specifies, he was, in May next year, along with the Duke and two of the Duke's sons, beheaded at Stirling. Though Duncan left, by his second marriage, a legitimate son, called Donald of Lennox; yet his daughter Isabella, Duchess of Albany, while obtaining no regular entry to the earldom as heiress, appears to have enjoyed it during the reign of James II.; and she resided in the castle of Inchmurrin in Loch Lomond, the chief messuage of the earldom, and there granted charters to vassals, as Countess of Lennox, and made gifts of portions of the property to religious establishments. After this lady's death in 1459, a long contest took place for the earldom between the heirs of her sisters, Elizabeth and Margaret, the second and third daughters of Duncan, whose priority of age was not ascertained by evidence, or admitted of keen and plausible dispute. The vast landed property of Lennox was dismembered between the disputants; but the honours, the superiority, and the principal message of the earldom-the grand object of dispute-could be awarded to only one party, and were not finally adjudged till 1493. Sir John Stewart of Darnley had married Elizabeth; and their grandson, besides being declared heir to half the Lennox estate, became Lord Darnley and Earl of Lennox. Sir Robert Menteith of Rusky had married Margaret; and their moiety of the Lennox estate came, with the estate of Rusky, to be divided, in the persons of their great-granddaughters, the co-heiresses, between Sir John Haldane of Gleneagles, who had married the elder, and Sir John Napier of Merchiston, who had married the .younger. In 1471 the earldom, being in the King's hands by the non-entry of any heir, was given, during his life, to Andrew, Lord Avondale, the chancellor. After the fall of James III., John Lord Darnley appears to have been awarded the Lennox honours by the new government; and in 1488 he sat as Earl of Lennox in the first parliament, and received for himself and his son Matthew Stewart the ward and revenues of Dumbarton Castle, which had been held by Lord Avondale. But only next year he took arms against the young King, drew besieging forces upon his fortresses both of Crookston and Dumbarton, suffered a defeat or rather a night surprise and rout at Tilly Moss, on the S side of the Forth above Stirling, saw the castle of Dumbarton, which was defended by four of his sons, yield to a vigorous six weeks' siege, headed by the King and the ministers of state, and, after all, succeeded in making his peace with government, and obtaining a full pardon for himself and his followers.

Matthew, the next Earl, whose accession took place in 1494, led the men of Lennox to the fatal field of Flodden, where he and the Earl of Argyll commanded the right wing of the Scottish army, and, with many of their followers, were hewn down amid vain efforts of valour. John, the son and successor of Matthew, played an active part during the turbulent minority of James V. In 1514 he, along with the Earl of Glencairn, assailed the castle of Dumbarton during a tempestuous night, and, breaking open the lower gate, succeeded in taking it; in 1516 he was imprisoned by the Regent Albany, to compel him to surrender the fortress as the key of the west, and was obliged to comply; and in 1526 he assembled a force of 10,000 men, and marched towards Edinburgh to the rescue of the young King from the power of the Douglases. Matthew, the next earl a very conspicuous figure in history, obtained in 1531, for nineteen years, the tenure of the governorship and revenues of Dumbarton Castle. In 1543, some French ships arriving in the Clyde with supplies for the Queen, he, by artful persuasion, got the captains to land 30,000 crowns of silver and a quantity of arms and ammunition in the castle; and he immediately joined with other malcontents in an abortive attempt to overthrow the government. In May and June 1544 he secretly entered the service of Henry VIII., engaging every effort to seize and deliver to England the Scottish Queen, the isle of Bute, and the castle and territories of Dumbarton, and obtaining from the King the Lady Margaret Douglas in marriage, and lands in England to the annual value of 6800 merks Scots. Sent soon afterwards to the Clyde with 18 English ships and 600 soldiers, he was civilly received by George Stirling of Glorat, whom he had left in charge of Dumbarton Castle as his deputy; but he no sooner hinted to that official his design, and offered him a pension from Henry, than he and his Englishmen were turned out of the fortress and compelled to return to their ships. The Earl and his party now ravaged and wasted, with fire and sword, the islands of Arran and Bute, and other places in the west; and in October 1545 he was declared by parliament to have incurred forfeiture. He continued an active partisan in the hostilities against Scotland of Henry VIII. and his successor, received from the former a grant of the manor of Temple-Newsom in Yorkshire, and during twenty years remained in England an exile from his native land. Father of Mary's husband, the ill-fated Lord Darnley, and grandfather of James VI., he eventually rose in the revolving politics of the period to the uppermost side of the wheel, and for a period filled the office of Regent, and viceregally swayed the sceptre of his grandson. Holding at Stirling Castle, in Sept. 1571, what the opposite party in politics called ` the black parliament, ' he was mortally wounded in an attack made upon the town by a small force who designed to take the fortress by surprise.

The earldom of Lennox now devolved on James VI. as the next heir; and in April 1572 it and the lordship of Darnley, with the whole of the family property and heritable jurisdictions, were given to Lord Charles Stewart, the King's uncle, and Lord Darnley's younger brother. But he dying in 1576 without male issue, they again devolved to the King, and were given in 1578 to the King's grand-uncle, Lord Robert Stewart, Bishop of Calthness, resigned by him in 1579 in exchange for the earldom of March, and given in 1579-80 to Esmé Stewart, Lord D'Aubigny. In Aug. 1581 Esmé, this last favourite among the royal kinsmen, and the holder of the office of chamberlain of Scotland, was raised to the dignity of the Duke of Lennox and Earl of Darnley; and his son Ludovie, the second Duke, received from the King additional offices and grants of property, and, among other preferments, was made custodier of Dumbarton Castle, and the owner of its pertinents and revenues. In 1672 Charles the sixth Duke, dying without issue, the peerage, with all its accumulated honours and possessions, went once more to the Crown, devolving on Charles II. as the nearest collateral heir-male; and the revenues of the estates were settled for life on the dowager Duchess. In 1680 Charles II. granted to his illegitimate son, Charles, born of Louise Renée de Perrencourt de Querouaille, Duchess of Portsmouth and D'Aubigny, the dukedom of Lennox and earldom of Darnley in Scotland, and the dukedom of Richmond and earldom of March in the peerage of England. After the death of the dowager Duchess in 1702, the Duke of Richmond and Lennox sold the whole of his property in Scotland, the Marquis of Montrose purchasing most of it, as well as many of its jurisdictions. In 1836 Charles, fifth Duke of Richmond and Lennox, succeeded to the Gordon estates. See Gordon Castle.

In the reign of James IV. the sheriffdom of Dumbartonshire was made hereditary in the family of Lennox, Earl Matthew obtaining in 1503 a grant which united the office to the earldom. The office continued a pertinent of the Earls and Dukes for two centuries, and was usually executed by deputy-sheriffs of their appointment. The Marquis of Montrose, who was created Duke in 1707, purchased at once the sheriffdom of the county, the custodiership of Dumbarton Castle, and the jurisdiction of the regality of Lennox, along with the large part of the Lennox property bought from the first Duke of Richmond and Lennox. The Earls and Dukes of Lennox had a very ample jurisdiction over all their estates, both in and beyond Dumbartonshire, comprehended in the regality of Lennox; and their vassals also had powers of jurisdiction within the lands held by them, subject to the remarkable condition that all the criminals condemned in their court should be executed on the Earl's gallows. At the abolition of heritable jurisdictions in 1748, the Duke of Montrose claimed for the regality of Lennox £4000, but was allowed only £578, 18s. 4d. See Dr William Fraser's The Lennox (2 vols., Edinb., 1874), and other works cited under Dumbarton and Dumbartonshire.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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