Chief of Clan Keith:
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The Earl of Kintore

After George Keith, 9th Earl Marischal, was stripped of titles and estates (1715), the next ranking Keith in Scotland was the Earl of Kintore. And upon the death of George (in 1778), Kintore became chief of the clan. This noble line derives from John, youngest son of William Keith, 6th Earl Marischal, and Lady Mary Erskine, daughter of John, Earl of Marr. At the death of William in 1635, the eldest son (also named William) became heir and 7th Earl Marischal. As a duty of his office, William was charged with safe-keeping the Scottish regalia (crown, sword and septre), as Oliver Cromwell's armies marched north from England (1650's). The items were taken out of Edinburgh, and stashed within the walls of Dunnottar castle, the Keith stronghold. Before long, the Earl and his next younger brother, Colonel George Keith, were taken prisoner and sent to the Tower in London. Thus, John Keith found himself alone in the responsibility of guarding the royal regalia.

    Cromwell's forces eventually arrived at Dunnottar, and laid siege. But before surrendering the castle, John Keith, assisted by several women, devised to smuggle the valued regalia past their besiegers, and had the items burried under a nearby church. This accomplished, John escaped abroad, writing to friends that he had "safely arrived with the regalia". As intended, some of these letters fell into English hands and cooled their quest of the Scottish honors. When the war ended, and Charles II of England and Scotland restored to the throne, the regailia were retrieved and ceremoiniously returned to royal keeping.

John Keith, for his extraordinary service, became handsomely rewarded. He was immediately made Knight Marischal of Scotland (1660). By 1677, he was called to the King's council, and named as Earl of Kintore, Lord Keith of Inverury and Keith-hall, which titles remain still in his line. John also servied as Lord Treasurer-Depute, and was one of the Lords of the King's Privy Council (1682). The deeds of John Keith are reflected in arms of Kintore. (Note the depiction of crown, sword and septre, occupying two quarters of the shield, with Keith in the other quarters.) This attractive blazon passed next, along with the titles, to John's son, William, 2nd Earl of Kintore, who married Katherine, daughter of David Viscount of Stirmont. William had two sons, John (who suceeded as 3rd Earl) and William, and two daughters, Lady Katherine (who married David Falconer of Newton, later Lord Halkerton) and Lady Jean.