The Scottish House of Lindsay, of which the current Earl of Crawford and Balcarres is chief, was founded by Sir Walter de Lindsay, by 1116. Sir Walter’s father, Gilbert de Ghent, was of Flemish extraction, the son of the Count of Alost in southern Brabant. Early in the 12th century, David, the younger brother of King Alexander I of Scotland, acquired the earldom of Huntingdon by marriage in 1113/4 to Maud de Lens. As a result, several of his new retainers moved north to Scotland, among them Sir Walter, and settled in the Scottish lowlands. The surname itself derives from the ancient Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Lindsey, in northern Lincolnshire, where Gilbert de Ghent, Earl of Lincoln, a companion of William the Conqueror, held over 60 manors.
Sir Walter’s son, Sir William de Lindsay, sat in the Scots Parliament of 1164 and was afterwards Justiciar of Lothian. He first held the land of Crawford but was styled Baron of Luffness in Parliament. His son, William, was steward to the Steward of Scotland. His grandson, Sir David Lindsay of Crawford and the Byres, was High Chamberlain of Scotland in 1256 and later died on the Crusade to Tunisia led by Louis IX of France in 1270. His son, Sir Alexander, was a conspicuous supporter of Sir William Wallace and Robert the Bruce.
Sir Alexander is listed in the Ragman Roll as Sire Alexandre de Lindesaye del counte de Rokesburk, and the entry is accompanied by the earliest example of a seal bearing A fess chequy for Lindsay. His arms also appear in full colour in the roll associated with the battle of Falkirk in 1298 (McAndrew, 2006).
Sir Alexander exchanged Sir Walter's eagle, as used on various early Lindsay seals, for the chequered fess of silver and blue, possibly to state his family's ancestry more precisely by indicating the long descent of the Counts of Alost from Charlemagne through the House of Vermandois. The arms of Vermandois were chequered gold and blue (Platts, 1985). It is more likely that the design, based so closely upon that of the Stewart arms, originates from the time of Alexander's great-grandfather, William, lord of Crawford, who was steward to the Steward of Scotland (McAndrew, 2006).
Alexander's eldest son, Sir David, succeeded to the estates in 1308 as Lord of Crawford and was one of the barons whose seal was appended to the letter of 1320 to Pope John XXII asserting the independence of Scotland. He acquired Glenesk, in Angus, by marriage in 1325 with Mary Abernethy. The arms of direct descendants of this marriage continue to this day to be quartered Lindsay and Abernethy.
Sir David Lindsay of Glenesk, born in about 1360, succeeded to the Lordship of Lindsay and Barony of Crawford on the death of his cousin James. He took part in a joust with Lord Welles on St George’s day in 1390 on London Bridge in the presence of Richard II of England, and won both the day and the admiration of the English king. In 1398 he was created Earl of Crawford.
The fourth earl, Alexander, known as ‘The Tiger’ rebelled against James II in 1452 and was defeated at the Battle of Brechin after which he was stripped of his title but later pardoned. His son, David, rose high in royal favour and was successively Lord High Admiral of Scotland, Master of the Royal Household, Lord Chamberlain from 1483-1488, and High Justiciary. He was created Duke of Montrose in 1488 but this was annulled after the death of James III. The sixth earl, John, fell at the Battle of Flodden in 1513.
The descent of the Earldom of Crawford, which has been transferred at various times between different branches of the family, is a splendid example of the Scottish system of resignation and re-grant. For example, in 1542 David Lindsay of Edzell (who died 1558) succeeded as 9th Earl on the death of his namesake, the 8th Earl who excluded his own son Alexander, the 'Wicked Master' from the title. David of Edzell re-conveyed the earldom to his cousin David, the son of the Alexander, who became 10th earl.
David of Edzell's second son by Catherine Campbell was John, founder of the Balcarres line of the family. He was a statesman during the reign of King James VI, and on his appointment to the Court of Session took the judicial title of Lord Menmuir. David, second son of Lord Menmuir, who had bought the lands of Balcarres and Pitcorthie, in Fife, was created Lord Lindsay of Balcarres in 1633. His son Alexander was created Lord Lindsay of Balniel and Earl of Balcarres in 1651.
General Alexander Lindsay, his great-grandson, became the 6th Earl of Balcarres, and was always known by that dignity, but became de jure 23rd Earl of Crawford in 1808 following the death of his cousin George Lindsay-Crawford. The 25th Earl of Crawford and 8th Earl of Balcarres, Alexander William Crawford Lindsay, wrote the four volume series on the Lives of the Lindsays, now considered a genealogical standard. Succeeding Earls of Crawford and Balcarres have played important roles in Scottish national history.
Our chief, Robert Lindsay, 29th Earl of Crawford and 12th Earl of Balcarres served in the Grenadier Guards and then became a Member of Parliament. He was Minister of State for Defence from 1970-1972 and for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs from 1972-1974. He has been First Crown Estate Commissioner, Chairman of the Ancient and Historic Buildings Council for Scotland and was Lord Chamberlain to HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. He was installed as a Knight of the Order of the Thistle by HM The Queen in 1997.
Our chieftain is James Lindesay-Bethune, MA, 16th Earl of Lindsay and 25th Lord Lindsay of the Byres. He descends from Sir John Lindsay, who was created Lord Lindsay of the Byres in 1444. A cadet branch of the Byres line is that of the Mount. One of the most famous names in Scottish history is that of Sir David Lindsay of the Mount, ca. 1490-1555, Lord Lyon King of Arms from 1542 to 1555 and previously Lyon Depute. His Satyre of the Thrie Estaitis is still performed on stage. His half-nephew, Sir David Lindsay of the Mount, also held the office of Lord Lyon (1591-1620), as did his son-in-law, Sir Jerome Lindsay of Annatland (1620-1630). Sir Jerome had a daughter Rachell, who married (1640) Capt. Bernard Lindsay, a grandson of the Snawdoun Herald, Thomas Lindsay of King's Wark, Leith. Their eldest son Robert was progenitor of Lindsays in Virginia and North Carolina. The Snawdoun Herald's third son, Robert of Loughry, has Lindesay descendants in Australia.
There are many branches of the family and some two hundred spellings of the name. Lord Lindsay, in his book Family of Lindsay (vol 1, p 3) gives eighty-four spellings. Many Lindsays (however spelt) have volunteered to be part of the international DNA project; see the Clan Lindsays International web site for further details.
The arms of our Chief which are contained within the Lyon Register, I, 50; XI, 48, are blazoned as follows:
Arms: Quarterly, 1st and 4th gules, a fess chequy argent and azure (for LINDSAY); 2nd and 3rd or, a lion rampant gules, armed and langued azure, debruised of a ribbon in bend sable (for ABERNETHY).
Crest: A swan’s neck and wings proper issuant from a crest coronet or.
Supporters: Two lions rampant guardant gules, armed and langued azure.
The arms in the first and fourth quarters depict a silver and blue check pattern on a red background, and in the second and third quarters a red rampant lion with blue tongue and claws on a gold field. Over each lion is a thin black stripe. The crest features a white swan within a gold crest coronet, above a helm and coronet of suitable rank. The motto, Endure Fort, means endure bravely. A banner of Lord Crawford's arms hangs in the Preston Aisle of St Giles' Cathedral, the High Kirk of Edinburgh.
These arms are the property of our Chief and may not be used by anyone else. All clan members may, however, use our Crest-Badge, displayed right, including those members with surnames that have a territorial or other traditional association with the Lindsay family.
The arms are reflected in the design of the tabbard worn by Endure Pursuivant, the private officer-of-arms to Lord Crawford. This office, named after his motto, dates from 1454 (Friar, 1987).
Attached to the Lindsay family was another private officer-of-arms, Lindsay Herald first mentioned in 1398 (Fox-Davies, 1985; Friar, 1987), but this office has not continued to the present day.
(Some notes on pronunciation: Balcarres is pronounced Bal-car-riss; Bethune is pronounced Bee-ton).
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