Erskine, Thomas first Earl of Kellie, first Viscount Fenton, and first Baron Dirleton 1566-1639, second son of Sir Alexander Erskine of Gogar, by Margaret, only daughter of George, fourth lord Home, was born in 1566. Educated with James I, he enjoyed his marked favour till the king's death. In 1585 he became a gentleman of the bedchamber, and between 1594 and 1599 various charters were granted him of Mitchellis, Eastertoun, and Westertoun in Kincardineshire, Windingtoun and Windingtounhall, and Easterrow. He was with the king at Perth in August 1600, when the Gowrie conspiracy was foiled, and in the general scuffle received a wound in the hand. For his services on this occasion a third part of Gowrie's lordship of Dirleton was granted him, and in warrandice thereof the king's barony of Corntoun, Stirlingshire. He accompanied the Duke of Lennox on his embassy to France in 1601, and on his return was admitted a member of the privy council, at the meetings of which he became one of the most regular attendants. He accompanied James into England in 1603, and was appointed captain of the yeomen of the guard in succession to Sir Walter Raleigh, continuing to hold the post till 1632. He was created Baron Dirleton in April 1604, was a groom of the stole in 1605, and in 1606 was raised to the dignity of Viscount Fenton, being the first to attain that degree in Scotland. Several further grants of land and a life interest in certain estates were obtained by Erskine, but he remained unsatisfied, and in October 1607 he is found writing to Salisbury proposing various schemes for his own advancement and requesting the minister's influence with the king (Cal. State Papers, Dom. 1603-10, p. 375). The petition appears to have been disregarded, as was also another which Erskine made in the following year for a command in the Low Countries. In May 1615 he was invested with the order of the Garter at the same time as Lord Knollys, and much popular interest was excited by the rivalry between the two new knights in the splendour of their procession to Windsor. In 1618 Erskine projected a scheme of respite of homage, the object of which was to raise money for the king, and was rewarded in the following year by his advancement to the earldom of Kellie. A grant of 10,000l. was made to Erskine in December 1625 for services to the late and present king. From 1630 to 1635 he sat on various commissions, but he did not succeed in gaining the prominence he desired in the direction of state affairs. He died 12 June 1639 in London, and was buried at Pittenweem, Fifeshire. He married first, Anne, daughter of Sir Gilbert Ogilvy, by whom he had a son, Alexander, and a daughter, Anne; secondly, in 1604, the widow of Sir Edward Norreys; and on her death he became the fourth husband of a daughter of Humphrey Smith of Cheapside, and widow of Benedict Barnham, Sir John Packington, and Robert, viscount Kilmorey. His differences with this last lady were such as to require the intervention of the king. He was succeeded in his honours by his grandson, Thomas, the eldest son of his son Alexander (d. 1633), by Lady Anne Seton, daughter of Alexander, earl of Dunfermline.
Douglas and Wood's Peerage of Scotland, ii. 17
Anderson's Scottish Nation, ii. 594
Cal. State Papers, Dom. Ser. 1603-10, pp. 100, 135, 196, 343, 470, 1611-18, pp. 286, 374, 1625-6, p. 356, 1637, p. 184
Reg. Privy Council of Scotland (Rolls Ser.), vii. 267.
Contributor: A. V. [Alsager Vian]