Gordon, Alexander, fourth Duke of Gordon 1743-1827, was the eldest son of Cosmo George Gordon, third duke (who was made K.T. for his loyalty in 1745), by his wife and kinswoman, the Lady Catherine Gordon, only daughter of the second Earl of Aberdeen. He was born 18-29 June 1743, and succeeded to the dukedom on the death of his father in 1752. The widowed duchess, of whom Horace Walpole tells a ridiculous story (Letters, ii. 383), remarried Major (afterwards General) Staates Long Morris. When the elder Pitt added numerous highland regiments to the army in 1757-60, Morris raised on the Gordon estates a corps known as the 89th Gordon Highlanders, which went to India under Major (afterwards Sir) Hector Monro, and did good service in various wars there until 1765, when it was sent home and disbanded. The youthful duke, then at Eton, was appointed captain in the regiment, but remained behind and made the grand tour. In 1767 he was elected one of the sixteen representative peers of Scotland, and on 25 Oct. married his first wife, Jane Maxwell [see Gordon, Jane, Duchess], who bore him two sons and five daughters. At the time of his first marriage the duke was reputed one of the handsomest young men of his day, and was described by Lord Kaimes as the greatest subject in Britain in regard not only of the extent of his rent-roll, but of the number of persons depending on his protection. He had Gordon Castle rebuilt from the plans of Baxter of Edinburgh. In 1784, in consideration of his descent from Henry Howard, earl of Norwich, and afterwards sixth duke of Norfolk [qv.], the English titles of Earl of Norwich and Lord Gordon of Huntley, Gloucestershire, were revived in his person. He was made K.T., lord keeper of the great seal of Scotland, and lord-lieutenant of Aberdeenshire. He raised two regiments of fencible infantry at his own cost, the Northern fencibles, raised during the American war and disbanded at its close, and the Northern or Gordon fencibles, raised in 1793 and disbanded in 1799. The latter corps when stationed in Kent was reviewed by George III in Hyde Park, being the first highland regiment seen in London since the review of the Black Watch in 1743.
In 1812 the duchess Jane, who for years had been bitterly estranged from her husband, died in London. In 1820 the duke married Mrs. Jane Christie of Fochabers, by whom he had previously had a large family. She died without further issue in 1824. The duke died on 17 June 1827, and was succeeded by his son George, fifth and last duke [qv.]. The fourth duke was a supporter of the Pitt administration, and voted with the ministers on the regency question. He appears to have been an easy-going man, caring chiefly for rural pursuits and field-sports. He introduced semaphores on his estates to give notice of the movements of the deer. He was one of the last in Scotland to keep hawks. He was noted for his breeds of deerhounds and setters. He was the writer of the comic song There is Cauld Kail in Aberdeen, and he encouraged the musical genius of his butler, Marshall, called by Burns the first composer of strathspeys of the age.
Douglas's Peerage of Scotland (ed. Wood)
Gent. Mag. lxxxii. pt. i. 490. Particulars of the 89th highlanders and of the Gordon fencible regiments will be found in D. Stewart's Scottish Highlanders, ii. 80-5, 258-60, 347, 366-7, and of the Gordon estates in the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland under Gordon Castle.
Contributor: H. M. C. [Henry Manners Chichester]