The Gray Peerage
According to most historical sources, The Gray Peerage is 2nd or 3rd oldest in Scotland. Sir Andrew Gray of Broxmouth was created 1st Lord Gray circa 1440. His ancestor, another Andrew Gray, is noted as a supporter of Robert the Bruce from about 1306 and was with him at the Battle of the Pass of Brander in 1308; this extract from John Barbour’s epic poem “The Brus” (dating from 1375) describes some of the action in that battle against the MacDougall Men of Lorn:
That mountain Crechanben they call.. on it John of Lorn designed To hide among the rocks his men... In time of danger and mishap, Having discerned the cunning trap Set to destroy him in his course, (Bruce)Divided into two his force. To the lord of Douglasdale, Whose head and courage would not fail. He gave in charge the archer train; And this lord has with him ta'en Sir Alexander Fraser's might,And William Wiseman,a good knight, And with him good Sir Andrew Gray. They with their followers went their way And quickly up the mountain hied, And, ere their coming was espied. They occupied the height that rose Above the ambush of their foes. When the King and his company Were 'twixt the mountain and the sea. The ambushed men of Lorn rushed out...
Patrick, Master of Gray (later 6th Lord Gray), gained a well-documented reputation as political schemer in the time of Mary Queen of Scots when he initially supported her cause ( he in fact became a Catholic like Mary ) travelling to France to entreat with her. In 1561 Mary wrote a letter to Lord Gray informing him of her intention to return to Scotland. Patrick avoided being directly implicated in the trap to hand Mary over to those in England who brought her as a prisoner to her cousin Elizabeth I and he was later to regain favour with Mary’s son, who was to become James 6th of Scotland and 1st of England. He sent Patrick Gray with others to London to negotiate over his succession with Queen Elizabeth.
The family had possession of lands in Perthshire, around Tayside, for several hundred years. The 3rd Lord Gray built Broughty Castle, at Broughty Ferry near Dundee and a later during the lifetime of the 10th Lord Gray, the grand Palladian style House of Gray was built also near Dundee, overlooking the Firth of Tay. Though currently unoccupied, House of Gray is an impressive place with some uniquely huge, old Cedars of Lebanon in the grounds. His heir then married Margaret Blair, who inherited the Gothic Kinfauns Castle near Perth where some fine Gray Coats of Arms adorn the ceiling of the main hall and library.
John Gray of Criechie (who was a cousin of the family ) married Marjory the daughter and only child of the 9th Lord Gray. Shortly after the Act of Union in 1707, Queen Anne granted him new Letters Patent, which specifically provided for a succession through the female line if there were no male heirs. This principle was re-established by my great-grandmother of the present Lord Gray when bringing her successful case to the Committee of Privileges in the House of Lords to claim the Peerage in the 1890s. My late father, Angus Diarmid Stuart, 22nd Lord Gray had an early career in advertising, putting his artistic talent to good use; the iconic and instantly recognisable label on HP Sauce is perhaps his most well-known design. In 1999, faced with the plans by Tony Blair’s majority government to abolish the rights of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords, he took a case all the way to the Committee of Privileges to counter what he regarded as a breach of the terms noted in the Articles of Treaty of Union from 1707 as follows :
Writ shall be immediately issued under the Great Seal of Great-Britain, directed to the Privy-Council of Scotland, for the summoning of the sixteen Peers, and for electing forty-five Members, by whom Scotland is to be represented in the Parliament of Great-Britain: And the Lords of Parliament of England, and the sixteen Peers of Scotland, such sixteen Peers being summoned and returned in the Manner agreed in this Treaty….
The final judgement by the Law Lords was narrowly against his case. There was indeed no guarantee about any representation from among the peerage of Scotland from 1999 onward….!
Sir Andrew Gray, my notable forbear, was also with Thomas Randolph, the young Earl of Moray when they led a small band of men to attack and take Edinburgh Castle from the English in March 1314 :
The young Earl of Moray was eager to please, and probably wanted to prove himself as capable and daring as Douglas, and so set his brains the task of trying to think of a way to climb the sheer rock-face under the castle. This was a difficult and extremely dangerous feat but, if Randolph and his troops succeeded, it would be a great accomplishment. The answer (allegedly) presented itself in the form of a soldier named William Francis, whose father had worked in the castle and who, during his youth, had often had cause to sneak out to meet his lover in the burgh. Francis thus claimed to know an easy way for the Scots to climb the rock, provided that the garrison did not see them coming.
So it was arranged that, on the night of the 14th of March, a large force of Scots launched an attack on the east port: the place, as I have already said, where an assault was expected. This drew the garrison away from their posts and sent them rushing off to deal with the attack. Meanwhile, William Francis guided a smaller force, supposedly led by Randolph himself, on the perilous ascent up the north face of the rock. The best climbers, led by Sir Andrew Gray, followed Francis first, and, somehow, managed to escape injury and reach the castle wall….