Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Gordon, Adam de (d.1333)

GORDON, Sir ADAM de (d. 1333), lord of Gordon, statesman and warrior, was the son and heir of Adam de Gordon in Berwickshire. His great-grandfather, likewise Adam de Gordon, was younger son of an Anglo-Norman nobleman who came to Scotland in the time of David I, and settled on a tract of land called Gorden, within sight of the English border. The second Sir Adam, grandfather of the fourth Sir Adam, married Alicia, only child and heiress of Thomas de Gordon, who represented the elder branch of the family, and by this alliance the whole estates were united into one property. His son William de Gordon was one of the Scottish nobles who in 1268 joined Louis IX of France in his crusade for the recovery of the holy sepulchre, and died during the expedition. He was succeeded by his brother, the third Sir Adam, who died on 3 Sept. 1296, and was succeeded by his son, the fourth Sir Adam. An historian of the Gordon family says that this last Sir Adam joined Sir William Wallace in 1297, and the statement is accepted by Lord Hailes as correct. It is probably true, as the English estates were forfeited at that time, but were recovered by Marjory, mother of Gordon, who submitted to the English rule and brought to her son a great inheritance on both sides of the border. The year 1303 was spent by Edward I in Scotland. On his return to England he carried with him certain sons of the nobles as hostages, and Gordon followed as a deputy with power to arrange for the pacification of the country.

About 1300 Gordon confirmed several charters granted by his predecessors to the abbey of Kelso. The earliest of these was granted by Richard de Gordon, elder son of the founder of the family, previous to 1180. In 1308 there was a formally dated agreement between the monks of Kelso and Sir Adam Gordon, knight, regarding some lands in the village of Gordon, given to them by Andrew Fraser about 1280.

After the coronation of Robert Bruce and the accession of Edward II to the English throne, certain Scottish noblemen continued ‘deeply engaged in the English interest,’ among whom Abercrombie mentions with sorrow ‘the formerly brave and honest Sir Adam Gordon.’ And till 1314 Gordon was well disposed toward the English king, from whom he received various marks of favour. In 1308, when William Lambert, archbishop of St. Andrews, who had been imprisoned by Edward I, was liberated by his successor, Gordon with others became surety for his compliance with the conditions of his release (Cal. of Documents relating to Scotland, iii. 44). In 1310 he was appointed justiciar of Scotland (ib. iii. 222). In January 1312 Edward II was at York, on his way to invade Scotland, but resolved to treat for peace, and for that purpose appointed David, earl of Atholl, Gordon, and others his plenipotentiaries, but without any good result. In October 1313 Gordon, along with Patrick, earl of March, was deputed by such of the Scots as still remained faithful to the English interest to lay before Edward their miserable condition (ib. iii. 337). The king received them graciously, and on 28 Nov. formally replied, announcing his intention to lead an army to their relief next midsummer (Fœdera, ii. 247). In a letter dated 1 April the same year Edward warmly commended to the pope John and Thomas, sons of ‘a nobleman and our faithful Adam Gordon,’ who seem to have been about to visit Italy. After the battle of Bannockburn in 1314, Gordon no longer hesitated to acknowledge Bruce as king. He was cordially welcomed, and was speedily numbered with the king's most trusted friends. From Thomas Randolph, earl of Moray, he obtained the barony of Stitchel in Roxburghshire, which was confirmed to him and his son William by Robert I on 28 Jan. 1315. In 1320 Gordon, along with Sir Edward Mabinson, was sent on a special mission to the pope at Avignon. They were bearers of the memorable letter asserting the independence of the kingdom, dated at Aberbrothock on 6 April 1320, and were charged with the twofold duty of effecting a reconciliation between King Robert and the pope and paving the way for a peace with England. As a reward for faithful service, including help rendered in subduing the rebellious house of Comyn in the north-eastern counties, Bruce granted to him and his heirs the lordship of Strathbogie in Aberdeenshire, which had belonged to David, earl of Atholl. Gordon bestowed on that lordship the name of Huntly, from a village on his Berwickshire estate. His fidelity to King Robert was continued to his son and successor, David II; and he was killed on 12 July 1333, fighting in the van of the Scottish army at the battle of Halidon Hill. By Abercrombie he is numbered among the most trusted friends of Bruce, ‘all great personages and the glorious ancestors of many in all respects as great as themselves.’ From Gordon descended nearly all the eminent men of that name in Scotland.

[Douglas's Peerage, pp. 295-6, 642; Crawford's Peerage of Scotland; Chalmers's Caledonia, ii. 387, 544 ; Liber de Kelso, pp. 85-97 ; Rymer's Fœdera, pp. 81, 82, 94, 222, 481, 848; Abercrombie's Martial Achievements of the Scottish Nation, i. 583, 591-3; History of the Antient, Noble, and Illustrious House of Gordon, i. 7-9 ; Concise History of the Antient and Illustrious House of Gordon, pp. 19-23 ; Gordon of Gordonstone's Genealogy of the Earls of Sutherland, pp. 34, 38, 45.]

J. T.