Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kennedy, John (1567?-1615)

KENNEDY, JOHN, fifth Earl of Cassillis (1567?–1615), son of Gilbert, fourth earl [q. v.], was, by one account, eight years old at his father's death in 1576; by another, ‘a young man, not past 23 years or thereby,’ at the time of his marriage in 1597. He had for his tutor or guardian his uncle, John, eighth lord Glamis, lord chancellor of Scotland, between whom and his father's brother, Sir Thomas Kennedy of Colzean, there was much rivalry until, on Lord Glamis's death by a chance shot at Stirling (17 March 1578), Sir Thomas obtained the tutorship. Sir Thomas, according to the ‘Historie,’ was guilty of forgery and ravishment, as before he had been guilty of shooting one night at his brother the fourth earl's house, either to slay him or make the countess miscarry, or at best to feign to come to their assistance. The young earl, who was served heir to his father on 30 Aug. 1588, wooed and jilted Jean, eldest daughter of James, seventh earl of Glencairn, then visited France, and on 3 Nov. 1597 married Jean (1554–1609), the daughter of James, fourth lord Fleming, and widow of the lord chancellor, John Maitland of Thirlestane—‘a very unmeet match, for she was past bairn-bearing.’ On 22 March 1598 he was made lord high treasurer, but he quickly resigned the office on finding that the king thought him right rich, so looked to get money out of him. As it was, the purchase-money and the discharge cost him forty thousand marks, ‘the which was to the earl a great dishonour and disgrace.’

To the fifth earl's lifetime belongs the ‘Ayrshire tragedy,’ the outcome of a long-standing feud between the house of Cassillis and the cadet line of Bargany. In 1601 young Gilbert Kennedy of Bargany, riding home from Ayr, was intercepted near Maybole by the Earl of Cassillis with five times his number of followers, and was fatally wounded. In 1602 Cassillis's old tutor, Sir Thomas Kennedy of Colzean, was murdered near Ayr by agents of Mure of Auchendrain. The earl on 4 Sept. 1602 engaged upon his honour to make good and thankful payment of twelve hundred marks yearly, together with corn for six horses, to his brother, the master of Cassillis, and his accomplices, ‘how soon he take the Laird of Auchendrain's life’ (facsimile of band in Maitland Club Misc. i. 141). In 1607 on Girvan sands Auchendrain and his son strangled William Dalrymple, a poor innocent youth, who could have borne witness against them in the matter of Sir Thomas Kennedy's murder. In 1611 Auchendrain and son were detected, tried, and beheaded at Edinburgh, the former being then eighty years of age. The Earl of Cassillis died without issue, either at Greenwich or in London, in October 1615.

[Historical Account of the Noble Family of Kennedy. The Historie of the Kennedyis deals mainly with this period; Pitcairn conjectures it to have been written by Auchendrain himself; Scott's Ayrshire Tragedy; Pitcairn's Criminal Trials, iii. 124–99.]

F. H. G.