Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Kerr, Mark (d.1609)

KERR or KER, MARK, first Earl of Lothian (d. 1609), master of requests, was the eldest son of Mark Kerr, commendator of Newbattle [q. v.], by Lady Helen Lesley, second daughter of George, fourth earl of Rothes. He was appointed master of requests in 1577, and the office was confirmed to him by King James in 1581. On the death of his father the reversion of the commendatorship of Newbattle granted him by Queen Mary was ratified to him by letters under the great seal 24 Aug. 1584. He was also, on 12 Nov. of the same year, appointed to succeed his father as an extraordinary lord of session. On 28 July 1587 his lands of Newbattle were by charter erected into a barony, and on 1 Aug. of the same year he was chosen by parliament one of his majesty's 'ordiner and daylie privie council. On 15 Oct. 1591 the baronies of Prestongrange and Newbattle being united into the lordship of Newbattle, he was created a lord of parliament. He was appointed, 4 March 1596-7, one of a commission to arrange for the issue of a new coinage (Reg. P. C. Scotl. v. 369). He was one of the commissioners for holding the parliament of 1597, and the same year was appointed collector-general of the tax of two hundred thousand merks levied in connection with certain foreign embassies (Acta Parl. Scot. iv. 142-3). A commission was appointed, 2 March 1598-9, to examine Newbattle's accounts (Reg. P. C. Scotl. v. 534), the result being entirely satisfactory.

Notwithstanding the attempt of the king to influence the court of session to an adverse decision against Robert Bruce, minister of Edinburgh, in regard to his life pension out of the rents of the abbey of Arbroath, Newbattle, with the other judges, declined to be influenced in their judgment, either by entreaties or threats. Newbattle was one of the special members of the privy council chosen on 8 Dec. 1598 to sit in the palace of Holyrood on Tuesdays and Thursdays to assist the king in the discharge of business (Calderwood, v. 727). On 10 July 1600 he was appointed one of a commission to consider means for the more effectual concurrence of the lieges with the sheriffs and magistrates in the execution of their offices (Reg. P. C. Scotl. vi. 68), and, on 1 April of the same year, one of a commission for reporting on remedies for abuses in cloth-making (ib. p. 98). In order more effectually to carry out the act of 1567 for the pursuit of thieves he was, on 28 July 1600, ordered to repair to and reside within his castle of Neidpath (ib. p. 138). On 19 Sept. 1604 he was nominated to act as interim chancellor during the absence of the Earl of Montrose in England as a commissioner for the union (ib. vii. 15). He was one of the assessors chosen at Linlithgow in January 1605-6 for the trial of the ministers imprisoned in Blackness (Calderwood, vi. 375). On 10 Feb. of the same year he was created Earl of Lothian by patent to him and heirs male of his body. On 11 July he resigned the office of master of requests in favour of his eldest son, Robert (Reg. P. C. Scotl. vii. 226). In 1608 Lothian acted as assessor to the Earl of Dunbar, the king's commissioner to the assembly of the kirk (Calderwood, vi. 752). On 6 Feb. 1608-1609 he was appointed one of a commission to advise the king as to the best means of assuring the peace of the Isles and planting 'religion and civilitie therein' (Reg. P. C. Scotl. viii. 742).

He died on 8 April 1609. By his wife, Margaret Maxwell, daughter of John, lord Herries, he had four sons: Robert, second earl of Lothian, Sir William Ker of Blackhope, Sir Mark Ker, and Hon. Henry Ker, and seven daughters: Janet, married, first to Robert, master of Boyd, and secondly to David, tenth earl of Crawford; Janet, married to William, eighth earl of Glencairn; Margaret (founder of Lady Yester's Church, Edinburgh), married, first to James, seventh lord Yester, and secondly to Andrew, master of Jedburgh; Isabell, married to William, first earl of Queensberry; Lilias, married to John, lord Borthwick; Mary, married to Sir James Richardson of Smeaton; and Elizabeth, married to Sir Alexander Hamilton of Innerwick. Scot of Scotstarvet affirms that in all the Earl of Lothian had by his wife thirty-one children. The statement is probably, however, as baseless as is Scot's story that the countess was addicted to the black art, and that,' being vexed with a cancer in her breast,' she was healed by 'a notable warlock,' on condition 'that the sore should fall on them she loved best:' her husband died of a boil in his throat.

[Acta Parl. Scot. vols. iii. and iv.; Reg. P. C. Scotl. vols.iv-viii.; Calderwood's Hist.of Church of Scotland; Moysie's Memoirs (Bannatyne Club); Scot's Staggering State of Scottish Statesmen; Douglas's Scottish Peerage (Wood), ii. 130-1.]

T. F. H.