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05. Haddington 3
Sir John Ramsay, Viscount of Haddington(1580-1626)

Arms: Per pale: Dexter Azure issuant from the dexter side an arm vested Vert grasping a sword erect Argent, impaling a heart Gules, the point supporting an imperial crown Proper; sinister, Or a double headed eagle displayed Sable.

SOURCE/NOTES & CREDITS: Blazon, BGA, page 84 and Scots Peerage, vol. IV, Paul, pages 301-302, and “Lord Crawford’s Armorial”, page 292, reworked by D.Q. Wedvick, illustration for background: primary “Lord Crawford’s Armorial”, page 293 and information from “Lord of the Dance”, edited by Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd, 1986. Biographical information for background from “Scots Peerage”, vol. IV, Paul, pages 297-302 and from “Lord of the Dance”, edited by Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd, 1986: Sir Iain Moncreiffe’s paper delivered at the XIII Intl Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences, 1976, pages 168-171; adapted by D.Q. Wedvick.

Sir John Ramsay, Viscount of Haddington, was born about 1580 and died in Feb 1626. Before the age of 20 he became a Page of Honour, favorite and minion of James VI of Scotland. The then John Ramsay accompanied the king on a visit to Gowrie House in Perth on 14 May 1600 at the invitation of the Earl of Gowrie. Whilst visiting, Ramsay heard the king cry for help and bursting into the King’s chamber he saw the Master of Gowrie attacking the King, who cried, “Strike him low for he wears a secret pyne ( mail ) doublet”. Ramsay drew his hunting dirk and wounded the Master mortally. He then went out into the Gallery and killed the Earl of Gowrie who had drawn two swords. In short this is what is known as the Gowrie House Affair. The who, what, when, where are mysterious of course and speculation abounds. For saving the kings life Ramsay was knighted on the spot and then given the estate of East Barns on 14 Nov 1600 ( out of the lands of Gowrie). On 1 June 1606, the King made him Viscount of Haddington and Lord Ramsay of Barns and on 28 Aug 1609 made him Lord Melrose, all in the Peerage of Scotland. Still later on 22 Jan 1620 the king made him Earl of Holdernesse and Baron Kingston-upon Thames in the Peerage of England. Lord John married twice having two sons in his first marriage and no issue in the second. Both sons predeceased him so his peerages went extinct upon his death.

Ramsay received a number of augmentations which we believe to be of interest. His arms before he was knighted were: Argent an eagle displayed sable charged with a crescent Argent, This he had as the second son of Sir Robert Ramsay of Wyliecleuch. The Wyliecleuch Ramsays were said to be cousins of the Dalhousie Ramsays. In 1618 he surrendered the Lordship peerage of Melrose to James VI to re-grant to Sir George Ramsay of Dalhousie a relative but not his brother. Sir John was later on 22 Jan 1620 made a Peer of England as Earl of Holdernesse and Baron of Kingston-upon-Thames. The new arms of 1600 consisted of shield of augmentation impaled by altered Ramsay arms blazoned: Or a double-headed eagle displayed Sable. The shield of augmentation is blazoned: Azure issuant from the dexter side an arm vested Vert grasping a sword erect Argent, impaling a heart Gules, the point supporting an imperial crown Proper. Additional augmentations were the right to use the Royal supporters and the motto: Haec Dextra Vindex Principis et Patriae.

More of the Gowrie House affair may be read in Peter Drummond – Murray of Mastrick’s article, “The Gowrie Conspiracy”, pages 34-43, “The Double Tressure”, No 19, 1997.

According to Sir Iain Moncreiffe, John Ramsay killed Alexander Ruthven, Master of Gowrie and his brother the Earl of Gowrie with a “dagger or couteau de chasse” ( a hunting knife ). Moncreiffe states the weapon is a characteristic “dudgeon dagger” of the type illustrated in John Wallace’s “Scottish Swords and Dirks, London 1970. A more complete account of this made be read in “Lord of the Dance” Suffice to say that that the new augmented arms, supporters and motto were engraved and inlaid with gold on the blade along with the initials I s R with the s higher that the I and the R. This indicated in the words of the day that the weapon belonged to Sir John Ramsay. Later a golden H and coronet were added.

This dagger has an even more murderous history. It was stolen from Viscount Haddington whilst he was on a visit to Paris between 1606 & 1610 by one M. Ravaillac who used it to assassinate The King of France, Henri IV on the 14th of May 1610. Caught immediately, interrogated with excruciating tortures and then executed, he was unable to say from whom he stole the knife. The knife and scabbard were taken from him by the Duc de la Force, then Captain of the King’s Guard & later a Marshal of France and according to Moncreiffe the weapon is still in the possession of the present Duc ( 1976). However the current Duc did not know to whom the dagger originally belonged and asked Sir Iain for help with the heraldry. Moncreiffe immediately recognized the arms and later delivered an address and paper on the subject at the XIII Intl Congress of Genealogical and Heraldic Sciences, 1976. dqw 20110507

The artwork is a rendering by John Hamilton Gaylor

Wedvick Armorial, 201a, Haddington, 20110422
RamsayJ1.jpg RamsayJ2.jpg Ramsay.jpg Stewart_02.jpg Lindsay2044.jpg
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