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The Boyds of Kilmarnock

The Last Earl of Kilmarnock

The Last Earl of Kilmarnock

As the only son of the 3rd Earl of Kilmarnock, William was groomed from childhood for succession to this father's title. William the 4th Earl lacked parental discipline and scorned learning although he showed promise in the classics, philosophy and mathematics. William was disposed to 'riding, fencing, dancing and music and was justly esteemed by men of taste a polite gentleman'. He did, however, show interest in the prosperity and trade of Kilmarnock by attempting to open coal mines in the area.

The 4th Earl married Lady Anne Livingstone, daughter and heiress of the Earl of Linlithgow and Callander. Lady Anne's father was a Jacobite sympathiser and had supported the 1715 uprising. As Boyd's estates were declining, his business ventures were failing and he was becoming short of money, he suffered the catastrophic loss of his family home, Dean Castle, in an accidental fire in 1735.

Perhaps this event or perhaps out of support for his wife's family (although she urged him not to), William made a last desperate gamble to regain some of the ground lost by his family by throwing in his lot with Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) and the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. This was a very unusual step for any lowland Presbyterian, especially one whose family had shown keen support in the past for the Hanoverian Government and had two sons, James and William already with commissions within the Government forces.

His youngest son Charles joined his father on his Jacobite adventure. William Boyd served Prince Charles faithfully and with distinction both as commander of a small regiment and as a member of his privy council during the campaign but it was an association which was ultimately to bring the Boyd house of cards crashing to earth and with it the aspirations of a family who had helped shape events in Scotland for the past 400 years.

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