HistoryThe name Gordon is territorial and the family who took the name are believed to have been of Anglo-Norman descent, moving from the Borders to Aberdeenshire. The wild boar’s head appears on the Gordon arms because, legend says, the first Gordon saved a Scottish king from an attacking boar.
The monks of St Mary at Kelso were given their land by Richard, Baron of Gordon in 1150 and 1160, the earliest recording of the name in use.
Sir Adam of Gordon was a supporter of Robert the Bruce and travelled to Rome to ask the Pope to reverse Bruce’s excommunication, served after Bruce killed Comyn in a church.
At this time the king was at enmity with the powerful Douglases.
The Gordons stood on the king’s side, and with their men involved in the south of the country, the Earl of Moray, a relation and ally of the Douglases, took the opportunity to sack the Gordon lands, setting Huntly Castle ablaze. The Gordons returned and quickly destroyed their enemies.
As the Douglases were removed from all their positions of power, the Gordons grew without challenge. Their near-regal status earned their chiefs the still-used nickname “Cock ‘o the North”.
During the Reformation, Gordon power was such that they could disregard it and choose to remain Catholic. Nonetheless, they fought with the men of Mary, Queen of Scots, resulting in Huntly dying in battle and his son being beheaded before her.
By the time of Montrose they had become supportive of the Scottish crown. The followers of the 2nd Marquess of Huntly were known as the Gordon Horse, and it is believed that had Huntly’s self-importance not impeded co-operation with the great Montrose, the war for Scottish independence may have had a different ending.
As it was, Huntly was captured in 1647, then beheaded after two years in jail.
During the Risings of 1715 and 1745 there were Gordons on both sides. The 2nd Duke of Gordon followed the Jacobites in the ‘15, but the 3rd Duke supported the Hanovarians by the time of the ‘45, while his brother raised two regiments against him at Culloden.
The Dukedom became extinct with its line after the 5th Duke, and the present Marquess descends from the Earl of Aboyne, whilst a new Duke of Gordon was created of the Duke of Richmond in 1876.