Rosebery family history

The Primrose family can be first traced back to 1490. Over the centuries since, it has has enjoyed an illustrious history - much of which has been spent at Dalmeny.

There have been seven Earls of Rosebery and ten Countesses, three of the Earls having married twice. The eldest son of the Earl of Rosebery usually takes the courtesy title of Viscount Dalmeny.

The family name of Primrose is said to be assumed from the lands Of Primerose in Fife, which belonged to Dunfermline Abbey.

Primrose - The early family

Henry Primrose - 1490 - ?

Henry, the first recorded Primrose, was born sometime before 1490.

James Primrose

James, Henry's grandson became Clerk to the Privy Council under James the VI. He died in 1640 having had two wives and 19 children.

Sir Archibald Primrose 1616-79

Clerk to the Privy Council

Archibald Primrose succeeded his father as Clerk to the Privy Council during the perilous period leading up to the Civil War.

King Charles I was so impressed with his “fidelity, judgement and discretion” that he had him send private weekly reports of Scottish Privy Council meetings to London.

The Civil War Years

An ardent royalist, he joined Montrose's army during the Civil War, and was captured at the battle of Philiphaugh in 1645. On Charles II's abortive attempt to regain the throne in 1650 Archibald Primrose joined the Royalist Army. He marched with them to the battle of Worcester, after which he lost his estates. At one point he even found himself under sentence of death.

Lord Clerk Register of Scotland

At the restoration of the Monarchy in 1660 his capable and unswerving service to the exiled Stuart kings earned him a knighthood and the appointment of Lord Clerk Register of Scotland. In 1662 he bought the Barony of Barnbougle and Dalmeny and lived in the 13th century Barnbougle Castle on the sea shore.

Archibald, 1st Earl, 1664-1724

Sir Archibald's youngest son served with the Imperial Army in Hungary during the reign of James II. After the Revolution of 1688 he went up to Court and became a Gentleman of the Bedchamber to Prince George of Denmark.

Viscount Rosebery

On the 1st of April 1700 he was raised to the peerage as Viscount Rosebery. He took for his title from the name of a hill, Roseberry Topping, near the Yorkshire home of his wife, Dorothea Cressy.

Earl of Rosebery

In Queen Anne's Coronation Honours of 1703 was made the Earl of Rosebery.

James, 2nd Earl, 1690-1755

The Black Sheep

James, the black sheep of the family, was imprisoned for riot and debt, and considerably depleted his inheritance. His entailed estates were put in the hands of trustees. He deserted his wife for a laundry maid. When she left him he advertised for her to be returned, as she had taken some of his linen, “for a two guineas reward, and no questions will be asked”.

John, Lord Dalmeny, 1725-55

The 2nd Earl's eldest son, John, known as Lord Dalmeny, had a short but adventurous life.

Lord Dalmeny & Kitty Canham

He met a pretty young woman, Kitty Canham, in London, married her and took her to Italy, where two years later she died. On her deathbed she told him that she was already married to a country vicar at Thorpele-Soken in Essex, but had run away to London. She begged to be buried at her old home, and in spite of many difficulties he brought her embalmed body back to England. The ship was stopped by Customs Officers off Harwich, Lord Dalmeny would not give his name and he was suspected of being a smuggler. The coffin was opened and taken to a church near Colchester in Essex where, by an incredible coincidence, Kitty Canham was recognised. Her first husband was summoned and arrived in a passion, brandishing his sword. The two husbands were reconciled and Kitty was followed to the grave by two Sorrowing husbands.

A Return to Scotland

Lord Dalmeny returned to Scotland and busied himself with plans for redeeming and improving his family property. Within two years he also died, aged 31, shortly before the death of his father.

Neil, 3rd Earl, 1728-1814

Lord Dalmeny's younger brother, Neil, became the 3rd Earl in 1755. A merchant in London, he left immediately for the Continent and spent 18 months on a Grand Tour. In Rome, and again in Venice, he saw much of Robert Adam, the architect, whom he had known at home.

On his return he set about freeing the estate of debt, re-organising the farming, enclosing fields and planting many trees. His first wife, Susan Ward, a considerable heiress, died childless, leaving him her Norfolk estate.

The castle that never was

In 1774, mindful that he should remarry, he commissioned his friend Robert Adam to design him a spectacular triangular castle. It was to be complete with harbour and incorporate the old building. But Mary Vincent, his second wife who was only half his age, never got her expensive new castle and had to bring up her five children in the ancient, cramped, damp Barnbougle Castle.

A Knight of the Thistle

Lord Roseberry was a Knight of the Thistle and one of the 16 representative Scottish Peers in the House of Lords from 1768-84.

He died in 1814, aged 88.

Archibald, 4th Earl, 1783-1868

Dalmeny House

Brought up between Norfolk, Scotland and London, the 4th Earl realised the need to replace Barnbougle Castle. Shortly after his father's death he commissioned plans for a new house from William Wilkins. By 1817 the present Dalmeny House was completed, and Barnbougle Castle, just a quarter of a mile away on the shore, was left to the sea birds.

A notorious intrigue

Harriet Bouverie, his wife and mother of his four children, never saw her new house either. In a notorious divorce case in 1815 Lord Rosebery sued his brother-in-law, Sir Henry Mildmay, for “alienating his wife's affections”.

Sir Henry, whose dead wife had been Harriet's sister, had followed her from London and arrived at the castle by rowing boat from Cramond, disguised as a fisherman. The mud from his boots was noticed on the carpet, and he was discovered in Lady Rosebery's bedroom by Lord Rosebery's younger brother Frank. Sir Henry was chased out of the window and Lady Rosebery was sent after him by carriage early next morning. Together they left for the continent, where they eventually married and spent the rest of their lives.

New beginnings & fresh honours

In 1819 Lord Rosebery married his second wife, the Hon. Anne Anson.

He was a Representative Peer for Scotland until in 1828 he was created a Peer of the United Kingdom. He was a Privy Councillor and a Knight of the Thistle.

When he died in 1868 he was succeeded by his grandson as his son, Lord Dalmeny, had died in 1851.

Archibald John, Lord Dalmeny, 1809-51

The time of Queen Victoria

Married to Catherine, daughter of Earl Stanhope, he and his wife were very much involved in the political and social life of the day. His wife had been a bridesmaid to Queen Victoria. In 1844 the young Queen visited Dalmeny and praised the view and the comfort of the house.

M.P. to Stirling

Lord Dalmeny was M.P. for Stirling for 14 years. He published a paper suggesting exercise as a means to healthy living for the middle classes. He died, however, at the age of 42 from pleurisy brought on by a seven mile walk back from Edinburgh's Turkish baths in mid winter.

His widow married the Duke of Cleveland. Her four children by Lord Dalmeny were brought up at her father's house, Chevening, and the Cleveland houses in London, at Raby Castle and Battle Abbey.

Archibald, 5th Earl, 1847-1929

Lord Dalmeny's eldest son became the fifth Earl at the age of 20. A brilliant scholar, he became a distinguished historian and renowned public speaker.

The collector

He collected books all his life and wrote biographies of Chatham, Peel, Pitt, Napoleon and Lord Randolph Churchill.

He collected objects and paintings not solely for their artistic merit, but because of their connection with people he considered historically important. The largest of these associative collections is his Napoleonic one.

He travelled widely, visiting America three times, Russia, the Far East and Australia.
In 1878 he married Hannah, (1851-90) only child of Baron Mayer de Rothschild. They had four children, two boys and two girls. Her sudden death in 1890 was a shattering blow from which he never really recovered.

The politician

Lord Rosebery organised from Dalmeny the first modern electioneering campaign, the Midlothian Campaign. In 1880 it returned the Liberal Prime Minister, Gladstone, to power.

Lord Rosebery was appointed Under-Secretary at the Home Office, with special responsibility for Scotland. Within five years he was Foreign Secretary.

Prime Minister

In 1894 Lord Rosebery succeeded Gladstone as Prime Minister but was unable to lead the Government from the House of Lords. The Liberals were defeated in 1895, and a year later he resigned the Party Leadership.

Latter Years

Lord Rosebery turned his attention to his writing and his collections. However, he remained an important background figure in Liberal politics until his death in 1929.

He was a Knight of the Garter and a Knight of the Thistle.

To read more about the 5th Earl please see the page here.

Harry, 6th Earl 1882-1974.

The fifth Earl was succeeded by his eldest son Harry.

An Army Career

Harry had a distinguished army career during the First World War, as Allenby's Military Secretary. He was awarded the D.S.O. and M.C. In the Second World War he was Regional Commissioner for Civil Defence for Scotland, and was made a Knight of the Thistle.

He was Secretary of State for Scotland in Churchill's caretaker government.

Sporting Achievements

The sixth Earl's best remembered achievements were sporting. He captained Surrey for cricket and was a first class polo player. He was Master of the Whaddon Chase foxhounds for seventeen years and continued shooting and playing golf into his eighties.

Deeply involved in British racing, he bred two Derby winners at his Mentmore Stud. As an influential member of the Jockey Club, he fought the proposed Tote monopoly. He also helped bring in such innovations as photo-finish and monitoring cameras.

Lady Rosebery

He was married twice. By his second marriage to Eva, daughter of Lord Aberdare, he had a son, Neil. Neil became heir on the death of his half-brother Ronald.

Lady Rosebery was involved in setting up the Edinburgh Festival, and was on the Executive and Programme Committees for many years. In 1955 she was awarded theD.B.E.

The sixth Earl died aged 92 in 1974.

Neil, 7th Earl, 1929 -–

The seventh Earl was educated at Stowe and Oxford.

In 1955 he married Deirdre, daughter of Ronald Reid, M.S., F.R.C.S. They have four daughters and a son, Harry, who was born in 1967.

Primrose Family Tree

Primrose Family Tree

Primrose Family Tree