The rise of Keith

The reign of King Robert saw the second major division between Aberdeenshire and Banffshire and the rise of the de la Keith family. After the war and the long period of securing his power, the king owed many. In addition to the long-established nobles, new families now came to influence and wealth, lands were freshly distributed, the power structure in Scotland was redefined.


Gilbert de la Keith held the office of Constable of Scotland before 1318. Sir Robert Keith was granted much of the lands of the defeated Comyn in 1320. The Keiths were later elevated in status and bore the title Earl of Marishal, making them Great Marishals of Scotland. It was an hereditary office. The bearer of the title protected the Scottish crown jewels and as well as the King’s person when he was in parliament. The family kept the title for many centuries.

The other sons held church offices and administered the property. The 9th and last Earl fought alongside Bonnie Prince Charlie in the hapless second Jacobite uprising.

With its defeat, the Earl of Marishal lost his title, if not his life. He had to leave the country and lived on the continent, his brother served in the Prussian army.


The town in Banff carries the family name as so many do.  New Keith was one of the many new villages that grew with the textile industry right next to the older Keith, that goes back to the 12th century. Today the region’s main employers are different ones, Whisky plays a crucial role, there are four large distilleries in the vicinity: Strathisla, Glentauchers, Strathmill, and Glen Keith.

sources and further reading

W. Barclay: Cambridge County Geographies: Banffshire. Cambridge; 1922

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