Falkirk's Callendar House: Livingston dynasty rose to the highest ranks in the kingdom - Ian Scott

Last week I told the story of the earliest family to occupy the lands of Callendar and today I move on to the Livingstons who assumed control in 1346.

By Ian Scott
Thursday, 11th November 2021, 4:30 pm
Callendar House as it was when the Livingstons left power.  This is the earliest known photograph taken in the 1850s.
Callendar House as it was when the Livingstons left power. This is the earliest known photograph taken in the 1850s.

Having been gifted the lands by his friend King David II, Sir William Livingston promptly married his predecessor’s daughter to protect his new lands against changing fortunes in the future.

He needn’t have worried because he and his successors stayed in place for 400 years and maintained their position at the very heart of Scottish affairs for most of that time.

It may have been William who built the stone square tower which remains buried within the present house, but it was his son who became effective Regent of Scotland during the childhood of James II.

Sign up to our daily The Falkirk Herald Today newsletter

The area around Callendar House at the time James Livingston, First Earl of Callendar c1650.

The next generation saw Sir James Livingson raised to the rank of magnus camerarius, or great Chamberlain of Scotland.

The following century and another child monarch brought Sir Alexander, the 5th Lord who became guardian to the baby Mary Queen of Scots and accompanied her to France where she remained for 12 years.

With him went his daughter Mary, one of the famous ‘Four Maries’.

Sir Alexander’s son and heir William was a great supporter of the Queen and fought with her at Langside before her unhappy years in English exile.

In 1600 Mary’s son, by then King James VI, trusted the latest Livingstons to educate his two daughters and as a reward raised Alexander Livingston to the peerage as Earl of Linlithgow and made Falkirk a free burgh of barony.

It was the formal birth certificate of the town.

In 1625 a new King, Charles I, began to interfere with Scotland’s reformed religious practice and this caused a huge stramash which led to the wars that followed.

Read More

Read More
Falkirk's Callendar House: The Callendars’ story is shrouded in the mists of dar...

By this time the man in Callendar House was another James Livingston, later the first Earl of Callendar.

Despite his inherited loyalty to the Stewart kings, he shared the outrage felt in the country and, as a former soldier, he was ideally placed to help lead the army against Charles.

Victory followed and the unhappy monarch was handed over to Oliver Cromwell’s forces.

Now the Earl’s conscience began to trouble him.

He wanted a u-turn on religion but not the death of the King so off he marched with his Falkirk men to try and rescue Charles.

Defeat in 1648 at Preston led to his exile and it was eight years before he was able to return to Callendar House.

The next, and as it turned out the final, phase of Livingston power in Falkirk came in 1715 when James, the fourth Earl, joined the ‘Old Pretender’ in the failed Jacobite Rising of that year.

Defeat at Sherrifmuir meant exile to France and the loss of all his titles and lands including the house.

His daughter Lady Ann was allowed to live in the house with her husband the Earl of Kilmarnock but their fateful decision 30 years later to support Bonnie Prince Charlie in the new rising brought the dynasty to a final end.

The old house, much changed over the centuries which had hosted Mary Queen of Scots, Oliver Cromwell and the Bonnie Prince himself was eventually placed on the market and was purchased by William Forbes in 1783.

It was the start of a new dynasty which lasted until 1962. More on this next week.

Thank you for reading this article on our free-to-read website. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by Coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

Please consider purchasing a subscription to our print newspaper to help fund our trusted, fact-checked journalism.