Earl Marischal

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EARL MARISCHAL/MARSHAL. AKA – "Earl of Marshall." Scottish, Reel. F Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Surenne): AAB (Athole, Skye): AABB (Bremner, Laybourn): AABB' (Kerr). Glen (1891) finds the earliest appearance of this tune in print in Robert Bremner's 1757 collection. Since 1458, when the hereditary office of Marischal was made into an earldom, ten successive Earls Marischal were from the Keith family. The family seat was at Castle Dunnottar, near the fishing port of Stonehaven in North East Scotland. George Keith, 10th and last Earl Marischal, along with his brother James an ardent Jacobite, fought for the Stewarts in 1715 and as a consequence was stripped of his estates and title after the risings failed. In 1716 they fled to the Continent, where George became a major figure in European diplomacy. After the death of George, in 1778, the forfeited estates passed to Lord Falconer.

Younger brother James (1896–1757) was considerably more interesting. He gained patronage in France and soon gained his first commission as Colonel of Horse. There followed some years of Jacobite intrigue, stalled invasion plans, and finally an exile's search for fortune that led him to the court of Empress Anna in Russia. Impressed with James, she promoted him and showered him with honors, however, Anna died in 1740 and was succeeded by Empress Elisabeth, a daughter of Peter the Great. Elisabeth was a lusty woman, an accomplished dancer and gourmand, but also a woman who could be quite ignorant and stubborn, with high spirits and high temper. She also took a considerable liking to James, who by this time was fighting Sweden on Russia's behalf. In fact, it appears the Empress was infatuated with him. James, meanwhile, had himself become infatuated, although not with Elizabeth but with a sixteen-year-old orphan named Eva Methens, who had been in a camp for military and civilian prisoners. She was pretty, intelligent, from a respectable family, and James, nearly three decades older than she, fell hopelessly in love with her. She became his lover and lifelong mistress, however, differences in their social states precluded marriage. Certainly brother George did all he could to deter an official union between the two.

Meanwhile, Empress Elizabeth continued to press her demands on James, and the situation became increasingly uncomfortable for him in Russia. The solution that occurred to him was to offer his services to another European ruler, Frederick the Great of Prussia. James and Frederick became friends, and James, already famous as a warrior from his Russian days, was showered with even more honors and stations at the Prussian court. Eva had blossomed into a lusty young woman herself, no longer a teenager but a woman of age 26, she decided that her needs demanded romantic intrigues of her own. She became a scandal at the Prussian court, and finally, in 1751, while at a party with Prussian and Continental nobility that involved feasting, drinking and some debauchery, she committed some unpardonable sin and as a consequence was banished from Prussia by Frederick.

Eva returned to her birthplace in Riga, and James went into a lonely semi-retirement. When the Seven Years War broke out however, James resumed his martial duties and successfully led Prussian forces until the Battle of Hochkirk, 1757, when he was shot dead at close range by a Croat as he attempted to rally his troops. James was buried with honors in Germany. The Empress Elizabeth never married. Eva did marry, eventually, a captian of the Prussian palace guard, and outlived James by more than fifty years, dying in 1811. She and George wrangled for some years over James's effects, to little avail, and Frederick the Great offered her huge sums of money for one of her possessions, a portrait of James. She refused to sell at any price.

See further versions under the ""Earl of Marshall" title variation.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Aird (Selection of Scotch, English, Irish and Foreign Airs, vol. 3), 1788; No. 586, p. 224. Bremner (Scots Reels), 1757; p. 73 (appears as "Earl Marshal's Reel"). Kerr (Merry Melodies, vol. 2), No. 184, p. 21. Laybourn (Köhler's Violin Repository, vol. 2), 1881–1885; p. 191. MacDonald (The Skye Collection), 1887; p. 144. Stewart-Robertson (The Athole Collection), 1884; p. 221. Surenne (Dance Music of Scotland), 1852; p. 67.

Recorded sources:




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