The Lairds of Callendar

12th to 15th Centuries

    The founder of the family in Scotland, Levingus, said to have been of noble Hungarian(1)descent, settled in West Lothian towards the end of the eleventh century, and Livingston (the town or residence of Levingus), in Linlithgowshire, long continued in the possession of the senior line: "Thurstanus filius Levingi" is distinctly documented in 1128. Gradually we find the knights and barons of Livingston and Callendar becoming prominent among the Magnates Scotiae, filling the offices of Great Chamberlain in Scotland, Lord Justice General, Ambassador to England, Governor and Custodier of the king’s person, and Regent of the Kingdom; their banner waving in ever battle, and their influence acknowledged in every council. One is knighted under the Royal Standard, and taken prisoner at the battle of Durham, 17th of October, 1346 another falls at Homildon, 14th of September, 1402, and Sir Bartholomew de Levingstone, the last of the elder line, is killed at Flodden, gallantly fighting by the side of his chivalrous sovereign, on the fatal 9th of September, 1513.(2)  Long before this, the younger branch, that of Callendar, in which the representation of the main line eventually merged, had risen to great power, by the acquisition of that ancient Thanedom, partly by royal grant, and partly by a fortunate or judicious marriage. In 1345/46, Sir William Livingston (grandson of Dominus Erchebaldus de Levingstone, Miles,(3) who had been compelled to swear fealty to Edward the First) obtained the great Thanedom of Kallendar or Calynter, by charter under the great seal, on the forfeiture of Patrick de Calynter; but, in order to strengthen his right to these domains, or, it may be, to conciliate the numerous retainers of the former barons, or, perchance, under the influence of the grace and beauty, and in sympathy for the fallen fortunes of the young lady, Sir William married Christine de Calynter, the only child and heiress of the tainted Thane. By her he had two sons, the younger of whom, William, carried on the line of the family. Of the ancient Scottish Thanedoms, that of Calentyr, possessed by the Calentyrs of Calentyr, from a period prior 1217, appears to have been the only one situated to the south of the Forth; and it was continued by the marriage of Christine de Calentyr and Sir William Livingston in the possession of the lineal descendants the original Thanes for the long period of five hundred years.

Livingston of Livingston
Livingston of Callendar 15th Century
Livingston of Livingston
Livingston of Callendar
15th century

    During the days of their feudal power, the Livingstons were not more remarkable for the extent of their estates and their almost regal influence, than for the great alliances which they formed. The Laird of Callendar never seems to attempt to subdue (legitimately, at least) the obdurate heart of any less stately damsel than the daughter of a great baron; all the Livingston wives are of this rank, Erskine, Crielitons, Flemings, Hays (of Erroll), Grahams (of Montrose and Menteith), Gordon (of Huntley), Douglas of the illustrious House of Morton, and the like. Even the cadet branches Kilsyth, Teviot, and Newburgh follow generally this aristocratic rule, Newburgh,  especially, carrying the principle of action into foreign lands, and, in the course of comparatively a few years, intermarrying, in England, with the Howards Earls of Suffolk, the Brudenells Earls of Cardigan, the Lords Clifford of Chudleigb, and the Radcliffes Earls of Derwentwater, and, in the States of the Church, with the Princely House of Giustiniani.

    Sir Alexander Livingston, the fourth of Callendar, was one of the jury on the trial of Murdoc Duke of Albany (1424); and, at the death of James I., was constituted regent of the kingdom, and guardian of the young  monarch, James II. The Chancellor, Chrichton, had, however, custody of the king in the Castle of Edinburgh, and it was only by a ruse that the deliverance of the sovereign was effected. The Queen Dowager (Jane Beaufort), who was a devoted adherent of Livingston’s, contrived to get access to her son, and conveyed him, concealed in a chest, on board a vessel then lying at Leith, which, with its royal freight, immediately set sail, and arrived at Stirling almost as soon as the Chancellor heard of the escape. At Stirling their Majesties were joyfully received by the Regent, but the good understanding between the Queen and Livingston was not of long duration, and in 1439 their animosities had reached to such a height that her Majesty was imprisoned by Livingston’s order. The dissensions, too, between the Regent and the Chancellor continued, till the increasing power and audacity of the young Earl of  Douglas, sixth Earl and third Duke of Touraine, the greatest subject in the kingdom, forced them into a temporary reconciliation. Douglas, besides Galloway and Anandale, and other extensive territories in Scotland, possessed the Duchy of Touraine and County of Longueville in France. In right of his Duchy, he regarded himself as a foreign prince, independent of the laws of his country. He was attended by a constant train of one thousand horse, and his household displayed a regal magnificence, while he even created knights, and convened his great vassals in Parliaments. Soon after their reunion, Livingston and Crichton, dissembling their intentions asked the Earl of Douglas to sup at the royal table in the Castle of Edinburgh; the earl was foolhardy enough to accept the invitation, and proceeded to his sovereign’s presence. At  first he was received with apparent cordiality, but shortly after he had taken his place at the board, the head of a black bull, the certain omen in those days, in Scotland, of immediate death, was placed upon the table. The earl sprang to his feet and attempted to escape, but being speedily seized and overpowered, he was hurried, along with his younger brother David, and Sir Malcolm Fleming, of Cumbernauld, one of his chief retainers, into the courtyard of the castle, where they were stripped of their armour, and all three in succession beheaded on the same block.(4) The death of the young and princely Earl of Douglas excited universal detestation, and his untimely fate was lamented in the ballads of the time:

"Edinburgh Castle, Toune, and Toure,
God grant thou sink for sin,
And that even for the black dinoure
Earl Douglas gat therein." 
    This tragedy was enacted on the 24th November 1440, and for the moment it annihilated all opposition to the regency ; but four years afterwards, William, eighth Earl of Douglas, having married his cousin, the fair Maid of Galloway restored the fortunes of his house, and succeeded so far in influencing the young King, that Livingston was attainted of high treason; Douglas boasting that he would hang his old enemy from the battlements of Livingston’s own castle, or, as he expressed it, "worry the tod in his ain den." This, however, was more easily said than done; and after many cruel scenes of mutual bloodshed, and alternate fields of victory and defeat, Livingston regained the royal favour, and in 1449 was made Lord Justice General, and sent Ambassador to England the same year. Shortly afterwards this great and turbulent lord was peaceably gathered to his fathers. He was succeeded by his eldest son, Sir James Livingston of Callendar, who had been appointed Captain of Stirling Castle, and tutor of James the Second, during the regency of his father. In 1453, Sir James was sworn a Privy Councillor, and appointed Master of the Royal Household, and Great Chamberlain of Scotland. He was afterwards created a peer of parliament by the title of Lord Livingston; the exact date is not known, but it was some time previous to 30th August, 1450, when the extensive estates of the family in Stirlingshire, West Lothian, and Perthshire were united into the one barony of Callendar, by a royal charter in favour of James Lord Livingston.


(1)    Mr. E.B. Livingston wrote: “This Leving or Living, whose name in the contemporary monkish Latin charters is written Levingus, was undoubtedly of Saxon lineage . . ..”  See E.B. Livingston, The Livingstons of Callendar, Edinburgh University Press, 1920, pages 1, 3 and 4.

(2)    Bartholomew de Livingston was not knighted.  He completed his Bachelor of Arts (St.Andrews) in 1499 and his Master of Arts (St. Andrews) in 1501; and was known as Master Bartholomew de Livingston in honour of this achievement. He died (d.s.p.) between June 17 and September 11, 1512;  not a year later at Flodden as indicated here. See The Livingstons of Callendar, ut supra, pages 7 and 9.

(3)  Sir Erchebaldus (Archibald) de Livingston may have been the ancestor of the Livingstons of Livingston, but there is no evidence to confirm this.  Sir William Livingston who married Christian de Callendar was a grandson of Sir Andrew de Livingston who was probably a brother of Sir Archibald.  See The Livingstons of Callendar, ut supra, pages 5, 7, 24, 25 and 485.

(4)   The young Earl of Douglas and his brother were executed on November 24, 1440.  Sir Malcolm Fleming was executed four days later, the delay likely being due to objections raised by Sir Alexander Livingston.  See The Livingstons of Callendar, ut supra, pages 43 and 44.

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