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Location Information
Date 28th Oct. 1562
NGR NJ 70 02
Lon. & Lat. 57.11216,-2.485509
Forces George Gordon, 4th Earl of Huntly vs. Mary Queen of Scots & 1st Earl Moray
Nearby Castles Midmar
Overview map
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Corrichie Burn

The Corrichie Burn or Howe of Corrichie lies about 16 miles to the west of Aberdeen, in the Hill o' Fare. On the north side of the Hill O' Fare is the Gordon Castle of Midmar. Corrichie is a small box end canyon on the south side of the Hill O' Fare, and at the time of the battle would have been very boggy, with large stands of trees and rocky outcroppings. Today, the whole burn is heavily forested with tree plantings of the forestry service, and other than tracks and clearings made by the forestry service is all but inaccessible. The monument for the battle is not in the burn, but is down along the B977 (NJ 7301) at the point the soldiers probably crossed over into the burn.

Some of the named features inside the and around the burn are:

'Queens Chair', the saddle ridge the forces probably crossed into the burn, and the reported seat of Mary during the battle (Although she was in Aberdeen the whole time)

'Queens Well' again, named after Mary who was not present at the battle.

'Marquis' Hillock' at the bend in the Corrichie where the Earl supposedly fell dead (Why it is named Marquis and not Earl is not know, the Huntlys didn't become Marquis until the 6th Earl of Huntly).

At the far end of the burn, between the hill tops of Blackyduds and Craigrath is a small water fall.

Over the saddle between Blackyduds and Greymore is Midmar Castle.

Events leading up to the battle

George Gordon, 4th Earl of Huntly, was cousin to King James V, and they were raised together at court. Huntly used his royal influence to gain power in the north, while supporting most of his cousin's actions against England. Huntly refused to attack the English in England, and was not present at the Battle of Solway Moss, when the Scots were defeated by the English. James V, became ill, and retreated from the battle, only to die a few days later. 6 days before James' death, Mary of Guise gave birth to Mary the future queen of the scots. Huntly's lack of support for his King during this battle may have influenced some of Mary's attitude towards him.

Until Mary could be of age to rule, Scotland was governed by a continuously bickering and murderous coalition of nobles. The regents, constables, royals and parliament members were in a constant state of flux as one side or the other would gain an edge in power. Eventually Mary of Guise gained the upper hand, and position as the Queen Regent and rewarded those who placed her in power, Huntly being one of them. Huntly was to receive the royal lands and title of Earl of Moray. Moray up to this point was a 'royal gift' and not a hereditary title. The crown could give it and take it away as they choose. The Earldom of Moray is said to have been one of the richest in Scotland, and was a great prize to any who could control it.

Henry VIII decided that he wanted the young Mary was to be betrothed to his son Edward, to cement the two crowns together. Thus started what became known as the 'Rough Wooing' of Mary Queen of Scots. The infant Mary was removed from Scotland to be raised in France and married to the French prince.

Mary returned to Scotland after her mother died (the civil wars in the vacuum of power left by the death of James V were still taking place) in 1560. Huntly figured she would look to him to help her regain control of her throne. Huntly was the most powerful lord of the north, and was the most powerful Catholic lord still in Scotland, most of the lowland lords had already joined the reformation at this point. Mary however had other plans. She knew she would have to make peace with the protestant lords, and basically decided that Huntly was an old pompous man that needed his wings clipped.

Huntly couldn't do anything to make peace with Mary. Everything Huntly did seemed to put Mary's back up. Mary at this point was relying heavily on her half brother, the bastard Lord James Stewart. In order to reward James she took away the Earldom of Moray from Huntly and gave it to James. This would set up a feud between the Gordon's and the Earls of Moray that would last until the 3rd Earl of Moray Married Elizabeth Gordon, the 6th Earl of Huntly's Daughter.

In 1561, the James Stewart, who regarded the Lord Chancellor Huntly as a dangerous rival, had acquired such a predominant influence in the councils of Queen Mary, that he succeeded in wresting from Huntly the title and estates of the earldom of Moray. Instigated by Moray, the Queen in 1562 set out on an expedition to the north with the view of crushing the power of the Gordons. At Moray's instance Sir John Gordon (a son of Huntly) had previously been imprisoned in connection with a scuffle between him and Lord Ogilvie, but had made his escape from prison, and had proceeded to his father's castle. Moray prevailed upon the Privy Council to adopt the resolution that the Earl of Huntly "shall either submit himself, and deliver his disobedient son John, or utterly to use all force against him, for subversion of his house forever."

John Gordon had entered into a marriage with the widow of Lord Ogilvie, in order to obtain the lands and estates that he controlled. Ogilvie had removed his son from the will. John Gordon then divorced the widow and continued his claim on the lands of the Ogilvies, this led to the son of Lord Ogilvie to summon John Gordon to court to protest the usurpation of the lands. The courts found in favor of Ogilvie, but John refused to hand over the estates. This culminated in a duel between Ogilvie and John Gordon, with John cutting off Ogilvie's arm. John was taken into custody but later escaped.

During her march to and through the north, Huntly did everything he could to appease Mary, short of giving up his son. This made Mary very angry. Mary refused Huntly's invites to stay at Huntly Castle, sent forces to lay siege to Findlater (Where John Gordon was hiding out) and Deskford, and continued her way to Inverness. John Gordon's forces at Findlater were able to surprise and over power the forces that Mary had sent. Mary was refused entrance into Inverness Castle by Adam Gordon (much to the surprise of Huntly). Mary now feared an all out rebellion by Huntly and traveled back to Aberdeen where other forces were waiting. Huntly was 'put to the horn' and declared a rebel. Huntly went into hiding.

Moray's men put out the rumor that Huntly was to seize upon the Queen's person to marry her by force to his son, Sir John Gordon and to cut off Moray, Morton, and Maitland, his principal enemies. Influenced by these misrepresentations, the Queen put the fate of Huntly into the hands of Moray. Soon after her return to Aberdeen, an expedition was secretly prepared against Huntly's castle. If resistance was offered, the troops sent for the purpose were to take it by force, and if admitted without opposition, they were to bring Huntly a prisoner to Aberdeen. Intimation, however, of this enterprise and its object was conveyed to the Earl, and he contrived to baffle its success. His wife received the party with all hospitality; threw open her doors, and entreated that they would examine the whole premises, to ascertain whether they afforded any ground of suspicion. But Huntly himself took care to be out of the way, having retired to Badenoch.

Thus foiled again, Moray, on the 15th October, called a Privy Council, at which he got it declared that unless Huntly appeared on the following day before her Majesty, 'to answer to such things as are to lay to his charge,' he should be put to the horn for his contempt of her authority, and 'his houses, strengths, and friends taken from him.' However willing he might have been to have ventured thus into the lion's den, Huntly could not possibly have appeared within the time appointed. On the 17th of October he was therefore denounced a rebel in terms of the previous proclamation, and his lands and titles declared forfeited. Even yet, however, Huntly acted with forbearance. He sent his Countess to Aberdeen on the 20th, who requested admission to the Queen's presence, that she might make manifest her husband's innocence. So far from obtaining an audience, this lady, who was respected and loved over the whole country, was not allowed to come within two miles of the Court, and she returned home with a heavy heart. As a last proof of his fidelity, Huntly sent a messenger to Aberdeen, offering to enter into ward till his cause might be tried by the whole nobility. Even this offer was rejected, the unfortunate Earl at length collected his followers round him, and, raising the standard of rebellion, not against the Queen, but against Moray, advanced upon Aberdeen.

Order of Battle

Huntly put out the call for his levies to meet him at the Hill of Noth. All total Huntly gathered around 700 men and marched them towards Aberdeen via Kieg and Loch of Skene. Huntly's forces camped in the Moss of Air (sometimes called Gordon's Moss) oustide of Garlogie on the night of 27th October 1562. Undoubtably Huntly had hoped to gather more forces along the way, instead he found more and more of his men deserting as they learned of his plans to remove Mary from the clutches of the Earl of Moray. Most of his levies and those that were bonded to him wanted no part in a rebellion against their sovereign.

On the morning of the 28th, Huntly's scouts warned him of the approach of over 2000 men under the leadership of Moray. Huntly was no fool and realized that his compliment of roughly 500 men were no match for the forces arrayed against them. Huntly decided to beat a hasty retreat to the south and west of the Hill of Fare. Most likely he wanted to reach Aboyne Castle and relative safety. Along his march, Huntly's forces were constantly harassed and slowed by the 100 horsemen of Moray's forces. Huntly knew he would have no choice but to churn and fight, or to be cut down a piece at a time.

One of the men with Huntly was George Gordon of Midmar, a distant cousin. George's castle of Midmar was on the North of the Hill of Fare, and undoubtedly he was very familiar with the area. It was probably George who directed Huntly to the rugged terrain of the Corrichie burn, with possibly the idea of retreating all the way to Midmar castle, where the cavalry could not follow. Midmar Castle at this time would have been a very small fortification, and would have been a very desperate gamble, although it would have provided some protection with it's defenses, and the retreat would have spread out the forces coming after them.

What his true intentions were, we will never know. The vanguard of the approaching forces caught up with Huntly as they crossed into the Burn of Corrichie. In which direction Huntly entered the burn in not recorded. They either came up over the saddle known as the Queen's seat, or came in through the mounth of the Burn. Either way, when the vanguard caught up to them Huntly turned his forces around and attacked, scattering the vanguard and sending them into retreat. By now, the main body had caught up and Moray lined up his Lothian Pikemen into a phalanx and engaged Huntly's forces. Huntly's men, armed mostly with sword could not penetrate the pikes, and could not turn their backs to the pikemen and run. Huntly surrendered, and the battle was over.

Huntly was an old man (by the standards of the time), and was not in good shape. Fine living and enjoyment of food had made him a very heavyset man. It is unknown what caused him to die upon the battlefield, but soon after surrendering, he fell off from his horse and died. John Gordon, the son that had given Moray the excuse to march to the north was one of the captives as was Huntly's younger son Adam (who was 17 at the time).


John and Adam Gordon were taken to Aberdeen to be tried for treason. John was found guilty of treason, and on Oct. 30 he was beheaded by the Maiden in the Castlegate with Queen Mary watching. John was burried at St. Nicholas Church, Aberdeen. Adam was also found guilty, but due to his young age he was eventually released. Other Gordons who took part were not so lucky and many were executed, and many castles were set to the torch, Midmar being one of them.

George Gordon (Huntly's oldest son and heir) was in the border region of Scotland at the time of the battle, and was ordered to Edinburgh, where he was also found guilty of treason, and was sentenced to be executed. George's sentenced was stayed, and he was moved to Dunbar Castle to await the trial of his father's corpse.

Huntly's Corpse was embalmed, and moved by boat to Edinburgh, where it was put on trial for treason. George Gordon was forced to attend the macabre trial of his father's corpse. Huntly's Corpse was found guilty, he was stripped of all titles and lands. His castles were plundered and great damage was done to them. Huntly's body was eventually taken to Elgin.

George Gordon was retained at Dunbar Castle, where his execution was put off by Queen Mary. The tides of fortune for Queen Mary was turning, and she needed someone to check the growing power of the Earl of Moray. George was eventually released, and the titles and lands that his father had held were reinstated, and George became the 5th Earl of Huntly.