Birth Dateabt 1408
Birth PlaceOrkney, Scotland
Death Datebef 29 Mar 1482
Death PlaceSinclair (Girnigoe) Castle, Caithness, Scotland
MotherLady Egidia DOUGLAS Of Nithsdale , F (~1388->1438)
ChildrenJohn , M (~1430-)
Notes for William (Spouse 1)
Henry, 2nd Earl, had issue:

1. William, third Earl.

2. Beatrix, married, before 7 March 1425-26, Sir James Douglas, Earl of Avandale, afterwards seventh Earl of Douglas, who died before 1443. She died before 8 February 1463, and was buried at St. Bride’s, Douglas, where there is a monument to her.

Source: THE SCOTS PEERAGE, ed. by Sir James Balfour Paul, Vol VI , Edinburgh, 1906, pp. 570-1.

William St. Clair, third Earl of Orkney,
acknowledged Norwegian jurisdiction on being invested with the earldom in 1434, was summoned to Norway in 1446, and when there probably received the diploma setting forth his pedigree. He resigned the earldom in the hands of the King in 1470.

On 28 August 1455 he had a grant of the earldom of Caithness.

Source: THE SCOTS PEERAGE, ed. by Sir James Balfour Paul, Vol VI , Edinburgh, 1906, p. 571.

William Sinclair, Earl of Orkney, Lord High Chancellor of Scotland, obtained from King James II a grant of the earldom of Caithness, to himself and his heirs, 28 August 1455, in compensation, as the charter bears, of a claim of right which he and his heirs had to the lordship of Nithsdale, and he was afterwards designed Earl of Orkney and Caithness.

In this Earl’s time, and in that of his father and grandfathers, there had been serious differences between the Kings of Norway and Denmark and their vassals with regard to the former’s suzerainty and other rights in the islands of Orkney and Shetland, and such strained relations between superior and vassal may have made it more easy for the King of Denmark to cede these islands to Scotland on the marriage of his daughter Margaret to King James III in 1469.

In the following year, the Scottish King, having set his heart on obtaining entire possession of the islands, ‘awakened and set on Foot a dormant Claim against [Earl] William, for the Profits of the Orknays during his Non-age; and under Pretence of that sent him to Prison till he should renounce his Title, which the King accordingly extorted from him, and that, too, at his own Rate, which William was forced to accept or lose all. An Annuity of forty Marks for the Term of Life, the Castle of Ravenscraig, and certain Lands in the County of Fife, of very inconsiderable Income, were all the Equivalent.’

It is worth noting that the King by his own hand gave sasine of the castle of Ravenscraig and certain other Lands in the County of Fife to the Earl. The original instrument was under the hand of John Tailliefers , bears that on the 16 September 1470, in the royal chamber in Edinburgh castle, King James III gave sasine to William Earl of Caithness, and his heirs, of the King’s castle of Ravenscraig, and other lands adjacent, in the sheriffdom of Fife, by the delivery out of his own royal hand of a staff into the hand of the Earl, in presence of the bishops of Aberdeen, Ross, and Orkney, the Earl of Crauford, and other great nobles and ministers of State.

This Earl founded the Collegiate Church of Rosslyn in Midlothian for a provost, six prebends, and two singing boys in the year 1446.

On 7 December 1476 he resigned his lands of the earldom of Caithness, and offices pertaining thereto, in favour of William Sinclair, his son of the marriage between him and his second Countess Marjory, but under reservation of liferent; and King James III, the same day, granted charter in favour of said William, the son, of said lands and offices.

Earl William died sometime between the date of the charter and 29 March 1482.

He was three times married:

(1) First, to Elizabeth Douglas, daughter of Archibald, fourth Earl of Douglas, by Lady Margaret Stewart, daughter of King Robert III. She was already the widow of John, Earl of Buchan, constable of France, and of Sir Thomas Stewart, son of Alexander, Earl of Mar.

By her, who died about 1451, he had:

1. William, called ‘The Waster.’ He was set aside by his father from the succession ...
2. Catherine, married to Alexander, Duke of Albany, ... but the marriage was dissolved

(2) William, Earl of Caithness, married, secondly, before 15 November 1456, Marjory Sutherland, daughter of Alexander Sutherland of Dunbeath, sometime, but wrongly, called Master of Sutherland.

By her he had many children:

3. Sir Oliver Sinclair, who got from his father many lands, and was ancestor of the Sinclairs of Rosslyn
4. William, second Earl of Caithness ...
5. Mr. Alexander, who seems to have been vicar of Legane and a notary, and as such occurs as a witness, 4 February 1509.
6. George
7. Robert, who, designed ‘brother of sir Oliver sinclair of Roslyn, Knight’ had on 27 Feb 1507, a grant from the Crown ...
8. Arthur
9. Eleanor, married to John Stewart, Earl of Atholl
10. Elizabeth, married to the Laird of Houston
11. Margaret, married to David Boswell of Balmuto
12. Katherine
13. Susan
14. Marjory
15. Mariot

These six sons and seven daughters are all instructed by charter mentioned below.

The Earl is said to have had another son:

John (but whether legitimate or illegitimate is unknown), who on the authority of Keith’s Scottish Bishops was Bishop of Caithness, but never consecrated. His name, however, seems to be unknown in record history.

The Earl had certainly another son, an important person in his day:

Sir David, who is called by various writers third lawful son, but who was undoubtedly illegitimate. …

(3) William, Earl of Caithness, married thirdly, a lady who bore the Christian name of Jonet, and who survived him. On 5 july 1483, there was an action by William, Lord Sinclair, ‘againis Jonet the spous of vmquhile [deceased] William erle of cathnes,’ regarding her terce of certain lands. From more than one deed among Lord Rosslyn’s muniments this Countess’s name is found to be Jonet Yeman, and is suggestive of a Dundee origin.

Source: THE SCOTS PEERAGE, ed. by Sir James Balfour Paul, Vol II , Edinburgh, 1906, pp. 333-6

William Sinclair
(1410–1484), 1st Earl of Caithness (1455–1476), 3rd Earl of Orkney (1455–1470), Baron of Roslin was a Scottish nobleman and the builder of Rosslyn Chapel, in Midlothian.

He was the grandson of Henry Sinclair, 1st Earl of Orkney and son of Henry Sinclair, 2nd Earl of Orkney, for a time protector of the young James Stewart, the later James I of Scotland. He was Lord High Admiral of Scotland, and was Lord Chancellor of Scotland from 1454 to 1456. He became the first Lord St. Clair in Scotland in 1449.

He made several big territorial transactions during his life.

The first important one was the exchange of his inherited lordship of Nithsdale to the estates of the earldom of Caithness - which soon led to his obtaining the title of Earl in the peerage of Scotland.

King James III gained his hold and rights of the Norwegian Earldom of Orkney for the Scottish Crown in 1470 (see History of Orkney), against a promised compensation (it turned out to be lands of Ravencraig, in 1471); and William Sinclair was thereafter Earl of Caithness alone until he resigned the Earldom in favour of his son William in 1476.

In 1471 James bestowed the castle and lands of Ravenscraig in Fife on William Sinclair, in exchange for all his rights to the earldom of Orkney, which, by an Act of the Parliament of Scotland, passed on 20 February 1472, was annexed to the Scottish crown.

He was married three times,
first to Lady Elizabeth Douglas, daughter of Archibald Douglas, 4th Earl of Douglas;
secondly to Marjory Sutherland, daughter of Alexander Sutherland of Dunbeath, and
lastly to Janet Yeman.

By Lady Elizabeth Douglas (ca. 1408-1451):
• William Sinclair, 2nd Lord St. Clair (1436) was, in the opinion of the father, a wastrel, wherefore he was disinherited. His family received only the Castle of Ravenscraig in Fife.
• Catherine Sinclair, married Alexander Stewart, Duke of Albany
• (second daughter, name not recorded)

By Marjory Sutherland (married 1456):
• Sir Oliver Sinclair 1452
• William Sinclair, 2nd Earl of Caithness. 1460-1513
• Alexander Sinclair ca.1454
• George Sinclair ca.1453
• Robert Sinclair 1447
• Arthur Sinclair ca.1452
• Eleanor Sinclair, 1457-1518 married John Stewart, 1st Earl of Atholl
• Elizabeth Sinclair, c.1455-1498, married the Laird of Houston
• Margaret Sinclair, ca.1450 married David Boswell of Balmuto
• Katherine Sinclair 1440-1479
• Susan Sinclair ca.1451
• Marjory Sinclair 1455-80
• Mariota Sinclair ca.1455

The earl's second son of his second marriage, William Sinclair, 2nd Earl of Caithness, became the designated heir of the Earldom of Caithness and continued that title. The Barony of Roslin went to his first son by that marriage, Sir Oliver Sinclair.

All in all, the Sinclair ancestry is well and thoroughly represented in Scottish and British high nobility, thanks to marriages of his daughters and other descendants.
William's daughter of his second marriage, Lady Eleanor Sinclair, married John Stewart, 1st Earl of Atholl, a relative of the kings. Lord Henry Darnley and his son James VI of Scotland descend from Eleanor, and through them, many royal houses of Europe. His other daughter by this marriage, Katherine Sinclair, married Alexander Stewart, 1st Duke of Albany, a nephew of the said Atholl.

Source: Wikipedia:,_1st_Earl_of_Caithness
Last Modified 25 Jul 2015Created 9 Jan 2017 using Reunion for Macintosh