|Crest of the Sinclair Earls of Caithness|
Though I know little about my fourteenth great-grandfather, one of the actions he took speaks volumes about his character. In 1436, the earl’s first son was born and was named after himself, William. This lad was the son of the earl’s first wife, Lady Elizabeth Douglas.
|Nithsdale Arms of Sir William Douglas|
Unfortunately, as young William grew up, he did not meet up to his father’s expectations. In fact, so far was he from what his father wanted in a son that he has become known in history as William the Wastrel. No doubt, he broke his mother’s heart as well. Only 43 at her death, she left behind young William, aged 15, and two daughters.
Earl William married again five years later in 1456 to Margaret Sutherland, the daughter of Alexander Sutherland of Dunbeath and my fourteenth great-grandmother. In 1458, Margaret gave birth to Earl William’s second son, and again the boy was named William.
It was not altogether uncommon for siblings to have the same name in the Middle Ages, but I can’t help wondering if Earl William wasn’t already seeing behavior from William the Elder that made him seek a more admirable namesake in his younger son.
Though it was customary for the elder son to inherit the title, by resigning his title in his own lifetime, Earl William was able to secure the succession for the younger son. To the elder William, he gave the right to call himself 2nd Lord Sinclair, a lesser title in the peerage created for the father before he had been made Earl of Caithness and Orkney.
"Earl of Caithness." Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earl_of_Caithness
"Lord Sinclair." Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_Sinclair
"William Sinclair, 1st Earl of Caithness." Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Sinclair,_1st_Earl_of_Caithness
© Eileen Cunningham, 2013