The Wicked Earl

In the Old Parochial Records of Scotland, I found the following: Susan Kirk Dean born 11/11/1787,  christened 18/11/1787, father John Dean, gardener at Ellon Castle, mother Susan Kirk, witnesses Matthew and Lavinia Henry.

Susan Kirk Dean was the sixth child in the family and the only one I have ever found a record for, but this information led me to Ellon, a village just north of Aberdeen in Scotland. There I found the ruins of Ellon Castle and the very garden where John Dean used to work.

It also took me to the village library, where research told me that in 1787 Ellon Castle belonged to George Gordon, 3rd Earl of Aberdeen, known as “The Wicked Earl”. He installed a young girl, Penelope Dering, from the village of Pett in Sussex as its mistress. They had 2 children, Alexander born in 1783 and a younger daughter called Penelope, date of birth not recorded.

Now here is a story, I thought! You may recall another George Gordon in my last blog who started the Gordon riots in London in 1780. These two George Gordons were first cousins. While the Gordon of the riots was certainly mad, this George Gordon Earl of Aberdeen was pretty eccentric as well.

A book called Scotland’s Castles and Great Houses by Magnus Magnusson, gave me even more fascinating details about the “Wicked Earl”. Besides his primary residence of Haddo House where his wife and legitimate children lived, he had three great houses (including Ellon Castle). In each of these, he installed a brown-eyed mistress and raised a family. “He was an inordinately vain and self-centred man who always referred to himself as ‘us’ (not even ‘we’).”

For his eldest son and heir, Lord Haddo, the Earl purchased the neighbouring estate of Gight from Mrs. Byron, who was his cousin and the mother of the famous poet Lord Byron (another George Gordon). The Byrons were in some debt as a result of overspending. Apparently Lord Byron never forgave his Gordon relatives.

In 1791, at the age of 27, the Earl’s son Lord Haddo was killed when his horse threw him, leaving behind a wife and seven children. His wife went back to England when the Earl cut her out of his will because of her outspoken opinion of him. Her eldest son became the 4th Earl of Aberdeen and a future prime minister of Britain.

You can’t make this stuff up.

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