In 1358 Walter de Maule made a grant of the lands and barony of Carnegie (derived from the Gaelic ‘cathair an eige’ – ‘fort at the gap’) lying in the parish of Carmylie, to John de Balinhard. The origin of the de Balinhards are uncertain, save that their lands were near Arbroath. Nisbet suggests that the de Balinhards were related to the Ramsays. but there is no direct evidence of this. Duthac de Carnegie acquired part of the lands of Kinnaird in Forfarshire around 1401, and subsequently obtained from Robert, Duke of Albany, Governor of Scotland, a charter dated 21 February 1409, confirming him in these lands. Duthac was killed at the Battle of Harlaw in 1411, leaving an infant son, Walter. Walter Carnegie of Kinnaird fought at the Battle of Brechin in May 1452 under the standard of James II borne by the Earl of Huntly. The rebels, commanded by the Earl of Crawford, were defeated. Crawford later burned Kinnaird in revenge. Walter later rebuilt the house using a corner of the old foundations, and it remained largely unaltered until the time of Sir Robert Carnegie who enlarged it, probably around 1555.
John Carnegie of Kinnaird fought and died at the Battle of Flodden in September 1513. His son, Sir Robert, who extended Kinnaird, was appointed one of the judges of the College of Justice in 1547 and sent to England the following year to negotiate the ransom of the Earl of Huntly, Chancellor of Scotland, who had been captured at the Battle of Pinkie. It is said that he was the first Carnegie to claim that his ancestors were cup bearers to the kings of Scots, the family arms bear an antique cup as a reference to this royal office.
Sir Robert’s son, John, extended the fam-ily lands and was a faithful and loyal adherent to Mary, Queen of Scots. He, unlike many, never abandoned his loyalty to the queen. He died without issue in 1595, and the estates passed through his younger brother. Sir David Carnegie, born in 1575, was created Lord Carnegie of Kinnaird in April 1616. He was advanced to the rank of Earl of Southesk in June 1633. Sir John Carnegie, the second son of David Carnegie of Panbride and brother of David, first Earl of Southesk, was also elevated to the peerage in 1639 as Lord Lour, and in 1647 he was created Earl of Ethie. In 1662 he procured an exchange of his titles of Earl of Ethie and Lord Lour, for those of Earl of Northesk and Lord Rosehill.
James, second Earl of Southesk, attended on the king in exile, Charles II, in Holland in 1650 and was one of the Commissioners chosen for Scotland to sit in the Parliament of England during the Protectorate. He succeeded his father in 1658, although he was nearly killed in a duel with the Master of Gray in London in 1660. The younger son of the third Earl was not so fortunate in his duelling career and was killed in Paris in 1681 by William, son of the Duchess of Lauderdale. The Carnegies were Jacobites, and although the fourth Earl took no part in opposing the Revolution of 1688, he thereafter shunned the royal court. He had married Mary, daughter of the Earl of Lauderdale, by whom he had an only son, James, the fifth Earl. He followed the ‘Old Pretender’ in the rising of 1715, and for this he was attainted by Act of Parliament and his estates forfeited to the Crown. In 1717 a special Act of Parliament was passed to enable the Crown to make some provision for his wife and children. Sadly, the royal provision for the fifth Earl’s children could not protect them from the high rate of infant mortality at that time, and both died young. The earl himself died in France in 1730, and the representation of the family then devolved on Sir James Carnegie of Pittarrow, who was descended from a younger son of the first Earl of Southesk. This line had been created Baronets of Nova Scotia in 1663. The sixth Baronet, Sir James Carnegie, was a distinguished soldier who was able to secure in 1855 an Act of Parliament reversing the attainder and restoring the titles of Earl of Southesk and Lord Carnegie of Kinnaird and Leuchars with their original precedence. The ninth Earl harkened back to his family’s early ancestry when he chose the title of ‘Baron Balinhaird’ on his elevation to the peerage of the United Kingdom in December 1869.
The Carnegies, in common with most Scottish noble families, sought to secure their fortunes by judicious and powerful alliances by marriage. No such alliance was more splendid than that of the eleventh Earl who, as Lord Carnegie, married Her Highness Princess Maude, younger daughter of the Princess Royal and granddaughter of Edward VII. The princess assumed the title of her husband on her marriage in accordance with the English custom, although she retained her royal status. On her death, her son, as well as being heir to his father’s earldom of Southesk and the chiefship of the Carnegies, inherited the dukedom of Fife, the title of his maternal grandfather. The eleventh Earl died in 1992 and his son, the Duke of Fife, succeeded to the chiefship. He thereafter decreed that the subsidiary title of the dukedom, borne by the heir apparent, would be Earl of Southesk in honour of his Carnegie ancestors.