The great town and Castle of Stirling lie at the crossroads of Scotland, which many account for the derivation of the name, which means ‘place of strife’. The castle has been a silent witness to many of the greatest events in Scottish history, most of which have been associated with strife, murder and battle.
Thoraldus, who appears in a charter of David I granted around 1147, held the lands of Cadder. His descendant, the fifth Laird of Cadder, Sir Alexander de Strivelyn, died in 1304. His heir, Sir John de Strivelyn, was killed at the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333. His grandson, Sir William, had two sons. The succession passed through the line of his first son, William, for four generations, and then passed to the grandson of the second son, Sir John de Strivelyn, third Laird of Cragernard. Sir John was governor of the royal Castle at Dumbarton and sheriff of Dunbartonshire. He was appointed armour bearer by James I, and Comptroller of the Royal Household. He was knighted in 1430. His son, William acquired the lands of Glorat from the Earl of Lennox. He also held Dumbarton Castle, an appointment later passed to his son, George, who defended it for the Crown from 1534 to 1547. He fought at the Battle of Pinkie in 1547, later dying of wounds that he received there. His great-grandson, Sir Mungo Stirling of Glorat, was a staunch adherent of Charles I, who knighted him in recognition of his bravery. Sir Mungo’s son, George Stirling, was created a Baronet of Nova Scotia in 1666. The family were also granted a royal augmentation to their arms of a double tressure, similar to that which appeared on the royal arms of Scotland, in recognition of their loyalty to the Stuart dynasty.
The Stirlings obtained the lands of Keir in Perthshire in the mid fifteenth century. When Prince James, son of James III, rebelled against his father, Sir William Stirling of Keir was one of his supporters, and when the prince succeeded as James IV he was high in that monarch’s favour. His descendant, Sir Archibald Stirling of Keir, from whom the Stirlings of Garden also descend, was a prominent lawyer who supported the king during the civil war, and on the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 was appointed to the Supreme Court with the title of ‘Lord Garden’. The Lairds of Keir remained loyal to the Stuarts, and fought in both the risings of 1715 and 1745. James Stirling of Keir was imprisoned and his estates were forfeited for his part in the Fifteen, but they were later restored.
In the nineteenth century, William Stirling of Keir travelled widely throughout Spain and the Middle East, later writing numerous books, including a life of Velasquez. He became MP for Perthshire and succeeded his maternal uncle in the Maxwell baronetcy of Pollock in 1865. Keir is still a family home, and is one of the most splendid sporting estates in Scotland.
The Stirlings of Faskine in Lanarkshire claim descent from a nephew of William the Lion, but were actually a colateral branch of the Stirlings of Cadder. John Stirling, descended from this house, became Lord Provost of Glasgow. He died in 1709. Sir Walter Stirling of Faskine served in the Royal Navy, subsequently being appointed commander-in-chief of the fleet at the Nore by George III. He was offered a baronetcy, which he declined. His eldest son, who was a Member of Parliament, was, however, created a baronet on 15 December 1800. This title is now extinct. His second son became a vice-admiral, and his grandson also attained high naval rank. As Rear Admiral Sir James Stirling of Drumpellier, he fought in the war against America in 1812, and was later made Governor of Western Australia. In 1852 he served as Junior Lord of the Admiralty, and his last command was of the fleet off China.
Another baronetcy was bestowed upon the family when James Stirling, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, received the honour in recognition of his actions to suppress riots in the city in 1792. This title became extinct on the death of his only son while serving in the Coldstream Guards.
The Stirling family’s historic connection with Dumbarton Castle was continued into the twentieth century, when Sir George Stirling, ninth Baronet of Glorat, was appointed keeper of the castle in 1927. Today, the family still holds high office: Lieutenant Colonel Stirling of Garden is the Lord Lieutenant of Stirlingshire. The present chief succeeded on the death of his father, Sir Charles Stirling of Cadder, in 1986. Sir Charles was a distinguished diplomat who was made not only a Knight of the Order of St Michael and St George, but also of the Royal Victorian Order, which is exclusively the gift of the Crown for services to the royal house.