Lord and Lady Alva’s Georgian House: The Family

David Allan painted Lord Alva and his family in 1780 and the resulting conversation piece, ‘James Erskine, Lord Alva (1722-1796) and His Family‘ is now held by the National Gallery of Scotland. Lord Alva is the small gentleman in black.  Jean Stirling, Lady Alva is seated next to him and his three surviving children from his first marriage, Jean, John, and Isabella are performing the song ‘Where Helen Lies’. On the wall above their heads are portraits of Lord Alva’s deceased oldest son Charles and his first wife Margaret Macguire. Of the furnishings we can note a red drapery, musical instruments, leather-covered chair and stool, and a green carpet. None of these particular furnishings appear in the inventory records for Drumsheugh House.

lord_alva_family
David Allan, James Erskine, Lord Alva (1722 – 1796) and his family (c. 1780)
National Galleries of Scotland NG 2690

Lady Alva survived her husband by just over a year. Lord Alva’s daughter Isabella soon challenged the way her father’s fortune had been distributed. Her legal team argued that she was entitled to more than she had been given since she was a direct heir. According to Isabella, her nieces and nephews had benefited at her expense.[1]

Lord Alva and his second wife had had no children of their own but Lady Alva had good relationships with her step-children. She had been particularly fond of Lord Alva’s oldest son John, who had predeceased them, and his family and wished to leave them ‘part of her own independence [sic] fortune’.[2] This is why the inventories were created: the Court needed to determine which of the furnishings in the house had belonged to Lady Alva in her own right and which belonged to the Erskine family more generally. It is worth stressing that, although detailed, these are not complete lists of the household’s contents. The inventories presented to the Court on behalf of the Trustees record items for which the ownership and value was disputed by Lord and Lady Alva’s heirs. Many of the items under consideration belonged to Jean Stirling in her own right whether from her own inheritance or because her husband had gifted them to her.

See Lord and Lady Alva’s Georgian House: The Special Inventories

[1] Charles Hope, Information for Mrs. Isabella Erskine, otherwise Tytler, youngest lawful Daughter procreated of the Marriage between the deceased The Honourable James Erskine of Alva, one of the Senators of the College of Justice, and Mrs. Margaret Macguire, his first wife, now Spouse of Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick Tytler for his Interest, and Richard Hotchkis, Writer to the Signet, his Attorney, Pursuers; Against Mrs. Christian Carruthers, otherwise Erskine, Relict of the deceased John Erskine, Advocate, and others, Trustees under the Settlements of the said James Erskine of Alva, defenders (21 June 1798).

[2] Archibald Fletcher, Information for Mrs. Christian Carruthers, otherwise Erskine, Relict of the deceased John Erskine, Esq. Advocate, and others, Trust-dispones of the Honourable James Erskine of Alva, deceased, one of the Senators of the College of Justice, and of Dame Jane Stirling of Achyle, the second wife of the said Honourable James Erskine of Alva, Defenders; Against Mrs. Isabella Erskine, otherwise Tytler, youngest lawful daughter procreated of the Marriage between Lord Alva and Mrs. Margaret McGuire, his first wife, now Spouse of Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick Tytler, late of the Elgin Fencibles; and the said Colonel Patrick Tytler, for his Interest, and their Attorney, Pursuers (6 September 1804).

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