Katherine Erskine married Thomas Hamilton, later 2nd Earl of Haddington, and was known as Lady Binning. She died in 1635, and her mother Marie Stewart, Countess of Mar, was anxious to recover jewels which her servant Charles Mowatt had pawned. He had also died.
Marie Stewart gave her agent John Wallace an inventory of the jewels to check off, including a diamond ‘feather’, which Wallace was able to locate in London. This feather had only 49 diamonds. A more impressive feather with an ‘A’ made for James VI’s hat included 110 diamonds large and small.
Wallace couldn’t find a pair of ‘garnishings’ described by Marie Stewart. These were bands or chains of settings worn on a coif, and may have been a wedding gift to the Countess, who married the Earl of Mar in December 1592. Wedding celebrations probably included a masque at Alloa Tower, dramatically interrupted by the discovery of the ‘Spanish Blanks’.
James VI presented garnishings to other brides who were maids of honour to Anna of Denmark.
The National Library of Scotland has a couple of letters about Lady Binning’s jewels. Wallace thought that the will of Charles Mowatt might ‘happily’ have the answers. However, the entry in the registered wills does not include Mowatt’s testament or latterwill.
To the right honorable The Countesse of Marre elder be theis I praie
According to your Ladyship’s desire, soe did I answere your Ladyship’s letter, and gave it to my Ladie Sterling, but haveing latelie seene an Inventor of the Jewells delivered by your late dawghter my Ladie Binnyng to Charles Mowatt; made me earnestlie to trye of theis that hath the Jewells whether they were all in theire hands according to the inventour or not.
The Jewell with the 49 diamonds and that in the forme of a feather I have seene and findes all perfect and right as your Ladyship did write.
I have alsoe spoken with the other man that hath the rest to whom I acquainted with what I alleadged he had in his hands whoe confesseth all according to your inventour except the two garnishengs which he sweareth he never had nor saw, neither did Charles before his discesse ever acquaint this berar or me of anie such garnishengs amongst the other Jewells he gave up to us by wreitt
This berar Mr Eliazar Borthick thinks it maie be he have left them in Edinburgh, and his latterwill which he made before he came from thence maie happily make knowen and discover where they ar, I remitt all further to my Lord your sonnes letters to your Ladyship and the berar whoe is sufficient of himself to satisfie your Ladyship more at large,
Committing your Ladyship to god almightie in whom I rest,
London this 15th December 1635
Your Ladyship’s most humble servant
Katherine Erskine, Lady Binning, was an immensely popular house guest in her day, and her friends in Glasgow once wrote to her brother, Henry Erskine, Master of Cardross, asking him to persuade her mother to let ‘our nymphe’ stay longer.