William Henry Kerr was born a member of the Scottish peerage to William, third marquess of Lothian, and his first wife Margaret, daughter of Sir Thomas Nicholson of Kemnay, first baronet. William was styled Master Jedburgh until 1722, when his father was elevated to a marquessate, after which he was referred to as Lord Jedburgh until 1735. Following his father’s military footsteps, on 20 June 1735 Ancram was commissioned as a cornet to the regiment (11th dragoons) of his grand-uncle, Lord Mark Kerr. Ancram married Lady Caroline D’Arcy, only daughter of Robert, third earl of Holdernesse, in November of 1735 and upon his marriage, he assumed the title of earl of Ancram. Lady Caroline brought a sum of £20,000 the marriage and the couple would have three children: William John, 5th Marquess of Lothian; Louisa, who would marry Lord George Henry Lennox; and Willielmina, who would marry Colonel John Macleod. Ancram became captain of the 11th foot in Cornwallis on 9 January 1739 and was later promoted to captain and lieutenant colonel of the first Regiment of Foot Guards in 1741.
At the battle of Fontenoy on 30 April 1735, Ancram acted as aide-de-camp to the Duke of Cumberland, where the earl was injured by a musket ball to the head. Nevertheless, this temporary setback did not hinder Ancram’s military career. He was promoted to the rank of colonel on 4 June 1745 and returned to the 11th dragoons after being promoted to lieutenant colonel on 22 June. He was commander of the Calvary of the left wing during the battle of Culloden on 16 April 1746. His orders where to stand ready to pursue the highland army, who was anticipated to break apart and retreat. The pursuit resulted in slaughter. During this battle Ancram’s younger brother, Lord Robert, was killed when his regiment faced the brunt of the highland charge.
|London Gazette mention of Ancram's wound at Fontenoy (1745)|
Following this English victory at Culloden, Ancram was placed in command of forces in Aberdeen and the East Coast of Scotland in order to suppress lingering Jacobite revolts. In a letter to the Duke of Newcastle dated March 1746, the Duke of Cumberland explained how he dispatched Ancram from Aberdeen with 100 Dragoons and 300 Foot to Castle Corgaff to take a “quantity of Spanish arms and powder” (Williams, 39). The Jacobites fled upon seeing his approach and Ancram was able to take the castle without resistance. Upon reaching the castle, the English found the munitions had already been destroyed. In his letter the Duke of Cumberland commended Ancram’s actions, stating he “behaved with the greatest prudence and caution, and much like an Officer” (Ibid.). In August 1747, Ancram returned to the continent and was appointed colonel of the 24th foot on 1 December 1747.
|Piece in the London Gazette announcing promotion (1747)|
Upon his return, Ancram was elected to Parliament as the representative of Richmond in 1747 in the interest of his brother-in-law, Robert D’Arcy, fourth earl of Holdernesse. He was reelected in 1754. Although he served as a Member of Parliament, Ancram continued his career in the military and became colonel of the 11th dragoons on 8 February 1752. He was promoted to major general in 1755 and served as lieutenant general under Charles Spencer, third duke of Marlborough, in the 1758 St. Malo expedition. In the House of Commons, Ancram followed the Duke of Cumberland’s political agenda, which meant opposing the negotiations of the Treaty of Paris. In 1762, Ancram’s brother-in-law sold the earl’s Richmond seat to Sir Lawrence Dundas, which put Ancram in an awkward position. The earl remained in the House during the December vote on the peace preliminaries, which he voted against having missed the message from the Duke of Cumberland telling him to refrain from doing so. After this incident, Ancram resigned his seat in Parliament for £4,000.
Ancram’s father passed away on 28 July 1768, thus allowing Ancram to claim the title of 4th marquess of Lothian. Soon after, he was elected a Scottish Representative Peer on 26 October 1768 and was inducted into the Order of the Thistle at St. James Palace on this same day. He received his final military promotion to general in 1770 and passed away five years later on 12 April 1775 in Bath.
“Kerr, William Henry, Earl of Ancram (c. 1710-1775).” History of Parliament. Accessed June 30, 2015. http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1754-1790/member/kerr-william-henry-1710-1775.
“Kerr, William Henry, Earl of Ancram (c. 1710-75).” History of Parliament. Accessed June 30, 2015. http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1715-1754/member/kerr-william-henry-1710-75.
The London Gazette. no. 8428. pg. 5. 30 April 1745. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/8428/page/5
The London Gazette. no. 8698. pg. 1. 1 December 1747. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/8698/page/1.
Paul, James Balfour. The Scots Peerage. Edinburg: David Douglas, 1908. https://books.google.com/books?id=ErEEAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA480#v=onepage&q&f=false.
Spain, Jonathan. “Kerr, William Henry, fourth marquess of Lothian (c.1712–1775).” Jonathan Spain In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online ed., edited by Lawrence Goldman. Oxford: OUP, 2004. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/15470 (accessed June 30, 2015).
Williams, Godfrey Trevelyan. The historical records of the Eleventh Hussars, Prince Albert’s Own. London: Newnes, 1908. https://books.google.com/books?id=TDEcAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA362&lpg=PA362&dq=historical+records+of+the+11th+hussars&source=bl&ots=xse-94-YEH&sig=6GKBQ5dSg6KEV8C8Pnaemm6FkH4&hl=en&sa=X&ei=a7eSVavbMMGKsAXz1oKwDA&ved=0CCwQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=ancram&f=false.