Lord Sinclair

Born: 21 June, 1914, in Dumfriesshire

Died: 1 April, 2004, in Dumfriesshire, aged 89

LORD Sinclair inherited a title which was created in the 15th century. His ancestors had "resigned" the earldoms of Orkney and Caithness to the Crown in 1470 and the Great Seal of 1677 "confirmed the Earl’s status, his honours with remainders to male heirs whatsoever." This sense of tradition, duty and service were the foundations of the 17th lord’s whole life. He was generous of his time, advice and support to numerous projects, locally and nationally, throughout his life.

After a distinguished army career, he gave unstinting service to his country and to the Royal Family. He acted as an Extra Equerry to the Queen Mother and served on many committees and associations. He was an authority on heraldry and a member of the Royal Company of Archers for more than half a century.

Charles Murray Kennedy St Clair (he inherited the title of Lord Sinclair in 1957) attended Eton College and Magdalene College, Cambridge. In 1935, he joined the Coldstream Guards and was commissioned in 1938. In the first years of the Second World War, he was posted to Palestine; he was wounded near Al Kair and mentioned in despatches for "distinguished conduct in armed operations". After postings in Egypt, he was promoted to the rank of major in 1943. He retired from the army in 1947.

He had always been a keen student of heraldic matters and was appointed Portcullis Pursuivant of Arms in 1949. The title was created by Henry VII and Sinclair was present as a herald at all major state occasions, including the Queen’s coronation, state visits and openings of parliament.

From 1959 to 1963, Sinclair was a representative Scottish peer in the Lords. This, it is thought, placed him in the unique position of being able to attend the state opening of parliament either as Portcullis Pursuivant or as a member of the Upper House.

In 1957, he was appointed York Herald, which allowed him to further his contact with the Court of Heralds, and his wide knowledge of the history, traditions and symbols of heraldry expanded the archives at the Royal College in London. He was also available for consultation by members of the public and his exacting and wise counsel proved of immense help to numerous private inquirers.

Sinclair’s connection with the Royal Family was firmly established in 1953 when he was appointed an Extra Equerry to the Queen Mother. He had, in fact, been a personal friend of the Queen Mother for some years, but spoke about that friendship rarely. He always respected the Royals’ privacy and was totally discreet. He considered it a privilege to serve and was devoted to the Queen Mother.

In fact, the "extra" in the title was a touch superfluous as he was, for many years, a fully operative member of the Queen Mother’s household. Typically, she laid down a "Clarence House rule" - once an equerry, always an equerry, which meant that no-one ever retired. Sinclair’s appointment to her household was made just after she had been widowed and the post required a great deal of tact and sympathy. Sinclair helped the Queen Mother settle in her new home, just up The Mall in Clarence House, and he was often with her on visits to Scotland, staying with her at Birkhall on the Balmoral estate. Both keen anglers, they were often out fishing the Aberdeenshire rivers in all kinds of weathers.

In 1960, Sinclair was given a position that allowed him to develop close connections with the Queen. He was appointed honorary genealogist to the Royal Victorian Order: an honour, founded in 1898, totally within the gift of the monarch. He was on parade when the order had its meetings and ceremonies at the Savoy Chapel in London.

In 1982, Sinclair retired from the College of Heralds and took up the post of Lord-Lieutenant of Dumfries and Galloway and Lord of Stewartry. That, too, is a unique title, originating in the 12th century through John Balliol. General Sir Norman Arthur, a successor as Lord- Lieutenant, said: "It was an honour to serve with him. He was always immensely courteous, gentle and gallant. He never made a fuss and was liked and respected throughout Dumfries and Galloway.

"It is typical of him - modest to the last - that the Thanksgiving Service is to be held locally, in the church where he and his family have worshipped for years."

Sinclair furthered many projects in the region and supported small and large enterprises, including the Dee Fishery Board and Galloway Golf Club. As Lord-Lieutenant, everything was done with a quiet and committed enthusiasm. He was a man of immense charm, politeness and kindness, who was possessed of great personal humility.

Sinclair was appointed LVO in 1953 and a CVO in 1990. He married Anne Cotterell in 1968, and she and their son and two daughters survive him. The peerage now devolves to the Hon Matthew St Clair, Master of Sinclair.

The Thanksgiving Service is to be held at Kells Church, New Galloway, today at 2.30pm.

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