Clan Elphinstone

Clan Elphinstone is a Lowland Scottish clan.[2]

Clan Elphinstone
MottoCause causit
DistrictEast Lothian
Lord Elphinstone.png
The Right Hon. Alexander Elphinstone
19th Lord Elphinstone
SeatWhitberry House, Tyninghame, East Lothian
Historic seatElphinstone Tower, Stirlingshire[1]


Origins of the clanEdit

The 'de Erth' family took their name from the lands of Airth which lie close to the barony of Plean in Stirlingshire.[2] This family probably erected the first Plean Castle.[2] The de Erth family ended in an heiress and lands that were acquired by her husband near Tranent near East Lothian were probably named after the heiress's family.[2] The name first appears in about 1235 in East Lothian in a deed by Alanus de Swinton in which a mention is made of the name 'de Elfinstun'.[2] It is likely that de Swinton's son, John, who owned the lands, went on to become John de Elfinstun.[2]

There is a family tradition however, that claims that the family are descended from Flemish knights called Helphenstein.[2] Another theory suggests that the name is derived from Alpin's tun, which means the farmstead of Alpin.[2]

14th, 15th and 16th centuriesEdit

Sir John de Elfinstun married Margaret of Seton who was a niece of Robert the Bruce.[2] One of John's descendants was William Elfinstun who became rector of Kirkmichael.[2] William studied Civil and Canon Law in Paris and he eventually became Professor of Law at that university.[2] He also became Bishop of Aberdeen in 1484 and later Lord High Chancellor of Scotland.[2] William later obtained a bull from Pope Alexander VI in 1494 for founding the University of Aberdeen.[2]

A cousin of bishop William was Sir Alexander Elphinstone who was created Lord Elphinstone by James IV of Scotland.[2] Alexander and the king were together killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1513.[2] Alexander's son, another Alexander Elphinstone, was killed at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547.[2]

In 1599 the fourth Lord Elphinstone was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of Scotland.[2]

18th century and Jacobite risingsEdit

A cadet branch of the Clan Elphinstone were the Lords Balmerino.[2] They were staunch Jacobites and the sixth Lord Balmerino was captured after the Battle of Culloden and beheaded in August 1746.[2]

The eleventh Lord Elphinstone was lieutenant governor of Edinburgh Castle.[2]

19th and 20th centuriesEdit

One of the eleventh Lord's younger brothers was George Keith Elphinstone who was a distinguished naval officer.[2] He served on ships that protected the British shipping off the east coast of America.[2] He was created Baron Keith which was promoted to the rank of Viscount in 1814. The Viscount's nephew was William George Elphinstone who was a colonel at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.[2] He was later promoted to commander-in-chief of the Bengal army in 1837 and led the disastrous Afghan campaign of 1841.[2]

Clan ChiefEdit

The present Chief of Clan Elphinstone is Alexander Lord Elphinstone who succeeded his father in 1994 at the age of 14.

Clan CastlesEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Elphinstone Tower Retrieved 20 September 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Way, George and Squire, Romily. Collins Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia. (Foreword by The Rt Hon. The Earl of Elgin KT, Convenor, The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs). Published in 1994. Pages 130 - 131.

External linksEdit