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The Family of Arbuthnott


The Founding of the Family

Though the original charter has been lost, it is known that between 1170 and 1178 the lands of Arbuthnott were granted to Osbert Olifard by King William the Lion of Scotland, almost certainly as a knight's fee. Osbert's father, David Olifard, had been the King's right-hand mand and the King David I's godson, so the family stood high in royal favour.

Osbert the Crusader, as he was called, soon left for the Holy Land. He appointed Walter Olifard, probably his elder brother, as his heir, and the land was leased for the next six years to Isaac of Benvie. Then Walter, who had other lands, on hearing of the death abroad of Osbert, sub-fefted (granted) the estate to Hugh of Swinton, kinsman of the Earl of March and descendant of an ancient saxon noble family. It was his son and heir, Duncan, who first took Arbuthnot(t) as his name.

The Spelling of Arbuthnot(t)

It is remarkable that there are now only two spellings of the name. Until the latter part of the eighteenth century little attention was paid to how a name was spelt and there are records of many interesting variations on the theme. They range from Arboythneth and Arbuthnotht to Arburthnet. Therefore the fact that there remains only the minor difference involving the inclusion or exclusion of the final 't' shows an astonishing uniformity amongst later generations.

The reasons for this small variation may stem from the fact that, once spelling became a matter of importance, those members of the family who had travelled away from the area fixed on the form 'Arbuthnot', while those who remained nearby chose to follow the spelling of the place-name, the ending of which had evolved from 'th to tt'.

Queen Victoria herself had an opinion on the matter. She remarked to her equerry, General Charles Arbuthnot, that she did not know why he did not spell his name with two t's, as Lord Arbuthnott did for she knew they were the same family.

Universally the pronunciation of the name seems to be with the accent on the second syllable.

The Fortunes of the Family at Home and Abroad...

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Clan Arbuthnott