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Clan Hepburn


HEPBURN of Hailes & Earls of Bothwell
G.M.S.Lauder-Frost, F.S.A.,(Scot). (Ed.)

The name of Hepburn is probably a local one derived from lands in Northumberland, at one time disputed territory between England & Scotland. Chalmers, [Caledonia, ii.440.] believed that these lands lay in Morpeth ward, where there is a place now called Hebron; but it seems more probable that the surname was taken from Hebburn in the parish of Chillingham, where a family of that name flourished from the 13th century or earlier till late in the 18th when it ended in an heiress. Their ‘bastle’ was still standing in Chillingham Park in the 19th century.

The house of Hepburn of Hailes is traditionally reported to have been founded by an Englishman taken prisoner in the reign of King David II, and long detained for non-payment of a ransom, who, having on one occasion rescued the Earl of March from a savage horse, was rewarded by the grant of lands in East Lothian. [Hector Boece, Bellenden’s translation, 1536, Book xvi, 235b.]

Adam Hepburn Adam Hepburn had in the reign of David II a charter of the lands of Traprain, Mersingtoun, and some in Cockburnspath, to be held of the Earl of March. Further, he received the lands of Southalls and Northalls (later and today called Hailes) at the Earl’s disposition on the forfeiture of Hew Gourlay of Beinstoun. As Beanston (as it is today spelt) was for centuries a Hepburn property we may safely assume that Mr.Gourlay also parted with that to Adam Hepburn, who also received the lands of Rollanstoun in Berwickshire. Adam died before the end of David’s reign. had in the reign of David II a charter of the lands of Traprain, Mersingtoun, and some in Cockburnspath, to be held of the Earl of March. Further, he received the lands of Southalls and Northalls (later and today called Hailes) at the Earl’s disposition on the forfeiture of Hew Gourlay of Beinstoun. As Beanston (as it is today spelt) was for centuries a Hepburn property we may safely assume that Mr.Gourlay also parted with that to Adam Hepburn, who also received the lands of Rollanstoun in Berwickshire. Adam died before the end of David’s reign.

Adam’s second son, John de Hibburne [Hepburn], had a charter of donation dated 9th June 1363 from Patrick of Dunbar, Earl of March and Moray, of the lands of Over and Nether Merkill in East Lothian.

Adam’s eldest son, Sir Patrick Hepburn of Hailes, knight, was born circa 1321.

On 26th April 1363 he obtained a safe-conduct to visit the shrine of St.Thomas of Canterbury; with another dated 4th December 1381 from King Richard II to pass into England with 12 men and horses on the allegation that he was about to proceed to the Holy Land. He and his son Patrick fought in the battle of Otterburn on19th August 1388. Sir Patrick senior was still alive on 22nd June 1402 aged over 80. His first wife’s Christian name was Agnes. His second wife was Lady Eleanor Bruce, Countess of Carrick, only daughter of Sir Archibald Douglas. By his first wife he had:

Patrick Hepburn, younger of HailesPatrick Hepburn, younger of Hailes, who has already been mentioned above. He was killed in the battle of West Nisbet on 22nd June 1402, dying before his father. He had married a daughter and co-heiress of the family of Vaux of Dirleton. They had:

(1) Adam (afterwards Sir Adam) Hepburne of Hailes, who succeeded his grandfather. (see below)

(2) William, who is mentioned in an indenture dated at Hailes 4th January 1437;

(3) Archibald, mentioned in the same indenture and elsewhere.

Sir Adam Hepburn of Hailes Sir Adam Hepburn of Hailes was one of the Scottish Commissioners sent to England in 1423 to treat for the release of King James I from captivity. He was knighted by that King at his coronation on 21st May 1424. In 1435 he is noted as Keeper of Dunbar Castle and the following year was present at the conflict at Piperden near Berwick on 10th September. He died in 1446. He had issue:

(1) Patrick Hepburne (afterwards Sir Patrick & 1st Lord Hailes), his successor (see below).

(2) William Hepburne, who married Elizabeth Touris before March 1453;

(3) George Hepburne of Rollanston, (in the parish of Greenlaw,) and Nisbet, both in Berwickshire. He married Jonet Malvyn [Melville] and they had:

  1. John Hepburne of Rollanstoun, baillie and custumar of Haddington, and principal Steward of the Royal Household. John died about 1511. He married Margaret, part-heiress of William Wright, burgess of Cupar. They had issue.

(4) Adam Hepburne, Dean of the Collegiate Church of Dunbar. Alive in 1448.

(5) John Hepburn, Bishop of Dunblane and Lord of Council & Session. Died 1486. 

(6) Elizabeth Hepburne, who married Alexander, Master of Montgomerie. He died in 1452.

(7) Helen Hepburne was married on 10th July 1446 to John Somerville, Baron of Carnwath, eldest son & heir of William 2nd Lord Somerville. She died before March 1457.

(8) Agnes Hepburne. Alive in 1448.

Sir Patrick Hepburne Sir Patrick Hepburne had charters of large estates in Scotland: Dunsyre in Lanarkshire; Little Lambertoun & Prendergast in Berwickshire as well as reconfirmations of Hailes etc. He was one of the conservators of truces with England in 1449, 1451, 1453, 1457 and 1459. He was created a Peer of Parliament by the title of Lord Hailes before June 1453 and died about 1483.

He married Elene Wallace and they had:

(1) Adam Hepburne, Master of Hailes (see below).

(2) Patrick Hepburne of Beanston. He died before 19th November 1518. This Patrick and his son John commenced the new family of Hepburne of Beanston, in East Lothian.

(3) Alexander Hepburne of Whitsome. He was Sheriff of Edinburgh 1483-85 and on 16th June 1488 was appointed Sheriff and Seneschal of Fife for five years. He received the lands of Duntarvy and St.Serf’s Law in Linlithgowshire in 1492; and Riccartoun in Edinburghshire in 1508. His successors were frequently styled ‘of Riccartoun’. He married Jonet Napier and had issue an extensive family of descendants.

(4) John Hepburne, Prior of St.Andrews before 1507. He founded St.Leonard’s College in the University of St.Andrews in 1512 and about eight years later reconstructed, at his own expense, the greater part of that city’s walls. He was tutor to Patrick Hepburne, 3rd Earl of Bothwell, his great-grand-nephew, and died in 1525.

(5) George Hepburne, Dean of Dunkeld. He was alive in 1509.

(6) Margaret Hepburne, who married thrice and died after 1480.

(7) Euphemia Hepburne, who married Andrew MacDowell of makerstoun in Roxburghshire.

(8) Elizabeth Hepburne, who married William Lundin of that Ilk before 1485 & had issue.

(9*) Patrick Hepburne, Rector of the Church of Lintoun in Haddingtonshire. *He was illegitimate.

Adam Hepburne, Master of Hailes, Adam Hepburne, Master of Hailes, afterwards styled of Dunsyre [in Lanarkshire], was not of an age to marry in 1448. He is believed to have intrigued with the widowed Queen Marie of Gueldres, a young and beautiful woman. He atached himself to the party of the Boyds, and was concerned in the seizure of King James II at Linlithgow on 9th July 1466, for which he obtained a remission from Parliament dated 13th October in the same year. He was Sheriff of Berwick on 7th April 1467. He died in or before 1479, before his father. He married Elyne, daughter of Sir Alexander Home of that Ilk. They had:

(1) Patrick Hepburne(1)Patrick Hepburne, who succeeded as 2nd Lord Hailes and was subsequently created Earl of Bothwell (see below).

(2) Adam Hepburne (afterwards Sir Adam) of Crags [in Forfarshire]. In 1489 he was attached to the Household of King James IV and on 30th March 1497 he was Master of the King’s Stables. He was killed at the Battle of Flodden, 9th September 1513. He married Elizabeth Ogstoun and had at least 4 children by her, one of whom, Elena (or Helen) was married at Bolton on 5th November 1510, to Sir Patrick Hepburn, younger of Waughton. As Elyne Home’s mother, and this Sir Patrick’s mother were both daughter’s of the house of Lauder of Bass, a Papal dispensation for the marriage was rendered necessary because of the degrees of consanguinity.

(3) George Hepburne, was a churchman. In 1504 he was postulate Abbot of Arbroath. He was appointed Lord High Treasurer of Scotland in 1509 but resigned the appointment in a few months. The following year he was consecrated Bishop of the Isles. He is also noted as Commendator of the Abbeys of Arbroath and Icolmkill. He was killed at the Battle of Flodden, 9th September 1513.

(4) Margaret Hepburne, who was married to Henry Lord Sinclair before December 1488. He was also killed at Flodden. She died before November 8, 1543.

(5) Elizabeth Hepburne, who was married to Alexander Master of Home.

Patrick Hepburne, of Dunsyre, Patrick Hepburne, of Dunsyre, knight, was Sheriff of Berwick on 15th June 1480. He succeeded his grandfather as 2nd Lord Hailes shortly after December 1482. He was one of the Conservators of a truce with England, 20th September 1484. He was one of the leaders of the Confederate Lords who rebelled against King James III and he led the van against the royal array at the battle of Sauchieburn on 14th June 1488. Robert Birrel (1532-1605), writing in his diary which was printed in Dalyell’s "Fragments of Scottish History", seems to have believed that he was one of those responsible for the murder of King James after that battle. Under the new reign he rose to great power and held many offices. He became Master of the King’s Household, custodian of Edinburgh castle and Sheriff-Principal of Edinburgh and Haddington. He was appointed Great Admiral of the kingdom, for life, on the 10th September, 1488. On 17th October 1488 he was belted Earl of Bothwell, in full Parliament, following the forfeiture of John Ramsay. Other appointments abound and it is not necessary to list them all here.

He was one of the plenipotentiaries sent to conclude the treaty for the marriage of King James IV with Princess Margaret Tudor of England in October 1501 and he stood proxy for the King at the ceremony of betrothal on 25th January 1502.He died on 18th October 1508. He married twice. Firstly, before February 1481 Janet (or Joanna) daughter of James Douglas 1st Earl of Morton by Princess Joanna Stewart, daughter of King James I. They had:

(1) Jane or Joanna (sometimes appearing also as Jonet or Janet) Hepburne, who was married before December 1506 to George, son and heir of George 2nd Lord Seton. He was killed at Flodden and Jane entered the Covenet of St.Catherine of Sienna near Edinburgh which was built principally at her expense. She is buried beside her husband in the choir of Seton Church.

The Earl of Bothwell married secondly: in 1491 Margaret Gordon, daughter of George Earl of Huntly. They had:

(1) Adam Hepburn (1)Adam Hepburn (see below).

(2) Patrick Hepburne, frequently styled ‘of Bolton’, after his estate and pele tower residence there, who was born circa 1494. In September 1516 he was Sheriff of Haddingtonshire ; and in 1517 he is mentioned as Admiral-Depute. On 12th September, 1541 he is mentioned as Sheriff of Berwickshire. He died on 31st October 1576. He married Nicholas, daughter of Alexander 2nd Lord Home. They had at least two children one of who started the Fairnington [Roxburghshire] branch but who is also occasionally styled ‘of Birkinsyde’ which is in Berwickshire.

(3) William Hepburne, of Rollanstoun. He died before 25th March 1558. He married Marion Maxwell and had at least two children, one of whom, James, became a burgess of Perth with properties in that shire.

(4) John Hepburne, Bishop of Brechin. Died 1558.

(5) Margaret Hepburne, who married in 1509 Archibald Douglas, (son of George, Master of Angus) who afterwards succeeded as 6th Earl of Angus. She died in childbirth in 1513 leaving no issue.

Adam Hepburne 2nd Earl of Bothwell Adam Hepburne 2nd Earl of Bothwell was killed at the battle of Flodden, having distinguished himself in command of the reserve during the action. He married, Agnes Stewart, a bastard daughter of James Stewart, Earl of Buchan. (Letters of Legitimacy were belatedly issued by Queen Mary on 31st October 1552 under the Great Seal). She in turn, had before her marriage borne to King James IV a bastard daughter named Janet Stewart, who was married in 1523 to Malcolm 3rd Lord Fleming. After Adam’s death she married three more times outliving all her husbands, dying in 1557. Adam and Agnes had an only son: was killed at the battle of Flodden, having distinguished himself in command of the reserve during the action. He married, Agnes Stewart, a bastard daughter of James Stewart, Earl of Buchan. (Letters of Legitimacy were belatedly issued by Queen Mary on 31st October 1552 under the Great Seal). She in turn, had before her marriage borne to King James IV a bastard daughter named Janet Stewart, who was married in 1523 to Malcolm 3rd Lord Fleming. After Adam’s death she married three more times outliving all her husbands, dying in 1557. Adam and Agnes had an only son:

Patrick Hepburn 3rd Earl of Bothwell. Patrick Hepburn 3rd Earl of Bothwell. He was a child when his father died and his tutor has already been mentioned above. On 26th April 1531 he was appointed a Lord of the Articles but in December of that years he entered into treasonable correspondence with Henry VIII which upon being discovered he was imprisoned in Edinburgh castle. He was still there in July 1533. At the end of 1540 he was banished from the Kingdom. Following the death of King James V he returned and on 14th December 1542 he commenced proceedings which resulted in him regaining properties forfeited previously. It was rumoured that he was interested in marrying Mary of Lorraine, the Queen-Dowager, and doubtless in the hope of this union he procured a divorce from his wife before October 1543. His expectation was disappointed.

He again intrigued with the English, traitorously corresponded with the Earl of Hertford during the latter’s invasion of Scotland in 1544 and was summoned for treason in Parliament in November of that year. He nevertheless had a remission the following month. One of the charges against him was the acceptance of great gifts and money from henry VIII. He was said to be heavily in debt at the time and this may account for his actions. Notwithstanding his remission he again underwent a term as State prisoner and was only released after the battle of Pinkie, which took place on 10th September 1547. He was subsequently deprived of his castle of Hailes and Earl Patrick promptly renounced his allegiance and adhered to England. Although again arraigned for treason he appears again to have been rehabilitated, as he died at Dumfries in September 1556 '‘Lieutenant in the honourable service of the realm.’

He married circa 1533 Agnes, daughter of Henry Lord Sinclair and his wife Margaret Hepburne, daughter of Adam Hepburn Master of Hailes. (see above). This lady, as already noted, was divorced by Earl Patrick before 16th October 1543, whereupon he settled on her a charter of the lands of Morham in Haddingtonshire. She was subsequently styled ’The Lady of Morham’ for the rest of her life. She died in 1572. They had:

(1) James Hepburne 4th Earl of Bothwell (1)James Hepburne 4th Earl of Bothwell (see below).

(2) Jane (also sometimes referred to as Joanna and Janet) Hepburne, frequently styled ‘Mistress Bothwell’. This lady received her mother’s inheritance of Morham. She married three times. First, on 28th December 1561, to John Stewart, Commendator of Coldingham Abbey, later created Lord Darnley, a natural son of King James V by Katherine Carmichael. He died in October 1563.

Francis Stewart, the eldest son of this marriage, was created Earl of Bothwell by King James VI in consideration of his extraction on his mother’s side.

Jane married secondly,between 10th December 1565 and 16th January 1567, John Sinclair, Master of Caithness, eldest son of George 4th Earl of Caithness,who died about 1578. His widow married, thirdly, Rev. Archibald Douglas, Rector of Douglas and one of the Senators of the College of Justice. He was also brother to William Douglas of Whittinghame, a cadet of the house of Morton.

(3*) Margaret Hepburne, a ‘natural’ daughter of Earl Patrick who was under age when he died in 1556. She married before April 1585 James Durhame, sometimes designated ‘of Duntarvy’, silversmith to King James VI.

James Hepburne 4th Earl of Bothwell James Hepburne 4th Earl of Bothwell and afterwards Duke of Orkney appears to have been born in or before 1535. He seems to have been of age at his father’s death. He is said to have been brought up at Spynie Castle, the residence of his kinsman, Patrick Hepburne, Bishop of Moray. The Bishop’s notoriously irregular life must have been a bad example to the youth, whose career, if that is the right description, is something of a legend. On 12th November 1556 he took the oaths as Hereditary Sheriff of Edinburgh and Berwickshire;as a Baillie of Lauderdale and Great Admiral of Scotland. On 25th march 1558 Earl James executed a charter entailing the Earldom of Bothwell, his baronies, and his heritable offices, on his ‘well-beloved cousin’ William Hepburne of Gilmerton, brother-german of Patrick Hepburne of Waughton, and the heirs male of his body, failing which he names substitutes. There is no trace of any attempt to get the charter confirmed by royal authority, without which it would have been of no effect.

In December 1559 Mary of Lorraine, the Queen Regent, gave the Earl command of a body of French auxilliaries, and six months afterwards she sent him on a mission to the Court of France. He travelled thither via Denmark where he had an affair with an Anna Throndsson, daughter of a Norwegian nobleman. She went with him as far as the Netherlands and eventually turned up in Scotland in 1563. Her expectations were disappointed as the Earl was already married. While in France it is said the Earl made further promises of marriage to a lady there with whom he had a liaison. The Earl was made a Gentleman of the Chamber to King Francis II while there and he returned to Scotland at the same time as Queen Mary in 1561.

In the spring of 1562 he was accused of treason and immured in Edinburgh castle, but escaped from custody on 28th August. He took a ship to France where he received an appointment in the Scottish Guard. He returned to Scotland on 17th September 1565 and was restored to his former offices. He was thenceforth in great and increasing favour with Queen Mary. The murder of the King Consort, Lord Darnley, in which the Earl was the principal actor, took place on 10th February 1567. He was sent for trial on 12th April but was acquitted due to lack of evidence. On 19th April 1567 a former appointment of the Earl as hereditary captain of the Castle of Dunbar, and a grant to him of certain lands, were confirmed in Parliament and on the 24th he carried off The Queen to Dunbar.

On 12th May the Earl of Bothwell was created Duke of Orkney and his marriage to the Queen took place on the 15th. But a confederation of nobles hostile towards both The Queen and The Duke had been formed and the opposite sides met at Carberry Hill on 15th June 1567. According to Du Croc, the French Ambassador, The Duke displayed the qualities of a great captain in his preparations for the expected conflict at Carberry Hill. However his side fell away in the face of superior numbers and the Duke there parted forever from his bride, finding his way firstly to Shetland. After setting sail he was driven by a storm onto the coast of Norway where he was arrested and detained as a State prisoner. He remained in confinement until his death, which took place on 14th April 1578 at Dragsholm Castle in Zealand, Denmark. Prior to that event, on 20th December 1567, he was forfeited by the Scottish Parliament, and condemned to lose arms, honours, offices and dignities, and to underlie the pain of treason.

Earl James was married firstly, before 26th April 1559, to Jonet Betoun, widow of Sir Walter Scott of Buccleuch. Her fate is unclear. Secondly he married on 24th February 1566, Lady Jane Gordon, daughter of the then deceased George 4th Earl of Huntly. She divorced him on 3rd May 1567 citing his adultery with one of her maidservants, proof of which was provided. The newly created Duke of Orkney married thirdly, as her third husband, Mary Queen of Scots, at Holyrood on 15th May 1567. Th ceremony was performed by Adam Bothwell, Protestant Bishop of Orkney. The contract of marriage had been signed and registered on the previous day and the union was only dissolved by the death of the forfeited Duke. James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell and Duke of Orkney had no legitimate issue born to him. Queen Mary miscarried twins whilst detained at Lochleven, before 25th July 1567.

The Duke left one natural or bastard son, named William Hepburn. Agnes Sinclair, Countess of Bothwell, was on 26th december 1571 bound over to have no communication with this William, her illegitimate grandson. However, she left to him, by testament dated 21st March 1572, the whole balance of her estate after payment of her debts.

Compiled and edited by G.M.S.Lauder-Frost, F.S.A.,(Scot), the principal reference being The Scots Peerage by Sir James Balfour Paul. (1905; Nine volumes.)


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