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Early Lauder knights
by Gregory Lauder-Frost, F.S.A. Scot.


The founder of the ancient Scottish family of Lauder was a Norman mercenary knight named Sir Robert de Lavedre (for origins of this surname and its early spellings see The Lauder Surname in The Scottish Genealogist Volume XLV number 2, Edinburgh, June 1998) who was recruited at the English Court by Malcolm Canmore to assist the latter to recover his father’s crown from the usurper Macbeth. Proceeding to Scotland in 1057 Sir Robert was involved in many skirmishes and battles, notably at Dunsinane, and Birnham Wood where, according to J. Stewart Smith writing in The Grange of St.Giles (Edinburgh 1898) he "signally distinguished himself by his prowess in the field against Macbeth". Sir Robert received for his services estates and lands in the Lothians, Berwickshire, and Moray, the latter being part of Macbeth’s own properties. The early Lauder family had an ancient coat of Arms which was simply a shield with a white background bearing a griffin rampant. There would later be cadet variations on this.

In 1138 numerous minor Scottish/English conflicts and arguments resulted in the major Battle of the Standard at North Allerton in North Yorkshire. Joanni Lavedre, filio secunda de Laudertown, a descendant of the first Sir Robert Lauder, is recorded as being amongst the mounted knights under Prince Henry, King David’s son, on the Scottish right. This was a defeat for the Scots and John Lauder and many others barely managed to escape.

In 1188 another descendant, Sir Robert de Lavedre appears on the scene as on of the Scottish nobles who accompanied King William the Lion’s brother David, Earl of Huntingdon, to fight in the Third Crusade. As an emblem of his presence in Palestine, Sir Robert, upon his almost miraculous return, got for his personal crest a Saracen’s head on a sword.

In 1297 the great Scottish hero Sir William Wallace (of Braveheart fame) led a rebellion against the overlordship of the English King Edward I. One of Wallace’s foremost supporters was yet another Sir Robert de Lawedre, again a descendant of the first. He was then designated Laird of Congaltoun & Bass near North Berwick. Sir Robert is described as Wallace’s "trusty friend and faithful companion in arms from the beginning of his [Wallace’s] career to the sad ending of his heroic life. Such was Sir Robert’s eagerness to march with Wallace against Cospatrick, Earl of Dunbar, who had espoused the English cause, that he would rather have lost his beloved Bass than have been denied this gratification." (ref: The Grange of St.Giles). In Blind Harry’s famous Wallace we read how Sir William met Lauder at Musselburgh and how they became friends and co-belligerents in the "resistance". Sir Robert was present with his hero at the Battle of Stirling Bridge on 12th September 1297, a disaster for the English forces. The following year, however, the Scots and Wallace lost the Battle of Falkirk. Present with him in the cavalry were Sir Robert de Lawedre of Bass and his eldest son, Robert fils (junior). Both were already old men and Sir Robert senior died in May 1311 and was buried in the Kirk at North Berwick. His gravestone has been commented upon by Alexander Nesbit in his Systems of Heraldry.

Sir Robert de Lawedre of The Bass, who succeeded his father as laird in 1311 was present at the disastrous English defeat at the Battle of Bannock Burn in 1314. He subsequently acted as an ambassador and peace treaty signatory for King Robert The Bruce at Newcastle-upon-Tyne on 23rd May 1323, again at Edinburgh on 17th March 1327 and then at Northampton on 4th May 1328. In a charter dated 1331 Sir Robert is designated Roberto de Lawedre, militbus, Justiciario Lowdonie (knight, Justiciary of the Lothians). At an inquest at Aberdeen on 11th September 1333 he is styled Chamberlain of Scotland. He was by now very old.

His son, again, Sir Robert de Lawedre of Quarrelwood (Macbeth’s old lands in Moray) was described in a 1316 charter of the Bishop of St Andrews as then being "a page" and present with his father during the signing of it. By 1332 he was in the thick of matters and was with Archibald Douglas’s party when they ambushed John Balliol, an opponent of the Bruce dynasty, at Jedburgh in Roxburghshire. It is recorded that Robert de Lawedre fils was taken prisoner at this event but he must have been released in a prisoner exchange later as the following year he fought alongside Sir Archibald Douglas, Scotland’s Regent, in the third division at the Battle of Halidon Hill, near Berwick-upon-Tweed, on 19th July 1333.

This was a terrible defeat for the Scots with some estimates of their losses at 14000. Interestingly Sir Robert’s father, Sir Robert of Bass was also present at this battle, but up on the hill only as a morale booster and observer. Knighton tells us that he was too old to dismount in his full armour and took no part in the fighting, retiring with his retinue when it became clear the battle was lost. His son Sir Robert escaped and fled north to successfully hold Urquhart Castle, on Loch Ness, against the English, one of only five Scottish strongholds to defy Edward I. In 1335 he was one of three Scottish Commissioners to deliberate the latest English/Scottish Peace Treaty. As usual that was a very temporary thing and in 1341 the Scottish armies marched south again to do battle with the English. On 16th October that year, at Neville’s Cross near Durham we again hear of Sir Robert although it is not clear what part he played in the battle. What is clear is that a Safe-conduct was issued for him on the 8th December 1346 stating clearly that he had been captured at the Battle of Neville’s Cross and that he was now free to go. He died by 1366. His son was

Alan Lauder of Whitslaid (nr Lauder) & The Bass, sometimes also described as ‘of that Ilk’ and ‘of Haltoun’, was married to Alicia, daughter of Sir Colin Campbell of Loch Awe, 9th of the Argyll family. Abercombie’s Martial Achievements describes Alan as "one of Scotland’s bravest warriors – famous in all martial exercises, renowned in feats of chivalry and foremost in his country’s service." He was Constable and Keeper of Tantallon Castle, one of the Douglas strongholds near North Berwick. King Robert II held Alan in such high esteem that he bestowed upon him una protectione perpetua. He died before March 20, 1407. His eldest son and heir was:

Sir Robert de Lawedre, also often referred to in charters as ‘of Edringtoun’, Berwickshire, and Dominus de la Bass, whom Froissart refers to as "a renowned hero" who was present at the Battle of Otterburn (or, as the English sometimes call it – The Battle of Chevy Chase), a Scottish victory in 1388. He reappears too in 1402 according to Fordun’s Scotichronicon (Edinburgh, 1759) when the Scottish Border Barons – "the Hamiltons, Hepburns, Cockburns and Lauders" – under the command of Sir Patrick Hepburn of Hailes, engaged the English on 22nd June at Nesbit Moor in Berwickshire. This was a catastrophic defeat for the Scots and this Sir Robert de Lawedre was taken prisoner. King Henry IV issued, on 15th June 1411, a safe-conduct to Robertus Lawedyr, miles, and whether this was just to travel through England as a visitor or it was issued upon his release is not shown. He went with his son William Lauder, Bishop of Glasgow and Lord Chancellor of Scotland, in 1423 and 1424 to treat for the release of the captive King James I. He died in early 1425.

Alan de Lawedre’s younger son, and also a knight, was Sir George de Lawedre, Provost of Edinburgh, who established a separate family branch as laird of Haltoun in Edinburghshire. (He changed that branch’s coat of arms and the griffin featured upon them subsequently had a sword in its hand with a Saracen’s head upon it, no doubt taken from his ancestor the crusader’s personal crest.) Sir George was married to Helen, daughter of Archibald, 3rd Earl of Douglas, nicknamed 'The Grim'. Their son was: 

Sir Alexander de Lawedre, younger of Haltoun, who was married to Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Forrester of Corstorphine and Sir Alexander, with Archibald, 4th Earl of Douglas, and his father-in-law Sir John Forrester, all fell at the Battle of Verneuil in Normandy on 17th August 1424 fighting alongside the French against the English forces under the Duke of Bedford.

Sir George de Lawedre’s second son was the famous – or notorious - Sir William Lauder of Haltoun, Knt. A Safe-Conduct was issued by King Henry VI on 5th May 1429 to "Williamus de Lawedre" for travel in England. William de Lawedre witnessed a Douglas charter signed at Douglas Castle on 29th June 1444. Another  Safe-Conduct was issued by King Henry VI on 26th June 1446 to "Willielmus Lawedre de Halton, armiger" to travel in England. In a charter by John Lord Haliburton, dated at Dirleton on 11th April 1450, one of the witnesses was William Lauder of Haltoun; another was William, Earl of Douglas.  Further Safe-Conducts for travel in (or through) England were granted by King Henry VI to "Willielmus de Lawdre de Halton, and Alanus de Lawdre" on 12th November 1450, and 12th May 1451.  These were to accompany  the Earl of Douglas to Rome via Flanders and France, as numerous barons and knights, including Lawder, are mentioned in this respect.

Sir William Lauder of Haltoun was a confidant of both his King and his friend the Earl of Douglas. In February 1452 he was the famous King's Messenger, sent to escort Douglas to Stirling Castle: In "The Historie and Cronicles of Scotland" (by Robert Lindesay of Pitscottie, edited by A.E.J.G.Mackay, Edinburgh, 1899, volume 2, Notes: James II, p.351) "The Auchinleck Chronicle" is quoted as saying "the foresaid King James send out of Strivling with William Lauder of Haltoun a special assourans [assurance, or Safe Conduct] and respit under his preve sele [Privy Seal] and subscrivate [signed]  with his awne hand." King James II had deliberately despatched Sir William Lauder of Haltoun, who had attended Douglas in his pilgrimage to Rome, with a message to him, expressive of the desire of the King to enter into a personal conference, promising absolute security for his person". The Earl was subsequently brutally murdered by the King.

Haltoun Tower was then besieged by the Douglas followers who clearly felt that Sir William Lauder was party to the King’s plot. During that siege Sir William was killed. Haltoun tower was subsequently restored to good condition by the King, at Exchequer expense. 

Sir William’s three grandsons:

Sir George Lauder of Haltoun, Knt., (who was married to Katherine, daughter of John, 3rd Lord Somerville of Carnwarth), Sir Alexander Lauder of Blyth, Knt., Provost of Edinburgh, and James Lauder of Burngrange, near Lauder burgh, all fell at the battle of Flodden on 9th September 1513.