The origin of the name is
obscure, but it is found in Renfrewshire from the 12th century and in 1246
Robert de Sempill, later a chamberlain of Renfrew, witnessed a charter to
Paisley Abbey. His sons Robert and Thomas, who supported Robert the Bruce,
were rewarded for their services with all the lands around Largs in
Ayrshire - confiscated from the Balliols - and half the lands of
Longniddry. The lands of Elliotstoun, which became the territorial
designation of the chiefly line, were acquired prior to 1344.
Sir Thomas Sempill of
Eliotstoun fell at the Battle of Sauchieburn in 1488 and his only son,
John was created Lord Semple, probably in the same year. He founded the
collegiate Church of Lochwinnoch in 1505 and rebuilt a castle at the
eastern end of the loch which he named Castle Semple. His grandson, "The
Great Lord Semple", supported the Queen Regent, Mary of Guise, widow of
James V and was a faithful adherant of Mary Queen of Scots until the
murder of Darnley. After that, he joined the supporters of the infant
James VI and for his services received a charter to the lands of Paisley
Abbey, forfeited from Lord Claud Hamilton who was later able to regain
His son, Robert, who succeeded as fourth Lord Sempill in 1572, was
appointed Privy Councillor by James VI and was sent as Ambassador to
Spain. A faithful Catholic, he could hold no other public office and was
excommunicated by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1608
as an "obstinate papist".
The fifth and sixth Lords lived largely private lives attending to their
estates which became somewhat diminished due to adherance to the royalist
cause during the Civil War. The eighth Lord Sempill was the first to
become a Protestant and the first to sit in Parliament since the reign of
Mary Queen of Scots. He was succeeded by his elder sister, Ann in 1684
under a deed of entail and she obtained a new charter to the title in
1688. Her eldest son francis, the tenth Lord, was a staunch opponent of
the Union with England and voted against every article in Parliament.
In 1835 the title once more passed to the female line, when Maria Janet
Sempill succeeded her brother, the fifteenth Lord. She also died without
issue, in 1884 and the title passed to her great nephew Sir William Forbes
of Craigievar. The family have lived in Aberdeenshire ever since. John,
the eighteenth Lord Sempill had a distinguished military career and was
followed by his son Francis, the nineteenth Lord Sempill, who was an
intrepid air pioneer and the first man to fly from John O'Groats to Lands'
End.. He was a Represenative Peer of Scotland and attended Parliament up
to his death in 1965. At this point, the two titles split with his
daughter Ann becoming Baroness Sempill and his brother retaining the
Forbes baronetcy, as it could not pass down through the female line.
Craigievar was sold to the National Trust of Scotland and is considered
one of the finest Castles in the country.
In 1995 the current Lord Sempill, 21st in line, inherited the title from
his mother, who like her father had dutifully attended the House of Lords.
Lord Sempill now resides in Leith, Edinburgh. He is married to Josephine
and has two children. Francis, Master of Sempill and the Hon. Cosima
Sempill. He currently sits in the House of Lords with special interests in
matters relating to Scotland and South Africa. It is his desire to
re-establish a Semple family association, thereby reuniting a family with
over 500 years of history.