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The Scottish Nation

ELPHINSTONE, anciently spelt Elfynyston, a surname assumed from the lands of Elphinstone in Mid Lothian.

      According to tradition, the first of this name in this country was a German who came to Scotland in the reign of Robert the Bruce, and marrying Margaret, daughter of Sir Christopher Seton, by Lady Christian, his wife, the sister of King Robert, received with her lands in Mid Lothian, to which he gave his own name, Elvinton; but for this tradition there is no foundation. Another version makes the Elphinstones to be descended from the counts of Helpheinstein in Germany.

      John de Elphinstone, possessor of the lands and barony of Elphinstone, the first of the name who appears on record, flourished under Alexander II. and Alexander III.

      His grandson, Sir John de Elphinstone, married the lady above mentioned, Margaret de Seton, the niece of King Robert Bruce, and by her he had Alexander de Elphinstone, who took to wife Agnes de Airth, with whom he acquired Airth-Beg, and several other lands in Stirlingshire.

      Alexander’s great-grandson, Sir Alexander Elphinstone, knight, was succeeded by his only child Agnes, who, marrying Sir Gilbert Johnston, second son of Adam Johnston of Johnston, carried the estate of Elphinstone, in Mid Lothian, into that family.

      Her uncle, Henry Elphinstone of Pittendriech, succeeded his brother in the Stirlingshire property, which, with some lands in the counties of Perth and Aberdeen was subsequently called the barony of Elphinstone.

      Henry’s nephew, by a younger brother, William, was William Elphinstone, bishop of Aberdeen, and chancellor of Scotland under James the Third, of whom a notice is subsequently given.

      Sir Alexander Elphinstone, of Elphinstone, knight, the great-grandson of Henry, was at the baptism of Prince Arthur, in 1509, raised to the peerage by James the Fourth, by the title of Lord Elphinstone. In September 1513 he accompanied James to Flodden, where he was slain. He bore a striking resemblance to that monarch, and is supposed to have been mistaken for him in that fatal field.

      His only son, Alexander, the second Lord Elphinstone, was slain in the battle of Pinkie, in 1547. By the Hon. Catherine Erskine, daughter of John Lord Erskine, earl of Mar, he had five sons and three daughters.

      The eldest son, Robert, third Lord Elphinstone, married Margaret, daughter of Sir John Drummond of Inverpeffrey. His third son, Sir James Elphinstone of Innernochtie, knight, created 20th February 1604 Lord Balmerinoch, was the ancestor of the noble house of Balmerino forfeited in 1746, in the person of Arthur, the sixth lord (a notice of whom is given below), on account of his participating in the rebellion. The Balmerinoch branch of the Elphinstones has been already noticed, [See BALMERINOCH.]

      Alexander, fourth Lord Elphinstone, the eldest son of the third lord, was in 1599, while still master of Elphinstone, appointed one of the lords of session, and lord high treasurer of Scotland. He succeeded his father in 1602, and died in 1648. By the Hon. Jean Livingston, daughter of William, sixth Lord Livingston, he had four sons and five daughters.

      His son, Alexander, fifth Lord Elphinstone, married Elizabeth Drummond, sister of James first earl of Perth, and had only one surviving daughter, Lilias. She married her cousin Alexander, sixth Lord Elphinstone; and was the mother of Alexander, seventh lord, and of John, the eighth lord.

      The latter nobleman married Lady Isabel Maitland, daughter of Charles, third earl of Lauderdale, and had by her five sons and three daughters. The eldest son died in infancy.

      The 2d son, Charles, 9th Lord Elphinstone, had 4 sons and 2 daughters.

      His 3d son, Charles, succeeded as tenth Lord Elphinstone. He married Lady Clementina Fleming, only surviving child and heiress of John, sixth earl of Wigton, by Lady Mary Keith, eldest daughter of William, ninth Earl Marischal, and had by her six sons and four daughters. He died in 1781.

      John, the eldest son, 11th Lord Elphinstone, was lieutenant-governor of Edinburgh castle, and died in 1794. One of his brothers was the Hon. William Elphinstone, well known in his time as chairman of the India house, and another was admiral the Hon. George Keith Elphinstone, created, for his naval services, Lord Viscount Keith, a notice of whom is given in its place. The 11th lord married a daughter of James, third Lord Ruthven, and had by her John, 12th Lord Elphinstone; the Hon. Charles Elphinstone of Cumbernauld, an admiral in the navy, who, on inheriting the estates of the Wigton family, assumed the name of Fleming, and died in 1840; the Hon. Mount Stewart Elphinstone, sometime governor of Bombay, and author of an interesting statistical work on the kingdom of Caubul (published, 1815); another son and 4 daughters.

      John, 12th lord, a lieutenant-general in the army, died in 1813. His only son, John, 13th lord, born in 1807, was for some years governor of Madras. He returned in 1842, and in Dec. 1847 was appointed a lord in waiting to the Queen, an office which he held till Feb. 1852; also from Jan. to Oct. 1853, when he was appointed governor of Bombay; Baron Elphinstone, United Kingdom, 1859; privy councillor 1836; G.C.B. 1859. He died July 19, 1860; succeeded in his Scottish title by his cousin, John Elphinstone-Fleming, 14th lord, born at Glasgow 1819, son of Admiral Fleming of Cumbernauld.

      Sir Howard Elphinstone, b. 1773, a major general in the army, eighth in descent from John Elphinstone of Baberton, 2d son of Robert, 2d Baron Elphinstone, was created a baronet April 3, 1815, for his distinguished services during the whole of the Peninsular war, and particularly at the battles of the Nivelle and Nive. He died in 1826. His son, Sir Howard Elphinstone, of Sowerby, Cumberland, b. 1804, succeeded as 2d baronet; m. with issue.


      A baronetcy is also possessed by the family of Dalrymple Horn Elphinstone, of Logie Elphinstone and Westhall, Aberdeenshire, descended from the Hon. Sir Hew Dalrymple of North Berwick, 3d son of 1st Viscount Stair. Sir Hew’s third son, Hew Dalrymple of Drummore, a lord of session, 1726, and of justiciary 1745, as Lord Drummore, m. Anne, daughter and heiress of John Horn, Esq. of Horn and Westhall, Aberdeenshire; issue, 7 sons and 3 daughters. Died 1755. His 3d son, Robert, a general in the army, succeeded him, and assumed his mother’s surname of Horn. He married Mary, daughter and heiress of Sir James Elphinstone of Logie, and assumed also that additional surname. Died 1794, issue 2 sons, and 6 daughters. The eldest son, Sir Robert Dalrymple Horn Elphinstone, b. 1766, lieutenant-colonel Scots Fusilier guards, was created a baronet, Dec. 19, 1827. Died Oct. 11, 1848, and was succeeded by his 3d son, Sir James Dalrymple Horn Elphinstone, b. 1805, 2d baronet; M.P. for Portsmouth, 1857; m. with issue.

ELPHINSTON, WILLIAM, an eminent prelate, founder of King’s college, Old Aberdeen, was born at Glasgow in 1431, or 1437. His father, Mr. William Elphinston, was the first of the Elphinstons of Blythswood in Lanarkshire. He became, at the age of 25, rector of the parish of Kirkmichael, where he remained four years, and then went to Paris, to study the civil and canon law. Three years thereafter, he was appointed professor of law, first at Paris, and afterwards at Orleans. In 1471 he returned home, and by Bishop Muirhead was made parson of Glasgow, and official of his diocese. In 1473 he was appointed official of Lothian by the archbishop of St. Andrews, and admitted a member of the privy council. He was afterwards sent on a political mission to the king of France, and on his return in 1479 was made archdeacon of Argyle, and soon after bishop of Ross. In 1484 he was translated to the see of Aberdeen, and the same year was one of the commissioners from Scotland to treat of a truce with England, and a marriage between the son of James III. and the Lady Anne, niece of Richard III. On the accession of Henry VII. he was again sent to London, with other ambassadors, to arrange the terms of a truce, which was accordingly concluded for three years, July 3, 1486. In February 1488 he was constituted lord high-chancellor of the kingdom, a post which he enjoyed till James’ death in the following June. He was subsequently sent to Germany as ambassador to the emperor Maximilian, on a proposal of marriage betwixt his youthful sovereign and Margaret, the emperor’s daughter, who, however, was united to the prince of Spain before his arrival in Vienna. On his return homeward, he concluded a treaty of peace between the States of Holland and Scotland. In 1492 he was made lord privy seal. In 1494 he obtained a Bull from Pope Alexander VI. for founding a university at Aberdeen, and built the King’s college in Old Aberdeen in 1500. Besides the erection and endowment of this college, Bishop Elphinston left large sums of money to build and uphold the bridge across the Dee. After the death of James IV, on the fatal field of Flodden, the venerable bishop quitted his diocese, and, anxious to assist with his advice in restoring peace to his distracted country, proceeded to Edinburgh to attend parliament. But the fatigue of the journey exhausted his strength, and he died a week after his arrival in the capital, October 25, 1514.

      Bishop Elphinston wrote the Lives of Scottish Saints, which are now lost. In the college of Old Aberdeen are two series of large MS. folio volumes of his compilations on the canon law. He also wrote a History of Scotland, which till lately was believed to be preserved among the Fairfax manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, at Oxford. This manuscript history, which was early discovered to be a mere transcript of the Scotichronicon, with some interpolations, Lord Fairfax, in a note in his own h and-writing, states that he had got from the widow of Drummond of Hawthornden; and a memorandum in it attributes its authorship to Elphinston, but it is now believed not to have been his production at all. An engraving of the bishop, from his portrait in the hall of King’s college, Old Aberdeen, is given in Pinkerton’s collection, of which a woodcut is subjoined:

[Bishop Elphinston]

ELPHINSTONE, ARTHUR, sixth and last Lord Balmerino, was born in 1688. He had the command of a company of foot in Lord Shannon’s regiment in the reign of Queen Anne; but at the accession of George the First resigned his commission, and joined the earl of Mar, under whom he fought at Sheriffmuir. After that engagement he escaped out of Scotland, and entered into the French service, in which he continued till the death of his brother Alexander in 1733. His father, anxious to have him settled at home, obtained for him a free pardon from government, of which he sent notice to his son, then residing at Berne, in Switzerland. He thereupon, having obtained the Pretender’s permission, returned to Scotland, afte3r an exile of nearly twenty years, and was joyfully received by his aged father. When the young Chevalier arrived in Scotland in 1745, Mr Arthur Elphinstone was one of the first who repaired to his standard, when he was appointed colonel and captain of the second troop of life-guards attending his person. He was at Carlisle when it surrendered to the Highlanders, marched with them as far as Derby, from whence he accompanied them in their retreat to Scotland, and was present, with the corps de reserve, at the battle of Falkirk. He succeeded his brother as Lord Balmerino, January 5, 1746, and a few weeks thereafter was taken prisoner at the decisive battle of Culloden. Being conducted to London, he was committed to the Tower, and brought to trial in Westminster Hall, July 29, 1746, along with the earls of Kilmarnock and Cromarty, both of whom pleaded guilty. Before pleading to his indictment, Lord Balmerino stated that he was not at Carlisle at the time specified in it, being eleven miles off when that city was taken, and he requested to know if it would avail him anything to prove that fact. Lord Hardwicke said that such a circumstance might, or might not, be of use to him, but he informed him that it was contrary to form to permit him to put any questions before pleading to the indictment, by saying whether he was guilty, or not guilty. He was then desired to plead, when, apparently not understanding the meaning of that legal ter, Balmerino exclaimed, with great animation, “Plead! why, I am pleading as fast as I can.” The lord high steward having explained the import of the phrase, his lordship answered “not guilty.” He was remanded to the Tower, and brought back next day, when, after a short trial, he was found guilty of high treason; and, on August 1, sentence of death was passed upon the two earls and his lordship. The high-minded Balmerino disdained to compromise his principles by suing for pardon, and when he heard that his fellow-prisoners had petitioned for mercy, he sarcastically remarked that, as they must have great interest at court, they might have squeezed his name in with their own. He never entertained any hopes of pardon, for he said he considered his case desperate, as he had been once pardoned before. The earl of Cromarty obtained a pardon, but the other two suffered decapitation of Tower Hill, August 18, 1746. Lord Balmerino’s behaviour at his execution was marked with unusual firmness and intrepidity. His last words were – “Oh. Lord! Reward my friends, forgive my enemies, bless King James, and receive my soul!” He had no issue by his wife Margaret, daughter of Captain Chalmers, who died at Restalrig, August 24, 1765; and at his death the male line of this branch of the Elphinstone family became extinct.

ELPHINSTONE, JAMES, a miscellaneous writer, the son of an episcopalian clergyman of Edinburgh, was born in that city, December 6, 1721. He was educated at the high school and university of Edinburgh, on leaving which he was, in his 17th year, appointed tutor to Lord Blantyre. When of age, he accompanied Thomas Carte, the historian, afterwards secretary to Bishop Atterbury, in a tour through Holland and the Netherlands, and at Paris acquired a thorough knowledge of the French language. On his return home he became private tutor to the son of Mr. Moray of Abercairney. In 1750 he superintended an edition of the Rambler, published at Edinburgh, with English translations of the mottoes, which were approved of by Dr. Johnson, who became the friend and correspondent of the author. In 1751 he married Miss Gordon, niece of General Gordon of Auchintool, and in 1753, removing to London, established an academy, first at Brompton, and afterwards at Kensington. In the year last mentioned he published a poetical translation of the younger Racine’s poem of ‘Religion,’ and in 1763 he brought out ‘Education,’ a poem, neither of which works displayed talent above mediocrity. An English grammar, which he composed for the use of his scholars, and afterwards enlarged and published in 2 vols. 12mo, was the most useful of his works, and received the approbation of Mr. Walker, author of the ‘Pronouncing Dictionary,’ In 1776 he retired from his school, and, losing his wife, in 1778 he visited Scotland, and delivered a course of lectures on the English language at Edinburgh and Glasgow. In 1782 appeared his translation of Martial, in one volume 4to, which showed a total want of judgment, and was received with ridicule. In 1786 he published ‘Propriety ascertained in her Picture,’ 2 vols. 4to, in which he endeavoured to establish a new mode of orthography, by spelling all words as they are pronounced, a project which he still farther explained and recommended in his ‘English Orthography Eptomised,’ and ‘Propriety’s Pocket Dictionary.’ In 1794 he brought out, in 6 vols. 4to, a Selection of his Letters to his Friends, with their Answers, entirely spelt in the new way; the reading of which was so difficult and tiresome that the work found few purchasers. Mr. Elphinstone married, a second time, a niece of Bishop Falconer, and died at Hammersmith, October 8, 1809. His sister was the wife of Mr. William Strahan, the celebrated printer, who, at his death, left him a small annuity.

ELPHINSTONE, GEORGE KEITH, VISCOUNT KEITH, a distinguished naval commander, fourth son of Charles, tenth Lord Elphinstone, was born in 1747, and entered the navy early in life. In 1773 he was promoted to the rank of commander, and in 1775 made post-captain. In the same year he was returned member of parliament for Dumbartonshire, in which county his family possessed considerable property. During the American war, Captain Elphinstone served with great credit at the attack on Mud island and Charlestown, and in 1778 commanded the Berwick, 74, in the action off Brest. In 1782 he was again on the American station, when he captured l’Aigle, a French frigate of 40 guns and 600 men. In August 1793 he assisted Rear-admiral Goodall in the reduction of Toulon, and received the red riband of the Bath as a reward for his services. In 1795 he was made vice-admiral, in which year he commanded the fleet destined for the capture of the Cape of Good Hope; in the object of which expedition he not only succeeded, but compelled the Dutch, who advanced to the relief of the colony, to surrender at discretion, without firing a gun. On this occasion, he was rewarded with an Irish barony, by the title of Baron Keith of Stonehaven-Marischal, March 7, 1797. His services on other occasions were highly important and meritorious, and his gallant exertions in the Foudroyant, on the coast of Egypt, during the campaign of 1801, which year he was promoted to the rank of admiral of the Blue, caused his elevation to the peerage of the United Kingdom in 1803, by the title of Baron Keith of Banheath, in the county of Dumbarton. In 1814 he was created a viscount. Lord Keith died in the spring of 1823, and was succeeded by his only daughter, Margaret Mercer, married to the count de Flahault, in France.

Memoir of the Honourqble George Keith Elphinstone. K.B.
Viscount Keith, Admiral of the Red by Alexander Allardyce (pdf)

ELPHINSTONE, WILLIAM GEORGE KEITH, C.B., a major-general in the army, was the third son of the Hon. William Fullerton Elphinstone, and Elizabeth, daughter of William Fullerton of Carstairs in Lanarkshire, and grandson of the tenth Lord Elphinstone. He was born in 1782, and early in life he entered the army as ensign in the 24th regiment of infantry. After serving with much distinction in various parts of the globe, he became lieutenant-colonel of the 33d foot in 1813, and being present with his regiment at the battle of Waterloo, his services were rewarded by his being created a commander of the Bath. He was also a knight of the order of St. Wilhelm of Holland. In 1837 he was promoted to the rank of major-general, and was commander-in-chief of the Bengal army when the British arms received so disastrous a check in Afghanistan in 1841. He was at this period enfeebled by long service and by the climate of India, and was, moreover, almost helpless from the effects of gout. He was to be tried by court martial, had not his death taken place while proceedings were pending. He died April 23, 1842, aged 60.

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