Arbuthnott Family Crests. Which Arbuthnott is your family?
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The Arbuthnott family are of ancient descent, from Kincardineshire. Up to the twelfth century the name was Aberbothenothe, in about 1335 it became Aberbuthnot, finally becoming Arbuthnott in 1443.
The family name originates from Duncan, son and heir of Hugh de Swinton. The name is understood to mean ‘the confluence of the water below the baron’s house’ or more generally land lower than that of a neighbour’s, near a river. This name is applicable to the site of an ancient castle, and to the present lands of the family. Hugh de Swinton, flourished in the reign of King William the Lion (who reigned 1165-1214) and received the lands of Arbuthnott through his marriage to the daughter of Osbertus Olifard, Sheriff of Mearns, also known as ‘The Crusader’. The lands had been granted to Olifard by William the Lion around 1175, almost certainly as a knight’s fee. However, the Church owned the ‘Kirklands’- the few acres around the Kirk within the gifted lands, which led to local disagreements. These lands now form the greater part of the parish of Arbuthnott, and have stayed in the family for the past twenty five generations to the present day Viscount.
Another Hugh, named ‘Le Blond’ for his fair hair (and to distinguish him from his two predecessors of the same name), was Laird of Arbuthnott in 1282 when he he bestowed lands to the Monastery of Arbroath for ‘the safety of his soul’. In the church at Arbuthnott there is a full length stone statue of him reclining face up with his feet resting on a dog with his arms and those of his wife (from the Morevilles family, Constables of Scotland) carved onto the plinth.
In 1355, Philip de Arbuthnott, great grandson of Hugh “le Blond” was the first of the family to be described as ‘dominus ejusdem’ or ‘of that Ilk’ in a charter.
Hugh Arbuthnott of that Ilk, his son, was, in 1420, implicated in a rather scandalous murder. The victim, Sheriff Melville was unpopular with the local lairds for his strong adherence to his jurisdiction. The Lairds complained to The Duke of Albany, who was at that time Regent of Scotland whilst James I was imprisoned in England. Becoming tired of all the moaning, the duke exclaimed ‘sorrow gin that sheriff were sodden and supped in broo’. This was taken very literally by the irritated lairds who proceeded to plot the sheriff’s murder. Invited by the Lairds of Arbuthnott, Halkerton, Mathers and Pitarrow for a days Hunting, the sheriff was lured to a prearranged spot in the forest. Here he was thrown into a cauldron of boiling water. After the sheriff was dead and ‘sodden’, the lairds each took a spoonful of the murderous brew. The Laird of Arbuthnott claimed and obtained the benefit of the law of clan Macduff, which in the case of homicide, allowed a pardon to any one within the 9th degree of kinship with Macduff, Thane of Fife who should flee to his cross, which then stood near Lindores and pay a fine. The pardon is still extant in Arbuthnott House Hugh died peacefully in 1446.
Charles I elevated Sir Robert Arbuthnott of that Ilk, direct descendent of Hugh Arbuthnott, to Viscount of Arbuthnott and Baron Inverbervie, for his enduring loyalty to the Royal cause.
A descendent of a younger branch of the family, Alexander Arbuthnott (a nephew of the 1st Viscount), was Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland;a distinguished cleric, and a spokesman for the Reformation in Scotland. In 1583, Alexander was sent to James VI, by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, to complain of the ‘popish practices’ still permitted in the realm. James VI was most displeased, placing Alexander under house arrest within his college at St Andrews where he died..
A scion of the family was the respected eighteenth century physician and political humourist, Dr John Arbuthnott . Educated at the University of Aberdeen, John went to London to seek his fortune. Here, in 1705, he got lucky. When Arbuthnott was in Epsom, Queen Anne’s husband, Prince George, became ill. Arbuthnott was called upon to treat the Prince who, fortunately for John, recovered. Consequently, Arbuthnott was appointed a royal physician. He cultivated a close relationship with the queen, becoming a favourite and confidant. As such he socialised with wits, scholars and the leading politicians of the time. He wrote his political satire-where he created the character John Bull - The History of John Bull, which was admired by many notable characters of the time including Pope, Swift and even Dr Samuel Johnson, who called Arbuthnott ‘ a man of great comprehension, skilful in his profession, versed in the sciencs, acquainted with ancient literature and able to animate his mass of knowledge by a bright and active imagination’- great praise indeed from such a distinguished man of the age. Dr John Arbuthnott died in 1779.
Dr Thomas Arbuthnott was one of the family’s earliest American settlers. His will shows he owned many properties in Virginia. He had 11 children with his wife Dorothea.
The family seat is still Arbuthnott House, which is situated eight miles southwest of Stonehaven, close to the sea and near the Eastern Highlands. The name is still prevalent in the area, around Peterhead and Grampian; Adam Arbuthnott, a merchant in Grampian, bequeathed the local museum.
In addition to the viscountancy there have been two Arbuthnot Baronetcies created.
The first was created in 1823 for Sir William Arbuthnot, Baronet of Edinburgh, Lord Provost of Edinburgh upon the visit to Edinburgh of George IV.
The second was created in 1964 for Sir John Sinclair-Wemyss Arbuthnot, Baronet of Kittybrewster, MP for Dover. He was descended from a younger brother of the 1st Baronet of Edinburgh. His younger son, John, is currently MP for North East Hants.
The Arbuthnott arms are “Azure, a crescent between three mullets argent” and the crest is a peacocks head couped at the neck proper.
The motto is “Laus deo” (praise god).
The chief is also entitled to use supporters in the form of two wyverns wings elevated , tails nowed vert, vomiting flames proper.
Members of the clan may use the chiefs crest within a belt and buckle inscribed with the motto “Laus Deo”.
The Edinburgh baronets distinguish their arms by putting the whole “within a bordure or, charged with three boar’s heads couped gules”. They are also entitled to use supporters and use: Dexter, a wyvern vert vomiting flames and sinister, a greyhound argent, collared and line reflexed over the back gules.
Their motto is “innocent and true”.
The late 19th bookplate below shows the arms of a scion of the Edinburgh baronets.
The baronets of Kittybrewster distinguish their arms by putting the whole within “a birdure gules charged with two escallops in chief and a bucks head cabossed or in base. They are not entitled to use supporters.
They also have strawberry leaves either side of the peacocks head in their crest.
Their motto is “deum laudans” (Praising God).
In addition there are many other branches of the family who have registered their own arms. They normally use the Arbuthnot arms on the shield and adopt a different crest.
TD and SNBM
The Scottish Nation (1870 edition) by William Anderson
Scottish Clan and Family Encyclopedia (1998 edition) by George Way of Plean and Romilly Squire
Burkes Peerage (2003 edition)
Fairbairn’s Crests (1904 edition)
Armorial Families (1929 edition) by Charles Fox-Davies
Scottish Bookplates (2006) by Brian North Lee and Ilay campbell
Bookplates in the Trophy Style (2006) by Paul Latcham