Hepburn Clan

Hepburn Clan Crest: A horse's head, couped, Argent, garnished Gules.

Hepburn Clan Motto: Keep Tryst (Meet as agreed at the designated time and place).

Hepburn Clan History: The Hepburn surname originates from Hepburn, or Hebbum Bastle, Chillingham, Northumberland, where a family of that name are found in the late thirteenth century. The Scots Hepburns were recorded as being 'an old and powerful race but of uncertain origin and of evil destiny.' The first mention of the name in Scotland is Adam de Hibburne, who was taken prisoner by the Earl of Dunbar and March in a cross-border raid. Adam supposedly saved the life of the Earl, by fending off an attack by a wild stallion, and for his bravery he was rewarded with a grant of lands of Traprain, near Haddington. Robert the Bruce granted Sir Adam de Hepburn the castle and estate of Hailes, when Hugo de Gourlay forfeited his lands for supporting the English during the Wars of Independence.

Adam's son, Sir Patrick Hepburn, married as his second wife (and her fifth husband) Eleanor, Countess of Carrick, a niece of Robert the Bruce. Patrick, and his son, Patrick the younger of Hailes, were with James, Earl of Douglas, when he captured “Hotspur” Percy's Banner in 1388. This led to the Battle of Otterburn in 1388, where the Hepburns saved the Douglas banner from falling into the hands of the English, thus gaining favour and protection from one of the most powerful families in all of Scotland. When Percy the Earl of Northumberland invaded Scotland in 1400, intent on revenge, by destroying the Hepburn fortress at Hailes, he was repelled by the forces of the Earl of Douglas.

In 1482, Sir Patrick Hepburn of Dunsyre was created Lord Hailes, and in 1488, his grandson, also Patrick Hepburn, was made Earl of Bothwell by James IV. In addition, he was appointed to many high offices including: High Admiral of Scotland, Keeper of the King's Household, Keeper of Edinburgh Castle, Captain of Dumbarton Castle, Sheriff Principal of Edinburgh and Haddington, and Lord of Orkney. In 1501, he acted as a plenipotentiary in finalising the treaty for the union of King James IV and Princess Margaret Tudor of England. The following year, Patrick stood proxy for the King at his marriage to Princess Margaret Tudor, daughter of Henry VII of England.  Patrick and his son, Adam, were among the many Scottish knights who were slain with their king at the Battle of Flodden in 1513.

Adam’s son, Patrick Hepburn, 3rd Earl of Bothwell (1512-1556), in 1529, along with other Hepburn family members, treasonably assisted Lord Home, against King James V. He was arrested, that same year, along with other rebellious border noblemen, for protecting brigands in the borders, and was warded in Edinburgh for six months as punishment. Eventually King James V banished Hepburn from Scotland, along with the heads of a number of border families. James V died soon after the defeat at Solway Moss in 1542 and Hepburn was formally pardoned by Mary of Guise, the widow Of James V and mother of the infant Mary Queen of Scots. It has been suggested that Hepburn divorced his wife at this time in the hope that he himself could marry the king’s widow.

James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell (1536-78) was a mercurial nobleman who escorted Mary Queen of Scots home to Scotland from France. Later implicated in the murder of her husband, Lord Darnley, he then married Queen Mary, but after the Battle of Carberry Hill in 1567, he fled to Denmark, where he was arrested and held in solitary confinement at Dragsholm Castle. He died there in terrible conditions, over a decade later.

In 1815, Sir George Buchan Hepburn was recognised as the senior member of the name and family, and this distinction has passed on to his descendants.

Associated family names: Hapburn, Hepburne, Hopburn.

Surname distribution in Scotland: The Hepburn surname is now most commonly found in Aberdeenshire, Aberdeen City, Angus, Moray and the Highlands.

Places of Interest:
Hailes Castle, East Linton, East Lothian. Hidden in the scenic Tyne Valley, Hailes Castle is one of the nation’s earliest stone built castles This beautiful ruin consists of a 13th century tower with a 14th century thick curtain wall and additional towers and structures from the following centuries. Hailes passed from the Gourlays to the Hepburns during the Scottish Wars of Independence. The property is now in the care of Historic Scotland and can be visited by the public all year round.

Nunraw Castle, East Linton, East Lothian. 15th Century four storey tower house which was extended in the 16th century to a Z-plan tower house. Nunraw was founded c.1158 by Ada de Warenne, Countess of Huntingdon, mother of Malcolm IV and William the Lion, as a Convent for the Cistercian nuns of Haddington. A Royal edict ordered the nuns to "fortify the nunnery and have guns aye loaded to shoot at our aulden enemies of England." In 1548, the fortalice hosted a session of the Scottish Parliament to decide upon sending the infant Mary Queen of Scots to France. Three successive Hepburn prioresses ran the convent prior to the reformation and in 1563 the property passed to the Hepburns of Beanston, with the original Nunnery being incorporated into the castle. The Hepburns held the property until 1747. In 1946, Cistercian monks returned to Scotland for the first time since the Reformation and founded the Sancta Maria Abbey of Nunraw.  The Category-A listed Nunraw Castle was sold by the monks in 2014 and the monastery continues to operate from the abbey itself.

Bothwell Castle, Uddingston, South Lanarkshire. Overlooking a bend in the River Clyde, this is the largest and one of the most magnificent 13th century stone built castles in Scotland.  In 1488, it was granted to Patrick Hepburn, 2nd Lord Hailes who was created Earl of Bothwell. He exchanged he castle in 1492 with Archibald Douglas, the 5th Earl of Angus, for Hermitage Castle and the Liddesdale estates. Bothwell is in the care of Historic Scotland and can be visited for most of the year.

Hermitage Castle, Newcastleton, Roxburghshire. One of the finest and most atmospheric of Scottish Castles, Hermitage sits in an isolated location, close to the English border. The castle, scene of many a bloody border encounter, consists of a 13th century courtyard and a massive four storey 14th century tower with additions from the 15th century. Held by Hepburns from 1492 until 1531, when it was confiscated by the crown, after the discovery that Patrick Hepburn, 3rd Earl of Bothwell had entered into clandestine correspondence with the English king Henry VIII.

In addition to the main family seats, at various times through the centuries, there were scions of  the Hepburn family at Airhouses, Alderson, Alemoor, Athelstaneford, Beanston, Blackcastle, Bolton, Bruce’s Castle, Congalton, Crichton Castle, Dolphinton, Drums, Dunbar Castle, Dunsyre, Earlstoun Castle, Elsrickle, Fairnington House, Fortune, Gargurnnock House, Glengelt, Humbie, Keith, Kirklandhill, Letham House, Markle, Monkrigg, Moreham Castle, Moss Tower, Nunraw, Overhowden, Prenderguest, Rickarton, Rosebery House, Smeaton Hepburn, Stevenson House, Strathmore, Trabroun, Waughton, Waughton Castle, Whirsome and Whitburgh House.

Hepburn Clan membership certificates.