Coat of Arms The Viscount of Arbuthnott, Chief of Clan Arbuthnott



Origin of name

From the place name Aberbothenoth, which lies on a narrow peninsula on the north side of the river Bervie. On the north east side the land falls steeply down to the burn, once called Buthenot, and on the south side it slopes more gradually down to the river Bervie. “Aber” means the influx of a small stream into a greater stream. “Aber” can also mean “mouth of” as in Aberdeen. “Both” or “Bothena” is a baronial residence. “Nethea” has been described as the stream that descends or is lower than something else in the neighbourhood.



Origins of the clan

The lands of Arbuthnott are believed to have come into the possession of the Swinton family during the reign of William I of Scotland through the marriage of Hugh, to the daughter of Osbert Olifard (or Oliphant) ‘The Crusader’. The first recorded instance of the family acquiring the name Arbuthnott is in 1355 with Philip de Arbuthnott described as ‘of that ilk’.



15th century & conflicts

Murder of John Melville of Glenbervie

Around 1420 Philip’s son, Hugh, was implicated in the murder of John Melville of Glenbervie, sheriff of Kincardineshire (The Mearns). Melville was said to have been extremely unpopular with the local lairds due to his strict interpretation and adherence to the law. Albany, regent at the time of James I of Scotland’s captivity became tired with complaints against the sheriff and is supposed to have said, “sorrow gin that sheriff were sodden and supped in broo”. The Lairds of Mathers, Arbuthnott, Pitarrow and Halkerton took this as a request to kill the sheriff. They invited the unsuspecting sheriff on a hunt in the Forest of Garvock where he was ambushed. They reputedly killed him by throwing him into a cauldron of boiling water, each drinking of the broth once he was dead. Arbuthnott was pardoned for his part in the murder and died in 1446.



16th century

James Arbuthnott of Arbuthnott had a Crown Charter of the feudal barony of Arbuthnott on January 29, 1507. He had married, by contract dated August 31, 1507, Jean, daughter of Sir John Stewart, 1st Earl of Atholl, a son of Sir James Stewart, ‘The Black Knight of Lorn’ by his wife Joan Beaufort, Dowager Queen of Scots.

Alexander Arbuthnot, a descendant of a younger son of the main family, was a leading figure in the Church of Scotland and Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1577. In 1583 he was asked by the General Assembly to complain to James VI of Scotland about various ‘popish practices’ still permitted by the King. His complaints were met with not inconsiderable displeasure from the King and he was placed under house arrest in St Andrews. This seems to have had an ill effect on his health, as he died at the age of 44 in 1583.



17th century & Civil War

The equally eventful seventeenth century found the lairds in royal favour. Two Arbuthnotts received knighthoods , and then, in 1641, the fortunes of the clan were elevated when Sir Robert Arbuthnot was made 1st Viscount of Arbuthnott and Baron Inverbervie by Charles I of England. In spite of this favour from Charles I of England, the sympathies of Lord Arbuthnot were with the Covenanters and in 1645 the Royalist troops, under James Graham the 1st Marquess of Montrose, laid waste to the Arbuthnott estate.

Dr John Arbuthnot, though not of the chief family, achieved great status. In 1705, he had the fortune of being at Epsom races when Prince George of Denmark, husband of Anne of Great Britain was taken ill. Dr Arbuthnot was rushed to his side. The Prince recovered and Arbuthnot was appointed a royal physician. Over time he became a confidante to the queen and friends to a great many of the leading figures of his time. Dr Samuel Johnson once remarked that he was ‘a man of great comprehension, skilful in his profession, versed in the sciences, acquainted with ancient literature and able to animate his mass of knowledge by a bright and active imagination’



Clan profile



Arbuthnott tartan. First registered with the Lord Lyon in 1962. It is based on the Black Watch tartan.



Clan chief

The current chief of Clan Arbuthnott is John Arbuthnott, 16th Viscount of Arbuthnott, Lord Inverbervie and Chief of the Name and Arms of Arbuthnott, KT, CBE, DSC.



Clan symbolism

Members of Clan Arbuthnott can show their allegiance to the clan by wearing a crest badge which contains the chief’s heraldic crest and motto. The chief’s crest is A peacock’s head couped at the neck Proper, his motto is LAUS DEO (from Latin: “Praise God”].

Clan members may also wear a clan tartan. The Arbuthnott tartan was registered with the Lord Lyon in 1962 and was inspired by the tartan of the Black Watch.



Clan Arbuthnott today

Approximate numbers in various countries: UK 350; USA 1,150; Canada 220; Australia and New Zealand 190; South Africa 85 (depending on whom one includes)

Ancestral lands: Arbuthnott House and surrounding estate of around 3,000 acres (12 kmē) remains the seat of the family today.

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