Origins of the Clan

The Swintons appear to be of Saxon origin, descended from the nobles who were prominent in the ancient Kingdom of Northumberland which straddled the present day border between England and Scotland. Ancestry can be traced back to Eadulf I of Bernicia who accepted Alfred the Great as overlord in 886 making the family one of the oldest in both England and Scotland.

They are said to have acquired the name Swinton for their bravery and clearing the area of Wild Boar. The chief’s coat of arms and the clan crest allude this legend. Although the name is thought more likely to be of a territorial origin. The village of Swinewood in the county of Berwick was granted by a charter from Edgar, son of King Malcolm III of Scotland, to Liulf of Bamburgh Coldingham Priory in 1098. Liulf’s family was that of the Earls of Northumberland from whom also came the Clan Dunbar. Liulf’s grandson Ernulf is said to be the first instance of a Scottish knight. He was succeeded by Cospatric, the alleged father of Hugh de Swinton who was also the ancestor of the Clan Arbuthnott.

The Swintons’ possession of their lands was confirmed by a charter of the Prior of Coldingham in the reign of William the Lion. Edulph de Swinton received a charter, one of the first recorded in Scotland, confirming his property at Swinton from David I around 1140.



Wars of Scottish Independence

Henry de Swinton appears on the Ragman Rolls as one of the nobility swearing fealty to King Edward I of England in 1296. He was joined in this by his brother, William, priest of the church of Swinton. However later the Swintons would support Robert the Bruce during the Wars of Scottish Independence. Sir John Swinton, great-grandson of Henry, was a distinguished soldier and statesman in the reigns of Robert II of Scotland and Robert III of Scotland. He was a commander at the Battle of Otterburn in July 1388 when the Scots won the day and defeated the English, although their leader, the Earl of Douglas, was slain. Sir John Swinton was later killed leading the clan at the Battle of Humbleton Hill also known as Homildon Hill in 1402.



15th Century & Hundred Years’ War

Swinton’s second wife was the Countess of Douglas and Mar, but they had no issue. His third wife was Princess Margaret, who bore Swinton a son, later Sir John Swinton of Swinton, reckoned to be the fifteenth Lord of the name. During the Hundred Years’ War he was a doughty warrior who fought and led the Clan Swinton at the Battle of Baugé against the English in France in 1421, where the French-Scottish forces were victorious. Although the credit for this is claimed by others, he is said to have been the knight who slew the Duke of Clarence, brother of King Henry V of England. The incident appears in Sir Walter Scott’s poem, ‘The Lay of the Last Minstrel’. However Sir John Swinton was killed when the Clan Swinton fought at the Battle of Verneuil in France in 1424.



16th Century & Mary Queen of Scots

Sir John Swinton was among the band of Scottish barons who signed the bond of protection of the infant King James VI of Scotland in 1567 against the Earl of Bothwell on his marriage to the child’s mother, Mary, Queen of Scots.



17th Century & Civil War

In 1640 Sir Alexander Swinton, the 22nd chief, became sheriff of Berwickshire. He died in 1652, leaving six sons and five daughters. His second son, Alexander, was appointed to the Supreme Court of Scotland in 1688, taking the title, ‘Lord Mersington’.

The Swintons supported the Royalists during the Civil War. The eldest son, John, was colonel for the regiment of Berwickshire, and at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, he was taken prisoner, and his brother, Robert, died in an attempt to carry off Oliver Cromwell’s standard.

John was later appointed by the Lord Protector to the Council of State he established to assist in ruling Scotland in 1655. His involvement with Cromwell led to his being tried for treason in 1661, and although he escaped the block, his estates were forfeited and he was imprisoned for six years. He died in 1679 and was succeeded by his son, Alexander, who later died without issue.

Alexander’s brother, Sir John, succeeded as the twenty-fifth Laird of Swinton who, after a successful career as a merchant in Holland, returned to Scotland in the wake of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 which brought William of Orange to the throne with his wife, Queen Mary.



18th Century

His father’s forfeiture was rescinded, and Swinton sat in both the Scottish Parliament and, later, in the British, at Westminster. John Swinton of that Ilk, the twenty-seventh Laird, became a member of the Supreme Court in 1782, taking the title, ‘Lord Swinton’.



Clan Swinton Today

Captain George Swinton, descended from the Swintons of Kimmerghame, a cadet of the chiefly house, was Lord Lyon, King of Arms, and Secretary to the Order of the Thistle from 1926 to 1929. Major-General Sir John Swinton, who still resides at Kimmerghame, is the Lord Lieutenant of Berwickshire, and father of the actress Tilda Swinton. The present chief is a Canadian currently living in London, UK. Other distinguished members of this family include, James Rannie Swinton (1816-88) a Portrait Painter of considerable distinction. Alan Archibald Campbell Swinton (1863-1930) a famous scientist, who is acknowledged as one of the inventors of “Television”. Major-General Sir Ernest Swinton (1868-1951) the inventor of “The Tank”.



Clan Chief

The current Chief of Clan Swinton is Rolfe William Swinton 36th of that Ilk, born 20th Jan.1971


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