Clan Crichton History

Crichton Castle, Midlothian, initially built in the 1300s by John de Crichton

Crichton Castle, Midlothian, initially built in the 1300s by John de Crichton

The name Crichton originates from the the lands of Kreitton, a very old barony near Edinburgh. Recordings of the name first appear around 1128 when Thurstan de Crechtune witnessed the foundation of the Abbey of Holyrood House by David I. Thomas de Crichton, possibly Thursdan’s son is recorded on the Ragman Roll of nobles swearing to Edward I in 1296.

Thomas’ family prospered especially when his son William married Isabel de Ross who was heiress to the barony of Sanquhar in Dumfriesshire. Sir Robert Crichton of Sanquhar became sheriff of Dumfries county in 1464 and later Coroner of Nithsdale. In 1487 Sir Robert’s eldest son, also named Robert, was made Lord Crichton of Sanquhar’ by James III.

Alas the title appeared to bring nothing but bad luck for the Crichtons; William the third Lord, was murdered by Lord Semple around 1552. The sixth Lord Sanquhar was accused on being involved in the murder of a fencing master who had previously blinded him in one eye and he died in disgrace. The title eventually passed to the family of Crichton-Stuart, the present Marquesses of Bute.

Sir William Crichton made the mistake of getting involved in a feud with the Douglas’s. In 1439 while serving as Chancellor of Scotland and governor of Edinburgh Castle during James II’s minority the Sir William arranged the notorious ‘Black Dinner. His great rival the Earl of Douglas had recently died and he invited the new Earl and his brother to the castle to attend a Royal Banquet. With the young King in attendance the after dinner entertainment was rather disappointing for the Douglas’s as they were both dragged from the banqueting hall and executed at nearby Castle Hill.

The Douglas’s were a powerful clan and they besieged the castle until Crichton finally surrendered. despite this he was still raised to the peerage with the title Lord Crichton. Through marriage the 2nd Lord Crichton obtained the barony of Frendraught in Banfshire.

The third Lord united with the Duke of Albany, brother to James III in an attempt to size the throne but as a result lost his estates and Crichton Castle was taken and passed to, among others the Earl of Bothwell, Mary, Queen of Scots third husband.

James Crichton was son of the Lord Advocate of Scotland. He is better known as ‘the Admirable Crichton’ due to his incredible mental and physical agility. By the age of twenty he was an expert in just about every field and had mastered around ten languages. If that wasn’t enough he was also renowned for his horsemanship and sword skills. With such impressive skills the young man naturally moved to Paris where his charm could be put to good use, he ran intellectual rings round the cities professors and next day won a jousting competition. On a visit to Rome he impressed the Pope and the Duke of Mantua. So much so that the Duke asked him to be tutor to his son, Vincenzo.

Alas Italian youths are less impressed with such showmanship then Popes and Parisian professors. In 1582 while Crichton was attending a carnival he was ambushed by a gang. He rapidly dispatched five of them and was preparing to finish the sixth when he revealed himself as young Vincenzo. Shocked by the discovery James was unprepared for Vincenzo’s attack who promptly stabbed him.

James Crichton, Viscount Frendraught fought alongside the Marquis of Montrose in 1650. The story goes that he gave his horse to Montrose during a battle at Invercarron so he could evade capture. Crichton was taken prisoner but, considering the fate of Montrose was probably fortunate that he died of his wounds before he met a similar end.

It is from Crichtons of Frendraught that the present line descends and the seat is at Castle of Monzie near Crieff.

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