The earliest recorded reference to the name of Napier is in a charter of the Earl of Lennox in 1280, granting lands in Dunbartonshire to John de Naper. These lands were to be held for eighteen generations of Napiers, before being sold in 1820.
In 1436 Alexander Napier, who was to become Provost of Edinburgh, obtained a charter to the lands of Merchiston. His son rose high in Royal favour and in 1627 the family was raised to the peerage. The title almost died out when the 3rd
Lord Napier died a bachelor but the title was saved when passed through the female line of the Napiers to the Scotts of Thirlestane.
The Napiers had many world-wide connections, with subsequent Lord Napiers playing important roles in India and Hong Kong. Francis, the 10th Lord Napier, as well as being created ambassador to the Netherlands, went on to become a diplomat in Washington, finally going on to serve as acting Viceroy of India in 1872.