Edmonstone Clan History

The origin of the Edmonstone Clan is uncertain.

There are two versions of where the name comes from  Eric Anundsson or Eymundsson (traditionally died 882) who was a Swedish king who ruled during the 9th century. The first Edmonstone was said to come to Scotland in 1067 with Saint Margaret (1045 -93). This version is stated in Crawford, and in another manuscript account.

The other version states that they descend from a member of the Seton and/or Oliphant family named Edmund. Interestingly the coats of arms of the Edmonstones of Duntreath and the Setons of Abercorn and Oliphant are almost identical, all featuring three crescents.

The first people with the name Edmonstone can be found around the Edinburgh area, dating back to the 12th century.

Most  Edmonstones (and variants of the surname) are believed to be descended from the Edmonstones of Duntreath which is where they acquired land later, the Edomstones also acquired land in Berwickshire and Lanarkshire.


The Naming Of Edmonstone in Edinburgh

The first Edmonstone on record were when lands were received,  land that was later to be called Edmonstone in Edinburgh.  Land was given to  Edmundus or Admundus and witnessed by King David I in May 1153.  The lands were granted by the prince of the lands of Riddel, Waltero de Riddle, militi.  It was customary at the time to name the land after the land owner, hence the shire of Edmonstone.

Edmonstone House

Edmonstone House built on the spot of Edmonstone Castle


The Edmonstones lived at the spot of Edmonstone House from 1248, a castle was built by them.  Sadly there is no trace of this now.  The property passed to the Raits in the early 17th Century.  The mansion house was built later by the Wauchopes in the place of the old castle but demolished in 1950.

A feud with the Wauchopes

At some point during the 16th century, in the reign of James V, a feud broke out between the Edmonstone family and their neighbours the Wauchopes of Niddrie. It turned into a hereditary long-running affair which continued for a century.  The feud was mostly about land.  There are reports like the following; ‘ a quarrel about the lands of Houstoun, for (Jan. 15, 1534-5) we find Sir Patrick Hepburne of Wauchtoune, knt., and thirty-four others, giving security to underly the law for “umbesetting ” the highway for the slaughter of Gilbert Wauchope of Nudry-Marschell’.

Dunfermline Abbey

Also in 1248 it was recorded that Henricus (Henry) de Edmundiston was witness to a charter.

There was an agreement made between Sir William, the abbot and convent convent of Dunfermline, on one side, and Henry son of Edmund on the other, over the multure of Edmonstone, mediated by discreet men and friends, where by Henry and his heirs will give the abbot and convent 20s. for the good of the peace, to be paid at the house of the said Henry at Edmonstone on the two terminals, viz., Pentecost and Martinmas. Henry and his heirs may have in their tenure the mill, smithy, and brewery.

In 1359, in the reign of David II, an inquest before the Baillie of Musselborough, declared that “Henricus de Edmundiston” had died and that “Johannes de Edmundiston” was his legitimate son and heir. It also stated that he owned the land of  the Abbey of Dumfermline

Sir John Edmonstone – Edmonstone of that Ilk and of Edenham

In 1352 John Edmonstone was appointed by charter coroner to the district of Lothian. In 1363 he joined the escort which accompanied King David II to England to negotiate a truce.  Sir John and other knights, to travel to England on the King’s behalf. The truce concluded at Edinburgh Castle, on 20 July 1369, was signed by John de Edmondiston Miles and others of the chief nobility.

After the death of King David Sir John acted for Robert II and carried on with negotiations with the English.  He was also sent to Rome and also to France and the Holy Land.  Sir Robert was essentially an ambassador,  he must have been a man of great substance.  For his work and loyalty he was given the lands and barony of Boyn, in Banff, by David II in 1369, and some lands near Haddington in East Lothian by Robert II.

The date of Sir John’s death, and also the identity of his wife, are unknown.  Records do show he was succeeded by his eldest son, also called John.  He was described as a courtier like his father.  John the younger married the daughter of King Robert II, Issobel, Countess of Douglas.   A charter from King Robert II shows John (Johannes) Edmonstoun of the Crownership of Edinburgh  receiving the barony of Edenham.  This made John Edmonstoun also Laird of Ednam.  The name is now known as Ednam, (a corruption of the Anglo-Saxo) it is a small village near Kelso in the Scottish Borders .

Sir John married and had one son,  David.  They acquired the the lands and barony of Tillyallan  in Clackmannashire.  Sir David, according to the Ednam pedigree, married Agnes, daughter of Robert Maitland of Thirlestane. He must have died in the prime of life for, in 1426, there is an inquest which resulted in Sir David’s son James Edmonstone being acknowledged as heir to his father.  While still a boy In 1430 James Edmonstone, was amongst the sons of the nobility who were knighted by James I of Scotland at Holyrood during the celebrations which followed the christening of the King’s twin infant sons.

When James grew up he married twice, from the first marriage he had a son and in the second marriage he had two daughters  and the estates of Tillyallan, and of Boyne, in Banffshire where divided between his children by the two different women so estates went out of the family.  His son John succeeded him and  used Edmonstone in Midlothian as their main home up until 1642, when they then. moved to Ednam.

They held the estate of Ednam until 1772 when the last Edmonstone, died without issue.

Sir James Edmondstoune, prior to selling Ednam, had purchased the estate of Cora on the Clyde. His sisters lived there until the death of the last in 1826, when she was is said to have loved to over a hundred years old.

Edmonstones of Duntreath

Duntreath Castle 1995, Sir Archibald and Lady Edmonstone in front of their ancestral home. (Photographed courtesy of the Oban Times Ltd.)

Duntreath Castle 1995, Sir Archibald and Lady Edmonstone in front of their ancestral home.
(Photographed courtesy of the Oban Times Ltd.)

The Edmonstones of Duntreath are said to descent from Archibald, believed to have been the second son of the first Sir John Edmonstone, and therefore brother of the second John, who married Isabella, daughter of Robert II.

Archibald was knighted following an interesting tale:

Robert III

Robert III has been described as the saddest and most unlucky king of Scotland


Robert III had accepted a challenge from an English Knight,  Sir Robert Morley, that he would take a golden cup from his table unless prevented by a Scottish knight. Morley was defeated in this purpose by James Douglas of Strabnock. Mortified he rode south to Berwick, where he engaged in single combat on the same day with two Scottish knights, one Hugo Wallace and the other Archibald Edmonstone. The Englishman “got the worst of it” and Archibald Edmonstone may have received his knighthood in reward.

King Robert III  had enormously ambitious and totally unscrupulous younger brother, Robert, Duke of Albany.   In 1406 the King’s  eldest son,  David Duke of Rothersay had  almost certainly been murdered and his surviving son,  James who was only twelve years old was all that stood between his brother and the throne.  Arrangements were made to hide James in France but instead he was rowed out to the island of Bass Rock at North Berwick. There he was joined by an escort of men his father could trust, amongst them Sir Archibald Edmonstone.

Under great secrecy after month James was taken by a merchant ship carrying wool and hides.  Their escape hit disaster when on March 22nd the ship was captured by a band of pirates led by the notorious  Hugh-atte-Fen.  The pirates handed the young prince to a delighted  Henry IV rewarded them with her cargo. Prince James was sent to the Tower of London, but the English, unwilling to provide for Scottish prisoners, apparently released his escort among them Sir Archibald Edmonstone.

When King Robert III heard the news he  is said to have died of shock and Robert, Duke of Albany became Regent during the young King’s captivity which lasted for eighteen years. Sir Archibald Edmonstone tries his best  to negotiate the Prince’s release.

Finally  in1424 the Prince returned to Scotland and was crowned King James I. His uncle Robert, Duke of Albany was now dead.  King James found his revenge and in 1425 he tried and executed Albany’s heir, Murdoch Duke of Albany, together with all but one of his sons and his aged father-in-law, the Earl of Lennox. He then distributed their forfeited lands to his supporters, who included William, son of Sir Archibald Edmonstone. Sir Archibald gained Duntreath.

The estate of Duntreath lies on both sides of the Blane Valley some twelve miles to the north of the city of Glasgow. Today, in the 1990s, it comprises some 6000 acres.

The Edmonstones continued to gain land and titles and Sir William Edmonstone, Ist of Duntreath being styled of Culloden, (land near Inverness acquired from the Setons, a further indication of relationship). In 1425 Sir William Edmonstone married the Princess Mary, sister of James I and widow of the Earl of Angus, as her fourth husband. Although probably in her late thirties she bore him a son and a daughter. She is buried in Strathblane church.

Duntreath Castle 

Duntreath Castle (main image) stands within the Blane Valley. The wooded valley provided a defensive position for the fortress to be built. This is the ancestral home of Clan Edmonstone.

The earldom of Lennox had previously been forfeited but in the 15th century, Sir William Edmonstone helped John Stewart Earl of Lennox restore the the title.  For this Sir William was allowed to hold the barony of Duntreath directly of the crown, rather that subject to the earldom.

William 4th of Duntreath together with his brothers-in-law, the Earl of Montrose and Lord Ross died beside King James IV at the battle of Flodden in 1513.

King James VI of Scotland  in an attempt to calm a rebellious Ireland tried to seed it with good Presbyterians.  The Edmonstones of Dunreath had financially suffered with the younger branches of the family and their financial needs.  They decided it would be best to move to Ireland.  To pay for their new land in Ireland and t0 cover existing debts they mortgaged Duntreath and moved to Antrim.  The family abandoned the castle in the 18th Century then returned in 1857 and restored and expanded the castle.

In 1651, Cromwell had taken control of Duntreath and  installed a garrison so the castle when the Edmonstones returned must have been in a terrible state.

Archibald, 11th of Duntreath was a Member of Parliament for the county of Dumbarton.  A staunch Tory supporter, he upheld Lord North’s government during the American War of Independence, and due to his public services, was created a Baronet of the United Kingdom on the 3rd May 1774.  His grandson also called Archibald built huge extensions to the castle.  Sadly  Archibald married his 1st cousin Emma Wilbraham, he had three daughters all of whom died in infancy.  The line passed to his half brother Admiral Sir William Edmonstone, 4th Bt, 14th of Duntreath, a distinguished naval officer.

Sir Archibald Edmonstone, 15th of Duntreath and 5th Baronet was Groom in Waiting to King Edward VII and he accompanied the King on his state visit to Leningrad in 1908. Edward, while still Prince of Wales, stayed at the castle.

Sir Alexander’s eldest son William was killed at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and he was succeeded by his 2nd son, Sir Archibald, 16th of Duntreath and 6th Baronet, who died in 1954.

The current Sir Archibald Edmonstone, 17th of Duntreath, 7th Bt., found himself faced by the financial problems of the post war age.  Sir Archibald had inherited the castle at the age of just twenty two. Costs of maintenance were escalating, heating was enormously expensive, and a house of such a size was near impossible to run. It was therefore decided in the late ‘50s, to reduce the house to its present size making it more manageable. His wife,  Lady Edmonstone, he has more recently altered and restored the gardens.


Cadet Branches of Edmonstones of Duntreath

The Edmonstones of Spittal or Broich.

The Edmonstones of Cambus-Wallace.

The Shetland Family of Edmonston.


Castles relating to Clan Edmonstone

Castles that have belonged to the Clan Edmonstone have included amongst many others:

Boyne Castle, in Aberdeenshire

Ednam Castle, in Borders

Culloden Castle, in the Highlands

Duntreath Castle, in Stirling