Clan Arbuthnott

Clan Arbuthnott Crest: Laus Deo ("Praise be to God")

The Arbuthnott Family is a Scottish clan from the area of Kincardineshire in the northeast of Scotland.

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.

Clan History

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'.

Murder of John Melville of Glenbervie

The first recorded instance of the family acquiring the name Arbuthnott is in 1355 with Philip de Arbuthnott described as 'of that ilk'. 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 extrememly 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.

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 of his death, as he died at the age of 44 in 1583.

in an attempt to elicit his support.

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 Arbuthnott 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 sympatheties of Lord Arbuthnott 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 Arbuthnott was rushed to his side. The Prince recovered and Arbuthnott 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'


The current Chief is John Arbuthnott, 16th Viscount of Arbuthnott KT, CBE, DSC, KStJ, FRSE

Crest of the Chief of the Family


Clan Arbuthnott Today


The tartan was registered by Lord Lyon in 1962 and is inspired on the tartan of the Black Watch

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