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The Elliot (Eliot) Family History & Ancestry

Family Crest Motto: FORTITER ET RECTE (have the courage to do the right thing)

Let me share with you the captivating history of your family, the Elliots. According to our family tradition, the Elliots, spelled as Ellots at the time, originated from Angus at the foot of Glenshie and later migrated to Teviotdale during the reign of Robert the Bruce. It might seem unusual for a family to move from the north to the Borders, but in 1320, a powerful nobleman named William de Soulis, whose family had held the Lordship of Liddesdale for almost two centuries, was convicted of treason against Robert the Bruce. As a result, all his lands were confiscated, and Liddesdale was granted to Robert, Bruce’s illegitimate son. It is believed that Bruce encouraged the Elliots to relocate from their original home in the north to ensure the presence of a loyal and proven force in the region.

Historical records indicate that Robert Eliot of Redheugh was living in the early 1440s, as documented in a Berwickshire pedigree. Another record from 1426 mentions John Elwalde from Teviotdale, while Robert Ellot of Redhaugh appears as the tenth chief in 1476. The Elliots played a significant role in the Battle of Flodden, where the thirteenth chief and many others were tragically killed. The Union of the Crowns in 1603 marked the decline of the border reivers, and many summary executions took place. In response, numerous Borderers embraced the opportunity for a fresh start through the Plantation of Ulster, where the English crown sponsored the colonization of a substantial portion of the province.

In 1673, Sir Gilbert Elliott of Stobs assumed the role of chief. He was granted a Nova Scotia baronetcy in December 1666. The third Baronet transformed the old Tower of Stobs into a grand mansion around 1764. His second son, Augustus, distinguished himself as a soldier and was rewarded for his valiant defense of Gibraltar in 1782 with a peerage. He became Lord Heathfield, although this title became extinct within one generation. Another branch of the chiefly family acquired the land of Minto in 1703. Sir Gilbert Minto, a notable diplomat, served in Corsica and Vienna before becoming the Governor General of Bengal. Upon his return from India in 1813, he was created the Earl of Minto and Viscount Melgund. In 1932, the tenth Baronet reclaimed the ancestral holding of Redheugh, where he passed away in 1958. The current chief is the daughter of Sir Arthur, who assumed her father’s seat on the Council of Chiefs, while the baronetcy passed to the eleventh Baronet, a male heir.

The Elliots arrived in Teviotdale during the reign of Robert I and swiftly established themselves as one of the renowned ‘riding clans’ of the Scottish Borders. The Elliots of Redheugh can be traced back as early as 1400, and according to clan tradition, Robert Ellot of Redheugh, the tenth Chief, was appointed Captain of a tower overlooking the Hermitage Water, located north of Newcastleton. James, the fifteenth Chief, unfortunately lost his life alongside James IV in the Battle of Flodden in 1513.

The name Elliot is one of the various variants derived from an ancient Breton clan name. The Elliots, Alliots, and Elligotts were part of a significant Breton contingent in William the Conqueror’s army during the Norman Conquest of 1066. These names can all be traced back to Brittany. Several Breton families, including the family of the Breton founder of the Stewart dynasty, hailed from Dol and were among the Normans and Flemings brought to Scotland during the reigns of David I, Malcolm IV, and William the Lion.

During that era, phonetic spelling was subject to the discretion of scribes. The most common variant, both in Brittany and Great Britain, is Alliot. However, a 12th-century scribe, upon hearing the name, wrote it as Alyth, while other English-speaking scribes spelled it as Alight and Alyght. When cartographers of the 16th and 17th centuries drew the first maps of Perthshire and Angus, they transcribed the name as Elieht and Eliot based on its pronunciation. These names were assigned to the church, town, and forest of Eliot, as shown on several maps in the National Library of Scotland. Today, the old scribal name is reflected on modern maps.

Around fourteen years after the forfeiture of Walter d’Elliott’s barony of the Brae in 1306, as a consequence of his support for Robert Bruce, Walter and his clan, consisting of “twelve great families,” were relocated to Liddesdale by Bruce himself. The barony of the Brae had passed into the possession of John Brunyng, a man who switched sides and later supported Bruce. Recent DNA studies have confirmed the Breton origins of the Elliots, members of an ancient Celtic-Brittonic clan.

From 1565 onwards, a feud between the Elliots and the Scotts erupted after Scott of Buccleuch, an ancestor of the present Duke of Buccleuch, executed four Elliots for cattle theft. The subsequent years witnessed escalated border clan warfare and cattle raiding, with ongoing feuds between the Elliots, Maxwells, Pringles, Armstrongs, Kerrs, and Johnstones. It was not until James VI decided to intervene and bring an end to the conflicts. Robert Eliott of Redheugh sought refuge in Fife, and as a result, Redheugh was passed to his cousins, the Elliotts of Stobs.

Sir Gilbert Eliott of Stobs, a Nova Scotia baronet appointed by Charles II, became the recognized Chief of the Clan in 1673. One of his descendants, George Augustus Eliott, defended Gibraltar in 1782 and was bestowed the title of Lord Heathfield, which became dormant within a generation.

Gilbert Elliot (1651-1718), who descended from a branch of the Stobs family, faced forfeiture as an accessory to the Covenanters Rebellion of 1679. However, following a full pardon, he was made a baronet and rose to the position of Lord of Session, assuming the Scottish legal title of Lord Minto. The second Baronet, another Gilbert, also served as a Lord of Session. The third Baronet became Lord of the Admiralty and Keeper of the Signet in Scotland, while the fourth Baronet became the Viceroy of Corsica and Governor General of Bengal (1807-1813). In 1813, he was granted the title of Baron Minto, Viscount Melgund, and the first Earl of Minto.

The fourth Earl of Minto (1847-1914) was appointed as the Governor-General of Canada before succeeding Lord Curzon as the Viceroy of India in 1905. Jane Elliot (1727-1805), daughter of Gilbert Elliot, Lord Minto, wrote the lyrics for “The Flowers of the Forest.” Walter Elliot (1888-1958) served as the Secretary of State for Scotland from 1936 to 1938.

While Elliots have been dispersed across the globe since the 17th century, it was only in 1977 that the Eliot Clan Society was established, thanks to the efforts of Sir Arthur Elliot of Stobs, the eleventh Baronet.

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