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Hepburn Family History & Ancestry

Family Crest Motto: KEEP TRYST (Keep trust)

Let me share with you the remarkable history of your family, the Hepburns. The name Hepburn has territorial origins, derived from the locations of Hepburn and Hebburn in Northumberland and Durham. These names stem from the Old English “heope burna,” meaning “wild rose stream.” Your family’s extensive landholdings in Lothian and the Borders can be traced back to Adam de Hebburne, who is considered the founder of the Hepburns’ landed power. Legend has it that Adam was captured by the Scots during a cross-border raid. Over time, various branches of the Hepburn family emerged, including the Hepburns of Waughton, believed by some to have branched off from the Hailes line, and the Hepburns of Beanston and Athelstaneford, all prominently associated with East Lothian. Eleanor de Brus, Countess of Carrick and niece of Robert the Bruce, married Adam de Hepburn’s son as her fifth husband. Patrick Hepburn and his son played significant roles in the Battle of Otterburn, where they captured the standard of the Percy Earls of Northumberland and earned the protection of the powerful Douglas family.

The surname Hepburn originated from Hepburn, or Hebbum Bastle, in Chillingham, Northumberland, where a family bearing that name is found in the late thirteenth century. The Scottish Hepburns were regarded as “an old and powerful race but of uncertain origin and of evil destiny.” The first mention of the name in Scotland is that of Adam de Hibburne, who was taken prisoner by the Earl of Dunbar and March during a cross-border raid. Legend has it that Adam saved the Earl’s life by fending off an attack by a wild stallion. As a reward for his bravery, he was granted the lands of Traprain near Haddington. Robert the Bruce further bestowed upon Sir Adam de Hepburn the castle and estate of Hailes, which had been forfeited by Hugo de Gourlay for supporting the English during the Wars of Independence.

Sir Patrick Hepburn was appointed Earl of Bothwell by James IV. Unfortunately, he and his son Adam lost their lives at the Battle of Flodden in 1513, along with Patrick’s brother, George, who served as the Bishop of the Isles. Patrick, the third Earl, joined a rebellion led by prominent Borders families during the reign of James V and was subsequently forced into exile. He returned following the king’s death and attempted to court Queen Mary of Guise, the mother of Mary, Queen of Scots. He later accepted bribes from Henry VIII of England in an effort to secure a marriage between his son, Edward IV, and the infant Mary. However, this scheme ultimately failed, and Mary went on to marry the Dauphin of France. James, the fourth Earl of Bothwell, was widely believed to have orchestrated the murder of Mary’s second husband, Lord Darnley, and infamously married Mary herself, resulting in dire consequences. Bothwell later fled to Denmark but was imprisoned for eleven years at the castle of Dragsholm, where he remained chained to a pillar until his death.

In the eighteenth century, Sir George Buchan Hepburn held a prominent position as a senior judge in Edinburgh and was a close friend and client of Henry Dundas, known as the “uncrowned king of Scotland.” Thomas Hepburn, a coal miner and trade union leader, tirelessly advocated for the rights of workers. He passed away in 1864 at the age of 69, leaving behind a career spanning 56 years. Within the aristocratic family, Sir George Buchan Hepburn was granted a baronetcy in May 1815.

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Family Crest Motto: KEEP TRYST (Keep trust)

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