Borthwick Family

Borthwick Castle
Borthwick Castle

The Borthwick Family and Borthwick Castle is located as lying 6 miles south-east of Dalkeith in the County of Midlothian, Scotland.  The castle is located 2 miles westward from Crichton Castle, apparently a ragged and decayed ruin, within sight of the parish of Borthwick.  A second verbal location is  just East of hamlet of Middleton, some 13 miles from Edinburgh on the road to Galashiels

In the year 1329, King Robert (of Scotland ) was on his death bed and was giving some instruction to his most loyal barons.  The King called for Sir James Douglas and requested that Sir Douglas remove the King’s heart after death and place it in the Holy Sepulchre so as to complete a prior promise of the King.

Soon after the death of the King, Sir Douglas had the heart removed, embalmed and placed in a silver case, curiously enameled, which he carried around his neck on a silver chain.  Sir Douglas set sail, with eight other Scottish nights and 26  esquires,  for the Holy Lands, but was delayed off Sluys.  While there, Sir Douglas learned that Alphonso, the young King of Leon and Castile was carrying on hostilities with Osmyn, the Moorish King of Granada.  Sir Douglas decided to take a side trip to Spain to fight in this Holy War before going on to Jerusalem.

A battle was fought with the Moors near Theba on the frontiers of Andalusia.  Sir Douglas, with 10 men, advanced too far into the Moor’s line and was about to withdraw when he noted that a Lord William St. Clair was surrounded.  Sir Douglas returned to the fight, but was surrounded by 20 to one forces.  He took the casket of King Robert from his neck and threw it at the Moors with the comment, “Now pass thou onward as thou wert wont, and Douglas will follow or die”.  Sir Douglas followed after the casket.

The next day, Sir Douglas was found on the field beside the casket along with Sir William St. Clair and Sir Robert & Sir Walter Logan.  Sir Douglas’s body was returned by the few remaining survivors to St. Bride’s Church Of Douglas Scotland.  The heart of Bruce was buried in Melrose Abbey.

According to family oral history as finally written by Margaret Graham Borthwick, “Our ancestor fought so valiantly in this battle and slew so many of the Moors with his good broadsword that he gained  for himself the head of the Moor as his crest.  So runs the tale”.

Borthwick Family Crest
The Borthwick Family Crest

There are apparently several Borthwick Coats of arm whose description references “–a blackamoors head in profile –” or a  “–Moors head in profile—“.

The Castle was built in 1430 by Lord Borthwick under license from King James I and is still standing and used as a “bed and breakfast” establishment.

William, 1st Lord Borthwick created prior to 1458.

William, 2nd Lord Borthwick.  Sent once to Rome and three times to England as ambassador

William, 3rd Lord Borthwick fell at Battle of Flodden (1513)with his neighbor of Crichton Castle.  Lord Borthwick may have requested that James the 4th of Scotland attack the English troops who were outflanking him.  The King felt such an act was unchivalrous and declined.  The English won a great victory and the King was killed

According to one footnote, in 1547, there was a “curious incident” in which there were excommunication letters sent to the 5th Lord  “pronounced for  contumacy of certains of his witnesses in a process between him and George Hays of Minzeans to be read by the curate at divine services.  In summary, the messenger was treated unkindly and forced to eat the parchment letter (soaked in wine) and warned that future messengers would be treated similarly.

John, 5th Lord Borthwick had the castle when Queen Mary on 6th of June 1567, arrivied with the Earl of Bothwell 3 weeks after their marriage.  On 11 of June,1567, the castle was surrounded by about a thousand insurgent forces.  Bothwell eluded them leaving the Queen in residence; she subsequently escaped disguised as a page.

John, 9th  or perhaps 10th Lord Borthwick was a decided Royalist adhered to Charles I and died without issue in 1672.  On   the 18 November of 1650, Cromwell wrote a letter demanding the Castle to surrender.  Artillery was used and the lord surrendered.  Apparently the Lord was given 15 days to leave.  NOTE:  Rathbun family oral history, yet to be confirmed, has one of the Engle family being in command of the artillery????

Title was unclaimed until 1727 when it was assumed, under protest, until 1762 when it was adjudged by House of Lords.  This claimant died without issue in 1772 and the peerage was been dormant, but with 2 claimants.

June 10, 1985 copy of Wall Street Journal reports sale of castle to California group including a Mr. Egret and Price.

June 4, 1986 copy of Santa Barbara, CA News-Press report that John Henry Borthwick, age 80, became the 23rd Lord Borthwick.  Lord Borthwick is described as a wealthy landowner from Crookston, near Edinburgh has been trying to get job done for 212 years.  Critical documents were found in a box under billiard table.

This was reported by Malcom Innes, an Ediburgh lawyer who is Lord Lyon King of Arms and is authorized by Queen to decide such issues.  Lord Borthwick may join the House of Lords, the un-elected second  chamber of the British Parliament.

Borthwick Ancestors – Last Update 5/14/2015

Borthwick Family Tree