The name Borthwick is derived from an old barony of Borthwick beside Borthwick Water in the old county of Roxburgh (now part of Midlothian. The family is thought to be one of the most ancient in Scotland with some researchers suggesting they may have come to Britain with Caesar's Roman legions. Traditionally it is claimed that the first of the family in Scotland accompanied the Saxon royal claimant Edgar Aetheling and his sister Margaret when they fled to Scotland after the Norman conquest of England in 1066. Sir William Borthwick soon owned a substantial amount of land in Midlothian and the Scottish Borders and obtained a charter confirming ownership in 1410. The Borthwicks gained considerable influence in the Scottish court and the first Lord Borthwick was one of the nobles who went as hostages to secure the release of King James I in 1425 after he had been captured by pirates while on his way to "safety" in France and subsequently held prisoner of the English King Henry IV.
The twin towered fortress of Borthwick Castle was built in 1430 by the first Lord Borthwick, whose sepulchre can still be seen in the old village church. A charter to build the Castle was awarded to Sir William de Borthwick by King James I in thanks for his part in bringing the King home to Scotland after 18 years imprisonment in England. The Castle was built as a stronghold capable of withstanding attack from invaders, particularly the English. The stone used was of the finest quality, with 100 feet walls, 20 feet thick at the base and originally had a moat, drawbridge and portcullis.
Lavish entertaining took place in the impressive Great Hall, 50 feet long and 37 feet high. You can still see the magnificent canopied fireplace 20 feet (6m) high and 15 feet (4.5m) wide, to the right of which is a "sedile" - a seat of honour for the master of the house enriched with a carved canopy and a shield bearing the Borthwick Arms. The castle has remained in the ownership of the Borthwicks to the present day (though now operated as a hotel with paying guests).
Lord William Borthwick was appointed as commander of Stirling Castle and as such looked after the King James V in the castle when he was an infant.
Lord John Borthwick opposed the Reformation of the church in Scotland in the 16th century. Even so he was excommunicated by the Catholic church for contempt of the ecclesiastical court. The officer sent to deliver the letters of excommunicated was thrown into a mill dam by servants of Lord Borthwick and later forced to eat the letter - though it was soaked in wine first to make it more palatable! But the messenger was warned that if he tried to deliver the excommunication again, he would suffer the same fate!
Mary Queen of Scots
John's son, William, was a close friend of Mary, Queen of Scots and stayed at Borthwick castle on many occasions. Mary took refuge at Borthwick castle after marrying her third husband, James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell. But she was forced to flee when a force of around 1,000 under James Stewart, Earls of Moray and Morton approached. The Earl of Bothwell escaped (but died later in Denmark) and Mary is said to have escaped dressed as a page, only to be executed by Queen Elizabeth I of England.
In 1573, David Borthwick of Lochhill became the king's advocate, and may have been the first to bear the title Lord Advocate,
During the English Civil War the Borthwicks sided with the Royalists and were besieged in 1650 following the Battle of Dunbar. Oliver Cromwell offered Lord Borthwick honourable terms for surrender (after directing canon fire at the walls). Lord Borthwick accepted, thereby saving the castle from almost certain destruction. Lord Borthwick was allowed to leave with his family and goods. Thereafter the direct line failed and the title became dormant.
In 1762, a Henry Borthwick of Neathorn was recognised as the heir by a decision of the House of Lords but died ten years later without issue. The right of succession was disputed by various branches of the family through the 18th and 19th centuries but in 1986 a major John Borthwick of Crookston was recognised by the Lord Lyon King of Arms and became the 23rd Lord Borthwick and his son John succeeded him in 1996 both as Lord Borthwick and chief of the clan.
The Borthwick clan motto is "Qui conducit" which means "He who leads".
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