Believed to have descended from the Celtic royal families through the Earls of Lennox, the name is thought to derive from the occupational name of "naperer" who looked after the linen in the royal household. However, the name is first recorded at the end of the 13th century when Malcolm, Earl of Lennox granted lands at Kilmahew in Dunbartonshire, to John de Naper. These lands were held by Napiers for 18 generations, finally being sold in 1820.
Alexander Napier was the 1st Laird of Merchiston in Edinburgh and became Lord Provost of the city. Early in the 15th century, his son was wounded rescuing the widow of King James I> from rebels and James II> made him Comptroller of the Royal Household in 1440. Alexander's grandson, John, was killed at the Battle of Sauchieburn> in 1488. The next Laird of Merchiston and his son were both killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1413.
The 7th Laird of Merchsiton, John Napier, (1550-1617) developed the system of logarithms and his son Archibald accompanied James VI to London in 1603 when he became king of England also. Archibald subsequently became a Baronet of Nova Scotia and then Baron Napier of Merchiston.
Another branch of the Napiers became lords of Napier and Ettrick in 1627 with a seat at Thirlestane castle. Later Napiers served in the Napoleonic Wars> (there were six British generals and one admiral named Napier at that time) and the 8th Lord Napier was captured during the American War of Independence.
The Napier clan motto is "Sans tache" which means "Without stain".
There is a Napier clan society Web site here>.
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