Clan Oliphant Chiefs, the Peerages, the Chiefly Line and the Baronetcy
Above left are the arms of the Chief of Clan Oliphant and beside them is the Clansman's Badge. The Chief's arms are the "undifferenced" arms, literally unchanged from the original grant of arms and thereby he is Chief of the Arms and Name of Oliphant. The style of the Chief is "Oliphant of Oliphant" or "Oliphant of that Ilk" (meaning of the same name.) Douglas's Peerage states that the first known Chief was Donald Holifard, a Norwegian nobleman who was shipwrecked on Scotland's East coast in the 9th Century. However, despite the evidence in the Mearns (see Early History) David Olifard, who saved the life of King David I (his godfather) at the siege of Winchester in 1141, was the earliest we can trace back to today. It is uncertain whether he was journeying there for the first time or returning to whence his family had come with David, their lord originally when in Scotland. This David Oliphant was ancestor of Sir William Oliphant who defended Stirling Castle from Edward I during the Wars of Independence, of Oliphants who fell at Flodden and of those who fought at Culloden, one of which was Bonnie Prince Charlie's Aide-de-Camp (ADC). The chiefly branch were created Lords Oliphant (no later than July, 1455.)
In 1633, a problem arose over the succession of the peerages, which has been described as follows:
"Sir Laurence Oliphant was created a Lord of Parliament by King James the Second or King James the Third, but it is uncertain in what year the Honour was conferred or, its extent because latterly, the Lordship of Oliphant was joined by those of Aberdalgie and Dupplin. Sir Lawrence, however, sat in Parliament as a Lord of Parliament on the 14th of October 1467 and at least the senior Peerage must therefore have been created before that time. The Dignities descended in regular succession to Laurence the fifth Lord Oliphant, who succeeded his grandfather, Laurence the fourth Lord, in 1593, his father, the Master of Oliphant, perished at sea in 1584.
The principle of law, that a Peerage(s) of Scotland of unknown origin shall be presumed to be limited to the heirs male of the body of the Grantee, had not been established by a decision or otherwise in the seventeenth Century. Laurence Lord Oliphant, having no son but having a daughter Anne who became the wife of Sir James Douglas of Mordington, by a Procuratory of Resignation purported to resign his Peerages in favour of Patrick Oliphant his next heir male, desiring to ensure the continuance of his Dignity in the male line of his family. This Resignation does not appear to have been accepted by the King, and certainly no regrant followed upon it. Lord Oliphant died before the year 1631.
There having been no regrant, his daughter claimed the Peerage(s) of Oliphant, Aberdalgie and Dupplin as his heir at law. The Court of Session exercised jurisdiction on claims to Peerages before the Union, and Lady Douglas’s case came before that Court on the 11th of July 1633, when her claim was opposed by Patrick Oliphant. The Lords of Session found that as her father and his predecessors had held and enjoyed the Dignity, such enjoyment and use, there being no Writ to show an entail, were sufficient to transmit the Title to the heirs female; but that the Procuratory of Resignation, although the King had not then conferred the Honour in conformity with it, had denuded Lord Oliphant of the Peerages and had barred all claims to them. (Duries’ Decisions, p.685.)
Lord Mansfield, in the Cassillis case in 1762, and or the Sutherland case in 1771, declared the decision of the Court of Session contrary to law and justice, (Mr. Maidment’s Report of the Cassillis case, p.51, and of the Sutherland case, p. 9,) and it has been disregarded in all the cases which have come before the House of Lords in which similar questions were raised.
The King, according to the statement of Sir John Dalrymple of Stair, subsequently one of the Lords of Session, acted upon the views expressed by the Court of Session, and determined that the heir male should hold the Peerage of Oliphant. (Dalrymple’s Collections, p. 396.)
In 1641 the King created Sir James Douglas, the husband of Anne, the daughter and heir of Laurence Lord Oliphant, Lord Mordington, and, granted him the precedency due to the former Lords Oliphant; and it appears from the records of Parliament that Lord Mordington sat above the Lord Oliphant. It is certain that the heir male did become Lord Oliphant, as on the 19th of October 1669, Lord Rosse protested that the calling of the Lords Elphinstone, Oliphant, Lovat and Borthwick before him should not prejudice him in his right to precedency before them and, on the 12th of June 1672, Lord Oliphant was present in Parliament as a Lord of Parliament and sat in the precedency of the former Lords Oliphant. Patrick Oliphant of Newland, (afterwards Lord Oliphant,) the heir male, was the son of John Oliphant of Newland, the second son of Laurence the fourth Lord Oliphant. The male issue of Patrick Lord Oliphant failed in the person of Francis the tenth Lord Oliphant, who died without issue in 1748. The title of Lord Oliphant was, after the death of Francis, assumed by William Oliphant of Langton, descended from Peter Oliphant, the second son of Laurence the third Lord Oliphant. William voted as Lord Oliphant at the election of a Representative Peer without protest on the 15th of March 1756.
N.B. Although William Oliphant assumed the title of Lord Oliphant after the death of the 10th Lord, he was not heir male of line, as his nephew, the son of his elder brother, should have succeeded to the peerage. William was never the legitimate 11th Lord Oliphant, even though his claim was uncontested, possibly for reasons of incapacity, although it is not known. The actual 11th Lord was Charles Oliphant.
William died without issue on the 3rd of June 1751, and the title of Lord Oliphant has been dormant since his decease.
Laurence Oliphant of Gask, descended from William Oliphant, the younger son of the first Lord Oliphant, appears to have been the next heir male after William, and it is stated that William acknowledged him as his rightful successor but, having taken the part of Prince Charles Edward in the insurrection of 1745 and still being attaindered at the time, Laurence did not assume the title.
His male heir or, in default of male issue from him, the nearest heir male of his ancestor William, the grandfather of the founder of the Gask and Condie branches of the family, would be entitled to the Dignity, and failing issue from William, the male representative descending from George the younger brother of William, if any, would be the next heir to the Oliphant Peerage.
The Chiefship of Oliphant, which may have become separated from the peerage after the 10th Lord Oliphant, continues today in the proven male line of Oliphant of Condie, as follows:
Although a Lordship follows a strict order of succession, a chiefship can be left to whomsoever the Chief appoints (provided that it is not entailed and provided that they carry the name or, being of the blood, change their name within a maximum of one year to that of the clan they wish to take up the chiefship of.) The next in line was Charles Oliphant, a descendant of the Oliphants of Turin, Drimmie and Langton, whose uncle (who was junior to him in primogenitive order) claimed the peerage. Unknown to him, he was the chief of line. However, the Oliphant chiefship had been left by the last Lord to the Gask branch of the family (the first Chief of Clan Oliphant from the Gask branch being Laurence, 6th of Gask.)
The chiefship continued in that branch until the 1847 when James Oliphant of Gask (and thus, of Oliphant) died without a known male heir. The chiefship was left to his "heir male whomsoever" (i.e., his closest male relative, PROVIDED always that this relative was descended in the male line.) However, the title of Oliphant of Gask was applied for and passed through the female line (see Branches), thus separating the bearer of those two titles.
Below is a list of known Clan Chiefs. Click (if the link is available) on the B for a biography, and on the P for the Chiefs listing from the Scots Peerage. It should be noted that the lineage from # 10 Sir William Oliphant is known precisely, although prior to that there are differing accounts and the list here is based on precedence by date.
Line of known Clan Chiefs and the line before arriving in Scotland:-
Roger Olifard (the first person to use this surname, circa 1090)
William Olifard held the lands of Lilford, Northants. Died before 1157.
1) David Olifard (Justicar of the Lothians, Godson of David I of Scotland. Owned Lilford). P
2) David Olifard (Justicar of the Lothians; not proven but dates indicate two Davids)
3) Sir Walter Olifard (Justicar of the Lothians, son of David 2) 1178 P
4) Walter Olifard (Justicar of the Lothians, son of Walter 3) P
5) David Olifard (owned Lilford. Son of Walter 4) P
6) Sir William Olifard (cousin of Walter 4)
7) Sir William Olifard (son of Sir William 6)B P
8) Sir William Olyfaunt (defender of Stirling Castle 1304. Son of William 7) P
9) Sir Philip, may have succeeded him (brother of Sir William Olifard 7)
10) Sir William Olyfaunt of Dupplin and then of Aberdalgie (son of Sir Philip 9)
11) Sir Walter Oliphant of Aberdalgie, married Elizabeth, dau. of Robert I of Scotland (son of William 10) P
12) Sir John Oliphant of Aberdalgie (son of Walter 11) P
13) Sir William Oliphant of Aberdalgie (son of John 12) P
14) Sir John Oliphant of Aberdalgie (son of William 13) P
15) Laurence, 1st Lord Oliphant (son of John 14) B P
16) John, 2nd Lord Oliphant (son of Laurence 15) P
17) Laurence, 3rd Lord Oliphant (grandson of John 16)* B P
18) Laurence, 4th Lord Oliphant (son of Laurence 17) B P
19) Laurence, 5th Lord Oliphant (grandson of Laurence 18)** P
20) Patrick, 6th Lord Oliphant (grandson of Laurence 18) P
21) Charles, 7th Lord Oliphant (son of Patrick 20) P
22) Patrick, 8th Lord Oliphant (son of Charles 21) P
23) William, 9th Lord Oliphant (son of Patrick 22) P
24) 10th Lord Oliphant (grandson of Patrick 22) P
25) Laurence Oliphant, 6th Laird of Gask (6x great grandson of John 16) B
26) Laurence Oliphant, 7th Laird of Gask (son of Laurence 25)
27) Laurence Oliphant, 8th Laird of Gask (son of Laurence 26)
28) Laurence Oliphant, 9th Laird of Gask (son of Laurence 27)
29) James Blair Oliphant, 10th Laird of Gask (son of Laurence 27)
30) Laurence Oliphant, 8th of Condie (8 x great grandson of John 16)
31) Gen Sir Laurence James Oliphant 9th of Condie and of Newton (son of Laurence 30)
32) Capt. Henry Gerard Laurence Oliphant 10th of Condie (son of Laurence 31)
33) Lt-Cdr Ralph Henry Hood Laurence Oliphant 11th of Condie, RN (son of Laurence 32)
34) Richard Eric Laurence Oliphant of that Ilk and of Condie (gg grandson of brother of 30)
* son of Colin, Master of Oliphant, whose death at the Battle of Flodden preceded his father's, and who therefore was never Chief.
** son of Laurence, Master of Oliphant, who was forced to flee Scotland before his father's death, and therefore was also never Chief.
Although the chiefship was in abeyance after James died in the 1820's, this was resolved by the interlocutor handed down by the Lord Lyon, King of Arms in Scotland dated 12th June 2003, confirming the claim in the male line of Richard Oliphant of that Ilk and of Condie (and thus his forbears from Laurence, 8th of Condie.) However, as the only line whose ancestors maintained the single name of Oliphant from within the required period of 1 year of the chiefship becoming open to them, by virtue of the marriage with the Oliphants of Gask and theirs before that with the Lords Oliphant lines, Richard is also ironically probably the best claimant to the chiefship in the female line also. This is because the entail attaching to Ardblair meant that, in order to inherit that (Blair) estate, the female line of the Oliphants of Gask had to maintain the hyphenated name Kington-Blair-Oliphant or Blair-Oliphant and did so for around 140 years.
Richard Oliphant of that Ilk is recognised by Lord Lyon in his decision of 12 June 2003 as also heir male of the body of both Lord Oliphant and of the Oliphant of Gask.
In addition to the Chief, there are currently three other chieftains, each head of a branch within a Clan which rank after the Clan Chief in order of precedence. These are Laurence Kington Blair Oliphant of Ardblair and Gask; John Oliphant of Rossie and David Olyphant of Bachilton (see Chieftains.) The Claim made by Richard Oliphant of that Ilk, having been advertised publicly in the press and duly notified personally to Laurence Kington Blair Oliphant of Ardblair and Gask, with the requirement that anyone who thought they had a claim should respond to the Lord Lyon within 21 days, went unchallenged by any other legitimate claim at the Lyon Court. Although the claim then had to be proven on its own account, these notices were much corrupted by media sources and the least inaccurate report can be found at http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,170-759192,00.html
Oliphant Baronetcy (dormant)
A Nova Scotia baronetcy was created on 28th July 1629 for one of the early (thus junior) branches off from the senior line, which produced three baronets until it became dormant in 1700, as follows:
1) Sir James Oliphant of Newton, Bart.
2) Sir James Oliphant of Newton, Bart. (inherited 1648) (son of James 1)
3) Sir George Oliphant Newton, Bart. (inherited 1659) (brother of James 1)