Clan Sempill

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Clan Sempill
MottoKeep Tryst[1]
Lord Sempill arms.svg
The Rt. Hon. James William Stuart Whitmore Sempill
The 21st Lord Sempill[1]
SeatCraigievar Castle
Historic seatCastle Semple

Clan Sempill is a Lowland Scottish clan.[2]


Origins of the Clan[edit]

Craigievar Castle, seat of the Chief of Clan Sempill

The name Sempill has been known in Renfrewshire since the twelfth century but its origins are obscure.[2] The suggestions that it is a corruption of 'St Paul' seems unlikely.[2] It also seems an unlikely suggestion that the first person of the name had a reputation for being simple or humble.[2]

In 1246 Robert de Sempill witnessed a charter to Paisley Abbey.[2] Later as a chamberlain he also witnessed a charter of the Earl of Lennox.[2]

Wars of Scottish Independence[edit]

During the Wars of Scottish Independence Robert de Sempill's two sons, Robert and Thomas, supported king Robert the Bruce and they were both rewarded for their services.[2] The elder son received all of the lands around Largs in Ayrshire which had been confiscated from the Balliols.[2] The younger son, Thomas, received a grant for half of the lands of Longniddry.[2]

Prior to 1344 the lands of Eliotsoun, which became the territorial designation of the chief were acquired.[2]

15th and 16th centuries[edit]

Sir Thomas Sempill fell fighting in support of King James III of Scotland at the Battle of Sauchieburn in June 1488.[2] His only son, John Sempill, inherited the family estates.[2] John was made Lord Sempill during the reign of King James IV of Scotland.[2] In 1505 John founded the Collegiate church of Lochwinnoch. He also rebuilt the castle at the eastern end of the loch which he renamed Castle Sempill.[2] He was killed fighting for the king at the Battle of Flodden in 1513.[2] (See: John Sempill, 1st Lord Sempill).

John was succeeded by his son William who obtained a charter to the lordship with the assistance of the Regent Albany.[2] William favored the betrothal of the child Mary, Queen of Scots to the son of Henry VIII of England.[2]

William's son, Robert Sempill, was constable of the king's Douglas Castle and was taken prisoner at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547.[2] Robert was sometimes called the Great Lord Sempill and supported the Queen Regent, Mary of Guise who was the widow of James V of Scotland.[2] Robert's castle was attacked and seized for his opposition to the Scottish Reformation.[2] He was a faithful supporter of Queen Mary until the death of Lord Darnley and he afterwards joined those who promoted Mary's son as King James VI.[2] He fought against the queen at the Battle of Carberry Hill and was one of the signatories on the warrant for the queen to be held in Loch Leven Castle.[2] He also led the vanguard of the Regent Moray's army at the Battle of Langside in 1568 and was rewarded with a charter to the abbey lands of Paisley.[2] After the Regent was murdered in 1570 Sempill was imprisoned for a year. (See: Robert Sempill, 3rd Lord Sempill).

Robert's son, John Sempill, was castigated by John Knox as Sempill the dancer.[2] John was accused of treason and attempting to assassinate Regent Morton and was sentenced to death by hanging, drawing and quartering.[2] However the sentence was commuted to imprisonment and he was later released.[2]

In 1572 John was succeeded by his elder half brother, Robert Sempill as the fourth Lord Sempill.[2] This Robert assisted in the baptism of Prince Henry in 1594 and personally attended on the queen at a banquet that was held in celebration in the great hall of Stirling Castle.[2] Robert was also appointed as a Privy Councillor by James VI of Scotland and was sent as an ambassador to Spain.[2] However later Robert would not renounce the Catholic faith and held no more public offices.[2] (See: Robert Sempill, 4th Lord Sempill).

17th century[edit]

Robert Sempill, 6th Lord Sempill supported the royalist cause during the Civil War but was fined under the Commonwealth as a result.[2] The 8th Lord Sempill embraced the Protestant faith.[2] He was the first Lord Sempill to sit in Parliament since the reign of Mary Queen of Scots.[2] He died in 1684 and was succeeded by his sister Anne Sempill.[2]

18th century & Jacobite risings[edit]

Anne's eldest son was Francis, the tenth Lord Sempill.[2] He was a strong opponent of the union with England.[2] He died unmarried and was succeeded by his brother John Sempill.[2] John Sempill supported the Hanoverian-British Government during the Jacobite rising of 1715.[2] John also died unmarried and the title passed to his brother, Hew (Hugh), who was a professional soldier.[2] Hew Sempill had made a reputation for fighting on the continent.[2] In 1746 he led his regiment on the side of the British Government at the Battle of Culloden, on the left wing of the Government army.[2]

Clan Chief[edit]

The Rt Hon The Lord Sempill, James William Stuart Whitmore Sempill, The 21st Lord Sempill, Chief of the Name and Arms of Sempill.[3]


Recorded surname variants[edit]

In addition to Sempill, recorded variants include: Semple, Sample, Samples, Simpole, Simble, and Sambell.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Clan Sempill Profile Retrieved 30 November 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao Way, George and Squire, Romily. Collins Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia. (Foreword by The Rt Hon. The Earl of Elgin KT, Convenor, The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs). Published in 1994. Pages 318 - 319.
  3. ^