Clan Elphinstone is a Lowland Scottish chiefly family
The 'de Erth' family took their name from the lands of Airth which lie close to the barony of Plean in Stirlingshire. <ref>George Way of Plean and Romilly Squire, Scottish Clan and Family Encyclopedia, 130</ref> This family probably erected the first Plean Castle. The de Erth family ended in an heiress and lands that were acquired by her husband near Tranent near East Lothian were probably named after the heiress's family. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 130</ref>
The name first appears in about 1235 in East Lothian in a deed by Alanus de Swinton in which a mention is made of the name 'de Elfinstun'. It is likely that de Swinton's son, John, who owned the lands, went on to become John de Elfinstun.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 130</ref> There is a family tradition however, that claims that the family are descended from Flemish knights called Helphenstein.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 130</ref>
Another theory suggests that the name is derived from 'Alpin's tun', which means the farmstead of Alpin.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 130</ref>
Two lairds called Elphinstone, both from Berwickshire, appear in the 1296 Ragman Roll. <ref>David Dorward, Dictionary of Scottish Surnames, 86</ref> Sir John de Elfinstoun married Margaret Seton, niece of Robert the Bruce.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 130</ref>
A descendant, William Elfinstoun, became rector of Kirkmichael at the age of twenty-five. He studied law in Paris, eventually becoming Professor of Law there. In 1484 he became Bishop of Aberdeen and later Lord High Chancellor of Scotland until the death of James III in 1489. In 1495 he obtained a papal bull for the founding of the University of Aberdeen. Kings College, Aberdeen, was built in 1500. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 130</ref> A cousin of bishop William was Sir Alexander Elphinstone who was created Lord Elphinstone by James IV of Scotland. Alexander and the king were together killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1513.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 130</ref> Alexander's son, another Alexander Elphinstone, was killed at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 130</ref>
In 1599 the fourth Lord Elphinstone was appointed a judge of the Supreme Court of Scotland. He later occupied the post of Lord High Treasurer.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 130</ref>
Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
One of the eleventh Lord's younger brothers was George Keith Elphinstone who was a distinguished naval officer. He served on ships that protected the British shipping off the east coast of America. He was created Baron Keith which was promoted to the rank of Viscount in 1814.
The Viscount's nephew was William George Elphinstone who was a colonel at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 131</ref> He was later promoted to commander-in-chief of the Bengal army in 1837 and led the disastrous Afghan campaign of 1841.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 131</ref>
The present Chief of Clan Elphinstone is Alexander Elphinstone, 19th Lord Elphinstone who succeeded his father in 1994 at the age of 14.