The Norman town of Beauville near Caen is the origin of this name. David de Boivil appears as a witness to a charter as early as 1164, and Richard de Boyville held the lands of Kelburn in Ayrshire around 1275. Henry de Boyville was keeper of the Castles of Dumfries, Wigtown and Kirkcudbright around 1291. Richard and Robert de Boyvil appear on the Ragman Roll of barons submitting to Edward I of England in 1296. Richard Boyle married Marjory, daughter of Sir Robert Comyn of Rowallan. Six generations later his descendant, John Boyle, was a supporter of James III, and was killed at the Battle of Sauchieburn in 1488. The family lands were forfeited, but his son, John, obtained their restoration when James IV once more established royal government. The family extended their holdings by successful marriages. The Boyles who settled in Ireland rose to become the powerful Earls of Cork, and are believed to descend from the same stock as the house of Kelburn.
The Boyles supported the cause of Mary, Queen of Scots, and later that of Charles I, suffering many hardships as a result. The family fortunes were restored when John Boyle of Kelburn was elected as a Commissioner of Parliament in 1681. His eldest son David, also became a Commissioner of Parliament and a Privy Councillor. He was raised to the Peerage as Lord Boyle of Kelburn in 1699, and was advanced to the title of Earl of Glasgow in 1703. He was one of the commissioners for the Treaty of Union with England, and in 1706 was appointed Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. He staunchly supported the Hanoverian cause, and when the standard of the ‘Old Pretender’ was raised in 1715 he raised and armed troops at his own expense.
The third Earl followed a military career and was wounded at the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745 and again at Lauffeldt in 1747. He was also appointed Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly, and held the office for nine successive years. Lady Jean, daughter of the first Earl, married Sir James Campbell, who also fought at Fontenoy, but died of the wounds he received. Their son succeeded to the Campbell earldom of Loudoun in 1782. Lady Augusta Boyle, daughter of the fourth Earl, married in 1891 Lord Frederick Fitz-clarence, son of William IV. David Boyle, a grandson of the second Earl, was a distinguished lawyer who was appointed Solicitor General for Scotland in 1807. He was elevated to the Bench and was ultimately appointed Lord President and Lord Justice General of Scotland in 1841. He retired from the Bench in 1852 after more than forty-one years of legal service.
The fourth Earl was also a soldier who commenced his career as a captain in the West Lowland Fencibles in 1793, rising to the rank of colonel in due course. He was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Renfrewshire in 1810.
His eldest son, John, Lord Boyle, was a naval officer who, in July 1807, was confronted by a superior French flotilla near Gibraltar. He bravely engaged the enemy but his vessel was overrun and Boyle was taken prisoner. He died unmarried, in 1818. His younger brother, James, became the fifth Earl in 1843, ending a promising career in the House of Commons. He too served in the Royal Navy and was made Lord Lieutenant of Renfewshire. He married Georgina Mackenzie in 1821 but the union was without issue.
When the fifth Earl died he was succeeded by his half-brother, the Hon. George Frederick Boyle. The succession of the sixth Earl was a catastrophe for the family fortunes. Educated at Oxford, George Boyle had been passionately interested in art and architecture. He was profoundly influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite movement and embraced not only its vision of form and beauty but extended it with his own taste for religious mysticism. He embarked on an ambitious building programme at Kelburn and funded the erection of churches all over Scotland. He bankrupted the entire estate and, in 1888, all his assets were put up for sale. Kelburn itself was only saved by the intervention of his cousin, later the seventh Earl.
The seventh Earl was a naval officer and Governor of New Zealand from 1892 to 1897. He had succeeded his cousin in 1890, and was additionally created Baron Fairlie of Fairlie in the peerage of the United Kingdom in 1897. This was to ensure him a seat in the House of Lords, as at that time only a limited number
of Scottish peers could sit there. Elected by their fellow peers, they were known as representative peers. This system is no longer in operation.
The present head of the family and chief of the name succeeded his father, who was a distinguished naval officer, in 1984 as tenth Earl of Glasgow. He still resides at Kelburn Castle near Fairlie in Ayrshire, on the lands held by his family since the thirteenth century, and has done much to develop the family seat, which is now visited by Boyles from all over the world.