also known as Ogilvies
The lands of Ogilvy are in Angus. The name derives from the old British, ‘Ocel-fa’ or ‘high plain’. Angus was a kingdom in Pictish times ruled by a mormaer, one of the ancient Celtic nobles of Scotland who became the first earls. The title of Mormaer of Angus became Earl of Angus. Gillebride, Earl of Angus, gave the lands of Ogilvy to his son, Gilbert, some time before 1177. Patrick de Ogilvy appears on the Ragman Roll of nobles swearing fealty to Edward I of England in 1296.
The Ogilvys became hereditary sheriffs of Angus in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. When Sir Patrick Ogilvy commanded the Scottish forces fighting with Joan of Arc against the English, he was styled ‘Viscomte d’Angus’. Sir Walter Ogilvy, younger son of Ogilvy of Wester Powrie, was appointed Lord High Treasurer of Scotland in 1425. In 1430, he was an ambassador to England, and four years later attended Princess Margaret on her marriage to the Dauphin, heir to the throne of France. He had numerous sons, including his namesake, Walter, who was to become ancestor of the Earls of Seafield and Deskford. His eldest son, Sir John Ogilvy of Lintrathern received a charter to the castle and lands of Airlie in 1459. Sir John’s son, Sir James Ogilvy of Airlie, was appointed ambassador to Denmark in 1491 and advanced to the ranks of the peerage as Lord Ogilvy of Airlie in the same year. The fourth Lord’s eldest son, James, was killed at the Battle of Pinkie in 1547. The seventh Lord Ogilvy was created Earl of Airlie in April 1639.
The family was to suffer much in the service of the Stuart monarchs. The earl and his sons joined Montrose to oppose the enemies of Charles I, and the earl fought with distinction at Montrose’s victory at Kilsyth. Sir Thomas, the earl’s second son, raised his own regiment to fight with the royalists, but was killed at the scene of another of Montrose’s victories, at Inverlochy, in February 1645. The eldest son, Lord Ogilvy, was with Montrose at the Battle of Philiphaugh when the marquess was surprised by a strong force of Covenanter cavalry under General Lesley. Ogilvy begged Montrose to flee, as he was the only person who could rally the king’s supporters. Montrose escaped, but Ogilvy was captured. He awaited execution in the grim castle at St Andrews, where his sister came to say her last farewell. She exchanged clothes with her brother, who passed in her place, unnoticed by the guards. He lived to inherit his father’s earldom and see the Restoration.
The Ogilvys rallied to the Stuart cause in the following century, joining the Earl of Mar in 1715. Lord Ogilvy was attainted, but was allowed to return home in 1725. His titles were not restored and he died in 1730, when his younger brother, John, assumed the style, ‘Earl of Airlie’. His son, David, raised a regiment comprised mostly of Ogilvys to fight for the ‘Young Pretender’ in 1745. The regiment fought at Culloden in 1746. After the defeat, Ogilvy escaped to France, entering royal service there and obtaining the rank of general. It was not until 1896 that an Act of Parliament confirmed the restoration of the earldom to another David, the sixth Earl. His son, David, the seventh Earl, was a Scots representative peer from 1850 to 1881. He was created a Knight of the Thistle. The eighth Earl (or tenth, ignoring the attainder) led his regiment, the 12th Lancers, in a charge to save the British artillery at Diamond Hill near Pretoria in June 1900 during the Second Boer War. The Boers were denied the guns, but the earl lost his life in the encounter
The Ogilvys also held the earldoms of Findlater and Seafield. James Ogilvy, younger son of the third Earl of Findlater, was created Earl of Seafield in 1701. Seafield was a prominent unionist, and supported the Act of Union of 1707. In 1711 the Earl of Seafield also inherited his father’s title of Findlater. On the death of the fourth Earl of Seafield, the Findlater title became dormant. Seafield was claimed by the earl’s cousin, Sir Lewis Grant, in 1811, when he took the name Grant-Ogilvie.
The present chief, as did his father, served as Lord Chamberlain to HM The Queen. This royal link was reinforced when the Honourable Angus Ogilvy KCVO, the chief’s brother, married HRH Princess Alexandra. The chief’s seat is at Cortachy Castle.
St John Ogilvie
The family name is also renowned in Scotland’s religious history. Born in Banff in 1579, John Ogilvie was a Jesuit priest who worked in central Scotland. He was arrested and hanged at Glasgow Cross in 1615 for his defence of the spiritual supremacy of the papacy. He was beatified in 1927 and canonised in 1976. He is the only officially recognised martyr in post-Reformation Scotland.