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of Merchiston was originally that of the old Earls of Lennox, it is not necessary to adopt the canting story of its change to Napier, which may be a fancy subsequently superinduced upon a true tradition of lineage. An office in the royal household might have effected the alteration, and, moreover, distinct families may upon other occasions have in like manner acquired the same surname. * The following antiquarian particulars regarding the name, both in England and Scotland, were collected some years ago in compiling the Memoirs of Merchiston. They not only tend to show how distinct the race of Merchiston appears to be from all the other ancient races of the same surname, but in themselves possess more or less of antiquarian interest.
Of the old English Naperers, being the earliest Napiers on record.
Centuries before the English and Irish Napiers had branched from the stock of Merchiston, and prior to the date generally attributed to the Lennox tradition of that family, some of a similar surname existed who were freeholders and tenants in Essex, and other counties of England. From these I am not aware that any family extant can, or ever pretended to deduce an origin; nor had their appellation any claims to the reputed derivation of the peerless ancestor of Merchiston. The voluminous records in the tower of London present these forgotten worthies, rari nantes in gurgite vasto. I note them as affording the most ancient examples of the name, and a theory of its derivation hitherto unobserved.*
* This was written long before Mr Riddell's Tracts, who I see
Previous to the fifth year of the reign of King Stephen, (1140,) thereexisted an Oinus Naparius,or Oinus of the Napery; for of that date a notice of his wife occurs in the Exchequer expences. Radnessus le Naper of Waltham, is also mentioned in the fourteenth year of the reign of Henry II. (1168) In the English records, printed from the original in the Tower by command of George III., in pursuance of an address of the House of Commons, there are to be met with many notices of Napiers in various counties. John is the most common Christian name occurring among them. In the Calend. Rot. the following entry is met with "Johannes le Naper, venator regis, Haveringe matter, 18 acr. messuage, Essex." This occurs under 44th Henry III. (1239) and proves a John Napier to have been huntsman to the King of that date. Havering Liberty, rich in romantic legends, was in olden times a favourite resort of the Kings of England, who had a hunting seat there,* and probably the " venator regis" held less of a sinecure than the master of the buckhounds now. Walter de la Naperye occurs in the 53d year of the same reign. This last modification of the name leads us to a derivation sufficiently plausible.
(page 132) deduces the same theory from his own observance of "Menigarus le Napier" appointed, as appears from the Test. deNevit, to the office "de Naperie," sometime between 1154 and 1189, byHenry II. But our learned antiquary inclines to a theory which is entirely his own; he thinks that very possibly the surname is taken from the feats of an individual, and says that the venator regis "probably was as peerless in his way, and as good a knapper or nabber (to use a Scottish term) of game, as Donald the Naepier was of men." This savours of that fine old college of antiquities, the HieScule.
* A saint retired there to say his prayers, but the nightingales disturbed him to such a degree that he exorcised the place, as if the birds had been devils, and drove them away.
The Napery was an office in the royal household.* It is well known to antiquaries that such offices afforded a fertile source of surnames, which became, at a very early period, purely nominal. In the records of the reign of King John, and the 9th year (1209,) there is a very distinct notice of the office in question held by one whose own surname had not merged in his employment. Wilhelmus Torel is charged with a debt of forty marks for
* "Naparia, seu Napparia, officium in aula regia, adde. Hinc servant de Naperie in ordinat, domus Joan V. Ducis Brit. An. 1403. Du Cange.
When investigating this theory of the name, I received the following information, dated 7th September 1832, from Sir William Woods, (Clarenceux) through the late Lord Napier. "At the coronation of King Henry V.'s Queen, (Catherine of France,) the Lord Grey of Ruthin was Naperer (1420.) At the coronation of Queen Eleanor, wife of King Henry III. who died 1277, it appears there was a claim made by two persons to the office, and the King appointed one of them, Henry de Hasting, to execute it." I was also kindly favoured from the same quarter with a full extract of two claims rejected at the coronation of George IV. which are curious. The first is that of " The Right Honourable William Francis Henry Baron Petre of Writtle, in the county of Essex." He claimed in right of Asheley, in the county of Norfolk, " the office of the Napery on the day of his Majesty's coronation, and to have all the tablecloths and napkins for his fees." Part of the narrative is, "That your petitioner's ancestors and predecessors being persons professing the Roman Catholic religion, and as such by law prohibited from coming into the royal presence, or within the precincts of his Majesty's Court, have omitted to claim," &c. The commissioners decided that this ancient tenure of Asheley had been extinguished byfalling into the hands of oneof the King's ancestors, who had given the manor out again on a different tenure. The other claimant is " Jane Green of Torrells Hall, in Little Thurrock, in the county of Essex, widow." She claimed in virtue of her liferent of Thurrock Torrells, " by tenure of Grand Sergeanty, that is to say, by the service of being the King's Naperer on the day of his Majesty's coronation," &c, but failed in her proof of the tenure.
officio Naperi<E regis. He belonged to the county of Essex, where thirty years afterwards we find John Naper, the King's huntsman, Lord of a Manor. Throughout succeeding reigns the name frequently occurs in the English records, and seems as obvious in its derivation as others with which it is in immediate conjunction, such as " Galfried le Gardiner,''' " Alex, le Peyntour," and " Johan le Naper." There are, besides, William, Thomas, Jordan, and Luke Napers mentioned in the reign of Edward I.*
Of the Napiers of Kilmahew, the earliest on record in
The first appearance of the name of Napier in Scotland is as vassals of the old Earls of Lennox, and barons in that district, though we shall find that there is a remarkable disconnection between this circumstance and the Lennox tradition of the Merchiston Napiers.
In the chartulary of Lennox there are frequent notices of a John Naper, as one of the witnesses to the charters of Malcolm Fourth Earl of Lennox. These charters have no dates, but from other tests may be dated before the end of the thirteenth century. This is obviously the same John Naper who is mentioned in that degrading document, commonly called the Bagman roll, wherein the names of the Scottish barons are recorded who swore fealty to Edward I. in the year 1296. He is there called " Johan le Naper del Comte de Dunbretan." So far as I know, this is the earliest Napier
• See also Rotuli Litterarum Clausarum, in the Tower, (printed by command of his present Majesty,) for various notices of one Robertus Naparius in the reign of King John, who is clearly of the Napery.
upon record in Scotland, and it is interesting to find that not only is he a distinguished and historical character, but that a long line of his descendants can be very distinctly traced. He was one of the gallant but unfortunate defenders of the Castle of Stirling, when reduced to extremity, in the year 1304, by King Edward in person. Before the walls of the last tower in Scotland which opposed his march, that ruthless conqueror seems to have acquired a momentary respect for patriotic valour, which it would have been well for his fame had he extended to Sir William Wallace. He spared the lives of the few obstinate warriors who survived the reduction of Stirling Castle, and issued an express command that the gallant prisoners, among whom was John le Naper, should be spared the pain and indignity of iron fetters.
The parentage of this worthy is unknown, though it is not impossible that he sprung from the Essex hero of the buck-hounds, whom the enchantments of a long chase, or some milk-white doe, may have seduced into rugged Scotland from the groves and nightingales for which Havering Liberty was so famed. There is no doubt, however, that he was Napier of KilmaJiew in the Lennox, and I have been able to trace the descent of that family (though it is now extinct, and their papers lost) from him, down to modern times, through chartularies and other authentic records. They were originally close allies and vassals of the Earls of Lennox, and became of baronial rank in that district of Scotland, where the family remained until its extinction in the last century. The details it is unnecessary to give, as none of these barons were particularly distinguished. It is important to observe, however, that two charter seals of successive Napiers of Kilmahew are extant, attached