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REPLY TO MR Riddell's ASSERTION THAT THERE IS NO FOUNDATION IN FACT FOR THE STATEMENT CONTAINED IN THE FIRST LORD NAPIER'S ATTESTATION, THAT THE NAPIERS IN ENGLAND WERE HIS NEAR RELATIVES, AND CADETS OF MERCHISTON.
Mr Ridoell, in opposition to the genealogical fact stated in the Memoirs of Merchiston, that the Inventor of Logarithms and Dr Richard Napier (whose portrait and rosicrucian fame are preserved at Oxford) were brothers' sons, has conceived an extraordinary idea. He has the hardihood to maintain that the wealthy and distinguished families of Napier, first established in England by two distinct cadences from Merchiston in the sixteenth century, had all along been labouring under a delusion—as their existing descendants are to this day —when they supposed themselves to be cadets of Merchiston in Scotland, and carried armorial bearings accordingly. He asserts that it is " impracticable to connect" the Napiers of Luton-hoo, &c. with Merchiston; and adds, " we may hold that their Merchiston origin is a mistake, and that, however subsequently famous and well allied, they can reflect neither credit or discredit upon the Scottish Napiers." What, then, is our antiquary's own theory in regard to these families? Whence came Sir Robert of Luton-hoo, and the astrological Doctor?
"To whom related, or by whom begot?"
He knows nothing about them; and leaves the matter
quite unexplained, though faintly colouring his most arafe-antiquarian argument by a slight allusion to Menigarus de Naperie in the reign of Henry II., upon which he argues as follows: "We might thence infer, owing to the antiquity of the one over the other, that if there be any connection between the English and Scottish Napiers, the latter derive their origin from the first, which would further refute the notion of a Lennox descent. Mr Napier, however, unhesitatingly affirms, that the Napiers of England are cadets of Merchiston, and significantly adds, in reference to them, ' for English and Irish Napiers, cadets of Merchiston, see Collins, passim,' with the natural view of showing that the blood of Merchiston in this manner circulates among all our nobility. But it unfortunately happens, that there is no evidence upon record to instruct the fact." Now, "it unfortunately happens" that this bold challenge by the learned genealogist involves the somewhat scandalous proposition that Sir Robert of Luton-hoo, and his brother Richard, were not only misinformed generally as to their extraction, but were totally mistaken, or pretended to be so, as to who their own fa' ther was.
In Sir William Dugdale's Usage of Arms, printed at Oxford 1682, and in the official register of baronets therein published, appears, among the baronets created by James VI. 25th November 1612, " Sir Robert Naper, alias Sandy, of Lewton How, Knight; and among those created byCharles II., under date 4th March 1660, "John Napier alias Sandy, Esq. with remainder to Alexander Napier, &c. with remainder to the heirs-male of Sir Robert Napier, Knight, grandfather to the said John; and with precedency before all baronets made since the 24th September Anno 10 Regis Jac. (1612,)
at which time the said Sir Robert was created a baronet; which letters patent, so granted to the said Sir Robert Napier, were surrendered by Sir Robert Napier, (father of the said John and Alexander) lately deceased, to the intent that the said degree of baronet should be granted to himself, with remainder to the said John and Alexander."
The authenticity of this register cannot be impugned, and the existence (for we must reason closely against the author of the Tracts) of Sir Robert Napier of Luton-hoo, created a baronet in 1612, is proved. A presumption is at the same time raised by this record, that Sir Robert was of Scotch extraction, from the alias Sandi/, the Scotch diminutive of Alexander. It is equally certain that this baronet had a brother, Dr Richard Napier, rector of Lindford in Buckinghamshire, whose history and portrait are given in the Memoirs of Merchiston. The celebrated astrologer, William Lilly, gives the following anecdote in his life and times, which is otherwise corroborated. "A word or two of Dr Napper who lived at great Lindford in Buckinghamshire, was parson, and had the advowson thereof. He descended of worshipful parents, and this you must believe, for when Dr Napper's brother, Sir Robert Napper, a Turky merchant, was to be made a baronet in King James' reign, there was some dispute whether he could prove himself a gentleman for three or more descents; 'By my saul,' saith King James, 'I will certify for Napper that he is of three hundred years standing in his family, all of them, by my saul, gentlemen.' "* William Lilly was
* The meaning of this attestation was, that the King was intimately acquainted with the descent of the family of Merchiston; whose successive lairds had been distinguished at the court of the Stewarts for centuries. Now the contemporary authority even of King James upon the point is better than Mr Riddell's dictum.
personally acquainted withDr Richard, and could scarcely be mistaken as to his relationship toSirRobert, which, however, is otherwise abundantly proved. John Aubrey, in his miscellanies, says that Dr Richard Nepeir, "left his estate to Sir Richard Nepeir M. D. of the College of Physicians London, from whom Mr Ashmole had the Doctor's picture, now in the museum." This Sir Richard is well known to have been the nephew of Dr Richard, and a younger son of Sir Robert. * Further, Sir Archibald, afterwards first Lord Napier, being applied to by the above Sir Robert to furnish him with an authentic certificate of cadency, returned one accordingly, possessing in its antiquities, or in the fulness of the record, no great genealogical merit, but scarcely to be questioned in this statement, that Alexander Napier, his, Sir Archibald's, grand-uncle," had issue the foresaid Sir Robert Napier, Knight and Baronet, Richard Napier of Lindford, now living, and divers others sons and daughters."
The document quoted from stands directly in the way of Mr Riddell's theory, for it contains an undisputed assertion of the fact of immediate cadency, addressed to the very gentleman who our antiquary declares was not a cadet of Merchiston at all. Seizing, however, certain vulnerable points in certain copies of Sir Archibald Napier's certificate of cadency, which copies he says " are discrepant, and there can be little doubt garbled," he holds the entire proof, without distinction, pro non scripto in the question, in these words: "In short these garbled statements, as to the supposed Scoto-English Napiers, contradictory of each other, and suppressing^ certain members of the family, besides emerging from a foreign country, cannot be depended upon.
* See Fasti Oxonienses.
t The document in question is meager in the collateral genealo
The original document, transmitted by Sir Archibald under his own hand and seal to Sir William Segar, I have not been able to discover. Various copies of it appear to have been made at the time for different branches in England; and the consequence is, that in some of these copies palpable blunders have crept into the enumeration of the generations of the Merchiston descent, which create a corresponding difference in the generation of Sir Robert of Luton-hoo, and alter his position to that extent on the family tree, without, however, affecting the question of cadency. For instance, in a copy of the document printed in Hutchins' history of Dorsetshire, there are three Alexanders lairds of Merchiston recorded in succession, where there should only be two. It is an obvious blunder, however, which the charter-chest of the family corrects, and which probably was not in the original. There is another manuscript copy in Lord Napier's possession, from which the statement in the Memoirs of Merchiston is taken, and which is perfectly accurate in its enumeration of the generations of the family, as proved by the charter-chest. This copy came into the family, accompanied by the following letter from Napier of Blackstone, grandson of the philosopher, to Sir William Scott of Thirlestane, who had married the heiress of Napier, and whose son Francis, fifth Lord Napier, at that time a boy, had already succeeded to the title.
I received a letter from Killcreuch, wherein he desires me to transmit the double of ane manuscript I
gy, the object of it being solely to point out the cadency of the English Napiers. The odious term " suppressing" is used by the author of the Tracts for the nonce,—it is his controversial maniere. See another instance, infra, p. 204. By " foreign country" the author of the Tracts either means England or Scotland, but it is not easy to say which.