A History of the Hope Family

Hopetoun has been the ancestral home of the Hope family for over 300 years; the present Earl of Hopetoun lives in the house and The 4th Marquess of Linlithgow (the head of the family and Lord Hopetoun's father) lives on the Estate. The Hope family has a long and honourable record of service to crown, country, the law and the military. The family origins are generally believed to date back to a John Hope, shown in the Edinburgh Burgess Rolls of 1516-1517 with the alias Petit Johnne, Trumpetour. Later he became a merchant and a Guildbrother: it is recorded that he had property in the High Street, Edinburgh and lands near Leith at Newhaven or Le Porte de Grace as it was then known. 

John's son Henry (circa 1533-1591) was a burgess both of Dieppe and of Edinburgh and his son, Sir Thomas Hope of Craighall (1573-1646), studied law and was appointed King's Advocate by Charles I in 1626. Sir Thomas' fourth son, Sir James Hope (1614-1661) was the first to style himself ‘of Hopetoun' using the old name for Leadhills in Lanarkshire where, through his marriage with the heiress Anne Foulis, he came into possession of valuable lead mines. This increased wealth enabled his son, John Hope (1650-1682) to purchase the lands of Abercorn with a view to building a fine house for himself. Unfortunately, before he could do so, he drowned in the shipwreck of the ‘Gloucester' whilst accompanying the Duke of York (later James VII/II) on a journey to Scotland.

His widow, Lady Margaret Hamilton, continued the discussions and plans to erect a mansion on the site: in 1699 she commissioned the building of Hopetoun for her young son Charles Hope (1681-1742) on the occasion of his marriage to the sister of the Marquess of Annandale. The Marquess was a noted connoisseur of the arts and his collection was bequeathed to Hopetoun on his death. Charles was created the first Earl of Hopetoun in 1703.

Work on the House began in 1699 under the auspices of Sir William Bruce who was recognised as one of the most brilliant architects of the day. The works were completed in 1707 and produced some of the finest examples of carving, wainscoting and ceiling painting in Scotland, reflecting the fashions and tastes of Scottish nobility at that time. Many details were executed by local craftsmen, such as the grand staircase carved by Alexander Eizat who had worked with Bruce during renovations at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh.

Some fourteen years later in 1721, the renowned Scottish architect William Adam was commissioned to undertake a programme of alterations and improvements that lasted until 1767. This saw the addition of an imposing facade with magnificent colonnades, north and south pavilions and the creation of grand State Apartments to be used for entertaining and socialising. The work outlived William Adam, however, and after his death in 1748 the interior decoration of the House was carried out by his sons John, James and Robert. The work also outlived the 1st Earl: his son John the 2nd Earl (1704-1781) oversaw the completion of the interiors. The 2nd Earl was a very religious man and a noted agricultural improver, who purchased the Ormiston Estates in East Lothian. He was also one of the first Governors of The Edinburgh Infirmary (later The Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh).

Hopetoun House not only represents the aristocratic grandeur of the early 18th century, boasting many fine architectural features, but it clearly demonstrates a distinct change in taste and design influences that prevailed at that time. The marked differences in style between the original Bruce House and the later Adam additions can still be appreciated today. The older, more sedate Bruce House has the look and feel of a comfortable country house whilst the Adam House has an altogether more sophisticated feel with the influences of grand European palaces such as Versailles very much in evidence. Since its completion in the mid 18th century the House has remained substantially unaltered save for the 4th Earl's internal modifications between 1816 and 1823, including the creation of the Large and Small Libraries and the decoration of the State Dining Room by James Gillespie Graham.

By the time of James the 3rd Earl (1741-1816) the family owned large areas of land in East and West Lothian, Fife and Lanarkshire. However, as James had no son, he was succeeded by his half-brother General Sir John Hope (1765-1823) as 4th Earl. The 4th Earl had a distinguished military career. He completed the evacuation of British troops from Corunna after the death of Sir John Moore, commanded one of Wellington's divisions in the Peninsular War and received honours for his outstanding services and bravery. A statue of the 4th Earl in Roman dress can still be seen in the garden courtyard of Dundas House, the former headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland (of which he was Governor) in St Andrew's Square, Edinburgh; other monuments to him exist in Fife and East Lothian.

It is a measure of Hopetoun's importance that, in 1822, George IV visited the House at the end of his state visit to Scotland and was received by the 4th Earl. The state visit was the first time a reigning British sovereign had visited Scotland for 170 years and it was stage-managed by Sir Walter Scott as an important part of his Romantic Movement in Scotland. Throughout the tour the King wore Highland dress, which had been banned from 1745 until 1782 following the Jacobite Rebellions: the King's gesture was viewed as an act of reconciliation between Scotland and England. Records show that the King arrived at Hopetoun at 1.15pm and that after being received by the Earl and Countess he lunched sparingly on turtle soup and three glasses of wine. He then knighted Sir Henry Raeburn, the Scottish portraitist, and Captain Adam Ferguson, Keeper of the Regalia in Scotland, in the Yellow Drawing Room using Lord Hopetoun's sword. At 3pm he made his farewells and made his way by carriage to Port Edgar, just outside South Queensferry, where the Royal Yacht waited to return him to England.


The 4th Earl was the Captain General of the Royal Company of Archers, which was recognised during the visit as the King's bodyguard in Scotland. The Royal Company, still the Sovereign's personal Bodyguard for Scotland, is still in existence today and parades on formal occasions such as the Queen's annual Garden Party at Holyrood Palace. It also meets at Hopetoun every summer to shoot for the Hopetoun Royal Commemoration Prize, which was presented by the 4th Earl to the Company to commemorate its role in the visit. The present Earl is an active member of the Royal Company.

The 5th Earl was active in Scottish affairs and in the continued improvements of his estates. The 6th Earl died of typhoid at the age of 42 after a brief life devoted to Paris and the Pytchley Hunt. The 7th Earl, John (1860-1908), however, was to become one of the most eminent members of the family and was created the 1st Marquess of Linlithgow. After serving as Governor of Victoria, Australia at the age of 29, he returned to Britain to become Queen Victoria's Lord Chamberlain. He went back as the first Governor General of the newly-formed Commonwealth of Australia in 1900. He was also Secretary for Scotland in Arthur Balfour's Government of 1905.

His son Victor, 8th Earl and 2nd Marquess (1887-1952), eclipsed even these great achievements. He was civil Lord of the Admiralty from 1922 to 1924. He chaired the Royal Commission on Agriculture in India from 1926 to 1928. In 1928 he was made a Knight of the Order of the Thistle. He chaired the committee on Indian constitutional reform in 1933 and helped formulate the Government of India Act of 1935. Following his experience in India he returned there as Viceroy and Governor General from 1936 to 1943, almost two full terms of office, making him the longest-serving Viceroy. For this he was created a Knight of the Order of the Garter, one of only a handful of non-royals to be a Knight both of the Garter and of the Thistle. He was the Chancellor of Edinburgh University from 1944 until his death in 1952 and the Chairman of Midland Bank.

Charles, 9th Earl and 3rd Marquess (1912-1987) served in the Second World War, winning a Military Cross, and was taken prisoner with the 51st (Highland) Division in 1940 before being held at Colditz as one of the ‘prominente'. He was a partner in Joseph Sebag, the London stockbrokers, and a director of Eagle Star Insurance.