A name of Patronymic origin, the Jonhstones were at one time amongst the most powerful clans in southern Scotland.
Originally hailing from Annandale, the clan would go on to hold extensive possessions across the southwest of the country and were often one of the families tasked with keeping watch against the English.
The first recorded use of the Johnstone name came after 1194 when Gilbert, the son of Sir John Johnstone, a knight of the County of Dumfries, was mentioned in records.
The Johnstones would go on to hold the position of Wardens of the Western Scottish Marches on numerous occasions – an office of government in both Scotland and England that was responsible for the security of the border between the two nations.
During their time in this position, the clan would fight alongside the Scottish Army to help defend the crown and would be a major player in the battle to prevent a rebellion against the monarchy by the Douglas family. For their help in this struggle, the clan would be rewarded with a grant of lands in Buittle and Sannoch, lands that were formerly under the control of the Douglases.
The clan would, however, eventually turn to raids across the English border to make money, although they would only target houses in England rather than the Scottish borderlands like other clans. Instead, they would save their Scottish hostilities for their enemies, the Maxwell Clan. Spanning hundreds of years, the Johnston’s feud with the Maxwell family was a serious one, with the Maxwell chief being slain along with many of his men at the Battle of Dryfe in 1593. In retaliation, the Maxwells would shoot the Johnstone chief in the back at a meeting held to reconcile their differences a decade later.
Despite this domestic turmoil, the family would continue to rise within the Scottish nobility as they were created Lords Johnstone of Lochwood in 1633 and Earls of Hartfell ten years later. They would repay the monarchy for raising their chief to this title by fighting alongside their forces at the Battle of Kilsyth in 1645 and gained a further title, Earl of Annandale and Hartfell, Viscount of Annan, Lord Johnstone of Lochwood, Lochmaben, Moffatdale and Evandal – after the restoration as a reward.
The family’s chief would be raised even further to the rank of Marquess of Annandale in 1701 and would hold many important state offices such as Secretary of State and President of the Privy Council. Sadly, this would be the zenith of the clan’s achievements as, within 100 years, they would be left without an heir to the chiefship as the line of succession died out. Multiple unsuccessful attempts would be made over the years to resurrect the clan until success was finally achieved in the 1980s with Major Percy Johnstone of Annandale and of that Ilk recognised by the Lord Lyon as baron of the lands of the earldom of Annandale and Hartfell and the lord of Johnstone.
Today, the clan’s historic seat at Lochwood Castle in Annandale is barely a ruin, however, the clan lives on through their current clan chief, Patrick Hope-Johnstone, 11th Earl of Annandale and Hartfell.