Thought to have taken their name from the lands of Keith in East Lothian, the oldest traceable ancestor of the Keith clan is Hervey de Keith, a marischal to the king during the reign of David I in the second half of the 12th century.
Although the family were originally based in Lothian, King Robert the Bruce would grant the Royal Forest of Hallforest to his loyal friend, Sir Robert Keith in 1308. Sir Robert famously led the Scottish cavalry during the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, a defining victory for Bruce in the Scottish War of Independence against England.
Later in the 14th century, Sir William Keith would acquire further estates in Buchan and Mearns, including the famous Dunnottar castle, which would go on to be the clan chief’s seat.
Due to a series of important marriages, the Keith family were one of the most dominant in Scotland by the 16th century and held a large part of the east coast stretching from Lothian to the tip of Caithness.
Their vast influence was highlighted during the civil war in the mid-17th century when the Scottish Crown Jewels were hidden on Keith lands despite much of the country being taken by the forces of Oliver Cromwell. The family would then, unfortunately, lose much of its land during the war and after supporting the Jacobite cause in 1715, even more, property would be forfeited.
Today, Dunnottar castle is partially ruined. However, the Keith clan retains an official seat at Keith Hall. The current clan chief is Sir James William Falconer Keith of Urie.