Entry in Scottish Surnames by Donald Whyte

CARMICHAEL From the lands of Carmichael, in Lanarkshire, comes this surname and a family who bore it were long in possession of the barony thereof. Robert Camitely (a mis-spelling) resigned his claim to the patronage of the kirk of Cleghorn, ca. 1220. By 1250 he had undoubted right of lordship of the lands of Cleghorn. John Carmichael of this family, escaped the carnage of Verneuill in 1424, and was appointed Bishop of Orleans. Another John Carmichael, who was knighted, was one of the warriors who fought for Charles VI of France at Baughe' in 1442. John Carmichael of Meadowflats was ancestor of Sir John Carmichael of that ilk, Warden of the West Marches, who was killed by the Armstrongs in 1600. When his grandson, also Sir John, died ca. 1649, his estates passed to his cousin, John Carmichael of Park, whose family obtained the lands of Hyndford. Sir James Carmichael was created a Baronet of NS in 1627, and Lord Carmichael in 1647. His grandson, Sir John, was created Earl of Hyndford in 1701. The title has been dormant since the death, unmarried, of Andrew, 6th Earl, in 1817. He was succeeded in his paternal estate of Mauldslie by his nephew, Archibald Nisbet of Carfin, while the estates of Carmichael devolved on Sir John Anstruther; Baronet of Anstruther; the heir general. Since 1981 the recognised chief of the surname is Richard John Carmichael, Baron of Carmichael, who is a member of the Supreme Council of Scottish Chiefs. Carmichael has been used as a translation of the Gaelic Macgillemichael, a name once prolific in Lismore. A family of Carmichaels from Greenock were pioneer settlers around Escuminac, in Bonaventure County, Quebec Province, Canada.

Entry in the Scottish Nation

CARMICHAEL, a local surname, of great antiquity in Scotland, derived from the lands and barony of Carmichael, in the parish of that name, in the upper ward of Lanarkshire, of which the earls of Hyndford (a title now extinct), whose family name it was, were the proprietors. The parish appears to have been so named from St. Michael, under whose protection it was placed. 

The first of the family known was William de Carmichael, who is mentioned in a charter of the lands of Ponfeigh about 1350. John de Carmichael, supposed to be his son, was in-feft in the lands of Carmichael, on a precept from James earl of Douglas and Mar, killed at Otterburn in 1388. The name of William de Carmichael, probably his son, occurs in a charter of donation to the priory of St. Andrews in 1410. Sir John de Carmichael, supposed to be the son of this William, accompanied the Scottish auxiliaries sent to the assistance of Charles the Sixth of France, against the English. At the battle of Beaugé in Anjou, in 1422, he is said to have unhorsed the duke of Clarence, who commanded the English army, a feat which decided the victory in favour of the French and Scots. In the encounter he broke his spear, and his descendants bear for crest a dexter hand and man armed holding a broken spear. This deed has been attributed to the earl of Buchan, and Sir Alexander Buchanan [see ante, page 460, art. BUCHANAN], as well as to Sir John de Carmichael, and the honour of it must be equally divided among these three. Sir John died in 1436. By his wife, supposed to have been a lady Mary Douglas, he had three sons, namely, William, his successor; Robert, ancestor of the Carmichaels of Balmadie; and John, provost of St. Andrews, who was one upon a perambulation of some lands and marches in that neighbourhood in 1434. 

William, the eldest son, was one of the inquest upon the service of Sir David Hay of Tester, in 1437. He had two sons, Sir John, and George. The latter, a doctor of divinity, was elected bishop of Glasgow in 1482, but died before his consecration, in the following year. He had previously been treasurer of that sec, as rector of Carnwath. The same year that he was elected bishop, he was joined in commission with several lords and barons, to treat of a peace with England. 

Sir John Carmichael, the elder son, had three sons and a daughter. William, the eldest., had also three sons ; Bartholomew, who predeceased him; William, who succeeded him ; and Walter, the progenitor of the Hyndford line. On the 8th March 1528 a remission was granted to William Carmichael of that ilk, and three others, for art, part and assistance given by them to Archibald sometime earl of Angus, his brother and eme (or uncle). William's son, John Carmichael, married Elizabeth, third daughter of the fifth lord Somerville, and had two sons, John and Archibald, and a daughter, Mary, married to John, son of Sir Robert Hamilton of Preston. John Carmchael, the father, his son John, his brother Archibald, James Johnstone of Westraw, and thirty-one others, were, January 8th, 1564, indicted before the high court of justiciary, for wounding and deforcing a sheriff's officer of Lanarkshire, when apprizing certain head of cattle, and for taking one of his assistants captive and keeping him in confinement in various places. They were ordered to enter into ward on the north side of the water of Spey, and remain there during her majesty's pleasure. 

Sir John Carmichael, the elder son, was, in 1584, with his son Hugh, and William Carmichael of Rowantreecross, forfeited for being concerned in the raid of Ruthven. The forfeiture, however, appears soon to have been taken off, as we afterwards find him appointed warden of the west marches, and in 1588, he was one of the ambassadors sent to Denmark, to negotiate the marriage between King James the Sixth and the princess Anne, daughter of the Danish king. About the same time he was constituted captain of his majesty's guard. In 1590 he was sent ambassador to Queen Elizabeth. In 1592 he resigned the wardenship of the west marches in favour of the earl of Angus, but in 1598, on that nobleman's demitting that office, Sir John was restored to it, and as he was going to hold a warden's court at Lochmaben, for the punishment of offences committed on the borders, he was murdered, 16th June. 1600, by Thomas Armstrong, 'sone to Sandeis Ringane,' and nephew of Kinmont Willie, and several associates, on their return from a match at football, such meetings being often, in those days, arranged for the perpetration of deeds of violence. The Armstrongs being the most turbulent of the border clans, the warden had announced his intention to punish severely some of their recent thefts and forays, and to prevent this they sent to him a brother of old William Armstrong of Kinmont, (the noted Kinmont Willie,) whose name was Alexander Armstrong, alias Sandeis Ringane or Ninian. On being admitted to a conference with the warden he found that there was no lenity to be expected from him; and some of Carmichael's young retainers having, in mockery of Ringan, slipped his sword out of his scabbard and put yolks of eggs in it, whereby his sword, when sheathed, would not draw, he vowed in a rage that they should see his sword out, if they went on ground where he could avenge the insult. When he returned home he told his sons that he had been " made shame of," and he would be " equal" with them yet. Nest day they waylaid the warden, and shot him with a hagbut. For this murder, Thomas Armstrong was tried before the High Court of Justiciary, 14th November, convicted and executed. Before he was hanged his right hand was struck off at one stroke by the executioner. He was thereafter hung in chains on the Boroughmuir, the first instance on record, in Scotland, of a criminal having been hung in chains. The murder of Sir John Carmichael sealed the fate of many of the Armstrongs, the most distinguished of the warlike thieves of the Scottish border, and led to the adoption of measures of the utmost severity against all those of the name who were thereafter convicted, or even suspected of any crime. Sir Walter Scott supposes that the well - known verses ' Armstrong's Good Night,' were composed by Thomas Armstrong, called by him ' Ringan's Tarn,' previous to his execution. In February 1606, another of the Armstrongs, called Alexander, or Sandie of Rowanburne, was executed for this murder. An epitaph on Sir John Carmichael, by John Johnstone, is printed in Crawford's peerage. By his wife, Margaret, daughter of Sir George Douglas of Pittendriech, sister of the regent Morton, he had three sons and four daughters. 

Sir Hugh Carmichael, the eldest son, was sworn a privy councillor, and appointed master of the horse in 1503. The same year he was sent ambassador to Denmark. He married Abigail, daughter of William Baillie of Lamington, and had a son, Sir John, who died without issue. His estate was inherited by his cousin, Sir James Carmichael of Hyndford, created Lord Carmichael in 1647, and grandfather of the first earl of Hyndford, (See HYNDFORD, earl of.). He was descended from Walter Carmichael, of Hyndford and Park, third son of William Carmichael of Carmichael above mentioned. John Carmichael of Howgate, third son of Walter's grandson, James Carmichael, had a son, John, a colonel in the Russian service, who became governor of Plescow. 

From the first-mentioned William de Carmichael to Sir Wyndham Carmichael-Anstruther, baronet, who, in right of his ancestor, Sir John Anstruther, marrying, in 1717, the Lady Margaret Carmichael, daughter of the second earl of Hyndford, succeeded his nephew in the estate in 1831, inclusive, there were 20 generations, during a period of 481 years. 


Sir John Gibson-Carmichael of Stirling, bart., grandson of John Gibson of Durie (see GIBSON, surname of) and Helen, his wife, daughter of the Hon. William Carmichael, advocate, son of John, first earl of Hyndford, and father of John, fourth earl, assumed, at the death of the latter, in conformity to an entail, the surname and arms of Carmichael in addition to hiss own. He married Janet, daughter of Cornelius Elliot, Esq., clerk to the signet, by whom he had an only daughter. The estates with the title of baronet (conferred in 1628 on his ancestor, Sir Alexander Gibson of Durie, an eminent lawyer in the reign of James the Sixth, and lord president of the court of session) devolved on his brother, Sir Thomas Gibson-Carmichael, tenth baronet of the Gibson family. He died 13th Dec. 1849, when his eldest son, Sir Alexander Gibson Carmichael, born June 6, 1812, became 11th baronet, but died 8th May s. p. 1850. His half-brother, Sir Thomas, commander R. N., 12th baronet, died s. p. 30th Dec. 1855, when his brother, Rev. Sir William Henry Gibson Carmichael, became 13th baronet. 


The representation of the Carmichaels of Balmadie, above mentioned, as descended from the second son of Sir John de Carmichael who fought at the battle of Beaugé, devolved upon Thomas Carmichael, Esq., who, in 1740, married Margaret, eldest daughter and heiress of James Smyth, Esq. of Atherny, and dying in 1740, left an only son, James Carmichael, a distinguished physician, who, in compliance with the testamentary injunctions of his maternal grandfather, assumed the additional surname and arms of Smyth-see a biographical notice of him in this work under SMYTH, post. He had eight sons, six of whom adopted a military life, and two daughters, the elder of whom, Maria, became the wife of Dr. Alexander Monro, professor of anatomy in the university of Edinburgh. His eldest son, Major-General Sir James Carmichael Smyth, K. C. H., and C. B., born 22d February 1780, was a distinguished officer, and served in command of the engineers at the battle of Waterloo. He was created a baronet, 25th August 1821. At the time of his death he was governor of British Guiana. He married, 28th May 1818, Harriet, daughter of General Robert Morse, and died 4th March 1838. His son, Sir James Robert Carmichael, of Nutwood, county Surrey, second baronet, dropped, by royal license, 25th February 1841, the name of Smyth. 


One of the mistresses of King James the Fifth was Katharine Carmichael, daughter of Sir John Carmichael of Meadowflat, Captain of Crawford, described in that curious work ' The Memorie of the Somervilles,' as " a young lady, ad mired for her beautie, handsomenes of persone, and vivacity of spirit " By her the king had John, prior of Coldinghame, &c., father of the turbulent Francis Stewart, earl of Bothwell. She afterwards married Sir John Somerville of Cambusnethan. 

Of the third earl of Hyndford, the most distinguished of the noble family of Carmichael; the following is a notice; 


CARMICHAEL, JOHN, third earl of Hyndford, an eminent diplomatist, son of the second earl, was born, according to Douglas1 Peerage, at Edinburgh, 15th March 1701, but according to the Old Statistical Account, at Carmichael house, Lanarkshire, in April of that year. He was for some time an officer in the third regiment of footguards, and succeeded his father in his titles and estates, in 1737. The following year he was chosen one of the sixteen representatives of the Scottish peerage, and four times afterwards rechosen. In March of the same year (1738) he was appointed one of the lords of police, an office long since abolished. He was twice lord high commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, viz. in 1739 and 1740. He was always high in the favour of George the Second, and in 1741, when the king of Prussia invaded Silesia, the earl of Hyndford was sent, as envoy extraordinary and plenipotentiary, to that monarch, and was so successful in accommodating matters, that preliminaries of peace, between the empress queen of Hungary and the king of Prussia, were signed at Breslau, 1st June, 1742. On the conclusion of the treaty, his lordship was nominated a knight of the Thistle, and vested with the insignia of that order, at Charlottenburg, 2nd August 1742, by the king of Prussia, in virtue of a commission from King George the Second. In 1744 he was sent on a special mission to Russia, and by his memorable negotiations with that power, was instrumental in accelerating the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. In 1750 he returned to England, and was sworn a privy councillor 29th March that year, and appointed one of the lords of the bedchamber. In 1752 he was sent ambassador to Vienna, which situation he held till 1764, when he was nominated vice-admiral of Scotland, and on that occasion he resigned his scat at the board of police. He spent the remainder of his life at his seat in Lanarkshire. Some idea may be formed of his assiduity, from; the fact that in the library in Westraw, there are twenty-three MS. volumes of his political life, in his own handwriting. Besides this, during the whole of his stay abroad, he kept up a regular correspondence with his factor at Carmichael, in which he evinces an accurate knowledge of architecture, agriculture, and rural affairs in general, A few years before his death, lie granted leases of fifty-seven years' duration, in order to improve his lands, 'and even at tliat early period, when agriculture in Scotland was in a very rude state, he introduced clauses into the new leases which have since been adopted as the most approved mode of farming. The greater part of the beautiful plantations which adorn the now deserted family mansion of Carmichael house, and which are excelled by none in Scotland, were reared from seeds which his lordship selected when on the continent, but particularly when he was in Russia; and for many years he employed a great number of workmen in the buildings and plantations of Carmichael and Westraw. He died 19th July 1767, in the 67th year of his age, and his remains were interred in the family burial ground in the parish of Carmichael. 

CARMICHAEL, Gerkhom, M.A., a learned divine, was born at Glasgow in 1682, and educated in the university of that city, where he took his degrees. He was afterwards ordained minister of Monimail, in Fifeshire; and, in 1722, appointed professor of moral philosophy in the university of Glasgow. For the use of his students, he wrote some learned notes on ' Puffendorfi de Officiis Hominis.' He died at Glasgow in 1738, aged 56. 

CARMICHAEL, Frederick, son of the preceding, was born at Monimail in 1708, and received his education in Marischal college, Aberdeen. He was ordained minister of Monimail in 1737, on the presentation of the Earl of Leven. In 1743 he was translated to Inveresk, and in 1747 he was elected one of the ministers of Edinburgh, having previously declined an offer made to him of the divinity chair in Marischal college. In 1751 he was seized with a fever, of which he died, aged 45. He left one volume of sermons.

Tom Paterson - Last updated 25 Jan 2019