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Oliphant, William (d.1329) (DNB00)


OLIPHANT or OLIFARD, Sir WILLIAM (d. 1329), of Aberdnlgie, Perthshire, was eldest son of Sir Waltcr Olifard, justiciar of Lothian under Alexander I. This office was originally bestowed on his ancestor, David de Olifard, who, while a soldier in the army of King Stephen, rescued King David I of Scotland [q. v.] at the siege of Winchester Castle in ll4l, und enabled him to reach Scotland in safety. Sir William Oliphant's name first uppenrs as witness to a charter of John, earl of Atholl, some time before 1296 (Hist. MSS. Comm. 6th Rep. p. 690). Being taken prisoner at the capture of Dunbar Castle in l296, nfter the defeat of the Scots army by John de Warenne, earl of Surrey, he was on 16 May committed a prisoner to the castle of Devizes, where he remained till October 1297 (Cal. Documents relating to Scotland 1297-1307, entry 953) and then only received his release on condition of serving Edward I beyond the seas. While at Sandwich, previous to embarkation for Flushing, he and Edward de Ramsay were allowed 12d. a day, and each of their squires 6d. a day (Stevenson, Documents illustrative of the History of Scotland, ii. 40). Subsequently returned to Scotland, and and supported Wallace in his endeavour to uphold Scottish independence. On the capture of Stirling Castle from the English in 1299, he was entrusted with its defence by the governor, Sir John Foulis. After a feeble attempt to bar the progress of Edward in 1304, Comyn [see Comyn, John, the younger] gave in his submission to Edward, and Stirling Castle remained the sole fortress in Scotland that had not surrendered to the English king. Oliphant,on being commanded to give it up, replied that, having received the custody of it from Sir John Foulis, he could not hand it over to Edward without forfeiting his oath and honour as a knigbt, but if permitted would instantly go to France to inquire of Sir John Foulis what were his commands, and if they countenanced surrender he would obey them. But Edward, according to Langtoft, being then ‘full grim,' replied that he would agree to no such terms, and that Oliphant would retain the castle at his peril (Chronicle, p. 325). During the siege all the goods and chattels of Oliphant were seized by Edward and bestowed on Gilbert Malherbe (Cal. Documents relating to Scotland, 1272-1307, entry 1517). The siege continued for ninety days (Chronicon Galfridi le Baker, ed. Thompson p. 2), and the reduction of the castle taxed all Edward's ingenuity and resouces. Thirteen ‘great engynes’ were brought by him to batter down its defences (Langtoft, p. 326), the leaden roof of the refectory of St. Andrews being melted down to supply leaden balls for their use. The siege was under the immediate direction of Edward himself, who, in his eagerness to effect the fall of the castle, frequently exposed himself to imminent peril. For a long time the defenders held a decided advantage, but ultimately, by the use of Greek Fire and the construction of two immense machines for throwing stones and leaden balls, he made such breach on the inner walls, and so harassed the defenders, that Oliphant offered terms of surrender. It is stated that he stipulated for ‘the freedom of himself and the garrison, but that Edward ‘belied his troth' and broke through the conditions; for William Oliphant, the warden thereof, he threw bound ‘into prison, and kept long time in thrall' (John or Fordoun, ed. Skene, i. 336; Wyntoun, ed. Laing, ii. 362). The castle was surrendered on 24 July 1304 (Cal. Documents relating to Scotland, 1272-1307, entry 1562), and Oliphant is mentioned as a prisoner in the Tower on 21 May 1305 (ib. entry 1668; Stevenson, Documents illustrative of the History of Scotland, p. 11). From Michaelmas 1303 till Michaelmas l307 the sum of 6l. 20d. was paid for his maintenance by the sheriff of London to the committee of the Tower (Cal. Documents relating to Scotland, 1307-57, entry 36). On 24 May 1308 Edward II gave command to the constable of the Tower to liberate him on his giving surety for his good behaviour (ib. entry 45). On his way to Scotland he came to Lincoln, and took out of prison four Scotsman who had served under him in Stirling Castle, who were to go with him on the king's service into Scotland (Rotuli Scotiæ, i. 61). He was in receipt of pay from the king of England in January 1310-11 (Cal. Documents relating to Scotland, 1307-57, entry 193), and he was appointed by Edward governor of Perth, which held out ar six weeks against Robert Bruce. Ultimately it was captured by stratagem, Bruce, after retiring with his army for eight days, returning suddenly during the night, and scaling the walls at the ahead of his troops. The town was taken on 8 Jan. 1311-12, when Oliphant was sent a prisoner to the Western Isles (Chronicle of Lanercost, p. 272). On 22 Feb. 1311-12 the collectors of customs of wool and hides in Perth were required to pay the whole of these to Olighant, in satisfaction of the king of England’s debt to him (Cal. Documents relating to Scotland, 1307-57, entry 247). Oliphant obtained his freedom at least before 2 Oct. 1313, when he received protection on his setting out for Scotland, and for his return to England (ib. entries, 313, 839). On 26 Dec. 1317 he received from Robert Bruce the lands of Newtyle and Nynprouy, Forfarshire, to be held in free barony; also, by subsequent charters, the lands of Muirhouse in the shire of Edinburgh; and by charter at Scene, on 20 March 1326, the lands of Ochtertyse, Perthshire. He was present at a great parliament held at Aberrothwich in Apr 1320, and his seal is attached to the remonstrance then addressed to the asserting the independence of Scotland. He was also present at a parliament held at Holyrood on 8 Merch 1326. He died in 1329, and was buried at Aberdalgie, where the original monument to his memory is still in fair preservation. He left a son, Sir Walter Oliphant of Aberdalgie, who married the Princess Elizabeth, youngest daughter of Robert Bruce. From him the Lords Oliphant are descended.

[Authorities mentioned in the text; Anderson's Oliphants in Scotland, 1879, xii-xxi.]

T. F. H.