The Rise of the Elliots of Minto
A Scottish Family's Life in the Eighteenth Century
- John P. Evans
15th March 2017
The Rise of the Elliots of Minto begins as battles between Scottish clans and reivers across the English–Scottish border continue. A Gilbert Elliot is helping a Campbell, the earl of Argyll, escape the clutches of the law. Soon afterwards, as a member of the Scottish Parliament, he prospers both socially and financially. Being made a baronet, he retires following the Treaty of Union, dying in 1718.
A chronological account of the happenings of six generations of Elliots in the eighteenth century, and a dramatis personae of well over 100, completes the author’s trilogy about the family commenced in 2011. Inheritance of the estate in Roxburghshire in the Borders by the second baronet is accompanied by his being made a judge, and by the expansion of his interests in music and rural affairs. Two of three successful marriages among his offspring were then to greatly influence the family’s ascendancy from the gentry to the lower ranks of the aristocracy. Key to this was the eventual third baronet who became a politician and a literary patron, and his elder sister Eleanor who was to live the first part of her married life in America. Between them they had at least seventeen children, including an admiral, an army captain, the governor of New York, and a woman poet. A third union between the fourth baronet’s sister and William Eden, who was a friend of Pitt the Younger, government minister and diplomat at the time of the American War of Independence, cemented the family’s association with the Eden family.
Although a social history of the family and several biographies or essays about two or three senior Elliots exist, little has been revealed till now about the fascinating lives of its younger members or the family in the round. The Rise of the Elliots of Minto provides a warm and perceptive glimpse into the life of a far-from-rich aristocratic family, as well as a picture of what the populace at large endured. The lid is lifted a little further on both the conventional and non-conventional in eighteenth-century society, where adventure and death were partners.