Hugh "the Wizard" Giffard of Yester, Laird of Yester

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Hugh "the Wizard" Giffard of Yester, Laird of Yester

Also Known As: "Hugo de Gifford"
Birthdate:
Birthplace: Yester Castle, East Lothian, Scotland
Death: circa 1267 (33-50)
Yester, East Lothian, Scotland
Immediate Family:

Son of John de Giffard of Yester
Husband of Joan de Halsbury
Father of Margaret Broun of Colstoun; Sir John Giffard, of Yester; Hugh Gifford and James Gifford

Occupation: wizard, necromancer, and a magician
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Hugh "the Wizard" Giffard of Yester, Laird of Yester

In coming to Sir Hugh Giffard II, we discuss the best-known and most famous of the Lords of Yester. Hugh Giffard is described and known in Scottish lore as a wizard, a necromancer, and a magician. Further legends describe his ability to muster a ghostly army through a pact with the devil, and the endowing of wondrous powers to the "Colstoun Pear". Sir Hugh was immortalized by Sir Walter Scott in his 1808 publication of Marmion. In Canto III, he vividly describes Hugh Giffard being summoned by King Alexander III to join in the battle against Haco of Norway's invasion of Scotland in 1263. "Hugo Gifford", as he was described in sections of Sir Walter Scott's Marmion:

"A clerk could tell what years have flown since Alexander filled our throne third monarch of that warlike name, and eke the time when here he came to seek Sir Hugo, then our lord: A braver never drew a sword, a wiser never, at the hour of midnight, spoke the word of power; the same, that ancient records call the founder of Goblin hall"----"Lord Gifford deep beneath the ground heard Alexander's bugle sound, and tarried not his garb to change, but, in his wizard habit strange, came forth, —, a quaint and fearful sight: His mantle lined with fox-skins white; His high and wrinkled forehead bore a pointed cap, such as of yore Pharoh's Magi wore; His shoes were marked with cross and spell, upon his breast a pentacle"----"and in his hand a naked sword without a guard".


Sir Hugh Giffard was the builder of the original Yester Castle. The castle is mentioned by name in a Yester charter of Adam de Morham, in which he cedes some adjacent land to his neighbor Sir Hugh Giffard. This charter (#16) is dated between 1250 and 1267, showing the castle was built and completed before the year 1267. Adam de Morham was the direct ancestor of Euphemia Morham, wife of Sir Hugh Giffard's grandson John Giffard. King Alexander III was at Yester Castle on May 24, 1278, where he wrote a letter to King Edward I of England. The only portion of the original castle remaining is the subterranean level, famous today as the haunted "Hobgoblin Hall". When the castle was destroyed and re-built in the early 14th century, this legendary lower chamber was the only feature retained. The village of Bothans was located on the grounds of the Yester estate in this period. Bothans was razed and moved to the modern site of the nearby village of Gifford in the 17th century. St. Bothans, the church of Yester, was consecrated by Bishop David de Burnham in 1241.

By the year 1255, Sir Hugh Giffard had become prominent in the political affairs of Scottish government. During the minority of the young King Alexander III and his wife Margaret, daughter of the English King Henry III, a council of regents had been formed to manage the government and act as guardians for the young couple. Two strong factions emerged as rivals for these positions. One was heavily represented by the powerful Comyn family and included Gamelin, Bishop-elect of St. Andrews. This group had remained in control until 1255.

The rival political faction favored by King Henry III included: Alan Durward; Alexander Stewart; Robert Brus (the grandfather of the future King Robert the Bruce); the Earls of Carrick, Fife, Strathern, and Dunbar; the Bishops of Dunkeld and Aberdeen; Walter de Moravia; David de Lindsey; William de Brechin; Robert de Meyners; Gilbert de Hay; and Hugh Giffard. King Henry III addressed this group of 15 individuals as his "beloved friends" and bestowed his protection and support for their aims on Aug. 10, 1255. (Cal. of Patent Rolls of Henry III). These 15 barons, including Sir Hugh Giffard, were appointed the new regents and guardians for seven years in an act of Alexander III on Sept. 20, 1255. Alexander III, with the support of his father-in-law King Henry III, on the same date removed the previous Comyn faction regents from his council and their offices. In the Patent Rolls of 39 Henry III, in a document dated Sept. 24, 1255, Hugh Giffard of Scotland was issued letters of protection for seven years by the King of England.

The next year, Bishop-elect Gamelin, one of the deposed Comyn supporters, went to Rome to meet with Pope Alexander IV. Pleading abuse by the new regents, Gamelin asked for excommunication of his enemies. In 1257 the Pope passed a sentence of excommunication on the regents appointed in 1255. Also in the year 1257, William Comyn seized King Alexander III and forced him to depose the 15 excommunicated 1255 regents. Nearing open warfare, a new compromise regency was formed in 1258 which was weighted to the advantage of the Comyn faction and included Gamelin. The political anymosity of these opposing groups will extend through their descendants well into the 14th century. Sir Hugh Giffard was one of the eleven former members not included in the new 1258 regency. Presuming the excommunication sentence would have included Hugh Giffard, perhaps this may have been the original source of the legends concerning his dealings with the Devil and his skills in the black arts.

Other charters and documents relating to Sir Hugh Giffard II: In Liber de Melros II No. 393, Sir John Giffard confirms that his grand-father Sir Hugh Giffard had made a gift to the Monks of Melrose Abbey of one toft and croft plus two oxgangs of land in his town of Yester. Sir Hugh Giffard is found as a witness to two charters of Neubotle Abbey, this was the same Abbey that contained numerous charters of his Giffard ancestors. The earlier of the two Neubotle charters likely can be dated to the late 1240's, the second charter, where witness Hugh Giffard is titled "Lord", is certainly post 1250. In Yester writ #17, Sir Hugh Giffard makes a gift of his land of Snoc in the town of Berwick to his servant Richard Soylard. Sir Hugh describes Soylard as his merchant, and that he buys and conducts business for him between Yester and the town of Berwick. Hugh Giffard also makes provisions of lodgings, a groom, and two horses for Richard Soylard during the travels necessitated by their tradings. Evidence shows that Richard Soylard was in the service of the Yester Giffards at least as early as the year 1244.

In 1259, Sir Hugh Giffard and four others are accused of interference in land possesions, this would likely have been another part of the on-going political friction of the decade. Sir David Dalrymple in his annals, written in the late 18th century, stated that Sir Hugh Giffard died in 1267. However, in the state papers of King Edward I, a document pertaining to Scotland is found which is dated Nov. 3, 1278 to Jan. 16, 1279. This document contains very strong evidence that Hugh Giffard II of Scotland was still living in the year 1279.

Considering the large amount of documents relating to Sir Hugh Giffard "the wizard", it is surprising that the identty of his wife is never stated. She certainly would have been a daughter of one of the major 13th century Scottish families.

Children of Sir Hugh Giffard II "the wizard":

1. Sir John Giffard II---born circa 1255-1260. Sir John Giffard is proven as the son and heir of Sir Hugh Giffard, and the next direct generation in Yester writs #18 and 22. Sir John Giffard and his wife Isabel are discussed in the following Generation V chapter.

2. Margaret Giffard---born circa 1260. A likely daughter of Sir Hugh Giffard II. She is believed to have married Alexander de Seton.

3. Ada Giffard of Yester---born circa 1255-1260. Married to Sir Andrew Gray of Broxmouth. Appears to be of the correct generation to have been a daughter of Sir Hugh Giffard II.

Hugo known as the Wizard of Yester and immortalised by Sir Walter Scott in "Marmion" 1808.

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Hugh "the Wizard" Giffard of Yester, Laird of Yester's Timeline

1225
1225
Yester Castle, East Lothian, Scotland
1260
1260
Yester Castle, Gifford, East Lothian, Scotland
1260
Yester, East Lothian, Scotland
1262
1262
Yester Castle, Gifford, East Lothian, Scotland
1265
1265
Yester Castle, Gifford, East Lothian, Scotland
1267
1267
Age 42
Yester, East Lothian, Scotland