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Field was of the Privy Council, and High Treasurer to James VI. (anno 1599) before his accession to the Crown of England. This King was too well read not to have known what passed in the Reign of his Great Grandfather respecting the first Lord El/phinston; and I am willing to suppose the Descendants of that Peer were equally informed of the fact above related; and that the Lord Treasurer Elphinston modestly imputed his elevation ultimately to that circumstance, and allusively took the Motto before us.
Lest this surmise should not be satisfactory, I will offer another on a very different ground, arising from the Crest, which is, " A Lady from the middle richly attired, holding a Castle in her Right Hand, and in her Left a Branch of Laurel." This throws the matter open to another conjecture; for the Bearing of the Lady, with the Castle in her Right Hand, may well be supposed to relate to Alliances; several of the Ancestry of the Family, which came originally from Germany in the time of Robert the Bruce (in the Reign of our Edward II.) having married Heiresses *, whereby they obtained Lands, Castles, Power, and Nobility. These events often repeated, which may be termed the effects of chance, give us latitude to suppose the Motto may, on the other hand, relate to those casual means, whereby the Family rose to the honour of the Peerage.
These are the only two conjectures I have to offer; and I do*not at present meet with any other historical matter to warrant a third.
Leslie, Earl of Rothes.—The Motto of this Family is " Grip (or Gripe) Fast\" and seems to contain a double allusion; first to the old Motto " Firma Spe," and afterwards to some parts of the additional Armorial Ap» pendages. I call it the old Motto, from the account Mr. Nisbet gives of the original Bearing and its adjuncts; viz. '' Argent, on a Fess, between two Cross-Croslets Azure, Three Buckles Of." Crest, *« A Griphon's (or Griffin's) Head couped Proper, charged with a Cross-Croslet fitched Argent." Motto, "Firma Spe." * Herein the Cross-Croslets repeated, taken together with the new Motto, admit of a religious allusion, as holding fast the Faith of Christ with Jinn Hope, expressed allegorically by the Head of the Griffin. It may therefore be conceived, that the change of the Motto might take place after the Family, on being ennobled, chose Griffins for Supporters; thereby giving a loose and whimsical translation, if I may call it so, of ^ Firm& Spe," hy the words " Grip Fast," The ancient Bearings of the Cross-Croslets are now discharged, nothing remaining on the Field but a Bend, instead of a Fess, charged with Three Buckles; so that the meaning, couched under the Cross-Croslets, the Griffin's Head, and the original words of the Motto, is entirely lost: and at present nothing remains but a quaint allusion to the group of those chimerical Animals. The Buckles, borne first on the Fess, and afterwards on the Bend (a Change not uncommon as a Difference, in token of Cadency or Cadetship in Scotland), may likewise have regard to that strong metaphorical description of Christian Defence against the Powers of Darkness in the Sixth Chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians, or to the First Epistle to the Thessalonians (Chap. v. 21). "Hold fast that which is good;" viz. the Faith and Hope in the Cross of Christ. In support of this idea, as being primarily religious, it appears that one subordinate Branch of the Family (Leslie of Talloch) bears for a Crest, not a Griffin's, but " An Eagle's Neck, with Two Heads erased Sable;" with the Motto "Hold Fast:" and another has for its Motto " Keep Fast:"* so that Chip, or Gripe Fast, may be considered as a mere canting Motto, arising from old Heraldic wit. Leslie of Burdsbank, carries the quartered Coat of the Earl of Rothes, with Differences; with the Crest, "A Buckle Or," and the Motto " Keep Fast."
* Nisbet's Heraldry, p. 154.
f The traditional Family History of this Motto is, that a Countess of Rothes (then Head of the House in her own right), riding behind a servant through a dangerous ford, had nearly lost her seat from fear; when the man, encouraging her by the words " Gryp Fast" the Countess took the advice, was rescued from imminent danger, and her life preserved. This account of the origin of the Motto was given by one of the Family to a Friend of mine; but how far it may gain credit I do not determine.
I close this attempt (for I call it nothing more) with a singular Motto of a Private Family.
Haig, or perhaps Haigh, of Bemerside, has for the Family Motto "Tyde what may," founded on a Prophecy of Sir Thomas Lermont (well known in Scotland by the name of " Thomas the Rhymer," because he wrote his Prophecies in Rhyme), who was an Herald in the Reign of Alexander III. He is said to have foretold the time of his own death; and particularly, among other remarkable occurrences, the Union of England and Scotland, which was not accomplished till the Reign of James VI. some hundreds of years after this Gentleman died. These Prophe
* Nisbet's Heraldry, vol. I. ubi supra.