Bruce Clan
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Bruce Clan

Bruce Crest: A lion statant with tail extended.

Bruce Clan Motto: Fuimus (We have been).

Bruce Clan History: The Bruce surname, one of the most celebrated in Scottish history, is of territorial origin, from the Chateau d’Adam at Brix, in Normandy.  

The first Bruce recorded in Britain was Robert de Brus, who arrived with William the Conqueror’s Norman invasion of England in 1066. He was thought to have died in 1094. A son of Robert, also called Robert, was the first of the family with a Scots connection. As a companion of Prince David, Robert came north to Scotland, in his train, and was granted Lordship of the lands of Annandale, after David became King of Scotland.

David I became embroiled in the English civil war, between the cousins Stephen and Matilda, for the throne of England. Robert the 1st Lord of Annandale refused to support the King David, resigning his lands to his son, also Robert, who became the 2nd Lord of Annandale.

In 1158 a letter of gift is recorded. “Robert, son of Robert de Brus, Lord of Annandale, to the canons of the church of St. Mary of Gysebur' of the church of Anand with its lands, teinds and possessions, the church of Logmaban, with its lands, teinds and possessions, the church of Kyrkepatric with the chapel of Logan, the churches of Raynpatric, Cumbertres and Gretenhow, the church of Hert with the chapel of St. Hilda of Herterpol and the church of Strantona, with their lands, liberties and possessions”.

The 4th Lord of Annandale, another Robert, reinforced the Bruce’s position as one of the leading families within the Scottish Nobility, by marrying Isabella of Huntingdon, daughter of David, the Earl of Huntingdon, and niece of King William the Lion. Around 1220 they had a son, again called Robert, who became the 5th Lord of Annandale.

The 6th Lord of Annandale, Robert, was born around 1250 and fought in the crusades alongside Adam de Kilconcath, Earl of Carrick, who fell in the battle for the Holy Land. Robert, on his return to Scotland, felt obliged to travel to Turnberry castle and inform Adam’s wife, Marjorie, of his death. Marjorie, the Countess of Carrick, on meeting Robert, was reported as having been so beguiled, that she imprisoned him within the castle, until he agreed to marry her. Robert Brus the 6th Lord of Annandale and Marjorie of Carrick were married in 1271. The family are known to have held the castles at Turnberry and Lochmaben along with vast estates in South West Scotland. The couple had nine children, the first born, in 1274, was Robert, future king of Scotland.

King Alexander III died in 1286 as the result of a riding accident, leaving no son to succeed him. His daughter Margaret had predeceased him, and his granddaughter in Norway, also called Margaret, 'The Maid of Norway', inherited the throne. On her sea journey to Scotland, the seven-year-old Margaret fell ill and died in Orkney without being crowned. As she had no direct heirs, a struggle for the Scottish throne began. Thirteen separate claims were submitted, the strongest being from Robert Bruce the 5th Lord of Annandale, and John Balliol.

To avoid a civil war within Scotland, Edward I of England was selected as an arbiter. Edward moved many of the earliest Scottish records to London, supposedly to enable the legal analysis of the competing claims. In 1292 Edward ruled in favour of John Balliol, and appointed himself as the self styled ‘Overlord of Scotland’. Edward’s desire to rule Scotland as a feudal Vassal state would eventually lead to the Wars of Independence.

Balliol was crowned at Scone on St Andrew's Day, 1292, swearing homage to King Edward later that year. The tyrannical Edward oppressed and humiliated his puppet King at every opportunity until Balliol eventually rebelled, the final straw came in 1294, when Edward demanded that King John supply Scottish soldiers for his war with France. A council of the eminent Nobles and clergymen were so outraged they instead created a defensive alliance with France, marking the beginning of the 'Auld Alliance' between the two countries, which would last for nearly 3 centuries.

In 1295 Robert Bruce, 7th Lord of Annandale, inherited the title, 4th Earl of Carrick, after his mothers death. He married his first wife, Isabella of Mar, who died giving birth to Bruce’s daughter, Marjorie, in 1296.

Balliol renounced his fealty to Edward I in 1296. Edward responded by invading Scotland and massacring thousands at Berwick and Dunbar. The castles of Roxburgh, Edinburgh and Stirling were captured, and Scotland’s coronation stone, the stone of destiny, was taken south to Westminster Abbey.
Balliol surrendered at Strathcathro in Angus. The removal of heraldic emblems from his tunic, as part of his submission, earned him the nickname, 'Toom Tabard' (empty tunic). Balliol was taken to England and imprisoned in the tower of London. At the request of Pope Boniface VIII, Balliol was released after three years and exiled to France where he died in 1313.

In 1297, William Wallace and Andrew de Moray led a national rebellion against the English occupation. Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick, attacked the English in Ayrshire. Wallace and Moray defeated the English forces at the battle of Stirling Bridge. Moray was severely injured and died from his injuries some months later. William Wallace was knighted and became Guardian of Scotland. After great successes, the Scottish forces, under Wallace, were defeated by Edward’s larger army at the battle of Falkirk. Wallace resigned his guardianship of Scotland and waged a guerrilla campaign against the English. Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick, and John Comyn, Earl of Buchan, were appointed as joint guardians of the country. During a heated exchange at a guardian council meeting held in 1299 at Peebles, Comyn is reported as having seized Bruce by the throat. William Lamberton, Bishop of St Andrews, is appointed as a third Guardian to keep the peace between the two parties. Bruce, shortly after this incident, resigned his position.


As Edward vowed to lay waste the entire Scottish nation in 1301 the politically expedient Bruce changed sides. Bruce saw no advantage in opposing the powerful Edward at this time. He was also under immense family pressure to preserve their lands and estates. As a reward Edward granted Bruce a second marriage, to Elizabeth de Burgh, daughter of the Earl of Ulster. Bruce was installed as the sheriff of Ayr and Lanark and took part in an attempted capture of Wallace in 1304. Robert Bruce the 6th Lord of Annandale died in 1304. Soon after the death of his father Bruce made a pact with Bishop Lamberton, promising "to be of one another's counsel in all their business and affairs at all times and against whichever individuals". On the same day and on the same terms, Bruce and the John ‘Red Comyn’, agreed on a contract of mutual support.


William Wallace was betrayed to the English in 1305 and transported to London where he was hung, drawn, and quartered. His head was placed on a spike for display on London Bridge.


In 1306 Bruce decided that the timing was right to once again rise against English domination. He met with his rival John "Red" Comyn at Greyfriar's Church in Dumfries, to discuss an alliance. An argument ensued, and either Bruce, or one of his party, stabbed Comyn and his uncle to death at the alter. Bruce was excommunicated by the Pope for his act of sacrilege, and was outlawed by Edward I. It seems there had been some forward planning on Bruce’s part as he was quickly installed, with the support of Bishop Lamberton, as King of Scotland at Scone. It has to be noted at this point Bruce had very little support from the Scottish nobles, most of whom had favoured Comyn. Edward sent an army North, led by his cousin, Aymer de Valence, brother in law of the murdered John “Red” Comyn. Scotland. Bishops Wishart and Lamberton were captured, and imprisoned in England, for their role in the coronation of Bruce.


Bruce’s small force was surprised and almost destroyed by the English at the Battle of Methven. Fleeing to the Highlands, what was left of his army was mauled by the MacDougall’s of Lorne, loyal allies of the Comyn’s. Bruce himself narrowly escaped capture, and went into a long period hiding, off the coast of Scotland. Whilst lying in a cave, in the depths of despair and without hope, Bruce noticed a spider struggling to make a web, the strands of the web repeatedly broke, but the spider persevered until eventually it succeeded. Bruce took this to be an omen and resolved to struggle on with his fight.


Bruce had sent his womenfolk and family sent north to the refuge of Kildrummy Castle in Aberdeenshire. The English and their Comyn allies besieged the castle which was valiantly defended until a treacherous castle blacksmith ended the siege by starting a fire inside the castle. Many of the castle defenders, including three of Robert’s brothers, were hanged at Berwick. John of Strathbogie, the Earl of Athol, was transported to London and executed, his body was burned and his head impaled on a stake, for display on London Bridge. Bruce’s wife, Elizabeth, his daughter, Marjory, two of his sisters, and the Countess of Buchan had already fled further North to Tain, where they were captured by the Earl of Ross. Bruce’s sister Mary and his aunt, Isabella, the Countess of Buchan, were to spend years in cages, on public display, hanging from the castle walls at Roxburgh and Berwick. Bruce’s daughter Marjory, and his Wife, Elizabeth, were confined in England.


Bruce returned to Ayrshire in 1307 using his knowledge of the countryside to evade capture whilst waging a guerrilla campaign against the English and their allies. His small army won a victory at Glentrool, ambushing an English cavalry force. Gaining new recruits, he inflicted a defeat on the English at the Battle of Loudon Hill. Following a successful attack by Bruce on Turnberry Castle, Edward I - ‘the Hammer of the Scots’, amassed an army and marched north to crush the rebellion, but he died just short of the Scottish border. His son, the Prince of Wales, later Edward II, decided to turn back leaving his Scottish allies to cope with Bruce’s fight for Independence. Bruce swiftly turned his attention to his Scottish enemies, taking his campaign north; he attacked Balliol and Comyn strongholds whenever the opportunity arose. His army captured Inverlochy castle near Fort William, then Urquhart castle on the banks of Loch Ness, before taking Inverness itself. Balvenie castle near Dufftown was the next to fall, as Bruce made his way into Aberdeenshire.


Bruce fell seriously ill at Inverurie and was taken to Strathbogie (Huntly) castle to recover. His brother Edward moved their army to the safer wooded lands of Slioch, south of Huntly, where they held a defensive camp. Thinking Bruce’s force could be weakened, John Comyn, Earl of Buchan, took the opportunity to gather an army and attack the encampment. An archery battle took place without either side gaining a decisive victory, Earl’s army withdrew. The Battle Hill at Huntly takes its name from this encounter which included Sir Adam de Gordon, who was later granted the lands of Strathbogie for his service at Slioch against the Comyn’s.


Bruce, now fully recovered, moved his army back to their camp at Inverurie. The Earl of Buchan gathered his forces for an attack, making his camp at the commanding Iron Age hill fort of Barra, near Oldmeldrum, North East of Inverurie. It was here, at the Battle of Barra Hill, that Bruce decisively defeated his great rival Comyn, the Earl of Buchan. Comyn fled the battlefield to Fyvie and then to exile in England.
After his victory at the battle of Barra Hill, Bruce embarked on a punitive campaign of destruction, known as the "herschip", of Buchan. The earldom was laid waste, the Comyn’s, and their supporters, were butchered, their castles destroyed, crops burned, and their livestock slaughtered. Bruce went on to take the English garrison at Aberdeen, securing the important port.


Bruce then turned his attentions to another old enemy; the MacDougall’s, who were staunch supporters of the Comyn's. A plan was hatched to ambush Bruce’s army at the narrow pass of Brander in Argyll, before he could reach the MacDougall castle at Dunstaffnage. Bruce sent part of his force commanded by Sir James “Black” Douglas to the higher ground, outflanking the MacDougall’s. The trap was sprung; The MacDougall’s faced with an onslaught from two sides were routed. Bruce went on to capture the MacDougall castle of Dunstaffnage, near Oban.

By 1309, Bruce, having crushed his Scottish opposition, was in complete control of the North of Scotland, for the first time he was recognised as the King of Scotland in more than just name. King Robert held his first Parliament at St Andrews in March of 1306. Bruce now turned to the remaining English held Castles in the South of the country. One by one the English castles fell, often taken by unconventional means, using guile and ingenuity rather than great siege engines. Castle walls would be scaled using grappling hooks and rope ladders and the gates opened to his waiting army. Linlithgow castle fell in 1310, Dumbarton Castle in 1311, Perth Castle in 1313, Roxburgh Castle in 1313 and Edinburgh Castle in 1314. Castles, once captured, were destroyed or reduced, ensuring that the English could not gain a foothold, should they successfully reinvade Scotland.


The Battle of Bannockburn
The Scots lay siege to Stirling Castle, which was now isolated from the nearest major English fortress at Berwick. An English army under King Edward II invaded to relieve the garrison. On June 23rd the English force, outnumbering the Scots by at least two to one, gathered a few miles south of Stirling castle. Bruce lay in wait, placing his force between the English and the castle, leaving an escape route to the North, in the event of the battle going badly. Bruce’s strategy was to fight within a narrow gap of poor ground, relying on squads of offensive pike men to deal with the English heavy cavalry. The positioning of the English force on boggy ground, between the meandering river Forth, and the Pelstream and Bannock burns, was disastrous.
The fighting on the first day was relatively light; the English cavalry charges were the repulsed. An English knight, Henry de Bohun, sighted Bruce, who was relatively isolated on his highland pony. Seeking glory, Bohun charged with his lance at full tilt, but just as he was about to strike Bruce sidestepped him by turning his mount away and delivered a mighty blow with his battle axe, splitting the helmet, and the skull of Bohun, in two, killing him instantly.


On the second day the English advanced while the Scots remained in their Schiltroms. The initial English cavalry charge across the boggy ground was disorganized and costly in terms of losses. The few knights that actually managed to break through the Scottish Schiltroms were easily killed by the pike men. The Scottish cavalry attacked the English archers, routing them, and forcing them to take flight. The Scottish infantry with their pikes pushed the English cavalry and infantry back towards the Bannockburn where they were forced into a terrible crush. In the melee many English fell and were crushed by the weight of the onslaught. The Bannockburn was said to be so full of bodies that it could be crossed without getting ones feet wet. Giving chase the Scots cavalry cut down many of the survivors fleeing the battlefield. Edward II fled the battle early, narrowly escaping capture. He was refused entry at nearby Stirling castle and made his way to Dunbar Castle, where he departed on a ship back to England. Much of his surviving force were not so lucky, many were set upon and slain by the Scottish country folk, as they tried to make their way back to England. The Battle of Bannockburn was without doubt, the greatest military victory in Scotland’s history.


In 1315, Robert the Bruce’s brother, Edward, landed an army in Ireland in an attempt to overthrow English colonial rule in the country. Edward Bruce was crowned King of Ireland in 1316, but the invasion ended disastrously when he was slain in 1318. This episode put an end to Bruce’s ambitious plans for a united Celtic alliance including Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Bruce’s daughter Marjory, died in 1316, whilst giving birth to the future King Robert II.


Bruce captured Berwick Castle from the English in 1318, after a three month siege. Although in total control of the country, Bruce's kingship and Scottish independence had still not been recognised by the Pope or King Edward II, who refused to end hostilities. If Scotland was to have any credibility internationally it was essentially to gain official recognition.


In 1320, six years after Bannockburn, the Declaration of Arbroath was taken to the Pope in Avignon by Sir Adam Gordon. The document, a formal Declaration of Independence, was drawn up in Arbroath Abbey and signed by the barons and nobles of Scotland.


Excerpt from the Declaration of Arbroath:

“Admonish this King Edward, since England’s possetions may well suffice seven kings or more, that he should leave us in peace in our own little Scotland, as we desire no more than is our own, and have no dwelling place beyond our own borders.
For, so long as a hundred of us remain alive, we never will in any degree be subject to the lordship of the English. Since it is not for glory, riches or honour we fight, but for liberty alone, which no good man loses but with his life.”


In 1322 Edward II invaded Scotland, as a response to repeated Scottish incursions into Northern England. The invasion of Scotland was to be a disaster. Bruce employing a scorched earth policy south of the Forth, had crops destroyed, and livestock moved out of reach of the English army. Suffering from starvation by the time they reached Edinburgh, the English army destroyed Holyrood Abbey, before retreating. Sir James “Black” Douglas attacked and defeated the English light cavalry. The main body of Edwards’s army were attacked and harassed by the Scots until they reached the safety of Newcastle.


Bruce quickly followed up this humiliation of Edward II with an attack into England. When the Scots met the English army at Old Byland, Yorkshire, they successfully employed the same outflanking tactics as at the Pass of Brander Battle. The English forces were routed and many of their finest knights were killed or taken prisoner. Edward II, narrowly evading capture, took flight with such haste that his prized personal belongings were left behind.


In 1323 Robert I agreed to a 13 year truce with Edward II. In 1324, as a result of the truce, the Pope lifted Bruce’s excommunication, recognising both Scotland’s Independence and Bruce’s right to rule the country as King. Bruce’s wife, Elizabeth, gives birth to David, the future King David II.


Edward II was deposed in 1327, and murdered in 1328. His 13 year old son Edward, is crowned Edward III in 1328.


The Scots, not recognising Edward III as the rightful King, broke the truce, launching an attack into Northern England. Edward III led an army against the Scots, but they could not engage the fast moving forces of Sir James Douglas and Sir Thomas Randolph, who employed hit and run tactics against the English. The Scots launched a successful night time attack on the English camp at the Battle of Stanhope Park. The raiding of Northern England continued until Edward III sued for peace. The treaty of Edinburgh guaranteeing Scottish independence was signed in 1328, at the Kings chamber, Holyrood Abbey. Bruce’s four year old son, David, married Joan, sister of Edward III, later in the same year, cementing the treaty. King Robert I died in his retirement home at Cardross in 1329. His body was interred at Dunfermline Abbey. Bruce’s great ally, Sir James “Black” Douglas, had Bruce’s heart placed in a casket which he carried with him on the crusades against the moors in Spain. Douglas was killed in the fighting and his body and Bruce’s heart were returned to Scotland. Bruce’s heart was then buried at Melrose Abbey.  


David Bruce succeeded his father and was crowded King of Scotland at Scone in 1331. Edward III supported the claim to the throne by Edward de Balliol, son of John Balliol. Edward sent an army north and defeated the Scots at the Battle of Halidon Hill near Berwick in 1333. After the defeat, David II was sent to safety in France, where he enjoyed the hospitality of the French King Philip VI.

David returned to Scotland in 1341 when conditions were more favourable. In 1346, David invaded Northern England to aid the French. At the Battle of Neville's Cross, the Scottish army was soundly defeated and David II was captured. David II was held prisoner in England for 11 years, eventually being ransomed by Edward, after a treaty in Berwick, for the promise of an astounding 100,000 merks.  David II died at Edinburgh Castle in 1371 and was succeeded by his nephew, Robert Steward, son of Bruce’s daughter, Marjory and Sir Walter 6th High Steward of Scotland. Robert’s crowning was the first in the long line of Stewart (Stuart) monarchs in Scotland.


The Bruce name continued in the high circles of Scotland. Notable branches of the Bruce Clan included those at Clackmannan, Airth, Kennet and Stenhouse. Thomas Bruce was made the first Earl of Elgin in 1633. The title later passed to the Kincardineshire branch of the Bruce family, uniting their Earldoms. The family seat is now at Broomhall house, a baronial mansion built by Alexander Bruce of Broomhall, the Earl of Elgin, near the village of Limekilns in Fife.

Castles associated with Robert the Bruce.

Lochmaben Castle, an early seat of the Bruce family, lies to the South of Lochmaben, Dumfries and Galloway. The original wooden motte and bailey fortress was built around 1160, by the Bruce Lords of Annandale. Some historians claim that Robert the Bruce may have been born at Lochmaben, though Turnberry Castle seems more likely. The original castle at Lochmaben was abandoned in the 1200’s. The new castle was constructed on a nearby promontory on Castle Loch and consisted of a massive stone curtain wall, surrounding a square courtyard and keep. A moat fed by waters of the loch turning the peninsula into an island, allowing entry only by boat or through a heavily defended drawbridge.

Lochmaben’s proximity to the border resulted in it changing hands frequently during the wars of Independence, before eventually falling to the Scots after Bannockburn. It was recaptured by the English in 1333 and held until taken by Sir Archibald “the Grim” Douglas, Lord of Galloway, in 1384. Lochmaben became a Royal castle in the mid 1400’s, after Douglas power was curtailed by James II. The castle then passed to the Maxwell’s and was captured by James VI in 1588. Lochmaben fell into disrepair in the 1600’s with much of the stonework removed by locals over the following centuries. The ruined castle is now in the care of Historic Scotland.

Turnberry Castle, constructed in the 12th century, was held by the Earls of Carrick. The Countess of Carrick, mother of Robert the Bruce, lived at Turnberry Castle when she married Robert Bruce, 6th Lord of Annandale. It’s thought that the future King Robert I was born here in 1274. The castle is located on a promontory, overlooking the Ayrshire coast. After Robert’s exile, off the Western coast of Scotland, the then English held Castle at Turnberry was one of the first targets on Bruce’s return to the Scottish mainland. The initial attack on Turnberry was only partially successful. Turnberry fell to Bruce in 1310 and was destroyed to prevent the English regaining it.

A lighthouse was built within the castle remains in the 1870’s. The 17th hole at the famous Turnberry Golf Course was once the castle moat. Little remains of the ruined castle today, however, being the probable birthplace of Robert the Bruce, Turnberry, is still a popular tourist attraction.

Associated family names (Septs): Carlyle, Carruthers, Crosbie, Randolph, Stenhouse.

Name distribution in Scotland: The highest concentration of people with the Bruce surname is in Aberdeenshire (includes part of historic Banffshire and all of Kincardineshire) Moray (also includes parts of Banffshire), Angus (Forfarshire) and the Shetland Islands.

Clan Bruce membership certificates.



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