Despite being best known for their connection to Robert the Bruce and his victorious campaign over the English during the Scottish Wars of Independence, the Bruce clan has an extensive history that started long before the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
Originally, the Bruces were not even from Scotland and it is believed that Adam de Brus was the builder of an 11th-century castle between the French towns of Cherbourg and Valognes in Normandy, the remains of which can still be seen today.
It would be in 1066 that the family would make their way across the English Channel to Great Britain, following William the Conqueror as he gained the English throne, and the clan would first settle in the English counties of Surrey and Dorset before heading north to their eventual home as they accompanied David I of Scotland as he regained his Kingdom in 1124.
The family would, however, have split loyalties during the 1138 civil war in England as Robert de Brus would abandon his Scottish King in order to fight on the side of the English while his second son, Robert, would fight on the side of Scottish King, David. The elder Bruce would eventually capture his son after the Scottish forces were defeated and, after being released and returned to Scotland, the younger Bruce would establish his own branch of the family, abandoning his father’s arms of a rampant lion in favour of a red saltire.
The younger Bruce would also be given lands in Annandale that were previously promised to his father by David I and, in the subsequent years, the Bruce family would enter into the royal equation after Robert, fourth Lord Annandale, would marry Isobel, the niece of William the Lion, King of Scots.
Unfortunately for the Bruces, despite them having a genuine claim to the throne after the death of the Scottish heir in 1290, another claimant would succeed in becoming the Scottish monarch as Edward I of England picked John Balliol when asked to act as an arbiter.
Balliol would not last long as the King of Scots, however, and after Edward decided he was not content to just advise the Scottish monarchs but also wanted to rule over them, he defeated Balliol at Dunbar in 1296 after the monarch attempted to resist.
It was after this moment that the rise of the Bruce family to the Scottish throne truly began as Robert the Bruce manoeuvred himself into a position to take the crown after murdering his only other threat, John Comyn, at a church in Dumfries in 1306. Bruce’s rise was meteoric from this point onwards and within a matter of weeks, he was crowned the King of Scots at Scone in Perthshire before starting a long and arduous war to regain control of the Scottish kingdom which culminated in his victory over England at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
Bruces son, David, would take the throne upon his death in 1329 and despite a second attempt by the English to retake the country which included his imprisonment in England, he would retain Scotland’s independence before the crown passed to the Stewart family upon his death in 1370 by right of descent from Marjory, Bruce’s daughter.
After this transition of power, the influence of the Bruce clan waned significantly and it would not be until the beginning of the 17th century that another Bruce would hold a significant position of power in the country as Sir Edward Bruce was appointed a Lord of Parliament in 1601 with the title, ‘Lord Kinloss’. Edward’s son, Thomas, would be created the first Earl of Elgin in 1633 and after this branch of the family became extinct in the subsequent years, the chiefship passed to the Bruce Earls of Kincardine and the two titles would be combined.
In more recent times, the Bruce family have remained an important voice in the world of Scottish politics and the current chief, the 11th earl of Elgin and 15th of Kincardine, served in World War Two before holding a number of prominent positions including Lord Lieutenant of Fife, Grand Master Mason of Scotland, Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly and Convenor of the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs.
At the age of 96, the Earl has now settled down after a long and interesting life and spends his days at the Bruce clan seat, Broomhall House in Fife.