Bruce, Clan Carruthers

Clan Carruthers: The Bruce and Dunfermline

Dunfermline Abbey

The relationship with Dunfermline in the Kingdom of Fife and that of the noble family of Bruce goes back in Scottish history. The family seat of Broomhall House, the home of the current and 11th Earl of Elgin,  Andrew Douglas Alexander Thomas Bruce, KT CD JP DL, Chief of Bruce,. It is situated just outside Dunfermline between Charlestown, the village established by the family in 1770 by the 5th Earl and the quaint fishing village of Limekilns. Of course one cannot forget that the remains of Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland, minus his entrails and heart, are interred in one of the oldest Abbeys in Scotland, that of Dunfermline Abbey.

The family Bruce, originally of Norman extract, having come over with the Norman Conquest in the 10th Century, have been integral to Dunfermline and its environs since settling in the area those many years ago. Originally lords of Annandale, in the lands in which Carruthers originate, they rose to rule Scotland and became important players in both Scottish and British history.

As an aside, Broomhall House was the influence for the architecture of the White Bruce in Washington DC.


Arms of Dunfermline

Dunfermline was formally the capital of Scotland and is at the heart of Scotland’s history and both the royal and monastic past dominates the towns infrastructure. The ruins of the royal palace with views all the way over the Firth of Forth to Lothian on the other side of the water is a dramitic sight on the landscape. There is a 12th century abbey, which is the final resting place of Robert the Bruce and the burial site of 11 other Scottish kings and queens, the restored 15th century Abbot House and the cave in which St Margaret, wife of King Malcolm Canmore, bathed the feet of the poor.

Malcolm III was born on the 26 March 1031 and it is recorded that he died on the 13 th November 1093. He was King of Scots from 1058 until his passing in 1093, being nicknamed “Canmore” which is Gaelic for “Great Chief”.  Malcolm had a long reign of 35 years, which preceded the beginning of the Scoto-Norman age and the introduction of the family de Brus to our shores.

He established his royal court after the death of Macbeth, at the now ruined fortified tower in the heart of Pittencrieff Park, commonly known by the locals as the Glen, on western edge of the town.  The Kings Tower is reflected on the town’s and many other arms associated with the area.

Dunfermline was also the birthplace of James I of Scotland in 1394, Charles I in 1600 and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1835. Carnegie’s birthplace, a humble weaver’s cottage, has been preserved and extended to include a museum of his life, which epitomises the concept of ‘from humble beginnings’

William Wallace and Dunfermline

The Thorn Tree

Scottish history, like that of most ancient times, was filled with intrigue and romantic twists. Prior to Bruce’s rise as leader in the fight against the English, William Wallace led the resistance.

It is recorded that Sir William Wallace and his mother travelled in disguise to Dunfermline in 1302 for what was believed to have been a pilgrimage to the Shrine of St Margaret. He was also known to have been in and around Dunfermline for a period after this pilgrimage hidding in the forest of Dunfermline where he held meetings with his supporters. Sadly his mother died during his time there and traditionally, a thorn tree in the graveyard of the Abbey itself, marks her grave. Reputedly, The family had relations living in a village just to the north of Dunfermline in an area now known as Townhill.

However, the burial of Wallace’s mother in the churchyard of the Abbey may have played a role in its destruction when Edward, having stayed at the Monastery there for around three months, raised it to the ground in 1303.Two years later. Wallace was captured by Edward I’s army, found guilty of treason and hung, drawn and quartered. Wallace’s death, rather than quell the Scots thirst for independence, simply unified the populace against the tyranny which was Edwards rule. A new leader was needed and Robert the Bruce was destined to fulfill that role, finishing what Wallace has started.

Robert the Bruce

The Bruce

According to history, Robert the Bruce was born in 1274, probably at Turnberry in Ayrshire. He was the eldest son of Robert Bruce and after the death of Alexander III in 1286, became a contender for the throne of Scotland.

From well before his birth, the royal line of descent had been introduced to the Bruce family through the female line and Isobel of Huntingdon, daughter of David, Earl of Huntingdon, and grand-daughter of Prince Henry, son of David I. The link with Dunfermline therefore goes back though Robert’s lineage and as far back as King Malcolm III and his Queen Margaret.

What Bruce stood for and this is reflected in the passion Scots and those of Scottish descent still have for their country and culture, is clearly epitomised in the Declaration of Arbroath of 1320. This historic communication was presented to Pope John to help him understand Scotland’s position against the English, symbolizes what Robert the Bruce and the Scottish nation stood for; That being the right of the Scottish nation to govern itself as a free country. This was not accepted by the Papacy who supported the English throne and conflict between the two nations continued. The rest as they say was history pivoting around the rout of the English forces, by Robert and the Scots, at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, 6 years earlier. This led to Scotland coming out from under the shackles of English influence, the initiation of a broader diplomatic campaign and the communication to Pope John XXII.

Back to Dunfermline

Robert & Elizabeth

On the 5th of March 1323, Queen Elizabeth, Robert’s second wife, his first being Isabella of Mar who died in 1296 prior to his accention to the throne, gave birth to a boy in the Royal Palace of Dunfermline. This secured his Royal House and it’s succession, being named David after his ancestors.

Elizabeth was interred in the choir of Dunfermline Abbey, having died in 1327 at Cullen Castle. It seems that after her death and according to a charter in the name of Mary Queen of Scots, she had her bowels removed prior to being embalmed, then was interred next to where Robert would be buried in Dunfermline Abbey. Her bowels were buried in the Lady Chapel of Cullen Castle. It is further recorded that Robert was a great patron of the Abbey itself, having given both lands and monies to pray for Elizabeth’s departed soul.

It wasn’t until 1329 that Rome finally recognised both Scotland and its king and therefore their rights to succession. However ‘Good King Robert’ died in Cardross Castle, Dumbartonshire, six days prior to this being received. His embalmed body, minus his heart and viscera, was transported across Scotland and interred at Dunfermline Abbey. On his death in 1329, Bruce’s heart was removed so that it might posthumously be taken to the Holy Land on pilgrimage. However, it never got further than Spain.

Melrose_Abbey_-_Marker_for_heart_of_Robert_the_Bruce.jpgThe heart was returned to Scotland and in accordance with his wishes, it was then buried at Melrose Abbey. His internal organs were embalmed and placed in St Serf’s Chapel in Dumbarton

The Funeral of King Robert is recorded as being one of the largest and finest displays of pomp and ceremony of any funeral ever to be held in Scotland, and all in his honour. A marble tomb, long gone, was erected in 1330 over his grave. History states that epitaph on the tomb was engraved;


Being translated as :

Here lies the invincible Robert, blessed King. Let him who reads his exploits, repeat how many wars he carried on. He led the Kingdom of the Scots to freedom, by his uprightness, Now let him live in the citadel of the heavens

The Second Destruction of Dunfermline Abbey

John Knox

According to historians, the Protestant Reformation arrived in Dunfermline on the 28th of March 1560, with the Reformers attacking the Abbey itself. The choir, which made up the eastern part of the Abbey, was at the centre of the destruction. This sadly included the desecration and destruction of the royal tombs, including that of King Robert the Bruce. Sadly this act left the exact location of Robert’s grave in question.

It wasn’t until 1818, when moving a monument to another of Roberts descendants, that of the 5th Earl of Elgin and 9th Earl of Kincardine, Charles Bruce, who had died in 1771, in order that they could rebuild the choir that Roberts remains were found. Initially it was the body of Queen Elizabeth and this led to finding of the grave and the body of the Bruce. The interesting part was the sternum had been split, which was indicative of the heart being removed. Prior to the king being re-interred, a plaster cast was made of the skull, which was in good condition. Fragments of the original tomb were also located at the time.

The Lost Tomb

The Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum

As we know, the tomb itself was destroyed during the Reformation but a 3D Digital model in half scale, has been produced and presented to Dunfermline Abbey itself by the Chief Executive of Historic Environment Scotland.

While the skeletal remains were reinterred beneath the Abbey, with the grave sealed with a thick layer of molten bitumen so as to ward off the advances of graverobbers, what remained of the tomb itself was preserved at sites across Scotland, with fragments held by the National Museums Scotland, Abbotsford House, Dunfermline Museum, and the Hunterian in Glasgow.

After a painstaking six-year project, those disparate pieces have been gathered together and scrutinised so as to allow modern history enthusiasts a chance to glimpse the ­“magnificent” gilded white marble tomb where Bruce was laid to rest. Any visit to Scotland would not be complete without a trip to the Abbey and the ‘glen’.

Broomhall House: Ancestral Home of the Family of Bruce.

Broomhall House, Ancestral Seat of the Earls of Elgin, Chief of Bruce © CCSI

Broomhall is a significant building in the history of Scottish architecture and one of Scotland’s grandest houses. It has been a private family home for more than 300 years and continues to be lived in, cherished and cared for by the family of King Robert the Bruce.

The house began life in 1702, during the time of the Stuart dynasty, built to designs by Sir William Bruce, and set within a working estate of around 2,500 acres.

For the first time since it was built more than 300 years ago, Broomhall House – the Fife home of the family of King Robert the Bruce – is available for exclusive use, for day and evening events.

Secluded in 2,500 acres of private estate, Broomhall is less than half an hour from Edinburgh’s international airport and an hour from Glasgow, the house lies only ten minutes by road from the Forth bridges.

From the stately drawing room with its magnificent 18th century French mirrors to the dining room and its splendid fireplace made of the marital bed of James VI, Broomhall House is truly a remarkable place and a wonderful historic venue for private and corporate events.

Carruthers and the Family Bruce

Carruthers of Carruthers © CCSI

Carruthers are no strangers to Dunfermline or Fife, with many moving here, as they did to other parts of Scotland, since and during the time of the the lowland clearances and beyond. Our own convenor, whose family came from Dumfriesshire via Lanarkshire, hails from there.

However the intertwining of Carruthers and Bruce occurred as far back to the time of Robert de Bruce, 1st Lord of Annandale (1070-1142). As many are aware, Carruthers, is a name taken topographically from celtic origin, from the words, ‘Caer Rydderich’ (the Fort of Ruthers) in what was to become part of southern Annandale.  Carruthers took the name as a designation, in the 12th and 13th centuries and was used, not only by those of the chiefly line, but by tenant farmers, labourers etc, who lived in the region iself. (Again this calls into question that all of the name Carruthers carry the same DNA eg that of the Chiefly line of Mouswald, which just isnt feasble in any names of a regional derivation). 

Therefore the concept of surnames was initiated, in part through taxation and the need to know who people were and where they came from. It was also tied in with the influx of the Norman’s and their influence into Scotland and its way of life. In many cases, the Normans themslves used topographical names of their own regions as their surnames. A typical example being Bruce (de Brus) themselves, who it is believed hailed from the fiefdom of Bruis/Brix in Normandy.

Carruthers remained great supporters of the family Bruce, attaining a charter of lands around 1320 from Robert the Bruce himself which began our dynasty and chiefly line, which continues to the present day. This was therefore the beginning of the House of Mouswald from which all other of our houses i.e Holmains, Rammerscales, Wormanbie, Dormont etc derive. It was under the Bruce family that Carruthers were made hereditary Stewards of Annandale.

In 1340, Sir Nigel Carruthers of Mouswald was listed as Chamberlain to the Regent,  the Regent in this instance being David II, son of Robert the Bruce. Sadly Nigel was killed at the Battle of Durham (Battle of Neville’s Cross) fighting on the side of the Crown against the English.

Carruthers were further honoured by charters of land in 1349, again from David, King of Scots and Lord of Annandale, to William ‘of’ Carrutheris and his heirs. This charter was witnessed by John of Carrutheris, the Kings Chancellor to Annandale at the time. It further seems that John received a charter of the lands of Rahfols in 1361, again from King David.

John, the King’s Chancellor himself is deemed to be the original proginator and ancestor of the House of Carruthers of Holmains. Holmains being the chiefly line since the demise of Mouswald in 1548. `This is supported in the Records of the Carruthers Family where he is listed in the family genealogical charts as the second brother of Thomas 1st of Mouswald. This is further augmented by the fact that in the list of the witnesses to the charter was Robert Carruthers, Laird and 3rd of Mouswald.

Chiefs Arms mock up roe bucks (1)
Chiefs Arms © CCSI

In 1375, Roger Carruthers had received the charter of Little Dalton, Holmains and Fourteenaikerbank from George of Dunbar, Earl of March. He further inherited the lands of John himself, making it a strong possibility that he was John’s son, or alternatively his nephew if John had died without issue. It is suggested that this was the ‘kernel’ from which the extensive lands and influence of Holmains grew, with Roger becoming, Carruthers, 1st of Holmains and leading the line that was to become both the Chiefly line, and the registrants of the Chieflt Arms as we know them today. Petotions are in and we await the lyons decision on the matter of who will be confirmed Chief of our Name.

Family legend states, although no evidence currently exists to support it, that Carruthers were represented and fought with Bruce at Bannockburn. This may be highy feasible on two counts; a) they were men of Annandale and b) they were loyal supporters of Robert the Bruce himself.

We further cannot forget the family ties and intermarriage between the families, and if nothing else marriage of Blanche Murray and Sir John Carruthers, 5th of Holmains and 1st Baron, Blanche being a distant descendent of the Royal House of Bruce. However, to reiterate again, this does not make Carruthers a Royal line in its own right, and based on our rich history, to be who we are, we dont have to lie about our heritage.

One has to assume that it was due to this close historic relationshiop between Carruthers and Bruce that, after the demise of our last Chief in 1807 and when Scottishness became in vogue in the 1800’s,  Carruthers became a sept of the Family of Bruce.

We are of course greatly proud of our connections to this Noble House, however, history and research has always shown that Carruthers is a stand alone and has been a very influential Riding Family of the West March, and according to the 1587 Act of the Suppresson of Unruly Clans, a Border Riever Clan. We are also definately not a sept of Douglas for the very same reasons.

Clan Carruthers Society WP footnote grey



2 thoughts on “Clan Carruthers: The Bruce and Dunfermline”

  1. Well done George … a great insight into the Carruthers family history and De Brus.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.