Bruce, Clan Carruthers, False Claims

CLAN CARRUTHERS: Bruce and Carruthers, the historic links.

Screen Shot 2021-06-18 at 09.34.56This piece is not here to discuss intermarriage or genealogy (the latter being sadly and seriously tainted in some quarters), but simply to look at what the facts and history tells us about why, other than for commercial reasons, Carruthers would traditionally be listed as a sept of the family of Bruce.

It is fair to say that as the House of Bruce ascended, so did the House of Carruthers. Our relationship with the family of Bruce and the trust they had placed in us allowed Carruthers to become a highly respected land owning border family in their own right.  

Screen-Shot-2021-06-16-at-10.25.36.pngCarruthers and Bruce: the historic links between two great families

The Norman influence

It is a historical and well-known fact that we took our name from the place of Carruthers, which existed in Annandale, Dumfriesshire prior to the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror in 1066. We were also there before the invitations by David 1st (1124-1153) to Norman families to come to Scotland, some with promises of lands and titles.  William himself came to contest the English throne and defeated Harold, the other contender at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. The outcome was that William became King of England. After this Norman influence and culture spread throughout England and progressively was also seen to have a great influence in parts of Scotland.

Although William had tried to conquer Scotland in 1072, he failed and it wasn’t until William’s son Henry married the daughter of Malcolm III, also known as Canmore the Great Chief, (1058-1093) and Queen Margaret, that the link with Scotland and the Normans was strengthened.

Good Queen Maud, as she became known, had a younger brother with her at the court of King Henry, and it was here that he was greatly influenced by Norman society, a great part throgh his many Norman friends. His name was David who was to become David King David 1st of Scotland.  On his return to claim the throne, he brought to Scotland many Norman customs and ideas, these included it seems the use of surnames in the Norman fashion. He also invited and bequeathed land to some European religious orders and more importantly, as Norman custom was that the eldest son inherited everything, David brought with him his friends who were the second sons of Norman nobility all hungry for land and title. A new ruling elite was therefore created from the Norman families now living in Scotland, which included such names as the Grahams, the Comyns, the Balliols and of course Bruce.

Understanding that in the 12th century and some way beyond, all lands belonged to the monarchy who gave it, or took it away at will. In Scotland, progressively the feudal system changed and mirrored that of the Norman feudal system which had formalised land ownership. In this case everyone below the king payed tribute ie the tenants to the lord, the lord to a higher ranked noble, and them to those above and eventually to the king. Therefore the whole structure was built on allegiance and tribute to those above them.

Although Kenneth MacAlpin had unified the Scots and the Picts, it was not until David I during the 12th century that Scotland was seen to be unified under one ruler. This was based in part on the introduction of Norman customs and in fact the Normans themselves. However, strong clan chiefs still held sway in the highlands and western isles and as such Norman influence was mainly only seen within the border and lowland regions of the country.

According to the BBC history page: The impact that these (Norman) settlers had on the Borders is shown, as in other areas, in the language, law, customs, and place and family names of the region. Several place names such as Sorrowfield, probably named after the de Sourules family, and Flemington in Berwick, show traces of the families who once lived there.

The new settlers therefore had a particular impact, emphasising the divisions between the north of Scotland and the south, particularly through language. In the south, a language developed that was similar in form to Old English, called Scots. This was mixture of the language and dialects of existing inhabitants, particularly the Angles. The languages of the incomers also began to have a gradual impact on Scots. Scots contrasted sharply with Gaelic, which remained in use in the north. The Normans remained influential across two centuries and Scots became the language of court.

Enter the family of de Bruis.

iu-copy-3.gifThe family, who we now know as Bruce came over to Britain during the Norman invasion, represented by Robert de Bruis. It has to be said that some historians suggest it was not until after the Battle of Tinchebury (1106) in Normandy, that the first de Bruis stepped on British soil. Although the evidence is not there, either way they were themselves Norman. The were named after an important fiefdom called Brix, situated between Cherbourg and Valognes in the department of Manche in Normandy. Some have suggested becuse of this that the de Bruis were a junior branch of the Dukes of Normandy.

It is reputed that Robert de Brus, known as Robert the cadet, personally accompanied King David I as his companion in arms on his return to Scotland, where he was given the Lordship of Annandale because of his trust in him.  This title saw any people who belonged to the lands ie neyfs was the old Scottish term, being granted to the lords along with the land they were bequeathed.

It wasn’t until Robert de Bruis, 4th Lord of Annandale (1195- 1245) and his marriage to Isobel, niece to King William of Scotland (1142-1214), known as the Lion because of his use of the Lion Rampant as his standard, that the family could later lay claim to the Scottish throne and the rest, as they say is history.

However, holding lands in both England and Scotland on the occasion of conflict, seemed to have really tested their loyalty, but eventually and happily for Scotland the lands in Scotland became the main focus of this branch of the Bruce family. I say happily because as we know, based on his claim of being 4x great grandson of David I, King Robert (the Bruce) went on to become one of Scotland’s most famous sons and kings.  The Battle of Bannockburn was a turning point in Scottish history, but sadly there is no evidence that Carruthers were there.  Robert the Bruce was the initiator of the Royal House of Bruce, which ruled from 1306-1371, through two monarchs. The demise of this Royal House after David II, led to the Stewart dynasty, which itself lasted for over 300 years.

Interestingly, it seems that after the Battle of the Standard (Northallerton 1138), which saw the Bruce family split in its allegiances, we find two close branches fighting on opposite sides. This was based on the lands they owned and the country in which those lands sat; Adam Bruce, Lord Skelton of Yorkshire fought for England and King Stephan (of Blois), and Robert Bruce, Lord of Annandale fought for Scotland and David I. This actually led to these branches gradually adopting totally different Arms to represent them and a parting of the ways. (Lord Skelton using arms blazoned; Argent, a lion rampant azure)

The Bruce therefore progressed to become one of the most influential Scottish families, not only during the time of their monarchy, but beyond and in all strata of Scottish, British and international society.

The family of Carruthers during the Bruce’s Lordship of Annandale and through the reigns of both Robert I and David II, were very privileged to work with and for this noble family and so were greatly rewarded by them. With this in mind, our history should never be forgotten nor unnecessarily rewritten.

Carruthers and the Bruce link

FIMG_0354amily evidence suggests that the first use of the name Carruthers ‘on record’ was William de Carruthers, during the reign of  Alexander 1st, the predecessor of David 1st. Surnames did not come into vogue in the lowlands and borders until after the Norman influence and the ‘de’ was used to denote ‘of’ the land. We know that William ‘of/de ‘Carruthers, was the owner of the lands of Carruthers in Middlebie, Annandale. The taking the name from the lands they owned, led by the Norman habit of the same, was not unusual in the borders as it followed the same principle of other border families such as (of) Johnston, (of) Irving, (of) Kirkpatrick and (of) Moffat, to name but a few.

History also suggests that Carruthers were on the lands of Annandale prior to the residency of the family Bruce. In fact it was King Robert the Bruce who, for services rendered to his family, gave Thomas Carruthers (known as the Clerk) a further charter of lands to include Mouswald and Appletreethwaite in 1320. Carruthers of Mouswald received further charters of lands from King Robert the Bruce’s son, David II who was on occasion a respected guest at Mouswald.

Sadly, Thomas 1st of Mouswald bent the knee to Edward III of England in 1334, while his other three brothers remained loyal to the Scottish Monarchy. The lands were passed to his brother and next in line, William 2nd of Mouswald.  It is presumed that Thomas only vowed allegiance under great duress, but it was still viewed as a treacherous act and so he lost his rights to Mouswald and all that went with it. There is currently no evidence that Thomas had any sons, but if he did and after he was disinherited and shamed for treason against the crown, it may account for the appearance of the name in various forms in Cumberland (an ancient county of in the English West March, now part of Cumbria), Northumberland, Durham and Yorkshire.

Under the Lordship of Annandale held by the family Bruce, Carruthers of Mouswald held the position as hereditary Stewards of Annandale. This means they were the Lord of Annandale’s representatives in the area, and wielded a great deal of power. This position emphasised the trust that Bruce placed upon the loyalty Carruthers had given their family.

Carruthers were also hereditary Foresters under the Bruce, a rank equal to a sheriff or local law enforcer who would be tasked with keeping the forests and their pathways safe for travellers, and hunt out outlaws who may take refuge in the woods. It is also said that because of their local knowledge, foresters would be used as scouts to spy on enemy troop movements and integral to the war effort. This may also have interlinked into their role as Guardians of the old Kirk Ford at Hoddom.

Whether directly through Bruce, but definitely during their time, Carruthers were also Keepers of the Traitrow Preceptory, which reputedly were lands owned by either the Knights Templars or Hospitallers. There is no evidence that as a family we were part of either order, nor in fact that the preceptory was a keep/building rather than farms/farmland, but there is evidence that we held that role.

Carruthers of Mouswald also held the position of Kings Chancellor to Annandale through John, the 3rd brother and ancestor of Carruthers of Holmains, under King David II. The fourth brother, Sir Nigel, while Kings Chamberlain to King David II, was killed fighting for Scotland at the Battle of Durham in 1346.

The Royal House of Bruce began with Robert I (the Bruce) and ended with his son David II, who died without issue in 1371. This means that the line of Robert the Bruce himself is extinct and although some claim direct descendancy from him, this is simply not accurate nor viable.

It is therefore this aforementioned and proud link in the history of Carruthers, and the fact that we were without a chief after 1809, which led us to be considered as a sept of Bruce. As septs were a highland tradition and never used in the lowlands or borders, in order to ensure larger clans and families were more commercially viable in the sale of ‘clan’ merchandise, ‘heidless’ families were absorbed as ‘septs’ under the auspices of larger lowland ones. Thankfully, ours was to such a prestigious family as Bruce and for reasonable historic reasons.

This has led Carruthers traditionally to be seen as a sept of Bruce, which occured somewhere between the latter part of the 19th century and the initial part of the 20th century. It is for this reason that we wore their tartan as Carruthers as borderers, historically never had one of their own.

As such, this ancient relationship should definitely not be forgotten and most certainly never be abused nor in the true Carruthers spirit, should we ever allow others to do so for their own ends.

So, what, if anything has changed regarding the status and relationship of Carruthers with the Noble Family of Bruce:


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Use of the Carruthers Clan Chief Arms (shield) and motto without permission, sitting on the Bruce Tartan. (NB The Carruthers chief’s crest of a seraphim volant proper, has been recognised as 6 wings, the upper and lower most crossed in saltire and the middle two spread as in flight and in the centre an angel’s face. This has remained the same since at least the mid 1600’s and as part of our history, has never changed). 
  1. Good relationships exist through mutual respect. Unfortunately, there have been continued misuse and false claims of ownership of a legally registered Bruce tartan (ancient Bruce) by a group based in the USA, not recognised by either the clan nor its society. This simply shows a total ignorance of the facts, Scottish history and culture and a great deal of disrespect to both the names of Carruthers and Bruce.
  2. Carruthers therefore have refused to acknowledge, condone or support this group or their actions, a situation which has been conveyed to the Family of Bruce.
  3. Out of respect for our historical links and before a chief was confirmed, discussions were held with a senior member of the family Bruce regarding a Carruthers chief being recognised by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. We advised them that we would follow the official route by petitioning for a grant to bear the Chiefly Arms of Carruthers. This action was fully supported by them.
  4. Our own Clan/Family tartan was listed and registered with the Scottish Register of Tartans (STR 11700), allowing the proud wearer to be recognised as a Carruthers.
  5. We had the confirmation of a Carruthers Chief by the Lord Lyon in 2019 taking us from armigerous status to official recognition as a ‘Noble Incorporation’ and as such would no longer be listed as a sept.
  6. Therefore the confirmation of Peter Carruthers of Holmains as Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers and his taking his seat on the Standing  Council of Scottish Chiefs, has once again officially and legally recognised Carruthers as clan and family in our own right.
  7. As a Clan led by our Chief, Carruthers of Holmains nothing has changed between ‘us’ and Bruce, nor will it as we remain proud of our relationship both past and present.

However, based on those historical ties, it is important to state that we will always retain respect and close links with the Family of Bruce International and we thank them for their continued support and the statement below.

Official Statement by the Family of Bruce International

The statement below is taken directly from the website of the Family of Bruce International; which also directs readers to the official clan society website of Clan Carruthers Society (International)

Screen Shot 2021-06-12 at 08.53.36Including Bruce Septs

Carlisle, Carruthers**, Crosby, Randolph, Stenhouse

(**Carruthers has been a traditional Bruce sept, but now has its own chief and is its own clan. See: )

Screen Shot 2021-06-12 at 08.53.36

Bruce Tartans

Although there are 14 tartans which remain legally registered to Bruce covering such weaves as personal, district etc, the Family of Bruce International, which represents Bruce worldwide under the Chiefship of the Earl of Elgin, have chosen on their website to list four clan/family tartans commonly used by them.

They are:

Screen Shot 2021-06-15 at 10.31.29.png

These tartans may be known by different names for commercial reasons, ie hunting, old etc, depending on the weavers and suppliers, but the thread-count and sett (the tartan DNA) remains the same and is registered to Bruce. 

Appreciating the colours may vary depending on the thread palette used by the different weavers, this dispels any claims that ‘Ancient Bruce’ is owned by Carruthers and clarifies quite clearly that it remains in the ownership and (just as importantly) is still being used by the family of Bruce.

(All Bruce tartans belong to Bruce, whatever they have as a prefix or suffix.  As such they are not, never have been, nor ever will be a Carruthers tartan)

Screen Shot 2021-06-18 at 12.37.52.png
Arms of the herditary Chief of the Name and Arms of Carruthers (supporters granted 2019), registered on the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings of Scotland in 1672 and the clan crest badge that comes from it, both sitting on the official clan/family tartan of Carruthers

Clan Carruthers Society WP footnote grey Final to use





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