Everyone loves to be associated with the famous present or past, some more than others it seems. This is whether characters of royal heritage or even those mysterious groups of the past such as the Templars.
‘Carruthers’ it seems are no exception, or at least those using our name would like us to believe so. The latest tags popping up are that Carruthers were Cathars from France, linked to the Knight Templars and French Royalty.
Ok, so let us analyse these claims and compare them with the facts.
The Cathars-A Brief Synopsis
Firstly who were the Cathars
According to sources claiming knowledge of this religious group, the Cathars, or Cathari (Pure Ones), were dualistic/gnostic in their approach to their Christian beliefs. This means where the Church of Rome believed in superiority of good over evil ie God’s supremecy. The Cathars however, believed that good and evil existed with equality, and a continual battle exists between both ‘Gods’ for the soul of the individual.
The sect was therefore founded upon Eastern religions going back as far as 2500 years ago and as such and because of their views, they seem to have set themselves in contention with the Church of Rome and for this they were horribly persecuted by the Catholic Church for a number of reasons as discussed below.
As a sect, they flourished mainly in Southern France and Northern Italy between the 12th and 14th centuries and were first recorded as appearing in France in the mid 1100’s.
Although they rejected the concept of preisthood and were influenced by the teachings of the Paulicians. Their spiritual leaders called Parfaits(m) Parfaites(f) or Perfects, held no material wealth, in total contrast to the Roman Catholic Church. Although mainly peasant driven, many of their followers were influencial and well placed in aristocratic society. The name they called themselves was ‘Good Christian’, which caused serious consternation amongst the wealthy Catholic hierarchy and in fact Rome itself who saw them as a threat to the stability and influence of the Pope. As such they were branded as heretics.
To outsiders however they were simply known by a topograhical name; the Albigensians describing thenm as originating in France from the town of Albi, where the religion had its roots.
What did they believe in
Most of the information we have on them is extremely limited and is taken from Catholic clergy during the ‘Inquisition’ (12c-15c) as part of the the Albeisenian Crusade and beyond. The very few archives that do exist suggest that their concept of God was both male and female, which led to the recognition of equality amongst the sexes. This was a concept well before its time and is again reflected in the self-identification terms they used or were used equally within the religion ie Good Men (Bons Hommes) and Good Women (Bonnes Femmes).
As such, their ‘Perfects’, who were both men and women, abstained from sexual relationships, believed in living frugal lives, working in manual labour for theire keep, reincarnation and suicide in certain circumstances. However, as they travelled around the countryside looking after their followers, often times they were given food and lodgings but chose to work for it in return. They were strict vegetarians and the edict ‘thou shall not kill’ extended to all forms of creature.
Their belief in God however, as mentioed above, was at conflict with the concept of the Trinity and although accepted by some, it was not a mainstream Cathar belief. They believed in two Gods, a God of good who controlled all immaterial things as accepted in Christianity, but equally in a God of Evil, the God if all material things to include the world we live in. This is not as obscure as it initially seems as it mirrors classical Christian beliefs bringing Satan/Lucifer to the fore.
The belief in these two opposing forces existed well before the time of Jesus it seems and the Zoroastrians religion springs instantly to mind. As such, like many eastern religions, spiritual perfection rather than material accumulation was something the Cathars wished to strive for.
Although accepting the word of the Old Testament, it is said that the only books of the New Testament they accepted were the Gospels, especially that of John.
Where did they come from
The concept of what was to become known as Catharism in France spread from Nothern Italy, via Croatia, Bulgaria and Armenia, the latter two being part of the Byzanytine Empire at the time. It is from here that the eastern religious beliefs fed into the Gnostic sects of the time, to include what was to become known as Catharism.
However, when one thinks of the Cathars themselves, which is a modern term, one thinks of the the town which was to become the main hub of the religion in mid 12th century southwest France, that being Albi in what was to become known as the Roussillon region. Having spread out from Albi to the Spanish border in the west covering what is now the Pyrénéese Orientales, it moved up through the Languedoc and the departments of Herault, Gard and Lozère. It then found its way into other pockets of France containing from 60-600 people in a commune, although the main core of the religion remained in the southwest. It was even suggested that the then Queen of France, Eleanor of Aquitaine (1154-1204) was involved with them.
The beginning of their demise: The Albegensian Crusade
Because of their increase in popularity and their belief system, which contradicted and irritated the Catholic Church to include their support of women and their rejection of worldly goods, they were classed as heretics by the Pope in Rome. After trying to persuade the Cathars to become Catholic which failed, a ‘Crusade’ was mounted against them in 1209 by Pope Innocent III, led by Clergy and supported by an army raised by nobles from the north of France.
During this conflict the notorious Siege of Beziers, led by a Catholic Cleric; Arnaud Amalric took place. It led to a massacre of the whole population of the town. It was here that infamous phrase by Amalric when asked who was a ‘Heretic’ and who was not is quoted; ‘Kill them all, God will know who is his and who isn’t’. Approximately 20,000 people to include women and children, were killed by Papal forces at the end of the battle.
Even after the sacking of the famous Cité of Carcassonne, the region and its fortifications were still being attacked well into 1229. The persecution did not cease but persisted until in 1244 the 9 months seige of the Castle of Montsegur took place. Located in the Ariege, this was the last Cathar stronghold, which fell with around 200 Perfects and unrepentent followers burnt alive in a huge bonfire in a field below the castle. This mode of death had been used before by the church army, but most infamously in Minerve in 1208.
It is suggested that Catharism, again through the few inquisition documents which existed, continued in secrecy until the early 1300’s. The last recorded Cathar Perfect it seems was Guillaume Bélibaste, who was betrayed by a Credente in the pay of the Church and burned to death. However, it is generally considered that Catharism was actually extinguished as a viable organised religion after the fall of Montsegur.
Carruthers, the Cathars and the Templars
The time line, and the evidence of the Catholic Church suggests that the Cathars (the gnostic/duelist religion of South west France) began in Albi in the mid 1100’s, 1140 to be precise. Although classing themselves as Christian, their beliefs were influenced by older eastern religions, which put them in conflict with the Church at the time.
Now it is fair to state that based on family legend that either the Templars (1119-1312), or the Hospitallers (1099-1798/Present Day), may have had lands in Annadale looked after by our family at Trailtrow. However dialogue with the district archeologist of Dumfieshire and Galloway Council suggests that currently no evidence exist of the same. Even if we accept this as true and it is mentioned elswhere, were the Templars, and less so the Hospitallers (the Knights of Malta) followers of the Cathar religion?
Accepting the Templars were an order of Knights made up of devout Christians who gave their lives in the name of Christ to protect the Holy Land against the infidel Saracen, it seems strange on the face of things that they would have been labelled heretics, in a similar vein to the Cathars. Was that because the belief system of one mirrored that of the other?
According to Catholic Church records, although the Templars were in fact charged with heresy for having beliefs against the teachings of Rome and for that were destroyed by the Catholic Church at the time, this was found to be totally untrue on release of the Vatican records on them in October 2007, nearely 700 years after their leadership were burnt at the stake, and the order on the main disbanded.
As such they were exonerated of all charges and now, although obvious to many historians through the ages, it seems they were in fact destroyed as a group through the thirst for money and power by King Philip IV of France and the weakness of Pope Clement in 1312.
Accepting this evidence, the heretical stories perpetrated about the Knight Templars were it seems, totally untrue. Thus the concept of a mysterious link between the Cathars and the Templars seems tenuous at best, as these Christian knights would not have been associated with those whose belief system so strongly contravened their own.
If there was a link between Catharism as a religion, through the Templars to Carruthers, it seems that to date no real evidence exists to support this theory on any level but rather to the contrary.
Where does the Name Carruthers come from?
So what about our name is that Cathar. The current evidence would suggest that our name, like many other border and lowland Scots not of Norman descent, is Scottish and topographical.
A fort or ‘Caer’ existed on top of Birren Hill, which sits above the original lands of Carruthers in Annandale. It is mentioned as a fortification during the latter part of the Roman occupation in and around 200 AD. As a location of safety it seems ideal and we can visualise why it was occupied by a Selgovae war leader of the time by the name of Rydderch, a common name of the day. Again no evidence exists that it was linked in any way with the Strathclyde king Rydderch Hael and in fact the time line of both doesn’t fit.
So how do we get from rydderch to Ruthers? Rydderch in the ancient Cumbric language, a dialect of old Welsh, was pronounced Ruthers and it remains the same in modern Welsh today. As such the area around Caer-Ruthers, progressively became known as Carruthers and the owners of the lands became ‘of’ Carruthers. It is from here that the surname was taken by both the landowners and progressively by the people populating the lands. This followed the introduction of family names through the influence of the Normans, who were invited into Scotland by David I (1124-1153).
With this in mind, Catharism only began as a sect in Albi in and around 1140 and could not have influenced the use and uptake of the name Carruthers by those living in Annandale at that time, as the name was already in place.
Carruthers DNA Research Project
Regarding DNA research, our project, which only uses y-DNA testing for its accuracy suggests that a Swede initiated the chiefly male line of Carruthers in and around 900 AD. It further seems that the maternal line came through the indigenous population going back in time. Again neither the peoples of Annandale, the maternal line nor most certainly the male ancestor would have been Cathars or influenced by them.
Carruthers and the fleurs de lys
It seems that the Carruthers use of the Fleur de Lys on our Chief’s Shield are again being linked with France, which is a pretty basic claim if not researched properly as the fleur de lis is also and primarily linked with religion. It is a sign of purity and the Virgin Mary. Due to the ‘possible’ connection with the Trailtrow Preceptory, maybe it came from the influence of its owners, or in fact the Churchmen of our family, or simply Mouswald saw them and liked them and was unaware of the arms of Broun. We simply do not know but sadly there is no evidence of a French connection, Royalty or otherwise, or in fact a Cathar link.
The reason behind this statement is that the original arms of Carruthers never had fleur de lis on them, and it was not until the early 1500’s that Simon, 10th of Mouswald, the last chief of that line is recorded by heralds as using them on his shield. Until then only two engrailed chevrons on a yellow shield were used by Carruthers (see above).
One could of course argue, and we are sure that is next to come, is that a stray Cathar covered the length of France and England and wandered across the Scottish border into the lands of Carruthers in Annandale and ‘gave’ the fleur de lis to Sir Simon. But again where is the evidence, and of course why would they?
The current chiefs of Carruthers are of the House of Holmains who have conjoined the ancient arms of Carruthers with those of Simon 10th of Mouswald, retaining the tinctures red and gold, thus embracing our total armorial history. This gives us the Chiefs arms as we have today (see above).
Although used prior to this, the Holmains arms were only registered along with the arms of every other Scottish Chief, after the Lyons Act in 1672. But again no historical evidence of why the fleur de lis are on our arms other than they were used laterally by Simon 10th of Mouswald and again only in the early 1500’s. This was of course after the accepted demise of the Cathar religion so no obvious link exists.
We do know change was definately occuring with the Arms of Carruthers of Mouswald as in the 1500’s three patterns/blazons were recorded by the heralds, one now considered a mistake by armorial historians. The first was a red shield, with sliver fleurs de lis and a silver chevron, not used it seems. The second a red shield with gold fleurs de lis and a silver chevron, this is considered a mistake in the blazon and the final one, which Simon used.
So why he chose the latter is a mystery as they belonged to the more poweful family; the Brouns of Colstoun, Chiefs of the clan and family Broun, based west of Edinburgh.
However, the needed change in the arms could simply be that the ancient arms were very similar and therefore easily misconstrued as Maclellan in battle and as such had to be replaced, but again why mirror the Brouns exactly, when the silver could just as easily have been used? As Simon died in 1548 on a border raid and so extinguished the Mouswald line, we will never know.
What we do know is that the Brouns lived the other side of Scotland far away from Annandale, but Carruthers did attend court in Edinburgh, so would have been aware. However, even then one would also assume that any decent herald of the day would be well versed in the arms of the other families, so why record them.
If Carruthers of Mouswald had survived as chiefs, then after the Lyons Act of 1672 they would have been unable to use the ‘Brouns Arms’ as their own, without differences, as no two Scottish arms could be the same.
So again it seems we have no evidence regarding the fleur de lis nor any tie to France, the Cathars and what seems just another need to be linked to royalty, this time French and in fact and again the Templars. These claims simply do not add up enough to warrant any level of credibility.
What is interesting though is the current discussion, which has been sparked in France and beyond between many respectable Cathar academics and historians, which may make the whole thing nul and void:-
Did the Cathars actually exist?
Interestingly, the Los Angeles times in December 31st 2018 reported that a debate erupted in France after an academic exhibition questioning the very existance of Catharim itself. The piece written by Chris O.Brien states in part that;
But in recent weeks, a debate has erupted across this region in newspapers, tourism offices, and in research conferences following an academic exhibition that explored a more modern-day heresy: The Cathars never existed.
“People imagine that these people died as heroes, in defense of their faith and against corrupt powers,” said Alessia Trivellone, a history professor at Paul-Valery University in Montpellier who organized the exhibit. “They feel that the very idea of going back to investigate this painful story is unbearable.”
Trivellone is one of a growing number of early modern Europe scholars who have cast doubt on the Cathars’ existence, and her role as organizer of the exhibit has made her the target of critics who call her a “negationist.” Along with other maverick historians, she is dismissed as an upstart just trying to generate buzz and further her career.
In mid-October, as part of an annual nationwide science festival, Trivellone organized an exhibition called, “Les Cathares, une idee recue?” That translates literally as “The Cathars, an idea received” but implies something that is widely accepted as fact but probably not true.
The exhibition is modest, consisting of a handful of posters, a video, a comic book, and a few items that summarize the conclusions of some medieval scholars: There are no significant records from the time that support the idea that a single religious movement called the “Cathars” ever existed across southern France.
“Myths are the very foundation of a social group or of a civilization, a sometimes indispensable cement of societies,” Trivellone said. “The myth of the Cathars is even stronger because it allows people to identify with the vanquished of history.”
When you go back in time a thousand years or so without any substantial records, the truth can so easily get distorted if we let it. This is done, usually by either the ignorant or the unscrupulous i.e. by accident or design.
From our point of view, based on the claims being made in relation to a link with Carruthers and Cathars, it is highly unlikely that Cathars or Catharism is seriously linked in the Carruthers DNA, or in fact in our Ancestry or again our surname.
A belief that something is “hiding in plain sight”, simply doesn’t cut it without further evidence, which again and as always seems sadly lacking and as is becoming the norm linked directly back to the same group of people in the US and their ever increasingly bizarre claims regarding our family.
So again folks, be very careful in what you read and most certainly of the source they come from. Not all are who they seem nor are they interested in furthering the reputation of our family through the evidenced facts of our good name, for whatever reason.