Bruce Family History

The Bruce clan originated from the name of Sir Robert de Brus, a Norman knight, who escorted William The Conqueror to England in 1066. Sir Robert de Brus became companion at arms to Prince David, later to become King David I, and received a grant of the Lordship of Annandale. With this bequest, Robert bequeathed his lands to his son when at war with England, and it is said that at the Battle of the Standard in 1138, Robert took his own son prisoner.

Claims to the throne of Scotland were made after marriage, by Robert, 4th Lord of Annandale when he married a niece of William I, The Lion. These claims continued to be maintained by Robert, 6th Lord of Annadale and 1st Earl of Carrick, but he went into battle on the side of the English at the Battle of Dunbar in 1296.

The folk legend and hero of Scotland was Robert's son and was entitled Robert, 7th Lord of Annandale and 2nd Earl of Carrick, and popularly known as Robert the Bruce. Robert the Bruce was born in 1274, who fought to victory in the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 and won the independence of Scotland after a fierce struggle with England in 1328. The Treaty of Northampton certifies this. Robert the Bruce died a year later in 1329 at Cardross in Dunbartonshire. His body was buried in Dunfermline and his heart in Melrose. The Earls of Elgin are descended from the Bruces of Clackmannan.

For more information on the Bruce family, visit the Bruce family website or the Bruce DNA progject.

Bruce Family Tartans

Ancient Tartan

The "ancient" or "old colour" tartans are softer and lighter than their modern counterpart. The softer colours are indicative of the natural dyes made from vegatables, animal and mineral matter, the common ingredients of dyes before 1860. Further muting of the colours arose from repeated washings and years of harsh weather exposure.

Bruce Family ancient tartan

Modern Tartan

A tartan is the regular sett (pattern) of the clan or family. The idea of Clan Tartans received an enormous boost when Sir Walter Scott suggested, for the visit of George IV, "let every man wear his tartan". The identification of clans with tartan patterns became a dogma of great success and, by various means, by the end of the 19th century all the recognised clans had their tartans, be they Highland or Lowland.

All clans and families do not have a variety of tartans. The idea of having different tartans for different purposes and a different time of day (dress and hunting) is comparatively modern and Victorian in origin. The idea was naturally taken up by a trade interested in selling two or more kilts.

The firm of William Wilson & Son of Bannockburn were the largest, if not the only large concern making tartan in the latter half of the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. It is interesting to note that in their 'Key Pattern Book' of 1839, they list only one hunting and no dress tartans.

Bruce Family modern tartan

Hunting Tartan

The idea of a darker pattern being required for outdoor wear, so that it's wearer would stand out less clearly on the open hillside, is again Victorian in origin. It is possible that the demand arose because of the very harsh colours of the early synthetic dyes. In most cases the hunting tartans were made, like dress tartans, by another change in the ground colour with, for example, a red ground becoming either brown, blue or green.

The desired effect was for camouflage or practicality. The special concept of hunting was related to the development of highland estates for use by the gentry and some chiefs themselves, in late Victorian times. The hunting tartans must then have carried considerable class symbolism to a wider market.

For more information on Scottish tartans, visit the Official Scottish Tartan Registry .

Comments and questions should be directed to