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Issue 100 - The Clan Home

Scotland Magazine Issue 100
October 2018


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The Clan Home

James Irvine Robertson investigates the illustrious Home (Hume) family

Home is pronounced Hume and is sometimes spelled that way. The great philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) was born Home but he hated having his name pronounced to rhyme with gnome by 'thae glaekit English bodies, who could not call him aright', so he changed it. His brother remained Home as did his mentor and kinsman, Henry Home, Lord Kames, a judge and another great philosopher of the Enlightenment.

The Homes descend from the earls of Dunbar, the Saxon kings of England and the ruling house of Northumbria. The head of the family became one of the most powerful magnates in the country, holding a great swathe of territory in southeast Scotland. He could raise an army of 4,000 men from his lands and those of his kinsmen and dependents.

For centuries they controlled the East March of the border between England and Scotland, and it was their forces that often provided the first defence against English aggression. Aldan, a 12th-Century knight, was the first of the family and called de Home after the estate he was granted. Aldan's descendants usually chose to marry heiresses, which vastly increased their holdings and ensured there was plenty of land to parcel out amongst younger sons.

They were vassals of the earls of Dunbar but the earl renounced his allegiance to the monarch when the heir to the throne married the daughter of the Earl of Douglas rather than his own daughter as promised. He joined the English army that decisively defeated the Scots in 1402 at the battle of Homildon Hill. The Homes remained loyal to Scotland and Sir Alexander Home was captured. After his release, he joined Douglas in the expedition to France and was killed at the battle of Verneuil in 1424.

His grandson was granted Dunbar lands and policed the border as Warden of the Eastern March. He was created Lord Home in 1473. He also wanted the revenues of the priory of Coldingham, a dozen miles north of Berwick upon Tweed. He occupied the lands by force and was most irritated when the king awarded the revenues to the Chapel Royal in Stirling, which needed the money to satisfy the king's cultural aspirations. This led to Home becoming one of the leaders of the rebellion against James III. The king was killed in 1488 at Sauchieburn and succeeded by 15-year-old James IV. Home kept the money. He was also sworn a Privy Councillor in 1488 and was appointed for life to the office of Great Chamberlain of Scotland. In 1489, he was nominated Warden of the East Marches for seven years.

His successor was equally potent but his raid with 4,000 spearmen into England met with ignominious defeat when his army, laden with booty, was ambushed on the way home. This triggered the campaign by the angry James IV that culminated in the battle of Flodden in 1513. Along with Lord Huntly and the Gordons, the Homes routed the right wing of the English army but the result was a disaster for the Scots. The king and much of the aristocracy lost their lives. Lord Home was unhurt and returned home with much of the English baggage train that was behind the right wing.

In the battle for power between the Queen Dowager and the Duke of Albany when the infant James V succeeded to the throne, Home was one of the main players and changed sides. He protected the Queen when she fled to England and conspired with Lord Dacre, the English warden across the border, to oust the Regent Albany.

The duke took an army south, ravaged Home lands and clapped his enemy in Edinburgh Castle. Home escaped, made his peace with the Regent but plotted once more with Dacre. This time he lost his head and Sieur de la Bastie, 'a gallant and accomplished French knight’, was appointed warden of the eastern march in Home's place.

However, this proved be a very bad idea indeed. David Home of Wedderburn and his cohorts hunted the new warden down, caught up when his horse was mired in a bog, slaughtered him and pinned his head on the market cross in Duns.

The next two Lords Home were in the midst of the turbulence during the minority of Queen Mary and the succession of James VI. Their spearmen were blooded during incursions by the English. The 4th Lord, commander of the Scots cavalry, was seriously wounded in a skirmish before the Battle of Pinkie in 1547 and died the following day in Edinburgh. His heir picked his way through the twists and turns of Mary's reign, he and his followers supporting one side and then the other. He ended up on the wrong side and was found guilty of treason but pardoned and his estates restored. He died in 1575. As a favourite of James VI, Alexander, the 6th Lord, was created Earl of Home in 1605.

However, his son had no children and much of his lands passed to his sisters, leaving the 3rd earl with a truncated estate. They were royalists in the civil wars of the 1640s for which they were penalised by Cromwell's regime. The 6th earl opposed the Revolution in 1688 and the union with England. His successor was imprisoned by the government to prevent him joining the 1715 Rising. His son, the 8th earl, supported the government in 1745, fighting with Sir John Cope at Prestonpans and became a Lieutenant-General and Governor of Gibraltar.

By this point, the possessions of the earls were now little more than those of a country laird, even though their kinsmen were landholders across southeast Scotland. But Cospatrick, the 11th earl, married the heiress to the Douglas estate, added her name to his and the family fortunes were restored. The 14th earl was appointed Prime Minister of the UK in 1963 and renounced his title so that he could be elected to the House of Commons as Sir Alec Douglas-Home. His son David, the 15th earl and chief of the clan, succeeded him to the disclaimed earldom in 1995.


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