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Issue 26 - At the core of history (Clan Drummond)

History & Heritage

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Scotland Magazine Issue 26
April 2006


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At the core of history (Clan Drummond)

In the latest in our series James Irvine Robertson looks at Clan Drummond

Most clans have two origins; one in history and one in legend. The latter says that the Drummond family was founded by Maurice, grandson of the King of Hungary, who captained the ship whose passengers included the family of Prince Edgar, claimant to the throne of England. Edgar was usurped by King Harold who perished at the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

The vessel was driven into the Firth of Forth, and its fugitive passengers landed on the Fife coast at what is today known as Queensferry. Edgar’s sister Princess Margaret would later marry King Malcolm III of Scotland, and great were the rewards subsequently heaped upon Maurice.

History states that the family was founded by Malcolm Beg – Wee Malcolm – a west Highlander who is recorded as being in charge of the household of the Earl of Lennox in 1225. Malcolm catapulted himself to greatness when he married the Earl’s daughter Ada, whose grandfather was the High Steward of Scotland.

The heraldic arms of the Drummond Family show three wavy lines. If you like the legend, they represent the sea that carried Maurice and his royal cargo to Scotland. If you prefer history, they are taken from the arms of the earls of Menteith. The name Drummond itself comes from the lands of Drymen (Dromainn – a ridge) near Stirling that the family held for two centuries.

The Wars of Independence decided who should become the great families of Scotland. Malcolm of Drummond was captured by the English in 1301 ‘to the great joy of King Edward I.’

His son played a crucial part at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, literally crippling the English cavalry by strewing caltrops in their path. This wicked device, which consisted of an upward-pointing spike, was added to his arms, along with the grant of estates in Perthshire.

By careful adherence to the Royal House of Stewart, the family added lands and built powerful branches to the clan. Remarkably much of their ascendancy was thanks to women, as bewitching as they were ruthless.

Malcolm’s granddaughter married John de Logie and she was mistress to Robert Bruce’s heir, later David II, possibly the reason that her husband was executed for treason. She became Queen Margaret, and history depicts her as beautiful, but also arrogant and grasping, so much so that the King divorced her and she retired to France.

Her niece Annabella, daughter of Sir John Drummond, was wife of Robert III and mother of James I. She was just as beautiful as her aunt, but was ‘honourable and pleasant, kind and courteous.’ It is through her that Drummond blood runs in most of the Royal Houses of Europe.

A century later, Sir John of Stobhall was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary to England. His job was to arrange the marriages of the King and his sons with princesses of the English Royal House of York. He was made a Lord of Parliament in 1487, but he had another agenda, and that was to promote his own family.

The King’s heir had taken a fancy to Sir John’s daughter Margaret. After the Battle of Sauchieburn, which resulted in the murder of his father, the young and charismatic James IV of Scotland was said to have married Margaret Drummond in secret and he made her the centre of his glittering court at Linlithgow Palace.

But this was considered a poor match for a monarch. Margaret was murdered, poisoned along with her two sisters at breakfast by persons unknown at Drummond Castle which Sir John was in the process of building.

By then England was ruled by the Tudors, and the King swallowed his grief to marry the Princess Margaret, daughter of Henry VII of England, which cemented a peace between the two nations, at least in the short term.

The remainder of Sir John’s family had little better luck. His eldest son died young, and his second son William led the clan in a skirmish against the Murrays of Auchtertyre. William won and the Murrays fled, hiding in the kirk at Monzievard.

However, they were soon discovered; William ordered brushwood to be piled against the church walls and set on fire. More than 150 Murrays were said to have died as a result. William was arrested, tried and executed for the massacre.

The 4th Lord Drummond was created Earl of Perth in 1605. His son, the 2nd Earl, fought with the pro-Royalist army of the 1st Marquis of Montrose. James Drummond, 4th Earl of Perth, became Lord High Chancellor of Scotland in 1684 and converted to Catholicism on the accession of the Catholic James VII of Scotland and II of England. His brother, Lord Melfort was Secretary of State.

The 4th Earl is chiefly remembered for his introduction of the thumbscrew, which had been discovered by his cousin Sir William Drummond of Cromlix. Sir William had, at one stage, been the commander-in-chief in Scotland. He fled the country during the period when Scotland was ruled by its Parliament, and, rather amazingly, became Governor of Smolensk in Muscovy, where such instruments of persuasion were in vogue.

With the downfall of King James, James Drummond followed him into exile in France, where he was created 1st Duke of Perth in the Jacobite peerage. His family loyally continued to support the Stuarts in all of their attempts to regain the British throne.

During the 1715 Rising, the Duke was forced to lay waste to his own estate to prevent his tenants from supporting the army of the anti-Jacobite Duke of Argyll.

In the 1745 Rising, James, 3rd Duke of Perth was one of Prince Charles’s lieutenant generals and greatly loved, if not very effective. His Catholicism made it politically impossible for him to accept the surrender of Carlisle, and once again the Drummond estates were wasted, this time by the redcoats of the Duke of Cumberland on their march north.

The Duke of Perth commanded the left wing of the Jacobite army at the Battle of Culloden, and died during his escape to France. His kinsman, Viscount Strathallan, whose descendants would become clan chiefs more than a century later, was killed in the battle, cut down by the dragoons.

Both families had their estates annexed by the Government, the Perth estate being by far the largest of all land holdings confiscated.

Today, the 18th Earl of Perth is clan chief with his seat at Stobhall Castle, some nine miles north of Perth, which has been in the family for more than six centuries.

Drummond Castle, near Crieff, is owned by Lady Willoughby de Eresby, daughter of the late 3rd Earl of Ancaster whose son and heir mysteriously went missing at sea in 1963.

Their forebear Lord Gwydir, married Clementina, daughter and heiress of James Drummond, Lord Perth. She raised male eyebrows by leading the clan contingent as their chief during George IV’s visit to Edinburgh in 1822.

During the 1950s, Lord Ancaster gifted the ruinous Stobhall to his kinsman, and it has been fully restored. Both places are well worth a visit.

Drummond Castle has some of the finest gardens in Scotland, laid out in the 17th century, and Stobhall was described by the author Nigel Tranter, as “one of the most unusual and interesting houses in the county.” – the clan society website in North America

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