Friday, October 11, 2013

Lord Andrew Douglas Alexander Thomas Bruce, 11th Earl of Elgin and 15th Earl of Kincardine, KT, CD, DL, JP

Official Portrait of Lord Elgin as a Knight of
The Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle

     Recently I wrote an article called "The Significance of a Battle Lost and Won..."-MM 09/20/2013- Which dealt primarily about the battle of Bannockburn in 1314, where the two co-belligerents were King Robert the Bruce of Scotland and King Edward II of England. In that article I discussed the upcoming 700th Anniversary of that Battle, and how the significance of  that day and a half of conflict is still echoing through the corridors of history. As a result of that article, I became interested in the Bruce Family. I began my quest to speak to its head/leader/chief...

     Through some dear friends and their familial connections with whom I could not have written this article, I had the wonderful opportunity to speak to Lord Andrew Douglas Alexander Thomas Bruce, the 11th Earl of Elgin and 15th Earl of Kincardine KT.(It should be noted he has several post nominal's attached to his name but for the purpose of this blog, I believe Knight of the Thistle should suffice.)

     I normally conduct my interviews through some form of real time social networking, either through Facebook or Google +. This was my first long distance interview so the format is a bit different than what I normally work with. All of that being said, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to speak to Lord Elgin and to the Bruce Family for their willingness to open their hearts and their lives for this purpose.

Q: You are the direct descendant of King Robert the Bruce. How many generations are you separated from your illustrious ancestor? (I asked this question this way, being unsure how the family tree of the Bruce family is delineated.)

A: First, the root of the Bruce Family Tree has several branches, one of these went to King Robert's son,, King David ll and then died out because he had no male heir. However, he had appointed Thomas Bruce of Clackmannan Tower as his heir and we are all descended from this branch which we are pretty certain comes from King Robert's grandfather's time. I am the 37th generation from Adam de Brus of Normandy.

Q: Of all of the responsibilities that are associated with your Lordship's rank, and title, what is the most medieval in origin?

A: You ask about responsibilities and, of course, it was very much in the Norman way of life that responsibilities were shared in the community, so that the whole would thrive in friendship and understanding. It was based, of course, on ownership of land and this still remains one of the most potent responsibilities. Time has shown that my predecessors, in the main, took great interest in the responsibilities of their titles in attendance at Parliament both in Scotland and in England, although the hereditary responsibilities have been somewhat curtailed in recent years.

Banners of the Knights of the Thistle
St. Giles Cathedral, Thistle Chapel

Q: As the Chief of the Bruce Family, what do you see as the cultural significance of the 700th Anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn? & Why was the gathering of the Clans and families cancelled for this anniversary?

A: I was recently asked to welcome back the statue of King Robert at Bannockburn and made the point in a few words of the fact that the battlefield may well have been a place of great joy but it was also a place of sadness but, at Bannockburn, in the days that followed, King Robert showed great magnanimity and so, in a way, these two should be blended in memory of so significant an occasion. You ask about the possibility of a Gathering of Families and Clans. It was thought that this might have taken place early in July at Stirling but it would seem that this is not to happen. As far as the Bruce Family is concerned I am asking them to attend a Menzie, as this is the ancient word in Scots to describe a collective occasion.

Q: Your father was one of the motivating forces behind the Standing Council for Scottish Chiefs. Why was this council created? Are there Scottish Families and Clans that lack leadership or do not have a Clan Chief or Chieftains?

A: You ask about the creation of the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs. It was,my father, as a result of talks which he had had with Admiral Macintosh who had suddenly discovered that his kinsman who lived in Australia was not prepared to take on the responsibilities of Chieftainship and so he asked my father what you did as a Chief and this led to the question of who were, in fact, Chiefs and Heads of Family.

The Lord Lyon became very interested and, amongst other things, ruled that only single name surnames could be considered as Chief and this immediately ruled out two Dukes and a sprinkling of Earls but, in the end, all this was resolved and there were interesting meetings and, as air travel became more available, it inevitably saw the journeys of Chiefs to many parts of the world.

In 1977, the Scottish Tourist Board thought that the season should open with a World Gathering of Scottish Families and Clans but instead of holding it at a time when people might reasonably be expected to visit, they chose the end of April. Although, in fact, the numbers who came were not large, the quality of the individuals was extremely high because, in a way,each one represented not just a Family but also a whole range of Scots related happenings in their own country but, alas, the Scottish press were all for numbers and made somewhat uncomplimentary remarks which, of course, as you point out ignored the Scottish feeling which, in so many countries, has a very important influence.

(I had asked Lord Elgin, about what seemed to be the decline of Scottish Heritage and History in Scotland, and how it had taken firm root in America, Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.)

I remember a St. Andrew's meeting near Sydney, New South Wales, which seemed to me to be 50% Scots and 50% every other nationality you could think of and I asked my host why this was the case/ "Quite simple, " he said, "We are the friendly nation and these others like to come and join with us in order to understand their responsibilities as citizens of Australia

Q: 2014 will give Scotland the Anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn, where your ancestor trounced the English under Edward II. September 18th 2014 will be the day Scotland votes for independence from England. As a Knight of the Most Ancient and Noble Oder of the Thistle, and as former Lord Lieutenant for Fife, does this vote evoke conflicting emotions?

A: You ask about September 18th and indeed there has been and no doubt there will be an increasing surge of conflict and I think personally that I am now too old to have any further discussion.

His closing words to me were the ones he spoke when the statue of Robert the Bruce was welcomed back at Bannockburn, "Battlefields are places of both joy and sorrow. May all those who come here find these two magnanimously blended into a lasting and understanding friendship with Scotland."

Editorial Comment: Lord Elgin's next birthday will see his 90th Orbit around the Sun. I would also like to make another note. Lord Elgin has spent the majority of his life in service to his family, his kinsmen and to the Crown. During WWII he served in the Scot's Guards, and fought in one of the nastier armoured tank vs tank battles in the break out from Normandy. Specifically the Battle for Hill 309 or Quarry Hill. 12 Churchill Tanks were lost in that engagement and Lord Elgin was wounded. I don't believe that  there are too many Chiefs or Chieftains left, who have undergone the rigors and horrors of war. As a personal comment, I am grateful for his service in helping to defeat the forces of global fascism.

-DS Baker

Here are a few interesting links that I think my readers might like to check out.

Wikipedia link to Lord Andrew Bruce 11th Earl of Elgin and 15th Earl of Kincardine:,_11th_Earl_of_Elgin

Family of Bruce:

Wikipedia Page for the Order of the Thistle:

Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs:

YouTube Video link to the restoration of the Statue of King Robert the Bruce: