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The Ancestry of Robert the Bruce
III ~ The Mysterious Blue Lion
The blue lion
The first article in this series discussed the descent of King Robert the Bruce, from his mother's line of the ancient Earls of Carrick, and the second looked at the traditional line of his father's descent in the male line from Normans and Vikings. The Norman link is unquestionable, for the Bruces were a powerful family in the Cotentin and continued to have a strong presence there after several of the name crossed to England in or after 1066. The Viking connection, however, has little to support it other than the presumption that because parts of Normandy had been granted to Rollo and his pirates near the beginning of the 10th century, the families that held land a century later must be Norsemen.
The Cotentin, known to the British usually as the Cherbourg peninsular, is 150 miles west of the area first ceded to the Norsemen, and several families from Flanders settled there, most of them, Beryl Platts* has proposed, having arrived in the train of Matilda of Flanders when she married Duke William at Eu circa 1051.

Let us look again at the lower half of the second tree in the previous article.

Descent of the Bruces of Skelton
Robert de Brusee is said to have built the castle there (Bruise, Brix, Brux) and to have married Emma, daughter of Alan, Count of Brittany. His son Alan succeeded him as Lord of Brix, while another son, Robert, married Agnes, daughter of Waldo, Count of St Clair, and crossed to England in the company of several of the family. (A contemporary roll mentions li sires de Brius et due sens des Homez but it is unclear whether these crossed in 1066 or later, and the way in which the family estates in Yorkshire are entered in Domesday in 1086 suggests the Bruces there may have been late arrivals.)
Adam and William de Brusee, Robert's sons, received the lands of Skelton and Bramber respectively. William's arms may have been Azure a lion rampant Or, for his son Philip, who died on crusade, bore the arms shown here on the right, the cross crosslets having been added in the fashion of the time to state that he had taken the cross. Adam is said to have borne Argent a lion rampant Azure.
Arms of Bruce of Skelton Arms of Philip de Brusee
Adam's son Robert (wrote Nisbet in 1722) ~

having married Agnes de Annandia, heiress of that country, laid aside his paternal arms, viz. argent, a lion rampant azure, and carried those of Annan, Lords of Annandale, argent, a saltier and chief gules; as the custom was of old upon marrying of heiresses, before the use of marshalling many coats in one shield .......

Robert de Brusee, Lord of Skelton, of Cleveland and of Annandale, was a notable character of his time, and was especially famous for his rôle at the Battle of the Standard in 1138, when he sought to persuade David I, King of Scots, partly on the basis of their long friendship, not to fight in support of the Empress against Stephen. Robert then had to renounce his fealty and lose Annandale when he failed, but had arranged for his son Robert to fight on David's side to protect the inheritance. He founded the Abbey of Gisburn in 1128, and this bore his arms with a bend Gules over the lion.
Arms of the Abbey of Gisburn
Having lost Annandale to his younger son, Robert resumed his original arms, the blue lion, and these were inherited by his elder son Adam and subsequently borne by all the Lords of Skelton. Across the English Channel the lion rampant continued in the family in various colours, the descendants of the crusader Philip bearing his arms at the end of the 14th century, and others such as the Baron de Brieuze, Jacques de Brezé, Grand Marshal of Normandy, using these shown here ~ Or a lion rampant Azure. The last Lord of Skelton is noted with the blue lion in a roll of Henry III.
Arms of the Barons de Brieuze
However, in the middle of the 12th century Jocelyn de Louvain, brother of Queen Adeliza (second wife of King Henry I) and son of Godfrey, Duke of Brabant, Count of Louvain, came to England and married Agnes, one of the two co-heiresses of the huge Percy possessions. It was for a long time believed that he was given the choice of taking either the Percy name or the Percy arms, and that he took the name and retained the blue lion of Louvain, but there is charter evidence that he retained the Louvain name, and the belief that he bore a blue lion, although possible, is unproven. The arms of his heir general today, the Duke of Northumberland, feature Or a lion rampant Azure in the pronominal quarter, and the family insists that these are the arms Jocelyn brought from Louvain. As we have seen, they were the arms also of the senior Bruce, Jacques de Brezé, in Normandy, while with a silver field they were the arms of the senior Bruce in England.

Perhaps we are getting closer to the origin of the blue lion and to the origin of the Bruces. The next article, the last of this series, will propose a solution to both puzzles.


*Scottish Hazard (Volume 1), Beryl Platts, The Procter Press 1985, page 141

The First Earls of Carrick
The Mysterious Blue Lion
The Oct-Dec 1999 Baronage contents page
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