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The Ancestry of Robert the Bruce
To summarise ~
heraldry - The blue lion
The first of these linked articles listed the accepted maternal line of King Robert the Bruce, the Carrick inheritance. The second looked at the mythical Viking descent of his paternal line, for which there is no known supporting evidence at all. The third and fourth articles looked at the Flemish connection.
Although seemingly driven by the search for his paternal ancestry, we actually set out to answer three different questions ~
1. Why did the Bruces bear the blue lion rampant when the evidence suggests it was an emblem of the powerful Louvain family?
heraldry - Arms of Annandale Lordship 2. Why did Gelre Herald, writing in Flemish in his armorial, picture King Robert II (the Bruce's grandson) bearing on his mantling the arms of the Lordship of Annandale (left)?
3. Why did King David I grant the strategically important territory of Annandale (the gateway to southwest Scotland and the defensive barrier against the rapacious tribesmen of Galloway) to Robert de Brusee, Lord of Cleveland in England, a man comparatively unknown in Scotland?
There is no surviving evidence of the Louvain family bearing the blue lion in the eleventh century, but its use in the Percy family after Jocelyn de Louvain had married that family's heiress is well attested and the head of that family, the Duke of Northumberland, still bears the blue lion on a gold field in his first quarter today (i.e. with precedence over the Percy arms). The Bruce family, however, is known to have borne the blue lion on various fields, sometimes counterchanged, from the earliest years of heraldry. The precedence among tinctures and the precedence of simplicity demonstrate that the lion on the simple gold field, as borne by Jocelyn de Louvain, is the senior version of the arms.
heraldry - Arms of Jocelyn de Louvain
Gelre Herald's preoccupation with the Annandale Lordship's arms is manifested further on the same page as that on which he paints the arms of the King of Scots, the King of Man (the Isle of Man) and nine earls. Six more earls are on the next page, but on this one, although ranking only as a lordship, are the arms of Annandale, a title then merged in the Crown and thus without a separate existence. Of the twelve achievements on the page, only two, the King's and Annandale, bear arms on the mantling, but whereas the royal mantling alludes to ancestry with the "Annandale" arms, the Annandale manting shows the original undifferenced arms ~ i.e. without the red chief !!!
heraldry - Annandale from Gelre Armorial
heraldry - Arms of Castellan of Bruges
It is impossible to know for certain what was in Gelre Herald's mind when he chose to emphasise the royal link to Annandale and then the link from the differenced arms to the undifferenced arms, but we have a clue in the Flemish connection and in the known importance the Flemish nobility placed on the significance of ancient Flemish lineage.
The pursuit of the answers to the third question brings us to an area of great importance to Scotland's national development. When David inherited the Scottish crown in 1124 he took over a country blighted by internal wars, a country that needed peace to be imposed by a strong ruler. To assist him he imported from England a contingent of Flemish nobles who brought with them the arts of pacification and castle-building.
Among this Flemish contingent was Robert de Brusee (the great-great-great-grandfather of the future king), a man with whom he had formed a friendship long before he succeeded to the throne, while he was living in England as Earl of Huntingdon, after his marriage with Maud (Matilda). Robert, Lord of Cleveland, a rich man who owned 94 manors in Yorkshire alone, was entrusted with the rule of Annandale, and here he introduced the motte and bailey castles which in the following years would spread through the populated areas of Scotland.
In this system of government, each castle was governed by a castellan (a sheriff) responsible to the territorial lord, just as the Bruce family had been responsible to the Count of Mortain in the Cotentin, and just as Robert de Bruges had been responsible to the Count of Flanders eighty years earlier. The similarity between the new Scottish system and the established Flemish system can be readily understood by reference to La Flandre sous les premiers comtes, 3rd edition, by F.L. Ganshof (Brussels 1949) pp. 104-6.
Louvain chart
This abbreviated chart offers an answer to the three questions. There may be another generation between Robert de Bruges and the first Robert de Brusee (for with Robert appearing as a name in every generation it is sometimes difficult to allocate lifespans), but it serves to illustrate the relationships which would allow the use of, and the changes in the use of, the two principal Bruce arms ~ the blue lion, and the saltire and chief.
Could Robert de Bruges, as a younger son of the powerful Count of Louvain, have accepted the post of Castellan from the Count of Flanders? Most certainly, yes! The Count of Flanders was then, de facto, probably the most powerful sovereign in northwest Europe. Bruges was strategically of huge importance. It would be a very attractive offer, especially to a landless younger son, and it could be expected to lead on to further opportunities (such as the offer to accompany the Count's daughter to Normandy, when she left to marry Duke William, the eventual Conqueror of England, an offer that would entail a grant of land in the Cotentin).
That is not the end of the story of the blue lion. It lives on today, not only, as we have seen, in the arms of the Chief of the Percy clan, the Representer of Jocelyn de Louvain, the Duke of Northumberland. The Chief of the Bruce family, the Earl of Elgin, bears it on a silver canton in his arms, and the City of Bruges bears today Barry of eight Argent and Gules a lion rampant crowned Azure armed and langued of the Second wearing a collar and cross Or. The picture below right shows an older version of these arms, without the crown, collar and cross.
heraldry - Arms of Earl of Elgin
Earl of Elgin
Chief of the Name of Bruce
heraldry - Arms of City of Bruges
City of Bruges
in Flanders
Footnote ~ Readers who crosscheck the graphic of the arms of Annandale with the picture reproduced by R.R. Stodart in the first volume of his Scottish Arms (published 1881) will find discrepancies. Stodart worked from inaccurate reproductions and was unable to visit Brussels to examine the original. He attributes the Annandale arms to the name of Anderson, and in his picture he has removed the arms from the mantling.

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The First Earls of Carrick
The Bruces in Normandy
The Mysterious Blue Lion
The July-August 2001 Baronage contents page
© 2001 The Baronage Press Ltd and Pegasus Associates Ltd