Clan MacDuff

Clan MacDuff or Clan Duff is a Lowland Scottish clan.[5] The clan does not currently have a chief and is therefore considered an Armigerous clan, which is registered with the Lyon Court.[5][6] The early chiefs of Clan MacDuff were the original Earls of Fife, although this title went to the Stewarts of Albany in the late fourteenth century. The title returned to the MacDuff chief when William Duff was made Earl Fife in 1759. His descendant Alexander Duff was made Duke of Fife in 1889.

Clan MacDuff
Crest: Red whortleberry (Lingonberry).,[1] or Boxwood[2]
MottoDeus juvat (Latin) (God assists).[1]
Pipe musicMacDuff's Lament[2]
Clan MacDuff has no chief, and is an armigerous clan
Historic seatMacduff's Castle[3]
Last ChiefAlexander William George Duff of Braco, 1st Duke of Fife
Died29 January 1912


Origins of the clan

The Clan Duff claims descent from the original Royal Scoto-Pictish line of which Queen Gruoch of Scotland, wife of Macbeth, King of Scotland was the senior representative.[5] After the death of MacBeth, Malcolm III of Scotland seized the Crown and his son, Aedh, married the daughter of Queen Gruoch.[5] Aedh was created Earl of Fife and abbot of Abernethy.[5] The early chiefs of Clan MacDuff were the Earls of Fife. Sir Iain Moncreiffe wrote that the Clan MacDuff was the premier clan among the Scottish Gaels.[7] Today, the Earls of Wemyss are thought to be the descendants in the male line of Gille Míchéil, Earl of Fife, thought to be one of the first Clan MacDuff chiefs.[7] Gille-michael MacDuff was one of the witnesses to the great charter of David I of Scotland to Dunfermline Abbey.[5]

14th and 15th centuries

In 1306 during the Wars of Scottish Independence, Duncan MacDuff, Earl of Fife was as a minor, held by Edward I of England at the coronation of Robert the Bruce as his ward while Duncan's sister, Isabella MacDuff, placed the golden circlet upon King Robert's head.[5] As a result, when she fell into the hands of King Edward's army, she was imprisoned in a cage which was suspended from the walls of Berwick Castle.[5] Duncan MacDuff later married Mary, the niece of King Edward, and threw in his lot against the Bruce.[5] However, he was captured and imprisoned in Kildrummy Castle where he died in 1336.[5] The Earldom later fell into the hands of Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany, however, although the MacDuff family lost their rank, they continued to prosper.[5] In 1384, the earl of Fife was described as capitalis legis de Clenmcduffe, meaning chief of the law of Clan MacDuff.[8] In 1404, David Duff received a charter from Robert III of Scotland for lands in Banffshire.[5]

17th, 18th and 19th centuries

In 1626, John Duff sold the lands in Bannfshire which his ancestor had acquired in 1404.[5] The title of The Fife returned with William Duff, 1st Earl Fife and Viscount Macduff in 1759.[5] The 1st Earl of Fife's cousin, Captain Robert Duff of the Royal Navy supported the British-Hanoverian Government during the Jacobite rising of 1745 and was involved in the Skirmish of Arisaig.[9] James Duff, 4th Earl of Fife fought with distinction in the Peninsular War where he was wounded at the Battle of Talavera in 1809 and was later made a Knight of the Order of St Ferdinand of Spain.[5]

Alexander Duff, 6th Earl of Fife married Louise, Princess Royal, eldest daughter of Edward VII.[5] Alexander was advanced to the rank of Duke of Fife in July 1889.[5]

20th and 21st centuries

With the death of the 1st Duke of Fife, the Clan MacDuff had its last Chief. As of 2014, the representative that should eventually succeed to its Headship is, according to, James Richard Valentine Duff, born on 19 October 1941.[10]

Law of Clan MacDuff

Clan Macduff was the first Scottish clan to be recognized as a clan by the Scottish Parliament, by legislation dated November 1384.[11]

The Earl of Fife and the Abbot of Abernethy were both "Capitals of Law of the Clan MacDuff".[7] The law protected all murderers within ninth degree of kin to the Earl of Fife, as they could claim sanctuary at the Cross of MacDuff near Abernethy, and could find remission by paying compensation to the victim's family.[7]

The chiefs of the clan had the right to enthrone the King on the Stone of Scone.[7] When the Stone of Scone was taken to England by Edward I of England, Robert I of Scotland had himself crowned King of Scots a second time, in order to be crowned by a member of clan MacDuff, in that case the Earl of Fife's sister.[7]

In 1425, the last Earl of Fife, Murdoch Stewart, Duke of Albany, was beheaded. The Clan MacDuff's hereditary right of bearing the Crown of Scotland then passed to the Lord Abernethy.[7] The current Lord Abernethy, who is consequently bearer of the Scottish Crown, is Alexander Douglas-Hamilton, 16th Duke of Hamilton.

Clan Castles


  1. Clan MacDuff Profile Retrieved on August 27, 2007
  2. The Scottish clans and their tartans : with notes (1900?), Publisher: Edinburgh : W. & A.K. Johnston. Page 48.
  3. Coventry, Martin. (2008). Castles of the Clans: The Strongholds and Seats of 750 Scottish Families and Clans. pp. 368. ISBN 978-1-899874-36-1
  4. Clan Septs and Dependents Retrieved 30 April 2013.
  5. Way, George and Squire, Romily. (1994). Collins Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia. (Foreword by The Rt Hon. The Earl of Elgin KT, Convenor, The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs). pp. 419 - 420.
  6. Official Scottish Clans and Families Retrieved on August 27, 2007
  7. Moncreiffe of that Ilk, p.135-136.
  8. Grant, Alexander & Stringer, Keith J. (1998). Medieval Scotland: Crown, Lordship and Community. pp. 21 - 22. ISBN 978-0-7486-1110-2.
  9. Duffy, Christopher. (2007). The '45, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Untold Story of the Jacobite Rising. p. 532. ISBN 978-0-7538-2262-3.
  10. "- Person Page 18060".
  11. The Records of the Parliaments of Scotland to 1707 (RPS) Retrieved 30 April 2013.

See also


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