by James E. Fargo, FSA Scot

While researching another article on clan history, I ran across an interesting item that connects the last of the Holy Land crusades (1270-1272) with a key player in the Battle of Bannockburn. This June 24th marks the 700th anniversary of that battle where we were one of twenty-one clans present.

The background to this story begins with Earl Henry, the third and last celtic earl of Atholl. Earl Henry had two sons, Constantine (who predeceased him) and Conan (from whom Duncan our first recognized chief descends). When Earl Henry died around 1222, the earldom passed through his first son’s daughters successively to their respective husbands. The youngest daughter, Fernelith married Sir David Hastings and in her right he became the seventh Earl of Atholl. Their grandson David de Strathbogie became the ninth Earl in 1264. Known as the Crusader Earl, David took the cross in 1268 and raised a force of Athollmen and joined the French King Louis IX’s second Crusade against the infidels in 1270 as joint leader of the Scottish contingent. The other Scottish leader was Adam de Kilconquhar, Earl of Carrick. Adam had come to the earldom through his marriage to Marjorie, daughter of the previous earl. When the Athollmen departed, Ewan and Andrew, respectively grandfather and father of Duncan our first recognized chief probably watched them leave.

The combined French and Scottish army sailed from France to North Africa in late summer of 1270. Unfortunately, the earl of Atholl and many of the Scottish contingent died during the siege of Tunis in August 1270. On the death of Atholl, Carrick assumed command of the remaining Scottish host and sailed to Sicily in the autumn of 1270 to join up with the English crusader army. This army was led by Lord Edward (son of King Henry III of England who died in 1272) and later as King Edward I of England. The combined force proceeded to Acre in the spring of 1271 and it was there that Carrick died. Included in the English host was Robert de Bruce, the elder lord of Annandale and his son, Robert de Bruce. On their return from the Holy Land in 1273, the younger Robert married the young widow Marjorie, countess of Carrick and in her right became the earl of Carrick. Their first son, born on July 11, 1274 was named Robert. We know him as King Robert the Bruce.

Alan MacQuarrie, "Scotland and the Crusades 1095-1560", 1997, pp. 56-62.