Brechin, Sir David
- A. A. M. Duncan
Brechin, Sir David (b. before 1278, d. 1320), soldier and landowner, was the son of Sir William Brechin, son of Henry, illegitimate son of David, earl of Huntingdon (d. 1219); his mother was Elena, daughter of Alexander Comyn, earl of Buchan. His father died between 1286 and June 1291 (when no claim to the Scottish throne was submitted by him); on 10 December 1292 David was still a minor, though of marriageable age. He was presumably of age when doing homage to Edward I in August 1296, and must have fought against him at Dunbar, for he was bound to serve Edward in France in 1297. He returned to Scotland and took up the patriotic cause; as a knight he was in the retinue of Robert Bruce, earl of Carrick, at Peebles on 20 August 1299, and was wounded in an assault on the English garrison of Lochmaben in September 1301. He submitted to Edward with the rest of the Scottish community in February 1304, renewing his homage with his wife, Margaret, at Stirling on 7 July.
The killing of John Comyn of Badenoch in February 1306 threw Brechin, given his kinship with the Comyns of Buchan, firmly into the anti-Bruce camp, and he seems to have been taken prisoner at Brechin Castle by John Strathbogie, earl of Atholl, in April–May 1306. After the defeat of Bruce and Atholl at Methven on 19 June 1306 he was freed, and was active as a commander for Edward I and Edward II. He served with others of the Anglo-Scottish leadership at Ayr in July–August 1307, when they collectively borrowed 5000 merks from Sir Ralph de Monthermer. Thereafter he went north to be keeper of Aberdeen Castle and with Sir John (I) Mowbray, guardian north of Tay, and inadequate forces resisted Robert I's guerrilla campaign between Aberdeen and Inverness after September 1307. Having compelled the invalid king to withdraw from Slioch at Christmas, they encountered increasing difficulty in 1308; finally on 23 May 1308 their force broke and fled at Inverurie. Robert ravaged Buchan, took Aberdeen, and cleared the north-east. At Christmas 1308 Forfar fell, but a truce protected the remaining English position. About this time (when there are many writs to and about pro-English Scots) the only reference to Brechin is a gift of wine by Edward II on 8 July 1308 or 1309. He must have been taken prisoner, presumably at Brechin again, in 1309, and then pretended to submit to King Robert, for on 15 June 1310 he was an adherent of the Scots seeking to submit to Edward.
This Brechin did, apparently with the help of his wife, and in March 1312 claimed that he had been in command at Dundee, with thirty men-at-arms, from 24 June 1311. Although his men were still there, he must have gone to Edward II at York by early February 1312, to obtain help for the beleaguered garrison, which surrendered in early April. On 20 April he was made keeper of Berwick, with orders to send men to relieve Dundee, but when its fall was known, he was relieved of Berwick (3 May). Perhaps he had sailed to Dundee, for he was seized once more, nothing being heard of him until his wife had leave on 4 October 1314 to go to Scotland to secure his freedom. The threat of forfeiture in November 1314 probably moved him to adhere to Robert I, but he was never in that king's favour. In 1317 he made overtures to Edward II through Andrew Harclay, recently released as a prisoner from Scotland, and was offered the English king's peace, yet he stayed in Scotland. In 1318–20 he witnessed two charters of Robert I, before becoming involved in the mysterious conspiracy which took him and others to trial in parliament in August 1320, just three months after his wife had sealed on his behalf the letter to the pope in defence of Scottish freedom, the Declaration of Arbroath.
Brechin's crime, for which, despite being a knight, he was hanged at Perth in August 1320, is said by Barbour to have been that he knew of, but did not reveal, the conspiracy. This is difficult to believe, since the same source ascribes to William Soulis both authorship of the plot and the desire to take the throne—and he was only imprisoned. Barbour's story comes from an Umfraville source very sympathetic to Brechin (Barbour calls him the 'good' Sir David), which sought an excuse for Gilbert Umfraville's desertion of King Robert in 1320 in the harsh treatment of Brechin. It is much more likely that the aim of the conspirators was to secure a Balliol restoration without English lordship and that Brechin was deeply involved. Some who were tried were acquitted, so the justice was not Edwardian in a ruthless rage; one might reasonably be surprised that Brechin survived so long in Robert I's Scotland.
About 1299 Brechin married Margaret, heir of Bunkle and widow of Sir John Stewart, who was killed at Falkirk in 1298. She died after October 1314 and he married again. His second wife was Margery Ramsay, called 'de Rame[sei]' on her seal of 1320. His only known child, born of his first marriage, was a daughter, Margaret, who married Sir David Barclay; he received Brechin's lands from Robert I.