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Brus [Bruce], Robert de, lord of Annandalelocked

(d. 1142)
  • A. A. M. Duncan

Brus [Bruce], Robert de, lord of Annandale (d. 1142), baron and soldier, has been said without authority to be the son of a Robert (sometimes Adam) de Brus, who was alleged to have fought at Hastings. The subject of this memoir came from Brix, south of Cherbourg, where he was an ally of Henry I, whose conquest of Normandy he presumably supported. Perhaps soon after the battle of Tinchebrai (September 1106) Henry gave him some eighty Yorkshire manors, chiefly in Claro wapentake, then a further thirteen manors around Skelton, formerly of the count of Mortain, and c.1119 Hart and Hartness in co. Durham. Brus's importance is shown by the addition, between 1114 and 1119, of the first of these holdings to the Yorkshire Domesday, while the second, the lordship of Skelton, formed one of a series of castellanies whereby Norman control of northern England was consolidated. He attested several charters of Henry I, especially after 1106, and was with him at Lyons la Forêt in 1129, and at Woodstock (with David I also) at Easter 1130. But he undoubtedly spent much time in the north, where, for example, he was at a gathering of magnates at Durham in 1121, when the monks of Durham and St Albans fell out over Tynemouth. He founded the Augustinian priory of Guisborough in the North Riding of Yorkshire, probably in 1119, endowing it richly with some thirty carrucates of land; the first prior was his brother, William. David I, king of Scots, knew Brus well, perhaps starting in Normandy, where Brus gave the church of Querqueville to St Mary's York for the souls of Earl David (as he then was) and his parents. Their absences from Henry's court seem to coincide, and they may have campaigned together, for instance after 1107, in compelling Alexander I to hand over to David the southern Scottish appanage left him by King Edgar.

After David succeeded as king in 1124 he gave Annandale with its castle to Brus, possibly at his inauguration in that year, since the charter is dated at Scone. The castle has been alleged to imply an earlier grant—only ‘Normans’ could build castles. He was a frequent witness of those charters of David I whose witnesses are known, whether issued in England or Scotland; he was usually named first among the Anglo-French barons, and his friendship with David I was surely close. But after the death of Henry I, Brus, who may be presumed to have taken the oath in favour of Matilda's rights, none the less supported King Stephen, and was present with him at the siege of Exeter in 1136, and later at York. In 1138, therefore, he was one of the leaders of the northern English army which opposed David I's invasion at Cowton Moor, and was sent to persuade him to withdraw, for which occasion Ailred of Rievaulx puts in his mouth a memorably eloquent speech about David's previous dependence on English and Normans. David was moved, but William fitz Duncan, accusing Brus of treason, persuaded the king to fight. Brus formally broke his fealty and homage to the king, no mere gesture, for it greatly impressed contemporaries. The English army, said to have included Brus's older son, Adam, crushingly defeated King David, whose former relationship with Brus was never re-established. Robert died on 11 May, in 1141 according to a fourteenth-century family chronicle, which has many unreliable dates; John of Hexham, who places the death about Easter (19 April), 1142, is to be preferred: he died on 11 May 1142.

Robert (I) de Brus married an Agnes, probably daughter of Geoffrey Bainard (sheriff of York before 1100), with whom he had two sons, Adam, and Robert (II) de Brus (d. 1194?). A Peter de Brus was not, as has sometimes been claimed, a middle son, though he may have been Robert's brother. The male descendants of Adam (who died in 1143) continued to hold the Yorkshire lands as lords of Skelton for a further four generations, until the death of Peter de Brus in 1272, when they passed to his sisters and coheirs.


  • W. Farrer and others, eds., Early Yorkshire charters, 12 vols. (1914–65), vol. 2, pp. 11–19
  • P. Dalton, Conquest, anarchy, and lordship: Yorkshire, 1066–1154, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought, 4th ser., 27 (1994), 90–94
  • A. C. Lawrie, ed., Early Scottish charters prior to ad 1153 (1905), nos. 52, 54; pp. 27, 42, 51, 52, 55, 70, 71, 73, 78, 82, 87, 89, 99
  • Dugdale, Monasticon, new edn, 6.267
  • A. O. Anderson, ed., Scottish annals from English chroniclers, ad 500 to 1286 (1908), 192–5
  • A. A. M. Duncan, ‘The Bruces of Annandale, 1100—1304’, Transactions of the Dumfriesshire and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, 3rd ser., 69 (1994), 89–102