Take a glimpse inside Broomhall, the magnificent home of the Bruce family
The name Broomhall comes from Broom Haugh. Broom is a type of plant, whilst Haugh is a meadow. The house was built in 1702 on a fine meadow in a commanding position overlooking the Firth of Forth, near Dunfermline. Unlike many other significant buildings in
Scotland there was no ancient fortification on which to build the house.
The 3rd Earl of Kincardine commissioned a four storey house, built to plans laid out by Sir William Bruce. In 1766 the house was converted into a neo-Palladian mansion by John Adam, similar to Dumfries House in Ayrshire. The house was rebuilt again some thirty years later in the style of the Greek Revival for the 7th Earl of Elgin by Thomas Harrison. Finally in 1865, the portico on the north side was added as the last act in the building of this great house. It is the visual demonstration of the contribution of the Bruces to European and
But where did the Bruces come from and what was their role at the forefront of many of the events in Scottish, and British history? How did this family come to be so heavily involved in the affairs of state for nearly 1000 years?
As with many Anglo-Norman families it began in 1066 when Robert de Brus crossed the English Channel with William the Conqueror. His descendants acquired lands in the South West of Scotland, becoming Lords of Annandale. Robert the Bruce’s long journey to the throne of Scotland took him through
southern Scotland and Northern Ireland. Having killed his main rival, John ,’the red’ Comyn in Dumfries in 1306, he was crowned king. He led his troops into battle as the King of Scots at Bannockburn, routing King Edward II of England, and securing his position on the throne. The great symbol of Robert the Bruce is his two handed sword. This sword was given by his son David II to Thomas Bruce of Clackmannan, a forefather of the present chief. Since that time the sword has been continuously in the possession of the chief ’s family.
The history of Scotland led to the Union of the Crowns in 1603. Somewhat ironically, Sir Edward Bruce was the last Scottish Ambassador at the Court of St. James. He negotiated James VI of Scotland’s accession to the throne of England on the death of Queen Elizabeth. He was rewarded with the title ‘Lord Kinloss’, a location near Elgin in the north east of Scotland. Sir Edward’s son was created 1st Earl of Elgin, with the Earldom passing to the Earls of Kincardine in 1647, thus uniting the two titles.
Like many of the great families of Scotland, the Bruces became mixed up in the Jacobite uprisings. But after the ill-fated 1745 uprising they embraced the new future as part of the United Kingdom, and expanding British Empire. From that time on, the Earls of Elgin
Unlike many other significant buildings in Scotland there was no ancient fortification on which to build the house
were very much to the fore in Scottish and British life.
The 7th Earl of Elgin was the famous diplomat and ambassador to the Ottoman Empire in Istanbul in 1799, having served in the 3rd Regiment of Foot Guards. He was heavily involved in curtailing the activities of Napoleon Bonaparte in the Middle East, negotiating alliances with the Turks. He was such a thorn for Napoleon that he had him kidnapped and held in the Pyrenees until his wife, the Countess, negotiated his release.
It was this earl who secured the antiquities at the Parthenon in Athens for the British Museum, which bear his name ‘The Elgin Marbles’. He was very much part of what came to be known as the Scottish Enlightenment, supporting Greek style buildings in Edinburgh such as that on Carlton Hill. Hence Edinburgh’s nickname at the time as ‘Athens of the North”.
His son, the 8th Earl of Elgin, was very much in the same mould. He was Governor of Jamaica and Governor-General of Canada, as well as being sent on delicate missions to the Emperors of China and Japan. These missions resulted in the building of ships on the Clyde and Tyneside for the Japanese Navy. This in turn contributed to the defeat of the Russian Navy at the battle of Tsushima, in 1905, which heralded the rise of Imperial Japan, and the beginning of the end for Tsar Nicholas II.
The 9th Earl was active in local pol- itics as Chairman of the Scottish Liberal Party. But his big moment came in 1895, when he was appointed Viceroy of India. He was persuaded to take on the job by Lord Rosebery during a long walk over Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. He was known as the ‘walking Viceroy’, as he was always on his feet. He was responsible for the extensive railway building programme in India. The Durand Line, which separated Afghanistan from India, cutting through the tribal areas of the North West Frontier, was conceived by him. Further appointments included the post of secretary of state for the colonies. Back home he headed a royal commission into the effects of pollution on salmon, and he was invited by the philanthropist Andrew Carnegie to chair his Scottish Universities Fund, enabling working class Scots to obtain university degrees.
The 10th Earl was a public spirited individual who convened the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, meeting regularly at Broomhall. He also chaired the last Empire exhibition at Bel-
lahouston Park in Glasgow, which attracted over 11 million people. Significantly he was also the first convenor of the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs. His son, the 11th Earl, and 37th chief, has continued in the same vein.
Having served in the Scots Guards, and wounded in Normandy, he is perhaps one of the last of what Americans call the greatest generation. Like his father, he took a great interest in the clan network, organising the first international gathering at Meadowbank in Edinburgh in 1977. In the character of his
forebears, he has journeyed constantly to Canada where he is honorary Colonel of the Elgin Regiment. His main aim as chief has been to put the needs of the diaspora at the forefront of his chiefship.
This family, at the head of the Bruce name, came to prominence during the Scottish Wars of Independence securing the throne of Scotland. By a coincidence, the family then had a hand in the union of crowns between England and Scotland some 300 years later and, despite being Jacobites, embraced the British Empire as Viceroys and Governors-General during which their decisions had far reaching consequences. Kinsmen have been military officers and explorers, such as James Bruce of Kinnaird who discovered the source of the Blue Nile in 1770. On the cultural side the Bruces were enthusiastic supporters of the Enlightenment, the arts and architecture. There does not seem to be an aspect of Scottish life that they have not touched; and Scotland is all the better for it.
The south face of Broomhall designed in 1796 by Thomas Harrison.
Charles, Lord Bruce at the north entrance to Broomhall.
Image: The drawing room houses a grand piano.
James 8th Earl of Elgin, Governer General of Canada and Viceroy of Inida.
Thomas, 7th Earl of Elgin in uniform of Scots Fusilier Guards. Image:
Tartan jacket from 1760, made for James Bruce of Kinnaird.
Image: The Arms of King George III.
Image: China ornaments adorn the library.