Robert de Brus, 1st Lord of Annandale

Robert I de Brus, 1st Lord of Annandale (c.1070 – 1142) was an early 12th century Anglo-Norman baron and knight, the first of the Bruce dynasty to hold lands in Scotland. A monastic patron, he is remembered as the founder of Gisborough Priory in Yorkshire, in present-day Redcar and Cleveland, in 1119.[1]


Robert is given by some Victorian historians as a son of Adam de Brus, by his spouse Emma de Ramsay.[2][3]

Cockayne states that the family name is derived from Bruis, now Brix, in the arrondissement of Valognes.[4] Some modern historians contend that the name may have come from Brix, Manche, near Cherbourg in the Cotentin Peninsula, and that they came to England after King Henry I of England's conquest of Normandy (i.e.: at the same time as Alan fitz Flaad, the FitzAlan ancestor of the Stuart Royal Family, nowithstanding that they were Bretons).

What is known clearly is that this Robert de Brus is first mentioned during the period 1094 and 1100, as a witness to a charter of Hugh, Earl of Chester, granting the church of Flamborough, Yorkshire, to the church of Whitby. Possibly the Earl of Chester about 1100–1104 enfeoffed Robert of certain portions of his Cleveland fee in Lofthouse, Upleatham, Barwick, Ingleby, and other places. Between 1103–1106 Robert de Brus attested with Ralph de Paynel and 16 others a charter of William, Count of Mortain, to the abbey of Marmoutier. In 1109 at a Council of all England held at Nottingham, he attested the charter of King Henry 1st confirming to the church of Durham certain possessions which the men of Northumberland had claimed. During the period 1109–1114 he appears in early charters in possession of numerous other manors and lands in Yorkshire, and in the same period he attested a charter of Henry 1st issued at Woodstock, Oxfordshire. He appears in the Lindsey Survey made 1115–1118 in possession of even further lands. There is a strong presumption that King Henry 1st had given Robert his Yorkshire fee soon after the battle of Tinchebrai (28 September 1106). Robert was present at the great gathering of northern magnates at Durham in 1121, and sometime during the period 1124–1130 he was with the King at Brampton. About 1131 Robert de Brus was in the retinue of Henry 1st at Lions, in Eure. About the same time he attested with three of his personal knights a confirmation with Alan de Percy to the monks of Whitby.[5] It is said that Robert had been given some 80 manors in Yorkshire by King Henry. It is evident that Robert kept up his connexions with other Normans too. A member of the Feugeres family, of Feugeres, Calvados, arr.Bayeux, canton of Isigny, witnessed charters of this Robert de Brus circa 1135 in Yorkshire.[6]


The friendship between Robert de Brus and David FitzMalcolm (after 1124 King David I of Scotland), who was present in France with King Henry and was granted much of the Cotentin Peninsula, may have commenced at least as early as 1120, at Henry's Court.[7] When David became king, he settled upon his military companion and friend the Lordship of Annandale, in 1124,[8] There is, however, scant evidence that this Robert ever took up residence on his Scottish estates.

After the death of King Henry, David refused to recognise Henry's successor, King Stephen. Instead David supported the claim of his niece and Stephen's cousin, Empress Matilda, to the English throne and taking advantage of the chaos in England due to the disputed succession there, he took the chance to realise his son's claim to Northumberland. These actions Robert de Brus of Annandale could not countenance and as a result he and King David parted company, with Robert bitterly renouncing his homage to David before taking the English side at the Battle of the Standard in 1138.[9] Before the battle, Robert had made an impassioned plea to David, calling to his remembrance how he and other Normans had by their influence in Scotland, as far back as 1107, obliged King Alexander to give a part of the Scottish Kingdom to his brother David. The appeal was in vain. Robert, and his eldest son Adam, joined the English army, while his younger son, Robert, with an eye on his Scottish inheritance, fought for David.[10]


Robert is said to have married twice: (1) Agnes, daughter of Geoffrey Bainard, Sheriff of York and (2) Agnes, daughter and heiress of Fulk de Paynel of Carleton, North Yorkshire.[11][12] Farrer mentions both marriages and in particular points out that the superior of Carleton Manor was de Brus, and that Paynel held it of him.

It is unclear by which spouse his sons were but authorities usually give her as Agnes de Paynel.


  1. Sherlock, Stephen. "Gisborough Priory: Information for Teachers" English Heritage. 2001. 1 Oct 2008.
  2. Northcliffe of Langton, Charles B., M.A, editor, The Visitation of Yorkshire, 1563/4 taken by William Flower, Norroy King of Arms, London, 1881, p.40.
  3. Burke, Messrs., John & John Bernard, The Royal Families of England, Scotland, and Wales, with their Descendants, etc., London, 1848: vol.1, pedigree XXXIV.
  4. Cockayne, G.E., edited by the Hon. Vicary Gibbs, The Complete Peerage, vol.ii, London, 1912, p.358n.
  5. Farrer, William, D.Litt., editor, Early Yorkshire Charters. vol.ii, Edinburgh 1915, p.11.
  6. Loyd, Lewis C., Barrister-at-law, edited by Charles Travis Clay & David C. Douglas, The Origins of some Anglo-Norman Families, Harleian Society, Leeds, UK, 1951; reprinted Baltimore, Md., 1999 edition, p.43.
  7. Farrer, 1915, p.11.
  8. Donaldson, Gordon, Scottish Historical Documents, Edinburgh, 1970: 19, "David by the grace of God King of Scots, to all his barons, men, and friends, French and English, greeting. Know ye that I have given and granted to Robert de Brus Estrahanent (i.e: Annandale) and all the land from the boundary of Randolph Meschin; and I will and grant that he should hold and have that land and its castle well and honourably with all its customs," &c. This is a new charter and not a reconfirmation." ISBN 0-7011-1604-8
  9. Burton, John Hill, The History of Scotland, New revised edition, Edinburgh, 1876, vol.1, p.437
  10. Farrer, 1915, p.11-12.
  11. Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, 1904 (online version available) Duncan, ODNB
  12. Burke (1883) p.80
  13. Ritchie, R. L. Graeme, The Normans in Scotland, Edinburgh University Press, 1954, p.278.
  14. Farrer, 1915, p.12.
  15. Ritchie, 1954, p.278.


Robert de Brus, 1st Lord of Annandale
Born: c.1070 Died: 1142
Preceded by
New Creation
Lord of Annandale
1113 x 1124–1138
Succeeded by
Robert II de Brus
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