Thomas Bruce, 1st Earl of Elgin

Thomas Bruce
Born (1599-12-02)2 December 1599
Died 21 December 1663(1663-12-21) (aged 64)
Title Earl of Elgin
Other titles 3rd Lord Kinloss
Baron of Whorlton
Nationality Scottish
Residence Houghton House
Predecessor Edward Bruce, 2nd Lord Kinloss
Successor Robert Bruce, 1st Earl of Ailesbury and 2nd Earl of Elgin
Heir Robert Bruce, 1st Earl of Ailesbury and 2nd Earl of Elgin
Issue Robert Bruce, 1st Earl of Ailesbury and 2nd Earl of Elgin
Parents Edward Bruce, 1st Lord Kinloss and Magdalene Clerk

Thomas Bruce (1599–1663) was a Scottish nobleman, third Lord Bruce of Kinloss, and first Earl of Elgin.

Early life

Born in Edinburgh in 1599, Thomas Bruce was the second son of Edward Bruce, 1st Lord Kinloss and his wife, Magdalene Clerk. He succeeded to the title of 3rd Baron Bruce of Kinlosse in August 1613, aged 13, on the death of his elder brother, Edward, killed in a duel with Edward Sackville. The family estates included Whorlton Castle and manor given to his father by James I in 1603. James I granted custody of Thomas, and the estates, to his mother, Magdalene, until he came of age.[1]


On 4 July 1622 Thomas married Anne Chichester, daughter by his first marriage of Sir Robert Chichester (1578-1627) of Raleigh, Devonshire, and half-sister of Sir John Chichester, 1st Baronet, of Raleigh (1623-1667).

In 1624 James I granted Bruce Houghton House, near Ampthill, Bedfordshire. Designed by Inigo Jones and built for Mary Sidney Herbert, Dowager Countess of Pembroke it had been reverted to the King by Mary's brother two years after her death in 1621. It became the Bruce family's principal residence for over a century.[2][3] Charles I later granted him nearby Houghton Park to preserve game for the royal hunt but persistent hunting and hawking by the local Conquest family forced Charles' subsequent intervention.[2][4] Anne bore him his only son and heir, Robert, on 19 Mar 1626/27 but she died, the next day, on 20 March 1626/27.[5]


In 1629, Thomas Bruce married Diana Cecil (pictured), widow of Henry de Vere, 18th Earl of Oxford.

12 November 1629 Bruce remarried Lady Diana Cecil, daughter of William Cecil, 2nd Earl of Exeter, widow of Henry de Vere, 18th Earl of Oxford.[6] Diana, having married Oxford in 1624, just a year before his death, brought with her considerable estates at West Tanfield and Manfield, near Thomas' existing Yorkshire estates, as well as property in Lincolnshire and Middlesex including Clerkenwell Priory.[1]

New titles

During Charles I's period of Personal rule, Bruce maintained close relations with the court. He attended the King for his coronation in Scotland in 1633 and the title, Earl of Elgin, was created for him on 21 June 1633.

The year after performing in Thomas Carew's masque, Coelum Britannicum, he graduated Master of Arts from the University of Oxford in 1636. Bruce was invested as a Knight in 1638 at Windsor, along with William Villiers and the Prince of Wales.[7]

Bruce continued in royal favour. He was created 1st Baron Bruce of Whorlton, in the English Peerage, on 29 July 1641.[5] In 1643 he was appointed "Keeper of the King's Park" at Byfleet, a role he held until 1647.[8]

The English Civil War

Although Bruce's sister Christian Cavendish, Countess of Devonshire was a notable Royalist, Bruce himself took the side of the Parliamentarians, serving on several county committees from 1644 to Pride’s Purge.[4]

Shortly before the 1648 outbreak of the Second English Civil War, fellow scot, William Murray, 1st Earl of Dysart, whipping boy of Charles I and husband of his relative, Catherine Bruce, appointed Bruce as principal trustee of Ham House to act on behalf of his wife, Catherine, and their daughters. The move was successful in helping protect Murray's ownership of the estate by making sequestration by the Parliamentarians both more difficult and, given Elgin's influential position with the Scottish Presbyterians, politically undesirable.[9]

Bruce was later described by Sir Philip Warwick as 'a Gentleman of a very good understanding, and of a pious, but timorous and cautious mind'. He recounted how Bruce expressed some uneasy regret for his actions, that he had tried to avoid parliament when he could and denied having been one of the handful of lords that condemned Archbishop Laud to death.[10]


Bruce's second wife, Diana Cecil, died on 26 February 1658 without issue.[11]

Thomas Bruce died on 21 December 1663 at the age of 64. His son, Robert, inherited the estates and titles in December 1663.[12]


  1. 1 2 "Jervaulx Abbey Estate Records". North Yorkshire County Council Archives. Retrieved 19 September 2012.
  2. 1 2 Page, William, ed. (1912). "Parishes: Houghton Conquest". A History of the County of Bedford. Institute of Historical Research.
  3. Pennant, Thomas (1780). "Ampthill to Luton, section 2". The Journey from Chester to London. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  4. 1 2 Helms, M. W.; Naylor, Leonard (1983). Henning, B.D., ed. "BRUCE, Robert, Lord Bruce (1626-85), of Houghton Park, Ampthill, Beds.". The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690. Retrieved 19 September 2012.
  5. 1 2 Cokayne, George Edward; Gibbs, Vicary, eds. (1912). Complete peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, extant, extinct or dormant (Bass to Canning). 2 (2 ed.). London: St. Catherine Press. pp. 352–353.
  6. "Ailesbury, Earldom". Retrieved 19 September 2012. (citing The Complete Peerage, vol I, p58)
  7. "Sites of Cultural Stress from Reformation to Revolution: The Masque". Folger Institute. 2004. Retrieved 19 September 2012.
  8. "Elgin, Earl of (S, 1633)". Retrieved 19 September 2012.
  9. Pritchard, Evelyn (2007). Ham House and its owners through five centuries 1610-2006. Richmond Local History Society. ISBN 9781955071727.
  10. Warwick, Sir Philip (1701). Memoires of the reigne of King Charles I.:with a continuation to the happy restauration of King Charles II. London. p. 169.
  11. "Thomas Bruce, 1st Earl of Elgin". Retrieved 19 September 2012. (citing The Complete Peerage, vol V, p41)
  12.  Henderson, Thomas Finlayson (1886). "Bruce, Robert (d.1685)". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography. 7. London: Smith, Elder & Co. p. 129.
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
Edward Bruce, 1st Lord Kinloss
Lord Kinloss
Succeeded by
Robert Bruce, 3rd Lord Kinloss
Preceded by
New Creation
Earl of Elgin
Succeeded by
Robert Bruce, 2nd Earl of Elgin
Peerage of England
New title Baron of Whorlton
Succeeded by
Robert Bruce
(descended by acceleration)
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