The Keith Clan

Septs: Austin, Dickison, Dickson, Dixon, Dixson, Falconer, Harvey, Haxton, Hervey, Hurrie, Hurry, Lumgair, Marshall, Urie, Urry.

Tartans: Keith, also known as Keith and Austin

Crest: Out of a Crest Coronet Or, a stag's head Proper, attired Or

Motto: Veritas vincit (Truth prevails)

Legend has it the name Keith evolved from a warrior "Marbhachair Chamuis" dubbed by Malcolm II after he killed the Danish General Camus at the "Battle of Barrie" in 1010. "Marbhachair Chamuis" later held the lands of Keith in Lothian for Malcolm II. Thus is the origin of the modern name Keith.

Though now mainly associated with Aberdeenshire & Caithness, the earliest record of the name was in East Lothian, where a Norman Herveius married the heiress of Marbhachair and obtained the lands from David 1 in 1150. From 1176, his son is said to have served as King's Marshall (Marischal) under Malcolm IV and William I.

Sir Robert Keith who received the lands of Keith from the puppet king John Balliol in 1294, acted as a Deputy Warden for Edward I before joining Bruce in 1308. In 1318 he commanded the Scottish cavalry at Bannockburn. The Bruce made the office of Marischal hereditary to the Keith's in 1324 in recognition of "Sir Robert de Keth", Calvary commander at the Battle of Bannockburn. Bruce also rewarded him with the Royal Forest of Kintore and other lands forfeited by the Comyns.

The Keiths acquired further lands by marriage to the Cheyne heiress of Inverugie and when more lands in Kincardineshire were added, again by marriage, the great fortress at Dunnottar became their stronghold.

The 2nd Lord Keith was created "Earl Marischal" in 1428, enhancing the hereditary office of "Marischal" held by the family since the time of Bruce. The Marischal, was custodian of the Royal regalia and was to protect the King at Parliament. The standard used by the 2nd Earl Marischal at Flodden in 1513 is preserved in Edinburgh.

In 1651 the 7th Earl Marischal removed the Regalia of Scotland to Dunnottar for safety, but when the castle was besieged by the English the priceless relics were hidden in the nearby church of Kinnedd. During the reformation the 7th Earl was captured and imprisoned in the Tower of London until the restoration. The King then appointed him Privy Councilor and later Lord Privy Seal as reward for his services in the Royal cause. The Earl Marischal's brother, who had held Dunnottar against the English, was created Earl of Kintore in 1677.

Sir William the Marischal added estates in Buchan, Kincardine and Lothian to the family by marrying the daughter of Sir Alexander Fraser, the High Chamberlain.

The Keith association with Caithness began when Sir William's brother married the Cheyne heiress of Ackergill bringing the massive estate of Inverugie into the family. The chief's seat was later to be a castle on the Inverugie lands.

The Keith family supported the Jacobite cause during the 1715 and '45 uprisings and for their part forfeited their lands. The title of Earl Marischal became extinct in the 18th century and the chieftainship of Keith devolved to the Kintore family.

The 9th Earl of Kintore, Governor General of South Australia from 1889 to 1895, decimated the Kintore estates.

The 12th Earl was instrumental in promoting the Clan internationally and appointed a hereditary sennachie to preserve the Keith genealogy.

The 13th Earl, Rt. Hon. Michael Keith, resides on the Keith Hall estate in Aberdeenshire.


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Created by Don Dickson 26 March 1999