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The Bruce dynasty ruled in Scotland from 1306 to 1371. Only two Scots kings belonged to the House of Bruce: Robert I, often called simply Robert the Bruce, and his son David II, who inherited in 1329. (Edward Bruce, Earl of Carrick, brother of Robert I, fought a war of conquest in Ireland in 1315-6, calling himself King; but was defeated and killed.) David II died without a direct heir, and was succeeded by Robert II, the first Stewart king. Robert II was Robert I's grandson, through his daughter Marjorie's marriage to Walter the Stewart.

There were many lords called Robert de Bruce - ODNB lists seven significant among them, of whom King Robert I was the seventh, and thus in the genealogy of the Bruce family Robert VII. (ODNB dismisses the claim that an ancestor - Robert or Adam - fought at Hastings.)

  • The first was "Brus [Bruce], Robert (I) de, lord of Annandale (d. 1142)", who supported Henry I of England, by whom he was given much land in Yorkshire, and David I of Scotland, by whom he was given the lordship of Annandale. He, and the family name, began in Normandy, where, according to Barrow (1965) p.29, Robert [I] came from Brix, then Brus or Bruis, a few miles south of Cherbourg; for other views, see below.
  • His son, Robert (II) de Brus, died c.1194, predeceased (before 1191) by Robert (III) de Brus; so was succeeded by his second son, William, and in turn by
  • Robert (IV) de Brus (born c.1195; died between 1226 and 1233). His marriage to Isabel, second daughter of David, earl of Huntingdon, helped the family to power, wealth and influence in England.
  • Robert (V) de Brus [called Robert the Noble], lord of Annandale (c.1220-1295), also known by the sobriquet the Claimant, was the foundation of the royal house. In the interregnum following the death of Alexander III, Robert V claimed the Scottish throne by virtue of descent from Earl David of Huntingdon, a grandson of David I; the decision by Edward I of England) went in favour of his only serious rival, John Balliol (r. 1292-1296).
  • His son by his wife Isabel daughter of the earl of Hertford and Gloucester, Robert (VI) de Brus (1243-1304), married the widowed Marjory, countess of Carrick, and had five sons: Robert I, king of Scots; Neil; Edward; Alexander, dean of Glasgow; and Thomas. There were also five surviving daughters. In 1296, after the battle of Dunbar, in which he fought in Edward I's army, Robert [VI] revived his family claim to the Scottish throne: Edward is supposed to have said "Have we nothing else to do but win kingdoms for you?" (Johannis de Fordun, Chronica gentis Scottorum, 1.326, ed. W. F. Skene, trans. F. J. H. Skene, 1871).
It sometimes surprises those with a small knowledge of Scots history that the Bruce family originated from Normandy, whence they came with the Norman Conquest of England. In contention with Barrow's opinion above, Cottle (1967) says the origin of the surname is "Some place in Normandy - ?'Briouze', Orne; ?'Le Brus', Calvados; not, apparently, 'Brix', Manche;" McKinley (1990) agrees. Reaney (1958) says "L.C. Loyd... discarded the derivation from Brix as the evidence 'hardly seems sufficient'." (Barrow said "The first Robert ... de Brus got his name from Brus or Bruis, now Brix, a few miles south of Cherbourg" (p. 29), p. 29.)
The forename is an application of the surname; it is a stereotypical name for a male Australian. Note that other families called Bruce may come from elsewhere, in Britain sometimes a brewhouse, or brewery. Not all are aristocratic.
For more detail, see Barrow, 2005.