Clan Cumming History

When William the Conqueror came to England he had a companion named Robert of Comyn, believed to have been so named from Comines in Flanders, whom he made Earl of Northumberland in 1069. When David I came to Scotland, Robert’s grandson Richard came with him, and was made Chancellor of Scotland in 1133.

A reconstruction of Lochindorb Castle, built by the Cummings in the 13th century. The castle was built in the middle Lochindorb on what is now believed to be a man-made island

A reconstruction of Lochindorb Castle, built by the Cummings in the 13th century. The castle was built in the middle Lochindorb on what is now believed to be a man-made island

The speed with which the Comyns established themselves and their power is notable. They settled in Badenoch where the clan’s chiefs were known as Lords of Badenoch, ruling from the impregnable island castle in Lochindorb.

Richard married Hexstilda of Tynedale, grand-daughter of King Donald Ban. Their son William became Earl of Buchan through marriage, and his son from a previous marriage became Earl of Menteith and Lord of Badenoch.

When King David I’s line ended in 1286, the Comyns were the most powerful family in Scotland, and had claim to the empty throne on two counts. However the crown went to King John in 1292. He was the son of Devorguilla, David’s great-grand-daughter, and John Balliol, founder of Balliol College in Oxford and another of Scotland’s most powerful men.

When King John was deposed the Balliols left Scotland and again the most powerful man in the country was a Comyn. Devorguilla’s grandson was known as ‘The Red Comyn’ and ruled with complete self-interest, sometimes fighting for Scotland and at other times for England.

He represented the legitimate royal line and so Robert the Bruce stabbed him to death in the Church of the Minorite Friars at Dumfries in 1306. The following War of Independence saw Bruce become King the next month and the Comyns destroyed and powerless by 1308.

The Red Comyn’s only son John died trying to avenge his father at Bannockburn. In that Dumfries church in 1306, Sir Robert, John’s uncle, was also murdered. He was not descended from Devorguilla and his descendants were not as persecuted as their cousins. This branch acquired Altyre in Moray and, using the spelling Cumming, it has remained the clan’s chief seat to this day.

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