Lady Catherine Bruce of Clackmannan

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Lady Catherine Bruce of Clackmannan by (school of) David Allan owned by Clackmannanshire Council

Lady Catherine Bruce of Clackmannan (1696–1791) also known as Catherine Bruce, was a Scottish noblewoman and Jacobite. She is remembered for unofficially knighting notable people including the poet Robert Burns


Bruce lived in Clackmannan Tower in Clackmannanshire in Scotland. Her husband Henry Bruce fought for the Jacobites against the English crown in the 1745 uprising, and she herself supported the movement.[1]

Descent from Robert the Bruce[edit]

Lady Catherine was known for her eccentricity and had many eclectic visitors at Clackmannan Tower.[2] In 1787 she was visited by the celebrated Scottish poet, Robert Burns, and she "knighted" him with a family sword said to have once belonged to Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland (1306-1329) and from whom she and her husband both claimed descent. Burns' companion Dr Adair described Lady Catherine as: 'Though almost deprived of speech by a paralytic affection, she preserved her hospitality and urbanity.'[3] She is believed to have said during the ceremony that she 'had a better right to confer that title [knighthood] than some people' implying that the current Hanoverian monarchs were illegitimate.[4] She (unofficially) knighted other select guests across the years with the same sword[5] including Dr John Jamieson, editor of the Scots Dictionary.[4] On her death, the sword passed to the Earl of Elgin, and in 2018 went on public display for the first time courtesy of the Broomhall Estate.[6]

Death and Legacy[edit]

She died in 1791.[7] Her life's story was included in the Walking Theatre Company's production of Tales of Clackmannan which celebrated the history of Clackmannanshire.[8]

She has a Scottish country dancing reel named after her called Lady Catherine Bruce's Reel.[9] Clackmannanshire Council owns a painting of her which is attributed the school of the Scottish painter David Allan.[7]


  1. ^ "Lady Catherine Bruce's Reel Dancing Instructions". Retrieved 2018-02-05.
  2. ^ "5 Historic Characters you've never heard of - Historic Environment Scotland Blog". Historic Environment Scotland Blog. 2016-08-18. Retrieved 2018-02-05.
  3. ^ "Dr Adair, the Works of Robert Burns".
  4. ^ a b "Robert Burns Country: The Burns Encyclopedia: Bruce, Mrs Catherine (1696-1791)". Retrieved 2018-02-05.
  5. ^ "Clackmannanshire". Retrieved 2018-02-05.
  6. ^ "Rare sword belonging to Robert the Bruce to go on display". Retrieved 2018-02-05.
  7. ^ a b "Lady Catherine Bruce of Clackmannan (1696–1791) | Art UK". Retrieved 2018-02-06.
  8. ^ "Tales of Clackmannan". Gas Sensing Solutions Ltd. Retrieved 2018-02-05.
  9. ^ "Lady Catherine Bruce's Reel Dancing Instructions". Retrieved 2018-02-05.