Thomas Bruce, 1st Earl of Elgin

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Thomas Bruce
Thomas Bruce.jpg
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
Arms of Bruce: Or, a saltire and chief gules on a canton argent a lion rampant azure

Thomas Bruce, 1st Earl of Elgin, 3rd Lord Bruce of Kinloss (1599–1663), of Houghton House in the parish of Maulden in Bedfordshire, was a Scottish nobleman.

Early life[edit]

Born in Edinburgh in 1599, Thomas Bruce was the second son of Edward Bruce, 1st Lord Kinloss by his wife Magdalene Clerk. He succeeded to the Scottish peerage title as 3rd Lord Bruce of Kinlosse in August 1613, aged 13, on the death of his elder brother, Edward Bruce, 2nd Lord Kinloss, killed in a duel with Edward Sackville, 4th Earl of Dorset. The family estates included Whorlton Castle and manor given to his father by James I in 1603. King James I granted the wardship of Thomas and the estates to his mother Magdalene, until he came of age at 21.[1]

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]

New titles[edit]

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.[5]

Bruce continued in royal favour. He was created Baron Bruce of Whorlton, York, in the Peerage of England, on 29 July 1641.[6][7] In 1643 he was appointed "Keeper of the King's Park" at Byfleet, a role he held until 1647.[8]

Civil War[edit]

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]

Marriages & progeny[edit]

Thomas Bruce married twice:

Effigy in the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Exton, to Anne Chichester (d.1627) (Countess of Elgin), daughter of Sir Robert Chichester. The inscription ends: "Erected and inscribed to the memory of his most beloved and deserving wife by Thomas Lord Bruce". At her feet is shown the crest of Chichester: A heron with an eel in its beak. Another effigy of her survives, in kneeling posture, on the monument to her father in Pilton Church
Diana Cecil, 2nd wife of Thomas Bruce and widow of Henry de Vere, 18th Earl of Oxford. Portrait by van Dyck
The Ailesbury Mausoleum, Maulden Churchyard, Bedfordshire, built by Thomas Bruce, 1st Earl of Elgin, in memory of his 2nd wife Diana Cecil. One of the earliest free-standing mausoluems built in England[12]


Thomas Bruce died on 21 December 1663 at the age of 64, and was succeeded by his son and heir Robert Bruce, 2nd Earl of Elgin, 1st Earl of Ailesbury.[17]


  1. ^ a b "Jervaulx Abbey Estate Records". North Yorkshire County Council Archives. Retrieved 19 September 2012. 
  2. ^ a b 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. ^ a b 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. ^ "Sites of Cultural Stress from Reformation to Revolution: The Masque". Folger Institute. 2004. Retrieved 19 September 2012. 
  6. ^ a b 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. 
  7. ^ Mosley, Charles, ed. (2003). Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knighthood (107 ed.). Burke's Peerage & Gentry. p. 1295. ISBN 0-9711966-2-1. 
  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. ^ Vivian, Lt.Col. J.L., (Ed.) The Visitations of the County of Devon: Comprising the Heralds' Visitations of 1531, 1564 & 1620, Exeter, 1895, p.174, pedigree of Chichester
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Thomas Bruce, 1st Earl of Elgin". Retrieved 19 September 2012.  (citing The Complete Peerage, vol V, p41)
  14. ^ "Ailesbury, Earldom". Retrieved 19 September 2012.  (citing The Complete Peerage, vol I, p58)
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^  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)