Clan Burnett

Clan Burnett
Motto Virescit vulnere virtus (Courage flourishes at the wound)
Origins Norman or Saxon, see main history article
Gaelic name(s) None
  • Burnett
  • Burnet
  • Burnette
  • Bernat
  • Burnat
  • Bernet
  • Burnap
  • Burnard
  • Barnard
  • Barnett
  • Barnette
  • Barnet
  • Bornet
  • Bornat
  • Mac Burnet
Arms (Upon a chapeau Gules furred Ermine) A cubit arm, the hand naked, vested Vert doubled Argent pruning a vinetree with a pruning knife Proper
Tartan(s) Hunting (brown) and Dress (red)
Plant badge A sprig of holly leaves
Clan chieftain James Comyn Amherst Burnett of Leys
Clan seat(s) Crathes Castle, under the care of the National Trust for Scotland

Clan Burnett, also referred to as the House of Burnett,[citation needed] is a Lowland Scottish family.



Origins of the name

There is still debate over the origin of the name Burnett. The Saxon Burford family held lands in Bedfordshire prior to 1066. This name derives from the Saxon 'beornheard' meaning 'bear hand' often translated as 'brave warrior'. Alternatively, it has been suggested that the name derives from Burnet, a French name recorded in France prior to William the Conqueror invading England.

The de Bernard family first came to Scotland, settling in Roxburghshire, when David I of Scotland returned from England.

Wars of Scottish Independence

During the Wars of Scottish Independence Alexander Burnard was a supporter of Robert the Bruce, and following the Battle of Bannockburn was rewarded with a grant of land in the Forest of Drum. Burnard was presented with an ivory horn in 1323 as a symbol of the barony and title of Forester of the Forest of Drum.
The horn remains on display at Crathes Castle.

15th century

Throughout the 15th century the family gained a reputation as a benefactor of the church by granting lands and other gifts. However, the relationship between the family and church was not free from dispute. Burnett and the Laird of Drum disputed a tract of land, so Burnett asked a local priest, Father Ambrose, to act as mediary. When Ambrose refused to do so, Burnett barred the monks from fishing in the local loch. When the monks cursed him for his deed, he decided to drain the loch. Burnett, however, was forced to abandon the project when his son was killed with clearing a large rock and Burnett ultimately reconciled with the church.

Bertha de Bernard stayed at Crathes Castle while her father was fighting in France and fell in love with one of her cousins. The young Burnett was betrothed to a daughter of the Duke of Hamilton, chief of the Clan Hamilton a powerful Scottish family. Lady Agnes Burnett would not allow the marriage to be placed in jeopardy so had James V of Scotland send her son to England. Bertha died soon after. It was suspected that Lady Agnes poisoned Bertha to prevent her from interfering with the family's plans. Bertha's father returned to hear of his daughter's death. He cursed the family and until the 17th century a 'Green Lady' haunted Crathes, heralding death and destruction for the family whenever she appeared.

the coat of arms of Burnett of Leys, chief of Clan Burnett.[1]

17th century

In the early 17th century the Burnetts of Leys came into control of Muchalls Castle, about 30 kilometers southeast of Crathes. In 1609 Alexander Burnett began the reconstruction of the upper stories of Muchalls, a work completed after his death by his son Thomas. Sir Thomas Burnett, a Baronet of Nova Scotia, although a Covenanter, was related to James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose and accompanied him as he rode to Aberdeen in 1639. Thomas's son, the third Baronet, was Commissioner for Kincardineshire in the last Scottish Parliament, vehemently opposing the Act of Union 1707. When Sir Robert Burnett of Leys died without an heir, the Baronetcy passed to Thomas Burnett of Criggie.

18th century

James Burnett Lord Monboddo was born in 1714 and was an eminent lawyer, judge and philosopher. He studied law at the University of Edinburgh and in the Netherlands before admission to the Faculty of Advocates in 1737. He became a sheriff in 1764 and a supreme court judge in 1767 with the title 'Lord Monboddo'. He was ridiculed for his belief that man was related to apes and originally had tails, however, he also professed belief in mermaids and satyrs. Robert Burns was frequently a guest at Monboddo's Edinburgh house.

American Revolutionary War

The family has a great military tradition. The 7th Baronet served in the Royal Scots Fusiliers in the American Revolutionary War, being taken prisoner following the Battle of Saratoga in 1777.

20th century

Major-General Sir James Burnett of Leys, the 13th Baronet commanded a brigade during the First World War and was a colonel of the Gordon Highlanders. Mentioned in dispatches 11 times he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order twice, appointed as a companion of the Order of the Bath and the Légion d'honneur by France. In 1952 he gifted Crathes Castle and a portion of the estate to the people of Scotland.

Many of the Burnetts from Aberdeen served in the second world war.

Charles John Burnett is the current Ross Herald of Arms (Scotland) See entry for Charles Burnett.

Clan castle

The Burnett family of the chiefly line now resides in the House of Crathes, close to Crathes Castle. In the early 17th century the Burnetts acquired Muchalls Castle.

See also


External links

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