Early Clan History



origins of the clan

The origins of the Brodie clan are mysterious. Much of the early Brodie records were destroyed when Clan Gordon pillaged and burnt Brodie Castle in 1645. It is known that the Brodies were always about since records began. From this it has been presumed that the Brodies are ancient, probably of Pict ancestry, referred to locally as the ancient Moravienses. The historian Dr. Ian Grimble suggested the Brodies were an important Pictish family and advanced the possibility of a link between the Brodies and the male line of the Pictish Kings.



Brodie Castle in 1976



the clan lands

The lands of Brodie  are between Morayshire and Nairnshire, on the modern border that separates the Scottish Highlands and Moray. In the time of the Picts, this location was at the heart of the Kingdom of Moravia. Early references show that the Brodie lands to be governed by a Toshech, later to become Thane. Part of the Brodie lands were originally Temple Lands, owned by the order of the Knights Templar. It is uncertain if the Brodies took their name from the lands of Brodie, or that the lands were named after the clan.



The Brodie Chiefs

MacbethThane of Dykec.1262

1. Malcolnic.1285

2. Michaelc.1311

3. Joannesc.1376

4. Thomasc.1386

5. Johnc.1410

6. Ricardusd.1446

7. Johne“the courteous”c.1466

8. Alexanderd. about 1491

9. Johannesd. about 1511

10. Alexanderd. about 1540

11. Thomamek.1547at the battle of Pinkie

12. Alexander“the rebel”d.1583

13. David1553-1627

14. David1586-1632

15. Alexander“the good Lord Brodie”1617-1679

16. James1637-1708

17. Georged.1714

18. Jamesd.1720

19. Alexander“The Lord Lyon”1697-1754

20. Alexander1741-1759

21. James1744-1824

22. William1799-1873

23. Hugh1840-1889

24. Ian1868-1943

25. Montagu“Ninian”1912-2003

26. Alastair1943-2003

27. Alexanderb.1969




the first Brodie chief

After the Toshechs, whose names are lost, we find a reference to MacBeth, Thane of Dyke in 1262; next, in 1311, a Latin reference to Michael, filius Malconi, Thanus de Brothie et Dyke. It is unclear if Macbeth, Thane of Dyke, is of the same line as Michael. Accordingly, the Brodie Chiefs claim descent from Michael’s referred father, Malcome, as First Chief and Thane of Brodie.



early clan seat

Although Brodie Castle was built in the sixteenth century, the remains an earlier wooden fortress structure can be found nearby, on the Downy Hillock.



Brodye tartan, as published in 1842 in the dubious Vestiarium Scoticum.



meaning of the name Brodie

Early references to Brodie were written as Brochy, Brothy, Brothie, Brothu, Brode. Various meanings to the name Brodie have been advanced, but given the Brodies uncertain origin, and the varying ways Brodie has been pronounced/written, these remain but suppositions. Some of the suggestions that have been advanced as to the meaning of the name Brodie are:

“ditch” or “mire”, from the old Irish word broth;

“muddy place”, from the Gaelic word brothach;

“a point”, “a spot”, or “level piece of land”, from the Gaelic word Brodha;

or originated from the Pict name Brude, Bruid or Bridei from King Bridei I of the Picts.



15th and 16th century clan conflicts

Johne of Brode of that Ilk, the 7th chief of Clan Brodie, assisted Clan Mackenzie in their victory in 1466 over Clan MacDonald at the Battle of Blar-na-Pairc. He took a distinguished part in the fight and behaved “to the advantage of his friend and notable loss of his enemy,” his conduct produced a friendship between Clan Mackenzie and Clan Brodie, which continued among their posterity, “and even yet remains betwixt them, being more sacredly observed than the ties of affinity and consanguinity amongst most others,” and a bond of manrent was entered into between the families.

Clan Brodie joined the royal army led by the Earl of Atholl against the rebel son of the Lord of the Isles, Aonghas Óg. However, in 1481 Aonghas Óg defeated them at Lagabraad, killing 517 of the royal army.

Thomame Brodye de iodem, the 11th chief, was killed defending against the English invasion at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh.

In 1550, Alexander “the rebel” Brodie of that Ilk, the 12th chief, with his clansmen, and the assistance of the Dunbars and Hays, attacked Clan Cumming at Altyre, seeking to slay their chief, Alexander Cumming of Altyre. As a result he was put to the horn as a rebel for not appearing to a charge of waylaying, but was pardoned the year following.

In 1562 the said Alexander “the rebel”, joined Clan Gordon and George Gordon, 4th Earl of Huntly in his rebellion against Mary Queen of Scots. They were defeated at the Battle of Corrichie. Huntley died, Brodie escaped but was denounced a rebel, and his estates declared forfeited. For four years the sentence of outlawry hung over his head, but in 1566, the Queen having forgiven Clan Gordon for their disloyalty, included Alexander Brodie in the royal warrant remitting the sentence against them, and restoring them their possessions.



17th century and civil war

Alexander “the good” Lord Brodie of Brodie, the 15th chief, was a covenanter during Wars of the Three Kingdoms. An ardent presbyterian, his faith led him to be responsible for acts of destruction to Elgin Cathedral and its paintings. He was judge in trials of witchcraft, sentencing at least two witches to death. He was commissioner for the apprehension of Jesuits and catholic priests and the plantation of Kirks. He served on the committees: of war for Elgin, Nairn, Forres, and Inverness; of estates; of the protection of religion; and of excise. Lord Brodie was elected Commissary-General to the Army. He went twice to The Hague to seek the return of the exiled King Charles II of Scotland, first in 1649, then, with a lager party in 1650, returned successfully with the King. Oliver Cromwell was eager to enroll Brodie into his regime. Tempted, Lord Brodie resisted Oliver Cromwell’s summons to discuss a union of Scotland and England, writing in his diary “Oh Lord he has met with the lion and the bear before, but this is the Goliath; the strongest and greatest temptation is last.”. Lord Brodie was the target of an unsuccessful royalist plot for his capture in 1650. He was the author of a diary revealing a complicated, yet devote mind, torn by temptation and doing what he believed to be right.

Clan Brodie joined the covenanters in the fight at the Battle of Auldearn against James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose. After the defeat of the covenanters against the royalists, Clan Gordon sacked Brodie Castle and besieged Lethen House. The Brodies of Lethen held successfully for twelve weeks.

Alexander Brodie of Lethen went south with a contingent of men. He commanded a troop with some credit at the disastrous Battle of Dunbar (1650).



18th Century & Jacobite Uprisings

During the Jacobite rising of 1715, James Brodie of Brodie, the 18th chief, refused to surrender his horse and arms to Lord Huntley. Lord Huntley threatened the “highest threats of military execution, as that of battering down his house, razing his tenants, burning their corns, and killing their persons.” if Brodie did not comply. Clan Brodie continued to resist, holding fort in the now rebuilt Brodie Castle. Unable to secure enough canon and gunpowder to proceed with an assault, Lord Huntley was forced to abandon his threats.

During the second Jacobite rising of 1745, the Brodie chief was Alexander Brodie of that Ilk, 19th chief of Brodie, Lord Lyon King of Arms.

Naval Captain David Brodie, of the Brodies of Muiresk branch was master and commander of the Terror and the Merlin (10 guns), later Captain of HMS Canterbury (60 guns), and HMS Strafford (60 guns). He was credited with the capture of 21 French and Spanish cruisers or privateers. .

By 1774 the Brodie estate was in financial trouble and sold by judicial sale. James Brodie of Brodie, the 21st Chief, was married to Lady Margaret Duff, daughter of William Duff, 1st Earl of Fife. The Earl of Fife came to the rescue, purchased the estate, returning half to The Brodie.

In 1788 Deacon William Brodie was executed. Deacon Brodie was a descendant of the Milton branch of Clan Brodie.



19th Century and India

James Brodie of Brodie’s younger brother, Alexander, left for India to seek his fortune. He returned from Madras a very rich man and purchased the estates of Thunderton House in Elgin, Arnhall in Kincardineshire, and The Burn. He married a daughter of James Wemyss of Wemyss by Lady Elizabeth Sutherland, daughter of the William Sutherland, 17th Earl of Sutherland and had an only child, a daughter, Elizabeth. Elizabeth Brodie was an heiress, and in 1813 married George Gordon, Marquess of Huntly who became, on his father’s death in 1827, The 5th Duke of Gordon. George and Elizabeth did not have any children, and on his death in 1836, the line of the Dukes of Gordon became extinct. Leaving Elizabeth the last Duchess of Gordon. After her husband’s death, the Duchess joined the Free Church of Scotland, and was its most prominent benefactor. The Duchess was “much respected and beloved by the people of Huntly and the surrounding district.” and lived “a remarkably unaffected, charitable, and Christian life”.

James Brodie of Brodie’s son, James Brodie, younger of Brodie, went to India and worked for the East India Company. He built a mansion in Madras, on the banks of the river Adyar, and named it Brodie Castle (Madras) . This property still stands and has become the College of Carnatic Music. James (the younger) died in India in a boating accident on the Adyar River in 1801/02.

On the death of the Duchess of Gordon in 1864, The Brodies of Brodie became beneficiaries of the Gordon estate; inheriting much of the Gordon moveable property.



The Modern Clan Brodie

A rare pontifical document was discovered in Brodie Castle in 1972 and is now housed in the British Museum. The document is thought to date as far as 1000AD, and shows evidence of associations with Durham.



Macbeth meeting the three witches.

The present chief of the clan is Alexander Tristan Duff Brodie of Brodie, 27th Chief of Clan Brodie., and is a member of the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs



Clan Traditions,Custom and Legend

Tradition says a curse was pronounced against the Brodie Chiefs, “to the effect that no son born within the Castle of Brodie should ever become heir to the property.” The legend of the source of this malediction was one of the early Brodie Chiefs “who induced an old woman to confess being guilty of witchcraft by offering her a new gown, and then, instead of fulfilling his promise, had her tied to a stake and burnt.

The “blasted heath” where Macbeth is said to have met the three witches, is located on the lands of Brodie. The event was popularized in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. This location is referred to locally as Macbeth’s Hillock.  


Brodie of Spynie


Brodie of Lethen


Brodie of Milton


Brodie of Idvies


Brodie of Mayne


Brodie of Rosthorn




Cap. David Brodie








Clan Branches

Brodies of Brodie , The Thanes and The Chiefs of Brodie

Brodies of Spynie

Brodies of Asleisk

Brodies of Lethen

Brodies of Idvies, The Baronet of Idvies

Brodies of Boxford , The Baronets of Boxford

Brodies of Milton

Brodies of Windy Hills

Brodies of Maine

Brodie-Inneses of Milton Brodie

Brodies of Eastbourne

Brodies of Fernhill

Brodies of Muiresk

Brodies of Caithness



Clan Profile



Clan Brodie Plant Badge: Periwinkle.

Clan chief: Alexander Tristan Duff Brodie of Brodie, 27th Chief of Clan Brodie.

Clan Crest badge: Note: the crest badge is made up of the chief’s heraldic crest and motto,

Chief’s motto: Unite.

Chief’s crest: A right hand holding a bunch of arrows all Proper.

Clan Plant Badge: Periwinkle.

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