Beyond Borders, Bulls, and Bedrule
Turnbull Clan Association (TCA)
of the records of the Turnbull family had been destroyed by the 11th
century, which is described as the most turbulent and difficult times in
Scottish history. Some verbal history was passed along generation to
generation, making the verbal history somewhat unreliable. Legend tells us
that William Rule turned an enraged charging bull away from King Robert
the Bruce, and thus became known as William Turn-e-bull. The following
story is how Turnbull became a common name in France and brings to mind
the epic tale of the chicken and the egg, which came first and from where.
Trumbull’s claim they were first, Trimble’s say no, we were, and
Turnbull’s stick by there guns, it was us. We are tho, all truly related
The Scot surname Turnbull went to Germany, specifically
Prussia, in the 15th century. They went as mercenary soldiers andlor
merchants. Over the decades, the spelling was Germanized to Tormuel. Some
two hundred years later after the original migration, a descendant was
Albrecht Drommel, who lived in Tilsit, East Prussia around 1679. He was,
of course, completely German.
But the most important migration of
Turnbull was to France. Starting in the fifteenth century, and as part of
the "Auld Alliance" to help the French king reconquer France from the
English, a large number of Scottish soldiers migrated. Joan of Arc was
involved in the early fight to drive out the English.
After the fighting had subsided the
French king gave out land as a reward to his Scottish followers. The
Turnbulls were among these, and married French wives. One of the branches
became Tournebulle. and a French descendant was Stephan Tournebulle, who
in 1507 was the
procurator of the "Scottish Nation" at the University of Orleans, Orleans
was where Joan of Arc and her Scoto/French forces had fought the English.
Another branch of the
family settled in Normandy. where the spelling became Tournebu or Turnebu.
A French descendant of this branch was Adriaen Tournebu, (15
12-1565) a Hellenic scholar. Of this man, John Hill Burton in The Scot
Abroad (1898) said ~a learned French professor, whose name was
Tourneboeuf (actually Tournebu), which some writers maintain was a
translation of Turnbull~ further they declare him to have been the son of
a Scotchman settled in Normandy." George Black in his classic Surnames
of Scotland ( NY Public Library. 1946) says of the French and
Normandy Turnbull’s: "Persons of the name settled in Fiance bore (talking
of their coat of arms) argent, three bulls heads, couped
sable, anned and langued gulcs, but the Tournebu or Tumebu family in
Normandy, who have been claimed as of Scottish origin, had, for arms
argent, a bent azure."
Thefamily that went to
Berry Province (Joan of Arc’s scenes of action) where the name became
Tourneboeuf. Another source substantiating the claim of Scot ancestry is
in Rev. ForbesLeith magnificent 2 volumes Scot Guards
+ Men at Anus in France
(1882), of which the author possesses a copy).
On pages 206-207 of volume II, Forbes-Leith, who was a Roman Catholic
priest, describes the Scot colony that settled in Berry Province C 1425.
One of the families was Turnbull, and in recent years, I have corresponded
with the Mayor of Aubigny-sur-mer. who has furnished collaboration of the
above, and given some modern traces of the 15th
century Scottish presences.
The author Rennie states that the
Tournebulles of Champagne Province were likely descended from a Scot, and
their name is closer to the original spelling than the Normandy
Finally, another source which sheds
light on French Turnbull’s is Dictionairre de
by M.de St. Simon and Sereville (Paris 1995) listing
all the nobility of modern day France, on page 956, the authors
Arms-—As described above by Black
Extraction—Chevaleresque—from mounted Knights. Ennobled 1463 and again
No reference is mentioned here of
their Scot descent, although it is nearly certain. So, the Turnbulls
established a distinctive presence in France starting out as mercenary
allies of the Dauphin and Jeanne D’Arc, and, in later centuries, becoming
prominent French nobility, even to the present day.
Written by: Don Hanson
Scholar of Scottish Migration to Europe