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Clan Wemyss


The name Wemyss derives from the lands of Wemyss in Fife and the family of Wemyss claim descent from a younger son of the Pictish MacDuff, Earl of Fife who obtained the lands from his father about 1160. The name is a corruption of the Gaelic Uamh, meaning cave and indeed below the ruins of the old castle at East Wemyss known as MacDuffs Castle can be found caves containing drawings dating from Pictish times. The first of the name was Michael de Wemyss who supported Robert Bruce's rebellion. From then on the family sprung many cadet branches, Sir John Wemyss of Reres and Kincaldrum living in 1373 had three sons; David who succeeded, Duncan from whom descended the Wemyss of Reres and Alexander ancestor of the Wemyss of Kilmany. The grandson of David, Sir John Wemyss had four sons, the eldest Sir David fell at Flodden in 1513 and the youngest son Thomas was ancestor of the Wemyss of Wintbank. Sir David also left three sons, two who founded the houses of Caskieberry and Lathfisk. His great grandson was created a baronet in 1625 and Lord Wemyss of Elcho in 1628 and Earl of Wemyss, Lord Elcho and Methil in 1633. His brothers founded other branches including Fingask, Foodie, Rumgay and Craighill. Eventually the Wemyss family emerged as the senior line descending from the old MacDuff Earls of Fife and bear the shield of the red lion on gold of the MacDuffs. The 2nd Earl of Wemyss died in 1679 and was succeeded by his daughter, Margaret, who became the Countess. She married James Wemyss of Caskieberry who was created Lord Burntisland in 1672, their son married the eldest daughter of the Duke of Queensberry (The 8th Earl of Wemyss succeeded in 1810 to the Earldom of March). During the Jacobite Rising of 1745 the Earl's eldest son Lord Elcho raised a cavalry regiment in support of Bonnie Prince Charlie and hence attained the peerage and the estates. His younger brother, Francis took the name and estates but changed his name to Charteris of Arnisfield on inheriting a fortune from his maternal grandfather. Although Charteris is kept by the Earls of Wemyss, the chiefship of Clan MacDuff passed to the younger son of the 5th Earl and it was this line that continued to live in the Castle of Wemyss on the Firth of Forth.


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