Clan Barclay

Clan Barclay is a Scottish clan which dates back to the time of William I of England.


The Norman family de Berchelai arrived in England with William the Conqueror. This same family built Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire in 1153. Roger de Berchelai is mentioned in the Domesday Book as is his son, John, listing them as owning twenty hamlets. In 1069 John left Gloucestershire for Scotland in the retinue of Margaret, sister of Edgar the Aetheling, later St Margaret. Margaret married King Malcolm III of Scotland who granted John de Berchelai the lands of Towie in Aberdeenshire and the title of Barclay of the ilk. Other members of the family settled in Mathers, Gartley and Pierston as well as places such as Brechin, Banff, Collairnie and Stonehaven. The clan forged strong alliances and took influential positions in national affairs. Between the years 1165 and 1189, Sir Walter de Berkeley, Gartley III, Lord Redcastle and Inverkeillor, was Great Chamberlain of Scotland under William I of Scotland.

Motto Aut agere aut mori (Either to do or to die).
Origins de Berchelai – possibly an Anglo-Saxon version of the Norman French beaulee – of the beautiful meadow.
Gaelic name(s) {{{gaelic names}}}
Branches Towie Barclay
  • Bercley
  • Barclay
  • Berclay
  • Berkele
  • Barclye
  • Berkeley
  • Berklaw
  • Barckley
  • Barkla
  • Barklay
  • Barkley
  • Barcula
  • Barculay
  • Bercula
  • Barckly
  • Barclaye
  • Towy
  • Towie
Arms A hand holding a dagger proper (on a chapeau Azure doubled Ermine).
Plant badge {{{plant badge}}}
Clan chieftain Peter C Barclay of Towie Barclay and of that ilk. He resides in London.
Clan seat(s) Towie Barclay castle

14th Century

In 1351 Alexander de Berkeley, Gartley IX, became Mathers I through marriage to Katherine Keith, sister to the Earl of Marischal. Alexander, their son, was the first to adopt the name Barclay as a family name.

16th Century

Sir George Barclay, Gartley XIX, was Steward to the household of Mary I of Scotland .

17th Century

During the seventeenth century another Sir George Barclay was second in command of James IV of Scotland Highland forces and a major branch of the family was established at Urie, near Stonehaven in Kincardineshire.

The Thirty Years War and The Civil War

During the Thirty Years' War the First Laird of Urie, David Barclay, was a major in the service of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden. He returned home when civil war broke out, attaining the rank of colonel in a regiment of horse, serving the king. Following his retirement in 1647 he purchased the Urie estate. He was charged with hostility to the government following the Restoration but was released after pressure from his friends. During his time in detention he was converted to the Religious Society of Friends by Laird Swinton, who was also imprisoned.

The Second Laird of Urie, Robert Barclay, also a Quaker, published an ``Apologia`` in 1675 described as ``Explanation and Vindication of the Principles and Doctrines of the People called Quakers``. It was originally written in Latin but was translated into English, Dutch, German, French and Spanish. Barclay's Apologia was widely influential, although Quakers were persecuted at the time, and he even attained favour at the royal court. He was friends with well-known Quakers, George Fox and William Penn and together created the idea of a city of brotherly love in America, which became Philadelphia. In 1682 Robert was granted 5,000 acres of land in East New Jersey by the proprietors of that state (then province) and bestowed upon him the title of governor, a title which he never took up.

18th Century

Robert's second son, David Barclay, became a merchant with not inconsiderable wealth. Through his second wife, he acquired premises in Lomard Street which became the site of Barclays Bank. The strict Quaker principles remained in the family and when David obtained an estate in Jamaica he freed the slaves and taught them trades. He entertained King George III of the United Kingdom at his London home and was excused the requirement to kneel before their monarch due to their Quaker beliefs. He was offered a knighthood, which he refused, and the chance to advance his son at court. He also refused this, explaining that he preferred β€˜to bring up his sons in honest trade.

The Barclay clan always maintained trade links with Scandinavia and the Baltic states through their coastal lands. In 1621 John and Peter Barclay, merchants of Banff, wished to settle in Rostock in Livonia. Sir Patrick Barclay, Baron of Towie signed a letter of safe conduct in their favour, a letter which remains in the hands of the Barclay descendants in Riga to this day. The brothers traded in silk and became burghers of the town. Their direct descendant was Field Marshall Prince Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly, Count of the Holy Roman Empire, born in 1761.

Napoleonic Wars

He was made Russian Minister of War in 1810, rising to Commander of the Russian Armies in 1812 fighting against Napoleon Bonaparte. Instead of pursuing a campaign of direct confrontation with the French, he chose a scorched earth policy which starved the French army as it passed through the country towards Moscow. The plan was a resounding success and the French retreat from Moscow in 1812 was a major factor in his ultimate defeat. The Russian nobility resented the appointment of a Scottish commander-in-chief, but his ability was undeniable and the Tsar created him a prince in 1815. George III of the United Kingdom created him a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath. His portrait hangs in the Military Gallery in St Petersburg.

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