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The Barclay Family History & Ancestry

Family Crest Motto: AUT AGERE AUT MORI (either do or die)

Let me share the remarkable history of your family name, Barclay. The Barclays originally arrived in Britain during the Norman Conquest. The earliest recorded spelling of their name was ‘de Barchelai,’ derived from an Old English place name meaning ‘beautiful meadow.’ It is believed that Lord Roger de Berchelai, and possibly his son John, journeyed to Scotland as part of the retinue of Margaret, sister of Edgar the Aetheling. The Scottish king at the time granted the lands of Towie to John de Berchelai, securing a place for your family in Scotland. However, recent research suggests that the year 1124, during the reign of Maud, queen of David I, is a more likely context for the Barclays’ arrival in Scotland. Regardless, your family quickly established themselves in influential positions, acquiring lands, offices, and forging alliances. Sir Walter de Berkeley served as the Chamberlain of Scotland in 1165, faithfully attending his master, William the Lion. Sir David Barclay became one of the trusted associates of Robert the Bruce. Some members of your family migrated north to settle in the northeast of Scotland, specifically in Towie, Mathers, Gartley, and Pierston in Aberdeenshire. They also made their home in Collairnie in Fife.

In 1621, your ancestor Sir Patrick Barclay, Baron of Towie, the seventeenth Laird, granted a letter of safe conduct to John and Peter Barclay, merchants from the town of Banff. The brothers sought to settle in Rostock, located in Livonia on the shores of the Baltic. There, they became successful silk merchants and prominent burghers. From Peter, in the span of five generations, emerged Field Marshal Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly, born in 1761. He rose to prominence as the Russian Minister of War in 1810 and commanded the Russian forces against Napoleon during the Napoleonic Wars. Barclay de Tolly masterminded the effective scorched earth policy in 1812, leading to Napoleon’s ill-fated retreat from Russia. As a mark of distinction, he was granted princely status by the Tsar, and his portrait is proudly displayed in the Hermitage in St. Petersburg.

Shifting back to the chiefly line of the family, in the seventeenth century, Colonel David Barclay, the first Laird of Urie, served as a soldier in the armies of the King of Sweden during the Thirty Years’ War. When civil war erupted in his own country, he returned home and was subsequently imprisoned during the Protectorate. While in confinement, he was introduced to the Quaker faith by the Laird of Swinton and embraced it wholeheartedly. His son, Robert Barclay of Urie, also adopted the Quaker beliefs and published a defense of the faith in 1675. David Barclay of Cheapside, the second son, went on to found Barclay’s Bank. The chiefly line of the family flourished as bankers and philanthropists throughout subsequent generations.

This rich heritage of your family, the Barclays, showcases a legacy of resilience, success, and contributions to various fields. It is a story worth cherishing and passing down through the generations, as it speaks of the remarkable achievements and enduring values of your ancestors.

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Family Crest Motto: AUT AGERE AUT MORI (either do or die)

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