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The Cumming (Cumin) Family History & Ancestry

Family Crest Motto: COURAGE

Let me share with you the historical background of your family name, Cumming. The Comyn (or Cumin or Cumming) family originates from Normandy, France, with the name derived from places such as Comines near Lisle or Bosc-Bernard-Commin near Rouen. Your family ancestor, Robert de Comyn, accompanied William the Conqueror to England in 1066 and was granted the title of Earl of Northumberland. One of Robert’s descendants, William, journeyed to Scotland around 1136 during the reign of David I. King David granted him lands in Roxburghshire, and William eventually became Chancellor of Scotland. Richard, William’s nephew, married a granddaughter of Donald Bane, who later became Donald III, the second son of Duncan I. Through strategic marriages in the early thirteenth century, your family held three earldoms: Menteith, Atholl, and Buchan.

When King Alexander III died near Burntisland, two members of the Comyn family, both descendants of Duncan I, were appointed to the council of six guardians of Scotland. After the death of the young queen Margaret, also known as the ‘Maid of Norway’, who was the granddaughter of Alexander III, at least six claimants vied for the Scottish throne. They included John Balliol, who was the brother-in-law of the Black Comyn, and Robert Bruce, the grandfather of the future king. These claimants, along with the two Comyn guardians, sought the intervention of Edward I of England to decide the succession. Edward agreed, on the condition that the chosen successor recognized him as the overlord of Scotland. The Scots, lacking the means to resist, accepted Edward’s choice of John Balliol. However, resistance arose again, with claimants switching sides and allegiances in the struggle for the throne and independence from England. In 1306, Robert the Bruce, the grandson of the original claimant, invited the Red Comyn to a meeting in the church of the Greyfriars in Dumfries, hoping to negotiate a compromise. Unfortunately, a quarrel ensued, and Comyn was fatally stabbed by Bruce within the church, an act that led to Bruce’s excommunication. Comyn’s son was later defeated by Bruce in a skirmish and sought refuge with the English. He was eventually killed at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. The Comyns were subsequently banished, and their name was outlawed.

With the fall of the Badenoch Comyns, your family’s influence in Scottish politics waned. However, numerous branches of the family had been established and continued to thrive. Over time, the spelling of the name generally changed to ‘Cumming’, while the Cummings of Altyre emerged as the principal line. Notably, Sir William Gordon-Cumming of Altyre gained notoriety for his involvement in the infamous Royal Baccarat Scandal. In 1997, Sir William, the sixth baronet, was recognized by the Lord Lyon as the chief after abandoning the name Gordon. He has since been succeeded by his son, Alastair.

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Family Crest Motto: COURAGE

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