Thomas Bruce, 1st Earl of Elgin

Thomas Bruce, 1st Earl of Elgin, 3rd Lord Bruce of Kinloss (1599–1663), of Houghton House in the parish of Maulden in Bedfordshire, was a Scottish nobleman.

Thomas Bruce
Earl of Elgin
Thomas Bruce.jpg
PredecessorEdward Bruce, 2nd Lord Kinloss
SuccessorRobert Bruce, 1st Earl of Ailesbury and 2nd Earl of Elgin
Other titles3rd Lord Kinloss
Baron Bruce of Whorlton
Born(1599-12-02)2 December 1599
Died21 December 1663(1663-12-21) (aged 64)
ResidenceHoughton House
Spouse(s)Anne Chichester
Lady Diana Cecil
ParentsEdward Bruce, 1st Lord Kinloss
Magdalene Clerk
Arms of the Earl of Elgin

Early lifeEdit

Born in Edinburgh in 1599, Thomas Bruce was the second son of Edward Bruce, 1st Lord Kinloss by his wife Magdalene Clerk. He succeeded to the Scottish peerage title as 3rd Lord Bruce of Kinloss in August 1613, aged 13, on the death of his elder brother, Edward Bruce, 2nd Lord Kinloss, killed in a duel with Edward Sackville, 4th Earl of Dorset. The family estates included Whorlton Castle and manor given to his father by King James I of England in 1603. The King granted the wardship of Thomas and the estates to his mother Magdalene, until he came of age at 21.[1]

In 1614 Viscount Lisle acknowledged Thomas Bruce as a matchmaker in a marriage planned between his son Robert Sidney and Elizabeth Cecil. Instead she married Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Berkshire.[2]

In 1624, King James I granted Houghton House to Thomas Bruce, near Ampthill, Bedfordshire. The house was built by architects, John Thorpe and Inigo Jones, in the Jacobean and Classical style for Mary Herbert, Dowager Countess of Pembroke;[3] it had been reverted to the King by Mary's brother, two years after the Countess' death in 1621. It became the principal residence for the Bruce family for over a century.[4][5] King Charles I of England later granted him nearby Houghton Park to preserve game for the royal hunt, but persistent hunting and hawking by the local Conquest family forced the King's subsequent intervention.[4][6]

New titlesEdit

During King Charles I's period of Personal rule, Thomas Bruce maintained close relations with the court. He attended the King for his coronation in Scotland in 1633 and was created Earl of Elgin on 21 June 1633.

The year after performing in Thomas Carew's masque, Coelum Britannicum, Bruce received the degree of Master of Arts from the University of Oxford in 1636. He was invested as a Knight in 1638 at Windsor, along with William Villiers and Charles, Prince of Wales.[7]

Thomas Bruce continued in royal favour. He was created Baron Bruce of Whorlton, in the Peerage of England, on 29 July 1641.[8][9] In 1643, he was appointed "Keeper of the King's Park" at Byfleet, a role he held until 1647.[10]

Civil WarEdit

Although Bruce's sister Christian Cavendish, Countess of Devonshire was a notable Royalist, Bruce himself took the side of the Parliamentarians, serving on several county committees from 1644 to Pride's Purge.[6]

Shortly before the 1648 outbreak of the Second English Civil War, fellow scot, William Murray, 1st Earl of Dysart, whipping boy of Charles I and husband of his relative, Catherine Bruce, appointed Bruce as principal trustee of Ham House to act on behalf of his wife, Catherine, and their daughters. The move was successful in helping protect Murray's ownership of the estate by making sequestration by the Parliamentarians both more difficult and, given Elgin's influential position with the Scottish Presbyterians, politically undesirable.[11]

Bruce was later described by Sir Philip Warwick as 'a Gentleman of a very good understanding, and of a pious, but timorous and cautious mind'. He recounted how Bruce expressed some uneasy regret for his actions, that he had tried to avoid parliament when he could and denied having been one of the handful of lords that condemned Archbishop Laud to death.[12]

Marriages and childrenEdit

Thomas Bruce married twice:

Effigy in the Church of St Peter and St Paul, Exton, to Anne Chichester (d.1627) (Countess of Elgin), daughter of Sir Robert Chichester.
Diana Cecil, 2nd wife of Thomas Bruce and widow of Henry de Vere, 18th Earl of Oxford. Portrait by van Dyck
The Ailesbury Mausoleum, Maulden Churchyard, Bedfordshire, built by Thomas Bruce, 1st Earl of Elgin, in memory of his 2nd wife Diana Cecil. One of the earliest free-standing mausoluems built in England[14]
  • Secondly, on 12 November 1629, he married Lady Diana Cecil (d.26 February 1658),[15] daughter of William Cecil, 2nd Earl of Exeter by his second wife, Elizabeth Drury, and widow of Henry de Vere, 18th Earl of Oxford.[16] The marriage was childless. Diana had married de Vere in 1624, just a year before his death, and thus brought with her considerable estates at West Tanfield and Manfield, near Bruce's existing Yorkshire estates, as well as property in Lincolnshire and Middlesex, including Clerkenwell Priory.[1] Thomas built in her memory, the Ailesbury Mausoleum, in the churchyard of St. Mary's Church, Maulden, in Bedfordshire, an octagonal building built over an already existing crypt. Inside the Mausoleum survives the monument to Diana, and marble busts of her husband Thomas and of his grandson Edward Bruce.[17] Sir Howard Colvin identified it as one of the first two freestanding mausoleums in England, the other being the Cabell Mausoleum in Buckfastleigh, Devon.[14]


Thomas Bruce died on 21 December 1663 at the age of 64, and was succeeded by his son and heir Robert Bruce, 2nd Earl of Elgin, 1st Earl of Ailesbury.[18]


  1. ^ a b "Jervaulx Abbey Estate Records". North Yorkshire County Council Archives. Retrieved 19 September 2012.
  2. ^ William Shaw & G. Dyfnallt Owen, HMC 77 Viscount De L'Isle Penshurst, vol. 5 (London, 1961), p. 156.
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b Page, William, ed. (1912). "Parishes: Houghton Conquest". A History of the County of Bedford. Institute of Historical Research.
  5. ^ Pennant, Thomas (1780). "Ampthill to Luton, section 2". The Journey from Chester to London. Retrieved 24 October 2013.
  6. ^ a b Helms, M. W.; Naylor, Leonard (1983). Henning, B.D. (ed.). "BRUCE, Robert, Lord Bruce (1626-85), of Houghton Park, Ampthill, Beds". The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1660-1690. Retrieved 19 September 2012.
  7. ^ "Sites of Cultural Stress from Reformation to Revolution: The Masque". Folger Institute. 2004. Retrieved 19 September 2012.
  8. ^ a b Cokayne, George Edward; Gibbs, Vicary, eds. (1912). Complete peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, Great Britain and the United Kingdom, extant, extinct or dormant (Bass to Canning). 2 (2 ed.). London: St. Catherine Press. pp. 352–353.
  9. ^ Mosley, Charles, ed. (2003). Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knighthood (107 ed.). Burke's Peerage & Gentry. p. 1295. ISBN 0-9711966-2-1.
  10. ^ "Elgin, Earl of (S, 1633)". Archived from the original on 12 October 2012. Retrieved 19 September 2012.
  11. ^ Pritchard, Evelyn (2007). Ham House and its owners through five centuries 1610-2006. Richmond Local History Society. ISBN 9781955071727.
  12. ^ Warwick, Sir Philip (1701). Memoires of the reigne of King Charles I.:with a continuation to the happy restauration of King Charles II. London. p. 169.
  13. ^ Vivian, Lt.Col. J.L., (Ed.) The Visitations of the County of Devon: Comprising the Heralds' Visitations of 1531, 1564 & 1620, Exeter, 1895, p.174, pedigree of Chichester
  14. ^ a b
  15. ^ "Thomas Bruce, 1st Earl of Elgin". Retrieved 19 September 2012. (citing The Complete Peerage, vol V, p41)
  16. ^ "Ailesbury, Earldom". Retrieved 19 September 2012. (citing The Complete Peerage, vol I, p58)
  17. ^
  18. ^ Henderson, Thomas Finlayson (1886). "Bruce, Robert (d.1685)" . In Stephen, Leslie (ed.). Dictionary of National Biography. 7. London: Smith, Elder & Co. p. 129.
Peerage of Scotland
Preceded by
Edward Bruce, 2nd Lord Kinloss
Lord Kinloss
Succeeded by
Robert Bruce, 4th Lord Kinloss
Preceded by
New Creation
Earl of Elgin
Succeeded by
Robert Bruce, 2nd Earl of Elgin
Peerage of England
New title Baron of Whorlton
Succeeded by
Robert Bruce
(descended by acceleration)