Gaelic Name: Brothaigh
Origin of "Brodie"
The Brodies are one of the original Pictish tribes of Moray, and the clan has always been associated with that area. Their earliest recorded chief was Malcolm, Thane of Brodie (A Thane was a Pictish or Celtic title, equivalent to the Norman title of Baron) in the reign of Alexander III, whose son Michael obtained a charter of his lands from King Robert Bruce in 1311 erecting the old Celtic thaneage into a barony shortly before the Scots brutalized the invading English armies at the Battle of Bannockburn. The name frequently appears in papers relating to other families, spanning dates in the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries, and from such we must deduce the medieval history of the Brodies
One interpretation of the name was made by Lachlan Shaw in the 1780's - the Gaelic Brothaigh, a muddy place or ditch.Another possible interpretation is a follower of Brude, leader of the Northern Picts in the sixth century AD. Brude was apparently converted to Christianity by St. Columba in 565AD."Many Pictish kings were named Bridei (or Brude). In the writings of St Columba's biographer (who was no friend of the Picts) we learn of one of the most powerful of these Bridei kings." The writer (Adamnan) details the journey of the Irish saint to the court of Bridei near Loch Ness. The legendary monster of the lake makes its historical debut in this same story, and we are told that King Bridei (ruled 554-584) was an exceptionally powerful king. We are also told that Columba needed interpreters to speak to the king, clear evidence that the Picts did not speak the Celtic language of the Irish and Scots (or at the very least not the Gael version of the Celtic tongue). King Bridei also defeated the Scots, in battle against their king Gabran, and laid waste to the Scottish holdings in the west. Had he pressed on and expelled the Scots from Argyll, Scotland may still be Pictland or Alba today.
There is a much earlier Irish legend that has a royal fugitive fleeing from Ireland to the Pictish court at a time when they shared a common language. Languages develop and diversify over the centuries. In the 12th century Geoffrey of Monmouth translated the history of the kings of Britain from what he claims were ancient books in the Welsh (British-Celtic) language. According to this account the founder of Britain was a prince of Trojan descent whose name was Brutus. So the name (Brutus-Brude-Brodie) seems to have had a traditional use amongst both Pictish and Celtic tribes in Britain dating back to the founding hero remembered in the Welsh annals. Brutus may not have been an individual but may instead represent the name used by a group of Israelite immigrants (as in the "B'nai Berith", or "Berit(h)ish"). Yet "Brutus" may equally come from the title of the earliest colonizing "king or kings of the British" - real name(s) long forgotten. There is now evidence that the fall of Troy actually occurred close to the time of the Captivity of Israel, and there's likely to be a link between those events and the arrival of the "Brutus" colonists because Israel, as distinct from Judah, was always very involved with trade and alliances with the Gentiles. There could easily have been a colony or military contingent in Troy which found itself with no place to call home after the defeat of both Troy and Israel. Brutus ruled over the entire realm of Britain and Albany according to Geoffrey, which would account for the survival of the name amongst the Picts. This would make the name Brodie very ancient indeed - in fact the first British-Celtic name of them all. It would also be of Hebrew origin, with the meaning of "covenant" - or originally - "covenant man".
Factual history on the clan is scarce since in 1645 all records were destroyed when Brodie Castle, near Forres was burned by Lord Lewis Gordon in the Covenanting conflict. Despite this the family have always been prominent in both local and national affairs. A rare pontifical discovered in Brodie Castle in 1970 and now housed in the British Museum, indicates the family's existence from at least 1000 A.D.
What We Know
John of Brodie assisted the MacKenzies in their battle against the MacDonalds at Blai-na-park in 1466. His great grandson, Alexander Brodie of Brodie was denounced as a rebel, along with 126 others, in 1550 for attacking Alexander Cumming of Altyre and mutilating one of his servants. The rebel's eldest son David had his lands of Brodie erected into a free barony under charter of the Great Seal in 1597. He had several sons, the second, purchased the lands of Lethen and is ancestor to the Brodies of Lethen. The eldest son, another David, inherited the estates in 1626 only to die 6 years later when they passed to his son Alexander, later Lord Brodie.
Alexander Brodie of Brodie was a supporter of the reformed religion. In 1640 he attacked Elgin Cathedral and destroyed its carvings and paintings. In 1645 all records were destroyed when the castle was burned by Lord Lewis Gordon of Clan Gordon. As a result, nearly all the early records about the clan have almost disappeared; however, one document was discovered in 1972 in a pigeon loft. This was a bishop's office book in vellum, dating from the year 1,000, less than a century from the establishment of a Scottish lineage in the ancient lands of the Picts.
Alexander Brodie of Brodie represented Elgin in Parliament, and in 1649 was one of the Commissioners sent to persuade Charles II to sign the National Covenant and resume the Scottish Crown. After the defeat of the royalist forces at the Battle of Worcester in 1651 he was summoned to London by Oliver Cromwell to consider a union between Scotland and England. He later became Lord Brodie as a senator of the College of Justice. He died in 1679.
In 1727 Alexander Brodie of Brodie was appointed Lord Lyon, king of Arms. He was Lyon during the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 and attended on the Duke of Cumberland throughout his Scottish campaign. From Alexander Brodie, Lord Lyon King of Arms between 1727 and 1754, and from James Brodie of Brodie, the 21st Chief (1759-1824), descend all subsequent chiefs of the name.
Throughout the long history of the family there has been connections through marriage with many of Scotland's greatest families. Brodie Castle, now restored, is the seat of the clan chief. The lime building is a typical 'Z' plan tower house with ornate corbelled battlements and bartizans, with 17th and 19th century additions.
Cadet families include the Brodies of Lethen in Nairn, Idvies in Angus, and Eastbourne in Sussex. Sir Benjamin Brodie, Surgeon to the Royal Family, was made a Baronet in 1834. There are other distinguished branches of this family, including the Brodies of Lethen and a family of English baronets.
One black sheep member of the family, who was notorious for his evil character, is Deacon William Brodie. He lived in Edinburgh in the 18th century, and was quite respectable by day. At night he was quite a skilled thief; however, he was eventually caught and hanged in 1788 by a hanging device that he had invented! The lifestyle of this gentleman inspired R.L.Stevenson to write 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde'.