History of the Clan

The early history of the Menzies's is obscure, the ancient records of the family having been lost in the fire which ravaged the first castle at Weem in 1502. Claims of descent from a mythical "Scottish" king Mainus of 333B.C have neverless been made but may be dismissed as ill-founded in common with the ancient genealogies of some other clans. Most likely, as with several old-established Scots families, the progenitor of the Menzies was of Norman origin, the name being derived from Mayneris, Mayners or Manners probably originating from Mesnieres near Rouen in Normandy. The original may be "Meynle" recorded in Leland's list of invading Normans at the conquest.

It seems probable that a branch of this family was granted lands in the Lothians in the 12th century and eventually became established in the Central Highlands. Variations of the name appear in early charters, the first recorded Menzies being Anketillus de Maynoers whose name is appended to a charter relating to a donation to the Abbey of Holyrood during the reign of William the Lion (died 1214). The earliest definitive "Chief" was, however, Sir Robert de Meyneris (possibly the son of Anketillus) who was at the court of King Alexander II and became Chamberlain of Scotland in 1249. Sir Robert presumably received a grant of lands in west Atholl since the earliest existing Menzies document refers to the confirmation of the lands of Culdares and Duneaves by him to Sir Mathew of Moncreiffe. The grant of lands to Sir Robert included "the following, by which according to tribal principle, he became in loco paternis to the people" and the name in the Gaelic, Meinnearach.

Robert's heir, Sir Alexander Menzies, was granted the lands of Aberfeldy and Weem with patronage of the Church of Weem in ca.1266, and in 1312-14, for "forensic services" to the king (Robert I, the Bruce) in the Wars of Independence against Edward I of England, his possessions were vastly extended to include; in the Highlands, Glendochart (the sequestered lands of the Macnabs), Finlarig and Glenorchy and further lands in the Abthane of Dull, and, in the Lowlands, Durisdeer in Nithsdale. In succeeding years the extent of the lands held by the Menzies fluctuated with the legalistic exchanges and marriage endowments on the one hand and overt usurpation on the other, in a manner typical of territorial transactions of the feudal-clan system of the Highlands, finally settling with the territories around Weem, the Appin of Dull and Rannoch, these considerable areas remaining in the possession of the Weem Menzies until the death in 1918 of Miss Egidia Menzies, sister of Sir Neil Menzies, the last one of the main line who died eight years before.

The first residence of the Menzies Chief at Weem, the "Place of Weem", was built in 1488 by Sir Robert Menzies, the eighth Chief after the first Sir Robert. Before this, Comrie Castle was the family seat, the new mansion was to serve the family for but a short time however for, in 1502, as a result of a dispute over the rights of the lands of Fortingall and Rannoch, it was plundered and burnt by Neil Stewart of Garth, descendent of the Wolf of Badenoch. The Stewarts having gained a footing in the district some 100 years previously by marriage with Janet Menzies of Forthergill (Fortingall). With the burning of the castle all early records of the origin of the Menzies were destroyed. Restitution was ordered by the monarch, James IV, who erected the Menzies lands into the Barony of Menzies in 1510, the Chief therefore being styled the Menzies of Menzies (Menzies of that Ilk) and the Castle Menzies.

In 1665, Sir Alexander Menzies of Menzies was created a Baronet of Nova Scotia and this title continued to the 8th Baronet, Sir Neil, who died without heir in 1910. After his death the Menzies estates were divided and auctioned. With the divided estates were sold also the castle and its contents including many Clan relics and, to recreate a tragedy little less than the destruction of the ancient documents by the burning of the Place of Weem in 1502, the contents of the muniment room were apparently bundled into lots, sold and dispersed and with them, four hundred years of documented history of the family and district.

With the extinction of the main Menzies of Weem line, the Clan was therefore without a Chief until Ronald Stewart-Menzies of Culdares and Arndilly, the lineal heir of Col.James Menzies of Culdares, cousin of the first baronet, in 1957 petitioned Lyon Court and obtained arms in the name and title of "The Menzies of Menzies). His son, David Stewart Menzies of Menzies is the present chief. History records the Menzies's as a relatively peaceful clan, predominantly siding with law and order and the established monarchy. Although surrounded by powerful neighbours, the Earls of Atholl, the Campbells of Breadalbane, Stewarts of Grantully, Grahams of Menteith, the Menzies's held onto their inheritance without recourse to violent conflict. Differences with their neighbours were mainly resolved diplomacy, litigation or convenient marriage and they became the oldest family in Strathtay with an unbroken decent in the direct male line down to 1910.

The loyalty with which the Clan supported the Bruce was extended to the subsequent Stuart dynasty to which the Menzies of Weem became associated through the marriage of Sir Alexander de Meyners (1235-1320) to Egilda Stewart, daughter of James, High Steward of Scotland and that of James Menzies of Menzies in 1540 to Barbara Stewart, daughter of the third Earl of Atholl and second cousin to Lord Darnley. The Menzies's actively supported the early attempt to restore the monarchy during the commonwealth and a son of the House, William, brother of the first Baronet, lost his life for that cause at the Battle of Worcester (1651). Loyalties to the Royal House of Stewart and to the Establishment were later to become divided however and Captain Robert Menzies, elder son of the first Baronet, sided with the Government forces under General Mackay at the Battle of Killiecrankie (1689) while other Menzies's (principally those of Pitfoddels) fought on the opposing Jacobite side under Viscount Dundee.

When the "Old Pretender", the Chevalier St.George, made a bid for the throne of Scotland in 1715, the Menzieses of Culdares, Bolfracks and Shian were among the Clans who rallied to the call, but the then Chief, Sir Robert, was but nine years old at the time and represented by his great-uncle James as regent or tutor and Captain James who had fought at Killiecrankie with his brother on the Government side, considered it prudent, not to commit his ward to the enterprise. In 1745 Rising, the Chief again adopted a neutral position and took no active part, but the Clan was 'out' under Menzies of Shian who subsequently paid dearly with his life and that of his son for the cause. the Chief, neverless gave to Prince Charlie the hospitality of his house for two days during the ill-fated retreat from Stirling to Inverness which ended in tragedy at Culloden.

Scotland is indebted to a Menzies for the introduction of the larch tree which now flourishes all over the Highlands. Menzies of Culdares, "Old Culdares" who had been pardoned for his participation in the 1715 Jacobite rising, brought the first larches from the Austrian Tyrol in 1737 and presented them to the Duke of Atholl. two original saplings, now grown to great size, can be seen beside Dunkeld Cathedral. Another earlier branch of the family, Pitoddels, now like Culdares extinct in the male line, has left as a memorial the Catholic College of Blairs in the Dee valley, founded by the last representative of that line