Fife is bounded to north and south by the Firths of Tay and Forth respectively, and Perthshire to the west, and is approximately contiguous with the original Pictish kingdom of Fib. It became one of the original mormaerdoms, and the Mormaer of Fife the highest ranking noble, with the hereditary right of crowning the King. The mormaer was also chief of Clan MacDuff, a name meaning son of King Dubh, this referring to the King Cinaed (or Kenneth) III, son of Dubh. Kenneth was killed in battle against Malcolm II in 1005, though his family retained the mormaership of Fife, and the family name of MacDuff stemmed from him. The Shakespearian character named MacDuff was probably the grandson of Kenneth, and son of Giric, but the name MacDuff was probably used as a surname of the clan leader, whether or not he was also mormaer. The relatively benign climate of the area, the long seaboard and the closeness to the heart of Scotland meant that Fife from the earliest times was an important province. This is made clear by the number of important historical sites in the area, especially of an ecclesiastical nature.
Earls of Fife (c.1115)
1st Earl of Fife, Causantin MacDuff, b.1095, a.c.1115, d.c.1128
Causantin, anglicised as Constantine, has a lot of historical references, and existed around the time of King David I, to whom he appears to have been a loyal supporter, and probably died circa 1128, when he seems to have held what would later be interpreted as the Justiciarship of Scotland North of the Forth.
2nd Earl of Fife, Gille Micheil MacDuff, b.?, a.c.1128, d.1136
By the Celtic custom, Gille Micheil was probably a nephew of Causantin, and the then current head of the clan.
3rd Earl of Fife, Duncan MacDuff, b.?, a.1136, d.1154
Duncan, or Donnchad, was likely to have been Causantinís son and took over as head of the clan. His territory was re-granted to him under feudal charter by David I.
4th Earl of Fife, Duncan II MacDuff, b.b.1154, a.1154, d.1204
The rules of feudal primogeniture now replaced the Celtic custom, and so this Duncan is the son of the previous earl rather than Aed, the son of Gille Micheil. It is likely that the leadership of the clan, still operating under the old system, would have passed to a cousin. As with previous mormaers and earls of Fife, he was Justiciar of the North, and he married Ada, who was a close, if illegitimate, relative of King Malcolm IV.
5th Earl of Fife, Malcolm MacDuff, b.?, a.1204, d.1228
Son of the 4th Earl. Malcolm is the English version of Mael Choluim. Little is known about him, except for the fact that he is credited with the founding of Culross Abbey.
6th Earl of Fife, Malcolm II MacDuff, b.?, a.1228, d.1266
Nephew of the 5th Earl, being the son of Malcolmís brother, another Duncan. He was present at the signing of the Treaty of York in 1237, which defined the boundary between England and Scotland. This boundary remains intact to this day, excepting the small area around Berwick. Malcolm crowned Alexander III and acted as one of the royal guardians, although he seems to have had a close relationship to Henry III of England.
7th Earl of Fife, Colban MacDuff, b.?, a.1266, d.c.1272
Son of the 6th Earl. Again, little is known about him, and he seems to have died quite young.
8th Earl of Fife, Duncan III MacDuff, b.?, a.c.1272, d.1288
Son of the 7th Earl and Anna, daughter of Alan Durward. He succeeded to the earldom at an early age, and the earldom was supervised by Bishop William Wishart of St Andrews, who took the opportunity to confiscate lands of the MacDuff. Duncan was later made one of the Guardians of Scotland by Edward I of England during the first Interregnum, which gave him the opportunity to take back the lands denied his family. He was murdered by members of his own clan for reasons unknown.
9th Earl of Fife, Duncan IV MacDuff, b.c.1285, a.1288, d.1353
Son of the 8th Earl and Johanna de Clare, daughter of Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Gloucester. He succeeded as a baby, and therefore could not perform at the Coronation of John Balliol, although he did follow his father as a Guardian until Balliol became King. He was also not available for the Coronation of Robert Bruce, hostage in England at the time, leaving his sister Isabella to perform that duty. In 1315, Duncan resigned his title to the King, his wife still held captive in England, but with the stipulation that if he died childless, the King would ensure that the earldom would be granted to a suitable non-royal noble. In the event, having no sons, he was succeeded by his daughter. He signed the Declaration of Arbroath and fought at the Battle of Dupplin Moor, where the Scots were defeated by the tactical superiority of Edward Balliol, and tried to lead the remnants of the army in an orderly retreat, though he was captured and forced to act as Coroner to Balliol. He was captured again following the Battle of Halidon Hill, though eventually given his freedom.
10th Earl (Countess), Isabella MacDuff, b.?, a.1353, d.1389
Daughter of the 8th Earl and Mary de Monthermer (b.1298, d.a.1371), daughter of Ralph de Monthermer, Earl of Gloucester. As her father had resigned the earldom, she did not automatically inherit his titles. However in 1361 she married Walter Stewart (b.1336-1347, d.1362), a son of King Robert II, who was made Earl of Fife de uxoris. After his death she was recognised as the Countess of Fife properly. In 1371, having no children from four marriages, she resigned the earldom to Robert Stewart, another of the Kingís sons, who would later also become 1st Duke of Albany.
Earls of Fife (1371)
1st Earl of Fife, Robert Stewart, b. c.1340, a.1398, d.1420
Son of King Robert II and granted the earldom of Fife after it was resigned by the Countess of Fife. For a more detailed account of Robert and his son, please refer to the Albany page.
2nd Earl of Fife, Murdoch Stewart, b.1362, a.1420, d.1425
Son of the 1st Earl and Margaret Graham, Countess of Menteith. Although all-powerful for the handful of years between his fatherís death and the return of King James I from captivity in England, he was later executed for treason and all his titles forfeit.
Earls Fife (1759)
1st Earl Fife, William Duff, b.1697, a.1759, d.1763
The surname Duff, from the Celtic Dubh, meaning of dark complexion, would have been taken by many people with no connection to the original earls of Fife. However, one Alexander Duff, a successful businessman, took the opportunity prior to the Union, when Scotland was going through a major economic depression, to buy estates in Banffshire and Buchan. This practice continued with his son, also Alexander Duff, who was MP for Banffshire, and grandson William Duff of Braco (b.?, d.1718). When this William Duff died, all the estates and wealth passed to his uncle, also William Duff (b.?, d.1722). This man was already a wealthy landowner in his own right, having acquired estates in Moray including Dupple and Pluscardine, and when he died, the combined holdings were inherited by his own son, also William Duff, who thereafter had Balvenie Castle rebuilt. He served as a Whig MP for Banffshire from 1727 to 1734 and in 1735 was created 1st Baron Braco of Kilbride, County Cavan, in the Peerage of Ireland, even though Braco was in Scotland. Between 1740 and 1745 he built the mansion of Duff House on the outskirts of Banff. During the Jacobite Rebellion, he pledged himself to the Government. In 1759 he was created 1st Earl Fife and 1st Viscount MacDuff, both in the Peerage of Ireland, though the titles are Scottish in origin, after proving his descent from the original Earls of Fife.
2nd Earl Fife, James Duff, b.1729, a.1763, d.1809
Son of the 1st Earl and Jean Grant (b.1705, d.1788), daughter of Sir James Grant of Grant, 6th Baronet Colquhoun of Colquhoun in the County of Dumbarton. He served as MP for Banffshire for 30 years beginning in 1754, and then a further six years for Elginshire. He provided the town of Macduff, next to Banff, with its current name, it having previously been known as Doune, had the harbour built and the status of the town elevated to a Royal burgh. In 1790 he was created 1st Baron Fife in the Peerage of Great Britain, and held the Lord-Lieutenancy of Banffshire from 1795 until his death. He married Dorothea Sinclair, only child of Alexander Sinclair, 9th Earl of Caithness, but his three children by his wifeís maid were illegitimate. On his death, the GB Barony became extinct.
3rd Earl Fife, Alexander Duff, b.1731, a.1809, d.1811
Younger brother of the 2nd Earl.
4th Earl Fife, James Duff, b.1776, a.1811, d.1857
Son of the 3rd Earl and Mary Skene. Educated at Westminster College and Oxford, he fought for the Spanish in the Peninsular Wars against Napolean and was wounded at the Battle of Talavera in 1809. He eventually reached the rank of Major-General in the Spanish Army, and was decorated as a Knight of the Order of San Fernando and of the Order of the Sword of Sweden. He also held the office of Lord-Lieutenant of Banffshire for many years. Later in his life, he served as a Tory MP for Banffshire, and was made Lord of the Bedchamber in 1819, and again in 1827. He was invested as a Knight Grand Cross of the Hanoverian Order in 1823 and a Knight of the Thistle in 1827. He was made 1st Baron Fife in the Peerage of the United Kingdom, also in 1827, this expiring on his death. He married Lady Maria Caroline Manners (b.?, d.1805), daughter of Louisa Tollemache, 7th Countess of Dysart and John Manners (a grandson of John Manners, 2nd Duke of Rutland) but they had no children.
5th Earl Fife, James Duff, b.1814, a.1857, d.1879
Nephew of the 4th Earl, being son of that manís younger brother General Sir Alexander Duff (b.c.1778, d.1851) and Anne Stein (b.c.1789, d.1859). He was a Liberal MP for Banffshire from 1837 to 1857, Lord-Lieutenant of Elgin from 1851 to 1856 and Lord-Lieutenant of Banffshire from 1856 to 1879. He was created 1st Baron Skene of Skene (an area of Aberdeenshire that had come to the family from his grandmother) in the Peerage of the United Kingdom in 1857, and was made a Knight of the Thistle in 1860.
6th Earl Fife, Alexander William George Duff, b.1849, a.1879, d.1912
Son of the 5th Earl and Lady Agnes Georgiana Elizabeth Hay (b.1829, d.1869), daughter of Sir William George Hay, 18th Earl of Erroll. Being descended from King William IV through his maternal grandmother, his power and influence, already extensive as a major landowner, could only grow. Born in Edinburgh and educated at Eton, he was Lord-Lieutenant of Elginshire from 1871 to 1902, and a Liberal MP for Elginshire and Nairnshire from 1874 to 1879. Shortly after succeeding his father, he was made a Privy Counsellor and Captain of the Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms, followed closely by entry into the Order of the Thistle in 1881. In 1885 he was created 1st Earl of Fife in the Peerage of the United Kingdom and in 1889 created 1st Duke of Fife and 1st Marquess of Macduff after marrying Princess Louise of Wales, grand-daughter of Queen Victoria and daughter of the future King Edward VII. In 1900 he obtained a re-grant as 1st Duke of Fife, with the additional title of 1st Earl of Macduff, with special remainder to his daughters and their male heirs.
Dukes of Fife (1900)
1st Duke of Fife, Alexander William George Duff, b.1849, a.1900, d.1912
In 1901 he was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order. He also served as Lord-Lieutenant of London from 1900 to 1912. In 1911 he was made a Knight of the Garter. At the Coronations of both Edward VII and George V he was in attendance as Lord High Constable. In December of 1911 he travelled to Egypt with his family, but contracted pleurisy after being shipwrecked in the Moroccan coast, and though rescued died at Aswan the following month. When he died, all of his titles created prior to 1900 became extinct.
2nd Duke (Duchess) of Fife, Alexandra Victoria Alberta Edwina Louise Duff, b.1891, a.1912, d.1959
Daughter of the 1st Duke and HRH Princess Louise, daughter of King Edward VII. She was fifth in line to the thrown when she was born. Although she was not automatically entitled to be a Princess, when her mother was created Princess Royal by the King, she and her younger sister Maud were created Princess of the realm with precedence immediately following the Royal Family. This gave her the distinction, with Maud, of being the only daughters of a Princess to be given the title of Princess in their own right. In 1910 she became engaged to Prince Christopher of Greece, but the engagement was ended when both sets of parents signalled their disapproval. She was with her parents when they were shipwrecked, and, following his death, succeeded him according to the special remainder of the 1900 peerages †In 1913 he married Major-General Arthur Frederick Patrick Albert Windsor, Prince of Connaught, son of Prince Arthur, 1st Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, third son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who was her first cousin once-removed, and carried out royal engagements with her husband. During the First World War she served as a nurse, and in 1920 accompanied her husband when he was appointed as Governor-General of the Union of South Africa, where she worked as a nurse in local hospitals. Her only son, Alistair Arthur Windsor (b.1914, d.1943), who had succeeded his paternal grandfather as 2nd Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, died before her, and the dukedom passed to her nephew.
3rd Duke of Fife, James George Alexander Bannerman Carnegie, b.1929, a.1959
Nephew of the 2nd Duchess, being the son of her younger sister, Princess Maud Alexandra Victoria Georgina Bertha Duff (b.1893, d.1945) and Sir Charles Alexander Carnegie, 11th Earl of Southesk. A member of the extended Royal Family, though not on the Civil List, he was educated at Gordonstoun and the Royal Agricultural College before serving with the Scots Guards in Malaya from 1948 to 1950. As well as being 3rd Duke, he is also 3rd Earl of Macduff, 12th Earl of Southesk, 12th Lord Carnegie of Kinnaird, 12th Lord Carnegie of Kinnaird and Leuchars, 4th Baron Balinhard of Farnell in the County of Forfar and 9th Baronet Carnegie of Pitcarrow in the County of Kincardine, and is Chief of Clan Carnegie.
The courtesy title for the heir is Earl of Southesk.
(Last updated: 08/06/2011)