Tartan Ribbon

Menzies Tartan History


As many customers do ask, here's a little "potted history" with apologies to better historians than me for the bits I've undoubtedly got wrong . . .  

 The name "Menzies" is actually the English surname "Manners", who were the ancestors of the Duke of Rutland. Both names are likely to be derived from "Mesnieres", a Norman surname. The "z" is Menzies is never pronounced as in zebra, as the old Scottish leter meant a guttural sound, somewhere between "y" and "g"... so the pronounciation is something like "Mingis" (with a soft "g").

The name Menzies appears in early Scottish history with a Sir Robert de Meneris mentioned at the court of King Alexander II (around 1124) and in 1149 he was made Chamberlain of Scotland. The original home of the clan appears to be Atholl and Rannoch, and later in Aberfeldy and Tay. "Meneris" became "Mengues" and a Sir Robert de Mengues was companion-in-arms to Robert the Bruce; so began an illustrious line of military-Menzies descendants. In the 14th century during the Wars of Independence, Clan Menzies supported Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn.

In the sixteenth century, King James IV of Scots granted a charter converting all Menzies lands into a barony. By now the clan was Gaelic speaking and the chief became known as "Am Mainnearach" meaning "The Menzies". During the English/Scottish Civil War the main part of the Menzies from Weems joined forces with Clan Campbell in support of the Scottish Argyll government. Despite both their Stewart and royal links, the Menzies chiefs opposed King Charles I. By 1651 the Scottish Covenator Government had become disillusioned with the English parliament and decided to join the royalists instead. In 1665 a Sir Alexander Menzies was created Baronet of Nova Scotia and his brother, Colonel James Menzies of Culdares (from whom the current family line descends) received no fewer than nine arrow wounds in his legs battling the marauding MacDonalds of Glencoe.

Menzies of Culdares rallied to the Jacobite cause in 1715 and when Bonnie Prince Charlie landed in Scotland in 1745, Culdares was too old to attend the prince in person so he sent the prince his finest horse. During both the 1715 and 1745 Jacobite uprisings the main part of Clan Menzies remained neutral, however branches of the clan such as Menzies of Shian and Menzies of Pitfodel fought on the side of the Jacobites.

The "Red Menzies" tartan is probably the oldest Scottish tartan of all; the clan motto is "Gael 'us Dearg a suas!" which means "Up with the white and the red!" The "Black Menzies" version was originally used in mourning, and then at other important events (including possibly weddings). The tartan shown here is the "Black Menzies".

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