The name almost certainly was derived from the town of Comines in northern France and came over after the Norman invasion. However, some experts suggest that the name came from a herb "cummin" which was spelt "comyn" in early times.
There were Comyns in eastern England in the 12th and 13th centuries and Wilhelmus Comyn, Bishop of Durham came north to Scotland with King David I> in 1124 and was appointed Chancellor of Scotland. He established his nephew Richard in Tynedale and Roxburghshire and Richard also rose to be Chancellor of Scotland. It is from him that the titled line was descended. Richard married a grand-daughter and heiress of King Donald III. As a result of this royal blood, there was even a claim by the Comyns to the throne at a later stage. But that was not to be.
Richard's son, William, then married the heiress of the last Celtic Earl of Buchan, inheriting the earldom. The family rose to be one of the most powerful in Scotland, with land in Buchan and Speyside. William's son became Constable of Scotland while later Comyns became Earl of Mentieth and another the Earl of Angus. In all, the Comyns held 13 Scottish earldoms in the 13th century.
Hervy de Cunningham from Kilmaurs fought with King Alexander III> at the Battle of Largs in 1263 in which the Viking invasion of mainland Scotland was repulsed. Later, following the death of King Alexander III in 1286 and the minority of his grand-daughter and successor, Queen Margaret (the "Maid of Norway"), John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch and Alexander Comyn, Earl of Buchan were two of the six "Guardians of the Realm".
Claimants for the Throne
Following the death of Margaret in 1290, John Comyn's son (also named John but often referred to as "Black Comyn") was one of the six competitors for the throne as a descendant of Donald III. The other claimants included John Balliol and Robert Bruce the elder (known as "The Great Competitor"). They were descended from Donald's elder brother, King Malcolm III and so technically had better claims.
When King Edward I of England offered to "adjudicate", he selected John Balliol (believing that he could dominate him more easily). The Black Comyn (and Robert the Bruce's grandfather) acknowledged Balliol as king. In a move designed to strengthen the claim on the throne, John's son (also named John but usually referred to as "Red Comyn") married Balliol's sister.
Eventually, Balliol rebelled and Edward came north. At this time, Bruce was one of those who rendered homage to Edward and Balliol seized the Bruce lands and gave them to Red Comyn (his nephew). Edward defeated the Scots at the Battle of Dunbar and marched across Scotland and removed such precious items as the Stone of Destiny and the Scottish crown. He humiliated Balliol by removing his royal insignia. He then demanded that all the Scottish landowners should sign an oath of allegiance to him - a document which became known as the "Ragman Rolls">. There were nine Comyns of sufficient stature to sign the document (along with another 2,000 signatories).
Many of the nobles did not give much support to the efforts of William Wallace> to remove the English domination of Scotland but Red Comyn was one who did. As a Guardian of Scotland (1298-1301 and 1302-1304) he often quarreled with the other nobles - in 1299 he was seen to seize the Earl of Carrick (later Robert I>) by the throat. At the Battle of Roslin in 1303, an invading English army led by Sir John Segrave was defeated by Red Comyn. Following the death of Wallace, Bruce and Red Comyn appeared to be moving to an alliance to rise up against Edward. The two met at Greyfriar's Kirk, Dumfries on 10 February 1306. We don't know the details of what happened but during the meeting but Robert the Bruce stabbed Red Comyn. Comyn (and his uncle who was also present) were killed and the following month King Robert I ("The Bruce") was crowned at Scone.
Despite the principles of chivalry which prevailed at that time, murder of one noble by another was not unusual in those days. Even so, because it had taken place in a church, Robert the Bruce was excommunicated (at least for a while) by the Pope for his crime. Bruce ruthlessly raided the Buchan lands and destroyed the Comyn family there. When Red Comyn's only son died at the Battle of Bannockburn (fighting for the English) the hereditary office of Constable of Scotland and the castle of Slains were given to the Hays> of Errol (who were distantly related).
The Cummings of Altyre, descended from a brother of the Black Comyn, became established in Moray and were frequently in conflict with the Clan Chattan (particularly over the ownership of Rait castle). Robert, the 13th Chief of Altyre married a Gordon heiress, thus bringing the Gordonstoun land into the family. Later generations adopted the name Gordon-Cumming, the name of the present chief.
The Cumming/Comyn clan motto is "Courage".
Surnames regarded as septs (sub-branch) of the Cumming/Comyn clan include Comine, Cumin, MacNiven, Niven and Russell. Cumming is the form of the name found mainly in Scotland while Cummings is the version more frequently used in England.
Clan Web Sites
There are Cumming/Comyn clan Web sites here> and here as well as here
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