Although this is one of the great families of Northeast Scotland, the name originally came from a location in Berwickshire (probably 'gor-dun' meaning hill fort). The name appears in the Borders in the reigns of King Malcolm IV and King William> the Lion in the 12th century. Sir Adam de Gordon was appointed to the lordship of Strathbogie and Badenoch in the North-East of the country by Robert the Bruce>, in place of the Comyns, who had opposed him. Sir Adam had been one of those who petitioned the Pope to remove the excommunication of Bruce after he murdered John Comyn in 1306.
The Gordons were major landowners, rather than a traditional tribal clan but became known as the "Cock o' the North". The 1st Earl of Huntly is said to have rewarded anyone who adopted the name Gordon with a gift of oatmeal. In the 15th century, Sir Alexander Gordon was created Lord Gordon and his son the first Earl of Huntly (a name which had also originated in the Borders). In the power struggle between King James II> and the Douglas> family, the Douglases burned down Huntly Castle> but were later defeated. A grander castle was built in its place.
The 4th Earl of Huntly was an adviser to Mary of Guise when she was regent in place of the absent Mary Queen of Scots>. Gordons remained staunch Catholics and supporters of King Charles II> in the Civil War of 1642-1648, but they refused to support the Marquis of Montrose.
The 2nd Duke of Gordon supported the "Old Pretender" in the first Jacobite Uprising in 1715 and fought at the Battle of Sheriffmuir on September 12, 1715. His son, the 3rd Duke, remained loyal to the Hanoverian government in the 1745 Uprising> but his brother fought for Bonnie Prince Charlie>.
The Gordon clan motto is "Bydand" which means "Remaining".
Surnames regarded as septs (sub-branch) of the Gordon clan include Addison, Adie, Aitcheson, Aitken, Barrie, Cullen, Eadie, Edie, Geddes, Huntly, Mavor, Milne, Todd.
Gordon was the 50th most frequent surname at the General Register Office> in 1995.
There is a Gordon clan Web site here and in USA as well as Virginia and Canada and New Zealand.
Return to Index of Clans/Family Histories.
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