Burnetts Of Scotland - Introduction
The Burnetts Of Scotland

Compiled by E. Sue Terhune


The Burnetts Of Ley have held the lands of Crathes Castle since the time of Robert Bruce.  They are among the few Scottish families who can claim origin from English stock prior to the Norman Conquest.

So starts the story of the Burnetts of Crathes Castle in the book, Scottish Castles of the 16th. and 17th. Centuries. There are many accounts of this family in print for those who want to read a more complete history, but, for the sake of brevity, I have written a synopsis of the most important people, dates, and facts. You will notice several changes in  the way the name is spelled. This change in spelling occurs in most families over the centuries and is not uncommon. Variations for Burnett are: Burnard, Burnarde, Burnat, Burnet, and Burnett.

Originally the Manor of Arlesley, in Bedfordshire, England, was held by an Anglo-Saxon family by the name of Burnard. They first came to Scotland where they obtained a grant of land from the King Of Scots, David I  with the status of 'Tenant in Chief' for showing allegiance to the crown. (about 1114 A.D.) Robert de Burnard was witness to the foundation of the abbacy of kelson by King David I in 1128.

The immediate ancestor of this family is:

I. Alexander Burnard, who fought in support of Robert the Bruce (1274 - 1329) for Scottish independence from England. For his outstanding service , he received a grant of a part of the Royal Forest of Drum on Deeside and neighboring lands forfeited by the Comyns on March 28, 1324.  The Burnard's share was called ILLENACHCLERACH and included the now-drained loch and island of Banchory, known as Loch of Leys. For the first 200 years of the family's residence on Deeside, this was the site of their principal stronghold. Alexander was also awarded the title "Royal Forester of Drum".  As his badge of office he  received the "Horn of Leys", a carved ivory horn, decorated with guilt medal badges and semi-precious stones.

II. Robert Bernard - who got the family lands confirmed to him by a charter under the great seal by King David Bruce, dated at Scone, November 17, 1358.

III. John de Burnard who was the King's macer and received an annual wage of ten 'merks' sterling. (December 25, 1370)

IV. Robert Burnet of Leys, was one of an inquest upon the service of Alexander Auchterlony in 1409. It is thought that Robert was the Deputy Sherriff of Kincardineshire and, on July 24, 1411, fought in the Battle of Harlaw Hill, the bloodiest battle in Scotland's history.

V. John Burnett of Leys, died 1454.

VI. Alexander Burnet of Leys,laird 1454 - 1505, married Elizabeth Forbes.He got a charter under the great seal from King James III uniting all of his lands into a free baronacy in 1488. He was succeeded by his son.

VII.Alexander Burnet of Leys, laird 1505 - 1529 . He married Janet Gordon and was succeeded by his son.

VIII. Alexander Burnet of Leys, married Agnes Lichtoun and had a son. He died between 1525 to 1530.

IX. Alexander Burnet of Leys, laird 1529 - 1574, married 1/ Janet Hamilton, and 2/ Marjorie Forbes. In 1553, he began construction of Crathes Castle. It was still incomplete when he died in 1574. He had six sons and four daughters.

X. John Burnet of Leys, laird 1574 - 1575, married Elizabeth Lumisden  and had one son and two daughters.

XI. Alexander Burnet of Leys,laird 1575- 1578, married Katherine Arbuthnot of Pitcarlies and had six sons.

MOTTO - Virescit Vulnere Virtus (Courage Flourishes at a Wound)

XII. Alexander Burnet of Leys, married Katherine Gordon and had six sons and seven daughters. It took 16 years for Crathes Castle to be sufficiently finished for him to take up residence there. Carved stones showing his arms and initials and those of his wife, bear the date 1596. They were still furnishing the house in 1597 and some of the decorative painting was not complete until 1602. In 1619, a few months before his death, he began construction on a new house it Muchalls near Stonehaven which became known as Muchalls Castle.

XIII. Thomas Burnet of Leys, laird 1619 - 1653, married 1/ Margaret Douglas and 2/ Jean Moncrieff. In 1618, King James VI included him in a committee to look into the mismanagement of affairs of Aberdeen University; he was Knighted in 1620; he became an honorary Burgess of Aberdeen and he represented Kincardineshire in the Scottish Parliament of 1621. In 1626, he became the first Baron of Nova Scotia. Sir Thomas died June 27,  1653.  His son had died so he was succeeded briefly by his grandson Alexander.

XIV. Sir Alexander Burnet of Leys, 2nd. Baronet, 1653 - 1663, succeeded as a 16 year-old student at Kings College, Aberdeen and died at age 26. He was one of the few black sheep in the Burnett family. He was described at age 16 as being "dissolute and naughty"and managed to father at least six children before he died.

XV.Sir Thomas Burnet of Leys, 3rd. Baronet,1663 -1714. Served in the Scottish Parliament for Kincardineshire and after the Treaty of Union of 1707, he was a member of the Westminster Parliament of Great Britain. He had 21 children in 23 years (14 survived childhood) and died in 1714. His son William was given the governorships , first of New Jersey, and then, of Massachussetts (1728).

XVI.Sir Alexander Burnet of Leys, 4th. Baronet, married Helen Burnett of Muchalls. He refused to join either of the Jacobite Rebellions of 1715 and 1745. About 1715, his son, Sir Thomas, was killed by a splinter of rock during the draining of the Loch of Leys. After that tragedy, he developed a fear of ghosts and the famous "Green Lady of Crathes Castle" showed up.

XVII. Sir Robert Burnett of Leys,5th. Baronet, 1758 -1759. He died without having married and a seven year battle between two cousins, Burnett of Kimnay and Thomas Burnett of Criggie, ensued. In the end, Thomas won  the legal battle for the castle and the title.

XVIII. Sir Thomas Burnett, 6th, Baronet, 1759 - 1783, married Katherine Ramsey.

XIX. Sir Robert Burnett, 7th. Baronet, 1783 - 1837. He fought against the American rebels during the Revolutionary War and was captured at Saratoga.  Three of his sons succeeded to the title but died unmarried.

XX. Sir Thomas Burnett, 8th. Baronet, 1837 - 1849, died unmarried. He was a noted agriculturalist.

XXI. Sir James Horn, 9th. Baronet, died unmarried.

XXII. Sir Alexander, 10th. Baronet, died unmarried . He cashiered out of the East India Company for being drunk on parade.

XXIII. Sir Robert Burnett, 11th. Baronet, 1876 - 1894, married Matilda Murphy of New York. He was born in 1833 and emigrated to the United States where he completed his education at Oxford. He established himself as a sheep farmer in southern California where he had a large ranch of 25,000 acres bought in 1860 for $3,000. In 1885, he sold his property for $40,000.His property now includes several towns, including half of Los Angeles, a race track, industrial plants and factories, a university, and the Los Angeles Municipal Airport. After returning to Crathes Castle, his only son died leaving the title to his brother.

XXIV.Col. Thomas Burnett, 12th Baronet.

XXV.Major General Sir James Burnett, 13th. Baronet, (b. 1880 - d. 1953),1926 - 1953. He was a soldier of great distinction and became Colonel of the Gordon Highlanders.He and his wife Sybil had two sons, Alexander, who was killed at Oxford and, Roger who was killed in action while serving with the Scots Guards during World War II.Sir James insisted that whoever succeeded to the property should change his name to Burnett because Crathes had been owned continuously by Burnetts for 600 years.Sir James and Lady Burnett's daughter had four sons, one of which is now the Chief of the Burnetts.   In 1952, the 13th. Baron gave a portion of the estate to the Scottish people, where it remains under the care of the  National Trust for Scotland.

XXVI.James Comyn Amherst Cecil Burnett of Leys, (The Baronacy passes only through the main line, so the heir to the dormant Baronacy is Sir Alexander William Burnett Ramsay, who lives in New South Wales, Australia.)

 James C. A. Burnett of  Leys and Family - Head of the House of Burnett

On 9 June 2000, we received the following information from Doug Burnett 
mailto:Doug@metrolink.net :

Good Evening Sue
Just a couple of comments if I might. I in fact just got back from two weeks in England with one week in Aberdeen doing Burnett Research.  I have also been working with Eileen Baily, who is a genealogist on the staff of Jamie Burnett. The Tower Home (it really isn't a castle even though all the books call it that) was given by Jamie's grandfather along with 600 acres to the Scottish National Trust in 1951. The home no longer belongs to the family nor do they live in it now. The fire, in 1965 I think, burned their living quarters which were two wings of the home. They rebuilt about a mile down the road.  Jamie Burnett is "Head of the House of Burnett".  It is no longer a Clan. This was changed by Jamie.  Lastly he is not titled.  As noted the title belongs to a cousin in Australia.

The real tie to Burnett of Leys is still by inference vs having a direct tie identified.  There are three grave slabs in the Chapel of St Mary in the Kirk of St Nicholas in Aberdeen. One is the father of the Burnett who came to Va.  On his stone slab is the coat of arms of Burnett of Leys. All agree that without a family tie he could not have used this but the tie has not been identified to my knowledge. These were brought into the chapel from somewhere in the graveyard in one of the many renovations that have gone on there. We went to church there on Sunday the 7th of May.  It was really a super visit.  I have met Jamie through a mutual drinking buddy if you will.

While in Aberdeen we also got to visit a private home owned by Susan Burnett and she is a Burnett of Kemnay. They split off from the Burnett of Leys some time back over a dispute as to which way the line should have gone when one of the Burnetts died without issue.  Jamie's side obviously won.  The interesting thing is that Susan still has the key to the Tower House(Crathes) and I got to see/hold it.  Jamie had asked for us to bring it home if we could.  Didn't make it though.  Susan is in her late 70s and her family has lived in this home for over 300 years.  She has published a book "Without Fanfare" by Susan Burnett.  ISBN 0 952 3979 94   We got her to autograph our copy when we were there.  You might try htttp://home.pacbell.net/roothub/withoutfanfare.html   This gives ordering info for her book as well as her address.   Jamie is publishing a book this July on the Family .

These websites are a few created for those who are researching the Burnett Family history.

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