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Clan and Tartan

Tartan Tuesday: Clan Keith

Tartan Tuesday: Clan Keith
By Kirsty McIntyre

Clan motto: Veritas vincit ("Truth conquers")

View Keith tartan fabrics

Historically one of the most powerful clans in Scotland, the Keiths take their name from the lands of Keith in West Lothian. King David I granted the lands to the Keith ancestors in about 1150, and the son of Hervey de Keith was created Marischal of the King of Scots in 1776.

The title of Marischal (later Great Marischal of Scotland) was a hereditary title subsequently passed down through the Keith clan. The Marischal was responsible for acting as custodian for the Scottish Crown Jewels and protecting the king when he attended parliament. After 1458 the title was amended to Earl Marischal when William de Keith was made an Earl by King James II. The title was officially considered forfeit after 1715, due to the involvement of George Keith, 9th Earl Marischal, in the Jacobite uprising.

The Keiths spent many years feuding with their neighbours, the Irvines. The 14th century possession of lands in Caithness was also a source of conflict for the Keiths, as clan Gunn also laid claim to the area. In the 15th century a trial by combat was arranged between the two clans at the chapel of St. Tears, near Wick. It was agreed that each side would field twelve men on horseback, however, the Keiths arrived with two men on each horse and attacked the Gunns while they were praying in the chapel. Most of the Gunn clan were killed, including the clan chief. The feud officially ended in 1978, when the two clans signed a treaty of friendship.

Notable Keiths

American singer and actress Eartha Kitt was born Eartha Mae Keith in 1927. She starred alongside Adam West in the Batman television series in the 1960s and had a number of hit singles, including Santa Baby.

Penelope Keith is a British actress and TV presenter, most well known for her roles in the sitcoms To The Manor Born and The Good Life.