The Fleming clan comprises all people who descend from the family of this name that possessed large estates in Lanarkshire (Scotland) from the 14th to the 18th century. The clan has been without a leader since the eighteenth chief (Reverend Charles Fleming 7th Earl of Wigtown and 12th Lord Fleming) died in 1747. As a result, Clan Fleming is now an armigerous clan until such time as a new chief is officially recognised by Scotland’s Lord Lyon King of Arms.
Contrary to a myth promoted by vendors of clan merchandise, there is no evidence of any association with Clan Murray.
The family was founded by Robert Fleming who was born before 1280 and died before 1314. He was a loyal supporter of Robert Bruce (Earl of Carrick) who was one of two contenders for the Scottish throne in 1306. On 10 February of that year Fleming was present when Bruce met his rival John Comyn III of Badenoch before the high altar of the Greyfriars church in Dumfries. Legend says that Bruce stabbed Comyn and that his cousin Roger de Kirkpatrick proclaimed "I mak sikker" (I make sure) before applying the coup de grace. Fleming then decapitated their victim and presented his head to Bruce with the words "Let the deed shaw".
With his rival thus eliminated, Bruce was crowned as King Robert I of Scotland six weeks later. Soon afterwards he rewarded Fleming's support by granting him the baronies of Cumbernauld and Lenzie that had hitherto been held by the Comyn family for 150 years. Cumbernauld became the primary seat of the Fleming clan over the next 450 years and “Let the deed shaw” became the clan’s motto. "I make sure" was adopted as the motto of the Kirkpatrick clan.
King Robert I soon granted arms to Robert Fleming - gules, a chevron within a double tressure flory counter-flory argent. This means a silver chevron within a silver royal tressure on a red background. Silver (argent) symbolises the chivalrous virtues of cleanliness, wisdom, innocence, sincerity, peace and joy while red (gules) represents eagerness to serve one's country. These arms symbolised Fleming's personal loyalty to the King as they were essentially the inverse of his arms as Earl of Carrick – argent, a chevron gules.
King Robert may have also had a hand in arranging Robert Fleming's marriage to Marjory of Biggar. Her father (or uncle), Hugh of Biggar, was Fleming's contemporary and also a Bruce supporter. When Hugh died childless, the Biggar estates were inherited by Marjory, Fleming's wife. This estate had originally been granted to Baldwin le Fleming of Biggar two centuries earlier. While Baldwin's estate at Biggar was later inherited by subsequent chiefs of the Fleming clan, Baldwin was a maternal ancestor and not, as some historians have concluded, an ancestor of Robert Fleming himself.
Robert was succeeded by his eldest son Malcolm Fleming who was very active in support of Scotland’s kings and was appointed 1st Earl of Wigtown. He was succeeded by his grandson Thomas Fleming, who oversaw the building of Cumbernauld Castle despite the challenges posed by the Black Death. Unfortunately, he was forced to sell the earldom, the family seat at Fulwood and other land. He died childless and was succeeded by his cousin Malcolm Fleming, Robert’s grandson.
Malcolm Fleming's father Patrick was Robert Fleming's second son. As was customary, while Robert's primary estate (Cumbernauld) had gone to Patrick's older brother Malcolm, the estate of Robert's wife (Marjory of Biggar) had gone to her second son, Patrick. During Patrick's lifetime the Fleming clan chief was firstly his father Robert, secondly his older brother Malcolm and thirdly his grand-nephew Thomas.
Patrick Fleming had married Joan Fraser who was heiress to Sir Simon Fraser of Olivercastle in Peebleshire. Fraser was an occasional supporter of Robert Bruce who had been captured by the English army in 1306 and (on the orders of King Edward I) was hanged, drawn and quartered in London later that year.
Patrick Fleming's son Malcolm inherited Biggar from his father and Olivercastle from his mother. He had quartered his arms with Fraser - azure three fraises argent (three silver strawberries on a blue background). On the death of his cousin (Thomas Fleming) he inherited Cumbernauld and Lenzie and became clan chief. His quartered arms then became the arms of the clan chief and were inherited by all subsequent chiefs.
Malcolm was succeeded by his son David Fleming who became Deputy Chamberlain of Scotland and also served as an Ambassador to England. He was succeeded by his son Malcolm who served as a hostage for King James I in 1421 and 1423 but was executed for treason in November 1440; later exonerated. He was succeeded by his son Robert Fleming who became Master of the King’s Household and was appointed as the first Lord Fleming of Cumbernauld.
Robert was succeeded by his grandson John Fleming 2nd Lord Fleming who was appointed Vice-Admiral of James IV’s fleet in 1511, Ambassador to France in 1513 and 1518 and Chamberlain of Scotland in 1515. He was succeeded by his son Malcolm 3rd Lord Fleming who was appointed Lord High Chamberlain of Scotland and married Janet Stewart, daughter of King James IV. After becoming a widow, she was mistress to King Henry II of France, giving birth to his son Harry de Valois, le Batard d’Angouleme. She died at Boghall about 1564.
David Fleming's brother Patrick founded the Fleming family of Bord. David's son (also David) founded the Fleming family of Boghall.
The line continued down several more generations through John 6th Lord Fleming who was appointed 1st Earl of Wigtown (second creation). There followed four more Johns and a William before the Reverend Charles Fleming (7th Earl of Wigtown and 10th Lord Fleming) died childless in 1747, the last chief of the Fleming clan. The family’s lands passed into the Elphinstone family through the marriage of his niece and heiress Lady Clementina Fleming to Charles Elphinstone (who became the 10th Lord Elphinstone in 1757 on the death of his father). The Fleming and Fraser arms are incorporated within the arms of Alexander 19th Lord Elphinstone to this day.
Robert Fleming's legendary words "Let the deed shaw" (uttered at Blackfriars church in Dumfries on 10 February 1306) were adopted as the clan's motto. Given the circumstances of their origin, the words could be interpreted as "might makes right", an anti-social concept. The interpretation "actions speak louder than words" is preferred.
The clan's crest is "a goat's head erased argent, armed or" (a silver goat's head with golden horns). The goat is emblematic of persistence and strength while the colour gold represents understanding, respect, virtue and generosity.