The Gaelic word "dubh" meaning "black" is the origin of the name Duff which thus goes back further than recorded history. There was a king of Alba named Duff in the 10th century. It is doubtful whether there ever was a Macduff, Thane of Fife, as portrayed in Shakespeare's "Macbeth". But a grand-daughter of Queen Gruoch (who became Lady MacBeth) was from the line of King Dubh and she married Aedh, a son of Malcolm III>. One of his descendants, Gillemichael MacDuff, the 3rd Earl of Fife, had a grandson Michael who was the source of the Wemyss family of MacDuff, while another descendant may have been the ancestor of the Duffs of Banffshire. The royal ancestry is acknowledged by the use of the lion rampant in the MacDuff crest.
Duncan MacDuff, who died in 1154 was made a hereditary earl by King David I and the Macduffs were given the honour of crowning the king. In 1306, when the Earl of Fife was held in England, it was Isabella, Countess of Buchan, his sister, who crowned Robert the Bruce> at Scone.
In the reign of Robert II (1390-1406) David Duff was granted lands in Banffshire. The family prospered in the 17th century and in 1759 William Duff, the Member of Parliament for Banff, was made Earl of Fife and Viscount Macduff. It was he who had commissioned the construction of the impressive Duff House in Banff in 1740. The 2nd Earl of Fife changed the name of the Banffshire village of Doune to MacDuff at the end of the 18th century. The 4th Earl of Fife fought in the Peninsula War in 1808-14 and was made a Knight of the Thistle. In 1889, the 6th Earl married Princess Louise, eldest daughter of the future King Edward VII. He was made Duke of Fife. By a later marriage of his daughter, the title passed to Lord Carnegie and so the Carnegie chief now also carries the shield of Wemyss of Wemyss.
Duffy is an Irish version of the name although Duffie is usually a truncated version of MacPhee. Dow is another variant of Duff which is common in Aberdeenshire - where it was pronounced "doo".
The MacDuff clan motto is "Deus juvat" which means "God assists".
Surnames regarded as septs (sub-branch) of the MacDuff clan include Fife, Fyfe and Kilgour.
There are MacDuff clan Web sites here>.
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