In the early twelfth century, Alexander I granted the lands of Anstruther in Fife to William de Candela. Various origins have been attributed to him but nineteenth century research points to a descent from the Normans in Italy. It is known that William the Conqueror sought help from them and that a William, Count of Candela in Apulia, sent a son. The William de Candela who received the grant from Alexander was probably this son, or possibly his grandson as he did not die till the reign of Malcolm IV (1153–65). William de Candela’s son, also William, was a benefactor of Balmerino Abbey, giving to the monks the site presently occupied by the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther. Henry, in the next generation, discontinued the name Candela and is described as ‘Henricus de Aynstrother dominus ejusdem’ in a charter confirming grants to Balmerino. His son, another Henry, accompanied the crusade of Louis IX of France to the Holy Land. He was obliged to swear fealty to Edward I in 1292 and again in 1296.
In the eighth generation, in 1483, Andrew Anstruther of Anstruther obtained confirmation of the barony and was among the Scottish nobles who fought at Flodden in 1513. He married Christina Sandilands who was descended from Sir James Sandilands of Calder and Princess Jean, or Joanna, daughter of Robert II. His younger son, David, fought at Pavia in 1520 in the king of France’s Scots Regiment; his descendants died out in the male line with the death of the last Baron d’Anstrude in 1928.
Andrew’s eldest son, John, married a Douglas of Loch Leven and their great-grandson, perhaps through this relationship with the Regent Morton, was chosen to be a companion of the young King James VI who in 1585 appointed him Hereditary Grand Carver, an office confirmed by Parliament in the reign of Queen Anne and still held by the head of the family. In 1595 he became Master of the Household. His elder son, William, accompanied the king to England following the Union of the Crowns in 1603 and was made a Knight of The Bath at the coronation. He was a Gentleman of the Bedchamber to James VI, as was his younger brother, Sir Robert. The latter was a Privy Councillor and an ambassador to Denmark in 1620 and to the Holy Roman Empire, 1627–30; he acquired pictures abroad for the Royal Collection which was largely dispersed under the Commonwealth.
His son, Sir Philip, succeeded his uncle at Anstruther, fought on the Royalist side in the civil war and received Charles II at Dreel Castle after his coronation at Scone in 1651. Sir Philip was taken prisoner at Worcester later that year and his property was sequestered until the Restoration. His eldest son was a Privy Councillor and, as Lord Anstruther, a Lord of Session; his second son, Sir James Anstruther of Airdrie, became an advocate and Principal Clerk of the Bills in the Court of Session and the third son, Robert, was made a baronet in 1694 and acquired Balcaskie in 1698. Lord Anstruther’s son, John, was made a baronet in 1700 and married Lady Margaret Carmichael, daughter of the second Earl of Hyndford. The fifth of these distinguished brothers was knighted and, as Sir Alexander Anstruther, married the Hon. Jean Leslie, granddaughter of the famous civil war general, David Leslie. General Leslie had been created Lord Newark in August 1661 with the title being restricted to heirs male of his body.
Jean Anstruther’s father, the second Lord Newark, died in 1694 and she assumed the title Baroness Newark in her own right. The two sons of Sir Alexander also claimed the Newark title, through their mother, and were accepted as such, even voting at the election of Scots representative peers to Parliament. It was not until 1790 that Sir Alexander’s son, Alexander, the titular fourth Lord Newark, was challenged by the Duke of Buccleuch to prove his title. Lord Newark died only a year later and although his son briefly used the title, he agreed to relinquish it in 1793.
His great-grandson inherited the Carmichael estates as heir general on the death of the last earl in 1817. The present chiefs of Clan Carmichael descend from him and no longer bear the name Anstruther. On the death of Sir Windham Carmichael-Anstruther in 1989, the seventh Baronet of Balcaskie, as heir male, became chief of the name of Anstruther, twelfth Baronet and Baron of Anstruther. The daughter of Sir William Anstruther-Gray, Coldstream Guards, first and last Baronet and Baron Kilmany, descends from the second Baronet of Balcaskie and is married to The Mcnab. Robert, elder son of the third Baronet of Balcaskie, was a Member of Parliament, served in the Scots Fusilier Guards and took part in the French Revolutionary wars, Abercromby’s Egyptian Campaign and the Peninsular War. He commanded a brigade at Vimiero in 1808 and the rear guard during the retreat to Corunna, where he died in 1809. Sir John Moore, the commander-in-chief, was buried beside him at his own request in the Citadel in Corunna. The general’s son and grandson, the fourth and fifth Baronets, were Members of Parliament and served in the Grenadier Guards. The sixth Baronet served in the Royal Engineers during the Bechuanaland campaign and in the First World War, he and his son Robert served in the Black Watch. The 7th Baronet, Sir Ralph Anstruther of that Ilk,, served in the Coldstream Guards during the Second World War and was awarded the Military Cross. He was Treasurer and Equerry to Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. His great-grandson, Sir Ralph died in May 2002 and was suceeded by his cousin Ian, an author.
The chief’s seat is still at Balcaskie in Fife. The house was built, probably about 1670, by Sir William Bruce, second son of Robert Bruce of Blairhall, a descendant of the Bruces of Clackmannan.