The Bruce Curse

A Stuart-Bruce Book Note

In the first Stuart-Bruce book The Six Trillion Dollar Man, the Bruce curse contributes to the misfortunes affecting Duncan Stuart-Bruce’s family, as it had affected the ancestors for over 700 years. Early readers of The Six Trillion Dollar Man want to know: What IS the Bruce curse?  Why was the clan cursed? Where did the curse come from? Who cursed the Bruces? Future Stuart-Bruce books disclose devastating consequences but until then, this note previews memorable Bruce curse moments.


Good luck or bad luck is happenstance. Like winning the lottery or roulette. Basically, you have to play to win but there are no underlying humanistic attributes. Have a 2-year old “buy” a lottery ticket or “place the marker” on the roulette table and if her number is selected, she wins. Simple. The Chinese call it good joss/bad joss, which is slightly more than luck, but the humanistic influence is minimal and contributes very little to the outcome. Curse not only implies human intention but, with sinister evil twists, curse almost always induces fear.

Robert the Bruce’s wife promoted the Bruce curse with parental pride when she told her grandchildren that it first plagued their clan when Robert’s father, the Earl of Carrick, traded the Bruce good name for a document signed by King Edward. The Earl of Carrick contracted leprosy shortly after he secretly started spying on fellow Scot nobles. This the first evidence that the Bruce curse was not court gossip, but very real. When he asked the king to sign the document in 1304, the grotesque, leprosy-disfigured Earl of Carrick was so ugly and inhuman that not even his son could stand to look at him. Robert the Bruce’s wife described in minute details how nose, ear, cheek and lip tissue sloughed from the Earl’s face in slimy chunks. She got enormous pleasure from telling the tale with such realism that the children screamed as they hid behind tables and chairs.

“When we ate soup, we didn’t have to put any meat in it. He would just twist off an ear lobe or part of his cheek and drop it in.” She shared this with them as she mimicked ear twisting, then exaggerated mastication motion to “chew” an ear or nose. That hideously gross tale gave the children nightmares for many nights after its telling. Of course, it was more than a one-time legend. Thirty years after The Earl of Carrick contracted leprosy, his bastard son, Hamish, gets the same cursed disease. Unfortunately for Hamish, the leprosy he contracted did not affect his ears, cheeks, lips or nose but concentrated on another region of his anatomy. Hamish did not know he had leprosy until one morning when he went to relieve the pressure in his bladder. When he reached down to guide the urine stream away from his feet and legs, the tip of his manhood came off in his hand.

He began screaming and did not stop screaming until he lost his mind 3 days later. Bad luck to get leprosy, maybe; bad joss for leprosy of his private parts, probably; but bad luck and bad joss were not the words whispered as Hamish was carted off to an asylum. All that anyone heard was “the Bruce curse.” It was now a full-blown curse which caused panic in Hamish’s village. Every man who worked in the field close to Hamish started examining their private parts many times each day, a somewhat comical sight. Grown men rushing to a hidden place where they exposed themselves and checked for signs of leprosy on their unmentionables. The year was 1335 when the pub experts categorically blamed the Bruce curse for Hamish’s unfortunate loss.

Imagine how the curse’s notoriety got twisted over three centuries when Harold Stuart-Bruce’s left leg was cut off by a chain used to lift a tombstone to his wife’s lover’s grave. Harold came home early and found his wife in bed with his best friend. Harold yanked the naked man out of Harold’s own bed, away from his equally naked wife, and ran a pitchfork through the man’s groin, killing him. Everyone agreed that Harold’s action was justified. A pitchfork was a horrid tool to use but apparently not bad enough because no charges were issued. However, Harold’s heat-of-the-moment revenge caught up with him when he reached over to spit on his former best friend’s body in the grave. At that moment the chain holding the tombstone broke, whipped around, caught Harold’s left leg just below the knee and severed it. Harold nearly bled to death before the tombstone fell on his severed leg and staunched the bleeding.

Sounds like bad luck to me. But that night, the pub experts discussed Harold’s lost leg event over and over until they concluded, after three hours of drinking, that Harold’s near-fatal injury was a unique curse that could only happen to someone from the Bruce clan. Once again the bad luck/bad joss reached curse status and there it would remain as another Bruce curse legend. Misfortune would continue to plague the Bruces, causing innumerable pre-mature deaths to generations of heirs of the First Earl of Carrick.