ONE of the most famous artefacts that was once kept in Clackmannanshire was said to be the sword of King Robert Bruce.

What is not so quite well known was that his helmet was also said to be kept at Clackmannan Tower, then known as Clackmannan Castle, by his descendants.

Both the sword and helmet were made of steel and by the early 1780s both had acquired a blackish tinge due to age.

The sword, which is still in existence, is a two handed one with the handle covered in black leather.

It has a 44-inch-long blade but it is not known whether it was simply ceremonial or if it has been used in battle.

It bears no markings of ever being used in a fight, although some family members believe that it ‘could easily have been’.

The sword became famous thanks to Lady Catherine Bruce who is said to have ‘knighted’ Robert Burns, the national poet, in 1787 during his visit to the area.

She was the widow of Henry Bruce, a direct descendant of King Robert, and had invited him to her family seat, Clackmannan Castle, where the ceremony took place.

The items came to be at Clackmannan as they had been gifted to that branch of the Bruce family.

Both the sword and the helmet were presented by David II, Robert Bruce’s son, to his first cousin, Sir Robert Bruce of Clackmannan, as he realised that his line would die out as he had no issue.

However, there is no written record of them ever being presented to Sir Robert, but it is a family, and local, tradition. Locals were once allowed into the castle annually to view the items.

The sword and helmet were thought to have been kept at Clackmannan until the death of Lady Catherine in 1791.

Over the next few years, both the mansion house and the tower began to fall into disrepair and the sword at least is known to have found a new home at the Bruce family seat at Broomhall House near Dunfermline.

This was the home of Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin and Kincardine, probably most famous for acquiring what became known as the Elgin Marbles.

Although the sword rarely leaves Broomhall House, it did go on display in Edinburgh in January 2018 as part of an exhibition, Treasures from Broomhall House and the Bruce Family.

The sword remains in the safe hands of the Bruces.