The name, which is the equivalent to Spence, means custodian, or dispenser, of the larder. The principal Scottish family claims descent from one of the ancient earls of Fife. In 1300 Henry de Spens of Lathallan, Fife died, and the lands were made into a barony in 1430.
THE first historical mention we have of this clan is of one Dufagan Comes, supposed to be the first of the Celtic Earls of Fife. The Earldom was held “by the Grace of God,” and not from the King of Scots, as late as the twelfth century; and a special “Law Clan Macduff” applied there. Constantine 2nd Earl of Fife in the early years of David’s reign died about 1129, and was succeeded by Gillimichel MacDuff, 3rd Earl. The 5th Earl was one of the nobles who treated for the ransom of William the Lion in 1174. His grandson, Malcolm, had two sons his successor, Colban, and the Macduff who was the primary cause of John Baliol’s rebellion against Edward I. The 11th Earl died in 1353, leaving an only daughter, and so the line of the Celtic Earls of Fife ended. It is claimed that David Duff of Muldavit, in Banffshire (1401), was descended from the Earls of Fife. His descendant was William Duff, Lord Braco (1735), who received the titles Viscount Macduff and Earl of Fife in the Peerage of Ireland. The title descended in due course to Alexander, 6th Earl, who was created Duke of Fife in 1889, and that same year married Princess Louise, eldest daughter of King Edward VII. His eldest daughter succeeded as Duchess of Fife in 1912.