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Clan MacKenzie


Clan Mackenzie is a chiefly Highland Scottish clan, traditionally associated with Kintail and lands in Ross-shire.


Traditionally, the origin of the surname is as follows. The surname Mackenzie in Scottish Gaelic is Maccoinneach which means son of the fair bright one and it has been suggested that it alludes to the pagan god Cernunnos.<ref>George Way of Plean and Romilly Squire, Scottish Clan and Family Encyclopedia, 226</ref>

Cernunnos is often depicted as a stag's head with antlers and this is a possible explanation for the gold stag's head on the Mackenzie chief's shield.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 226</ref> The Mackenzies are believed to have the same ancestry as the Clan Matheson and Clan Anrias.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 226</ref> All three are said to be descended from Gilleoin of the Aird, a Celtic dynast who lived in the early 12th century, and the chiefs of the Clan Mackenzie are said to have been settled at their great stronghold on Eilean Donan by 1297.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 226</ref>

However, the earliest reference to Clan Mackenzie is from 1471 when Alexander Mackenzie of Kintail appears as a witness to a charter by John, Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles.<ref> Mackenzie, Alan. (2006) History of the Mackenzies, 11 (accessed 24th June 2014)</ref>

Middle Ages

By the fifteenth century the earldom of Ross formed part of the possessions of the MacDonald Lords of the Isles, and the Mackenzie chief could command two thousand warriors. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 226</ref>

In the 14th century during the Wars of Scottish Independence the Clan Mackenzie is said to have been among those who fought on the side of Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Inverurie (1308) against the forces of the Clan Comyn who were rivals to the throne.<ref> Mackenzie, Alan. (2006) History of the Mackenzies Chapter 2. pp. 17. (accessed 24th June 2014)</ref> Chief Iain Mac Coinnich is said to have led a force of five hundred Mackenzies at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 where the English were defeated.<ref> Mackenzie, Alan. (2006) History of the Mackenzies Chapter 2. pp. 17. (accessed 24th June 2014)</ref>

Later in the 14th century the Mackenzies are said to have become involved in battles against their powerful neighbour the Earl of Ross and his allies. This resulted in the capture and subsequent execution of chief Kenneth Mackenzie in 1346.<ref>Mackenzie, Alan. (2006) History of the Mackenzies, 37. (accessed 24th June 2014)</ref>

Soon after this it appears that his successor as chief of the clan Mackenzie was living in an island castle in Loch Kinellan near Strathpeffer in Easter Ross and it was from this base that the clan was to advance westward once again to Kintail.<ref>Mackenzie, Alan. (2006) History of the Mackenzies, 37. (accessed 24th June 2014)</ref>

Alexander MacKenzie of Kintail attended the Parliament at Inverness summoned by James I at which the king imprisoned the Lord of the Isles. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 226</ref> This may have impressed on the young chief the necessity of loyalty to the Stewart monarchs. He obtained a royal charter to the lands of Kintail in 1463. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 226</ref>

Alexander MacKenzie of Kintail was rewarded for opposing the last MacDonald Earl of Ross by James III. He was granted extensive lands taken from the defeated Earl. His son, Kenneth is remembered by an extant tomb in Beauly Priory. In 1488 the Clan Mackenzie fought at the Battle of Sauchieburn led by Hector Roy Mackenzie but after the defeat of the King's forces there, Hector narrowly escaped, returning to Ross-shire where he took Redcastle for the rebels.<ref>Mackenzie, Alexander. (1894). History of the Clan Mackenzie. 302</ref>

The Battle of Drumchatt took place in 1497. Alexander MacDonald of Lochalsh and his clan rebelled against the King. Macdonald invaded the fertile lands of Ross-shire where he was defeated in battle by the Mackenzies at Drumchatt, after which he was driven out of Ross-shire.<ref>Gregory, Donald. (1836). History of the Western Highlands and Isles of Scotland from A.D. 1493 to A.D. 1625, 92</ref>

Sixteenth Century

During the Anglo-Scottish Wars John Mackenzie, 9th of Kintail led the clan at the Battle of Flodden in 1513.<ref> Mackenzie, Alan. (2006). History of the Mackenzies, 55</ref> John was lucky enough to escape but many of his followers lost their lives.<ref> Mackenzie, Alan. (2006). History of the Mackenzies, 55</ref>

John Mackenzie also fought at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547 where he was captured by the English.<ref>Mackenzie, Alan. (2006). History of the Mackenzies, 55</ref> However his clan paid a ransom of cows for his release.<ref>Mackenzie, Alan. (2006). History of the Mackenzies, 55</ref>

The growing importance of the Clan Mackenzie was vividly demonstrated in 1544 when the Earl of Huntly, the Lieutenant of the North, commanded chief John Mackenzie to raise his clan against Clan Ranald of Moidart.<ref>Mackenzie, Alan. (2006). History of the Mackenzies, 60</ref>

The Mackenzie chief refused and Huntly's supporters, the Clan Grant, Clan Ross and Clan Mackintosh declined to attack the Mackenzies. From that time the Mackenzies were recognised as a separate and superior force in the north-west.<ref>Mackenzie, Alan. (2006). History of the Mackenzies, 60</ref> On 13 December 1545 at Dingwall, the Earl of Sutherland entered into a bond of manrent with John Mackenzie of Kintail for mutual defence against all enemies, reserving only their allegiance to the youthful Mary, Queen of Scots.<ref>Mackenzie, Alexander. (1894). History of the Mackenzies. 140 - 141</ref>

At the Battle of Langside in 1568 the Mackenzies fought on the side of Mary, Queen of Scots, against the forces of her half-brother James Stewart, Earl of Moray.<ref>Mackenzie, Alexander. (1894). History of the Mackenzies, 140 - 141</ref> Their chief, Kenneth Mackenzie, 10th of Kintail died soon afterwards.

In 1570 a feud broke out with the Munros over the Castle Chanonry of Ross. Andrew Munro of Milntown defended it for 3 years against the Clan Mackenzie, at the expense of many lives on both sides. The feud was settled when the castle was handed over to the Mackenzies by an "Act of Pacification".<ref>Gordon, Sir Robert. (1580–1657). A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland. Originally written between 1615 and 1630. Republished in 1813. 155</ref> In 1597 the Battle of Logiebride took place between the Mackenzies and MacLeods of Rassay against the Munros and the Bain family of Tulloch Castle.<ref>Gordon, Sir Robert. (1580–1657). A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland. Originally written between 1615 and 1630. Republished in 1813. 236</ref>

Seventeenth Century

By the beginning of the seventeenth century the MacKenzie territory extended from the Black Isle to the Outer Hebrides. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 227</ref>They also gained the island of Lewis from its former Macleod rulers and Lochalsh from the MacDonalds.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 227</ref>

In 1609 the chief became a peer with the title Lord MacKenzie of Kintail. Later his son was created Earl of Seaforth. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 227</ref> The Earls of Seaforth became Covenanters in the 1630's. They fought against Montrose during his campaigns in 1645-46. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 227</ref> Appalled by the execution of Charles I, the chief changed sides and fled to Holland to join Charles II. He died before Oliver Cromwell's final victory at Worcester in 1651.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 227</ref>

His heir joined the royalist uprising in 1645 which ended in defeat and later made his peace with Cromwell in 1655.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 227</ref>

The family supported James IIV and fought for him at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. Seaforth was already a Knight of the Thistle but was also made a Marquess in gratitude. <ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 227</ref>

Eighteenth Century

The fifth earl was changed with treason for his participation in the 1715 rising.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 227</ref>In what is known as the Skirmish of Alness in 1715 the Earl of Seaforth, chief of Mackenzie had led a force of 3000 men that forced the retreat of a smaller force loyal to the British Government, which was commanded by the Earl of Sutherland and included the clans Sutherland, Munro, Ross and Mackay.

Much of the Ross's and Munro's lands were ravaged, but they retaliated by raiding the Mackenzie lands in what is known as the Siege of Brahan.<ref> Mackenzie, Alexander. (1989). History of the Munros of Fowlis. pp. 99. Quoting: a contemporary manuscript written by Major Fraser of Castleleathers.</ref>

The Earls of Cromartie were also Jacobites and George, the third Earl fought at the Battle of Falkirk in 1746.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 227</ref> He and his son were later captured by Hanoverian forces at Dunrobin Castle in 1746.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 227</ref> However, his son, John was pardoned and served in India as a major general.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 227</ref>

The 78th Regiment, as it was first called, was raised in 1778 from men on the Seaforth and other Mackenzie estates. The Earl of Seaforth, having raised his men, sailed with them to India in 1781, but died there a few months later. During the Wars in India, Colin Mackenzie (1754–1821) was Surveyor General of India, and an art collector and orientalist. He produced many of the first accurate maps of India, and his research and collections contributed significantly to the field of Asian studies. In 1799, he was part of the British force at the Battle of Seringapatam. He also fought in the Napoleonic Wars.

The eighteenth century brought huge problems to the chiefs and clan members. The vast Seaforth estates provided very little money-rent, the Highlanders were without means to increase this, and the chief lacked the capital needed to undertake the extensive schemes of improvement and development which alone would benefit his people. Many Mackenzies were forced to emigrate. <ref> (accessed 24th July 2014)</ref>

Nineteenth Century

Throughout the nineteenth century the right to the chiefship was disputed.<ref>Plean, Squire, Encyclopedia, 227</ref>

Twentieth Century

In 1980 Roderick Grant MacKenzie, who had changed his name from Blunt-MacKenzie, was confirmed by the Lord Lyon as chief. He died in 1989 and was succeeded by his son. <ref> (accessed 24th June 2014)</ref>


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The Earl of Cromartie still owns lands in clan country however, the largest remaining Mackenzie landowner by some margin is Mackenzie of Gairloch, with an estate which extends to over 50,000 acres (like the clan chief, Mackenzie of Gairloch has inherited his clan name and lands through the female line).<ref> Gairloch (Flowerdale & Shieldaig) & Conon. Who Owns Scotland. Retrieved on 2008-03-16 (The estate encompasses 53,625 acres (217.01 km2). The landownership in Scotland still in the hands of very few landowners. Note that of 97% of the total land in Scotland is rural, of this 87.7% ownership of private interests. Of the land in private ownership one quarter of it is held by only 66 landowners; one third of it is owned by 120; one half is owned 343; two thirds is owned by 1,252 landowners).</ref>

The current chief is a member of the Mountaineering Club of Scotland. <ref> (accessed 24th June 2014)</ref>

Castle Leod

Castle Leod is located near Strathpeffer in the east of Ross-shire in the Scottish Highlands. It is currently the seat of the Chief of the Clan Mackenzie, although the lands belonged to the Chief of the Clan MacLeod of Lewis until the 17th century. It is still the home of the chief and his family.