Loch Alsh - History - Feudal Period

Feudal Period

The history of Lochalsh from its nominal acquisition by the Kingdom of Scotland in 1266 CE until the rebellion of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745 is one of obscure struggles between the local clans and against the central government.

The Norse Clan MacLeod and Clan MacDonald on Skye, and the Celtic Clan Mackenzie with their stronghold in the castle of Eilean Donan at the head of the loch retained a large degree of independence for centuries. Often the MacDonald Lord of the Isles acted as a sovereign in alliance with the Scottish king rather than a subject. Thus Alexander of Islay, Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles allied himself with King James I of Scotland against the Albany Stewarts in 1424, but in 1429 went to war against the king. Although defeated and forced to surrender, his authority in the Hebrides and western highlands was such that he remained a leading power in the kingdom. Alexander's bastard sons Uisdean (Hugh of Sleat) and Gilleasbaig ("Celestine") were given Sleat and Lochalsh respectively.

Clan Matheson, led by the McRuari descendents of Somerled, were another power in the area, participating in the battle of Largs in 1263 when King Haakon IV of Norway was defeated, and later fighting for Donald of the Isles at the battle of Harlaw in 1411 against an army commanded by Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar. Later, as a result of a feud with Clan MacDonell of Glengarry, clan Matheson switched allegiance to the Mackenzies. John Dubh was killed in 1539 while defending Eilean Donan Castle against Macdonald of Sleat. After this, the power of the clan declined although they retained property in Lochalsh and in Sutherland. Sir James Matheson of Sutherland was founder of the trading house of Jardine Matheson Holdings in the Far East. A Matheson still holds the title of Baronet of Lochalsh.

The MacDonald of Lochalsh branch was founded by Celestine MacDonald (d.1476), second son of Alexander of Islay, Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles. In 1491 Alexander MacDonald of Lochalsh joined Clan Cameron in a raid into Ross where they fought with Clan MacKenzie of Kintail, advanced east to Badenoch where they were joined by the Clan Mackintosh, and then to Inverness where they took Inverness Castle. In 1495, threatened by King James's army, most of the highland chiefs submitted. However, soon after Sir Alexander MacDonald again rebelled and invaded Ross-shire, where he was defeated in battle by Clan Munro and Clan MacKenzie at Drumchatt. He escaped to the Isles but was caught on Oransay and put to death.

In 1580 a feud started between the Mackenzies and the Macdonells of Glengarry. The Chief of Glengarry had inherited part of Lochalsh, Lochcarron, and Lochbroom, while the father of Colin Cam Mackenzie of Kintail, a favourite of king James VI, had acquired the other part by purchase. Colin Cam MacKenzie took MacDonell prisoner and murdered his three uncles. The Privy Council investigated the matter and caused Strome Castle, which Macdonell yielded to Mackenzie as one of the conditions of his release, to be placed under the custody of the Earl of Argyll. MacKenzie of Kintail was briefly detained at Edinburgh, but shortly after pardoned by the king. His son Kenneth Mackenzie (c.1569–1611) successfully continued the bloody feud with the Macdonells of Glengarry and secured the entire island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Kenneth's son Colin Mackenzie (1596/7-1633) became 1st Earl of Seaforth, with vast estates and wealth.

Read more about this topic:  Loch Alsh, History

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