History of the Mackenzies, With Genealogies of the Principal Families of the Name

Author: Alexander Mackenzie

The O’beolan Earls of Ross.

It must now be most interesting to every member of the Clan Mackenzie to know who these O’Beolan Earls of Ross were and all that can be ascertained regarding themselves and their family alliances. Leaving out Earl Gillanders, of whom so little is known, let us begin with I. FERQUHARD, OR FARQUHAR O’BEOLAN, "Mac an t’Sagairt," who, as already stated, founded the Abbey of Fearn, and died there in 1251. By his wife, whose name has not come down to us, he had issue, at least,

1. William, his heir and successor.

2. Malcolm, of whose life nothing is known.

3. Euphemia, who married Walter de Moravia, Lord of Duffus from 1224 to 1262.

4. Christina, who married Olave the Red, King of Man, with issue. Farquhar was succeeded by his eldest son,

II. WILLIAM O’BEOLAN, EARL OF ROSS. He obtained Skye and Lewis from Alexander III. and died at Earles Allane in 1274. He married Joan daughter of the first Red Comyn, who died in 1273, and sister of John, the Black Comyn, Lord of Badenoch and Earl of Buchan, who married Marjory, sister of King John Baliol, with issue—the Red Comyn, who was killed by Robert the Bruce in the Church of Dumfries in 1306. Another sister of the Countess of Ross was married to John Macdougall, Lord of Lorn, on record 1251, usually styled " King Eoin or Ewin." By his wife Earl William had issue—

1. William, his heir and successor.

2. Dorothea, who married her cousin, Torquil Macleod II. of Lewis, with issue.

He was succeeded by his only son, III. WILLIAM O’BEOLAN, EARL OF ROSS, who fought alternately with Edward I. and Robert the Bruce, and was imprisoned in London 1296-97. In 1306 he delivered up to the English King, Robert Bruce’s Queen, Isabella, his daughter Marjory, his sister Mary, the brave Countess of Buchan, and other ladies of distinction, who bad for a time found shelter and protection in the Sanctuary of St. Duthus, at Tain, from the English oppressors of their country. In 1309 he obtained a new grant of his lands. By his wife, one of the Grahams of Montrose, he had issue—

1. Hugh, his heir and successor.

2. Sir John, who married his second cousin, Margaret, daughter of Alexander, Earl of Buchan.

3. Isabella, who married Edward Bruce, Earl of Carrick, brother of King Robert the Bruce.

4. A daughter who, as her second husband, married Malise, Earl of Stratherne, with issue—four daughters, the eldest of whom married William St. Clair, Baron of Roslin, whose son Henry afterwards succeeded in right of his mother to the earldom of Stratherne.

He died at Delny, in Easter Ross, in 1323, and was succeeded by his eldest son, IV. HUGH O’BEOLAN, EARL OF ROSS. He received charters, of Strathglass and of the Isle of Skye. He married first, in 1308, Maud or Matilda, sister of King Robert the Bruce, with issue—

1. William, his heir and successor.

2. Hugh Ross of Rarichies, from whom the Old Rosses of Balnagown, of whom the last representative in the male line was the late George Ross of Pitcalnie. This Hugh obtained the lands of Philorth in Aberdeen-shire, and between 1362 and 1372 he exchanged them with his brother, Earl Hugh, for the lands of North Argyle, including the Castle of Ellandonnan. The territories exchanged included Strathglass, Kintail. and other lands in Wester Ross.

3. Janet, who married, first, Monimusk of Monimusk and, secondly, Sir Alexander Murray of Abercairny.

4. Euphemia or Eupham, who married, first, Randolph, Earl of Moray, who was killed at the battle of Durham, and secondly, her cousin, King Robert II., grandson of Robert the Bruce and first of the Stuart dynasty. This marriage being within the prohibited degrees of consanguinity a special dispensation was obtained from Pope Innocent VI. for its celebration in 1355. She died in 1372. Earl Hugh married, secondly, also by dispensation from the Pope, in 1329, Margaret, daughter of Sir David de Graham. The Earl was killed at the battle of Halidon Hill in 1333, when he was succeeded by his eldest son, V. WILLIAM O’BEOLAN, EARL OF ROSS AND LORD OF SKYE, banished to Norway for some serious offence, but in 1336 he is found in actual possession of the earldom. He was afterwards Justiciar of Scotland, and in a charter of 1374 he is designated "frater Regis," or the King’s brother, no doubt from the fact that his sister Euphemla was the wife of Robert II. He rebuilt the Abbey of Fearn, and married his cousin Isobel, daughter of Malise, Earl of Stratherne, Orkney, and Caithness, with issue—

1. William, who died before his father

2. Euphemia, who became Countess of Ross in her own right on the death of her father.

3. Johanna, who, in 1375, married Sir Alexander Fraser, Lord of Cowie and Durris, ancestor of the Frasers of Philorth and Pitsligo, now represented by Lord Saltoun. Johanna first carried the lands of Philorth to that family. She has a charter in 1370.

William died on the 9th of February, 1372, without surviving male issue, when he was succeeded by his eldest daughter, VI. EUPHEMIA O’BEOLAN, COUNTESS OF ROSS in her own right. She married first, by dispensation, dated 1367, Sir Walter Leslie, son of Sir Andrew Leslie, who in right of his wife became Earl of Ross. They have a charter of the earldom of Ross and of the lands of Skye dated 1370, two years before Earl William’s death, in their own favour and that of their heirs male and female in reversion. Her first husband predeceased her in 1382, whereupon she married, secondly, Alexander, Earl of Buchan, better known in history as "The Wolf of Badenoch." He died, without issue, in 1394. She died Abbess of Elcho in 1398, and was buried in Fortrose Cathredral. By Sir Walter Leslie she had issue—

1. Sir Alexander Leslie, who became Earl of Ross in right of his mother.

2. Margaret Leslie, who married Donald, second Lord of the Isles, who in her right, after fighting the battle of Harlaw, succeeded to the earldom of Ross, and carried it to a new family, the Macdonald Lords of the isles.

When the Countess Euphemia died, in 1398, she was succeeded by her only son, VII. SIR ALEXANDER LESLIE, EARL OF ROSS, who married Isabella, daughter of Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany, Governor of Scotland, and by her had issue an only daughter, Lady Euphemia, or Mary, who became a nun, and resigned the earldom in favour of her maternal uncle, John, Earl of Buchan. Donald, Lord of the Isles, who married her father’s sister, Margaret, disputed Euphemia’s right to put the earldom past her aunt, and the battle of Harlaw was fought in 1411 to decide the issue, which, as already stated, turned, so far as the possession of the great earldom was concerned, in favour of the Lord of the Isles, since known as Donald of Harlaw. From this point the history of the earldom falls properly to be dealt with and is given at length in The History of the Macdonalds and Lords of the Isles. But thus far it cannot fail to be extremely interesting to all the members of the clan Mackenzie, whether they believe in the Gillanders and O’Beolans or in the Fitzgeralds as the progenitors of the race; for in any case the clan was in its earlier annals closely allied with the O’Beolan Earls of Ross by descent and marriage.

It has been established that Gillanders and O’Beolan were the names of the ancient and original Earls of Ross, and they continued to be represented in the male line by the Old Rosses of Balnagowan down to the end of the eighteenth century, when the last heir male of that family, finding that the entail ended with himself, sold the estates to General Ross, brother of Lord Ross of Hawkhead, who, although possessing the same name, was of a different family and origin. It will, it is believed, be now admitted with equal certainty that the Rosses and the Mackenzies are descended from the same progenitor, Beolan or Gilleoin na h’Airde, the undoubted common ancestor of the old Earls of Ross, the Gillanders, and the Rosses. The various steps in the earliest portion of the genealogy connecting the Mackenzies with the common ancestor will be given with the same detail as that of the Rosses, and it will be stated with sufficient accuracy to justify the conclusions at which, in common with Dr Skene and all the best authorities on the subject, we have arrived. The genealogy of the Clan Andres or Rosses in the manuscript of 1467, is as follows:—

"Pol ic Tire, ic Eogan, ic Muiredaigh, ic Poil, ic Gilleanrias, ic Martain, ic Poil, ic Cainig, ic Cranin, ic Eogan, ic Cainic, ic Cranin, McGilleoin na h’Airde, ic Eirc, ic Loirn, ic Fearchar, Mc Cormac, ic Abertaig, ic Feradaig."

Dr Skene’s translation—

"Paul son of Tire, son of Ewen, son of Murdoch, son of Paul, son of Gillanrias, son of Martin, son of Paul, son of Kenneth, son of Crinan, son of Ewen, son of Kenneth, son of Crinan, son of Gilleoin of the Aird, son of Erc, son of Lorn, son of Ferchar, son of Cormac, son of Oirbeirtaigh, son of Feradach."

The Mackenzie genealogy in the same MS. is—

"Muiread ic Cainig, Mc Eoin, ic Cainig, ic Aengusa, ic Cristin, ic Agam, Mc Gilleoin Qig, ic Gilleon na h’Aird."

Skene’s translation follows—

"Murdoch son of Kenneth, son of John, son of Kenneth, son of Angus, son of Cristin, son of Adam, son of Gilleoin Og, son of Gilleoin of the Aird."

Skene makes an important correction on this genealogy in his later work, Celtic Scot/and, Vol. III., p. 485, by substituting Cainig—Kenneth, for Agam—Adam, in his original reading. In this form the genealogy of 1467 corresponds exactly, so far as it goes, with that given by MacVuirich in the Black Book of Clanranald. In 1222 "Gilchrist filius Kinedi," Gillecriosd son of Kenneth, is on record as a follower of MacWilliam. Cristean is the ordinary Gaelic form of Christopher, otherwise Gilchrist, or Gillecriosd. There is thus no doubt that the "Cristin" of the Gaelic genealogy is the same name as Gillecriosd, Gilchrist, and Christopher.

In the MacVuirich manuscript, however, several names are given between Gilleoin Og and Gilleoin na h’Airde which are absent from the manuscript of 1467; for while we have thirteen generations in the Clan Anrias or Ross genealogy in the latter between Paul Mac Tire and Gilleoin of the Aird, we have only eight in the Mackenzie genealogy between Murdoch of the Cave, who was contemporary with Mac Tire, and their common ancestor Gilleoin of the Aird, or Beolan. In the MacVuirich manuscript there are fifteen generations, translated thus—

"Murdoch son of Kenneth, son of John, son of Kenneth, son of Angus ’crom,’ or the hump-backed, son of Kenneth, son of Gilleoin Og, son of Gilleoin Mor, or the Great, son of Murdoch, son of Duncan, son of Murdoch, son of Duncan, son of Murdoch, son of Kenneth, son of Cristin, or Christopher, son of Gilleoin of the Aird."

The genealogies of the three families as brought out by these manuscripts, are shown in the following table:—

| Crinan | Cristin |
| Kenneth | Kenneth |
| Ewen | Murdoch |
| Crinan | Duncan |
| Kenneth | Murdoch |
| Paul | Duncan |
| Martin | Murdoch |
| Gillanrias | Gilleoin Mor |
+---------|--------------------| Gilleoin Og |
| | Kenneth | +-------------------+------------------+ | Angus Crom | | EARLS OF ROSS | ROSSES | | Kenneth | +-------------------+------------------+ | John | | The Priest-"An | Paul | | Kenneth | | Sagart" | Murdoch | | Murdoch of the | | I. Ferquhard "Mac | Ewen | | Cave who died | | an t’Sagairt" | Tire | | in 1375 | | II. William | Paul Mac Tire | +------------------+ | III. William | who has a | | IV. Hugh | charter of the | | V. William who | lands of | | died in 1372 | Garloch from | | | the Earl of | | | Ross in 1366, | | | confirmed in | | | 1372. | +-------------------+------------------+

There would seem to be no doubt that "Tire" or Tyre, stands here and elsewhere for "An t’Oighre," or the Heir, and Paul "Mac Tire" for Pol " Mac-an-Oighre," or Son of the Heir. It will be observed that Colin does not appear once in these early genealogies, and it has been already pointed out that no trace of it is found anywhere as a family name until the middle of the sixteenth century, when it was introduced by the marriage of one of the Mackenzie chiefs to a daughter of the Earl of Atholl, whose mother was Lady Mary Campbell, and who, calling her second son after her own uncle Colin, third Earl of Argyll, for the first time brought that name into the family genealogy of Kintail.

It will also be seen as we proceed, although the Earls of Ross were superiors of the lands of Kintail as part of the earldom, and that it was therefore impossible that Colin Fitzgerald or any other person than those earls could have had a gift of it from the Crown, that the Mackenzies occupied the lands and the castle, not as immediate vassals; of the King, but of their own near relatives, the O’Beolan Earls of Ross and their successors, for at least two hundred years before the Mackenzies received a grant of it for themselves direct from the Crown. This is proved beyond dispute by genuine historical documents. Until within a few years of the final forfeiture of the Lords of the Isles in 1476, the Mackenzies undoubtedly held their lands, first from the O’Beolan Earls and subsequently from the Island Lords as Earls of Ross; for the first direct Crown charter to any chief of Kintail of which we have authentic record, is one dated the 7th of January, 1463, in favour of Alexander "Ionraic," the sixth Baron.

To show the intimate relations which existed between the original Earls of Ross and the ancestor of the Mackenzies, a quotation may be given from a manuscript history of the clan written by Dr George Mackenzie, nephew of Kenneth Mor, third Earl of Seaforth, in the seventeenth century. Although be is a supporter of the Fitzgerald origin, he is forced to say that, "at the same time (1267) William, Earl of Ross, laying a claim of superiority over the Western Isles, thought this a fit opportunity to seize the Castle of Ellandonnan. He sent a messenger to his Kintail men to send their young chieftain to him as being his nearest kinsman by marriage with his aunt." He then goes on to say, that Kenneth, not Colin, was joined by the MacIvers, Macaulays, MacBeolans, and Clan Tarlichs, "the ancient inhabitants of Kintail," and refused to surrender, when "the Earl of Ross attacked them and was beaten." Had there been no previous kinship between the two families—and no one will now attempt with any show of reason to maintain that there was not—this marriage of William, the second Earl, to Kenneth’s aunt would have made the youthful Kenneth, ancestor of the Mackenzies, first cousin, on the maternal side, to William O’Beolan, the third Earl of that line, whose wife and therefore Kintail’s aunt, was Joan, sister of John, the Black Comyn, Lord of Badenoch. It has further been proved to a demonstration, and it is now admitted by all the best authorities, that the O’Beolan Earls of Ross were descended from Gilleoin na h `Airde; and so are the Mackenzies, who from the first formed an integral and most important part of the ancient powerful native Gaelic tribes of which the Earls of Ross were the chiefs.

It has been shown that Kenneth, from whom the Mackenzies take their name, was closely allied by marriage with William, second Earl of Ross, the latter having married Kenneth’s maternal aunt. This fact by itself would be sufficient to establish the high position, which even at that early period, was occupied by Kenneth, who was already very closely connected with the O’Beolan Earls of Ross by blood and marriage.

Kenneth himself married Morna or Morba, daughter of Alexander Macdougall, styled, "De Ergedia," Lord of Lorn by a daughter of John, the first Red Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, who died in 1273. Kenneth’s wife was thus a sister of John, the Black Comyn, who died about 1299, having married Marjory, daughter of John Baliol, by whom he had John, the second Red Comyn, one of the competitors for the Scottish Crown, killed by Robert the Bruce in the Church of Dumfries in 1306. Kenneth’s issue by Morna or Morba of Lorn was John Mackenzie, II. of Kintail, who was thus, through his mother, third In descent from John, the first Red Comyn, who died in 1273, and sixth from the great Somerled of the Isles, Thane of Argyle, progenitor of the Macdougalls of Lorn and of all the Macdonalds, who died in 1164.

John made even a more illustrious alliance than his father, by which at that early date he introduced the Royal blood of Scotland and England into the family of Kintail. He married his relative, Margaret, sister of David, twelfth Earl of Atholl, slain in 1335, and daughter of David, the eleventh Earl, who died in 1327 (whose estates were forfeited by Edward I.), by Joan Comyn (died 1323), daughter of the Red Comyn killed by Robert the Bruce, and great granddaughter of John Baliol.

Margaret’s father, David, eleventh Earl of Atholl who died in 1327, was the oldest son of John de Strathbogie, tenth Earl, hanged by Edward I. Earl John’s mother was the Countess Isabel de Dover, who died at a very old age in 1292, daughter of Richard Fitzroy de Chillam (died 1216), a natural son of King John of England.

Kenneth Mackenzie, III of Kintail, the issue of this marriage, was sixth in descent from John Baliol of the Royal line of Scotland and sixth from King John of England.

The Norwegian blood of the Kings of Man was brought into the family by the marriage of this Kenneth to Finguala, daughter of Torquil Macleod, I. of Lewis, who was the grandson of Olave the Black, Norwegian King of Man, who died about 1237, by his wife Christina, daughter of Ferquhard "Mac an t’Sagairt," first O’Beolan Earl of Ross.

The Royal blood of the Bruce was introduced by the marriage of Murdoch Mackenzie, V. of Kintail, to Finguala, daughter of Malcolm Macleod, III. of Harris (who has a charter in 1343), by Martha, daughter of David, twelfth Earl of Mar, son of Gratney, eleventh Earl (whose sister Isabel married Robert the Bruce) by his wife Christina, daughter of Robert Bruce, Earl of Carrick, and sister of King Robert the Bruce.

The Plantaganet blood-royal of England was introduced later by the marriage of Kenneth Mackenzie, X. of Kintail, to Lady Elizabeth Stewart, daughter of John, second Earl of Atholl, fourth in descent from John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, son of Edward III., and father of Henry IV. of England, and this strain was strengthened and continued by the marriage of Kenneth’s son, Colin Cam Mackenzie, XI. of Kintail, to his cousin Barbara, daughter of John Grant of Grant by Lady Marjory Stewart, daughter of John, third Earl of Atholl. It scarcely needs to be pointed out that, through these inter-marriages, the Mackenzies are also descended from the ancient Celtic MacAlpine line of Scottish Kings, from the original Anglo-Saxon Kings of England, and from the oldest Scandinavian, Charlemagne, and Capetian lines, as far back as the beginning of the ninth century.

The origin of the O’Beolan Earls of Ross and the Mackenzies from the same source is strikingly illustrated by their inter-marriages into the same families and with each other’s kindred. Both the O’Beolans and the Mackenzies made alliances with the Comyns of Badenoch, with the MacDougalls of Lorn, and subsequently with the Macleods of Lewis and Harris, thus forming a network of cousinship which ultimately included all the leading families in the Highlands, every one of which, through these alliances, have the Royal blood of all the English, Scottish, and Scandinavian Kings, and many of the earlier foreign monarchs, coursing in their veins.

Surely this is a sufficiently ancient and illustrious origin and much more satisfactory to every patriotic clansman than an Irish adventurer like the reputed Colin Fitzgerald, who, if he ever existed, had not and never could have had any connection with the real origin of the Mackenzies, which was as purely native of the Highlands as it was possible for any Scoto-Celtic family in those days to be. The various genealogical steps and marriage alliances already referred to will be confirmed in each individual case as we proceed with the succession and history of the respective chiefs of the family, beginning with the first of the line,


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Chicago: Alexander Mackenzie, "The O’beolan Earls of Ross.," History of the Mackenzies, With Genealogies of the Principal Families of the Name, ed. Iles, George, 1852-1942 and trans. Baines, William Peter in History of the Mackenzies, With Genealogies of the Principal Families of the Name (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1909), Original Sources, accessed May 29, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4WWL5NWED4PVQND.

MLA: Mackenzie, Alexander. "The O’beolan Earls of Ross." History of the Mackenzies, With Genealogies of the Principal Families of the Name, edited by Iles, George, 1852-1942, and translated by Baines, William Peter, in History of the Mackenzies, With Genealogies of the Principal Families of the Name, Vol. 36, New York, Doubleday, Page, 1909, Original Sources. 29 May. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4WWL5NWED4PVQND.

Harvard: Mackenzie, A, 'The O’beolan Earls of Ross.' in History of the Mackenzies, With Genealogies of the Principal Families of the Name, ed. and trans. . cited in 1909, History of the Mackenzies, With Genealogies of the Principal Families of the Name, Doubleday, Page, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 29 May 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4WWL5NWED4PVQND.