The Lords of the Isles: A History of Clan Donald

The Lords of the Isles: A History of Clan Donald

The Lords of the Isles: A History of Clan Donald

The Lords of the Isles: A History of Clan Donald


This is the first modern account of one of the epic stories of Scottish history, the rise and fall of Clan Donald. Tracing its origins back to the great Somerled, this book charts the steady ascent of Clan Donald.


That is the mark of the Scot that he stands in an attitude to the
past unthinkable in Englishmen, and remembers and cherishes
the memory of his forebears, good and bad, and there burns alive
in him a sense of identity with the dead, even to the twentieth

Robert Louis Stevenson

At the height of the Middle Ages – while elsewhere in Scotland great nobles were building castles to protect themselves from the English or their own neighbours – a unique political institution was taking shape amongst the Gaelic people of the west. This was the Lordship of the Isles, the highest expression of the organisational genius of Clan Donald. At a time when the King of Scots himself was forced by his enemies to take refuge in France, the Lord of the Isles was able to live in peace and safety among his own kin. the Lordship provided the Gaels of Scotland with a political unity and cultural focus that was never to be equalled. It represented a tradition that stretched back to the days of St Columba and the ancient kingdom of Dalriada.

At one point almost a third of Scotland was under the control of Clan Donald. This did not come about by accident, but by great skill in politics, diplomacy and war. Above all, it came about because of the loyally and affection the Lordship inspired among its people, not just those of Clan Donald but also the other confederate clans. Until the years preceding the final collapse of the Lordship in 1493, the Island chiefs faced no serious internal challenge to their authority, a record that might have been envied by many of the kings of Scotland.

This book sets out to tell the story of Clan Donald, before, during and after the demise of the Lords of the Isles. I am sure there are many who will consider this to be a dangerous enterprise, for clan history tends to have a very poor reputation among serious historical scholarship, often deservedly so. This is a great pity, for there is much . . .

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