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Donald MacDonald, of Harlaw, 8th Lord of the Isles

Male - 1423


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  • Name Donald MacDonald  [1, 2
    Suffix of Harlaw, 8th Lord of the Isles 
    Gender Male 
    Died 1423  [2
    Person ID I6342  Ghillebride
    Last Modified 23 Dec 2020 

    Father Iain (John) 'the Good' MacDonald, 7th Lord of the Isles,   b. 1326,   d. 1387  (Age 61 years) 
    Mother Margaret Stewart,   b. Bef 1348,   d. Yes, date unknown 
    Married 1358  [3
    Family ID F1828  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

    Family Margaret (Mary) Leslie,   b. Abt 1362,   d. Abt 1435  (Age ~ 73 years) 
    Married Yes, date unknown  [2, 4
    Children 
     1. Alexander MacDonald, 9th Lord of the Isles, 11th Earl of Ross,   b. Bef 1423,   d. 8 May 1449, Dingwall, Ross & Cromarty, Scotland Find all individuals with events at this location  (Age ~ 26 years)
     2. Angus MacDonald, Bishop of the Isles,   d. Yes, date unknown
     3. son MacDonald,   d. Yes, date unknown
     4. Anne MacDonald,   d. Yes, date unknown
     5. Mariotta MacDonald,   d. Yes, date unknown
     6. dau. MacDonald,   d. Yes, date unknown
    Last Modified 24 Aug 2015 
    Family ID F3752  Group Sheet  |  Family Chart

  • Notes 
    • 1 - 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.
      [ http://www.fullbooks.com/History-Of-The-Mackenzies1.html ]

      2 - The following entries concerning this battle are based largely on imaginary accounts written over 300 years later.
      See Ian A. Olson. Bludie Harlaw. Realities, Myths, Ballads. John Donald 2014.
      There are two histories of the battle, one set written at or around the time (largely in Latin), describing a bloody, shambolic and inconclusive event, and one set imagined by Tytler and Scott over 300 years later of a noble victory by shining knights. Unfortunately it is on the latter that modern accounts are largely based.
      [E-mail from Dr Ian Olson rec: 1 Jun 2015]

      3 - In order to achieve his successionas Lord of the Isles, from his half brother Ranald, his brother Alasdair Carrach raided Skye in strength, fighting the Battle of Sligachan in 1375 (or 1395?).
      Son of John and Princess Margaret, married to Mary or Margaret Lesley, sister and heiress of Alexander, Earl of Ross, fought the Battle of Harlaw in 1411 to uphold his wife's claim to the Earldom, being supported by his brother Alastair.
      Donald was educated in Oxford and on the independent footing of a Sovereign Prince, in 1388 revisited England with his brother, Iain Mor, for the purpose of signing a regular alliance with King Richard II . of England. In 1400 they were received by Henry IV . and a further defensive alliance was concluded and in 1408 it was further strengthened.
      When Iain Borb MacLeod was still a child his tutor, Iain Mushealbhach (John the Ill Fated) lost Dun Sciath and Castle Camus (Knock Castle) to Donald whose half-brother Godfrey lived there from 1398 until 1401 but when attacking Dun Bheagan itself MacDonald was defeated by MacLeod of Lewis and a mixed army of Skye and Lewismen. Donald gave off parts of his lands to the Macintoshes, Mackenzies , Mackinnons, and his brother-in-law Lachlan Lubanach Maclean of Duart , holding of himself, by military tenure, which greatly increased his power. Donald, Lord of the Isles, is enumerated among the allies of Henry V in treaties 1414, 1415, and 1416.
      "In 1411, during Albany's regency, Donald MacDonald, Lord of the Isles,
      assembled a huge force of Highlanders, including the clan Chattan, the
      Camerons of Lochaber, the Macleans of Mull and of Skye, and many of the
      Macdonalds, estimated at well over 10,000 strong. Ostensibly this was to
      ensure that his claim to the earldom of Ross was confirmed, but he was clearly
      using it as an excuse to extend his power, and in the absence of his kinsman
      James I it is possible that he even had aspirations to the throne. At Dingwall his
      forces encountered the Mackays and the Rosses from Sutherland led by Angus
      Mackay and defeated them. He then sacked Inverness and marched on into Aberdeenshire.
      At Harlaw, 14 miles north-west of Aberdeen, they were met by Alexander, the Wolf of Badenoch's bastard son, now Earl of Mar, together with the Provost and burgesses of Aberdeen and a small force of knights and Lowland gentlemen. After a long and bloody day's struggle the Highland forces melted away in the night leaving the field to the Lowlanders. Aberdeen was saved and the affair went down in ballad and folklore as 'Red Harlaw' for it was said the ditches ran red with blood
      Donald of the Isles died in 1420 to be succeeded by his son Alexander."

      4 - In 1411, Donald of the Isles marched towards Aberdeen, the inhabitants of which were in dreadful alarm at the near approach of this marauder and his fierce hordes: but their fears were allayed by the speedy appearance of a well-equipped army, commanded by the Earl of Mar, who bore a high military character, assisted by many brave knights and gentlemen in Angus and the Mearns. Advancing from Aberdeen, Mar marched by Inverury, and descried the Highlanders stationed at the village of Harlaw, on the water of Ury near its junction with the Don. Mar soon saw that he had to contend with tremendous odds, but although his forces were, it is said, as one to ten to that opposed to him, he resolved, from the confidence he had in his steel-clad knights, to risk a battle. Having placed a small but select body of knights and men-at-arms in front, under the command of the constable of Dundee and the sheriff of Angus, the Earl drew up the main strength of his army in the rear, including the Murrays, the Straitons, the Maules, the Irvings, the Lesleys, the Lovels, the Stirlings, headed by their respective chiefs. The Earl then placed himself at the head of this body. At the head of the Islesmen and Highlanders was the Lord of the Isles, subordinate to whom were Mackintosh and Maclean and other Highland chiefs, all bearing the most deadly hatred to their Saxon foes. On a signal being given, the Highlanders and Islesmen, setting up those terrific shouts and yells which they were accustomed to raise on entering into battle, rushed forward upon their opponents: but they were received with great firmness and bravery by the knights, who, with their spears levelled, and battle-axes raised, cut down many of their impetuous but badly armed adversaries. After the Lowlanders had recovered themselves from the shock which the furious onset of the High-landers had produced, Sir James Scrymgeour, at the head of the knights and bannerets who fought under him, cut his way through the thick columns of the Islesmen, carrying death everywhere around him: but the slaughter of hundreds by this brave party did not intimidate the Highlanders, who kept pouring in by thousands to supply the place of those who had fallen. Surrounded on all sides, no alternative remained for Sir James and his valorous companions but victory or death, and the latter was their lot. The constable of Dundee was amongst the first who suffered, and his fall so encouraged the Highlanders, that seizing and stabbing the horses, they thus unhorsed their riders, whom they despatched with their daggers. In the mean time the Earl of Mar, who had penetrated with his main army into the very heart of the enemy, kept up the unequal contest with great bravery, and, although he lost during the action almost the whole of his army, he continued the fatal struggle with a handful of men till nightfall. The disastrous result of this battle was one of the greatest misfortunes which had ever happened to the numerous respectable families in Angus and the Mearns. Many of these families lost not only their head, but every male in the house. Andrew Lesley, third Laird of Balquhain, is said to have fallen, with six of his sons (the Laurus Lesleana says eleven, and that he himself fell some years after in a battle at Brakoe, killed by the sheriff of Angus, 1420.) Isabel Mortimer, his wife, founded a chaplainry in the Chapel of Garioch, and built a cross called Leslie's Cross, to their memory. Besides Sir James Scrymgeour, Sir Alexander Ogilvy, the sheriff of Angus, with his eldest son George Ogilvy, Sir Thomas Murray, Sir Robert Maule of Panmure, Sir Alexander Irving of Drum, Sir William Abernethy of Salton, Sir Alexander Straiton of Lauriston, James Lovel, and Alexander Stirling, and Sir Robert Davidson, provost of Aberdeen, with five hundred men-at-arms, including the principal gentry of Buchan, and the greater part of the burgesses of Aberdeen who followed their provost, were among the slain. The Highlanders left nine hundred men dead on the field of battle, including the chiefs, Maclean and Mackintosh. This memorable battle was fought on the eve of the feast of St. James the Apostle, the 24th day of July, in the year 1411, "and from the ferocity with which it was contested, and the dismal spectacle of civil war and bloodshed exhibited to the country, it appears to have made a deep impression on the national mind. It fixed itself in the music and poetry of Scotland; a march, called 'the Battle of Harlaw,' continued to be a popular air down to the time of Drummond of Hawthornden, and a spirited ballad, on the same event, is still repeated in our age, describing the meeting of the armies, and the deaths of the chiefs, in no ignoble strain." Mar and the few brave companions in arms who survived the battle, were so exhausted with fatigue and the wounds they received, that they were obliged to pass the night on the field of battle, where they expected a renewal of the attack next morning; but when morning dawned, they found that the Lord of the Isles had retreated, during the night, by Inverury and the hill of Benachie. To pursue him was impossible, and he was therefore allowed to retire, without molestation, and to recruit his exhausted strength. The site of the battle is thus described in the manuscript Geographical Description of Scotland collected by Macfarlane, and preserved in the Advocates' Library [Vol. i. p. 7.]: "Through this parish (the Chapel of Garioch, formerly called Capella Beat [2, 5]

  • Sources 
    1. [S101] Burkes Landed Gentry 1937, (1937), p1457.

    2. [S7] E-mail, From Don Thompson rec: 12 Dec 2012 MacFarlane information f rom Bruce MacFarlane: http://worldconnect.rootsweb.ances try.com/cgi-bin/igm.cgi?db=mygrtgrt & the Andersons from Ma bel Manz : http://madcitydon.com/candacraig/mabel_manz.ht ml.

    3. [S67] Macdonald genealogy, Roddy Macdonald of the Clan Donald Society of Edinburgh, (http://www.clandonald.org.uk/genealogy.htm), genealogy/d0004/g0000050.html#I0045.

    4. [S83] genus ducere, Jo, (http://users.skynet.be/genusducere//wc_toc.htm).

    5. [S479] Making of the Highlands, Michael Brander, (published 1980 by Guild Publishing), 2 - p43&44.