Campbell Clan @ MacBraveHeart

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16th November 2000

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Campbell Clan

gloume.jpg (13240 bytes)
Castle Campbell, in the hills overlooking Dollar, was known as Castle
Gloume when it was acquired by the Earl of Argyll in the 15th century.

The most powerful Highland clan, the Campbells, played an important part in Scottish national affairs over the centuries. The Clan claims descent from the earliest kings of Ireland, and therefore from the first kings of Dalriada in western Scotland (modern-day Argyll). They also claimed kinship with Somerled, the half-Scot/half-Norse king of the Western Isles and parts of the mainland, who was killed in battle against the Scots in 1164.

The first Campbells in Argyll were probably the family of Duncan MacDuibhne, who lived during the reign of Alexander II (1214-1249). He was a Chief in Loch Awe who had the nickname Cambeul ('Crooked Mouth'). His son or grandson, Sir Colin Campbell of Lochawe was knighted around 1280 and in 1292 he was one of the twelve lords of Argyll whose lands were linked to form the Sherrifdom of Argyll. By the time he was killed soon afterwards in a feud, he had become known as Cailean Mor ('Colin the Great'), and the Campbell Chiefs ever since have had among their titles MacCailean Mor ('Son of Colin the Great'). This Colin was the founder of the Campbells of Argyll, and his main castle, Innischonaill, was on an island in Loch awe.

At the end of the 15th century, the Argyll Campbells moved their base to Loch Fyne, to where their seat now is at Inverary. Sir Colin's immediate descendants supported Robert the Bruce, and one of Bruce's sisters, Mary, was married to Neil Campbell of Lochawe. From that time onwards the Campbells benefitted by supporting the Crown. From the late 15th Century onwards they began to exert wide influence. For a time the Campbells acted on behalf of the Royal Government in the west. Colin, the 2nd Lord Campbell, was created 1st Earl of Argyll in 1457, appointed Master of the Royal Household in the 1460s (an office that later became a hereditary one for the Campbells), and Lord Chancellor in 1483. He married the daughter and heiress of John Stewart, Lord of Lorne, which greatly extended his territory and his power by the time he died in 1493. His son Archibald, the 2nd Earl, fell at Flodden Field in 1513 along with King James IV and most of the Scottish nobility engaged.

Colin Campbell, the 3rd Earl, became Warden of the Marches between Scotland and England, and in 1528 was made Lord Justice General of Scotland (though he did not live more than a few months to enjoy it). His son Archibald, the 4th Earl of Argyll, was Judiciary of Scotland and one of the very first to adopt and promote the Protestant Reformation. When he died in 1558, the 5th Earl took the side of Mary, Queen of Scots in her struggle with the Scottish Parliament and the Regent, the Earl of Moray. When Moray was murdered in 1570, Argyll became one of the Lieutenants of Scotland governing the country during the minority of Mary’s son James VI; but he was not made Regent when Moray's successor Lennox died in 1571. When he died without issue in 1575 the Earldom passed to his brother Colin as 6th Earl; he became Lord Chancellor in 1579.

By the time of Archibald Campbell, 7th Earl (1584-1638), the Campbells were Scotland's paramount clan: almost a kingdom within a kingdom.Their chiefs bid for the highest offices in the land as a matter of right, while no effort was spared to extend the Campbell domination by force or by law. No clan was ever more successful at buying up the debts of weaker neighbours. 'The Campbells', writes John Buchan in Montrose, 'had a knack of winning by bow and spear, then holding for all time by seal and parchment.' Thanks to the sea trade brought in by its long coast, Clan Campbell was also the richest clan in Scotland bar none. With Campbell raiding parties cowing the clan's weaker neighbours as far east as Badenoch, Lochaber, and the Braes of Angus, the Campbells were also the most hated.

Archibald Campbell, 8th Earl of Argyll from 1638 to 61, was a leader of the Covenanters in their resistance to Charles I. He was compelled by the king to bow to the demands of Covenant and Parliament in 1641, yet in true campbell style accepted new title of 1st Marquis bestowed during the King’s visit to Scotland in 1641 (one of many knighthoods and titles, none refused, with which the King vainly hoped to make the rebellious nobility of Scotland his loyal supporters). Though no soldier himself, Argyll threw the immense resources of Clan Campbell into the Covenanting cause during the Greal Civil War ~ only to see that power broken, and the Campbell lands plundered by exulting enemy clansmen only too eager to get some of their own back, during Montrose's amazing winter campaign of l644-45.

After Montrose's defeat at Philiphaugh, Argyll shared the widespread contempt earned by the Covenanters for betraying and handing over Charles I to the tender mercies of the English Parliamentarians. He sought to dorninate the young King Charles II when the latter attempted a Royalist comeback in 1650, placing the Crown of Scotland on the King's head during the coronation at Scone, then made a pact with Cromwell after the latter's defeat of the Scots at Dunbar and Worcester. For this he was not forgiven at the Restoration in 1660, and was executed at Edinburgh in 1661.

Though the Marquessate of Argyll was forfeited on the conviction and execution of the 8th Earl, the other Campbell honours were restored to his son, the 9th Earl. He was the last Argyll to oppose the Crown, in l685, supporting the Protestant Duke of Monmouth in his bid to oust the Catholic James II, Charles II's brother and successor. Argyll was captured and executed and his seat at Inverary (though subsequently rebuilt) was razed to the ground.

It was under the l0th Earl, who backed William of Orange in l688-89, that the Campbells earned lasting infamy for their role in the notorious Massacre of Glencoe (13th February, 1692). The treacherous attack on his hosts, the Glencoe MacDonalds , by Captain Robert Campbell and his troops, violated every ancient tenet of hospitality. Ordered as it was by King William, the massacre encouraged much Highland support for the cause of the exiled Stewart King James in what now became known as the Jacobite cause. But the Campbells continued to prosper as Government adherents.

The l0th Earl received a Dukedom in 1701; two subsequent Dukes of Argyll became Field Marshals in the British Army. the 9th Duke married Princess Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria, and became Governor-General of Canada. Of the several branches of Clan Campbell, two of the most important were those of Breadalbane and Cawdor. The Breadalbane Campbells stem from Colin of Glenorchy, son of Duncan Campbell of Lochawe, the 1st Lord, who obtained Glenorchy when the MacGregors were driven off it. One of their earliest seats was Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe. This branch became Earls of Breadalbane in 1677.

The Cawdor Campbells stem from an act of dynastic piracy on the part of the 2nd Earl of Argyll. In 1499 he kidnapped the infant daughter of the Thane of Cawdor a few weeks after the latter's death, and ten years or so later married her to his third son, Sir John Campbell. This made the Campbells Lords of Cawdor, and in 1827, the l0th Lord of Cawdor became 1st Earl of Cawdor. Both earldoms, Breadalbane and Cawdor, still exist.