written by Sara Mordzynski
Even into the 13th century, much of the western coast of Scotland was ruled by magnates who recognized the kings of Norway as their overlord. However, this was continually challenged by the kings of Scotland. Offers to purchase ownership from the Norwegian king were thwarted; thereby, triggering more aggressive measures by Alexander III. Finally, in 1263, Hakon Hakonarson, King of Norway, decides to reassert his sovereignty in the region. Based on a supposed charter, Colin Fitzgerald (aka Colin of Kintail) received the lands of Kintail for his service in the Battle of Largs. Presumably, this same Colin is also responsible for how the antler imagery becomes linked to the clan. Back in the days of Alexander II, those guys could not resist a good hunt – but as you all know after viewing episode 104, these events were not all fun and games. Real risk was ever present and stags can be quite aggressive, too. Good thing Colin was part of this adventure, as he saves the king from a charging stag. For this, he is granted the stag’s head as his coat of arms. Although the Mackenzies do end up with Kintail, most historians do not attribute it to this particular Colin because there remains controversy over his existence. Although the accuracy of the tale may be suspect, it certainly highlights what the clan becomes at the height of its powers—the king’s men in the North.
|Cuidich ‘N Righ
(Help the King)
The 3rd Baron of Kintail, Coinneach MacCoinneach (Kenneth son of Kenneth, chief from1274-1304) is the progenitor of the clan. Anglicanized to Mackenzie, it originally would have been pronounced more like MacKenny. Earlier, the clan was subservient to the Earls of Ross, but now hold lands directly from the king. In the Scottish Wars of Independence, Kenneth’s son, Ian Murdoch shelters Robert the Bruce in Eilean Donan as he escapes the English and his rivals to the thrown, the Comyns; subsequently, defeating them in the Battle of Inverurie (1308). He played a pivotal role through out the struggle, adding his 500 clansmen to Robert’s decisive victory against Edward II in the fields of Bannockburn (1314).
One of the earliest written reference to a Mackenzie, a supplication for papal dispensation in 1465, was made by Alexander of Kintail and in 1471, he is witness to a charter granted by John, Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles. If you venture to what remains of Beauly Priory, the earliest (1492) knightly effigy of a MacKenzie can be viewed. Inter-clan conflicts dominate the Highlands throughout the 15th century. Territory meant power and wealth. For the Mackenzies, that essentially meant battling the Earls of Ross and Clan Munro in the Battle of Bealach naim Briog, aka Pass of Brogue, 1452; siding with royal forces in 1488 against clans supporting the heir, Prince James, later James IV in the Battle of Sauchieburn (in the area of Stirling); fighting with the MacDonalds in 1491 in the Battle of Blar na Pairce (Battle of the Park in Strathpeffer, in the region of Ross and Cromarty; then in the Raid on Ross skirmishing with Clan Cameron and Mackintosh. Finally, to end off the century, in 1497’s Battle of Drumchatt, the MacDonalds give it another go but the Mackenzies win and maintain their hold in Ross-shire. Phew…had enough of battles? Just wait, there’s more.