Clan Sutherland

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Surnames/tags: Clan_Sutherland Sutherland Scottish_Clans
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Welcome to Clan Sutherland

Clan Sutherland Team
Team Leader TBD
Team Members Jackie Stoddard, Laura Bozzay, Janice Sutherland, Michael Thomas, Mark Sutherland-Fisher
Clan Chief:
Slogan/War Cry:
Historic Seat:
Plant badge:
Pipe music:
Gaelic name:

Clan Team

Team Goals

The focus of this team's work is to identify, improve and maintain profiles associated with the Lairds and Chiefs of Clan Sutherland together with members bearing the name Sutherland, the related families and those recognised as septs of Clan Sutherland.

Team To Do List

This list will be developed by the Team. If you are working on a specific task, please list it here:

  • promoting the entries of those bearing the name Sutherland on Wikitree.
  • ensuring entries appearing on Wikitree are as accurate as possible, correcting mistakes once spotted.
  • encouraging interest in and study of Clan Sutherland



Clan History

Clan Branches

Other Names Associated with the Clan

Allied Clans

Rival Clans

Clan Research and Free Space Pages

Source Material

Image Credits and Acknowledgements

Information below this line should be summarized and incorporated into this Team page. Detailed information should be moved to additional Clan pages.

Clan Chief: Alistair Charles St. Clair Sutherland, 25th Earl of Sutherland. Chief of Clan Sutherland. Succeeded his mother Elizabeth Millicent Sutherland in 2020.

Crest: A cat-a-mountain sejant rampant Proper.

Motto: Sans Peur (Without Fear)

Slogan: Ceann na Drochaide Bige!

Region: Highlands

District: Sutherland

Historic seat: Dunrobin Castle

Plant badge: Cotton Sedge

Pipe music: The Earl of Sutherland's March

Gaelic name: Suithearlarach (Singular) & Na Suithearlaraichean (Plural)

Allied Clans:

Clan Murray (13th to 16th centuries), Clan Gordon (16th century), Clan Mackay (18th century), Clan Gunn (18th century), Clan Sinclair (18th century), Clan Munro

Rival Clans:

Clan Murray (18th century), Clan Gordon (18th century), Clan Mackay (14th, 15th & 16th centuries), Clan Gunn (16th century), Clan Sinclair (16th century)

Clan branches:

Earl of Sutherland (chiefs)
Sutherland of Duffus
Sutherland of Forse
Sutherland of Kinsteary
Sutherland of Clyne
Sutherland of Uppat
Sutherland of St. Vincent
Sutherland of Killipheder

Names associated with the clan:

Clan Sutherland

Clan Sutherland is a Highland Scottish clan whose traditional territory is located in the region of Sutherland in the Northern Highlands of Scotland, and was one of the most powerful Scottish clans. The clan seat is Dunrobin Castle, Sutherland. The chief of the clan was also the powerful Earl of Sutherland, however in the early 16th century this title passed through marriage to a younger son of the chief of Clan Gordon.

The progenitor of Clan Sutherland was a Flemish nobleman named Freskin, who was also the progenitor of Clan Murray. It has been claimed that Freskin was Pictish, but it is much more likely that he was a Flemish knight, one of a ruthless group of warlords who were employed by the Norman kings to pacify their new realm after the Norman conquest of England. David I of Scotland, who was brought up in the English court, employed such men to keep hold of the wilder parts of his kingdom and granted Freskin lands in West Lothian.

The ancient Pictish kingdom of Moray was also given to Freskin, and this put an end to the remnants of that old royal house. In a series of astute political moves Freskin and his sons inter-married with the old house of Moray to consolidate their power. Freskin's descendants were designated by the surname de Moravia. Freskin's grandson was Hugh de Moravia, who was granted lands in Sutherland and was known as Lord de Sudrland. Hugh's younger brother, William, was progenitor of Clan Murray. Hugh's eldest son (also called William) was William de Moravia, 1st Earl of Sutherland.

The place name and clan name of "Sutherland" came from it being the 'land to the south' of the Norse Earldom of Orkney and Caithness. Although the senior line of chiefs who were the Earls of Sutherland had the surname 'de Moravia', they often used the territorial surname 'Sutherland'. The younger sons of the family also took the surname 'Sutherland', thus creating the cadet branches of Clan Sutherland.

History of the Clan

Wars of Scottish Independence

During the Wars of Scottish Independence, chief William de Moravia, 3rd Earl of Sutherland (William Sutherland) fought at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, where the English army was defeated. Kenneth de Moravia, 4th Earl of Sutherland (Kenneth Sutherland) was killed at the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333.

William de Moravia, 5th Earl of Sutherland (William Sutherland), whose first wife was Margaret, the daughter of Robert the Bruce and sister of David II of Scotland, led the clan at Kilblene where he participated in the siege of Cupar Castle Fife. William, Earl of Sutherland accompanied King David II of Scotland into England where both were captured at the Battle of Neville's Cross in 1346, by Durham. They remained in prison for over ten years before being released. John, the son of the Earl and Princess Margaret, was designated the heir to the Throne over Robert Stewart, who eventually became King Robert II in 1371.

14th-century clan conflicts

The habitual enemies of Clan Sutherland were Clan Sinclair of Caithness and Clan Mackay and Clan McLeod to the west of Sutherland. A feud with the Mackays came to a head when Nicholas Sutherland of Duffus, head of one of the junior branches, murdered the chief of the Clan Mackay and his heir at Dingwall Castle, where they had met in an attempt to patch up the feud. A retaliatory raid by the Mackays on Dornoch took place, where the cathedral was set on fire and many Sutherland men were hanged in the town square.

William, 5th Earl of Sutherland was killed by the Mackays in 1370 in feud which lasted for the next four centuries. In 1388 the Earl of Sutherland was a leader of the Scots invading into the west of England. He married Margaret Stewart, daughter of Alexander, Earl of Buchan, a younger son of King Robert II of Scotland.

15th century and clan conflicts

The Battle of Drumnacoub was fought in 1431. Angus Du Mackay, chief of Clan Mackay defeated Angus Murray and the Sutherlanders on the slopes of the mountain Ben Loyal near Tongue.

The Battle of Skibo and Strathfleet was fought in 1480. John MacDonald of Islay, Earl of Ross, invaded Sutherland and was defeated by Clan Sutherland and the Murrays of Aberscross.

According to 17th-century historian Sir Robert Gordon, Clan Sutherland joined Clan Mackay in their victory over the Clan Ross at the Battle of Aldy Charrish in 1487. However 19th - 20th-century historian Angus Mackay disputes the Sutherland's presence at the battle, stating that it would be unlikely the Earl of Sutherland at the time would have assisted against the Rosses as he was married to a daughter of the Ross chief of Balnagowan, and also that the feudal superiority of the Sutherlands over the Mackays "nowhere existed save in his own fertile imagination".

16th century and clan conflicts

William Sutherland, 4th Laird of Duffus was killed fighting against the English at the Battle of Flodden in 1513.

In 1517, Elizabeth de Moravia, 10th Countess of Sutherland (Elizabeth Sutherland), married Adam Gordon, younger son of Gordon of Huntly. Their son was Alexander Gordon, Master of Sutherland, who would become the legal heir to the Earldom of Sutherland and overall chieftainship of the Clan Sutherland.

In the same year, the Mackays rose up against the Gordons who had taken power in Sutherland, which resulted in the Battle of Torran Dubh, where the Mackays were defeated. At the battle, the Sutherland force had been led by Alexander Sutherland, brother of Elizabeth, 10th Countess of Sutherland. In 1518, Alexander Sutherland rose up against his sister Elizabeth, 10th Countess of Sutherland, and her husband Adam Gordon, but he was defeated at the Battle of Alltachuilain.

The Battle of Alltan-Beath took place in 1542, Donald Mackay of Strathnaver decided to invade Clan Sutherland. He burned the village of Knockarthur and looted Strathbrora. Clan Sutherland, led by Hutcheon Murray of Abirscors with Gilbert Gordon of Garty, attacked the Mackays at a place called Ailtan-Beath and much of the stolen booty was recovered. Donald Mackay was captured and imprisoned in Foulis Castle, Ross-shire, by commandment of the Queen Regent.

In 1545, at Dingwall, the Earl of Sutherland entered into a bond of man-rent with John Mackenzie of Kintail for mutual defense against all enemies, reserving only their allegiance to the youthful Mary, Queen of Scots.

In 1547, John Gordon, 11th Earl of Sutherland, led the clan against the English army at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh.

In 1555, the Battle of Garbharry was fought, which was the last battle between =Clan Mackay and Clan Sutherland. In 1586, the Battle of Leckmelm took place, where the Sutherlands, Mackays and MacLeods defeated Clan Gunn.

In 1588, Castle Sinclair Girnigoe withstood a siege by the Earl of Sutherland and, in 1590, George Sinclair, 5th Earl of Caithness, invaded Sutherland, resulting in the Battle of Clynetradwell.

17th century and Civil War

In the 17th century, Clan Sutherland began to acquire a reputation for enthusiastic and pious Protestantism. This is probably what made the Gordon Earls of Sutherland begin to distance themselves from their Gordon Earl of Huntly (Clan Gordon) cousins who were Catholics and later Jacobites. In 1645, John Gordon, 14th Earl of Sutherland, led the clan against the royalists at the Battle of Auldearn but was defeated.

In 1650, Clan Sutherland, along with Clan Munro and Clan Ross, joined forces with the Scottish Argyll Government to fight against James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose, and his royalist army of foreigners, who they defeated at the Battle of Carbisdale.

In 1685, John Gordon, 16th Earl of Sutherland, raised men of the Clan Sutherland to oppose Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll's expedition. The Earl of Sutherland also raised two regiments from the clan after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the second of which he was a Colonel in Flanders in 1694.

18th century and Jacobite risings

Jacobite rising of 1715

During the Jacobite rising of 1715, John Gordon, 16th Earl of Sutherland, who later resumed the surname Sutherland, called out his men to fight for George I of Great Britain. Clan Sutherland garrisoned Inverness Castle against the Jacobites.

Jacobite rising of 1719

In 1719, a detachment of men from Clan Sutherland fought for the British government at the Battle of Glenshiel, where they helped to defeat the Jacobites. The Earl and chief of Clan Sutherland had been of the surname Gordon since the early 16th century, however John Gordon, 16th Earl of Sutherland, resumed the surname of Sutherland and was officially recognized as chief of Clan Sutherland by the Court of the Lord Lyon in 1719.

Jacobite rising of 1745

Clan Sutherland also supported the British government during the Jacobite rising of 1745. At the start of the rising, William, 17th Earl of Sutherland and chief of Clan Sutherland, reconciled with their ancient enemies, the Mackays, settling the ancient feud.

In 1745, the fighting force of Clan Sutherland was given as 2,000 men. During the rising, Jacobites under George Mackenzie, 3rd Earl of Cromartie, occupied the Sutherland's Dunrobin Castle, and the Earl of Sutherland narrowly escaped them through a back door. He then sailed for Aberdeen where he joined the Duke of Cumberland's army.

However this same Jacobite force, under the Earl of Cromartie was defeated by the Clan Sutherland militia, who formed an Independent Highland Company, in what became known as the Battle of Littleferry. Despite all these efforts by the Earl of Sutherland to defeat the Jacobites, including his victory at Littleferry, he struggled to prove to the parliament in London that he had not had Jacobite sympathies.

Disputed chiefship

The chief of Clan Sutherland was the Earl of Sutherland. When William Sutherland, 18th Earl of Sutherland, died in 1766, he left an only daughter, Elizabeth. This led to a legal battle over the succession to the title. Elizabeth's right to succeed as a woman was challenged by George Sutherland of Forse, who was a direct male descendant of the original de Moravia/Sutherland Earls of Sutherland, and by Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonstoun who was a direct male descendant of the later Gordon Earls of Sutherland.

The case was heard by the House of Lords on 21 March 1771 and decided in favour of Elizabeth. She married George Leveson-Gower, Earl Gower, afterwards Marquess of Stafford, who later became the first Duke of Sutherland in 1833. The Duke set up businesses on the coast and ruthlessly cleared his tenants off the land, abandoning the customary obligations of a Scottish clan chief (The Highland Clearances).

Upon the death of the 5th Duke of Sutherland, the chiefship of the clan and the earldom of Sutherland fell upon his niece, Elizabeth Sutherland, 24th Countess of Sutherland, the current chief of Clan Sutherland.


  • Dunrobin Castle is the seat of the Earl of Sutherland, chief of the Clan Sutherland. As a side note, the massive and stately castle, built to look like a French chateau, was the home of the Sutherland family for centuries. The family became infamous for their part in the Highland Clearances, during which many local crofters were forcibly evicted so the land could be used more profitably rearing sheep. A ghost haunts the upper floors of the castle, and is reputed to be the daughter of the 14th Earl of Sutherland, who was imprisoned by her father to stop her from marrying someone he regarded as unsuitable. She tried to escape down a rope from an upstairs room but fell to her death.

  • Dornoch Castle given to John Gordon, 11th Earl of Sutherland in 1557 by the Bishop of Caithness.

  • Duffus Castle was the seat of the Sutherland of Duffus branch of the clan.

  • Forse Castle was the seat of the Sutherland of Forse branch of the clan.
  • Aberscross Castle near Dornoch, Sutherland was the seat of the Murrays or Morrays of Aberscross, a sept of the Clan Sutherland, they were the principal vassals of the Earl of Sutherland and were charged with the defense of the shire. Their name appears predominantly on the front line in the feuds with the Mackays and Sinclairs. Aberscross Castle fell into ruin in the 17th century. (The name of the original line of Earls of Sutherland was "de Moravia" which means "of Moray" or "of Murray"). Aberscross Castle was held by the de Moravia (Murray) family from when they first moved to Sutherland at the end of the twelfth century.

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Love the idea behind the teamwork! The site is looking good. A couple of requests -- may I please be put on the trusted list to see full-size photos and otherwise "poke around" the site?

And the other is really a suggestion/request/observation. I really like that you are listing the various branches of the clan. I've discovered that I can look around and find profiles for the various branches. However, if links can be embedded on this page, I think it would be neat to link to two or three profiles for each branch of the family, concentrating on those who have GedMatch numbers associated with their descendants. Since Mark Sutherland-Fisher has just informed the members of the Facebook group about the clustering of family groups by DNA, it would be a great tie-in with the two groups.

Thanks for all your work on this.

Velma Southerland

posted by Velma Southerland
I am not able to see the Castle photos either
posted by Janice Sutherland

Categories: Clan Sutherland