Mouat Clan

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Clan Mouat/Mowat 'De Monte Alto'

The arrival of the first members of what was to become Clan Mouat into Scotland is thought to have occurred with the influx of Norman and Flemish nobility that accompanied David I and his wife. Believed to be derived from a family of de Monte Alto, there is evidence of a family of de Monte Alto holding lands on the borders of Wales (Welsh Marches) and a Robert de Monte Alto moved from Wales to the area of Angus (Forfarshire). Sir William de Monte Alto obtained from King William the Lion, c. 1200, the Lordship of Ferne in Forfarshire, of which county Eustace de Monte Alto was Sheriff in 1263. Also, about 1214, a Richard de Monte Alto, justice of Scotland, witnessed a confirmation of Alexander II.

The inter-relationships of the early family(ies) is unknown but in 1264, a member of the family, Sir William Mowat, noticed as William de Muhaut on the original record, son to Michael Mowat and brother to Bernard Mowat, is described as Lord of Ferne and is known to be Sheriff of Cromarty. He held land at Farness in Ross and Cromarty. Sir William was a participant at the Treaty of Salisbury. In 1297 there was a Bernard de Monte Alto noticed as Clerk to Euphemia, Countess of Ross.[1] He is likely the same Bernard de Monte Alto, who, along with the Abbot of Balmurinash, and several knights and nobles accompanied Princess Margaret to Norway. On his return, he with the abbot and many others were drowned in the wreck of their ship.

Early members of the family appear on People of Medieval Scotland under Mowat.

Myths and Legends

The origin of the family of Monte Alto is obscure. The first member, Eustace de Montaut, also noticed on record as Monte Alto, Montalt, Monhaut, or FitzNorman, was a member of William's army during the Norman Invasion of Britain. He is believed to have been born c. 1025 and died in 1112. He was the progenitor of viscounts Hawarden and Barons of Montalt. History accords him three sons; Hugh, Roger and Ralph (or Ranulph) nd it is one of his descendants that will travel to Scotland.

He, Eustace, is believed to have been born in Monthault, Ille-et-Vilaine, Brittany, to parents whose names are not recorded. It has often been claimed that Eustace's family were originally the Lords of Monte Alto in Italy,[2] but there is no evidence of this.

The origin legend of the family of Monte Alto is apparently sourced to a work called "Speid’s Genealogy of the Royal and Most illustrious Noble Families in Europe". He suggests that the family originated in the mountains of Italy. Peter the first Lord of Farnese, a castle in Etruria, founded our family c. AD 600.

About a century later, Charles, Lord of Farnese, who was then chief of the family, retired from Italy to France and settled there and was created Prince de Monte Alto by the French King. He assumed the title as h=is surname. In the late eight century and into the early years of the 800’s, throughout the reign of Charlemagne, the family was accorded more honours and titles resulting from various services. The name Monte Alto carried over from their time in Italy where a small city Montalto Uffugo still exists in the south. The Latin version of the name which translates to ‘of the high mountain’ became Monthault the name recognised in Normandy.

Magnus [a name well used by Shetland Mouats] the fifth Prince de Monte Alto married in the year 1000, to Maria Anna Elenore, second daughter of the Emperor of Germany. During the intervening years the family was distinguished through service to Charles the Great, known as Charlemagne.

Notable Early Family Members in Scotland

Bernard de Mohaut of Peebleshire, for bearing arms against the king of England at Methyen, “and feloniously slaying some of the King’s liegemen there, and taken on the field, and slaying Roger de Tany, the King's valet, in Selkirk forest and burning and destroying churches in Scotland, was sentenced to be drawn and hanged.

William de Monte Alto, one of the signers of the Declaration of Arbroath [the Scottish Declaration of Independence] was killed at the siege of Northham Castle in 1327.


Buchollie castle, a short distance from the house of Freswick, of which there are considerable ruins, was the ancient residence of the Caithness Mouats/Mowats, and it is supposed to occupy the same site as Lambalurgh, which was a fort and stronghold in 1142.

The name of the castle and the family title were, no doubt, derived from the Aberdeenshire property of the Mouats. It does not appear that their lands in Caithness, which from the Modern estate of Freswick, went by the name Buchollie.

Lambaborg, as it was known originally was one of the two castles held by one of the wild progeny of the long ships of the Norse who colonised the Northern Isles of Scotland and the county of Caithness for over 400 years, his name Swein Asleifson, the scourge of the north, till his death in 1160. The Shetland Mouat’s own the large block of stone with the family crest and motto on it. This was saved from the Mouat Stronghold in Caithness and kept safe by the family.

See Also: From the Shetland Family History Society.

Surname of the Month - Mouat May 18th, 2015 Launch voted a huge success Saturday the 9th May, 2015 saw the launch of the latest in the series of Surname of the Month events organise by the Society. Delting Boating Club was the venue for this informal “in aboot da efternoon” gathering to share stories from the different branches of the Mouat family in Shetland. And that was certainly achieved! During research throughout the winter months at the Hillhead, Lerwick so much has been learnt about this Shetland family name. There were Mouats from Dunrossness to Denver, Gardie to Govan and Norwick to New Zealand. They were bakers, a lumber baron, gold diggers and preachers. We see tenants, Lairds, Portioners, a Moad outwitting the Pressgang and the richest heiress in Norway – Karen Mouat, b.abt 1630 d.1675, owned the Barony of Rosendal just outside Bergen. It is now used and cherished by the University of Oslo. This was all due to her seafaring family trading with Scotland and Norway. A visit to the Archives allowed the researches to understand how Shetlanders lived their day to day lives in Shetland and to access further documents. Gaining further insights into social history from the Shetland books and census records in our own library at the Hillhead. The Mouat folders, now built up to 35 plus, that have been compiled will be an ongoing project, accessible to members at the Hillhead as the Society volunteers gather more information in the future. Our thanks go to the Delting Boating Club Committee for the use of their excellent venue. Secondly, a big thank you to all who came with their family trees and information to share. Finally, we are happy to help to piece together any Shetland family tree jigsaws that you are puzzling over. Contact the Secretary here. Origin of Mouat Most families of Mouat derive the surname from a place-name in Normandy - Monte Alto. There is at least one Shetland family where the surname is patronymic derived from the forename Matthew. Mouat in Shetland The first Mouats recorded in Shetland were landowners - Andrew Mouat in Hugoland, Northmavine is recorded in 1572. He was said to have come from Caithness. Whilst Mouat is the usual spelling in Shetland the name is recorded in other forms - Mowat, Mode, Moad etc. This is especially true of families leaving Shetland, where the Shetlandic dialect obviously has had an influence. Occurrence In 1881 there were 443 people recorded in Shetland with the surname Mouat/Mowat being 1.3% of the population. Notable Mouats Betty Mouat 1825-1918. Famous for being cast away in the smack Columbine in 1886. The skipper fell overboard and the crew went to his rescue leaving Betty alone. The vessel drifted to Norway where she was saved by men from the island of Lepsøy. Mouat of Garth. For many generations the family owned considerable lands in Delting, Northmavine, Unst and Bressay.

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  1. Earls of Ross (MacTaggart) on Foundation of medieval Genealogy
  2. For one: The Peerage of Ireland: Or, A Genealogical History of the Present Nobility of that Kingdom; Volume 7, page 271

See Also:

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Mowat Tartan
Mowat Tartan

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Categories: Mouat Clan