Origins of the Clan

The early history of the Grahams of Scotland remains complex. Legend suggests that the Roman Antonine Wall, which forged the divide between Roman Britannia and the unconquered highlands, was broken by Graeme (sic.), a great Caledonian chief, as he drove the Roman legions from his lands. This, unfortunately, might never be proven, although Roman texts vaguely reference a Graeme in similar context.

Theories attempt to explain the ancient roots of the clan with the postulation that similar names from the Celtic “Greamach” (grim) or the Saxon “Gram” (fierce) were absorbed into a larger entity to form a united clan. Scottish legend also suggests that the daughter of a Gryme married a King of the Scots, Fergus II, and that the family consequently holds exceptionally old royal ancestry beyond that later gained. The Celts and Saxons disappeared or were swallowed up by the descendants of “Lez Grames” of Norman origin. Some say that the original Grahams in Scotland were Picts, established long before the Normans or Saxons came to Scotland, making Graham one of the most ancient families in all of Britain.

Though the above theories differ as to how the clan was established in Scotland, solid information has established a Norman descent of the original Grahams. These Normans were originally of the Vikings who landed on Scottish soil in ancient times and thus a Graham lineage goes back into Scandinavia.

From the records available, the first Graham known in Scotland was Sir William de Graham (or De Graeme), a knight who accompanied David I, England’s premier baron, on his journey north to claim the Scottish crown in 1128. William De Graeme personally witnessed the signing of the charter founding the Abbey of Holyrood in the same year 1128. From this line descended the Montrose line of Grahams, one of the most distinguished families of Scotland and perhaps all of Britain. This knight might have originated from a place listed as “Graeg Ham” in the Domesday Book of William the Conqueror in 11th Century in England - now the town of Grantham.



Grahams of Great Ability

In John Stewart’s book, The Grahams, he states that “Most Scottish Clans would be proud to have one great hero. The Grahams have three.” He refers to Sir John Graham (see below), James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose and John Graham, 1st Viscount of Dundee. There were, of course, many more besides these three towering figures.

Stewart also wrote,

It is remarkable that the early Grahams were one and all exceedingly capable men. In an age when the reputation of many great public figures, alas, that of most of the Scottish nobility, were sullied by deeds of violence, and often deeds of blackest treachery, it is refreshing to find that the Grahams stand out as loyal and true to the causes they espoused. Their story is not one of rapid rise to power through royal favor, or even at the expense of their peers, but rather a gradual steady rise based on their undoubted ability and worthiness which seems to have endured from one generation to another.



Wars of Scottish Independence

Twice the Montrose Grahams married into the royal family. From these came some notable men. First among them was Sir John de Graham, right hand man to William Wallace, killed during the Wars of Scottish Independence at the Battle of Falkirk in 1298. The Clan Graham also fought at the Battle of Dunbar in 1296 where Sir Patrick Graham of Kincardine was the only man of all the Scots not to retreat and instead fought to the death. The Clan Graham also fought against the English at the Battle of Durham in 1346, in support of Robert the Bruce. The Grahams acquired the lands of Mugdock north of Glasgow, where they built a stout castle around 1370.



Sir John de Graham

Sir John de Graham, hero of the Wars of Independence, rescued William Wallace at Queensberry, becoming one of Wallace’s few close friends and perhaps his most trusted advisor. William Wallace was at his side when Graham was killed in 1298 at the battle of Falkirk, where his name is still perpetuated in the district of Grahamston. The grave of this hero in Falkirk churchyard is still to be seen, with table stones of three successive periods above it. As an evidence of the honour in which his memory was held, it is recalled that, after the second battle of Falkirk in 1746, the Jacobites wished to do special honour to one of their opponents, Col. Sir Robert Munro, chief of the Clan Munro. Robert Munro, who supported the British government had been rewarded the command of an English regiment. He had been fighting at the front at the second battle of Falkirk in 1746, when the English troops he was in command of ran away. He was attacked by six Jacobites, he killed at least two with his pike before being shot by a Jacobite commander. The Jacobites opened the grave of Sir John de Graham and buried Sir Robert Munro beside the dust of the hero. One great two-handed sword of Sir John the Graham is preserved at Buchanan Castle by the Duke of Montrose; another was long in possession of the Grahams of Orchil, and is now treasured by the Free Mason Lodge at Auchterarder.



James III v James IV

The family’s landholdings and power grew throughout the centuries, partly as a result of the family’s continued tendencies toward marrying into the royal family. Patrick Graham of Kincardine was created a peer in 1451 with the title, ‘Lord Graham’.

The Clan Graham fought at the Battle of Sauchieburn which was fought on June 11, 1488, at the side of Sauchie Burn, a brook about two miles south of Stirling, Scotland. The battle was fought between as many as 30,000 troops of King James III and some 18,000 troops raised by Scottish nobles who favored the King’s then-15-year-old son, Prince James who would become King James IV.



16th Century & Anglo-Scottish Wars

In 1504 Lord Graham, on account of his gallantry was made 1st Earl of Montrose. He would go on to lead part of the Scottish Vanguard against the English at the Battle of Flodden Field in 1513, part of the Anglo-Scottish Wars where he was slain. The Clan Graham were among the clans who fought against the English at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh 1547, where the eldest son of the second Earl, Robert, Lord Graham was slain.



17th Century & Civil War

James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose

A second notable Graham was James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose poet, but above all, the most distinguished soldier of his time. He was martyred in Edinburgh in 1650. He played a massive part in the Civil War in Scotland.

      James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose is victorious at the Battle of Tippermuir on 1st September 1644. Graham was fighting in support of King Charles I. Graham was also supported at this battle by the Clan Robertson and the Clan Murray led by the Earl of Atholl. It was the first battle James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose fought for the king during the Scottish Civil War. The main objective of the battle was the reclamation of Perth. Montrose had joined forces with Alaster M’Coll Keitach (known as Alasdair MacColla McDonald) and his Irish soldiers. Nevertheless, he was greatly outnumbered by the Covenanters: Montrose’s Highlanders and the Irish together made up no more than 2000 men, Lord Elcho on the other side had 7,000 infantry and 700 horse. Yet Montrose’s men were more experienced and better motivated, a fact that would count to their advantage during the battle.

      James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose is victorious at the Battle of Aberdeen on 13th September 1644. Again commanding forces loyal to King Charles I. Graham was supported at the battle by the Clan Robertson. After defeating Lord Elcho’s forces at the Battle of Tippermuir, outside Perth, Montrose’s forces had captured a large cache of weapons and munitions, but had not captured Perth, and had suffered the desertion of the highland forces under his command, leaving a force of around 1000 Irish infantry under Alasdair MacColla and 44 horse from the Earl of Newcastle. Montrose led these men on a rapid advance on Aberdeen, the main Covenanter sea port in Scotland, picking up a force of around 500 highlanders on the way. After a diversion to avoid being forced to take a fortified bridge over the River Dee, they reached Aberdeen on the 12th of September. The battle took place the following day on the 13th,after which Montrose’s troops set about three days of rape, robbery and murder through the town. This act undermined any prospect that Aberdeen - or any other Scottish town - would be prepared to become a capitol for the Royalist cause in Scotland in the way that Oxford became the Royalist capitol in England.

      In October 1644, Huntly Castle was captured by James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose and defended against the Duke of Argyll.

      In 1645 James Graham at the head of his Royalist forces took the opportunity to lay waste to the lands of the Arbuthnott family; this was because the Arbuthnotts who had previously been loyal to the Royalist cause had become sympathetic to the Covenanters.

      James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose is victorious at the Battle of Inverlochy (1645). Commanding forces loyal to King Charles I. Graham was supported by clans including the Clan MacDonald, Clan Robertson, Clan Cameron, Clan MacKinnon, Clan Ogilvy and Clan MacLean. Their enemy was an army of the Scottish Government commanded by Duncan Campbell of Auchinbreck whose forces mostly consisted of the Clan Campbell. It was one of the most complete victories of the whole royalist campaign; but it was also a battle that-if it had been left to Montrose alone-might never have been fought. It is important to remember that Montrose’s whole campaign in northern Scotland was based on two distinct elements that could not always be reconciled-a war for King Charles and a war against Clan Campbell. For Alasdair MacColla, the royalist second-in-command, and for many of the ordinary Highland and Irish soldiers the cause of King Charles came a distant second to the destruction of an ancient enemy. MacColla was fighting primarily for the interests of Clan Donald, and against the Campbells, who had taken much land from the MacDonalds, driven them from MacColla’s home in the Western Isles and were holding his own father hostage.

      James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose is victorious at the Battle of Auldearn on 9th May 1645. Again commanding forces loyal to King Charles I. He was supported by the Clan Robertson and cavalry from the Clan Gordon. It was a victory for Montrose and Alasdair MacColla, heading the royalist forces, over a Covenanter army under the command of Sir John Hurry whose forces included the Clan MacKenzie and the Clan MacLennan.

      James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose is victorious at the Battle of Alford on 2nd July 1645. Again commanding forces loyal to King Charles I. Graham was also supported by the Clan Robertson and Clan Maclachlan at this battle. Having defeated Colonel Hurry at Auldearn, the Marquis of Montrose continued his raiding campaign in the Highlands. Fearing that Montrose intended to attack Aberdeen again, Major-General William Baillie led the Government army to cut him off but was defeated by Grahams forces.

      James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose is victorious at the Battle of Kilsyth on 15th August 1645. Again commanding forces loyal to King Charles I. Here Graham was supported by the forces of the Clan Robertson, Clan MacNab and Clan Ogilvy. Despite the numerical disadvantage, the battle was another victory for Royalist forces over the Covenanters, and marked the end of William Baillie’s pursuit of the Royalists.

      James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose is defeated at the Battle of Philiphaugh 13th September 1645. Again commanding forces loyal to King Charles I. Here Graham was supported by the forces of Clan Douglas who were led by Chief William Douglas, the 11th Earl of Angus. Graham was also supported by the Clan Robertson, Clan Stirling, Clan Ogilvy, Clan Charteris and Clan Maclachlan at this battle. The Royalist army of the Marquess of Montrose was destroyed by the Government army of Sir David Leslie, restoring the power of the Committee of Estates.

      During the Civil War the Clan MacKenzie Chief who was still in possession of the Castle Chanonry of Ross was now known as the Earl of Seaforth. However in 1646 James Graham the 1st Marquess of Montrose laid siege to the castle and took it from the MacKenzies after a siege of four days.

      At the Battle of Invercarron in 1650 Graham was supported by the Clan Menzies and Clan Crichton. However Graham was defeated, only escaping by means of a horse given to him by the chief of Clan Crichton.

      In 1650 James Graham captured Dunbeath Castle castle of the Clan Sinclair.

      James Graham, 1st Marquees of Montrose is defeated when he led an army of German and Danish soldiers at the Battle of Carbisdale (1650). James Graham had landed an army of foreigners in Rosshire and at the head of them he was defeated at the Battle of Carbisdale. James Graham had always been loyal to the Royalist cause.

John Graham, 1st Viscount of Dundee

A third notable Graham was John Graham, 1st Viscount of Dundee also known as John Graham of Claverhouse “Bonnie Dundee”. By means of purchase and inheritance the Graham lands had become, by the late seventeenth century, among the richest in Scotland.

      John Graham, 1st Viscount of Dundee led a Royalist force which was defeated at the Battle of Drumclog in 1679 by a force of Covenanters. The battle was fought on 1 June 1679, at High Drumclog, in South Lanarkshire, Scotland.

      John Graham, 1st Viscount of Dundee is victorious at the Battle of Bothwell Brig where he put down a rebellion by the Covenantors. The battle was fought on the 22nd June 1679 in Lanarkshire.

      John Graham, 1st Viscount of Dundee later died at the Battle of Killiecrankie whilst commanding the Jacobite Royalists during their victory over the Orange Covenanter Royalists in 1698.



18th Century & Jacobite Uprisings

The Clan Graham took no side in the Jacobite Uprisings and remained neutral throughout. Highlanders can thank the James Graham, 3rd Duke of Montrose, for the repeal in 1782 of the Act of 1747 prohibiting the wearing of highland dress. He persuaded Parliament to remove the law forbidding Scots to wear their tartan.




      Mugdock Castle was the seat of the chiefs of the Clan Graham Dukes of Montrose.

      Claypotts Castle was bought by the Grahams in 1601.

      Dalkeith Palace passed from the Grahams to the Clan Douglas in the 14th century.

      Mains Castle was built by Sir David Graham in 1562.

      Inchtalla Castle was the seat of the Grahams who were Earls of Menteith.

      Sir John de Graham Castle said to be the birth place of the legendary Sir John de Graham.



Arms of His Grace the Duke of Montrose



Clan Chief and Titles

The current chief of the Clan Graham is James Graham, 8th Duke of Montrose. A full list of the Chiefs of Clan Graham who held the position as Lords, Earls, Marquesses and Dukes of Montrose is on the Duke of Montrose page.







Ne Oublie (Never Forget)








Gaelic name(s)

Graham possibly originated from Graeme or Gramus






Airth, Allardyce, Auchinloick, Ballewen, Blair, Bonar, Bonnar, Bonner, Bontein, Bontine, Buchlyrie, Buntain, Bunten, Bunting, Buntyn, Conyers, Drumaguhassle, Duchray, Dugalston, Esbank, Glenny, Graeme, Grahame, Grim, Grimes, Hadden, Haldane, Kilpatrich, Lingo, MacGibbon, MacGilvern, MacGilvernock, MacIlvern, MacShille, Menteith, Monteith, Monzie, Orchille, Pitcairn, Pyatt, Pye, Pyott, Rednock, Sirowan, Sterling.






True Scottish Laurel



James Graham, 8th Duke of Montrose



Mugdock Castle , Stirlingshire & Inchtalla Castle , Lake of Menteith

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