The Mackenzies were of Celtic stock and were not among the clans that originated from Norman ancestors. They are believed to be related to Clan Matheson and Clan Anrias, all three descending from the 12th century Gilleoin of the Aird. Based initially in Kintail, the clan was recorded at Eilean Donan on Loch Duich, a stronghold with which it was for many centuries associated. For several generations, the constable of Eilean Donan was traditionally Macrae of Inverinate, with the result that the Clan Macrae became known as “Mackenzie’s shirt of mail”. There were also strongholds at Kilcoy Castle and Brahan Castle and the Mackenzies of Tarbat had their seat at Castle Leod, in Strathpeffer in the 17th century.



Traditional early history

There was a tradition - not borne out, however, by any tangible evidence or confirmation and quite possibly invented by the Earl of Cromartie - that the family deduced its descent from a member of the House of Geraldine, in Ireland (whence sprang the noble families of Leinster, Desmond, &c.), who, with a considerable number of his followers, was stated to have settled in Scotland about the year 1261 and to have so powerfully aided King Alexander III in repelling the invasion of Haco, King of Norway. He was reportedly rewarded by a grant of the lands of Kintail, in the County of Ross, which were erected into a free Barony by charter, dated 9th January 1266. Therefore, Colin Fitzgerald was the first feudal Baron of Kintail.

His grandson, who in the Gaelic was called Coinneach MacChoinneach (Kenneth son of Kenneth), 3rd Baron of Kintail, became corrupted in English into Mackenzie (pronounced: MacKenny) and hence arose all the families of MacKenzie in Scotland. The name “Mackenzie”, therefore, coming from the Gaelic: “MacCoinneach” meaning: “Son of the Fair One”.

In the 14th century during the Wars of Scottish Independence the Clan Mackenzie is said to have been among the clans who fought against the English. The Clan Mackenzie fought on the side of King Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Inverurie (1308) against the forces of the Clan Comyn who were rivals to the throne. Chief Ian Mackenzie is said to have led a force of five hundred Mackenzies at the Battle of Bannockburn 1314 where the English were defeated.

Later in the 14th century the Mackenzies are said to have become involved in battles against their powerful neighbour the Earl of Ross and his allies. This resulted in the capture and subsequent execution of chief Kenneth Mackenzie in 1346. Soon after this it appears that his successor, chief of the clan Mackenzie was living in an island castle in Loch Kinellan near Strathpeffer in Easter Ross and it was from this base that the clan was to advance westward once again to Kintail.






The earliest likeness of a Mackenzie - the effigy of Sir Kenneth Mackenzie of Kintail (d. February 7, 1491/1492) located at Beauly Priory.



Early history

The earliest contemporary record of a Mackenzie is of Alexander Mackenzie of Kintail (Alexandro McKennye de Kintaill) who is listed as a witness to a charter by John of Islay, Earl of Ross, and Lord of the Isles on November 4, 1471. The earliest known likeness of a Mackenzie is that of Sir Kenneth Mackenzie (d. February 7, 1491/1492), whose effigy can be seen at Beauly Priory. He is the first Mackenzie to be buried at Beauly Priory. It has been attested that previous members of his family were buried at Iona, however there is no actual evidence in proof of this.



15th century & clan conflicts

      Battle of Bealach nam Broig, 1452, Fought north-west of Ben Wyvis between the a force of Munros and Dingwalls against a force of western tribes loyal to MacKenzie of Kintail who had taken hostage the Earl of Ross’s son. The Munros and their allies rescued the Ross hostage and exterminated their enemies but with the loss of their chiefs, George Munro of Foulis and William Dingwall of Kildun.

      Battle of Blar-na-Pairc, 1477, Fought between the Clan MacKenzie and Clan MacDonald. The MacDonalds were defeated.

      Battle of Sauchieburn, 1488 the Clan Mackenzie fought under Hector Roy Mackenzie on the side of King James III of Scotland against an army of Scottish nobles who favored the King’s then-15-year-old son, Prince James.

      Raid on Ross 1491, a conflict that took place in 1491 in the Scottish Highlands. It was fought between the Clan Mackenzie against several other clans, including the Clan MacDonald of Lochalsh, Clan MacDonald of Clanranald the Clan Cameron and the Chattan Confederation of Clan Mackintosh.

      Battle of Drumchatt, 1497, In 1495 King James assembled an army at Glasgow. Then on May 18th many of the Highland Chiefs made their submissions to him, including the Mackenzies and Munros. Soon after this Alexander MacDonald of Lochalsh and his clan rebelled against the King. He invaded the fertile lands of Ross-shire where he was defeated in battle by the Munros and MacKenzies at a place called Drumchatt where he was driven out of Ross-shire. He escaped southward amongst the Isles but was caught on the island of Oransay, by MacIain of Ardnamurchan, and put to death.



16th century & clan conflicts

      During the Anglo-Scottish Wars chief John Mackenzie led the clan at the Battle of Flodden Field in 1513 and the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547 where he was captured by the English. This was the last major battle between the Royal Scottish and Royal English armies. The Mackenzies paid a ransom for his release. The growing importance of the Clan Mackenzie was vividly demonstrated in 1544 when the Earl of Huntly, the Lieutenant of the North, commanded John Mackenzie of Killin to raise his clan against Clan Ranald of Moidart. The Mackenzie chief refused and Huntly’s supporters, the Clan Grant, Clan Ross and Clan MacKintosh declined to attack the Mackenzies. From that time the Mackenzies were recognised as a separate and superior force in the north-west.

      On the 13th of December 1545, at Dingwall, the Earl of Sutherland entered into a bond of manrent with John Mackenzie of Kintail for mutual defense against all enemies, reserving only their allegiance to their youthful Queen, Mary Stuart.

      Battle of Langside, 1568, Clan Mackenzie fought on the side of Mary Queen of Scotts against the forces of her half brother James Stewart, Earl of Moray.

      Fortrose 1569, With the Munros the Mackenzies were often at feud, and Andrew Munro of Milntown defended and held, for three years, the Castle Chanonry of Ross, which he had received from the Regent Moray who died in 1569, against the Clan Mackenzie, at the expense of many lives on both sides. The feud was settled when the castle was handed over to the Mackenzies peacefully as the Mackenzies had gained more legal right to own the castle.  

      Battle of Logiebride, 1597, A fight broke out at a fair in Logiebride which almost put the whole of Ross-shire into combustion. The fight began between John Macgillichallum (brother to the Laird of Raasay) and Alexander Bane (brother to Duncan Bane of Tulloch). The Munros took the side of Alexander Bane and the MacKenzies took the side of John Macgillichallum. John Macgllicham was killed along with John Mac-Murdo Mac-William and three others from the Clan MacKenzie. Alexander Bane escaped but three on his side were also killed; John Munro of Culcraggie, his brother Hutcheon Munro and John Munro Robertson.



17th century & Civil War

      Battle of Morar, 1602,fought between the Clan Mackenzie and Clan MacDonell of Glengarry.

      In 1623, the clan chief was made Earl of Seaforth, a title in the peerage of Scotland taking his title from a sea loch on the island of Lewis. In 1645, Lord Seaforth led a large force of Scottish Covenanters. They fought against James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose who was the commander of the Royalist forces in Scotland at the Battle of Auldearn in 1645.

      In 1646 during the Civil War the Clan MacKenzie was still in possession of the Castle Chanonry of Ross, however James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose laid siege to the castle and took it from the MacKenzies after a siege of four days.  The MacKenzies retook the castle again in 1649.

      In 1649 a large force stormed Inverness Castle. Among the commanders were Thomas Mackenzie of Pluscardine, Colonel John Munro of Lemlair, Colonel Hugh Fraser and Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty. They were all opposed to the authority of the current parliament. They assaulted the town and took the castle. They then expelled the garrison and raised the fortifications. However on the approach of the parlimentry forces led by General David Leslie all of the clans retreated back into Ross-shire. However the MacKenzies left a garrison of men in Inverness Castle and Leslie withdrew to deal with a rising in the south. During the year several skirmishes took place between these parties. The MacKenzies retook the Castle Chanonry of Ross from the current Parliamentary forces. However, the Parliamentary forces, led by a Colonel Kerr soon after took the MacKenzie’s Redcastle and hanged the garrison.

      Battle of Mulroy, 1668, Fought between the Clan Mackenzie and Clan Mackintosh against the Clan MacDonald and Clan Cameron.

      In 1672 Ardvreck Castle was attacked and captured by the Mackenzies, who took control of the Assynt lands. In 1726 they constructed a more modern manor house nearby, Calda House, which takes its name from the Calda burn beside which it stands. The house burned down under mysterious circumstances one night in 1737 and both Calda House and Ardvreck Castle stand as ruins today.

      During the Williamite War in Ireland the Clan MacKenzie led by their Chief Kenneth the Earl of Seaforth are believed to have supported King James at the siege of Derry and the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.



18th century & Jacobite Uprisings

1715 to 1719 Jacobite Rising

In 1715 the Earl of Seaforth, chief of MacKenzie led a force of 3000 men headed by the Clan MacKenzie which also included men from the Clan MacDonald, Clan MacKinnon, Clan MacRae and the Clan Chisholm. He was opposed by Colonel Col. Robert Munro of Foulis who had formed a camp at the Bridge of Alness with 600 men including men from Clan Ross. Munro was soon joined by the Earl of Sutherland and the chief of Clan MacKay who both brought with them only a portion of their clans and expected support from the Clan Grant did not arrive. The Earl of Seaforth’s forces advanced on the Sutherland’s camp who made a quick retreat to avoid contact with their more powerful foe. It is said that the Earl of Seaforth himself said that they made a wise move. Soon afterwards a council of war was held between the two sides and the Sutherlanders and MacKays peacefully moved back north to their own territory, while much of the Ross’s and Munro’s lands were ravaged.

Inverness 1715, During the early Jacobite Uprising the MacKenzie Jacobite garrison at Inverness were trapped by the Clan Fraser. The Clan MacDonald of Keppoch did attempt to relieve the MacKenzies, but their path was blocked by the Frasers, and Keppoch was forced to retreat. Inverness was surrendered to Simon Fraser of Lovat upon the very day when the Battle of Sheriffmuir was fought and another Jacobite force was defeated at the Battle of Preston. Soon after this 31 year old Colonel Robert Munro of Foulis marched into the town of Inverness with 400 Munros and took over control as governor from Fraser. Government troops arrived in Inverness towards the end of February, and for some months the process of disarming the rebels went on, helped by a Munro detachment under George Munro of Culcairn.

The clan rivalries which had erupted in rebellion were finding an outlet in local politics. The MacKenzie’s position as Earl of Seaforth came to an end in 1716, and it seems to have been arranged that while the Clan Ross held the county seat the Munros would represent the Tain Burghs. To secure the burghs, control of three out of the five was necessary. Ross ascendancy was secure in Tain, and from 1716 to 1745 the Munros controlled Dingwall.

The Clan MacKenzie under their chief supported the Jacobites during the uprisings. Many men from the clan fought at the Battle of Glen Shiel in 1719 where they were defeated by Government forces headed by the Munros and where the MacKenzie chief was wounded.

In 1720 a force of men from the Clan Ross, led by chief William Ross 6th of the Pitcalnie line and his brother Robert went on a rent collecting expedition into the lands of the MacKenzies. They were confronted by a force of 300 men from the Clan MacKenzie and Clan MacRae, led by a Colonel Donald Murchison. The Rosses were outnumbered and after a short battle some discussion took place between the two sides and the Rosses withdrew realising that further resistance was useless. The next day chief William Ross died of his wounds.

1745 to 1746 Jacobite Rising

George Mackenzie, 3rd Earl of Cromartie led the Clan MacKenzie at the Battle of Falkirk (1746) where they were victorious in helping to defeat British Government forces. The MacKenzies then went on to lay waste to the lands of the Clan Munro who supported the government and burn down Foulis Castle. They also went on to lay waste to the lands of the Clan Sutherland and the Earl of Sutherland who also supported the government and captured Dunrobin Castle, although the Earl of Sutherland himself escaped through a back door.

However soon afterwards as the Earl of Cromartie and his forces were travelling south to meet Charles Edward Stuart they were attacked by the Clan Sutherland near Bonar Bridge which is in Clan Munro country. The Earl of Sutherland himself had already escaped south to join the Duke of Cumberland’s army after his lands had been wasted. However, many of his clan still remained in the hills, commanded by a man from Golspie who attacked the MacKenzies. Most of the Jacobite officers were captured, many of the men were killed and the rest were driven onto the shore where several were drowned trying to swim the Bonar Firth. Thus the Clan MacKenzie were prevented from joining the Jacobite army at the Battle of Culloden.

Soon afterwards George Mackenzie, 3rd Earl of Cromartie and his son were surprised and captured at Dunrobin Castle. The Earl of Cromartie’s titles were then forfeited.

However a number of MacKenzies later took the side of the British government in one of the Independent Companies under Captain Colin MacKenzie. It is recorded that the MacKenzie Company was at Shiramore in Badenoch in June 1746 and it included many of them from Kintail as well as more than sixty men from the Clan MacRae.

War in France and India

Born in 1754 Francis Mackenzie, 1st Baron Seaforth, the last Lord Seaforth raised a regiment for the British Army in 1778, the 72nd, and the clan produced another the 78th in 1793. Both had distinguished records fighting against Napoleon and were later amalgamated into the Queen’s Own Highlanders.

During the Wars in India, Colin Mackenzie (1754 – 1821) was Surveyor General of India, and an art collector and orientalist. He produced many of the first accurate maps of India, and his research and collections contributed significantly to the field of Asian studies. In 1799, he was part of the British force at the Battle of Seringapatam. He also fought in the Napoleonic Wars.



The modern Clan Mackenzie



Castle Leod, seat of the chief of Clan Mackenzie.

Throughout the 19th century Clan Mackenzie was without a chief that was recognised by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. In 1979, Roderick Grant Francis Blunt-Mackenzie, 4th Earl of Cromartie legally changed his surname to Mackenzie and was appointed chief of Clan Mackenzie by the Lord Lyon King of Arms. Although not descended from a Mackenzie in the male line (his father was born a Blunt and later changed to Blunt-Mackenzie after marrying Sibell Lilian Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, Countess of Cromartie) he inherited his titles and Mackenzie descent through his mother (even she only claims a Mackenzie descent as a great-great-great-great-granddaughter of George Mackenzie, 3rd Earl of Cromartie). On his death in 1990 his son John Ruaridh Mackenzie, 5th Earl of Cromartie succeeded as chief of Clan Mackenzie. The Earl of Cromartie still owns lands in clan country however, the largest remaining Mackenzie landowner by some margin is Mackenzie of Gairloch, with an estate which extends to over 50,000 acres (like the clan chief, Mackenzie of Gairloch has inherited his clan name and lands through the female line). The current chief is a member of the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs.

The current chief of Clan Mackenzie lives at Castle Leod, which is thought to date from the 16th century. The chief has leased the unoccupied old tower to the Clan Mackenzie Charitable Trust (CMCT) for 99 years. In 1991 it was announced that the castle was planned to be restored. The restoration was to include a clan genealogical centre that would be open to the public. During the 1990s there was extensive work done on the tower. In 2002 the Highland Buildings Preservation Trust (HBPT) was contacted, and public funding was sought to cover the costs of restoration. Because of concerns of physical and legal separation between the clan chief and the tower, the chief decided that the conditions of public funding were too onerous.



Clan profile



The Mackenzie dress tartan is a modern tartan.



The Mackenzie tartan, otherwise known as the regimental tartan of the Seaforth Highlanders.



Clan chief, crest badge, and slogan

      Clan chief: John Ruaridh Grant Mackenzie, 5th Earl of Cromartie (1861), Viscount Tarbat of Tarbat, Baron Castlehaven, Baron MacLeod of Castle Leod, Chief of Clan Mackenzie. Chiefs of Clan Mackenzie are title as Caberféidh (translation from Scottish Gaelic: “Deer’s antlers”). This Gaelic title is derived from the crest of a stag’s head in the old Mackenzie Coat of Arms.

      Crest badge: Note: crest badges usually consist of the clan chief’s heraldic crest and heraldic motto, encircled with a strap and buckle.

                        Chief’s heraldic crest: A mountain in flames Proper.

                        Chief’s heraldic motto: LUCEO NON URO (translation from Latin: “I shine not burn”).

      Clan slogan: Tulach Àrd (translation from Scottish Gaelic: “The high hill” or “The high knoll” or “The high hillock). The slogan is derived from the mountain which was the Mackenzie rallying point or gathering place in Kintail.




There are several tartans associated with the name Mackenzie.

      Mackenzie. The tartan is the regimental tartan of the Seaforth Highlanders, which was raised in 1778 by the Earl of Seaforth. The tartan is recorded in the Collection of the Highland Society of London in 1816.

      Mackenzie dress.

      Mackenzie hunting.

      Mackenzie Millennium, also known as Mackenzie 78th Highlanders. This tartan, according to the Clan Mackenzie Society of Scotland and the UK website, was recently “discovered” and recreated for the “Millennium Gathering”. The society currently sells this tartan.



Origin of the name

The surname Mackenzie is of Scottish origin and derived from Gaelic. The name is an Anglicised form of the Gaelic Mac Coinnich, which is a patronymic form of the personal name Coinneach meaning “comely” or “handsome”. Today personal name Coinneach is generally Anglicised as Kenneth however Kenneth was originally used as an Anglicisation of different Gaelic personal name – Cionaodh.

The Anglicised Mackenzie had originally been pronounced “Mackaingye” – with a modern English Y sound represented with the letter yogh ȝ. In the 18th century it became popular write and pronounce the name with what is the equivalent of a modern English Z sound, because of the similarity of the letter yogh and letter Z. Today there are several Lowland Scots words and several Scottish names that have been affected in a similar way (example: the surname Menzies).



Associated names

There are several variations of the surname Mackenzie. The following list of names are considered by the ‘Clan Mackenzie Society of Scotland and the UK’ as septs of Clan Mackenzie.


































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