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Early Clan History

The MacDuff Origins

The Ancient Earls of Fife's Coat of Arm's

Constantine II., the son of Aedh, and grandson of King Kenneth MacAlpin, occupied the throne of Alba between A.D. 900 and A.D. 943. When Constantine II entered a monastery his cousin Malcolm MacDonald became Malcolm I, king of the Picts and Scots. He annexd Moray to the kingdom for the first time. Malcolm I was slain in 954. Under Malcolm II., (c. 954 - d. November 25, 1034), whose reign lasted thirty years, the kingdom made material progress. The Danes, who had made a raid on the coast of Moray, were so severely defeated that they abandoned all further attempts to effect a settlement in Scotland.

Near Cullen a fierce encounter occured in 960, and a sculpture stone at Mortlach is said to commemorate a signal victory gained by King Malcolm II over the Norsemen in 1010. In 1018 Malcolm, along with his tributary, Eugenius the Bald, King of Strathclyde, invaded Nohumbria, and inflicted a crushing defeat on Eaduif Cudel, the Earl of that province, at Carham on the Tweed. The result was the cession to the Scottish king of the rich district of Lodoneia, or Lothian. This included not only the territory comprised by the three Lothians, but Berwickshire and lower Teviotdale, as high as Melrose on the Tweed. It was about this time, too, that the Caledonian kingdom began to be named Scoija by chroniclers. By the Gaelic inhabitants, however, their land was, as it still is, designated Alba.

Eugenius, King of the Strathclyde Britons, died in the year the Battle of Carham was fought. With him expired the direct MacAlpin line of the kings of Strathclyde, Duncan, grandson and eventual successor to King Malcolm of Scotland, was selected, evidently by nomination of the Ard-righ, in order to effect the union of the kingdom, to fill the vacant British throne. On the death in 1034 of Malcolm II without male issue, he was succeeded, under the new law, by his grandson, Duncan I., son of his daughter the Princess Bethoc, or Beatrice, and her husband Crinan, Hereditary Abbot of Dunkeld and Dull, who, as stated above, was already King of the Britons of Stratliclyde.

Duncan was a young man and had the reputation of being a good king, and his reign lasted until 1040, when, after a defeat at the hands of the Norsen, was slain near Elgin by Maclietli, Mormaer of Moray.

Duncan I - King of Scots was "the gracious Duncan" of Shakespeare's Macbeth. Contrary to the Celtic practice whereby the ablest male of the royal house was held to have the best claim to succession and often asserted it by violence, Duncan succeeded his grandfather Malcolm II who died in 1034 without contest. But his reign became a struggle against rivals. He united Alba with Strathclyde, Cumbria, and Lothian. Thereafter the name Alba began to fade away. In 1039 - 1040, Duncan suffered heavy losses in an unsuccessful siege of Durham and was defeated twice by his cousin Thorfinn, Jarl of Orkney, under whom Norse power in Scotland reached its greatest extent. Thorfinn may have advanced a claim to the throne. Macbeth, Mormaer (subking) of Moray, certainly did. On August 14, 1040, Macbeth killed Duncan at Pitgaveny, near Elgin. Macbeth's deed can be regarded as a natural reaction to a tenure not based on established custom.

Malcolm Canmore, King Malcolm III 1031 - Nov 13, 1093  was a communicant in the Celtic Church who had a son named Ethelred or Aethelred. and who became the first Earl of Fife. Aethelred, or in Gaelic: Aedh was the eldest son of Malcolm (III) Mac Duncan High King of Alba. Aedh's royal sire was of the line of Kenneth Mac Alpin (died 858), the Dal Riadic King of Albany, who through his grandmother was also a claimant to the High Kingship of the ancient Cruithne, earlier called Picts by the invading Romans. Other information indicates that Malcolm rose from the position of petty king of the Picts or Celtic chief to the dignity of Malcolm III, King of Scotland. Through his father, King Malcolm was descended from the first kings of Scotland who in turn descended from the kings of Ireland. King Malcolm was also descended from the royal line of the Picts.

The reign of Malcom Ceann-mor was remarkable for a variety of circumstances, which tended towards the drifting of the monarch from his Gaelic to his Lowland subjects, but which contributed indirectly to the development of the Highland clan system. Malcolm contributed to the organization and development of Scotland as a united and organized kingdom, and, moreover, to the high degree of tribal development in Scotland, which we recognize in the clan system.

About 1066 Malcolm selected for his settled capital, Dunfermlme. The Royal house become so attached to picturesque little city in the old Pictish province of Fife, that the cathedral city founded there in this reign that Dunfermlme Abbey became the place of sepulture of many Scottish monarchs in place of Scone. However, Scone, with its historic moot hill, still remained the official center and constitutional seat of the Scottish sovereigns and the spot where their coronations took place. About the very time at which Malcolm settled at Dunfermlme occurred the Norman Conquest of England, as a result of which a number of noble Saxon families fled to Scotland, where they were well received by the king, who assigned them grants of land. What actually happened was, as Professor Rait explains, that the kings "did not interfere with the ownership of land as it existed before these grants; the result of his intervention was ultimately to confirm it. What the king gave his friends consisted rather of rights over land than of land itself." The dominium ulile, as it is called, remained with the Celtic chieftains and their dependents, and by the new tenure they got a legal security for ownership; new lords only got their castle, the demesne, and right of a following, whilst they also got the domirnum diredum, namely, presiding in the new Baron Court as a local Parliament.

Among the refugees was Edgar the Atheling, the rightful heir to the English Saxon throne, who was accompanied by his mother and his sister Margaret. While later the Norman barons merely consolidated existing Celtic land usage, Margaret, on the other hand, made social innovations. Princess Margaret, born c 1045 probably in Hungary was the daughter of Edward Altheling and Agatha and the granddaughter of King Edmund Ironside and Ealdgyth. She was of royal Saxon heritage and among her ancestors is the early kings of England, including King Alfred the Great. Her lineage also includes royal lines in Scandinavian and Germany. According to the Icelandic Prose Edda, her royal lines even extended to Asia Minor, to King Priam of Troy. Despite her leanings towards a religious life, King Malcolm espoused the Princess Margaret in 1070 as his second wife, and they lived in the royal palace at Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland and at Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland.

Margaret obtained a great influence over her husband, the queen was instrumental in introducing many Saxon innovations at the Scottish Court. Among these was the suppression of Gaelic as the court language by Saxon. Queen Margaret used all her influence to replace the rites of the Celtic Church by those of Rome. She had frequent discussions on the subject with the Scottish clergy whose language was Gaelic. On those occasions, we are told, King Malcolm, who spoke both the Gaelic and Saxon languages, acted as interpreter. These events we have narrated led to the introduction into Scotland of many new names. Indeed, the introduction of surnames into Scotland is attributed to this reign.

The Chronicles of Scotland relate that "He [Malcolm] was a religious and valiant king; he rewarded his nobles with great lands and offices, and commanded that the lands and offices should be called after their names. It is not to be supposed that he did this specifically, but he did bring about a state of progress wherein the chiefs of tribes came to be named from, or gave names to, their du~Au£, and began to use such names. Malcolm Ceann-mor, after a prosperous reign, was killed at the siege of Alnwick, in Northumberland, in 1093. His queen, Margaret died shortly afterwards, on November 16, 1093 in Edinburgh. The king's family was then all under age, and his brother Donald (known as "Donald Bane") succeeded to the Scottish throne as Donald III.

During the short reign of this sovereign he acquired a considerable measure of popularity among his Gaelic subjects by the expulsion from Scotland of many of the Saxon immigrants, who had been settled in the kingdom by his brother and predecessor. Donald Bane thus reigned along with Eadmund, eldest-surviving son of Malcolm and Margaret. This is usually represented as a usurpation, or assertion by Donald of a supposed earlier system of collateral succession. It is overlooked that under one of the old Scot~Celtic laws which long survived, and to which attention is drawn by Skene and Fordun, if the heir, either male or female, was under fourteen, the nearest agnate (heir-male), became chief or king for life. But when the heir attained majority he also reigned jointly with his-if we may so describe it-" trustee for life," and a situation arose in which there was a "joint reign." In primitive days it was no doubt difficult for the heir, on coming of age, completely to dispossess a man who had during the minority taken all the effective threads of power into his own hands. Joint reign was perhaps in those days the expedient least likely to lead to civil war or domestic tragedy. However, in 1097, this joint form of monarchy was brought to an end through intervention of Edgar Atheling (brother-in-law of Malcolm Ceann-mor), who succeeded in dethroning both Donald Bane and Eadmund and placed Eadgar, next brother of Eadmund, on the throne. His reign was an unfortunate one, for during it the Norwegian king, Magnus, surnamed Barefoot, succeeded in obtaining possession of the Western Isles and Kintyre.

Aedh Mac Malcolm, son of Malcolm Can Mohr, First Earl of Fife, was made hereditary Abbot of Dunkeld, and because of his important ecclesiastical position, was barred from the throne ( His younger brothers were Kings Alexander I and David I ). In the Celtic "Culdee" Church, ( a gentle blend of Christian and Druidic tradition ) priests were allowed to marry and pass on their religious duties down to through their family lines. A leading personage in the kingdom, Aedh married the sister and heiress of Mael Snectai, the King of Moray. Mael Snectai was also the Chief of Clan Duff as grandson of Queen Gruoch ( Gruoch was also the wife the good King Mac Beth, who was both the rightful king of Celtic Scotland, and one of the country's better monarchs ), herself heiress of the line of King Duff, which was apanaged in the ancient 'Kingdom of Fife.'

Ethelrede or Aethelred fathered four sons. Aethelred, or Aedh in the Gaelic, was the oldest and became Abbot of Dunkeld and later Earl of Fife. Upon Malcolm's death Aedh was barred from the throne either because he was an Abbot or too old. At any rate his younger brothers ascended to the throne. Aedh became the First Earl of Fife probably as a result of his marriage to the Princess of Moray, daughter of King Lulach of Albany and sister of Maelsnechtan, the King of Moray, which included the Kingdom of Fife. The King of Moray was also the Chief of the Clan Duff as grandson of Queen Gruoch, herself the heiress of the line of King Duff (killed in 967) which was appanaged in the "Kingdom of Fife." In the "Adm ore Charter" he is styled "Vir veneranda memoria Abbas de dunkelden, et insuper comes de fyfe." Aethelred was the father of several sons also, the oldest of which predeceased Aedh and was known merely as Duff. Not much is known of Duff except that he was named after his mother's clan, probably his ancestor, King Duff, had sons and died before his father.

Upon the death of Aethelred, around 1128, several attempts were made by the Moray kinsmen of his surviving sons to put them on the throne as they were the sons of King Malcolm's eldest son who was barred from the throne upon Malcolm's death. This was in keeping with the old laws of the Gaels. The son of the deceased Duff, however, who was a nephew of the contenders, sided with the line of his great uncles rather than his father's younger brothers, who were known as the MacAedh brothers. Constantin, styled third earl, and supposed to have been the first who adopted the title, is mentioned in the supposititious charter of Etheldred (we have been using the spelling Aethelred or Aedh) cited earlier, and is witness to a charter of the monastery of Dunfermline. During his time a curious occurrence took place, which is very illustrative of the state of Scotland during that period of history. Sir Robert Burgoner had violently oppressed the monks of Lochleven. The monks complained to the King, who summoned a meeting of the whole county of Fife and Forteviot, to do justice between them. Earl Constantin, who was great judge of Scotland, collected the strength of the county, and the bishop of St. Andrews sent his retainers to support the civil power. The dispute was referred to three judges; Constantin the earl; Dufgal a judge, venerable for his age and respected for his knowledge; and Meldoineth, also a judge of high character. After hearing evidence, the judges pronounced sentence against the knight, Sir Robert Burgoner. Trial by jury, a Saxon institution, that had not yet been introduced into Celtic portion of Scotland was first seen.

Constantin is said to have died in 1129, about five years after the accession of David the First to the throne.

The Clan Macduff, then headed by Constantin’s younger brother Gillemichael, fourth Earl of Fife, became the premier clan among the Gaels of medieval Scotland. The Earl of Fife, "By the Grace of God", bore a coat-of-arms appropriate only to a branch of the royal house of Scotland, senior even to that of the reigning kings themselves. He was treated as almost a sacred personage, being placed first after the king in all gatherings, speaking first in council and Parliament, and leading the van in battle. According to tradition Macduff lost his first wife by the cruelty of Macbeth, but after the restoration he married again and was succeeded by his son Duffayon, Earl of Fife, who in turn was succeeded by Constantine and Gillemichael.

Gillemichael was witness to several charters by King David to the Monastery of Dumfermline, including the foundation charter of the Abby of Holyroodhouse in 1128. It was during this period and under these circumstances that the events occurred which gave rise to Shakespeare's famous play Macbeth. One of the contenders for the throne was one of the younger sons of Aethelred, known as MacAedh or MacHeth, which was sometimes confused with Macbeth. The historic Macduff supported the son of Duncan I, who later became Malcolm III, against Macbeth, and it was this support which gave rise to the legends of the famous Shakespearean play. The historic facts of the play are that Macbeth (MacAedh) or (MacHeth) killed Duncan I in 1040 and usurped the throne. Duncan's son Malcolm fled to England with Macduff where they mustered their clans and returned to Scotland. Macbeth was defeated by Malcolm and Macduff at Duninane and later killed at Lumphanan in Aberdeenshire on August 15, 1057. As written by William Shakespeare in 1606 and published in 1623, which was based on the account in Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of 1578, Macduff was the slayer of Macbeth, but according to Wyntoun, Macbeth was killed by one of Macduff’s knights. Malcolm then became King Malcolm III and held his first parliament in Forfar, Scotland in 1057.

ANCIENT HOUSE - Fife Region:

1058 -
KING MALCOM CANMORE won the crown and as much of Southern Scotland as he had been able to conquer.

?? -
ETHELRED (AEDH) said son of King Malcolm Canmore is the first "recorded" Earl of Fife. *Note [From several references I feel this Ethelred was not a son of Malcolm but, was the son of DUFF/MACDUFF and named in honor of Malcolm and for meritorious service was honored with the title of Earl of Fife in 1057. (TRMcD)] First Earl of Fife.

1115 -
DUFFAGAN: References indicate a son of Ethelred was named Duffagan, who was MacDuff. Duffagan was witness to a charter at Scone in the year 1115. Date of death ca. 1120-1124. Second Earl of Fife.

CONSTANTINE (MacDuff) Earl of Fife in the early days of David's reign (1124-1153). *NOTE [The dates given I believe to be incorrect, records indicate Constantine died in the year 1129. (TRMcD)] Third Earl of Fife.

1129 -
GILLIMICHAEL Mak-duf, Earl of Fife. Gillimichael MacDuff was a younger brother of Constantine who was witness to charter of Holyrood in 1123, also, a charter of Dumfermline, he died in 1139. He was succedded by his eldest son Duncan. Fourth Earl of Fife.

1139 -
DUNCAN, died in 1154. Duncan assisted in 1153 at the coronation of King Malcolm IV, to whom he had been a tutor. Frequently employed as a witness by David I. and Malcolm IV. Fifth Earl of Fife. His second son Shaw  was made Constable of Inverness Castle in 1163 and was granted lands in the Findhorn Valley. It is perported that from this Shaw, the Mackintosh's of Mackintosh and Moray, Mackintosh of Clan Chattan and Shaw's of Tordorrach lines decend.

The Earls of Fife Coat of Arms

The MacDuffs are descended from those original Gaels who inhabited the Highlands of Scotland long before the Roman Invasion, and before the Christian era. Their ancient Gaelic name, Dhuibh, is pronounced Duff, and signifies a dark complected man with dark hair. The first Scottish Highlanders were members of the ancient German Tribes who crossed over the German Ocean and settled first on the east and north coast of the barren Island of Caledonia, later moving inland. They were of the Chauci, Cimbri, Suevi, Catti, and others, all fair complected with either red or brown hair, and of a giant stature and enormous endurance. The people of Britain and the lowlands of Scotland were originally from France and southern Europe, but the Highlanders from the beginning, kept themselves apart, and did not mingle with the lowlanders, whom they hated.

The Duffs were of German Catti ancestry, having settled on the shores of Caithness in very early times. At first they were of the ancient Kournaovioi Tribe who occupied the north peninsula of Caithness, later moving down into Moray below the Moray Firth, where they were Mormaers of the Kanteai Tribe for many ages. At one time Moray included all the north central Highlands, and the more reliable historians agree that the famous Thane of Fife came from Moray, previous to the great historical event which brought him to the attention of posterity. With the other Caledonian Tribes the Duffs fought the Roman Invaders and thus prevented the foreigners from gaining a foothold in Scotland.

According to an old genealogical manuscript, the Duffs were Mormaers of Moray during the era of the Pictish Kings, and were also prominent in Fife and Fothriff. Strath Avon was one of their old neighborhoods, near the Cairngorm Mountains.

The first Official Record of the Thanes or Earls of Fife was in the year 838 A.D. At that time Kenneth MacAlpine, who bore the blood of both Pictish and Scots-Irish Kings in his veins, had united two warring nations under one rule in the name of Scotland. When he appointed his Governors for the several Provinces, Fifus Duffus, or Duff of Fifeshire was appointed Governor of Fifeshire.

Aethelred, the first Earl of Fife. Aethelred, or in Gaelic: Aedh was the eldest son of Malcolm (III) Mac Duncan (also known as "Malcolm Ceann-Mhor"), High King of Alba. Aedh's royal sire was of the line of Kenneth Mac Alpin (died 858), the Dal Riadic King of Albany, who through his grandmother was also a claimant

to the High Kingship of the ancient Cruithne, earlier called Picts by the invading Romans. Now Aedh Mac Malcolm was made hereditary Abbot of Dunkeld, and because of his important ecclesiastical position, was barred from the throne (His younger brothers were Kings Alexander I and David I). In the Celtic "Culdee" Church, (a gentle blend of Christian and Druidic tradition) priests were allowed to marry and pass on their religious duties down to through their family lines. A leading personage in the kingdom, Aedh married the sister and heiress of Mael Snectai, the King of Moray. Mael Snectai was also the Chief of Clan Duff as grandson of Queen Gruoch (Gruoch was also the wife the good King Mac Beth, who was both the rightful king of Celtic Scotland, and one of the country's better monarchs), herself heiress of the line of King Duff, which was apanaged in the ancient 'Kingdom of Fife.' Aedh's father Malcolm III (who was raised in England since he was nine and later with English military assistance usurped Mac Beth's crown) was swayed by his own ambition and by the Norman and feudal influence of his new wife Margaret, herself a Saxon Princess in exile. "Ceann Mhor" altered the system of revolving kingship in Alba and (illegally) decreed that the High kingship would forever stay with his line, the House of Atholl.

In 1039 Queen Gruoch's (travestied by Shakespeare as Lady Macbeth) second husband King Macbeth, Mormaer of Moray - who also belonged to the House of Duff slew King Duncan and seized upon the Throne, and when Duff, the Thane of Fife, vowed that he would " not be ridden with a snaffle" and failed to aid in building MacBeth's Castle, the pretender swore vengeance and drove Duff, the Thane of Fife, into exile. Duff hurried to England to join forces with Malcolm, young son of King Duncan, and now that he had reached maturity, prevailed upon him to return to Scotland and take for himself the Throne of his fathers.

In 1057 after the death of her second husband, King Macbeth. the son of Queen Gruoch (who was the senior representative of the House of Duff), by her first husband, succeeded as King Lulach. Upon returning with an Army, Duff, the Thane, found that MacBeth had murdered Lady MacDuff and several of her children. and attacking MacBeth's Castle of Dunsinane, they drove him north into the Hills above the Dee River, where Duff slew the Pretender on a slope above Lumfannaaine, and carried his head to Prince Malcolm.

When King Malcolm Canmore ( Cann' Mohr ) was firmly established on the Throne, he called a Parliament at Forfair in 1057, and rewarded those who had aided him in attaining the crown, King Malcolm honored with three sorts of Privileges -

That the Earl of Fife, by Office, shall bear the heraldic red lion rampant of the Royal House, and shall set the Crown upon the King's head on the stone of Scone at his Coronation.

That when the King should give Battle to his enemies, that the same Earl should lead the Vanguard of his host.

That the lineage of Duff should enjoy Regal authority and Power within all their lands, as to appoint officers and judges for the hearing and determination of all manner of Controversies - "Treason onlie excepted" - and if any men or tenants were called to answer in any court other than their own circuit, they might appeal to their own judges.

In case of slaughter of a mean person, twelve marks fine - and if a Duff should kill by chance and not by pretensed malice, twenty four marks fine, and released from punishment by Duffs Privilege.

King Malcolm also commanded Duff to build a great Sanctuary in his own district of Fife, where his people could seek safety in time of need. It was called the Gurth Cross, and it stood high in the Ochill Range, near the border between Fifeshire and Strathearne.

At that time the King raised the Thanes of his Kingdom to Earldoms, and Duff was made Senior Earl of Scotland.

He was also Commander in Chief of the Royal Army, and when word was received that Lulach. Queen Gruoch's (Lady MacBeth) son, had tried to seize the crown at Scone, Duff was given full Commission in the King's name, and marching against Lulach, he encountered the rebel at the village of Essen in Bogdale, and slew him.

At the time the Norse men had gained a foothold in Moray, and in 1087 there was another outbreak in the turbulent north. Under the leadership of Maelsnectan, son of Lulach, the insurgents of Moray, Ross and Caithness rose and slew the King's representatives and laid wait to the country.

Shaw MacDuff, second son of the Earl of Fife, and ancestor to the Clan MacKintosh of Mackintosh family, was sent to investigate the trouble, and finding the rebels well equipped and strongly entrenched in a great camp at Elgin beyond the Spey River, the officer stationed himself at Braemar, where he subdued the inhabitants and awaited the arrival of the Kings army.

The Earl of Fife and his eldest son, Alexander MacDuff, accompanied King Malcolm to Monimuske, situated on Kings lands in Aberdeenshire, where they were joined by the younger MacDuff, and there were great preparations for a decisive encounter with the enemy.

The old inhabitants, descendents of the ancient picts, hated the Norse and newcomers, and these people rose and joined the King's forces.

Malcolm vowed to give Monimuske to the Church of Saint Andrew if he were victorious and a few days later they moved west toward the enemy camp. Led by Malcolm Canmore and the three MacDuffs, the royal forces came to the Spey river where they encountered Maelsnectan and his rebels. There were several skirmishes, but at last the Moray men saw that they could not stand against the King's army, and through the good offices of certain church men the matter was arranged and the rebellion quelled.

Shaw MacDuff, younger son of the Earl of Fife, was made governor of Moray, and had his headquarters at Inverness, where Malcolm built a great new fortress. It was from this Shaw that history relates the beginnings of the Clan MacKintosh and Clan Chattan confederation.

The Clan Duff always marched with their kinsmen, the Mackintoshes of Clan Chattan, and the Shaws of Clan Quhele in time of war, and it was established that they were not only valiant on the Field of battle, but mostly continued to be conscious of and to uphold those fine ideals and traditions that had so long sustained their brilliant ancestors back in the earlier days of Scotland's history.

Other branches of the Clan were the MacKintoshes of Nairn and Iverness, also the Duffs of Monyvaird, and the Earls of Finday, Craigton, and so on.

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