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Clan Campbell is historically one of the largest, most powerful and most successful of the Highland Scottish clans.



The origins of Clan Campbell are uncertain. The earliest attested Campbell is Gilleasbaig of Menstrie (floruit 1260s), father of Cailean Mór, from whom the chiefs of the clan are thought to have taken their style MacCailean Mór. The byname kambel is recorded at this time. Fanciful reconstructions derive it from the French de Campo Bello, but the likely source is the caimbeul, an Early Modern Irish or Gaelic by name meaning wry mouth, crooked mouth or twisted mouth.

Regarding the earlier ancestors of Clan Campbell, there is good evidence that the Campbells themselves traced their descent from an earlier kindred known as the Mac Duibne, or perhaps the Uí Duibne. It has been suggested that the family's early landholdings, around Menstriemarker, and in Cowalmarker, were related to the partition of the Mormaerdom of Mentieth in 1213, and that Gilleasbuig may have been a kinsman of Mormaer Muireadhach Mór. The lands around Loch Awemarker, which would later form the core of their possessions, were not held at an early date.

The name begins to be established in Argyllmarker at the end of the 13th century, as followers of the Earl of Lennox, with Campbells owning lands in Kintyremarker and the famous warrior Cailean Mór (Great Colin) knighted (1280) and established at Loch Awemarker. Cailean Mór's older brother established at Strachurmarker forming the oldest branch of Clan Campbell, see Campbell of Strachur.

Between 1200 and 1500 the Campbells emerged as one of the most powerful families in Gaelic speaking Scotland, dominant in Argyllmarker and capable of wielding a wider influence and authority in the Hebridesmarker and western Highlands.

Wars of Scottish Independence

The family of Colin Campbell went on to become firm supporters of King Robert the Bruce and benefited from his successes with grants of lands, titles and good marriages. They fought for the Bruce against the English at the Battle of Bannockburnmarker in 1314 during the Wars of Scottish Independence. During the 14th century the Clan Campbell rapidly expanded its lands and power. This is partly explained by the loyalty of Sir Niall Campbell (Niall mac Caile), (d.1315), to the cause of Robert I of Scotland (the Bruce) – a loyalty which was rewarded with marriage to Bruce's sister Mary.

The family was closely associated with the Bruces and Stewarts in the time of Cailean Mór and his son Sir Niall mac Cailein. Cailean Mór was killed in battle against the Clan MacDougall, enemies of Bruce and Stewart, and Sir Niall was a staunch ally of King Robert Bruce. Cailean Mór's mother Affrica of Carrick was probably the first cousin of King Robert's mother, Marjorie, Countess of Carrick.

15th century and royal relations

Descendants of Sir Duncan Campbell, 1st Lord Campbell (Donnchadh) and his wife Lady Marjorie Stewart would be descendants of Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland and Robert II Stewart, King of Scotland. Lady Marjorie Stewart, b. 1390 was the daughter of King Robert II's son, Robert Stewart, 1st Duke of Albany. This would make all descendants of Sir Duncan Campbell and Lady Marjorie Stewart descendants of Robert I Bruce and most of the early Kings of Scotland.

The first Lord Campbell was created in 1445. It was from the 15th century that the Campbells came to take an increasingly prominent role. The personal reign of James I of Scotland, saw that king launch a great political assault on the Albany Stewarts and their allies in the west, however Duncan Campbell, 1st lord Campbell (Donnchadh), escaped the fate of his Albany kinsmen who were all either executed or exiled.

Colin Campbell, 1st Earl of Argyll (Cailean) was en-nobled as the Earl of Argyll in 1457 and later became Baron of Lorn and was also granted lands in Knapdale, signs that the Argylls were one of the major forces in Scotlandmarker. In 1493 after the forfeiture of the MacDonald, Lord of the Isles, the Campbell lords may well have viewed themselves as natural successors to the Clan Donald in terms of leadership of the Gaels of the Hebrides and western Highlands. The Campbell lordship thus remained one of the most significant bastions of Gaelic learning and culture in late medieval and early modern Scotlandmarker.

Battle of Knockmarymarker, 1490, Men of the Clan Campbell and the Clan Drummond join forces to defeat the Clan Murray.

16th century and clan conflicts

  • Battle of Pinkie Cleugh, 1547, Later during the Anglo-Scottish Wars the Clan Campbell was among the Scottish forces who fought the English at Pinkie on 10 September 1547. Due to the large number of Scottish lives lost at this battle September 10 is remembered today in Scotland as Black Saturday.

  • In 1567, a conflict took place between the Clan Campbell and Clan Arthur. Duncan MacArthur and his son of the Loch Awe MacArthur family, became the victims of their own success when jealousy of their power drove neighbours to drown them in Loch Awe during a skirmish with the Clan Campbell. In the archives of Inveraray Castle a charter dated 1567 confirms that a pardon was granted to the Campbells of Inverawe for the "drowning of Clan Arthur". It is believed that the MacArthurs trying to defend themselves were driven into the loch. Centuries later in the 1970s an ancient sword was unearthed on the shore of the loch.


17th century and Civil War

  • During the Civil War, the Clan Campbell fought as Covenanters. In 1644, the Clan Irvine, who were staunch royalist supporters, found themselves surrounded by Covenanter clans. The Irvine's Drum Castlemarker was sacked on May 2, 1644 by the Clan Campbell. A chair with Drum symbols, now in the Scottish Museum, Edinburgh, is believed to have been taken from Drum Castle either in 1644 by the Campbells or in 1640 when a previous raid was carried out by General Robert Monro.

  • In 1646, the Clan Campbell, neighbours of the Clan Lamont, had steadily encroached the Lamont's lands. After the Battle of Inverlochy in 1645, the Clan Lamont took the opportunity to lay waste to the Campbell's territory. The following year, the powerful Clan Campbell army invaded the Clan Lamont taking their Castles Toward and Ascog. Sir James Lamont surrendered after accepting fair terms for his people, but the Campbells then slaughtered over two hundred of Lamont's men, women and children. Elsewhere, one tree was said to have carried thirty five bodies from its branches, and another thirty six men were buried alive. The two Lamont castles were decimated and Sir James Lamont was thrown into a dungeon for five years. This event became known as the Dunoon Massacre.

  • In 1647, the Argyll government troops of Clan Campbell, led by Stuart A Campbell, attacked and laid siege to Duart Castlemarker of the Clan MacLean, but they were defeated and driven off by the Royalist troops of the Clan MacLean.

  • In 1672, debt forced George Sinclair, 6th Earl of Caithness to resign his titles and estates in favour of Sir John Campbell. Campbell took possession of the estates on Sinclair's death in May 1676, and was created earl of Caithness in June the following year. Sinclair's heir, George Sinclair of Keiss disputed the claim and seized the land in 1678.

  • Battle of Altimarlech (13 July 1680), Campbell took a force north to evict Keiss, who was waiting for him with 400 men near Wick. Inflamed with drink, the Sinclairs attacked the Campbells and were routed. Legend has it that so many Sinclairs were killed that the Campbells were able to cross the river without getting their feet wet. Having failed to regain his inheritance by force, Keiss then turned to the law. He took his place as Earl of Caithness on 15 July 1681, and his lands were restored on 23 September. Campbell was made Earl of Breadalbane by way of compensation.

  • In 1692, 78 unarmed MacDonalds were murdered in the Massacre of Glencoemarker when a government initiative to suppress Jacobitism was entangled in the long running feud between Clan MacDonald and Clan Campbell. The slaughter of the MacDonalds at the hands of the soldiers, led by Captain Robert Campbell of Glenlyon, after enjoying their hospitality for over a week was a major affront of Scottish Law and Highland tradition. The majority of soldiers were not Campbells, but a roll call from a few months before included six Campbells in addition to Cpt. Robt. Campbell: Corporal Achibald Campbell, Private Archibald Campbell (elder), Private Donald Campbell (younger), Private Archibald Campbell (younger), Private James Campbell, Private Donald Campbell (elder), and Private Duncan Campbell. Retrieved from: Earl of Argyll's Regiment of Foot

18th century and Jacobite Uprisings

1715 to 1719 Jacobite Rising
On 23 October 1715, chief John Campbell, 2nd Duke of Argyll having learned that a detachment of rebels was passing by Castle Campbellmarker, towards Dunfermlinemarker, sent out a body of cavalry which came up with the party and defeated it, taking a number of gentlemen prisoners, with the damage of one dragoon wounded on the cheek and one horse slightly injured. A month later the British government forces of Clan Campbell fought and defeated the Jacobites at the Battle of Sheriffmuir in 1715. However there were in fact a small number Campbells who took the side of the Jacobites led by the son of Campbell of Glenlyon whose father had commanded the government troops at the Massacre of Glencoe 22 years earlier. The two young men "buried the hatchet" and swore to be brothers in arms, fighting side by side in the Sheriffmuir. However the British government forces led by the Argyll Campbells defeated the Jacobites.

The Black Watch

In 1725 six Independent Black Watch companies were formed. Three from Clan Campbell, one from Clan Fraser, one from Clan Munro and one from Clan Grant. These companies were known by the name Reicudan Dhu, or Black Watch. Taking advantage of the partisan nature and warrior instincts of the highlanders, these men were authorised to wear the kilt and to bear arms, thus it was not difficult to find recruits. The regiment was then officially known as the 42nd Regiment of Foot.

1745 to 1746 Jacobite Rising
During the Jacobite Uprisings of 1745 to 1746 the Clan Campbell continued their support for the British Government. They fought against the rebel Jacobites at the Battle of Falkirk marker where government forces were defeated. However shortly afterwards the Clan Campbell held out during the Siege of Fort William. The Jacobites could not defeat the Campbell defenders who had been well supplied. Eventually the Campbells sent out their own force from Fort William who defeated the besieging Jacobites and captured their siege cannons.

Soon afterwards men of the Clan Campbell who formed part of Loudon's Highlanders Regiment helped to finally defeat the Jacobites at the Battle of Cullodenmarker in 1746.


Inveraray Castle, seat of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of Clan Campbell.
  • Inveraray Castlemarker in Argyllmarker is the current seat of the Chief of Clan Campbell.
  • Castle Campbellmarker or Castle Gloom was the seat of the chief of Clan Campbell until 1654 when they moved to Inveraray Castle.
  • Innis Chonnellmarker one of the earliest Clan Campbell castles.
  • Kilchurn Castlemarker was also owned by the Clan Campbell family.
  • Kilmartin Castle
  • Edinample Castlemarker was built in the late 16th century.
  • Carnasserie Castle has belonged to the Clan Campbell since the 16th century.
  • Saddell Castle was owned by the Campbells from the late 17th century onwards.
  • Finlarig Castlemarker built by the Campbells of Breadalbane in the 17th century.
  • Torosay Castlemarker built by John Campbell of Possil in 1858.
  • Taymouth Castlemarker built by the Campbells of Breadalbane in the 19th century.
  • Auchinbreck Castle Dismantled. Built by the Campbells of Kilmichael Glassary, later renamed of Auchinbreck.
  • Sween Castlemarker was granted to Colin Campbell in 1481 when he became the first Earl of Argyll. Was captured by the MacDonalds in 1647.
  • Dunoon Castle In 1334, Colin Campbell made Keeper of Dunoon Castle.
  • Achallader Castlemarker Originally belonged to the Fletcher family, but Sir Duncan Campbell of Glen Orchy, built most of the existing tower, which he acquired in 1590. The MacGregors burnt the castle in 1603.
  • Ardkinglas Castle

Clan profile

  • Origin of the name: Cam Beul (Gaelic for "Crooked mouth") (Surname)
  • Other Gaelic names: Cambeulach (Singular) &O Duibne (Collective)
  • Motto: Ne Obliviscaris (Latin for "Forget Not")
  • Slogan: "Cruachan!" (from the mountain north of Loch Awemarker, overlooking the bulk of the Campbell lands in Argyllmarker)
  • Pipe music: "Baile Inneraora" (The Campbells Are Coming)
  • Plant badge: Bog Myrtle
  • Lands: Campbell lands were scattered across Angusmarker, Ayrshiremarker (Loudoun), Clackmannanmarker (Argyll), Nairnshiremarker (Cawdor) Perthshiremarker, Seahousesmarker (Northumberland).


Clan Campbell has several recognised tartans:

  • Campbell: More commonly known as the Black Watch tartan or the Government Sett. The Black Watch, first raised in 1725, was the first Highland Regiment in the British Army. All Campbell tartans are based upon the Black Watch tartan, as are many clan tartans. The tartan was used, and is in current use, by several military units throughout the Commonwealth.
  • Campbell of Breadalbane: This tartan may be worn by Campbells of the Breadalbane, or Glenorchy branches.
  • Campbell of Cawdor: This tartan may be worn by members of the Campbell of Cawdor branch.
  • Campbell of Loudoun: This tartan may be worn by members of the Campbell of Loudoun branch.



Duke of

Marquess of Breadalbane Earl of Cawdor Earl of Loudoun
Campbell of Aberuchill Campbell of Ardchattan Campbell of Barcaldine Campbell of Cawdor
Campbell of Clathick Campbell of Lawers Campbell of Lochaw Campbell of Lochdochart
Campbell of Lochnell Campbell of Monzie Campbell of Moy Campbell of Ottar
Campbell of Park Campbell of Possil Campbell of Smiddygreen Campbell of Craignish
Campbell of Auchinbreck Campbell of Auchawillig Campbell of Ardentinny Campbell of Ardkinglas
Campbell of Gargunnock Campbell of Inverneil Lord Stratheden Campbell of Netherplace
Campbell of Glenlyon Campbell of

Campbell of Blythswood Campbell of Glenfalloch

A History of Clan Campbell: From the Restoration to the present day By Alastair Campbell

A History of Clan Campbell: From Flodden to the Restoration By Alastair Campbell

The house of Argyll and the collateral branches of the clan Campbell, from the year 420 to the present time, J. Tweed, 1871

See also


  1. Oxford Companion to Scottish History, p.64 – 66. Edited by Michael Lynch, Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199234820.
  2. Government, or Black Watch Retrieved on September 11 2007
  3. Which are the authentic Campbell tartans? Retrieved on September 11 2007

External links

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