Lordship of the Isles

What is the Lordship?

What is the Lordship?
People of the Lordship
Customs and Culture
List of Islands
Festivals and Ceremonies
Gaelic Law
The Armed Forces

A Pocket Guide to the Last Gaelic Empire

The Lordship of the Isles is a coastal empire which holds all the islands and sea lochs from the Butt of Lewis to Kintyre, as well as Ross, a great expanse of land that stretches from the Atlantic to the Moray Firth, and lands in Ireland - a realm larger than that of the Kings of Scotland. The Lordship of the Isles has a unique culture and society, where tradition and modern ideas combine to create a cosmopolitan state, whose people are as noble as their leaders, defended by great armies, and eat food for free that people in other lands can only dream of.
It is descended from the Kingdom of Argyll, which was ruled by Somhairle, or Somerled, in your tongue, who was of Gaelic-Norse descent, until 1164. This kingdom was born from conflict in the Kingdom of Man, which once ruled all of the Hebrides.
After Somerled was slain with one of his sons, Gille Bridge, fighting the Scots at Renfrew in 1164, the Kingdom of Argyll was divided between the three other sons that Raghnailt had bore him.
Their names were Dugald, Ranald, and Angus, and they are the ancestors of three major clans (MacDougall, MacRuadri, and Macdonald). Dugald received the centre of the Kingdom of Argyll, Ranald received the north, and Angus received the south. Of those three, the dominant branch of the family was Macdougall.
That is how the Kingdom of Argyll dissolved, an event that made the rise of the Lordship of the Isles possible.

In 1263 Alexander III of Scots fought and defeated the Norse at Largs, inflicting a harsh blow to Norse hopes of dominance in the Highlands and Ireland. The Norse king fled to Orkney after he heard the news of the slaughter, but he did not make it home. The Scots had won a spectacular victory. Their dominance over the Highlands was assured, as there was no-one that could challenge them. They acted swiftly, and as soon as the Treaty of Perth had been signed, and all Norse claims to the Hebrides and other territories had been surrendered to Scotland, they attempted to colonise the mountains and islands that were supposed to be in their possession.

They encountered fierce resistance, and for their efforts Clan Macdougall, the leading power in the Highlands, were declared traitors to the kingdom that claimed to rule the land they had held for a hundred years. The Gaels began a guerrilla war in the Highlands, a strategy with which we are accustomed, and this war raged on for many years.

Angus Macdonald, however, was the ruler of the Lordship of the Isles when the Wars of Independence raged on. Edward I of England was no threat to him. His quarrel was with the Scots. Nevertheless, Angus Macdonald had to choose sides. He had many reasons for choosing Scotland - the Norse were still a threat to his rule, and, although he had taken at least as much territory as he had been gifted and thus ruled over a coastal empire from Islay to Lewis, he still wanted more. And the Macdougalls, who still could rally support in the Isles, were now at the mercy of the Scottish king - and actively opposing him.

Clan Macdougall failed to win an encounter at the Pass of Brander, and their power collapsed. In a few years, Clan Macdonald occupied all of the key strongholds and had taken command of the fleets of birlinns in which power here is counted. Their alliance with Scotland meant that estates taken from the Norse because of the Treaty of Perth were gifted to them, and the Macdonalds quickly regained most of the Kingdom of Argyll and the Hebrides.

Handfasting and fostering means that it now rules over land from Kintyre to Antrim to Inverness and the Butt of Lewis (see picture below).

Influence of the Lordship of the Isles
not including remote Hebridean islands to the west and north, or Antrim

Original version of the picture above, without the colours, from www.clker.com

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