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


The Lordship of the Isles is a martial culture, and has inherited the warlike and maritime traditions of the Gael and the Norse. Both races are renowned for their prowess - the Gael for their fanatical loyalty and the Norse for their brutality. This is a state where every man from sixteen to seventy is a fanatical warrior, bound by birth to fight when called, in possession of his own weaponry, often of fine quality.

The military is indeed a fascinating subject, and I will try to teach you about the armies and weapons of the Lordship of the Isles as best I can.

The Navy

Despite what you may have heard, and despite tales of Gaelic heroes, however true they may be, the greatest asset of the Lordship of the Isles as far as defence is concerned is the navy. There are thousands of birlinns in the navy of Clan Donald, and other types of ship, including the curach and the long-fada. If all of our fleets were assembled in one location, they would outnumber those of Scotland and England combined.

It is the fact that we have such a skilled and well-equipped navy that keeps us safe from foreign invasion - on the mainland, we may be defeated, and even if an army manages to fight through our allies and vassals on the mainland they will not be able to cross the Atlantic Ocean. The navy also gives us the freedom to change our tactics between guerrilla warfare, campaigns, and defence, by adjusting its role from transportation of troops, to transportation of supplies, to evacuation. It also gives our soldiers easy access to the most remote parts of the Highlands, as most of our ships are designed so that they can sail in shallow water, perhaps just a river, and can be taken across land if the necessity arises.

The Army

The Lordship of the Isles does not have a professional army. Instead, it has tens of thousands of fanatical clansmen who possess their own equipment, and who are often seasoned by hunting. I suppose that an army like this is militia, but it is an experienced militia, and, as said before, the loyalty and bravery of the Gael in combat is famous (this isn't just a proud boast by me - clansmen were known to be willing to cut off their own limbs for something as trivial as victory in a boat race from island to island, and as this is told in the equivalent of official documents then it must be more than an exaggeration).

In times of war, these clansmen are easily mustered by the use of the fiery cross. This is a cross, made of two sticks of wood, that is draped in cloth soaked in blood and set alight. It is then taken by hereditary runners across the island or region (yes, this is the fiery cross that features in the Ku Klax Klan symbol, as some of the founders of the Ku Klux Klan are said to be of Highland descent). There may be more than one used at the same time, if clansmen need to be gathered from more than one area. When this symbol is lit, all clansmen are required to arm themselves and to meet at a rallying point which is usually set by their local tacksman.

Also, our armies include specialist axe-wielding mercenaries called gallowglasses, our brothers (the original gallowglasses were a descendant of Somerled and his six sons) who have been denied the privilege of ruling the Lordship and instead have became some of the best warriors in the British Isles. Thirty thousand of them arrive in Islay each year, as they wait for the next war, and they are all too happy to offer their services, often for something as simple and as abundant as beef. 

There are a few professional soldiers in the army, however, who are often tacksmen and their sons. They often take an interest in a particular weapon, and train in it. They play the most important role in the army - patrolling clan lands, raiding, and looking after the clan's strongholds. They were given the best armour and equipment, often wielded a claymore or battleaxe, and clad in chainmail (the modern Highland games, possibly the last part of modern Highland culture to be in any way historical, come from the tournaments that kept these elite warriors occupied during the summer).

There was also the chief's bodyguard, who were the finest men in the Lordship of the Isles, handpicked after performing some task first achieved in ancient Irish mythology by the champions of great kings, who were given the task of defending nothing but the chief and his family. Even his property was not their responsibility. In possession of one of the few places in the retinue of a Lord of the Isles that was not hereditary (although more often than not sons and cousins of a former bodyguard would become bodyguards themselves), the bodyguards had to show great strength and determination. Their martial prowess is so feared that they are often entitled to the same privileges as the thanes and armins of the Council of the Isles, and dine at the table of the Lord of the Isles.


The weapons used by our soldiers are varied. Most of our soldiers possess a one-handed axe, which is the primary weapon used in combat, but many are also equipped with other weapons. The dirk is worn at the waist, and is a small dagger that is used in hunting, often used in close combat when an axe is not required to pierce armour and if there is not enough space for larger weapons. The skean-dhu is a knife, the blade of which is no more than two or three inches in length, that is only black with a decorated hilt. It is worn on the right ankle, and can be drawn in an ambush.

Other melee weapons include the Lochaber axe, which is our answer to the heavily-armoured feudal cavalry fielded by Scotland, and which is also able to cut through armour. It is most often found in the hands of mercenaries from the Highlands, and is different from the battleaxe used by the gallowglasses, that have a much heavier shaft and are more used to hack away at knights from a distance.

The claymore is also a common sight, usually in the hands of elite warriors, and it is a crushing weapon, similar to the battleaxes you may also see in the hands of our warriors. Many of these weapons are imported, and are of excellent Spanish make.

Many Highlanders, especially those who have not yet wielded a melee weapon in combat, are skilled at the use of the bow.


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