Clan Donald is one of the largest Scottish clans. There are numerous branches to the clan. Several of these have chiefs recognised by the Lord Lyon King of Arms; these are: Clan Macdonald of Sleat, Clan Macdonald of Clanranald, Clan MacDonell of Glengarry, Clan MacDonald of Keppoch, and Clan MacAlister. Notable branches without chiefs so-recognised are: the MacDonalds of Dunnyveg, MacDonalds of Lochalsh, the MacDonalds of Glencoe, and the MacDonalds of Ardnamurchan. The MacDonnells of Antrim are related but do not belong to the Scottish associations and have a chief officially recognised in Ireland.
The Norse-Gaelic Clan Donald traces its descent from Dòmhnall Mac Raghnuill (d. circa 1250), whose father Reginald or Ranald was styled “King of the Isles” and “Lord of Argyll and Kintyre”. Ranald’s father, Somerled was styled “King of the Hebrides”, and was killed campaigning against Malcolm IV of Scotland at the Battle of Renfrew in 1164. Clan Donald shares a descent from Somerled with Clan MacDougall, who trace their lineage from his elder son, Dugall mac Somhairle. Their dynasties are together commonly referred to as the Clann Somhairle. Furthermore they are descended maternally from both the House of Godred Crovan and the Earls of Orkney, through Somerled’s wife Ragnhildis Ólafsdóttir, daughter of Olaf I Godredsson, King of Mann and the Isles and Ingeborg Haakonsdottir daughter of Haakon Paulsson, Earl of Orkney. It remains uncertain if the Clann Somhairle are also descendants in some manner, through one or another of the above dynasts, of the House of Ivar, but this is commonly argued.
Gaelic tradition gave Somerled a Celtic descent in the male line, as the medieval Seanachies traced his lineage through a long line of ancestors back to the High Kings of Ireland, namely Colla Uais and Conn of the Hundred Battles. Thus Clan Donald claimed to be both Clann Cholla and Siol Chuinn (Children of Colla and Seed of Conn). Possibly the oldest piece of poetry attributed to the MacDonalds is a brosnachadh (an incitement to battle) which was said to have been written in 1411, on the day of the Battle of Harlaw. The first lines of the poem begin “A Chlanna Cuinn cuimhnichibh / Cruas an àm na h-iorghaile,” (Ye children of Conn remember hardihood in the time of battle). A later poem made to John of Islay (1434–1503), last of the MacDonald Lords of the Isles, proclaims “Ceannas Ghàidheal do Chlainn Cholla, còir fhògradh,” (The Headship of the Gael to the family of Colla, it is right to proclaim it), giving MacDonald’s genealogy back to Colla Uais.
However a recent DNA study has shown that Somerled may have been of Norse descent in his male line. By testing the Y-DNA of males bearing the surnames MacDonald, MacDougall, MacAlister, and their variants it was found that a substantial proportion of men tested shared the same Y-DNA and a direct paternal ancestor. This distinct Y-chromosome R1a1 haplotype found in Scotland has been regarded as often showing Norse descent in the British Isles. According to the Clan Donald USA DNA Project about 22% of tested participants have this signature, most importantly including the chiefs, but despite the sensational claims it remains unclear whether Somerled himself was of paternal Norse ancestry. A non-paternity event remains a possible cause.
 Scottish-Norwegian War
The MacDonalds had always supported Norway. However, this alliance broke when the Norwegians were defeated at the Battle of Largs in 1263 by Scottish forces. Norway’s King Haakon was defeated and his fleet was wrecked by the skilled manoeuvres of King Alexander III of Scotland and the Clan MacDougall. Three years later, the Norwegians submitted their last islands to the Scottish crown. Aonghas Mòr, the son of Dòmhnall, then made peace with King Alexander III of Scotland. The clan takes its name ‘Donald’ from Donald who was the grandson of King Somerled of the Isles who lived until 1269.
 Wars of Scottish Independence
The MacDonalds fought with Robert the Bruce at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. It was Donald’s great grandson, Angus Og of Islay who sheltered King Robert the Bruce. Angus led a small band of Islesmen at the Battle of Bannockburn. In recognition of Clan Donalds support King Robert the Bruce proclaimed that Clan Donald would always occupy the honored position on the right wing of the Scottish army. Donald’s son was the original ‘Mac’ which means ‘son of’.
 15th century
Earldom of Ross
The title and territory of the Earl of Ross had originally been held by the Chief of Clan Ross. However Angas Og’s grandson, Dòmhnall of Islay, Lord of the Isles married the first female heiress of the Earl of Ross. He later successfully claimed the position of Earl of Ross through marriage. This was secured by the Battle of Harlaw on 24 July 1411 where most of the highland clans supported Donald in preventing the Duke of Albany and his army of Scottish Lowlanders from claiming the position for himself. However by 1415 the Earldom of Ross was lost as Murdoch Stewart, Duke of Albany had seized Dingwall Castle and Easter Ross. Dòmhnall prepared for war and proclaimed himself “Lord of Ross”. Although Albany appointed his own son John Stewart, 2nd Earl of Buchan as the new Earl of Ross. However, later the MacDonald chiefs would again become the Earls of Ross, firstly Alexander of Islay, Earl of Ross and then his son John of Islay, Earl of Ross who surrendered the earldom in 1476 to James Stewart, Duke of Ross. Prior to the Battle of Harlaw in 1411 the Battle of Dingwall took place where the powerful Clan Mackay were defeated by Clan Donald. They later joined forces and fought at the Battle of Harlaw.
In 1429 the Battle of Lochaber took place. This conflict was between forces led by Alexander MacDonald of Islay, Earl of Ross, 3rd Lord of the Isles and the Royalist army of King James I of Scotland. Two years later the Battle of Inverlochy (1431) took place. While chief Alexander MacDonald of Islay, Earl of Ross was imprisoned by King James I, the Clan MacDonald were led by Donald Balloch, the nephew of Alexander. The MacDonalds were victorious in defeating the Earl of Mar‘s army.
The Battle of Bloody Bay took place in 1480, it was fought between John MacDonald of Islay, Earl of Ross, Lord of the Isles and chief of Clan Donald (Eoin Mac Dòmhnuill) against his son Angus Og Macdonald (Aonghas Òg ). John MacDonald of Islay, chief of Clan Donald was supported by men from the Clan MacLean, Clan MacLeod, and Clan MacNeil. He was opposed by his son, Angus Og Macdonald, who was supported Allan Macruari, chief of the Clan MacDonald of Clan Ranald. and Dòmhnall Mac Aonghais (Donald Mac Angus) chief of the Clan MacDonald of Keppoch
The Battle of Skibo and Strathfleet, 1480, John MacDonald of Islay, Earl of Ross invaded Sutherland and fought against men of the Clan Sutherland and Clan Murray. The Battle of Drumchatt was fought in 1497 where the Clan Munro and Clan Mackenzie together defeated the MacDonald of Lochalsh branch of Clan Donald.
 16th century
The position of Lord of the Isles which the MacDonald chief had held since the 13th century had been revoked in 1495. However the MacDonalds remained a powerful clan and retained much of their lands. At the end of the 15th century and beginning of the 16th century the chief of Clan Donald, Domhnall Dubh, rebelled against James IV of Scotland, in an attempt to regain the Lordship of the Isles.
The Battle of Flodden Field took place in 1513, during the Anglo-Scottish Wars the son of Alexander MacDonald of Lochalsh led the Clan MacDonald of Lochalsh against the English army. On his return he attempted to take control of the government-held Urquhart Castle.
The Battle of the Spoiling Dyke, 1578 MacDonalds of Uist fought against the Clan MacLeod. The Battle of the Western Isles, 1586, Fought on the Isle of Jura, between the Clan MacDonald of Sleat and the Clan Maclean. The Battle of Traigh Ghruinneart, 1598, Fought between the Clan Donald and Clan Maclean on the Isle of Islay.
 17th century and the Civil War
The Battle of Coire Na Creiche, 1601, Clan MacDonald of Sleat defeated the Clan MacLeod on the slopes of the Cuillin hills. The Battle of Morar was fought in 1602 between the Clan MacDonell of Glengarry and the Clan Mackenzie.
In 1642 on Rathlin Island, during the Irish Rebellion, Covenanter soldiers of the Clan Campbell who formed Argyll’s Foot were encouraged by their commanding officer Sir Duncan Campbell of Auchinbreck to kill the local Catholic MacDonalds. This they did with ruthless efficiency throwing scores of MacDonald women over cliffs to their deaths on rocks below. The number of victims of this massacre has been put as low as 100 and as high as 3,000.
Scotland in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms of 1644-47, was in large part a clan war between the MacDonalds and Clan Campbell. The MacDonalds sided with the Royalists in the English Civil War and the Irish Confederate Catholics in the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. The Campbells sided with the Scottish Covenanters. A MacDonald clansman, Alasdair Mac Colla raised an Irish force in 1644 and landed in Scotland, with the aim of linking up with the Scottish Royalists and taking back the lands that Clan Donald had lost to the Campbells. After a year of campaigning around Scotland, in which Mac Colla’s men ravaged the Campbell lands, the two sides met at the Battle of Inverlochy (1645). This battle was between the Scottish Argyll government forces of Clan Campbell led by Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll and the Royalist forces of James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose mainly made up of Irish O’Kanes, O’Neills, Ulster Irish, Clan MacDonald, Clan MacLean and other MacDonalds. Through cunning tactics the Royalist force of 1500 MacDonalds, Irish and MacLeans defeated the Argyll Campbell force of 3000. In 1645 during the Civil War, Kinlochaline Castle of the Clan MacInnes was attacked and burned by MacDonalds serving under James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose.
The Massacre of Glencoe took place in 1692, 38 unarmed MacDonalds from the Clan MacDonald of Glencoe were murdered in the Massacre of Glencoe when an initiative to suppress Jacobitism was entangled in the long running feud between Clan MacDonald and Clan Campbell. The slaughter of the host MacDonalds at the hands of their Campbell guests was a major affront to Scottish Law and Highland tradition.
 18th century
During the Jacobite risings of 1715 the MacDonalds supported the Jacobite cause of the House of Stuart. Made up amongst others, men of Clan MacDonald of Keppoch and the Clan Macdonald of Clanranald, whose chief was killed at the Battle of Sheriffmuir.
The majority of Clan Donald fought on the side of the Jacobites during the 1745-1746 uprisings with three regiments from Clan Macdonald of Clanranald, Clan MacDonnell of Glengarry, Clan MacDonald of Keppoch and the Clan MacDonald of Glencoe fighting at the Battle of Prestonpans, Battle of Falkirk (1746) and the Battle of Culloden. A number of MacDonalds were killed at Culloden although many of them left the field after seeing the slaughter of other clans who charged the government lines before them.
Although the Clan MacDonald of Sleat branch fought for the Jacobites in the 1715 rebellion they actually formed two battalions in support of the British government during the 1745 rebellion and as a result the Sleat possessions remained intact.
In 1947, the Lord Lyon King of Arms granted the undifferenced arms of Macdonald of Macdonald to Alexander Godfrey Macdonald, 7th Lord Macdonald, making him the first High Chief of Clan Donald. After his death in 1970, he was succeeded by his son Godfrey James Macdonald of Macdonald, 8th Lord Macdonald, who is the current high chief of Clan Donald.
The following is a list of some of the early chiefs of Clan Donald.
|Dòmhnall Dubh||1545||Rebelled against the king of Scotland but made an alliance with the king of England.|
|Aonghas Òg||1490||‘Bastard’ son of John of Islay. Last MacDonald Lord of the Isles.|
|John of Islay, Earl of Ross||1503||Fought at the Battle of Bloody Bay against his son.|
|Alexander of Islay, Earl of Ross||1449||His second son was Celestine of Lochalsh, 1st of the Macdonald of Lochalsh branch and third son was Hugh of Sleat, 1st of the Macdonalds of Sleat branch.|
|Dòmhnall of Islay, Lord of the Isles||1422/3||Fought at the Battle of Harlaw.|
|John of Islay, Lord of the Isles||1380||His second son was John Mòr, 1st of the MacDonells of Antrim branch and third son was Alastair Carroch of Keppoch, 1st of the Macdonald of Keppoch branch.|
|Aonghas Òg of Islay||1329/16||Fought at the Battle of Bannockburn. His second son was Ian Fraoch of Glencoe, 1st of the Macdonald of Glencoe branch.|
|Aonghas Mór (Angus Mor MacDonald)||1292||His second son was Alastair Og (deposed) and third son was John Sprangach of Ardnamurchan, 1st of the Macdonalds of Ardnamurchan branch.|
|Dòmhnall Mac Raghnuill (Donald)||1250||From whom the Clan Donald takes its name.|
|Raghnall Mac Somhairle (Ranald)||1207||His second son was Ruairidh, 1st of Clanranald.|
|Somerled||1164||Killed at the Battle of Renfrew.|
Over the centuries MacDonald castles have included:
 Clan Donald castles
- Finlaggan Castle was located on an island, on Loch Finlaggan, on the Isle of Islay. It was the seat of the chief of Clan Donald, Lord of the Isles. 
- Armadale Castle on the Isle of Skye was built in 1825 and today houses a MacDonald Clan centre which is open to the public.
- Knock Castle (Isle of Skye) is a ruined Macdonald castle located on the Isle of Skye.
- Duntulm Castle is a ruined MacDonald castle located on the Isle of Skye.
- Aros Castle is a ruined MacDonald castle located on the Isle of Mull.
- Claig Castle is a ruined MacDonald castle located on the Isle of Jura.
- Kildonan Castle is a ruined MacDonald castle located on the Isle of Arran.
- Ardtornish Castle is a ruined MacDonald castle located on the peninsula Morvern.
- Dunaverty Castle is a ruined MacDonald castle, off the coast of Kintyre, known as Blood Rock because of the incident known as the Dunaverty Massacre.
 MacDonald clan branch castles
- Castle Tioram, Loch Moidart, Lochaber was the seat of the Clan Macdonald of Clanranald.
- Borve Castle, Benbecula was another castle of the MacDonalds of Clanranald.
- Ormiclate Castle was another castle of the Macdonalds of Clanranald.
- Invergarry Castle, built on the Raven’s Rock was the seat of the Clan MacDonnell of Glengarry.
- Strome Castle on the shore of Loch Carron was an earlier castle of the MacDonnells of Glengarry.
- Dunluce Castle in Ireland was the seat of the Clan MacDonnell of Antrim, Earls of Antrim.
- Glenarm Castle in Ireland was another castle of the MacDonnells of Antrim.
- Dunyvaig Castle on the Isle of Islay was the seat of the Clan MacDonald of Dunnyveg.
- Dunscaith Castle on the Isle of Skye was the seat of the Clan MacDonald of Sleat.
- Mingarry Castle in Kilchoan, Lochaber was the seat of the Clan MacDonald of Ardnamurchan.
- Largie Castle, Rhunahaorine was the seat of the Clan MacDonald of Largie.
 See also
- Lord of the Isles
- Gaelic nobility of Ireland
- Keppoch murders
- Macdonald (surname article)
- Clandonald, Alberta, Canada
- George Way of Plean; Squire 2000: p. 170.
- Adam, Frank; Innes of Learney, Thomas (1970). The Clans, Septs & Regiments of the Scottish Highlands (8th ed.). Edinburgh: Johnston and Bacon. pp. 541–543.
- Clan Donald – List of Family Names, Branches and Septs
- Donald, Lord of the Isles Retrieved on 2007-10-09
- Moncreiffe, pp. 127–131.
- Dougal Retrieved on 2007-10-04
- Most recently by Alex Woolf, The origins and ancestry of Somerled: Gofraid mac Fergusa and ‘The Annals of the Four Masters’, Medieval Scandinavia 15 (2005)
- MacDonald, Donald J. Clan Donald.
- Gregory, p. 10.
- The Macdonald Bardic Poetry Part 1 by Professor W. J. Watson Retrieved on 2007-10-09
- Johnston, Ian. “DNA shows Celtic hero Somerled’s Viking roots“. The Scotsman, 26 April 2005. Retrieved on 2007-10-09
- Sykes, p.214.
- Other Ancestry: The ‘Mostly Celtic’ Clan Donald Retrieved on 2007-10-09
- Clan Donald DNA Project: Before Somerled, citing Don Schlegel (2000), “The Ancestors of McDonalds of Somerset”
- “History of the House and Clan of MacKay” (1829) by Robert MacKay, p.53 – 54, quoting from the “Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland” by Dir Robert Gordon (1580 to 1656).
- The Battle of Split Allegiances@Clan Cameron.org
- Conflicts of the Clans Battle of Blar-na-Pairc@Electric Scotland
- “The Clan Ranald”. http://www.macdonald.com/ranald.html.
- MacRuarie – McCreary
- ’Conflicts of the Clans’ published in 1764 by the Foulis press, written from a manuscript wrote in the reign of James VI of Scotland. 
- Clan MacLeod@Electric Scotland.com
- Roberts, John Leonard (1999). Feuds, Forays and Rebellions: History of the Highland Clans, 1475-1625. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 140–1. ISBN 978-0-7486-6244-9. http://books.google.com/?id=6ODOtIoisjIC&pg=PA140.
- Royle, Trevor (2004). Civil War: The Wars of the Three Kingdoms 1638-1660. London: Abacus. ISBN 0-349-11564-8. p.143
- The Carolingian Era, macdonnellofleinster.org. Retrieved 28 August 2008
- Macdonald, Angus; Macdonald, Archibald (1900). The Clan Donald. 3. Inverness: The Northern Counties Publishing Company, Ltd. http://www.archive.org/details/clandonald03macd. pp. 84–92.
- “Lord Macdonald of Macdonald”. wwww.highcouncilofclandonald.org. http://www.highcouncilofclandonald.org/Macdonald.html. Retrieved 18 May 2009.
- Finlaggan Trust
- Gregory, Donald. History Of The Western Highlands And Isles Of Scotland, From A.D. 1493 To A.D. 1625. Edinburgh: William Tait, 1836.
- MacDonald, Donald J. Clan Donald. 1978.
- Moncreiffe of that Ilk, Sir Ian. The Highland Clans. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1982. ISBN 0-517-54659-0.
- Sykes, Bryan. Saxons, Vikings, and Celts : the genetic roots of Britain and Ireland. New York : W. W. Norton & Company, 2006. ISBN 978-0-393-06268-7.
- Way, George; Squire, Romilly (2000). Clans & Tartans. Glasgow: HarperCollins. ISBN 0-00-472501-8.
- Thomson, Oliver, The Great Feud. The Campbells and the Macdonalds. Revisited edition 2005. Sutton Publishing Limited. ISBN 0-7509-4315-7.
 External links
- http://www.clandonald.com Armadale Castle Gardens & Museum of the Isles, Isle of Skye, Scotland
- http://www.clandonald.info Clan Donald – The Highland Connection
- Clan Donald USA
- Clan Donald DNA Project
- Clan Donald Canada