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THE EARLS OF ATHOLL - ROYAL CELTIC LINE (1115-1215)

[From Nisbet's Heraldry; Burke's Peerage; Orkneyinga Saga and Celtic Scotland]

ATHOLL was one of the ancient comitial divisions of Celtic Scotland. In early times it was written in a variety of ways, first as Athfothla (Fotla's ford), then Atheodle, and lastly, after a few further variations, settling down as Atholl. The first Earls of Atholl were descended from KING DUNCAN THE FIRST, who had issue, by the miller of Forteviot's daughter, an illegitimate son who succeeded to the Scottish crown as Malcolm Canmore, and two lawful sons, Donald Bane and MELMORE OF ATHOLL. The latter is found in the Book of Deer witnessing one of the charters as Malmori díAthotla, and in the Orkneyinga Saga is a reference to his son and successor, Moddad, Jarl af Atjoklum, son of (Melmari) Melmore, brother of King (Melkolm) Malcolm, father of David, then King of Scots. Thus the first Earl on record is

I. MADACH Earl (1115-1153), who in 1115 witnesses the foundation charter of Scone by King Alexander I and Sibylla his queen. As "Maddoc" and "Madeth Comes" he also witnesses charters of King David I. Torfaeus, the Danish historiographer, writing of this Earl of Atholl, states he was the noblest prince of Scotland. "Omnium Scotiae principum facile nobilissimus patruelis quippe Davidis regis Scotiae in praesens regnantis". From a charter of King Malcolm the Maiden, granting aid for the restoration of the Abbey of Scone, we learn that the style of the Earls of Atholl was "Comes de Ethocl", the Atjokl of the Saga. Earl Madach was twice married. By his first wife, whose name is unknown, he had issue Malcolm, his successor to Atholl. He married, secondly, Margaret, eventually sole heiress of Earl Hakon of Orkney, soon after which event a noted Orcadian Viking - Sweyn Asliefsson - succeeded in abducting Earl Paul the Silent, who then ruled Orcadia, and conveying him to Atholl, delivered him into the custody of his sister Margaret, Countess of Atholl, and Earl Maddad, who at this time seems to have occupied the rath or fortress of Logierait, mentioned in one of the Scone charters as being in the twelfth century the capital of the Earldom. [from Orkneyinga Saga]. A fairly ample account of the reception of poor Paul is given in the Saga, which tells us that he never returned to his dominions. It was generally considered that he had been put to death by the Countess and Earl of Atholl in order to secure the Orcadian succession to their infant son then (1139) three years of age

HARALD, who, in right of his mother, eventually became sole EARL OF ORCADIA, then an extensive region comprising Orkney, Shetland, Caithness, Strathnaver, and Sutherland. A fuller account of this powerful Earl is given elsewhere. Like his Atholl ancestors he had a partiality for the Abbey of Scone, to the monks of which it is recorded (about A.D. 1165) Harald, Earl of Orkney, Shetland, and Caithness, granted a mark of silver, to he paid annually by himself, his son Torphin, and their heirs. By his first marriage with Afrecca sister of Duncan, Earl of Fife, he had with daughters:

  1. HENRY, reputed Earl of Ross, of whom there is no further account
  2. HAKON, fell in ambush at Dublin
By his second marriage with Gormlath, daughter of Malcolm McHeth, Earl of Moray, he had with daughters:

  1. THORFINN, died in Roxburgh Castle, 1201
  2. DAVID, Earl of Orcadia, died without male issue 1214
  3. JOHN, Earl of Orcadia, who on the death of Earl Henry of Atholl (in 1215) became heir-male of Atholl. He had a son, HARALD, Master of Orcadia, who perished at sea in 1226 during his fatherís lifetime. Earl John was murdered in 1231, and left no male issue.

Earl Madach died about the year 1153, and was succeeded by his son of the first marrrage. Madach is the Gaelic equivalent of "Ulf".

II MALCOLM (1153-1180).

This Earl appears in connection with several religious grants and endowments. He was a donator to the Abbey of Scone, for by his deed and grant he made over to the Abbot and convent perpetually the church of Log in Muchbed with four chapels thereunto belonging for the safety of his soul. He was also a benefactor to the monks of Dunfermline, for to that convent he gave in pure and perpetual alms the patronage and tithes of the church of Moulin: "pro salute animae suae, et anima sponsae suae et pro animabus regum Scotiae, predecessorum suorum, ibidem requiescentium"; and that when it shall please Almighty God to call him and the countess his wife to His mercy, that they shall be interred in the abbey church there. This deed is attested by King William and the Bishops of Glasgow, Aberdeen. Dunkeld, and Brechin, Earl Malcolm also granted to the Abbey of Cupar (1178-1180) timber for its construction from his forest of Atholl. In the Acts of Parliament from the reign of William the Lyon) a charter is cited in which Earl Malcolm refers to his spouse E.... and his son H.... In 1164 he is a witness.

This Earl of Atholl married Hextilda, a granddaughter of King Duncan, after the death, in 1189, of her first husband, Richard Comyn. In first marriage she had received from King David some of his possessions in North Tynedale, viz. Thornton, Staincroft, Walwick, and Hethingeshatch, and as Countess of Atholl she bestowed some of these lands on the monks of Durham. In the Chartulary of Cupar Abbey three sons are named:

  1. HENRY, his heir
  2. MALCOLM
  3. DUNCAN
III HENRY, THE LAST EARL OF HIS LINE,

ratified and confirmed to the Abbot and convent of Dunfermline the grants his father had made to them for the health and welfare of himself and relations, whether dead or alive. In 1211 he went north to Ross in pursuit of Gothred MacWilliam, a claimant to the Scottish throne, whom he secured. [Balfour's Annals]. He was one of the seven Earls of Scotland present at the coronation of Alexander II.

The last Earl of Atholl was not succeeded by either his son or grandson, both of whom may have predeceased him. On his death the representation devolved on his cousin,Earl John of Orcadia, as heir-male, while the Atholl dignity and lands were transmitted, in accordance with Celtic usage, to his two daughters, whose husbands in their right were severally, and apparently contemporaneously, designed Earls of Atholl. The name of his dowager was Maria [or Margaret]. He had issue a son and two daughters:

  1. CUMMING, who granted the monks of Cupar the privilege of his woods at Glenherthry and Tolikyne. (It is elsewhere stated that Conan [Cumming], son of Henry, Earl of Atholl, received from his father (during the reign of Alexander II) the lands of Glenerochy, now Strowan, and was succeeded by his son Ewen Fils Conan of Glenerochy, who married Maria, one of the daughters and co-heiresses of Convalt, lord of Tullibardine, in Stratherne, by whom he obtained a large accession of territory). EWEN, or Eugenius, confirmed the grant of his father Cumming to the monks of Cupar.
  1. ISABELLA, married first, Thomas of Galloway, Earl of Atholl, who died in 1231. Their son PATRICK, Earl of Atholl, was murdered in 1242 without issue
    And, secondly (in 1231), Alan Durward, Earl of Atholl, High Justiciary of Scotland, by whom she had a daughter -
    1. LORA, Countess of Atholl (+1269), who married Malcolm de Insulis, thus Earl of Atholl. Her son was the
      1. JOHN, Earl of Atholl, who married Isabel, sister to King Robert Bruce, and flourishing till about 1298, then ended his days in France without issue
  2. FORFLISSA, Ferelith or Fernelithe, married Sir David de Hastings, Earl of Atholl by right of his wife, and had an only daughter -
    1. ADA, who, marrying John de Strathbolgie (grandson of Malcolm, Earl of Fife) that baron was cunetus gladio Earl of Atholl. In the year 1253 they confirmed a grant made by Ferelith to the Monastery of Cupar for the soul of her husband, Sir David de Hastings. The Countess Ada had a son -
      1. DAVID, Earl of Atholl, who married Isabel de Chilham; he was forfeited in 1268, and went to Palestine in the course of the following year. He had a son -
        1. JOHN, designed de Strathbolgie, also son and heir of Earl David, until restored by Robert Bruce in 1306
On the death of the heir-male, John of Atholl, Earl of Orcadia, in 1231, he was succeeded by
Magnus, second son of Earl of Angus, as his heir-at-law.

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