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Pict Clanns of Albann


Tradition tells us that the Sutherlands descend from the pre-Christian tribe of the Caith: the modern counties of Caithness and Sutherland were formerly known as the Pict province of Caith.  A wild cat is the Sutherland crest.

This family derives from the eldest son of Lord Freskin, son of Ollec, a Pict, descendent of the ancient Mormaers of Moray, according to the late Lord Lyon, King of arms, Sir Thomas Innes.  It is named after the southernmost province of the former Norse Scottish possessions.  In AD1130, the family was granted land in Duffus and Moray, gaining the title of Earl of Sutherland a century later. This is the oldest earldom in Britain.

A Sutherland clan evolved with a Chief powerful enough to protect the most northerly cathedral on the British mainland.  at Dornoch.  The 14th and 15th centuries were a period of baronial anarchy in Scotland, with the crown in eclipse under weak kings.  The Gordons were invested with Royal powers in the north, and used them to seize Sutherland earldom.

In 1494, Adam Gordon obtained a false charge of idiocy against Earl John of Sutherland.  Adam married the Earl's daughter in about 1500.  He brought a further charge of idiocy against Earl John's elder son, and a false charge of bastardy against his younger son.  The death of King James IV at Flodden in 1513, with the best of Scotland's nobility, made it easier for the Gordons to consummate their crimes against their neighbours. 

Adam Gordon called himself "Earl of Sutherland" without ever obtaining a title from the crown, murdered one of Earl John's heirs, and terrorized the Sutherlands so they would not dare oppose his claims.  When this false Earl died in 1766,  a legal battle broke out between the Gordons and the old Sutherland family for the title.  The House of Lords decided to bestow the title and property to the late Earl's daughter, keeping it in the Gordon family.  It so happened her husband was a member of the fabulously wealthy Leveson-Gower family of England, who was created the first Duke of Sutherland.

Meanwhile, the Sutherlands of Forse continued to represent the disinherited line of the old Sutherland Chiefs.  Although the castles of their descendants at Spynie and Duffus were battered by the Gordons, they survived into Jocobean times.  Kenneth Sutherland, Lord Duffus,  joined the 1715 rebellion and forfeited his estates.  He fled abroad and became an Admiral in the Imperial Russian Navy, and married a Swedish noblewoman.  Although the Duffus estates were restored to his grandson, his line is now extinct.

Ironically, Kenneth enjoys an immortality as his portrait in the Scottish Gallery is one of the earliest and most interesting of a Scottish nobleman wearing the kilt.