Moray was one of the ancient Scottish Mormaerdoms, one that covered large areas of the north of Scotland, including Ross, Speyside, Lochaber and possibly parts of Buchan & Mar. It developed from the original Pictish kingdom of Fidach, which is now seen as synonymous with that other Pictish kingdom of Fortriu, and after Kenneth MacAlpin became King of Alba, managed to retain its independence as a separate kingdom, loosely subject to Alba, or Scotland, until the time of David I, not least due to its remoteness, being separated from the rest of the country by the natural barrier of chains of mountains collectively called the Mounth, though its boundaries gradually shrank as additional mormaerdoms were carved out of it. Due to the nature of Pictish bloodlines, its rulers had valid claims to the Scottish throne that occasionally manifested in violent uprisings, and a natural antipathy to Lowlanders persisted long into the Middle Ages. It was also of strategic importance, not only as a frontline against Viking depredations, but as a refuge during English occupation, its remoteness from the English border and its scale allowing Scottish forces to elude confrontation, and as a recruiting ground for military campaigns.



Mormaers of Moray


Mormaer of Moray, Findlaech mac Ruaidri, b.?, a.b.1014, d.1020


Any history of Findlaech is obtained from historic sources outside Scotland. He is mentioned in the Annals of Ulster and the Book of Leinster as King of Scotland. Since the Ard Ridh at the time was Malcolm II, this must mean he was considered to be king of northern Scotland. He is also mentioned in the Orkneyinga Saga as having fought Jarl Sigurd of Orkney. There are implications that his death was the responsibility of his nephews, two of whom succeeded him, as is common in Celtic tradition. His main claim to fame nowadays is in being the father of Macbeth.


Mormaer of Moray, Mael Coluim mac Mail Brigti, b.?, a.1020, d.1029


Nephew of the previous mormaer. As his name is the same as Malcolm II, the two are sometimes confused when deciphering the old sources available. He was the grandfather of Thorfinn Sigurdsson, Norse Earl of Orkney.


Mormaer of Moray, Gille Coemgain mac Mail Brigti, b.?, a.1029, d.c.1032


Younger brother of the previous mormaer. The Annals of Ulster suggest that he was burned to death with some 50 of his supporters, most likely by either King Malcolm II, or by MacBeth, who later married his widow Gruoch, who was a grand-daughter of Cinaed, or Kenneth, III, and fostered their son Lulach.


Mormaer of Moray, Mac Bethad mac Findlaech, b.?, a.c.1032, d.1057


Son of mormaer Findlaech, and known commonly to the world as MacBeth. It is believed that his mother was probably a daughter of Malcolm II, but was rather perhaps a grand-daughter. In 1031, when Malcolm submitted to Canute, MacBeth was present, suggesting that Moray was a subject kingdom. Malcolm was succeeded by his grandson Duncan MacCrinan in 1034. In 1039, the Northumbrians attacked Strathclyde, and the following year, Duncan led a disastrous raid towards Durham, which probably undermined his authority sufficiently for MacBeth to suggest that he should replace him, as the dynastic relationship allowed. Duncan then led an army into Moray, but was killed by MacBeth at Elgin, after which MacBeth declared himself King, although this was not without dissent. However, in 1045 Duncan’s father Crinan, Abbot of Iona, was also killed in battle, and MacBeth was sufficiently confident in power that he made a pilgrimage to Rome in 1050. Meanwhile, Duncan’s wife had fled with her sons Malcolm and Donald, probably to the relative safety of Atholl. In 1052 MacBeth received some Norman exiles from England, and in 1054 Edward the Confessor sent a large army under Siward, Earl of Northumbria, to invade Scotland. The outcome of this was to re-instate the heir to the Strathclyde throne, another Mael Coluim, an event used to explain Shakespeare’s misunderstanding when he suggests that the English helped Malcolm mac Duncan to win back the throne. In fact, Malcolm’s killing of MacBeth in 1057 was as the result of a straightforward revenge attack. MacBeth’s reign is considered to be largely benign, and of course his life bears absolutely no relation to the character in Shakespeare’s play.


Mormaer of Moray. Lulach mac Gille Coemgain, b.?, a.1057, d.1058


Stepson of MacBeth, being the son of Gruoch and Gille Coemgain. When MacBeth was killed, Lulach was crowned King at Scone, but was assassinated after only a few months, never having had any control south of the Forth. He was succeeded as King by Malcolm III, and as mormaer by his son.


Mormaer of Moray, Mael Snechtai, b.?, a.1058, d.c.1085


Son of Lulach and Finnghuala, daughter of Sinill, Mormaer of Angus. In his own eyes, rightful King of Scotland, he fought for the throne for some years before supposedly retiring to a monastery after a major defeat by Malcolm III, though this is not particularly likely.


Mormaer of Moray, Oengus, b.?, a.1085, d.1130


Son of a daughter of Lulach and Aedh. In 1124, David, son of Malcolm III and Margaret of England, took the throne with the backing of Henry I of England. However, by the rules of precedence, there were stronger claimants, including Malcolm, son of King Alexander I, David’s older brother. After several engagements, Malcolm was forced to flee into the north, where he was protected by Oengus of Moray. In 1130, with David in England as his wife, Matilda of Huntingdon, had died, Oengus and Malcolm led an army out of Moray to attempt a coup. However, they were met at Stracathro by a southern Scottish army led by David’s constable, Edward Siwardson, and Oengus was killed. Malcolm continued his struggles for another four years before being captured and imprisoned. Moray was annexed into Scotland proper, with the King handing land out in feudal tenure to many of his Norman supporters and establishing sheriffdoms based around the coastal towns, but the Highland interior was always more difficult to subdue and challengers to the King’s rule would continue to find powerful allies amongst the clans there, right up to the Clearances.


Mormaer of Moray, William fitzDuncan, b.?, a.c.1130, d.1153-1154


William fitzDuncan (an anglicising of Uilleam mac Donnchada), son of King Duncan II and Ethelreda, daughter of Gospatric, Earl of Northumberland, was given the rule of the mormaerdom of Moray, possibly as part of a deal to keep him from causing trouble for King David I, as William had the stronger claim for kingship. However, he seems to have remained loyal to David and led the Scottish Army on several occasions. In 1138 David invaded England to support his niece Matilda’s claim to the English throne against that of King Stephen, and William led one of the two forces that went south, gaining a notable victory at the Battle of Clitheroe in Yorkshire before the combined army was well beaten at the Battle of the Standard. As Lord of Allerdale and Lord of Skipton, he was a major northern baron. He married a daughter of Oengus and it is considered likely that he was the ancestor of the MacWilliam clan that were to cause so much trouble for later Kings. When he died, his lands reverted to the monarchy.



Earls of Moray (c.1315)


1st Earl of Moray, Thomas Randolph, b.?, a.c.1315, d.1332


Traditionally viewed as being a great-nephew of King Robert I, son of a half-sister of the King from either his mother’s or his father’s side, he was definitely the son of another Thomas Randolph, who had been Chancellor of Scotland. He initially supported Bruce when he proclaimed himself King, but after the Battle of Methven, where a combined force of Comyn and the English under Aymer de Valence, Earl of Pembroke, took Bruce by surprise, almost finishing the coup before it started, Randolph went over to the English. He was later captured while fighting for the English and brought before Bruce, after which he changed sides again, indicating that his relationship with the King was probably familial. He then became one of Bruce’s most important commanders, his most famous exploit the capture of Edinburgh Castle, and he led one of the infantry detachments, known as schiltrons, at the Battle of Bannockburn. It was shortly after this that he was given the earldom of Moray. When King Robert died, Randolph became Regent for the young David II, and about this time took on the title of Lord of Annandale. He died of an illness while leading an army against Edward Balliol and his supporters. For additional information on this line of earls, please consult the Annandale page.


2nd Earl Moray, Thomas Randolph, b.?, a.1332, d.1332


Son of the 1st Earl and Isabel Stewart. He held the title for 23 days until his death at the Battle of Dupplin Moor.


3rd Earl of Moray, John Randolph, b.b.1317, a.1332, d.1346


Younger brother of the 2nd Earl. Taking up where his father and brother left off, he managed to repel Balliol and the English at the Battle of Annan, but was part of the Scottish Army destroyed at the Battle of Halidon Hill, after which he escaped to France. The following year he returned to Scotland, and was appointed co-Regent along with Robert Stewart, the High Steward (later King Robert II). With the realm in chaos, he was heavily committed to the cause, fighting off constant threats, from the disaffected Comyn and from the English. He was captured in 1335 and held in various locations in England before being exchanged for the Earl of Salisbury in 1341. He died while commanding the right wing of the Scottish Army at the Battle of Neville’s Cross. The earldom now became vacant and for while was ruled by the most powerful local clans. Randolph left as his widow Eupheme de Ross (b.?, d.1387), daughter of Hugh de Ross, 4th Earl of Ross, and in 1355 she married King Robert II.



Earls of Moray (1372)


1st Earl of Moray, John Dunbar, b.c.1333, a.1372, d.1391-1392


Son of Agnes Randolph, the previous earl’s sister, and Patrick Dunbar, 9th Earl of Dunbar. John claimed the earldom of Moray, as did the Stewarts, and after the accession of King Robert II, the earldom was split between Dunbar and Alexander Stewart, son of the King, with the low-lying coastal areas going to Dunbar and the inner areas to Stewart, who was made Lord of Badenoch, and later became Earl of Buchan. During this time, Alexander’s militant activities, and the renewed power of the Islanders represented by the Lord of the Isles, caused major problems for the crown. Alexander was later ex-communicated, though his son, also Alexander, Earl of Mar, continued to hold Badenoch against the Lord of the Isles until his death, and it was not until 1455 that Alexander Gordon, 1st Earl of Huntly, won control of these areas on behalf of the Lowland Scots. Dunbar fought at the Battle of Otterburn in 1388 and died of wounds received at a tournament.


2nd Earl of Moray, Thomas Dunbar, b.?, a.1391-1392, d.1415-1422


Son of the 1st Earl and Marjorie Stewart (b.1336-1355, d.1417), daughter of King Robert II. His early life was spent tussling with Alexander Stewart. He was a key supporter of Robert Stewart, Earl of Fife, during that man’s control of the realm. He was captured at the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1402 and not freed until 1405.


3rd Earl of Moray, Thomas Dunbar, b.?, a.1415-1422, d.1440


Son of the 2nd Earl and Margaret (possibly of Fraser of Frendraught).


4th Earl of Moray, James Dunbar, b.1400, a.1440, d.1442


Grandson of the 1st Earl and son of Alexander Dunbar (b.1373, d.1421) and Maude/Matilda Fraser, daughter of James Fraser of Frendraught. He was one of the hostages for the ransom of King James II in 1425. James Dunbar married twice. His first wife was Isabel Innes, by whom he had a son, Alexander Dunbar. His second wife was Lady Jean Gordon, daughter of Alexander Gordon, 1st Earl of Huntly, by whom he had two daughters, Janet Dunbar, who married James Crichton, 2nd Lord Crichton, and Elizabeth Dunbar, who married Archibald Douglas, a younger brother of James Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas. The Douglases, intent on amassing as much land and power as possible, managed to obtain a clerical nullity of James Dunbar’s first marriage on the basis of consanguinity, as Isabel Innes was a descendant of the 2nd Earl. This meant that Alexander was deprived of his inheritance, which then fell to the earl’s daughters by his second marriage. The Douglases then persuaded the 2nd Lord Crichton and his wife to renounce their claim, allowing Elizabeth to inherit, with her husband becoming Earl of Moray de uxoris.


5th Earl (Countess) of Moray, Elizabeth Dunbar, b.?, a.1442, d.1485


Daughter of the 4th Earl and Lady Jean Gordon, daughter of Alexander Gordon, 1st Earl of Huntly. The victory of the Black Douglases in obtaining the earldom by marriage was short-lived, as their power was broken at the Battle of Arkinholm in 1455, with Archibald Douglas amongst those killed, and all of their lands and titles, including those of the earldom of Moray, forfeit. Alexander Dunbar, though deprived of the earldom, was compensated handsomely by the King, granted extensive estates all over the country.



Earls of Moray (1501)


1st Earl of Moray, James Stewart, b.c.1499, a.1501, d.1544


The illegitimate son of King James IV and Janet Kennedy (b.?, d.c.1543), daughter of John Kennedy, 2nd Lord Kennedy (for whom see the earls of Cassillis).



Earls of Moray (1549)


1st Earl of Moray, George Gordon, b.1512, a.1549, d.1562


George Gordon, 4th Earl of Huntly, was created 1st Earl of Moray in 1549 by Mary, Queen of Scots, as a reward for being the senior Roman Catholic noble in the country, but was deprived of the title in favour of Mary’s bastard half-brother James Stewart. He was later outlawed and defeated by James Stewart at the Battle of Corrichie in 1562, after which he died of apoplexy while in custody.



Earls of Moray (1562)


1st Earl of Moray, James Stewart, b.c.1531, a.1562, d.1569-1570


The illegitimate son of King James V and Lady Margaret Erskine, daughter of John Erskine, 5th Lord Erskine (for whom see the earls of Mar), and hence half-brother to Mary, Queen of Scots. An important figure during the Reformation and one of the Lords of the Congregation, he became one of the Queen’s closest advisors. The title of Earl of Moray had been held briefly by George Gordon, 4th Earl of Huntly, but was transferred to Stewart in 1562, along with the subsidiary title of 1st Lord Abernethy & Strathearn. He soon after defeated Huntly’s rebellion at the Battle of Corrichie. Moray opposed Mary’s marriage to Lord Darnley and in 1565 tried to raise support across Scotland for a rebellion, concerned that this might mean a return to Roman Catholicism, in what is known as the Chaseabout Raid. However, he failed to gain enough backing, was declared an outlaw and fled to England, only returning after the murder of David Rizzio, when he was pardoned. He studiously avoided any involvement in Darnley’s murder or the behaviour of James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, and when Mary abdicated, he became Regent, emerging triumphant from the Battle of Langside in 1568. However, he was assassinated two years later by James Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh in Linlithgow, the first recorded example of use of a firearm in an assassination, in retribution for his destruction of the Hamilton castle at Rutherglen. He was also when he became earl.


2nd Earl (Countess) of Moray, Elizabeth Stuart, b., a.1569-1570, d.1591


Daughter of the 1st Earl and Lady Agnes Keith (b.?, d.1588), daughter of William Keith, 3rd Earl Marischal.


3rd Earl of Moray, James Stuart, b.b.1591, a.1591, d.1638


Son of the 2nd Countess and James Stewart (b.?, d.1591-1592), son of James Stewart, 1st Lord Doune (b.?, d.1590). He is notable as his father was murdered by his future father-in-law.


4th Earl of Moray, James Stuart, b.?, a.1638, d.1653


Son of the 3rd Earl and Anne Gordon, daughter of George Gordon, 1st Marquess of Huntly. He inherited the title of 3rd Lord Doune from his father and grandfather, and of 3rd Lord St Colme from his father’s brother Henry Stuart (b.?, d.1612) (for a bit more detail on these Stewart lordships please consult the Avandale page).


5th Earl of Moray, Alexander Stuart, b.1634, a.1653, d.1700


Son of the 4th Earl and Lady Margaret Home, daughter of Alexander Home, 1st Earl of Home. He was one of the founding knights of the Order of the Thistle.


6th Earl of Moray, Charles Stuart, b.c.1659, a.1701, d.1735


Son of the 5th Earl and Emilia Balfour (b.?, d.1683), daughter of Sir William Balfour of Pitcullo. He died unmarried.


7th Earl of Moray, Francis Stuart, b.c.1674, a.1735, d.1739


Younger brother of the 6th Earl.


8th Earl of Moray, James Stuart, b.1708, a.1739, d.1767


Son of the 7th Earl and Jean Elphinstone (b.?, d.1739), daughter of John Elphinstone, 4th Lord Balmerinoch.


9th Earl of Moray, Francis Stuart, b.1737, a.1767, d.1810


Son of the 8th Earl and Grace Lockhart (b.?, d.1738), a grand-daughter of Alexander Montgomerie, 9th Earl of Eglinton and also, by another marriage, mother of Charles Gordon, 4th Earl of Aboyne. He was created 1st Baron Stuart of Castle Stuart in the Peerage of Great Britain in 1796.


10th Earl of Moray, Francis Stuart, b.1771, a.1810, d.1848


Son of the 9th Earl and Jean Gray (b.c.1743, d.1786), daughter of John Gray, 11th Lord Gray.


11th Earl of Moray, Francis Stuart, b.1795, a.1848, d.1859


Son of the 10th Earl and Lucy Scott (b.?, d.1798), daughter of General John Scott of Balcomie. He died unmarried.


12th Earl of Moray, John Stuart, b.1797, a.1859, d.1867


Younger brother of the 11th Earl. He also died unmarried.


13th Earl of Moray, Archibald George Stuart, b.1810, a.1867, d.1872


Son of the 10th Earl and his second wife Margaret Jane Ainslie (b.?, d.1837). He also died unmarried.


14th Earl of Moray, George Philip Stuart, b.1816, a.1872, d.1895


Younger brother of the 13th Earl. In 1878 he succeeded to the title of 18th Lord Gray by virtue of his grandmother. However, he also died unmarried, and the lordship of Gray passed via his sister Lady Jane Stuart (b.?, d.1880) to her daughter Eveleen Pounden (b.1841, d.1918) and her children.


15th Earl of Moray, Edmund Archibald Stuart, b.1840, a.1895, d.1901


Great-grandson of the 9th Earl, grandson of Archibald Stuart (b.1771, d.1832) and Cornelia Pleydell (b.?, d.1830), and son of the Reverend Edmund Luttrell Stuart (b.1798, d.1869) and Elizabeth Jackson (b.?, d.1885). He had no children.


16th Earl of Moray, Francis James Stuart, b.1842, a.1901, d.1909


Younger brother of the 15th Earl. He also had no children.


17th Earl of Moray, Morton Gray Stuart, b.1855, a.1909, d.1930


Younger brother of the 16th Earl. Two of his sons became earl after him, and the third son, James Grey Stuart (b.1897, d.1971), was created 1st Viscount Stuart of Findhorn in the Peerage of the United Kingdom.


18th Earl of Moray, Francis Douglas Stuart, b.1892, a.1930, d.1943


Son of the 17th Earl and Edith Douglas Palmer (b.?, d.1945). He had no male children.


19th Earl of Moray, Archibald John Morton Stuart, b.1894, a.1943, d.1974


Younger brother of the 18th Earl.


20th Earl of Moray, Douglas John Moray Stuart, b.1928, a.1974


Son of the 19th Earl and Mabel Maud Helen Wilson (b.?, d.1968). As well as being 20th Earl, he is also 20th Lord Abernethy and Strathearn, 19th Lord Doune, 19th Lord St Colme and 12th Baron Stuart of Castle Stuart.



The courtesy title for the heir is Lord Doune.


(Last updated: 15/12/2010)


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