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Re: George F. Black's Summary on the Sinclair Name
At 14:51 17/05/99 -0600, you wrote:
This is what George F. Black had
to say about the Sinclair surname. Thought his assessment of their
"clanship" interesting in light of recent discussions about
"SINCLAIR. This Caithness surname is of
territorial origin from St. Clare in the arrondisement of Pont d'Eveque,
Normandy. The first Sinclairs in Scotland appear to have been vassals of
the great territorial magnates, de Morville. Their first possession in
Scotland was the barony of Roslin, near Edinburgh, which they held in the
reign of David I (1124-1153). The earliest bearers of the name appear in
charters connected with the abbeys of Dryburgh and Newbattle, the
Hospital of Soltre (now Soutra in Midlothian), the church of Glasgow,
etc. An early offshoot of the family became all powerful in Caithness
and held the earldom there from 1379 to 1542. The frequency of the
surname in Caithness and in the Orkneys is due to the tenants on the
lands of the earldom adopting the name of their overlord just as we find
tenants who possessed no surnames of their own doing likewise
"The Sinclairs, like the Gordons and some other
families, cannot be called a clan in the true sense of the term. They
were a powerful territorial family, whose relationship to their
dependents was entirely feudal... An old rhyme referring to the
bickerings between the Sinclairs and their neighbors says: 'Sinclair,
Sutherland, Keith and Clan Gunn, There never was peace when thae four
"...In Argyllshire the name is used as an
Englishing of Gaelic Mac na cearda."
The earliest mention of the St Clairs is, of
course, in France from where they took their name.
Charles 'the Simple' of France offered Hrolf 'the Ganger' the Province
of Neustria and his daughter Gizelle in marriage if Hrolf (known as Rollo
in France) would cease his raiding of the French coast. That Treaty (912)
was signed at Castle St Clair-sur-Epte and it is from that place the St
Clairs take their name. Neustria soon became known as Norse
-man's-land or Normandy. Hrolf soon added Brittany and the Channel
Islands to his Duchy. His
marriage to Gizelle was childless so all subsequent Dukes of Normandy
(and St Clairs)
are descended from Hrolf's first wife, Popa, the daughter of Count
Berenger of Bayeux.
Within three generations St Clairs are to be found in every Provinbce of
France and Alsace.
The first St Clair to arrive in France accompanied Margaret (later St
Margaret) from Hungary
in 1057. He was William 'the Seemly' St Clair.
The English Sinclairs arrived in force with their 'bastard' cousin,
William 'the Conqueror' in 1066 and, again within three generations, are
to be found with land in 43 English Counties and in Wales.
The word 'clan' simply means a family and, on that basis, the Sinclairs
are certainly a Clan.
However, they have always had a European dimension which they retain to
this day and,with an estimated 250,000 Sinclairs worldwide, their Viking
wanderlust has remained undiminished. The World is their
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