[Clan Sinclair]
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[in Norway]
   c. 872
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Clann Shinclair — The Sinclairs

Writing on the centenary of the Battle of Culloden and the prohibition of the wearing of traditional arms or dress (repealed in 1782), R.R. McIan (pictures) and James Logan (text) published The Clans of the Scottish Highlands: The Costumes of the Clans. —jsq

``It has been been maintained that the Sinclairs are not, strictly speaking, a Gaelic clan, the surname being originally from France. William, son of Comte de Saint Clair, a relative of the Conqueror, who came over with him in 1066, settled in Scotland soon afterwards, and was progenitor of all the name in that country. The ancient Earls of Caithness were, however, an original race, the first recorded of whom is Dungald, who flourished in 875, and Sir William Sinclair, of Roslin, which was the first possession of those of the name in Scotland, having married a daughter of the Earl of Strathern and Caithness, by this early connexion with a Highland district, and holding so high a feudal position, they have fully acquired all that confers on them the rights of chiefship.'' James Logan, 1845

George F. Black on the Sinclair Surname

From: "Matheson" <>
Date: Mon, 17 May 1999 14:51:40 -0600

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 origins.

``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 elsewhere.

``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 were in.'

``...In Argyllshire the name is used as an Englishing of Gaelic Mac na cearda.''

Sinclairs in Scotland [in Scotland]

Sinclairs arrived in Scotland after much history had already transpired, but just in time for the consolidation of the kingdom of the Scots.

Bannockburn and Arbroath

[Saltire] Sinclairs were prominent in Scottish history. They became related to the Bruces and the Stewarts.

During the wars of Scottish independence, a major event was the Battle of Rosslyn, of which the baron was Henry St. Clair (1275-1336). This Henry also both fought at Bannockburn in 1314 in support of Robert the Bruce. He signed the Declaration of Arbroath of 6 April 1320 from Scottish nobles to the pope that declared Scottish independence.

Heart of Bruce

[heart of Bruce] His son, William St. Clair (c.1300-1330), died with Sir James Douglas fighting the Moors in Spain. They were attempting to carry the heart of Bruce to the Holy Land to bury it there, as they had promised that king on his deathbed. The Moors honored their bravery by returning both their bodies and the heart of Bruce; the heart was buried at Melrose Abbey, where it has recently been rediscovered.

Prince Henry Sinclair

[Orkney] Perhaps the most famous Sinclair was Prince Henry, Lord Chief Justice of Scotland, Admiral of the Seas, and first Sinclair Earl of Orkney.

The New World

[The Westford Knight] Prince Henry voyaged to America in 1398 with a fleet of a dozen ships and hundreds of men, exploring Labrador, Nova Scotia, and Massachusetts, where one of his party died and his memorial effigy is visible to this day.

Rosslyn Chapel

[Rosslyn Chapel] His grandson, William Sinclair (c1415-1482) founded Rosslyn Chapel, which is probably unique in its use of stonework. Among the numerous engrailed crosses, green men, roses, and religious figures are clear representations of maize and aloes, presumably from Prince Henry's voyage.

Templars and Masons

[Castle Sinclair] Many Sinclairs were Templars. This same William Sinclair was appointed first hereditary Protector and Grandmaster of the Scottish Masons, by King James II.


Sinclairs were also involved in the Battle of Altimarlach of 1680 which ended the Last Clan War, which was between the Sinclairs and the Campbells. [Major Gen. A. St. Clair]

Not that that stopped them fighting. One of George Washington's generals during the American Revolution was Major General Arthur St. Clair.

Last changed: 00/05/28 14:35:04 [Clan Sinclair]