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Brooch of Lorn and the MacDougall / Campbell feud

In “Bedding The Enemy”, Highland Menage 9, King James VI decides to put an end to the feud between these clans by marrying Laird Somerled MacDougal to Lady Margaret Campbell.

The marriage was conducted by proxy, with neither the bride nor groom’s approval. By order of the king, Laird Somerled is not told the truth of his wife’s past. If he knew, he would never allow Margaret into his castle, much less his bed.

The sketch below shows a good view of the bailey, which will help you imagine the events between Somerled, his twin, Niall, and their wife.

Dunstaffnage Castle (the fictional Duncladach) today

Dunstaffnage Castle (the fictional Duncladach) today


In truth, the feud between the MacDougalls and the Campbells only ended after 1814, when the once-mighty MacDougall clan had fallen far.

The feud began in the time of Robert the Bruce, King of Scots from 1306 to 1329. The MacDougalls fought against him, which turned out to be a very bad idea. (It was not the only time the MacDougalls chose to fight the Crown, which is why the fictional Laird Somerled MacDougal supported King James VI.)

In the early 1300s one of John of Lorn’s Clan MacDougall men had a death grip on Robert the Bruce’s plaid. The King of Scotland had to release this brooch, which held his plaid, to escape.

Brooch of Lorn, taken from Robert the Bruce

Brooch of Lorn, taken from Robert the Bruce

“General Leslie was sent to attack and destroy the remaining MacDougal strongholds of Gylen on the Island of Kerrera, and of Dunolly on the northern horn of Oban Bay. This last commission was duly carried out, the castles were destroyed never to be restored, and the Brooch of Lorn, last sign of former MacDougal greatness, mysteriously disappeared.” **

It wasn’t until after 1814 that “the Brooch of Lorn was restored with much ceremony by Campbell of Lochnell. On the occasion the Duke of Argyll himself was present, and everything in the way of courtesy was done to show that the ancient feud between the houses had at last come to an end.”

An interesting anecdote follows:
“When Queen Victoria sailed along Loch Tay after enjoying the resplendent hospitality of Taymouth Castle in 1842, Captain MacDougal acted as the steersman of the Royal barge. It was pointed out to the Queen that he was wearing on his shoulder the famous Brooch of Lorn, and at Her Majesty’s request it was handed to her and examined with the utmost interest.”

“Along with other interesting relics the Brooch of Lorn is still cherished by MacDougal in the quiet mansion-house behind the ruin of Dunolly Castle, which is now the seat of the chief.”

The brooch was not on display in September of 2014 when Reece Butler visited Dunolly Castle and met the man who will one day be Chief, as MacDougall of MacDougall.

** (quotes from The Highland Clans of Scotland: Their History and Traditions, Volume II, by George Eyre-Todd 1923)

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