Atholl Highlanders

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The Atholl Highlanders
Murray of Atholl.PNG
Cap Badge of the Atholl Highlanders
Active1839 – Present
Country Scotland
RolePersonal bodyguard
SizeOne company
Part ofPrivate army
Garrison/HQBlair Atholl
Motto(s)Furth Fortune and Fill the Fetters
MarchThe Atholl Highlanders
Lieutenant Colonel The Earl of Kinnoull
Colonel-in-ChiefThe Duke of Atholl
TartanMurray of Atholl

The Atholl Highlanders is a Scottish ceremonial infantry regiment. The regiment is not part of the British Army but under the command of the Duke of Atholl, and based in Blair Atholl. It is the only legal private army in Europe.[1]


First raising as a regular regiment in the British Army[edit]

The regiment was raised in Perthshire by John Murray, 4th Duke of Atholl as the 77th Regiment of Foot (or Atholl Highlanders, or Murray's Highlanders) in December 1777.[2] The regiment was formed as a relief for other regiments serving in North America, and spent most of its existence in Ireland.[3] The terms upon which the regiment was raised stated that the men were to be employed for either three years or the duration of the war in America.[3] In 1781, the original three-year term ended, and the men expected the regiment to be disbanded.[3] However, the regiment was transported to England and marched to Portsmouth to be embarked for service in India.[3] Upon learning of this, the men mutinied, and the embarkation orders were countermanded.[3] The regiment was marched to Berwick, where it disbanded in 1783.[3]

Second raising as a private regiment of the Duke of Atholl[edit]

The full dress of the Atholl Highlanders

More than 50 years later, in 1839, George Murray, 6th Duke of Atholl, as Lord Glenlyon, formed the regiment[2] as a bodyguard which he took to the Eglinton Tournament at Eglinton Castle, Ayrshire.[4] Three years later, in 1842, the regiment escorted Queen Victoria during her tour of Perthshire and, in 1844, when the Queen stayed as a guest of the Duke at Blair Castle, the regiment mounted the guard for the entire duration of her stay.[5] In recognition of the service that the regiment provided during her two visits, the Queen announced that she would present the Atholl Highlanders with colours, thus giving the regiment official status.[5] The regiment's first stand of colours was presented by Lady Glenlyon on behalf of the Queen in 1845.[5] It received new colours in 1979 from Mrs David Butter, the wife of the Lord Lieutenant of Perth and Kinross.[6] A third stand of colours was presented in 2006 by the Duchess of Atholl.[7]

Under the 7th Duke, the regiment regularly provided guards for royal visitors to Blair Castle (which was a convenient stopping point on the journey to Balmoral). The regiment also attended the Braemar Gathering, while an annual gathering was held in the first week in September in which the regiment paraded, then participated in various trials of strength and stamina. Following the First World War, parades of the regiment became fewer, although it did provide guards when the Crown Prince of Japan and King Faisal of Iraq visited Blair Castle in 1921 and 1933 respectively.[8] After 1933, there was little activity, and it seemed the regiment would disappear into obscurity until, in 1966, it was reformed by Iain Murray, 10th Duke of Atholl, who made the decision to revive the regiment's annual parade.[8]

2017 inspection of the Atholl Highlanders at Blair Castle

It was feared that the regiment would be disbanded following the 10th Duke's death in 1996, until his successor, John Murray, 11th Duke of Atholl, wrote to the estate trustees insisting that he would continue his traditional role.[9][10] The 11th duke, although resident in South Africa, visited Blair Atholl almost every year to inspect the regiment's annual parade until his death.[9] In 2006 it was decided to increase the strength of the regiment and twelve new members were admitted: all of them were required to achieve a reasonable standard of foot and arms drill.[11] For ceremonial purposes they carry Lee–Metford rifles.[12] During the Year of Homecoming in 2009, when all of Scotland's clans took part in a parade in Edinburgh, the regiment paraded in the Scottish capital for the first time in nearly thirty years.[13]

Bruce Murray, 12th Duke of Atholl inspected the regiment's annual parade in July 2013 and continues to do so.[14]


Known ranks in the regiment:


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "John Murray, 11th Duke of Atholl, retired South African surveyor who inherited one of Scotland's most ancient titles". The Scotsman. 19 May 2012.
  2. ^ a b "The Atholl Highlanders [77th Regiment of Foot]". Archived from the original on 18 January 2008. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e f "The Atholl Highlanders [77th Regiment of Foot]: Locations". Archived from the original on 18 January 2008. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  4. ^ "Heraldic shield returns to Blair Castle". Daily Record. 5 February 2010. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  5. ^ a b c "Queen Victoria and the fascinating royal story behind the Duke of Atholl's private army revealed". Daily Record. 26 May 2016. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  6. ^ "Presentation of New Colors to The Atholl Highlanders By Evelyn M.E. Murray, FSA Scot". Clan Murray Newsletter - The Aitionn. 2006. Archived from the original on 20 February 2017. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  7. ^ "Members of the Atholl Highlanders parade at Blair Atholl on 27 May 2006". Getty images. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  8. ^ a b "Atholl Highlanders" (PDF). Atholl Estates Newsletter. 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-10-05. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  9. ^ a b "The Duke of Atholl". The Daily Telegraph. May 17, 2012. Retrieved May 20, 2012.
  10. ^ Daily Mirror, March 20, 1996
  11. ^ "A year in the life of the Atholl Highlanders" (PDF). Atholl Estates Newsletter. 2006. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-01-09. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  12. ^ "Europes Last Private Army, The Atholl Highlanders". Scotland Info. 20 May 2015.
  13. ^ "Atholl Highlanders make long-awaited return for The Gathering". Scotland TV. 23 July 2009. Archived from the original on 31 July 2009. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  14. ^ "Bruce Murray, 12th Duke of Atholl". Jacaranda FM. Retrieved 19 February 2017.
  15. ^ Mosley, Charles (2003). "Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes". Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd.

External links[edit]