Clan Urquhart

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Clan Urquhart
Urquhart crest.png
MottoMeane weil, speak weil and doe weil.[1]
War cryTrust and go forward
Plant badgeWallflower.[1]
Urquhart of Urquhart arms.svg
Colonel Wilkins Urquhart of Urquhart, 28th Chief of Clan Urquhart.[2]
28th Clan Chief of Clan Urquhart.[1]
SeatCastle Craig
Historic seatCastle Craig

Urquhart (About this soundlisten ) is a Highland Scottish clan.[3]


Origins of the clan[edit]

Urquhart is a name that is derived from the place name, Airchart.[3] Airchart is first recorded in the early life of Saint Columba, the great Celtic saint.[3] In modern times there are two parishes in Scotland named Urquhart, one in Elgin and one on the Black Isle.[3] The meaning of the word Urquhart itself has been given various Scottish Gaelic translations including woodside, by a rowan wood, or fort on a knoll.[3] There is also most famously Urquhart Castle, by Glen Urquhart and on the banks of Loch Ness.[3] One legend associated with Urquhart Castle involves Conachar of the royal house of Ulster, who is said to have come to Scotland to fight for Malcolm III of Scotland.[3] Conachar was rewarded with the castle.[3] However there is no evidence for this and the castle had yet to be built. The legend is also that Conachar was on the point of being mauled to death by a wild boar when his dog attacked the beast and although the dog died it saved his master.[3] This is one explanation for the boar's head and hounds on the Urquhart chief's coat of arms.[3]

William de Urchard is said to have defended the Moote of Cromarty in the time of William Wallace against supporters of the English Crown.[3] From the reign of David II of Scotland the Urquhart chiefs were hereditary sheriffs of Cromarty.[3]

16th century and Anglo Scottish wars[edit]

Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty is said to have sired twenty-five sons in the early sixteenth century.[3] However seven of these sons were killed at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in 1547.[3] Another Thomas Urquhart was born on the day of the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh and was knighted by James VI of Scotland.[3]

17th century and Civil War[edit]

Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty, Knight, 12th Chief of Clan Urquhart, Baron and hereditary Sheriff of the District of Cromarty, from a 1641 engraving by George Glover
A Victorian era, romanticised depiction of a member of the clan by R. R. McIan, from The Clans of the Scottish Highlands, published in 1845.

Thomas Urquhart's son, Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty was a student at King's College, Aberdeen at the age of just eleven.[3] He was knighted by Charles I of England in 1641.[3] After the Civil War he traveled to the Continent and studied work by the French poet François Rabelais.[3] Thomas Urquhart's translation of Rabelais's work is considered a masterpiece.[3] Thomas rejoined the royalist army and fought at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, where he was taken prisoner and imprisoned in the Tower of London.[3] While in prison he published his family tree which shows the origins of the Urquhart family back to Adam and Eve.[3] When he was released he returned to the Continent where he is said to have died from laughter while celebrating the Restoration (1660).[3]

18th century and Jacobite risings[edit]

Captain John Urquhart of Craigston (b.1696) was a man of great wealth but the origins of his fortune are shrouded in mystery.[3] He was called the pirate by his family.[3] He was recruited by the Spanish Navy and this is probably where he amassed his fortune, from the prize money that was paid for captured enemy vessels.[3] He was nearly killed during the Jacobite rising of 1715 at the Battle of Sheriffmuir, fighting on the side of the Jacobites.[3] The Urquhart of Craigston family became of such social eminence that they were able to get the great Henry Raeburn to paint their family portraits.[3] Craigston Castle is still in the family's hands.[3]

Colonel James Urquhart also supported the Jacobite cause and was severely wounded at the Battle of Sheriffmuir.[3] He was the principal Jacobite agent in Scotland until he died in 1741.[3] The chiefship of the clan then passed to his cousin, William Urquhart of Meldrum, who was a cautious Jacobite and avoided the disaster at the Battle of Culloden.[3] His cousin, Adam Urquhart was a member of Charles Edward Stuart's court-in-exile in Rome.[3]

Modern history[edit]

The last of the chiefly line was Major Beauchamp Urquhart who was killed in 1898 at the Battle of Atbara in Sudan.[3] In 1959 Wilkins Fisk Urquhart, a descendant of a branch of the clan known as the Urquharts of Braelangswell, who had emigrated to America in the 18th century, established his right to be chief of the Clan Urquhart.[3] He was succeeded by his son, the historian Kenneth Trist Urquhart.[4] The chief's title is Urquhart of Urquhart.[3]


Rendition of the Official Tartan of Clan Urquhart, as registered by the current Chief at Lyon Court, and the earliest recorded Urquhart tartan from the Cockburn Collection circa 1815, original cloth sample currently stored at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, Scotland.[5]
  • Castle Craig, although in ruins is still the current seat of the Chief of Clan Urquhart.[3]
  • Craigston Castle in Aberdeenshire.
  • Cromarty Castle, which is no longer standing (except for a well) sat on the hill above the Black Isle town of Cromarty. Present-day Cromarty House is located on the site today, and was built from the stone and timbers of the former Urquhart stronghold.
  • Urquhart Castle, one of the most famous castles in the Highlands, sits beside Loch Ness. Both Clan Urquhart and Urquhart Castle are named after the area, which is the ancient home of the Urquharts according to oral tradition, that at the convergence of Glen Urquhart and Urquhart Bay. There is however no evidence that Clan Urquhart was ever involved with Urquhart Castle. The modern structure of Urquhart Castle, which sits on a much older neolithic site, is also associated with a number of other Highland families and regimes, including the Durwards, the English crown, the Scottish crown, the MacDonalds, the Grants, the Jacobites, and the Covenanters, until the castle was reduced to its current ruins by the government in 1690.[6]

Clan chief[edit]

  • Clan chief: Colonel Wilkins Urquhart of Urquhart, 28th Chief of Clan Urquhart.[2]

See also[edit]


  • Henrietta Tayler (1946). History of the Family of Urquhart. Aberdeen University Press.
  1. ^ a b c "Clan History". Retrieved 12 December 2007.
  2. ^ a b "URQUHART OF URQUHART, CHIEF OF URQUHART". Retrieved 12 December 2007.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj Way, George and Squire, Romily. Collins Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia. (Foreword by The Rt Hon. The Earl of Elgin KT, Convenor, The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs). Published in 1994. Pages 336 - 337.
  4. ^ Casely, Gordon (3 November 2012). "Obituary: Kenneth Urquhart of Urquhart, clan chief and academic who brought 21st-century expertise to an ancient tradition". The Scotsman.
  5. ^ "Urquhart Tartans". Retrieved 10 October 2008.[dead link]
  6. ^ "Urquhart Castle",, retrieved 13 October 2016

External links[edit]