Earl of Sutherland

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Earldom of Sutherland
Coronet of a British Earl.svg
Arms of Earl of Sutherland (modern).svg
Gules, three mullets or, on a bordure of the second a double tressure flory counterflory of the first
Creation date1230
MonarchAlexander II of Scotland
PeeragePeerage of Scotland
First holderWilliam de Moravia
Present holderAlistair, 25th Earl of Sutherland
Heir apparentAlexander Charles Robert Sutherland, Lord Strathnaver
Remainder toheirs general of the body of the grantee
Subsidiary titlesLord Strathnaver
Seat(s)Dunrobin Castle
MottoSans peur ("Fearless")[1]

Earl of Sutherland is a title in the Peerage of Scotland. It was created circa 1230 for William de Moravia and is the premier earldom in the Peerage of Scotland. The Earl or Countess of Sutherland is also the Chief of Clan Sutherland.

The original line of earls of Sutherland had the surname "de Moravia" although they sometimes used the surname "Sutherland", taken from their hereditary title. The name de Moravia meant "of Moray" or "of Murray". The de Moravias who were Earls of Sutherland and chiefs of Clan Sutherland, arguably shared their early paternal ancestry with the chiefs of Clan Murray through their shared progenitor Freskin de Moravia. Various branches of the Murray Clan claim descent from Freskin, including those who were Earls and later Dukes of Atholl. Current research is underway via male line Y-DNA studies in collaboration with both branches of these clans in order to determine if any modern branches share an early medieval ancestor .

Elizabeth de Moravia, 10th Countess of Sutherland, married Adam Gordon, a younger son of George Gordon, 2nd Earl of Huntly, chief of Clan Gordon. Their first son is Alexander Gordon, Master of Sutherland, whose descendants were several of the next Earls of Sutherland, who all used the surname Gordon. The title was again held by a long string of men, until the death of William Gordon, 18th Earl, without sons, when the title passed to his daughter Elizabeth.

Elizabeth, 19th Countess of Sutherland then married George Granville Leveson-Gower in 1785; he inherited the title of Marquess of Stafford from his father in 1803. The Marquess held vast lands and wealth, having inherited from his father, the first Marquess of Stafford, from his maternal uncle, the second Duke of Bridgewater, and also holding much property associated with the Earldom of Sutherland, which belonged to his wife. He was made Duke of Sutherland in 1833.

The Duke's son, also named George, inherited the Earldom of Sutherland from his mother and the Dukedom of Sutherland from his father. The two titles continued united until the death of the fifth Duke in 1963. The Earldom passed to his niece Elizabeth, while the Dukedom had to pass to a male heir.

The subsidiary title associated with the Earldom is Lord Strathnaver (created 1230), which is used as a courtesy title by the Earl's or Countess's eldest son and heir.

The family seat is Dunrobin Castle, near Golspie, Sutherland in Scotland.

Ancestors of the Earls of Sutherland[edit]

Lozenge-shaped arms of the Countess of Sutherland

Sources give different accounts of the ancestors of the Earls of Sutherland. The generally published ancestry is that William de Moravia (William Sutherland), 1st Earl of Sutherland in the peerage of Scotland (died 1284) was the son of Hugh de Moravia, who in turn was a grandson of Freskin, a Flemish knight.[2] Sir Robert Gordon, 1580-1656 and Historian, House of Sutherland, a younger son of Alexander Gordon, 12th Earl of Sutherland, states that William de Moravia (William Sutherland), 1st Earl of Sutherland (died 1284) was the son of Hugh, Earl of Sutherland who was nicknamed Hugh Freskin, who was in turn son of Robert Sutherland (Earl of Sutherland and founder of Dunrobin Castle), who was son of Walter Southerland (Earl of Sutherland), who was son of Alane Southerland, Thane of Sutherland. Accordingly, this line of Sutherlands believed themselves to be descended from native residents of Southerland, and not Freskin, an early medieval Flemish resident of Moray. [3]

Earls of Sutherland[edit]

Dunrobin Castle has similar architecture and partly exposed semi-green foundations as some medieval French castles such as Josselin Castle but is of the pan-19th century Scottish Baronial architecture with a formal french garden and is the seat of the Earls or Countesses of Sutherland - a title which passes to eldest female heirs on lack of male heirs.

Although the original line of Earls had the surname "de Moravia" in the direct male line, historian Sir Robert Gordon, who was a younger son of Alexander Gordon, 12th Earl of Sutherland, states in his book A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland that the original line in fact used the surname "Sutherland".[4]

The heir apparent is the present holder's son, Alexander Charles Robert Sutherland, Lord Strathnaver (born 1981).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mosley, Charles, ed. (2003). Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knighthood (107 ed.). Burke's Peerage & Gentry. p. 3824. ISBN 0-9711966-2-1.
  2. ^ Sutherland, Malcolm. (1996). A Fighting Clan, Sutherland Officers: 1250 – 1850. Page 3. Avon Books. ISBN 1-897960-47-6.
  3. ^ Gordon, Sir Robert (1580–1657). A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland. Originally written between 1615 and 1630. Republished in 1813.
  4. ^ Gordon, Sir Robert. (1580–1657) A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland p.30. Originally written between 1615 and 1630. Republished in 1813. Reference to line "William Southerland, the first of that name, Earl of Southerland" (synonymous with "Sutherland") and also to line "Vnto Earle Hugh succeeded his sone William Southerland, Earle of Southerland".

External links[edit]