I had to honour of being the guest of Stuart of Balgonie over the weekend at 4 separate events in honour of the Battle of Harlaw. The first was a Dinner/Reception on Saturday night in Aberdeen.
The other three were two church services and one open to the public Memorial Service at the Monument and Battle Field.
Bloody Battle of Harlaw marked, 600 years on
Published Date: 25 July 2011
By ANGUS HOWARTH
THE 600th anniversary of one of the bloodiest battles in medieval history was commemorated in the north of Scotland yesterday.
The Battle of Harlaw was a clan battle fought on 24 July, 1411, just north of Inverurie in Aberdeenshire.
Its anniversary was marked with a private service followed by the opening of a monument site to members of the public.
The Lord Provost
f Aberdeen, Peter Stephen, and Aberdeenshire provost Bill Howatson attended the ceremony, held at the Battle of Harlaw monument near Inverurie.
They were joined by members of clans that took part in the battle, one of a series fought during the Middle Ages between the barons of north-east Scotland against those from the west coast.
Dean of Guild Fred Dalgarno formally inaugurated the 40ft-high monument, after which Brigadier John Macfarlane read an excerpt from An Incitement to Battle, written in 1411.
Prayers were read by the Rev Brian Dobby of the Chapel of Garioch, and a lone piper played a lament, while commerorative wreaths were laid.
The 12th-century battle was fought over competing claims to the Earldom of Ross by the Duke of Albany and Donald, Lord of the Isles.
The service formed part of Aberdeen's Tartan Week, which sees a number of events arranged to commemorate the Battle of Harlaw.
The play, 'Red Harlaw' by Mike Gibb had it's premier at the Clan Leslie gathering. This is a very touching play.
Prelude to the Battle of Harlow
Alexander Stewart, 1st Earl of Buchan, better known to history as the Wolf of Badenoch, was the third surviving son of King Robert II of Scotland . He was born in 1343 and died in 1405. In 1382 he married the widowed Euphemia I, Countess of Ross. Although he had died long before the Battle of Harlow, it could be argued that he was the initial cause of it.
Euphemia’s first husband was Sir Walter Leslie who, in right of his wife, was Earl of Ross, they had two chlidren:
1. Sir Alexander Leslie, who became Earl of Ross in right of his mother.
2. Mariota, who married Donald Macdonald of Islay, Lord of the Isles, who in her right, succeeded to the earldom of Ross, and carried it to her new family, the Macdonald Lords of the Isles.
When her first husband died the rights in the Earldom of Ross reverted back to her. When she married the Earl of Buchan he then, in right of his wife, was now Earl of Ross. Lands in the Earldom of Ross stretched from the Moray Firth and east of Inverness to the western shores of Lochaber and part of Skye.
Buchan and Euphemia had no children, probably because he lived openly with his mistresses. It is claimed that altogether he fathered nearly forty illegitimate children. Plenty little Stewart brats there to claim as ancestors.
Euphemia successfully appealed to the Pope to let her divorce Buchan. She spent the rest of her life in a nunnery where she died in 1398. The Earldom of Ross then passed to her son from her first marriage, Alexander Leslie.
After the divorce the Earl of Buchan was excommunicated and it was for the acts of revenge he perpetrated after this that he got the dubious title ‘Wolf of Badenoch’. He wrecked Elgin and burnt its Cathedral, the second biggest in Scotland at the time, to the ground. In addition to his treatment of his wife and his extra-marital affairs, and probably of more importance to the Bishops, were his underhand and unscrupulous methods of acquiring Church lands. The Bishop’s lust for land was on a par with their lust for all other depravities and losing it galled them.
Alexander Leslie married Isabel Stewart, daughter of Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany. They had one daughter, Euphemia II. When Alexander died in 1402 his sister Mariota became the heir-presumptive to her niece, Euphemia II. On the death of Buchan, Euphemia II followed the example of her grandmother and locked herself away in a convent.
Euphemia II’s maternal grandfather, the crafty Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany, was not slow to take advantage of the situation thus created. He induced his grand-daughter to renounce the Earldom in favour of her uncle, John Stewart, the new Earl of Buchan.
The Lord of the Isles refused to go along with this arrangement. Convinced that he had, through his wife, a prior right to the Earldom by the same laws that Euphemia I’s titles passed to Buchan. He protested against the legality of Albany’s machinations and claimed the title and the estate for himself. His argument that Euphemia II had no right to dispose of the Earldom, and that by her action in taking the veil, she had forfeited the title and estate and had become legally "dead," was legally sound according to the law as it stood at the time.
After an examination of the whole facts of the case, only one conclusion was possible, that the Lord of the Isles, by his wife, was the rightful heir to the title and property in dispute. Albany, as Regent of Scotland at this time, was determined that the titles would not go to the Lord of the Isles, ignored the right and wrong of it and took the titles to the Earldom for himself under false pretences. He told the Lord of the Isles that if he wanted the Earldom he would have to fight for it.
The challenge was accepted, Macdonald took his time assembling a force, and in1411 his forces were assembled at Ardtornish Castle on the Sound of Mull ready for an assault on the Mainland of Ross. He swept all before him, token resistance was offered at Dingwall by Angus Mackay of Farr, but that was soon overcome. He took Dingwall with its castle and then occupied Inverness with little or no resistance. Ross was his.
Encouraged by his success against the Mackays, Macdonald determined to carry out a threat he had often made to burn the town of Aberdeen, the base from which the Buchan and Albany Stewarts had launched numerous attacks and incursions into the Western Highlands. From Inverness he marched unopposed through Moray, ravaged Strathbogie and the district of Garioch, fiefdom of Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar, one of the Wolf of Badenoch’s illegitimate cubs. The Wolf himself, as previously mentioned, had been a long time dead by this time. The inhabitants of Aberdeen resigned themselves to their fate.
Finally, On 23 July 1411, Macdonald and his Highland army came to a halt and set up camp in the shadow of Bennachie, north of Inverurie, the last hill of the Grampians before the coastal plain where Inverurie and Aberdeen lay before him.
Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar assembled a force at Inverurie from among the gentry of Buchan, Angus and the Mearns The Irvings, Maules, Morays, Straitons, Lesleys, Stirlings and Lovels were led by their respective clan chiefs. On the morning of 24 July he marched to meet his adversary.
Battle was joined and continued all day with great slaughter on both sides. What Macdonald made up for in numbers and valour Mar made up for in armoured cavalry, archers and weaponry. Night brought a cessation of hostilities, Mar’s troops, probably too exhausted to do anything else, camped for the night on the battlefield, expecting to resume the fight come the dawn. By dawn, however, Macdonald was on his way home. Mar did not give pursuit. Historians are generally agreed that the result of the battle was a draw.
The Chiefs of the Macleans and the Mackintoshes fell that day. The losses of Mar included many of the heads of the noble families of Angus and the Mearns, together with the Provost and most of the burgesses of Aberdeen.
Shortly after the Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany, and followed Macdonald north. Macdonald retired to the Isles, leaving Ross in Albany’s possession. Some years later, after many trials and tribulation, the Albany influence was on the wane, most of them were hanged for various crimes against the Crown. On the accession of James I the Earldom of Ross was returned to Mariota and the Macdonalds.
There is speculation that the Lord of the Isles had negotiated a deal with Henry IV of England to divide Scotland. North of the Forth was to be Celtic under the Lord of the Isles, south of the Forth to be Saxon under the English. To this end an English fleet was supposed to be at Macdonald’s disposal and an English army was supposed to march north. This scheme was not followed through. This lord of the Isles could not be called an uncivilised barbarian, he was educated at Oxford University.
The memorial recently erected to honour the Leslies may be a bit misleading. Although his sons fell in battle that day, Andrew himself did not. He was killed by the Sheriff of Angus in a skirmish near Braco in 1419 for acts of depravity that are too terrible to repeat here. Sufficient to say that a Bishop, who conducted a memorial service for him was hanged by the Ogilvies in 1425.
I hope the Celtic Cross is meant to commemorate the Highlanders who fell in battle that day and not just the Saxons.
The Harlaw Monument bares the arms of representation of both sides in bright colours. You can see it from miles around now...
Would that be 'bears the arms' Kelly?
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