Clan MacKenzie History 1600-1700

Clan Choinnich's battles with Clan Donald continued into the 17th century, with the destruction in 1602 of Strome Castle - a stronghold of the MacDonalds of Glengarry - followed in 1603 by Glengarry's burning of the church at Killiechrist whilst the MacKenzies were at worship there. The rising power of the MacKenzies was recognised in 1609 by the award of a peerage to Colin Cam's son Kenneth, who took the title Lord Kintail. By then an even more brutal struggle for control of the Isle of Lewis was going on, and when Kenneth died in 1611 it was taken up by his brother Sir Roderick MacKenzie of Coigeach who became the "Tutor" (i.e. Guardian) for his young nephew Cailean Ruadh (Red Colin). Rory the Tutor was was one of the most accomplished and ruthless leaders of the MacKenzies. He got Coigeach by marriage from the MacLeods and, having finally defeated the MacLeods of Lewis, he saw his nephew elevated in 1623 to an Earldom named for a loch on Lewis. The Tutor remodelled Castle Leod and purchased the estate of Tarbat with its seat at the castle now called Ballone. See Castles & Homes.

Picture by Phil Smith

Rory the Tutor died in 1626, and two years later his son John became the Baronet of Tarbat. In 1633 the Chiefship of the clan passed to the Earl of Seaforth's younger brother George, and before long the cousins at the head of the clan faced an entirely new set of challenges with the outbreak of civil wars throughout the British Isles. The "Wars of the Three Kingdoms" lasted from 1639 to 1651 and though both Seaforth and Tarbat initially supported the opposition to King Charles I, they eventually followed the Marquis of Montrose into the Royalist camp - which led, after the execution of the king in 1649, to Seaforth going into exile with Charles II for whom he served as Secretary of State for Scotland until his death in 1651. His son Coinneach Mor (Tall Kenneth), having survived imprisonment by Oliver Cromwell, was much favoured at court after the restoration of the monarchy; but when Charles II's brother James was deposed in 1688, Seaforth's son and successor Coinneach Og (Young Kenneth) went into exile along with other Jacobites (supporters of "Jacobus", the Latin for James). See Seaforth Tree.