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Who are the Donnachaidhs, the "Children of Duncan"? Their ancestors were known to the Romans as the Kaledonioi, one of the eleven tribes of the northern Pictish nation. The Kaledonioi inhabited that part of Scotland now known as Atholl in Perthshire. One of the first recorded entries on this people occurred in the year 84 AD, when they fought in the great battle known as Mons Graupius against the Romans.
The Clan Donnachaidh descends from King Malcolm II who reigned from 1005 to 1034 and was the last king in the direct male line to descend from Kenneth MacAlpine, who united the Scots and Picts in 843 A.D. and is considered the founder of Scotland. One of Malcolm's three daughters, Bethoc, married Crinan, the secular hereditary Abbot of Dunkeld. Through her, the Abbot's son was installed by Malcolm as the King of Cumbria in 1018. After Malcolm II's murder by his nobles at Glamis, Duncan killed his opponents and seized the throne as King Duncan I. His first cousins, Macbeth (of Shakespearian fame) and Thorfinn the Raven Feeder, Norwegian Earl of Orkney, united to advance MacBeth's claim to the throne through his mother, another daughter of Malcolm II. Duncan reigned from 1034 until he was defeated in battle by their combined armies and killed by MacBeth in August 1040 at Elgin. Scotland was then ruled by Thorfinn in the northern districts and Macbeth in the southern districts.
Malcolm, Duncan's eldest son, rebelled twice against MacBeth in an effort to gain the throne. His grandfather, Crinan, was slain in 1045 near Dunkeld"with nine times twenty heroes" as he led an aborted attempt to put his grandson on the throne. The second attempt was more successful as Malcolm, at the head of an English Saxon army defeated and killed Macbeth while his Norwegian allies were engaged elsewhere and Malcolm ascended the throne in 1057 as King Malcolm III Ceann Mor (Canmore).
In 1068, Malcolm took as his second wife, Margaret, later known and revered as St. Margaret of Scotland. She had fled England with her brother Edgar Aetheling after the Norman Conquest. During his 37 year reign, the first events now known as Highland Games were held on the Braes of Mar to choose the best available men to serve as his servants and soldiers. His death in battle in December 1093 and the death of his wife, several days later brought on a turbulent time which saw Malcolm's eldest son, King Duncan II murdered by Malcolm's brother Donald Bane, Lord of the Isles, in order to become king. Another son, Edgar, finally secured the throne in 1097 with the help of another English army of Saxons and Normans led by his mother's brother, Edgar Aetheling. King Malcolm III's hereditary possessions devolved on his youngest brother, Maelmare, the first celtic Earl of Atholl and on his death, the earldom passed to Malcolm III's namesake, the second son of his first marriage. This Malcolm, the younger brother of the slain King Duncan II is the recognized progenitor of the Clan.
As stated by the eminent historian, William F. Skene in 1837, "the Robertsons of Struan are unquestionably the oldest family in Scotland, being the sole remaining branch of that Royal House of Atholl which occupied the throne of Scotland during the 11th and 12th centuries." The male line of this royal house ended in 1286 with the untimely death of Alexander III when he fell from his horse.
On the death of Alexander III's daughter Margaret, the "Maid of Norway",Scotland was plunged into the famous wars of succession to determine who would be the next King of the Scots. The claimants to the throne, the houses of Balliol and Bruce, who in turn became rulers of Scotland, were of Norman origin in the male line, though they descended on the female side from the ancient Atholl dynasty. England, led by King Edward I, supported John Balliol. By 1306, Robert the Bruce had been crowned King of Scots at Scone and the War of Independence from the English continued while at the same time he continued to consolidate his hold on the throne among rival Scots claimants.
The Clan's first recognized Chief was Donnachaidh Reamhair, or "Stout Duncan", who led the clan and supported Bruce during the wars of Scottish independence which culminated in Bruce's famous victory at Bannockburn on June 24, 1314 over Edward II's army. The most precious clan relic, the celebrated rock crystal charm stone of the clan, the "Clach na Brataich"or "ensign stone", was unearthed when the chief's standard pole was pulled from the ground while on the march to Bannockburn. It has been carried by all chiefs since then when leading the clan to battle.
Stout Duncan had four sons. The three younger sons: Patrick, Thomas and Gibbon, were outlawed by King Robert III for their part in leading the daring"Raid of Angus" in 1392 which garnered 3,000 head of fat Angus cattle, laid waste the district of Angus and resulted in the death of the Sheriff of Angus and a host of his followers who had pursued the clan back to Atoll. The eldest son, Robert, became the second Chief in 1355 and died sometime after 1392. Duncan, his eldest son and third Chief, spend some time as a hostage in England for the ransom of King James I and died sometime before 1432. He was known as the Lord of Rannoch, as all the other lands in Rannoch were in the hands of the Crown.
His eldest son, Robert Ruabh Duncanson, fourth Chief, was a strong supporter of King James I and was incensed by his murder. He tracked down and captured the regicides, Sir Robert Graham and the Master of Atoll hiding in a small glen and turned them over to the Crown. They were drawn and quartered at Sterling Castle.
The Robertson crest badge of a right hand holding an imperial crown was awarded by King James II to our fourth Chief, on August 15, 1451 as a reward for capturing the assassins of King James I in 1437. It is from this Chief that his descendants and many of his clanfolk took the name "Robert'ssons" or Robertson. His lands were erected into the free feudal barony of Struan at this time and he was given the Clan motto "Virtutis Gloria Merces" which means "Glory is the Reward of Valour". Prior to this Crown charter, the clan lands were held as vassals of the Earls of Atoll. Struan is one of only two highland chiefs that are addressed and called by the name of their territorial estates. The other is Cluny Macpherson.
The Clan plant badges are the bracken fern and fine leafed heath, which are common in the clan territory on the southern side of Loch Rannoch. The Clan war cry "Garg'n Uair Dhuisgear" is gaelic for "Fiercewhen Roused". This war cry relates back to the Chief's coat of arms of three silver wolf heads on a blood red shield supported by a serpent and a dove. These supporters identify the origin of the clan as being descendants of Saint Columba since in Scots heraldry, the dove or columba signifies descent from this Saint. Crinan's, the Abbot of Dunkeld, descent from Saint Columba is recognized on the counter-seal of Dunkeld Cathedral, which shows Saint Columba enthroned on two wolves. King Alexander III's privy seal also contains the serpent and dove supporters with the proverb "be wise as the serpent and gentle as the dove."