MacKenzie tartan history

As many customers do ask, here's a little "potted history" and some background information on the MacKenzie tartan, with apologies to all the better historians than me for the bits I've undoubtedly got wrong . . .

Very little is known about the early MacKenzie clan chiefs.  In 1450 a genealogy of clan chiefs refers to a "Murdoch, son of Kenneth" who was alive at the beginning of the 12th century and belonged to a branch of the ancient royal house of Lorn

There is also a tradition that this very ancient family descended from a member of the Irish Royal House of Geraldine, from where sprang the noble families of Leinster, Desmond etc, who settled in Scotland around the year 1261 with a number of followers, and to have so powerfully aided King Alexander III in repelling the invasion of King Haco of Norway, that he was rewarded by lands in the County of Ross

These lands were created a "free Barony" by a charter of 9th January 1266 and a Colin Fitzgerald became the first feudal Baron of Kintail.  His grandson was called Coinneach MacCoinneach (Kenneth son of Kenneth) 3rd Baron of Kintail, and this became corrupted in English from MacCoinneach into Mac Cainnigh and then into MacKenzie.  The name "MacKenzie" therefore comes from the Gaelic where Cainnigh is held to mean "Son of the Fair One"

Until the 18th century MacKenzie was always pronounced "MacKingie"

By around 1267 the MacKenzies had settled at Eileandonoan (Eilean Donan) the castle on Loch Duich . . . probably the most well known and most photographed castles in Scotland, and featured in countless movies including "Highlander"

The first chieftan for whom there is any real historical evidence was a young man called Alexander Ionreaech who appears in court records, having been summoned to meet King James I in 1427.  James III rewarded him with a royal charter for lands in Kintail and leading the MacKenzies against the rebellious Earl of Ross in 1463

By the 17th century, MacKenzie land stretched as far as the Outer Hebrides and included Lochalsh and the Isle of Lewis.  From 1609, the clan's fortunes improved further when Kenneth MacKenzie was created Lord MacKenzie of Kintail.  His brother, Sir Roderick, became ancestor of the Earls of Cromartie and Colin, Lord MacKenzie's eldest son, was made Earl of Seaforth in 1623

The title "Earl of Seaforth" passed to Colin's half-brother George who supported the Reformation and signed the National Covenant in 1638.  After the execution of King Charles I, the Earl of Seaforth joined King Charles II in Holland.  The 4th Earl continued to support the Stewarts and followed James VII to Ireland and France and was created Marquis of Seaforth.  William, the 5th Earl, was charged with treason for his support of the 1715 Jacobite rebellion and forfeited his title.  Several MacKenzies fought in the 1745 Jacobite rebellion but their loyalty to the Stewart kings was their downfall.  Their titles and lands were forfeited and given by the British crown to clans, such as the Campbells and Munros, who had remained loyal to the British Government throughout the Jacobite uprisings

Kenneth, Lord Fortrose, regained the title from the crown in 1771 and, in gratitude, he raised the Ross-shire regiment (78th of Foot) from the MacKenzie clan.  The original force of 1,000 highlanders served in India.  The Seaforth Highlanders, as the regiment was named, served with distinction in South Africa, Italy, Java and India where, after the Indian mutinies, they earned the title "Saviours of India".  They saw duty in the Sudan and Egypt before fighting in the Great War of 1914-1918 and World War II.  The regiment was also active in the Malayan and Aden emergencies.  In 1961 the regiment was amalgamated with the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders to form The Queen's Own Highlanders (Seaforth & Camerons)

The tartan shown here is the Modern MacKenzie, as worn by the Seaforth Highlanders.  As with many tartans, this is a military tartan based on the dark green and blue background (undercheck) of the Government Tartan (the Black Watch).

Most Scottish regiments wore the Government Tartan with an added stripe (overcheck) or two to identify their regiment . . . eg the Gordon Highlanders wore the Government Tartan with an added gold overcheck which became the Gordon tartan, the Cameronians had an added white overcheck which became the Modern Douglas tartan and The King's Own Scottish Borderers wear Leslie tartan trews (lowland regiment, so no kilts!) which is very similar to the Modern MacKenzie

The MacKenzie and Rose tartans are virtually identical so Rose tartan ribbon can be substituted for MacKenzie tartan ribbon and vice versa where only one tartan ribbon is produced in a particular width

The MacKenzie Modern tartan is similar to countless other Scottish tartans, including the Scottish National Tartan, Duncan, Gunn, Colquhoun, MacDonald of the Isles Modern, Abercrombie, Hunter, Campbell of Cawdor Modern, Davidson of Tulloch, Ferguson, Galbraith, Leslie and dozens more


The MacKenzie Modern tartan is also very similar to the Cornish Hunting tartan, which is not produced in a ribbon - so provides an excellent alternative

The MacKenzie Ancient tartan is not produced in ribbon but is very similar to Flower of Scotland tartan ribbon

See our full range of MacKenzie tartan ribbon

See our full range of Rose tartan ribbon

See our full range of tartan / plaid ribbon

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