Farquharsons trace their origin back to Farquhar, fourth son of Alexander Cier (Shaw) of Rothiemurcus, who possessed the Braes of Mar near the source of the river Dee in Aberdeenshire. His descendants were called Farquharsons, and his son, Donald, married Isobel Stewart, heiress of Invercauld. Donald’s son, Finla Mor, was the real progenitor of the clan. The Gaelic patronymic is Mac Fhionnlaigh Mor. He was royal standard bearer at the Battle of Pinkie, where he was killed in 1547. From his lifetime onwards the clan grew in stature, important branches being founded through the nine sons of his two marriages, in particular those of Craigniety, Monaltrie, Whitehouse, Finzean, Allanquoich, Inverey, Tullochcoy, Broughdearg, and Achriachan. In addition to those who bear the name Farquharson and the other variations which clearly denominate the descendants of Farquhar, there are other families which are acknowledged to be septs or dependents, having close affiliation by tradition, and they include the names Hardie, MacCardney, MacCuaigh, Grassick, Riach, Brebner and Coutts.
The Farquharsons were not as numerous as some of their predatory neighbours, and in 1595 they joined the confederation known as Clan Chattan by a bond of manrent to the chief of the Mackintosh, acknowledging him as their ‘natyff cheiff’.
When the Erskines set out to reassert their claim over the ancient Earldom of Mar at the end of the sixteenth century they were opposed around Braemar by the increasing power and prominence of the Farquharsons. John Erskine, ‘de jure’ eighteenth Earl of Mar, built a castle at Braemar to defend his lands, but this ultimately passed into the hands of the Farquharsons themselves. The clan’s fierce reputation led to their being known as the fighting Farquharsons, and they were staunch supporters of the Stuarts. Donald Farquharson of Monaltrie fought with Montrose in 1644, and the family later supported Charles II. John Farquharson of Inverey, known as the Black Colonel, declared for James VII and followed Graham of Claverhouse, the famous ‘Bonnie Dundee’, in 1689. He burned Braemar Castle and was a thorn in the flesh of the government until his death in 1698. In the rising of 1715, John Farquharson of Invercauld joined the Clan Chattan regiment of which he was colonel, but was taken prisoner at Preston, later being transferred to London and held in Marshalsea Prison for ten months.
Undaunted, the Farquharsons supported Bonnie Prince Charlie and at Culloden were led by Francis Farquharson of Monaltrie, the Baron Ban who was nephew and commissioner to John. He was taken prisoner and condemned to be executed at the Tower of London, only being reprieved along with two other Highland officers on the very morning set for their execution. However, he remained a prisoner and was later paroled, not being permitted to return to Scotland for over twenty years.
His cousin, Anne, daughter of Invercauld, became famous in the Jacobite cause. She was married to Angus, chief of Mackintosh, who was a serving officer in the Black Watch. In her husband’s absence she called out Clan Mackintosh who joined their allies of Clan Chattan. The Mackintosh had the misfortune to be captured by the forces of Prince Charles Edward at the Battle of Prestonpans, and was sent home to his estate at Moy, having given his parole not to take up arms against the Jacobite cause for one year. It is claimed that on his arrival he was greeted by his wife: ‘Your servant, captain’, to which he retorted, ‘Your servant, colonel’, after which she was forever known as Colonel Anne. She afterwards saved the prince from an attempt to capture him when resident at Moy. Colonel Anne found herself imprisoned at Inverness after Culloden, but was released after six weeks. Anne’s father, John, had succeeded his brother, William, who died unmarried in 1694. John died in 1750 and was succeeded by his son, James, who died in 1805. From his marriage to Amelia, daughter of Lord George Murray, the renowned Jacobite general, eleven children were born but sadly all but his youngest daughter, Catherine, predeceased him. In 1815 she was recognised by Lyon Court as chief of the name of Farquharson. She was succeeded by her son, James. On the death in 1936 of James’s descendant, Alexander Haldane Farquharson of Invercauld, the arms were confirmed to his daughter, Myrtle Farquharson of Invercauld, but she was killed in an air raid in 1941. The succession then passed to her nephew, the present chief, Captain Alwyne Compton Farquharson of Invercauld. Much of the ancestral estates still remain in the family hands, and Braemar Castle is fully restored and now open to the public. The Braemar Highland Gathering is now world famous, having enjoyed royal patronage since the reign of Queen Victoria.