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It seems fairly certain that the ancestors of this clan would have come with the Normans to England, where the name is found in public documents soon after the Conquest. In 1229, Richard, Archbishop of Canterbury, is styled in Latin charters as ‘Magnus’, meaning ‘great’ or ‘large’ and in Norman or French translated as ‘le grand’. The Grants first appear in Scotland in the middle of the thirteenth century when they acquired lands in Stratherrick through the marriage of one of the family with Mary, daughter of Sir John Bisset. From this union there came at least two sons, one of whom, Sir Laurence le Grand, became sheriff of Inverness. The Grants supported the interest of Bruce in the competition for the Scottish crown, and John and Randolph de Grant were taken prisoner at the Battle of Dunbar in 1296. They were later released, and around this time the family acquired the lands at Glenmoriston and Glen Urquhart which they still hold. The victory of Robert the Bruce confirmed the Grants in their holdings in Strathspey, and whatever their southern origins they were now firmly established as Highland chiefs. The rich lands of the Spey valley provided the Grants with men and cattle, the key to power in the Highlands. Grant power was further consolidated when Sir John Grant married Maud, heiress of Glencairnie, a branch of the ancient princely dynasty of Strathearn. In 1493 the lands were erected into the free barony of Freuchie, and in 1536 Sir James Grant built a castle, called at one time Castle Freuchie, but renamed at the end of the seventeenth century as Castle Grant.

James Grant of Freuchie, called James the Bold, defended royal authority in the north during the insurrections there in the reign of James V. By way of reward, James granted Freuchie a charter exempting him from the jurisdiction of all royal courts except the Supreme Court in Edinburgh. When the Reformation came to Scotland, the Grants soon became staunch adherents of the new doctrine, and they declared for the National Covenant in 1638. After the Battle of Inverlochy in 1645 they joined the Marquess of Montrose, and thereafter remained faithful to the royal cause. After the Restoration, the Laird of Grant was to have been rewarded with an earldom, but he died before the patent had been sealed. The Grants endeavoured to secure their territories by alliances with other clans, and they were particularly associated with the Macgregors. Indeed, some clan historians assert that the Grants, as well as the Macgregors, are part of the Siol Alpin, that is, those Highland clans whose chiefs descend from King Alpin, father of Kenneth Macalpin, first king of the Picts and Scots. After Clan Gregor was declared outlaw, a large number of Macgregors settled on Grant lands.

Ludovick Grant, the eighth Laird of Freuchie, was so rich and powerful that he was popularly called ‘the Highland king’. He abandoned his family’s past loyalties, and supported the government of Mary and William. They not only appointed Grant a colonel and sheriff of Inverness, but in 1694 the barony of Freuchie was granted the status of a regality, meaning that Grant was indeed almost king of his own lands, having power not only to punish most wrongdoers but also regulate commercial matters such as weights and measures.

The regality was abolished along with all other heritable jurisdictions after the failure of the Jacobite rising of 1745. Although some individual members of the family were Jacobites, Clan Grant generally supported the house of Hanover during the risings of 1715 and 1745, so saving them from the relentless persecution inflicted on other Highland clans.

The Grants embarked upon an ambitious scheme to modernise their lands, even building a completely new town, Grantown-on- Spey, establishing mills and factories there. When, in 1811, Sir Lewis Grant of Grant inherited the Ogilvie earldoms of Seafield and Findlater, the chiefs gained a seat in the House of Lords. But the fifth Earl of Seafield and twenty-seventh chief of Clan Grant fell into a serious dispute with his brothers, which resulted in the Grant estates being dis-entailed. The consequence of this was that when the Seafield earldom, which can descend in the female line, parted company with the chiefs of Clan Grant, the lands were lost. The chiefs, however, retained the independent peerage which had been created in 1817 under the title, ‘Baron Strathspey of Strathspey.’

The Grants of Rothiemurchus, one of the principal branch families, still hold their lands around Aviemore, and other branches of the family also hold land in Strathspey. Castle Grant has sadly fallen into a state of neglect, but it is hoped that new owners will shortly restore it to its former glory.

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