This Norman family has no connection with the ancient Celtic family of Ross. Ros near Caen in Normandy was a fief of William the Conqueror’s brother, Odo, the bishop famous for his war-like character and for the tapestry named after his see of Bayeux.
The de Ros family appear to have been strongly connected with two other Norman families, the de Boscos and the de Bissets. All three families disappear from records in Wiltshire and Dorset where they first settled after the Conquest, and re-appear in the middle of the thirteenth century around the Moray Firth area. Elizabeth de Bisset, whose family owned the lands of Kilravock, married Andrew de Bosco, and their daughter, Marie, married, around 1290, Hugo de Ros, whose family lands were at Geddes. Hugh’s father had been witness to the foundation charter of the Priory of Beauly erected by Sir John Bisset of Lovat. Hugh and Marie established their home at Kilravock, which has remained the designation of the chief and the family’s home to this day. The Barons of Kilravock supported the cause of Scottish independence, and captured Invernairn Castle for Bruce in 1306.
Hugh, fourth of Kilravock, married Janet Chisholm, daughter of the constable of Urquhart Castle. She brought with her extensive lands at Strathnairn and also an addition to the family’s coat of arms. The Rose shield bore water bougets, which are said to allude to the leather water containers used by knights crossing the desert during the Crusades. The union with Janet Chisholm was marked by adding her family’s boar’s head to the Rose shield, as appears on the arms of the present chief. Hugh, fifth of Kilravock, lost all the family’s writs and charters when Elgin Cathedral, where they had been placed for safe keeping, was burned by the Wolf of Badenoch. His son, John, was forced to reconstruct the family’s titles to their landholdings, and obtained charters from James I, the Earl of Ross and the Chisholm.
Around 1460 the seventh Baron built the present Tower of Kilravock, as he lived in unsettled times with unruly neighbours. Stout walls were allied with sound politics, and the Roses entered into alliances with many of their neighbours. When the Earls of Ross were forfeited in 1474, Hugh Rose received a charter under the great seal dated March 1475 of his lands of Kilravock and Geddes. Despite his treaties with powerful nobles, the Mackin-toshes seized the tower in 1482, although they soon surrendered it. The Roses had intended to secure the estates of their near neighbours, the Calders of Cawdor Castle, by marrying Muriel Calder, the family’s heiress, to Hugh, the grandson and expected heir of Kilravock. Muriel was, however, carried off by the Campbells, and later married to a younger son of Argyll. Cawdor has remained a Campbell stronghold ever since.
Hugh eventually inherited Kilravock as tenth Laird. Although known as the Black Baron, he was, in fact, an extremely accomplished man, and managed to live through one of the most turbulent periods of Scottish history in peace and harmony with all his neighbours and the factions which gained ascendancy from time to time. Mary, Queen of Scots, stayed at Kilravock, and afterwards wrote to him as her trusted friend. Some copies of her letters are kept in the museum at the castle. When the queen’s son, James VI, visited Kilravock, it is said that he treated the baron like a father, ordering him not to remove his hat in the royal presence.
The Roses had supported the Refor-mation, and despite their hitherto cordial relations with the royal family, the thirteenth Baron opposed the religious policies of Charles I and signed the National Covenant. He led his clan against Montrose at the Battle of Auldearn in 1645. However, when the king was handed over to Parliament by the Scots army, Rose led a regiment of dragoons in the Duke of Hamilton’s expedition which planned to rescue the king. He raised the regiment at his own expense, and at his death in 1649 he left the estates heavily burdened with debt.
At the outbreak of the Jacobite rising of 1715 the Roses declared for the Government. Arthur Rose was killed leading a detachment of the clan to seize Inverness. On the eve of the Battle of Culloden on 14 April 1746, Kilravock entertained Prince Charles Edward Stuart, while the Duke of Cumberland occupied the Rose’s town house at Nairn.
Lieutenant Colonel Hugh Rose, twenty-fourth Baron of Kilravock, had a distinguished military career, commanding the 1st Battalion, the Black Watch. His son was killed at El Alamein in 1942. He himself died in 1946, to be succeeded by his daughter, the present chief.
Kilravock is still the clan seat and the chief’s family home, but it is also a Christian guest house, as an expression of the family’s Christian traditions and the personal convictions of Madam Rose.