John MacDonald, Lord of the Isles

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Eoin Carrach MacDomhnaill, 7th Lord of the Isles

Also Known As: "Iain MacDonad", "John Donald", "John Spagnach "the bold"", "John of Islay", ""the good""
Birthplace: Finlaggan Castle, Island of Islay, Scotland
Death: 1387 (60-61)
Ardtornish Castle, Lochaline, Argyllshire, Scotland
Place of Burial: Argyll, Scotland
Immediate Family:

Son of Angus Og MacDonald of the Isles and Áine Ó Catháin
Husband of Amy MacRuari; Princess of Scotland Margaret MacDonald and Margaret Stewart, Princess of Scots
Ex-husband of Eupheme MacRuaridh (Macruari)
Father of Ranald MacDonald, 1st Chief of Clan MacDonald; Godfrey MacDonald, Lord of Uist and Garmoran; John MacDonald; Marjorie MacDonald; Lord Alastair Carrach, lst Lord of Lochaber and 12 others
Brother of Mary MacDonald and Alexander MacDonald
Half brother of Iain "Fraoch" MacDonald

Occupation: Lord of the Aebudae Isles, Lord of the Isles, 6th Chief of Clan Donald
Managed by: James Fred Patin, Jr.
Last Updated:

About John MacDonald, Lord of the Isles

ANGUS Macdonald, son of ANGUS Lord of the Isles & his wife --- (-Finlaggan Castle, Isla 1330). He succeeded his brother as Lord of the Isles. He fought for Robert Bruce at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. m AGNES, daughter of GUY of Cathan of Ulster & his wife ---. Angus & his wife had [three] children:

  • 1. JOHN Macdonald (-1387). He succeeded his father as Lord of the Isles. David II King of Scotland granted "Yle insulam de Geday insulam de Jura insulam de Colinsay" to "Johannem de Yle consanguineum nostrum" by charter dated 1344[1390]. Robert II King of Scotland granted "insulam de Colowsay" to "Johanni del Yle…et…filis nostre Margarete sponse sue" by charter dated Jul 1376[1391]. m firstly (Papal dispensation 4 Jun 1337, divorced) EUPHEME, daughter of RODERICK MacRuare of Garmoran & his wife ---. m secondly Lady MARGARET Stewart, daughter of ROBERT II King of Scotland & his first wife Elizabeth Mure (-after 8 Jan 1401). Robert II King of Scotland granted "insulam de Colowsay" to "Johanni del Yle…et…filis nostre Margarete sponse sue" by charter dated Jul 1376[1392]. Lord John & his first wife had one child:
  • a) JOHN Macdonald of the Isles (-before 30 Mar 1373). m as her first husband, ELLEN Campbell, daughter of ARCHIBALD [Gillespie Campbell] & his [second] wife [Isabel Lamont] (-after 1434). She married secondly Duncan Earl of Lennox. Lord John & his second wife had eight children:
  • b) DONALD Macdonald (-Ardtornish, Morven [1423][1393]). He succeeded his father in 1387 as Lord of the Isles. He claimed the Earldom of Ross, de iure uxoris, and fought the battle of Harlaw in 1411 to enforce his rights. m MARY Leslie Ctss of Ross, daughter of WALTER Leslie & his wife Eupheme Ctss of Ross (-[1435]). Donald & his wife had one child:
  • i) ALEXANDER Macdonald (-May 1449). He succeeded his father as Lord of the Isles, and his mother as Earl of Ross.


From Wiki

In 1336, he styled himself Dominus Insularum, "Lord of the Isles"; because this is the first ever recorded instance of the title in use, modern historians count John as the first of the later medieval Lords of the Isles,[1] although this rather broad Latin style corresponds roughly with the older Gaelic title rí Innse Gall, in use since the Viking Age, and for instance, the even more similar Latin title dominus de Inchegal ("Lord of the Hebrides"), applied to Raghnall mac Somhairle in the mid-12th century.[2]

John was the son of Aonghas Óg, an Islay-based nobleman who had benefited from king Robert I of Scotland's attacks on the MacDougall (MacDhùghaill) rulers of Argyll and their Comyn allies, and had been given Ardnamurchan, Lochaber, Duror and Glencoe, turning the MacDonalds from the Hebridean "poor relations" into the most powerful kindred of the north-western seaboard.[3] The loyalty of Aonghas to Robert, however, did not mean that John's loyalty to Robert's son and successor David II would follow suit. After Edward Balliol's coup against the Bruce regime in 1333, Edward attempted to court John. In 1336, Edward confirmed the territories which the Islay lords had acquired in the days of Robert I; and additionally, Edward awarded John the lands of Kintyre, Knapdale, Gigha, Colonsay, Mull, Skye, Lewis, and Morvern, held by magnates still loyal to the Bruces. John, however, never provided Edward with real assistance. Although Balliol's deposition by the supporters of David meant that the grants made to John void, John's pre-1336 possessions were in fact confirmed by King David in 1343. Moreover, in 1346, John inherited the great Lordship of Garmoran through his brother-in-law Raghnall MacRuaridh. This meant that John's dominions now included all of the Hebrides except Skye, and all of the western seaboard from Morvern to Loch Hourn.[4]

John continued to build his power based by allying himself with Robert Stewart, another west highland magnate who was the designated heir of King David. After David went into English custody in 1346, Robert acted was the de facto ruler of Scotland north of the river Forth. In 1350, John was given Robert's daughter Margaret Stewart in marriage, and received Knapdale and Kintyre as dowry. However, Robert was the senior partner, and John had to divorce his previous wife Amie; his sons by Amie were to be passed over in the succession in favour of any children by the marriage with Margaret. After the capture of the king and death of John Randolph at the Battle of Neville's Cross in 1346, John and Robert worked together taking control of the huge earldom of Moray, bringing MacDonald power into Lochaber and Stewart power into Badenoch.[5]

David returned to Scotland in 1357, and resented these incursions into an earldom which David regarded as within his rights of disposal; the terms of the original grant of Moray to Thomas Randolph in 1312 stipulated that the earldom would revert to the crown upon lack of issue. By 1368, King David had decided that an aggressive policy was needed in the north. In 1369, he marched to Inverness, where John submitted to his authority. John's submission, though, was followed swiftly by David's death on February 22, 1371. David was succeeded by John's close ally Robert. David had wished either to retain control of the earldom or to grant the earldom to either John or George Dunbar, the sons of Isabella Randolph, sister of the last earl. However, King Robert made sure that Badenoch remained within his own control and that John kept Lochaber. When the earldom was granted to John Dunbar by a parliament held at Scone in early 1372, the grant consisted only of the lowland part around Inverness. Robert also ensured that John's control of the MacRuaridh inheritance was legally recognized by charter, and in 1376 issued charters confirming John's control of Colonsay, Kintrye and Knapdale, and granted Lochaber to John and his Stewart wife together.[6]

Soon after 1376, John's heir Domhnall may have been the de facto ruler. John lived until 1386, when he died at Ardtornish Castle in Morvern. He was buried in Iona.[7] John's power had been built on both the loosening of royal authority in north-western Scotland after the First War of Scottish Independence and, more importantly, through allying with the right people at the right time. The success of John was so great that his successors could maintain a distance from the crown that outlived the weak monarchy of the 14th century.

John was also a great cultural and religious patron. Although the Bishop of the Isles, based at Snizort on Skye, was outside his control and to some extent acted as a political rival, John did control Iona, the spiritual homeland of Scottish Christianity. The monastic establishment of Iona was run with John's approval by the MacKinnon (MacFhionghain) kindred. John also founded an Augustinian priory at Oronsay, an act unique in the period.


John of Islay, Lord of the Isles, lived from about 1305 to 1386. He was also known as  Eoin MacDomhnaill or Iain mac Aonghais MacDhòmhnaill. John was the first chief of Clan Donald to claim the title of Lord of the Isles.  The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.

John was the son of Angus Óg of Islay, who had fought alongside Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn. The death of Robert the Bruce in 1329 brought conflict and confusion, as Edward Balliol, with English support, sought to wrest the crown of Scotland from the head of Robert's infant son, David II. Edward Balliol was desperate for support from any source, and offered John of Islay new lands in Kintyre and Knapdale as well as the islands of Skye and Lewis, in return for his support. John accepted, but there is little evidence of his support for Balliol taking any concrete form.

Instead, John wrote King Edward III of England asking for his confirmation of the land grants made by Edward Balliol. In his letter, John signed himself Dominus Insularum or "Lord of the Isles". It was the first time this title had been used, and as a result John of Islay can be regarded as the first true "Lord of the Isles". When David II returned to power, John of Islay was initially regarded as a traitor. In the end practical politics prevailed, and in return for pledging himself to David II, John was allowed to keep all the lands he had accumulated except for Kintyre, Knapdale and the Isle of Skye.

Meanwhile, John had married into the related Clan Rauri, and when the head of the clan was murdered by William, Earl of Ross, in 1346, John claimed the clan's lands on behalf of his wife. These added to his his existing holdings Knoydart, Moidart, Arisaig and Morar, and the islands of North and South Uist, Benbecula, Barra, Eigg and Rum.

The defeat of the Scots by the English at the Battle of Neville Cross in 1346, and the imprisonment in England of David II, opened the way for John of Islay to further consolidate his power. An important step was his building on a long-standing friendship with Robert Stewart by taking Robert's daughter Margaret as his second wife in 1350. Robert Stewart became Robert II of Scotland on the death of David II in 1371, further strengthening John of Islay's position.

John built on his relationship with the Stewarts by persuading Ranald, his oldest son from his first marriage, to give up his claim to Clan Chieftainship to Donald (or Domhnall), his oldest son from his second marriage, and Robert II's grandson. In return John gave Ranald the lands he had inherited via his first wife from Clan Rauri, in the process creating the Clanranald branch of the family.

John of Islay was a consummate politician and diplomat rather than a warrior, and under the guise of "Lord of the Isles" he was able to recreate most of Somerled's Kingdom of the Isles. But while gaining virtually all the powers of a king, John made sure he never gave the impression he was laying claim to be one.

He was all too aware of the danger that would be posed by the Scottish King should the Lord of the Isles ever be perceived as a threat to Scotland. This was, sadly, a lesson his successors failed to learn.

John of Islay is the cousin of John Lord of the Isles. they have been confused as the same person due to their marriage to Amy. John (Ian) of Islay was the first husband of Amy and after his death she married her cousin John Lord of the Isles who divorced her to marry Princess Margaret Stewart. JOhn of Islay is of R1a ydna and John of the Isles of R1b y-dna.

MacDonald Y DNA:,_Lord_of_the_Isles

John, known as "the good John of Isla," owing to his benefactions to the Church. He married first Amy, daughter of Roderick, son of Allan MacRuari, his third cousin, for which union they are said to have obtained a papal dispensation, and had:
1. John, whose son Angus is mentioned as one of the hostages given to King David in pledge of the fidelity of the Lord of the Isles. John predeceased his father, and his son Angus does not appear to have left issue.
2. Reginald or Ranald, ancestor of the Clanranald.
3. Godfrey, of whom the Siol Ghorraidh.

John of Isla is said to have repudiated Amy Macruari, his first wife, in favour of the Princess Margaret of Scotland, daughter of Robert II., whom he married as his second wife. By the Princess Margaret he had:
4. Donald, his successor.
5. John Mor Tanistear, founder of the family of Dunnyveg.
6. Angus, who left no issue.
7. Alexander, known as Alastair Carrach. of whom the family of Keppoch.
8. Hugh, who got a Charter of the Thanage of Glentilt, and whose descendants, according to Skene, became Mclntoshes.

John had also a natural son, Donald, who is mentioned as one of the hostages placed in the King's hands as pledge for his fidelity. He had a daughter Mary, who married Lachlan Lubanach Maclean of Duart, and another daughter Margaret, who married Angus Dubh - Mackay of Strathnaver.

John's family by the first wife were cut off' from the succession to the lordship of the Isles.

Source: "The Clan Donald" Vol 3, page 181.

This family, than which there was none more powerful or distinguished among the cadets of the Isles, derives its descent from John Mor Tanister, second son of John, Lord of the Isles, by his second wife, Princess Margaret Stewart, daughter of King Robert II.

Source: "The Clan Donald" Vol 3, page 374.

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John MacDonald, Lord of the Isles's Timeline

Finlaggan Castle, Island of Islay, Scotland
Perthshire, Scotland
Keppoch, Argyll, Scotland (United Kingdom)