ScotWars - Scottish Military History and Re-enactment
Duart Castle & the MacLeans
The power and influence of the Clan Maclean was at its zenith at the time of Sir Lachlan's death. However, the Campbells were powerful in the Stuart Court and were quick to seize opportunities of humbling the Macleans and Macdonalds, who were weakened by the years of inter-clan warfare and by the deaths of their chiefs. James VI discovered, and violently disapproved of, Sir Lachlan's dealings with Elizabeth I, and this led to the sequestration of Duart in 1604 to the King's Commissioners. Four years later, Lord Ochiltree was sent to Mull by the King as Viceroy in an attempt to further subdue the troublesome chiefs of the islands. He set up his headquarters at Aros Castle and invited the chiefs to a convivial evening on board his flagship at anchor just offshore. As they waited for his lordship to propose the loyal toast they were told that they were under arrest, and they were taken off to Edinburgh, where eventually they were forced to agree to the terms of the Statutes of Iona under which they lost most of their sovereignty over the islands.

However, the Macleans were allowed to retain Duart, and it seems that they may have settled for a period of domesticity in enlarging the castle and making it a more comfortable place to live.

In spite of the harsh way in which their monarch had treated them, the clan remained loyal to the Crown throughout the Cromwellian war. Sir Hector Ruadh Maclean was killed at Inverkeithing in 1651. Eight of his foster brothers are said to have been killed by Cromwell's troops as they fought to rescue their chief, and 750 clansmen died with them.

In 1653 five naval ships were sent by Cromwell to capture the ten-year-old Chief. Three sank during a great storm directly below the castle, and one, The Swan, is being monitored by the Scottish Institute of Maritime Studies at St Andrew's University.

After the Civil War the family found themselves even deeper in debt-they had mortgaged much of their lands in order to raise money to fight for the King, and the Campbells bought up these debts, eventually acquiring almost all of the Macleans' lands. For a time Duart held out against these claims; the chief being a young child, his tutor gathered a somewhat ragamuffin army at the castle to repulse the force of Argyll.

In 1674 Letters of Fire and Sword were obtained by the Earl of Argyll and a full-scale assault of Mull took place that year. The Macleans surrendered the island after fierce fighting only to have the estates returned to them in 1681 when the Earl of Argyll fell from grace.

In 1688 Argyll was back in favour with the Whigs, and Duart was besieged and bombarded from the sea by English warships. At the time Sir John Maclean of Duart was leading his clan and fighting at Killiecrankie for the Jacobites. The Jacobites' defeat, however, enabled the Campbells to return to Mull and, with a force of 2,500 men, take and lay waste the biggest thorn in their flesh - Duart Castle. The clan held out for a short time after this with the Jacobites on the Treshnish islands, but it was finally defeated at the battle of Cairnburg Mor in 1691. After this, all the Maclean estates were forfeited.

The castle, though in a fairly ruinous condition, contained a garrison of government troops until 1751; after this it was left to become even more dilapidated. For the next 160 years, Duart would not belong to the MacLean chiefs, who distinguished themselves in a variety of military assignments.

Sir Allan MacLean claimed he had been a soldier from the age of seventeen, first in the Netherlands and then in Scotland where he 'sent a hundred men to join the Government troops... and joined the Royal Army at my own expense for the suppression of the I745 rebellion.' In 1756, in America, he was given a captain's commission in Montgomerie's Highlanders, a regiment composed largely of Jacobite clansmen. His wife died in 1760 and he returned home to provide for his three daughters, for whom he leased the island of Inchkenneth, where he himself lived until his death in 1783.

To find out more why not visit Duart Castle, Isle of Mull, Argyll PA64 6AP

There is an appendum to this text.

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