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The Campbell Family History & Ancestry

Family Crest Motto: NE OBLIVISCARIS (Do not forget)

Let me tell you the historical background of your family name, Campbell. For centuries, your family has been a dominant force in the West Highlands and Isles of Scotland, exerting a significant influence over Scottish history. It is believed that your family’s origins can be traced back to the ancient Britons of Strathclyde, a kingdom that extended from north of Dumbarton into Cumbria and the western part of what is now Northern England. Although associated with the Gaelic cultural sphere, your family’s name comes from the Gaelic words “Cam” meaning “crooked” and “Béal” meaning “mouth.” It likely started as a nickname for an early chief and eventually became the surname for the entire family. The first recorded Campbell in history is Gillespie, in 1263.

Initially, your family was under the influence of the Macdougal Lords of Lorne. However, the tables turned when Sir Neil Campbell, a staunch ally of Robert I, was rewarded with extensive lands that had been forfeited by the Macdougals. The king also arranged a marriage between Sir Neil’s sister and himself. From this royal union, John was born and later became the Earl of Atholl. In 1445, Sir Duncan Campbell of Loch Awe became Lord Campbell, and his grandson and heir, Colin, was made Earl of Argyll twelve years later. Another Colin, the uncle of the first earl, established the Campbells of Glenorchy, who resided at Kilchurn Castle. They eventually became the Earls of Breadalbane. Additionally, through the marriage of a Calder heiress to Sir John Campbell, the third son of the second Earl of Argyll, your family acquired the thanedom of Cawdor, establishing the esteemed lineage of the Earls of Cawdor. Your family’s influence also extended to the Lowlands, with Sir Duncan Campbell of the Campbells of Lochow acquiring the Ayrshire estates of Loudon in the early fourteenth century. His descendants were later granted the title of Earls of Loudon in 1633.

Throughout history, the Campbell clan’s support for central government brought them great rewards, but not without risks. Archibald, the eighth Earl of Argyll, was executed for treason by Charles II, whom Argyll had helped restore to the throne. Similarly, the ninth Earl met a similar fate for supporting the Protestant rebellion led by the Duke of Monmouth in 1685. In 1703, William of Orange elevated the tenth Earl to the title of Duke of Argyll and Marquess of Lorne and Kintyre, along with several lesser titles. Today, many of the ancestral lands, including Dunstaffnage Castle, Cawdor Castle, and the chief’s seat in Inveraray, are still in the hands of your family.

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Family Crest Motto: NE OBLIVISCARIS (Do not forget)

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