Descent from Kings - The Royal Clans
It is perhaps human nature to claim descent from important or significant people. The heritage of clan and kindred names in Scotland is notoriously deceptive as genealogists, from relatively early times as well as later writers, have manufactured, distorted and deceived in order to suit the political and egotistical aims of the person employing them. Trends in ancestry have also of course played a part, with a one time widespread snobbery making clans in many cases falsely claim ancestry from Norman progenitors even when this appears to be highly suspect. A few clan families claim descent from royals outside what is now Scotland. The Forbes family sometimes boasted that they were descendants of a daughter of an unnamed king of Ireland. The Campbells linked their origins with the kindred of King Arthur, which is likely a slightly distorted memory of connections with the elite of the Brittonic kingdom of Strathclyde. The earliest Campbells may have had their roots in the firmly region of the Lennox, around Loch Lomond, which was in the hinterland of the fortress of Dumbarton Rock, the 'Fort of the Britons'.
It has been conjectured that the prominent family the Brodies may be named after the series of Pictish king named Brude or Bridei, though this conjecture (like many of the actively promoted legends of royal descent) is now impossible to prove. One Brude (son of Maelchon) notably encountered St Columba at his fortress somewhere near Inverness. Brodie Castle, home of the family of that name, is (co-incidentally or not) in the same region. Another theory states that the MacNaughton kindred took their name from Nechtan (Naiton), another Pictish royal name which was borne by several rulers.
The Lamont family in Cowal may be thought to enshrine a Norman origin in their name, but an alternative theory states that they owe their title to the 13th century chieftain named Ladman. The family themselves claimed descent from the kindred of King Comgall, who, fittingly, have his name to the district of Cowall.
The so-called 'Children of the Mist' had the distinction of being unable to use their surname for some time because of rampant criminality among their ranks. But persecution perhaps led them to adopt the myth of royal lineage. 'Royal is my race,' is the motto of the Macgregors. One tradition says that the founder of the clan was the brother of the 9th century king Kenneth mac Alpin, who supposedly conquered the Picts, though there is an alternative supposition that the eponym of the clan was a song of King Dungal, a supposed joint ruler of the kingdom of Alba.
Another factor in the singular history of this clan is their central role in the conglomoration of septs who all claimed descent from a single king, known as Sìol Ailpein (Seed of Alpin). The seven families grouped together under this heading were: Clan Grant, Clan MacAulay, Clan Gregor, Clan Macfie, Clann Mackinnon, Clan MacQuarrie, Clan Macnab. at the least, the joint efforts of several kindreds to project back their pasts into branches of various royal lines demonstrates dynamic myth making and the importance of pedigrees to the status and identity of later clans well into the early modern period. The clans Gregor and Grant held discussions in the 18th century about combining their kindreds, partly on the basis of supposed descent from 6th century ruler Alpin of Dal Riada. The MacGregors acknowledged shared heritage in documents with other clans throughout the 16th and 17th centuries.
The Macnabs associated with Glendochart and Strathfillan,allegedly since the 7th century. Some of their historians traced the line back to Ferchar mac Feradach, supposedly a brother of St Fillan (who died in 703). A branch of the MacNabs were dewars, hereditary keepers of the relics of Fillan in this area.
Another family with possibly royal associations here is the Grant family. It is supposed that an Anglo-Norman William le Grant obtained land in Stratherrich, Inverness-shire, in 1246 through marriage to a local heiress. By the 15th century the clan had spread widely and Sir Iain Grant is thought to have married the Celtic heiress of the ancient royal house of Strathearn and descendants of this union later moved into the area of Strathspey.