The name Grant has been an influential one throughout Scotland’s history but the exact origins of the ancient Clan Grant remain a subject of discussion.
The traditional oral histories of the Clan Grant suggest that its origins lay to the north with the Viking, Haakon Grandt of Norway, who settled in Scotland about 960, after a brief sojourn in Ireland.
Others believe the Grants descend from Kenneth MacAlpin, a 9th century king of the Picts, who became King of Scots. This legend also established the Siol Alpin (descendants of Alpin), a familial bond between the Grants, the MacGregors, and other clans.
Another theory is that the Grants came from the south with influential Anglo-Norman feudal barons in the 13th century to establish their foothold in the vicinity of Inverness.
Grants held lands in Stratherrick on the southeastern shores of Loch Ness – perhaps as early as the 13th century. Sir Laurence le Grant was Sheriff of Inverness in 1263. John le Grant secured part of Inverallan in 1316 – the first lands held by the Grants in their future stronghold of Strathspey. In the 15th century, Sir Duncan le Grant inherited lands in the barony of Freuchie, near present-day Grantown, thereby establishing the patrimony of future Lairds of Freuchie and Chiefs of the Clan Grant, which lasted almost five centuries.
In 1702 Sir James Grant of Grant married the heiress of the Colquhouns of Luss and their second son became Chief of the Colquhouns. Their eldest son, Sir Ludovick then married the heiress of the Earls of Seafield. Their grandson, Sir Lewis Alexander, added the Seafield surname, Ogilvie, to his own, when he became the 5th Earl of Seafield in 1811.
In 1725, following the first Jacobite rising, General Wade formed six independent companies to bring law and order to the highlands. These early forces were called the Black Watch because of the dark hues of their tartan. The independent companies were formed from trusted highland clans, the Grants, Campbells, Frasers and Munros. In 1739 King George II further increased the size of the Black Watch and formed them into the 43rd (later 42nd) Regiment of the British Army.
The Good Sir James
In late 18th century, Sir James Grant of Grant, Baronet, was probably the ablest Chief of his long line. He was so admired by his clansmen they called him ‘The Good Sir James’. During times of hardship and famine, when many highland chiefs were clearing clansmen from their lands, Sir James imported food and grain at his own expense for his starving tenants. He did his best to create jobs so his clansmen would not have to relocate to the lowlands or emigrate to the new world. Sir James was perhaps best known for the planning and development of Grantown-on-Spey in 1765.
1745 Jacobite uprising
During the Jacobite rising of 1745 the majority of Clan Grant again supported the British Government. Again however just prior to the Battle of Inverurie (1745) the chief decided to with draw his troops at the last moment resulting in the defeat of the Government Forces.
One branch of the Clan Grant, the Grants of Glenmoriston sided with the Jacobites and fought at the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745 where they made a decisive difference due to their timely arrival.
In 1746 at the Battle of Culloden there were Grants on both sides of the conflict. The Grants of Glenmoriston and Corrimony fought with the Jacobite forces. Many were captured after the defeat and some were transported to Barbados as slaves.
Clan Grant under the stewardship of The ‘Good Sir James’ Grants did not suffer to the same extent as other Clans who were removing people from their lands to make room for sheep. Grantown On Spey was built to house and employ clans people during this hard time. This resulted in fewer clan’s people emigrating. (See above.)
The Earls of Seafield were Chiefs of the Clan Grant from 1811-1915, when the 11th Earl was killed in the Great War. After his death, the Lords Strathspey retained the title of Baronet and became the Chiefs of the Clan. A notable Clan member was Field Marshall Sir Patrick Grant (1804–1895) who was born in Auchterblair, Inverness-shire and served with the Indian Army in Bengal. He was made Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath and Knight Grand Cross of St Michael and St George. A memorial to him can be found at Duthil Old Parish Church.
In 2004, the Family Tree DNA Grant Project GRANT DNA Surname Project was established to provide a path for family researchers to use their male (Y) DNA from their Y-Chromosome as a tool in breaking through genealogical brick walls. The Y-DNA markers are specific to men only and are passed virtually unchanged from father to son for generations.
In 2012 during a visit to Winnipeg, Canada, the chief of Clan Grant declared that Métis leader Cuthbert Grant was a member of the clan and his descendants are now called the Siol Cudbright (the progeny of Cuthbert), a sept of the Clan Grant.