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The Official Home of the Clan McLea - the Highland Livingstones







Baron by the Grace of God

Baron of the Kingdom of the Scots of Dalriada.

In the "Robes of the feudal baronage of Scotland" (27th Oct 1945) Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Vol. 79, Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, then Lord Lion King of Arms, writes:

“The baronage is an order derived partly from the allodial system of territorial tribalism in which the patriarch held his country under God, and partly from the later feudal system - which we shall see was, in Western Europe anyway, itself a developed form of tribalism - in which the territory came to be held off and under the King in an organised parental realm.

"It [Baron] is a title superior to 'miles' (Knight, in the feudal sense, which is to be distinguished from the later Eques Auratus), and whilst a baron usually held his baronial fief feudally, instances arise of Barons par le Grace de Dieu - nobles who, of evident baronial status, held allodial fiefs, ie by ancestral family occupation, by no grant from, nor as vassals to, any Prince, in respect thereof.

“Such considerations all bear out Craig's views that the title of Baron in Scotland was first applied to those who were Capitani Tribum, and that feudalism (or anyway an organisation which would now recognised as synonymous with it) existed in Scotland prior to the Norman conquest in England.

“The great antiquarian Niall Campbell, Duke of Argyll claimed that the Baron a Bachuil was ‘the oldest peer in the realm, being a Baron of the kingdom of the Scots of Dalriada’. The Livingstones of Callender, Edwin B Livingstone, Edinburgh University Press, p 417”

In an article on Saint Maolrubha contributed to the Scottish Historical Review in April 1909 by the Reverend Archibald B. Scott, the writer in a foot- note says: 'The late Duke of Argyll long envied the Bachul. He used to address the holder of the relic, as " my Lord".

This extract from the McLea manuscript shows that the McLeas are one of the oldest families in Argyll.

“As to the antiquity of the name of McLea, it is generally thought that they are amongst the eldest of the Macks that came from Ireland to Scotland when the Scots first possest Scotland, and they are at this time so old that they are almost worn out. It is commonly reported that they came over from Ireland with the McDonalds who are reckoned to be amongst the eldest Macks in Scotland. I remember to have been in Company several years ago where McDugald of Dunollich whose ancestors were called McDugalds of Lorn or Lairds of Lorn, Lamont of Stealag who afterwards became Lamont of that Ilk, and McAlister of Tarbert, and several of these were present, where the said McDugald owned, by the best accounts that ever he had or had heard, that the McLeas were three hundred years older in Lorn than the McDugalds had been; and the reason why I mention this, is because that the McDugalds of Lorn were the greatest family of note and made the greatest appearance in the world in their time in Lorn and that the McLea's were always followers of the McDugalds, as shall be told afterwards in the proper place.”

In our time, we were a powerful family, with extensive lands (including Lismore, Appin and Morvern) and had a substantial following.  The Coarbs of St Moluag provide the authority of the church to the Kings of Dalriada and the Lords of Lorn.  From the 1544 charter it can be seen that Argyll refers to Moluag as their patron saint “in honour of God Omnipotent, the blessed Virgin, and Saint Moloc, our patron”.

The Scottish parliament was careful, in 1556, to remind the Crown and nation that the title King of Scots denoted that the sovereign was essentially, and at common law, a personal Ard-Righ, not territorially King of Scotland.

Squirrel fur or  vair, heraldically represented as blue and white "greys" was the fur associated with the allodial sire or "Baron par le Grace de Dieu"   (Sir Thomas Innes of Learney writing in the Robes of the Feudal Baronage p133).  

Thus our chapeau is furred vair to indicate the Barons of Bachuil are Barons par le Grace de Dieu.

The Rank/Title of Prince in France

In Old Regime France, the term Prince could refer to a rank or a title. 
In the strictest sense the term prince implied a notion of sovereignty. It was a rank generally reserved to the princes du sang (Princes of the Blood), who were all in line to succeed to the throne.  This concept sits easily with the Irish Scot concept of the "true family" or Derbhfine.  This is why the old families made great use of the hand which was considered a symbol of the Derbhfine and made other allusions to their royal blood wherever possible - such as the Lion Rampant born in the arms.

"In some areas (especially in Brittany), the title of prince was traditionally attached to a feudal land which had been considered allodial, i.e., without overlord. In France, almost all lands were feudal, that is, held from some superior, ultimately back to the king. But there were a few allodial lands (allods were more common in northern Italy and in Germany). Such titles of "prince", which appear in early charters, were considered by jurists to have no more meaning than the title of lord; there are dozens of examples.....Some families took upon themselves to change a title of lord into a title of prince (Condé, Conti). Most often, such changes were carried out by individuals who already ranked as princes, either foreign or of the blood: the princes of Condé and Conti are examples of the first, the Rohan (princes of Soubise, Guéméné, Rochefort) and the Luxembourg (Tingry, Martigues) examples of the second" http://www.heraldica.org/topics/france/frprince.htm

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