Mormaer of Caithness

Mormaer of Caithness

The Mormaer of Caithness ruled a distinct mormaerdom in medieval Scotland in that it generally was held by a "foreign" prince, the Norse Earl of Orkney, the ruler of neighboring "Norwegian" province.

Caithness was intermittently held, presumably always as fief of Scotland, by the Norse Earls of Orkney, at least since the days of the childhood of Thorfinn Sigurdsson in c 1020, but possibly already several decades before. The modern reconstruction of holders of peerage earldoms do not usually include those of Caithness, although there is no essential difference between them and, for example, those of mormaers of Lennox, mormaers of Strathearn and mormaers of Angus.

In 1334 the then Earl of Orkney, still a Norwegian vassal, was created or recognized as Earl of Caithness (see there for how the mormaerdom of Caithness continued as Earldom). In the true circumstances of 14th century, this presumably was just a recognition of his hereditary right to the ancient earldom/ mormaership of Caithness. Next year, all his Scottish titles were forfeited for treason. The next grant after Earl Malise's confiscation was to David Stewart, a younger son of King Robert II of Scotland.


List of Mormaers of Caithness

The list is by necessity a fragmentary one, archives being not fully preserved, actual reign of some supposed mormaers being not fully attested, and so forth:

  • Thorfinn I of Orkney (Torfin mac Enar), possibly succeeding as Donnchad's son-in-law, husband of his daughter Gruaidh inghen Donnchaidh
  • Skuli Thorfinnsson of Orkney, son of Gruaidh and Thorfinn, mormaership (of Caithness) confirmed by Kenneth II of Alba
  • Lodvi Thorfinnsson of Orkney
  • 1014- Thorfinn II of Orkney, mormaership of Caithness specifically given to him over his half-brothers by king Malcolm of Alba, his maternal grandfather
  • Madadhan of Caithness (apparently in Strathnaver, Muddan, Moddan), created mormaer of Caithness by king Duncan I of Alba in mid-1030s, killed 1040
  • Ottar of Thurso, son of another Madadhan, presumably a descendant of the previous Madadhan
  • Arailt mac Haquin, Harold I of Orkney, nephew of Ottar, and son of Haakon; recognized in Caithness by king David I
  • Elga inghen Madadhan (Helga Moddansdottir)
  • Iain mac Arailt mac Mataidh, John I of Orkney (murdered in Thurso 1231)
  • Magnus mac Gille-Brighde of Angus, earl of Orkney
  • Gilbert II of Orkney
  • Magnus IV of Orkney
  •  ?princess Catherine of Orkney
  • Maud of Strathearn, and her husband Wayland de le Arde
  • 1428-31 Alan Stewart
  • 1431-37 again: Walter Stewart, 1st Earl of Atholl (d. 1437) (forfeit 1437)
  • 1452 George Crichton, 1st Earl of Caithness (d. 1455) (created 1452, resigned 1452)


  1. ^ Crawford (1987) p. 64


  • Crawford, Barbara E. (1987) Scandinavian Scotland. Leicester University Press. ISBN 0718511972

External links

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