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Castle Chanonry of Ross, also known as Seaforth Castle, was located in the town of Fortrose, to the north-east of Inverness, Highland, Scotland. Nothing now remains of the castle. The castle was also known as Canonry or Chanonrie of Ross, the former county.



The Castle no longer stands. However, it is known that it was a rectangular tower house built by the Bishop Fraser between 1497 and 1507.[1]

16th century siegeEdit

Siege of the Castle Chanonry of Ross
Part of Clan Munro and Clan Mackenzie feud
The town of Fortrose, on the peninsula known as Black Isle where the Castle Chanonry of Ross once stood.
Date1569 - 1573
LocationCastle Chanonry of Ross, Fortrose, Scotland
Result Munros hand castle over to Mackenzies by an 'Act of Pacification'[2]
Clan Munro Clan Mackenzie
Clan Mackintosh
Commanders and leaders
Andrew Munro, 5th of Milntown Unknown
Unknown Unknown
Casualties and losses
According to Sir Robert Gordon (1625):[2]
"great slaughter on either syd"
According to Alexander Mackenzie (1894):[3]
26 killed
According to Sir Robert Gordon (1625)[2]
"great slaughter on either syd"
According to Alexander Mackenzie (1894):[3]
2 killed and 3 or 4 wounded

In 1569, during the Marian civil war between the deposed Mary, Queen of Scots and James VI of Scotland, a feud arose between the Clan Mackenzie and Clan Munro, who were among the most powerful clans in Ross-shire.[4] The trouble started when John Leslie, Bishop of Ross granted to his cousin Leslie, the Laird of Balquhair, the right and title to the castle at Chanonry together with the castle lands.[4] Bishop Leslie had been secretary to Queen Mary and there was strong feeling against episcopacy in Scotland.[4] He therefore felt it best to arrange for the church property of his bishopric to pass into his family's hands to preserve some of the important privileges that he enjoyed as bishop.[4] Notwithstanding this grant, the Regent Moray (James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray), acting in the name of the infant King James VI, gave the custody of the castle to Andrew Munro, 5th of Milntown.[4]

Regent Moray, the illegitimate son of King James V of Scotland, promised Bishop Leslie that in return for ceding the castle and lands he would give him some of the lands of the barony of Fintry in Buchan.[4] This scheme was interrupted when, in January 1570, James Stewart, Regent Moray was shot dead, preventing Andrew Munro of Milntown from obtaining the title to the castle and lands of Chanonry; but that did not deter Munro from occupying the castle.[4]

The Mackenzies were not pleased to see their powerful neighbours, the Munros, in possession of this castle; and recognizing the inherent weakness in Munro's title, or lack of it, they purchased from Leslie the legal title and rights and proceeded to demand possession of their rightful property from Munro. However, Munro would not cede.[4]

Munro decided to stay put and made a new approach to the new regent, Matthew Stewart, 4th Earl of Lennox who supported Munro.[4] The situation became even more complex when Lennox was also shot and killed in September 1571.[4] The next regent, John Erskine, Earl of Mar, subsequently also gave his approval for Andrew Munro to retain possession of the castle,[4] but the Earl of Mar died in October 1572 after a short illness which some sources indicate was due to poisoning.[5]

The Mackenzies regarded the Munros as wrongful possessors of their property which they had legally purchased from Leslie.[4] They therefore laid siege to the castle.[4] The Munros defended the castle for three years with the loss of many lives on both sides.[4] Finally in 1573 the Munros peacefully passed the castle to the Mackenzies under an Act of Pacification,[6][7] under the terms of which Munro was awarded compensation for his expenses in occupying the castle.[4] This affair was probably part of a wider political intrigue and the rival claims of the King's and Queen's parties, known as the Marian civil war, which ended with the 'pacification' of Perth in 1573.

During the minority of James VI, which officially ended in 1578, Munro of Milntown, and his then chief Robert Mor Munro, had charge of the Crown lands of Ross and the Black Isle.[8] On 31 October 1578, James VI gave the "castell, hous and place of the channonrie" to Henry Stewart, 3rd Lord Methven. The Chanonry had been given to Alexander Hepburn (d. 1578), the successor to John Lesley, Bishop of Ross, who shared Queen Mary's exile. Lord Methven would receive the income from the lands until such time as a new Bishop of Ross was appointed.[9] In July 1589 James VI arrived at the Chanonry in person, where "he slew ane great hairt, and wes weill bancketted and ressavit by the barronis and gentilmen in the way."[10]

Historical accountsEdit

Sir Robert GordonEdit

Sir Robert Gordon (1580–1656) writes of the feud between the Munros and Mackenzies in his book A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland:

Clancheinzie grudgening, they bought the inheitance therof from Buquhayn, and thervpon they besieged the castle of the channonrie, which the Monroes defended and keipt for the space of thrie yeirs, with the great slaughter on either syd, until it was delyvered to the Clancheinzie, by the act of pacification. And this wes the ground beginning of the fead and hartburning, which, to this day remaynes betuein the Clancheinzie and Munrois.[2]

Alexander MackenzieEdit

According to Alexander Mackenzie's books The History of the Mackenzies (1894) and The History of the Munros of Fowlis (1898), the Mackenzies were supported by the Clan Mackintosh who together garrisoned Fortrose Cathedral and laid siege to the castle. Mackenzie claims that an attempted sortie by the Munros for fish at a nearby loch was foiled and as a result the Mackenzies took control of the castle by force.[3] Although it is recorded by Sir Robert Gordon's earlier account to have been handed over by an "Act of Pacification".[2]

17th and 18th century Civil WarsEdit

Later during the Scottish Civil War of the 17th century the Mackenzies were was still in possession of the castle. Their chief George Mackenzie, 2nd Earl of Seaforth supported the Scottish Covenanters and in 1646 the leader of the royalist army, James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose laid siege to the castle and took it from the Mackenzies after a siege of four days.[11] In 1649, after the Siege of Inverness (1649), the leader of the Scottish Parliamentary army, David Leslie, Lord Newark, left a garrison in the castle. However, soon afterwards the Mackenzies retook the castle from the Parliamentary forces. The Parliamentary forces responded by taking the Mackenzies' Redcastle and hanged the garrison.[12]

A 17th-century poem, written by Brahan Seer concerning the Castle Chanonry of Ross, predicted that: "The day will come when, full of the Mackenzies, it will fall with a fearful crash. This may come to pass in several ways. The Canonry is the principle burying-place of the Clan, and it may fall when full of dead Mackenzies, or when a large concourse of the Clan is present at the funeral of a great chief".

The castle was reduced to rubble during the Jacobite Uprisings in the 18th century, but it is not known who was responsible.

In modern timesEdit

The castle itself no longer stands. However, the street it was on is now known as Castle Street. Nearby, built into the outside wall of an extremely old house is a stone known as a "Dormer Pediment", which shows a coat of arms and the initials CBS, which stand for Countess Barbara of Seaforth. Barbara was the wife of George MacKenzie, second Earl of Seaforth (1633–1651). This stone may be the only surviving relic of the castle.[1]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Castle of Chanonry Archived September 24, 2005, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 15 April 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e Gordon, Sir Robert (1580 - 1656). A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland. Written between 1615 and 1630. Republished in 1813. pp. 155
  3. ^ a b c Mackenzie, Alexander. (1894). History of the Macknezies. pp. 151 - 153.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Mackenzie, Alan. (2006). History of the Mackenzies Chapter 5. pp. 63 - 64.
  5. ^ Melville, James, Thomson, Thomas, ed. (1827). Memoirs of his own life. Bannatyne Club. pp. 248–249.
  6. ^ Keltie, John S F.S.A. Scot. (Editor). "History of the Scottish Highlands, Highland Clans and Scottish Regiments. Mostly compiled around 1830 with some updates done in the late 1870's". Retrieved 2 November 2011. 
  7. ^ Electric Scotland. "Clan Munro at Electric Scotland". Retrieved 2 November 2011. 
  8. ^ Way, George and Squire, Romily. (1994). Collins Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia. (Foreword by The Rt Hon. The Earl of Elgin KT, Convenor, The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs). pp. 283.
  9. ^ Donaldson, Gordon, ed. (1963). Register of the Privy Council, vol.6. pp. 272 no.1693
  10. ^ Moysie, David. (1830). Memoirs of the Affairs of Scotland, Bannatyne Club. pp. 78
  11. ^ John S Keltie F.S.A. Scot. "History of the Scottish Highlands, Highland Clans and Scottish Regiments". Electric Scotland. Retrieved 9 October 2011. 
  12. ^ Campbell's Farewell Retrieved 27 July 2013.

External linksEdit