MACLEOD, Norman (1706-72), of Dunvegan, Skye.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1715-1754, ed. R. Sedgwick, 1970
Available from Boydell and Brewer



1741 - 1754

Family and Education

b. 1706, 1st surv. s. of Norman Macleod of Macleod by Anne, da. of Hugh Fraser, 9th Lord Lovat [S]. m. (1) c.1726, Janet (d.1741) da. of Sir Donald Macdonald, 4th Bt. [S], of Sleat, Skye, 1s. 2da.; (2) post nupt. contract 1748, Anne, da. of William Martin of Inchture, Perth, 1s. 3da. suc. fa. 1706.

Offices Held

Gentleman of the police [S] 1754-64.


A posthumous son, Macleod succeeded his father as head of one of the most powerful of the Highland clans. During his minority the estates were managed by his tutor, John Macleod of Contullich, an active Jacobite agent, in recognition of whose service young Macleod was created a baron in the Jacobite peerage in 1716.1

In 1739, Macleod and his neighbour and kinsman, Sir Alexander Macdonald of Sleat, who had devised a scheme of deporting some of their tenants to be sold in the American plantations, were threatened with prosecution when it was found that these unfortunates, many of them women and small children, had not been convicted of any crimes punishable by transportation. Macleod appealed to his friend Duncan Forbes, the lord president:

You know better than I that were we never so innocent, a prosecution would be attended with a multitude of inconveniences, and ought in my weak judgment to be shunned if possible. You not only know best if it can be shunned but likewise the proper means how to shun it and are the only person in earth we would mostly, nay entirely, rely on, do therefore in God’s name what you think best for us.2

No proceedings were brought against them. In 1741 Macleod was elected for Inverness-shire with the support of his cousin, Lord Lovat, and that of Duncan Forbes, voting consistently against the Administration with the group of Scotch Members known as the Duke of Argyll’s gang.

In 1740 Lord Lovat, who was negotiating for French support in bringing about a restoration of the Stuarts (see Erskine, James), sent Macleod’s name to the French as one of the chiefs whom he thought would join a rising. After the fiasco of the French expedition of February 1744 (see Barry, James), the Young Pretender began to consider the possibility of a rising without foreign help. In November 1744 the leading Jacobites of Scotland held consultations, at which Macleod was said to have been among those undertaking to raise their clans even if the Prince came without regular troops. According to Murray of Broughton, the Jacobite agent in Scotland, Macleod was given a letter from the Young Pretender, with power to treat with others in support of the cause, and was informed of the Prince’s impending arrival in May 1745, arranging to post his people on the island of Uist to watch and answer signals.3 On 25 June he reported to Duncan Forbes an ‘extraordinary rumour ... that the Pretender’s eldest son was to land somewhere in the Highlands’, adding in a subsequent letter that he was having spies posted, though he himself thought the project ‘entirely defeated and blown into air’.4 Shortly after landing in July, the Young Pretender sent for Macleod, from whom a few days later he received a messenger asking ‘if the Prince had a power signed by the King his father’. Having given satisfaction on this point, the Prince expected Macleod to join him shortly.5 On 3 Aug. Macleod wrote to Forbes:

To my no small surprise, it is certain that the pretended Prince of Wales is come on the coast of South Uist ... The Duke of Atholl’s brother is the only man of any sort of note ... that I can hear of that’s alongst with him ... Sir Alexander Macdonald and I, not only gave no sort of countenance to these people, but we used all the interest we had with our neighbours to follow the same prudent method; and I am persuaded we have done it with that success that not one man of any consequence benorth the Grampians will give any sort of assistance to this mad rebellious attempt ... As it can be of no use to the public to know whence you have this information, it is, I fancy, needless to mention either of us but this we leave in your own breast, as you are a much better judge of what is or is not proper to be done.

Eight days later, Macdonald informed Forbes that many chiefs were now joining the rebellion, adding:

You may believe, my Lord, our spirits are in a good deal of agitation and that we are much at a loss how to behave in so extraordinary an occurrence. That we will have no connection with these madmen is certain, but are bewildered in every other respect till we hear from you ... I pledge Macleod in writing for him and myself.6

After Prestonpans the Young Pretender sent again to Macleod,7 and to Lovat, who was preparing to send the Frasers under his son, the Master of Lovat, to join the rebels. Forbes then devised with Macleod a subterfuge to delay, and if possible to prevent, the Frasers from coming out. Macleod met Lovat, who reported after the interview:

He swore to me that he should answer to God, and wished that God might never have mercy on him, and that he might never enter into the kingdom of heaven but that his bones might rot on earth, be burnt and his ashes blown up in the air, if he did not come with all speed imaginable, and with all his men that was already prepared, and come and join my son, and the clan Fraser, and march south with them to the Prince’s service, wherever he was.8

In return, Lovat promised that the Frasers would not march without the Macleods. After waiting and reminding Macleod of his engagements, Lovat sent the Frasers out at the end of November. Macleod was then given commissions by Forbes to raise four independent companies of 100 men each from his clan on behalf of the Government. Sent to expel the rebels from Aberdeenshire, he was defeated by them at Inverury on 23 Dec. Early in the new year, hearing that the Prince’s followers had vowed to capture him, he fled to Skye. After their defeat at Culloden, he took part in driving the cattle and burning the houses of their leaders, writing to Skye that if the Prince were found, he should be given up in order to claim the reward on his head. At Lovat’s trial in 1747, evidence was given relating to Macleod’s activities in the rebellion. Though expected to take up the accusations, he did not do so.9

Macleod was absent from the division on the Hanoverians in 1746, when he was classed as ‘doubtful’. He was opposed to the bill banning Highland dress, and voted against the bill abolishing hereditary jurisdictions in Scotland. Re-elected in 1747 with the support of the Administration, he was one of the few of his compatriots who voted for the rejection of the petition against General Anstruther on 5 Mar. 1751. He retired in 1754 with a sinecure worth £400 p.a., of which he was deprived by Bute in 1764. He lived away from the ‘implacable illwill and malice’ of his Jacobite clansmen, who believed ‘that he had not only deserted but betrayed their cause’. A gambler and a drunkard, he died deep in debt 21 Feb. 1772.10

Ref Volumes: 1715-1754

Author: Eveline Cruickshanks


  • 1. R. C. Macleod, Macleods, 25; HMC Stuart, iii. 370, and vols, v, vi, vii.
  • 2. W. C. Mackenzie, Western Isles, 45-48; I. F. Grant, Macleods, 404-9; More Culloden Pprs. iii. 141.
  • 3. Murray of Broughton, Memorials (Sc. Hist. Soc. xxvii), 108-9, 112, 143-5, 423, 428, 466; Lord Elcho, Affairs of Scotland, 1744-6, p. 63.
  • 4. More Culloden Pprs. iv. 10, 12.
  • 5. Butler to Duke of Ormonde, Aug. 1745; A. and H. Tayler, Stuart Pprs. at Windsor, 138-9.
  • 6. Culloden Pprs. 203-4, 207.
  • 7. W. B. Blaikie, Itinerary of Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Sc. Hist. Soc. xxiii), 18.
  • 8. Howell’s State Trials, xviii. 754-5.
  • 9. More Culloden Pprs. iv. 80-87; v. 45-47, 83; Grant, 461; HMC Polwarth, v. 213.
  • 10. More Culloden Pprs. v. 112-13; Grant, 64, 463, 494-8; Walpole, Mems. Geo. II, i. 60; The Highlands of Scotland in 1750, p. 48.