Earl of Sutherland

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Earldom of Sutherland
Countess of Sutherland.png
Creation date 1230
Monarch Alexander II of Scotland
Peerage Peerage of Scotland
First holder William de Moravia
Present holder Elizabeth Sutherland, 24th Countess
Heir apparent Alistair Charles St Clair Sutherland
Remainder to heirs general of the body of the grantee
Subsidiary titles Lord Strathnaver
Seat(s) Dunrobin Castle

Earl of Sutherland is a title in the Peerage of Scotland. It was created circa 1230 for William de Moravia. The Earl of Sutherland is also the Chief of Clan Sutherland.

The original line of earls of Sutherland had the surname "de Moravia" although they sometimes used the surname "Sutherland", taken from their hereditary title. The name de Moravia meant "of Moray" or "of Murray". The de Moravias who were Earls of Sutherland and chiefs of Clan Sutherland shared their paternal ancestry with the chiefs of Clan Murray who were Earls and later Dukes of Atholl. However the de Moravias of Sutherland were the senior line of the family.

Elizabeth de Moravia, 10th Countess of Sutherland, married Adam Gordon, a younger son of George Gordon, 2nd Earl of Huntly, chief of Clan Gordon. Their first son is Alexander Gordon, Master of Sutherland, whose descendants were several of the next Earls of Sutherland, who all used the surname Gordon. The title was again held by a long string of men, until the death of William Gordon, 18th Earl, without sons, when the title passed to his daughter Elizabeth.

Elizabeth, 19th Countess of Sutherland then married George Granville Leveson-Gower in 1785; he inherited the title of Marquess of Stafford from his father in 1803. The Marquess held vast lands and wealth, having inherited from his father, the first Marquess of Stafford, from his maternal uncle, the second Duke of Bridgewater, and also holding much property associated with the Earldom of Sutherland, which belonged to his wife. He was made Duke of Sutherland in 1833.

The Duke's son, also named George, inherited the Earldom of Sutherland from his mother and the Dukedom of Sutherland from his father. The two titles continued united until the death of the fifth Duke in 1963. The Earldom passed to his niece Elizabeth, while the Dukedom had to pass to a male heir.

The subsidiary title associated with the Earldom is Lord Strathnaver (created 1230), which is used as a courtesy title by the Earl's or Countess's eldest son and heir.

The family seat is Dunrobin Castle, near Golspie in the traditional county of Sutherland in Scotland.

Ancestors of the Earls of Sutherland

Sources give different accounts of the ancestors of the Earls of Sutherland. The generally accepted ancestry is that William de Moravia (William Sutherland), 1st Earl of Sutherland in the peerage of Scotland (d. 1284) was the son of Hugh de Moravia, who in turn was a grandson of Freskin, a Flemish knight.[1] Sir Robert Gordon, however, a younger son of Alexander Gordon, 12th Earl of Sutherland, states that William de Moravia (William Sutherland), 1st Earl of Sutherland (d. 1284) was the son of Hugh, Earl of Sutherland who was nicknamed Freskin, who was in turn son of Robert Sutherland (Earl of Sutherland and founder of Dunrobin Castle), who was son of Walter Southerland (Earl of Sutherland), who was son of Alane Southerland, Thane of Sutherland.[2]

Earls of Sutherland (Creation in the Peerage of Scotland)

Dunrobin Castle has similar architecture and partly exposed semi-green foundations as some medieval French castles such as Josselin Castle but is of the pan-19th century Scottish Baronial architecture with a formal french garden and is the seat of the Earls or Countesses of Sutherland - a title which passes to eldest female heirs on lack of male heirs.

Although the original line of Earls had the surname "de Moravia", historian Sir Robert Gordon, who was a younger son of Alexander Gordon, 12th Earl of Sutherland, states in his book "A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland" that the original line in fact used the surname "Sutherland".[3]

The heir apparent is the present holder's son, Alastair Charles St Clair Sutherland, Lord Strathnaver (b. 1947).
The heir apparent's heir apparent is his son Alexander Charles Robert Sutherland, Master of Strathnaver (b. 1981).

See also


  1. Sutherland, Malcolm. (1996). A Fighting Clan, Sutherland Officers: 1250 – 1850. Page 3. Avon Books. ISBN 1-897960-47-6.
  2. Gordon, Sir Robert (1580–1657). A Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland. Originally written between 1615 and 1630. Republished in 1813.
  3. Gordon, Sir Robert. (1580–1657) "Genealogical History of the Earldom of Sutherland". Originally written between 1615 and 1630. Republished in 1813. Page 30.

External links