If you wish to stop or restart the traditional Scot battle tune "Up an' Waur them A' Willie" which will begin playing in the background, or if you would like to hear a brief bagpipe refrain, go to the sound console at the bottom of this page. If you do not have a sound card on your system or if you are using an outdated browser, you probably received some type of error message when you loaded this page, such as "unable to start midi". That is normal so you don't need to be concerned about it, but you will not be able to hear the sounds available from this page.
The name Sinclair is of Norman origin. The family surname originated from its home in the town of Saint-Clair-sur-l'Epte in Normandy. The family took its surname from this town and was one of the first families to use the surname form. The family was established in Scotland in 1162 when Henry de St Clair of Roslin was granted lands in Lothian. His descendant Sir William became guardian to the heir of Alexander III and gained the Barony of Rosslyn in 1280.
His son, Sir Henry fought with Bruce at Bannockburn and was one of the Scottish barons who signed the "Declaration of Arbroath", a letter to the Pope asserting Scottish independence in 1325. His son, Henry married Isabel, co-heiress of the Earldom of Orkney and Caithness and thus transported the Sinclairs to the far north of Scotland.
Their son, Henry Sinclair of Roslin became Earl of Orkney in 1379, obtained from King Haco VI of Norway. In 1455 William, 3rd Sinclair Earl of Orkney was granted the Earldom of Caithness. He also founded the celebrated Rosslyn Chapel in 1446. In 1470 the Earl of Orkney and Caithness was compelled to resign Orkney to James III in exchange for the Castle of Ravenscraig in Fife. The King was jealous of the semi-royal chief of the Earldom of Orkney which had been inherited by the Sinclairs from the Norse Sea-Kings.
The Earls of Caithness were engaged in a long succession of feuds with the Sutherlands, the Gunns and the Murrays, often giving rise to violent deaths. The 2nd Earl, William died at Flodden and the 3rd Earl in a Sinclair Civil War in the Orkneys.
The direct line came to an end with George, 6th Earl who through debt granted the title and estates to Sir John Campbell of Glenorchy. In 1676, after Sir John assumed the title, George Sinclair of Keiss disputed the claim and seized the Caithness estates, only to be defeated in 1680 by the Campbells near Wick. Although the claim was lost by the sword, the Privy Council rendered his claim in 1681 and he became the 7th Earl of Caithness. At the time of the '45 the northern Sinclairs were ready to join Prince Charles Edward however after Culloden they disbanded quietly.
The Earldom has since passed through many Sinclair families and up until 1986 a Sinclair Earl of Caithness owned the long-ruined stronghold, Castle Girnigo, and the Sinclairs of Ulbster still hold vast estates in Caithness. Septs and dependants of the Sinclairs include Caird, Clouston, Clyne, Linklater and Mason.