The family Cunningham take
their name from the district of Cunningham in northern Ayrshire. The land of Kilmaurs of
that area was granted by Hugo de Moreville, Constable of Scotland to a vassel named
Warnebald in the 12th century and it is from his descendants that the Cunningham family
originate. Harvey de Cunningham of Kilmaurs was amoung those who fought against the King
of Norway at the Battle of Largs in 1263 and for his bravery his possession of Kilmaurs
was confirmed by Alexander II. Robert the Bruce granted further lands and through the
marriage of Sir William Cunningham to Margaret, daughter of Sir Robert Dennieston the
Cunninghams extended their possessions further to include Glencairn. His grandson Sir
Alexander de Cunningham was created Lord Kilmaurs in 1462 and then Earl of Glencairn in
1488 by James III. However he died with James at the Battle of Sauchieburn in that year.
William, 3rd Earl was captured at Solway Moss but released in exchange for support of the
marriage of Mary Queen of Scots to King Edward VI of England. Alexander, 5th Earl of
Glencairn was a supporter of the Reformation and responsible for the destruction of the
chapel at Holyrood, his Protestant sentiments fuelled the longstanding feud between the
Cunninghams and the Montgomeries, Earls of Eglinton. However the 9th Earl returned to the
Stewart side leading the rising of 1653 for Charles II. The rebellion was defeated but he
was made Lord Chancellor after the Restoration in 1660. The 14th Earl, John was a friend
of Burns and on his death in 1791 Burns wrote "Lament for the Earl of
Glencairn". On the death of the 15th Earl who died without issue in 1796 the Earldom
became dormant although the undisputed claimant to the chiefship today descends from the
Cunninghams of Corsehill. Other important cadet branches are the Cunninghams of
Caprington, Craigends and Robertlane.
CUNNINGHAM: This name is of territorial origin, taken from the district so named in Northern Ayrshire held during the 12th century by the once powerful Anglo-Norman 'de Morevilles'. In 1162 Hugh de Moreville granted the lands of Cunninghame to his vassal, Wernebald, whose name suggests a similar origin. Harvey de Cunningham, who featured in the defeat of the Danes at Largs in 1263, obtained a confirmation of the lands of Kilmaurs from Alexander II in 1264, and a Hugh de Cunninghame was rewarded with the lands of Lamburgton by King Robert Bruce in 1321. They later acquired Finlayston in Renfrewshire, through the marriage of Hugh's grandson to the heiress of the Danielston's (Denniston's) of that Ilk, and his grandson, Alexander, became Lord Kilmaurs c.1462, and Earl of Glencairn in 1488. This union also brought lands in Strathblane in the Lennox, with others in Dumfries-shire - from which latter they took the name of their Earldom. By marriage Cunninghams also acquired Caprington in Ayrshire and this House was for long held as principal cadet family, from whom came the families of Lainshaw and Bridgehouse. The Cunninghams of Cunninghamhead, Ayrshire, also held lands in Lanarkshire and Midlothian until 1725. From the 1st Earl's son descended the families of Craigends, Robertland and Auchinharvie, and from the Craigends family, in turn, derived the Cunynghams of Milncraig, Ayrshire, and Livingstone in West Lothian. It will be noted that from roots in Ayrshire they spread throughout much of central Scotland and more remote families have also been traced to Caithness. The name is also known in Ireland but research would indicate that though the present name is similar, many ancestries have a distinct Irish origin. The Earls of Glengairn were 'bonnie fighters' and staunch friends - the 4th Earl being a friend of John Knox.