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Clans and Families of Ireland and Scotland
X. The Vikings and Normans


army of James II in the late seventeenth century, and was later commander of Rothe’s Regiment of Cavalry in the Irish Brigade in the service of France.

The Sarsfields (de Sairseil) call themselves after a manor in Herefordshire, and came to Ireland with the Anglo-Norman invasion. The first of the family in Ireland was Thomas de Sarsfield, chief standard bearer to King Henry II of England, who was in Ireland in 1172. Branches of the family settled in Counties Cork and Limerick in the twelfth century, and later a branch of the Cork family settled in County Dublin. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century several members of the family, representing all the branches, had successful military careers in the French service. Patrick Sarsfield, hero of the Jacobite wars, was of the Dublin branch, and was a great-great grandson of Sir William Sarsfield, Mayor of Dublin in 1566.

The Sinclairs (de Sincleir) derive their name from St. Clair in the arrondissement of Pont d’Eveque, Normandy. In 1162 Henry de St. Clair, Normandy, received a charter of the lands of Herdmanston in Haddingtonshire from the de Morville Constable of Scotland, whose sheriff he was. The lands of Haddingtonshire continued in this branch of the family into modern times, and one of this branch was with Bruce at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314 (their arms difference as blue the Black Cross of the main line of the Sinclairs). Sir William Sinclair, son of Robert de St. Clair in Normandy by his wife, the daughter of the second Comte de Dreux, in France, was in 1280 granted the Barony of Rosslyn and other lands by Alexander III, whose favorite he was. Sir William was Sheriff of Edinburgh, Haddington, Linlithgow and Dumfries, and also Justiciar of Galloway, and was guardian, or foster-father, to Alexander, heir to the Kingdom of Scots, who died in 1283 or 1284. In 1285 he went to France to escort Alexander III’s queen-elect, the daughter of his kinsman, the fourth Comte de Dreux. Younger sons of his line were established in Berwick and Invernesshire before the marriage of his great-grandson to Isabel, daughter of Malise, Earl of Strathearn, Caithness, and Orkney.

Isabel was designated primary heiress for Caithness by her father, and Henry Sinclair, their son was made Jarl (Norse equivalent of Scottish earl or Latin comes) of Orkney by the King of Norway, under whose control Orkney at the time was. Younger sons of this line were granted lands in Aberdeenshire, and Henry’s grandson, William Sinclair, the last Jarl of Orkney, was granted the old family earldom of Caithness in 1455. Orkney was resigned by him in 1470, to the King of Norway, under pressure by the King of Scotland (sovereignty over Orkney had fallen peacefully into the possession of the King of Denmark, who in 1469 had given it over to James III of Scotland, when the latter married his daughter). Afterwards Orkney became Crown property.

The Sinclairs of Caithness were a powerful territorial family, and though many of their tenants assumed their name, the relationship of the Sinclair earls to those vassals remained feudal, though the two were often linked together through younger branches of the earls’ family, whose chieftans held the usual


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