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The Scottish Nation

MAORMOR, the highest title of honour amongst the Highlanders of Scotland, in the 10th, 11th, and 12th centuries, the persons bearing it having been the patriarchal chiefs of the great tribes into which the Celtic population was then divided. They had jurisdiction and authority over extensive districts, as Athole, Moray, Ross, Garmoran, Mar, and Buchan. The word seems to have been derived from the Gaelic maor, steward, and mhor, great, and its office and dignity appear to have been next to that of the king. So great indeed was the power of the maormors and so extensive the territories which they ruled over, that they sometimes were enabled to wage independent war even against the sovereign himself. The succession to the maordom was strictly hereditary in the male line. In proof of this, Mr. Skene (Highlanders, vol. i. p. 79) instances the succession of the maormors of Moray. In 1032, the Annals of Ulster mention the death of Gilcomgain Mac Maolbride, maormor of Mureve. In 1058, they record the death of Lulach Mac Gilcomgain, king of Scotland, and in 1085, that of Maolsnechtan MacLulach, king or maormor of Mureve. Thus showing, that although Lulach had been driven from the throne, his son succeeded to the maordom of Moray in his place.

The title of maormor was peculiar to the Scottish Gael, and was altogether unknown among the Irish, although they too were a Celtic race. It was exclusively confined to the north of Scotland, and was never held by any of those Saxon or Norman barons who obtained extensive territories by grant, or succeeded, as they sometimes did, by marriage to the possessions and power of the maormors. When the line of the ancient maormors gradually sank under the ascendant influence of the feudal system, the clans forming the great tribes became independent, and their leaders or chiefs were held to represent each the common ancestor or founder of his clan, and derived all their dignity and power from the belief in such representation. The chief possessed his office by right of blood alone, as that right was understood in the Highlands; neither election nor marriage could constitute any title to this distinction; it was purely hereditary, nor could descend to any person, except to him who, according to the Highland rule of succession, was the nearest male heir to the dignity.

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