Possibly of Norman descent, the Grant clan are traditionally believed to have been descended from Olav Hemmingson, a Norweigan, Danish and Irish Viking royal who arrived in Scotland in 1057.
Originally holding lands in Strathspey, Olav would be executed in 1098 for supporting a rebellion against King Edgar. His descendants would continue the family’s influence and would obtain a lease of the Parish of Boleskine from the Bishop of Moray in the 1150s as they soon adopted the surname ‘Grant’, meaning ‘showing true grit’, towards the end of the century.
Now under their traditional name, the Grants would obtain lands at Stratherrick, on the banks of Loch Ness, following the marriage of their clan chief, Gregory, to Mary Bisset, Granddaughter of William the Lion. This would allow the chief to gain the title ‘Lord of Stratherrick’ as the clan began to gain influence and power in the region, something that is displayed by the other positions the clan held in the subsequent years including Archbishop of Cantebury and guardian of Alexander II’s child heir, Margaret.
Allying themselves to the Bruce family during the Scottish Wars of Independence, the family would return to their lands in Strathspey when they were stripped from Bruce’s great rivals, the Comyns. This would be a high point for this particular branch of the family, however, as they would soon die out, passing their chiefship to the senior co-heiress, Maud, and her husband Andrew Stewart, who would change their surnames to Grant.
Living on the banks of the River Spey, this branch of the family would increase their wealth and power by controlling the river’s crossing points as they used geography to their advantage and solidified their position through marriage. Their lands would be erected into a Barony in 1493 and they would be employed as Royal Chamberlains to bring the areas of Glenurquhart and Glenmoriston under royal control before being awarded them as a gift in 1509. The Grants would then go on to fight for the royal cause under the Earl of Montrose after the reformation and following the fighting, the Laird of Grant was to be rewarded with an Earldom until he sadly passed away before the document could be signed.
This untimely death would not affect the clan’s reputation , however, as Ludovic Grant, the eighth Laird of Freuchie, was nicknamed ‘the Highland King’ such was the scale of his popularity and wealth. Unlike his relatives, Ludovic would abandon support for the royal family in favour of Mary and William, something that would benefit him as he was appointed a colonel and sheriff of Inverness upon their accession to the throne. They would also give Ludovic a status of regality over the Barony of Freuchie, effectively making him a King over his own lands as his nickname suggested.
Now a very powerful family, the Grants would be the first clan to record their own tartan in 1704 and would support the Government during the Jacobite rising of 1715, choosing to remain neutral in subsequent engagements between the sides other than a small branch of the family, the Grant of Glenmoriston. Despite being largely neutral, the Grant regality would be abolished in the aftermath of the Jacobite rising of 1745 and the clan were forced to diversify their interests to create employment for their clansmen. This was done by building new towns such as Grantown-on-Spey, where facilities such as schools and factories were built to avoid families being ‘cleared’ from their land in the same way as other clans. Unfortunately, as the clan began to partake in more modern business, they would slowly grow apart as subsequent chiefs left to live in New Zealand and their clansmen forged different paths of their own. This split would eventually be rectified during the 20th century as the Clan Grant Society was formed as a way for Grant families around the world to communicate and meet. It remains a popular method of communication to this day and is supported by the current clan chief, The Lord Strathspey, Sir James Patrick Trevor Grant.