In the 19th century, Alexander Mackenzie was the premier historian of the great Scottish families, and his extensive study of the Donald family long has been the standard by which such histories have been judged. Mackenzie studied the Donalds as the royal family of the Isles, the last of those who held semi-independent kingdoms in the west of Scotland. But it was an enormous family, and Mackenzie had to reconcile claims by three of its major branches to be senior in the family, and therefore to hold ultimate authority.
He studied first the main line of the MacDonalds chief by chief, as they descended from Somerled through Sir Donald Gallda, who died about 1519. He then moved to the family of Donald of Sleat, tracing its evolution through Sir Ronald Archibald Rosville, 6th Lord MacDonald, and including the cadet families of Sleat: the MacDonalds of Balranald, Kingsburgh, Castleton, and Vallay.
He next turned to the MacDonalds of Glengarry, down to Aeneas Rananald Westrop MacDonell, and its cadets, including Scotus, Leek, and Greenfield.
He then moved to MacDonald of Clanranald, chronicling that family down to Sir Reginald John James George of Clanranald. Next came the MacDonalds of MacEachainn, Glenaladale, Kinloch-Moidart, Boisdale, Sanda, Keppoch, Inch, Dalchosnie, Glencoe, and Darroch.
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