The family is probably of Flemish origin,
descended from Freskin, whose grandson,
Hugh, was granted lands in Moray
around 1130 by David I. Hugh acquired lands in Sutherland and was referred
to as Lord Sutherland.
His son, William, became Earl of Sutherland around 1235, at a time when earldoms
were only given to near kin of the Scottish Kings.
Hugh's brother, also
in Moray his family took the surname Murray.
Kenneth, 4th Earl of Sutherland, was killed with
the regent of Scotland and 3 other earls while
fighting the English at the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333.
William, the 5th
Earl, was married to Princess Margaret, daughter of Robert the Bruce and
sister of David II.
His son by her was heir to the throne prior to 1361,
when he died of plague.
William was murdered
in 1370 by the MacKays in a
feud that lasted for 4 centuries.
Robert, 6th Earl, Williams son by his second marriage built Dunrobin.
He married the niece of Robert III in 1389.
John, 8th Earl, was
declared unfit to manage
his own affairs in 1494
at the insistence of his son in law, Adam Gordon.
His wife then succeeded to the Sutherland
lands and titles.
John, the 16th Earl,
resumed the ancient surname Sutherland,
and in 1715,
was Lord Lieutenant for the North of Scotland,
including the islands.
He supported George I during the
Inverness against them.
His son, William, the 17th Earl, settled the feud with the MacKays at the start of the
The Earl of Cromarty, commanding the Jacobite
forces in the north,
occupied Dunrobin Castle but was defeated and
captured by Sutherlands militia.
Dunrobin thus became the LAST British castle to captured with bloodshed in time of war.
The death of the 17th Earl left no surviving male heir,
there followed a legal battle
between his daughter, Elizabeth, and
George Sutherland of Forse
Sir Robert Gordon of Gordonstoun.
The House of Lords
decided for Elizabeth confirming her as
Countess Sutherland in her own right.
She married the
Marques of Stafford and he was later created
first Duke of Sutherland in 1833.
The Duke was a keen reformer and
virtually destroyed the old ways of
life in Sutherland.
Although many could not forgive him for the
clearances which his policies
required he came to be respected by some at his death.
The 2nd Duke
transformed Dunrobin into a vast palace
in the French Chateau style.
The castle remains in the familys possession
but is now open to the public.