Campbell clan

The Campbell clan is one of Scotland’s largest and most influential Highland clans, with a history that spans several centuries and is deeply entwined with the country’s history. Originating from the western part of Scotland, particularly from Argyll and the Isles, the Campbells played a significant role in the political, military, and social spheres of Scottish life.

Today, the Clan Campbell is active in promoting its heritage and culture. The Clan Campbell Society, with branches worldwide, works to connect descendants of the clan and organizes events, gatherings, and educational resources about clan history. The Campbell clan’s history is a testament to the complexities of Scottish clan dynamics, marked by alliances, rivalries, and significant contributions to Scotland’s history.

Inveraray Castle in Argyll, the ancestral home of the Dukes of Argyll, chiefs of Clan Campbell, remains a symbol of the clan’s enduring legacy and is open to the public as a museum and visitor attraction.


The origins of the Campbell clan can be traced back to the 13th century, although the exact origins are a matter of historical debate. The name "Campbell" itself likely derives from the Gaelic "Cam Béal," meaning "crooked mouth," which was perhaps a nickname that turned into a surname. Over time, through marriage and conquest, the Campbells expanded their territories and influence, particularly around their ancestral heartlands in Argyll.

Influence and power

The Campbells are often associated with the Scottish crown, supporting the cause of Scottish independence during the Wars of Scottish Independence. They were staunch supporters of the Bruce and later the Stuart monarchs, which often put them at odds with other clans, such as the MacDonalds, with whom they had a long-standing feud.

The clan’s power and influence peaked during the 15th and 17th centuries, when they were known to control large areas of western Scotland. They held numerous titles, including the Earls of Argyll, and many Campbells served as advisors to the Scottish kings, holding significant positions such as the Master of the Household of Scotland, Lord Chancellor of Scotland, and the Lord High Commissioner.

Military involvement

The Campbells were involved in numerous historical conflicts, both within Scotland and in broader British and European wars. Notably, during the Scottish Civil Wars, they were staunch supporters of the Covenanters, opposing the royalist forces. Their involvement in the Glencoe Massacre of 1692, where members of the MacDonald clan were killed, remains one of the most infamous episodes in Scottish history and contributed to the Campbells’ notoriety.

Clan Tartan and Crest

Like other Scottish clans, the Campbells have their own tartan patterns and crest. The Campbell tartan is easily recognizable and widely worn by clan members and their descendants.

The clan crest features a boar’s head, and their motto is "Ne Obliviscaris," Latin for "Forget Not," a call to remember the clan’s history and achievements.

Clan Campbell of Cawdor

Clan Campbell of Cawdor is a branch of the larger Clan Campbell. It is recognised by the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs, but does not have its own recognized clan chief. It does have a clan head; the Earl Cawdow is the head of the Clan Campbell of Cawdor.

The name Cawdor is the English pronunciation and spelling of the original Highland name Calder / Caddell. In the early 1800s, Lord John Campbell of Caddell – who was living in England – changed the name of the castle, town and clan overnight to match the Shakespearean designation.


In 1499, the Campbells kidnapped Muriel Caddell, the daughter and heiress of John Caddell, 7th Thane of Caddell and taken to the Campbells castle. In 1510, when she was only 12 years old, she was married to Sir John Campbell, third son of the 2nd Earl of Argyll. He died in 1546, and after Muriel´s death in 1573, the Thanedom was resigned in favour of her grandson, John Campbell.

In the 1600s, Sir John Campbell of Caddell sold off important property to purchase the Isle of Islay. From 1612 to 1726, the island was held by the Campbells of Caddell/Calder, before selling it to Daniel Campbell of Shawfield.

Sir John Campbell, 8th of Calder, married the eldest daughter of Lewis Pryce (Pryse) of Gogerddan. When Sir John died in 1777, he was succeeded by his son Pryse Campbell of Calder. Pryse had a son named John, who was made Lord Calder of Castlemartin in 1797. When Lord Calder died in 1821, he was succeeded by his son, John Fredrick Campbell, who was the 1st Earl of Cawdor. It is from him that the Earls of Cawdor descends.

Clan Tartan and Crest

The Campbell of Cawdor tartan is very similar to the other recognised Campbell tartans.

The modern crest contains the heraldic motto: BE MINDFUL.