MACDONALD, Alexander Wentworth, 2nd Baron Macdonald [I] (1773-1824), of Armadale Castle, Skye, Inverness.
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Family and Education
b. 9 Dec. 1773, 1st s. of Sir Alexander Macdonald, 9th Bt., of Sleat, Skye, cr. 1st Baron Macdonald [I], by Elizabeth Diana, da. and event. h. of Godfrey Bosville of Gunthwaite and Thorpe Hall, Yorks. educ. in England. unm. suc. fa. as 2nd Baron Macdonald [I] 12 Sept. 1795.
Cornet, 10 Drag. 1790-3; col. commdt. Hebridean vols. 1798-1802, 1804; col. fencible inf. 1799.
Macdonald’s father was the ‘lord of the isles’ rebuked by Dr Johnson for his indifference to the glory of being a Highland chieftain. He was an English-bred soldier with a London address and so was his heir, ‘not ... conversant in the language spoken by his people’. As a young man, soon after succeeding to the barony, Macdonald sat in Parliament on the Buller interest, probably by purchase, and ‘though not in habits of public speaking, he invariably by his influence and example, gave his support to the vigorous administration of the immortal son of Chatham’.1 On 4 Jan. 1798 he voted for Pitt’s assessed taxes and the same year raised a regiment on his extensive estates under his own command: it was disbanded in 1802, in which year he did not seek election to Parliament.
He devoted himself subsequently to his Highland estates, seeking to ‘ameliorate the condition of the inhabitants’ and building a Gothic castle.2 John Spencer Stanhope of Cannon Hall, who visited him there in 1806, noted ‘the more than royal power exercised by one Highland chief’:
no King could command the homage, veneration and service which, wherever he trod, was his undisputed right. Wherever he journeyed, he and his guests stopped where he chose, and no man dreamed of saying him nay. He sheltered sometimes in a great house, sometimes in a shanty. And where he went, all the clansmen were not only bound to receive him, but bound to follow him—to make one of the Chief’s ‘tail’ as it was called, until he had a following of his clan, growing, ever growing, and journeying round his island kingdom, all in the Macdonald tartan: it was truly a sight which once seen, lived in one’s recollection for ever.3
Macdonald, who ‘to a sound judgment, when called on to exercise it ... joined the best qualities of the heart: and an unassuming gentleness of manners’, died 19 June 1824.