MACDONALD, Ranald George (1788-1873), of Seamore Place, Mdx.

Published in The History of Parliament: the House of Commons 1820-1832, ed. D.R. Fisher, 2009
Available from Cambridge University Press



1812 - 28 Feb. 1824

Family and Education

b. 29 Aug. 1788, 2nd but 1st surv. s. of John Macdonald, 18th chief of Clanranald, and 1st w. Katherine, da. of Robert Macqueen, SCJ (Lord Braxfield), of Braxfield, Lanark. educ. Edinburgh; Eton 1799; European tour. m. (1) 13 Feb. 1812, Lady Caroline Anne Edgcumbe (d. 10 Apr. 1824), da. of Richard Edgcumbe†, 2nd earl of Mount Edgcumbe, 1s. 5da.; (2) 30 June 1826, Anne Selby (d. 8 July 1835), da. of William Cunninghame of Lainshaw, Ayr, wid. of Richard Barre Dunning, 2nd Bar. Ashburton, s.p.; (3) Nov. 1855, Elizabeth Rebecca Newman, s.p. suc. fa. 1794. d. 11 Mar. 1873.

Offices Held

Lt.-col. commdt. 4 Inverness militia 1809.


Macdonald, the 19th chief of Clanranald, was again returned for Plympton Erle on his father-in-law’s interest in 1820. He was an occasional attender whose few recorded votes were all with Lord Liverpool’s ministry. He did not vote in this Parliament on the question of Catholic relief, which he had supported before 1820. He voted in defence of ministers’ conduct towards Queen Caroline, 6 Feb., and against repeal of the additional malt duty, 3 Apr., and Hume’s economy and retrenchment motion, 27 June 1821. He divided against more extensive tax reductions, 21 Feb., and for the Canada bill, 18 July 1822. He ‘expressed his disapprobation’ of the bill to lower the barilla duties, which was seen as a threat to the makers of kelp, 29 July 1822, and welcomed the government’s proposal, made in deference to these fears, to increase the duties for a limited period, 13 June 1823.1 He vacated his seat early in 1824. In April 1831 he sent a letter to the Inverness county meeting expressing his ‘zealous and unconditional good wishes’ for the Grey ministry’s reform bill.2

His second marriage, to a wealthy widow, did not arrest the steady decline of his fortunes, which forced him to sell almost all his inherited property in Inverness-shire by 1838. While Macdonald blamed his difficulties on the mismanagement and depredations of the trustees responsible for his inheritance during his minority, it seems clear that they were caused largely by his own folly and extravagance. In 1844, ‘forced into retirement by circumstances I could not control’, he used the pretext of urging the need to introduce coroners’ inquests and legislation against cruelty to animals into Scotland to beg the prime minister, Sir Robert Peel, for financial assistance to rescue him from his ‘unmerited privation’. He was ‘now in the most painful straits imaginable’ and trusted that ‘such a wreck of the interests of a family, such alienation of property handed down to me from remote years, must excite regret’. Peel, however, was unmoved, observing that he ‘might with more propriety’ address his application to the ‘many parties in affluent circumstances connected with you by the ties of relationship or intimate friendship, and cognisant of the circumstances which you mention as having led to your embarrassments’.3 Macdonald died in March 1873 and was succeeded as chief of Clanranald by his only son, Admiral Sir Reginald Macdonald (1820-99).

Ref Volumes: 1820-1832

Author: David R. Fisher


  • 1. The Times, 30 July 1822, 14 June 1823.
  • 2. Inverness Courier, 6 Apr. 1831.
  • 3. Rev. C. Macdonald, Moidart, 238-9; Rev. A. Macdonald, Clan Donald, ii. 363-4; Add. 40554, ff. 1-10.