Campbell (family)

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Campbell family. Originating in Argyll, the Campbells first came to prominence under Robert I (1306–29), already aiding the crown against other Highland families. From 1457, led by the Campbell earls of Argyll, they expanded their power in the south-western Highlands and Islands with royal approval, filling the vacuum left by the forfeiture of the MacDonald lord of the Isles (1493). The family successfully balanced its role in the Highlands with Lowland political aspirations, and branches spread to Breadalbane, Ayrshire, Nairnshire, Fife, and Angus. In the 16th cent. they became indispensable royal proxies in the Highlands for a crown unable to govern directly. Such power eventually produced problems—by the 17th cent. some saw the Campbell clan as little better than those they supplanted. As leaders of the covenanters, and strong supporters of the Scottish kirk, they came into conflict with Charles I and James VII. In the 18th cent. the Campbells were once more crown agents, associated with the Glencoe massacre (1692), the Act of Union (1707), opposition to the Jacobites (1745–6), and the Highland clearances. Often criticized, the family's consistent ability over seven centuries made it one of the most successful Scottish dynasties.

Roland Tanner