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Alasdair Ranaldson Macdonell of Glengarry (1773-1828) chief of clan Macdonell of Glengarry, and army officer

Image of Alasdair Ranaldson Macdonell of Glengarry (1773-1828) chief of clan Macdonell of Glengarry, and army officer
  • About the work
    Location
    Country: Other
    City: other locations abroad

    Alexander MacDonell of Glengarry was a soldier and chief of clan Macdonell of Glengarry. He succeeded his father, Duncan MacDonell (c.1744–1788) as chief of the clan in 1788 and inherited vast estates. MacDonell enrolled at University College, Oxford, in 1790. In 1793, on the outbreak of War with France, he received a captain’s commission, followed by a colonel’s commission the following year at the age of just 20. He raised the Fencible Regiment of Glengarry Highlanders and served with them until 1796. However, his hopes for a career in the regular army went unfulfilled, perhaps in part a result of concerns over his temperament. 

    In 1798, MacDonell fought a duel with Lieutenant Norman Macleod, who later died of his wounds. MacDonell was acquitted of murder at his trial in Edinburgh. The following year he set off for the continent. In Vienna he suffered a mental breakdown and was temporarily confined in the city’s asylum. In 1807, he was found guilty of assaulting a tenant and ordered to pay £2000 damages. MacDonell married Rebecca Forbes (1779–1841), daughter of an Edinburgh banker, in 1802. They would have 13 children, although only one of their seven sons survived infancy. 

    MacDonell’s extravagant lifestyle led to financial difficulties. In 1828, on route to a meeting with a legal advisor to discuss his debts, the steamer he was travelling on ran aground. MacDonell jumped overboard and struck his head, dying of his injury later that day. Trustees for his son, a student at Edinburgh University, found that some £80,000 had been owed by MacDonell.

  • About the artist
    Henry Raeburn was born in the village of Stockbridge (now within Edinburgh), where his parents ran a yarn-boiling business. However, by the age of eight he was orphaned and residing at a charity school. He was later apprenticed to a goldsmith and during this time began painting full-scale portraits. His marriage (c.1780) to Ann Leslie, a wealthy widow, allowed him to study in Rome (c.1784-87). Despite success, he became insolvent in 1808 as a result of failed investments and remained in debt for the rest of his life. He first exhibited at the Royal Academy, London, in 1792 and was elected a member in 1815. He was knighted in 1822 and appointed ‘limner and painter in Scotland’ to the king in 1823. However, he died in the same year, aged 67.
  • Explore
    People
    Macdonell, Alasdair Ranaldson, of Glengarry
    Places
    Materials & Techniques
    mezzotint, colour mezzotint
  • Details
    Title
    Alasdair Ranaldson Macdonell of Glengarry (1773-1828) chief of clan Macdonell of Glengarry, and army officer
    Date
    Medium
    Colour mezzotint
    Dimensions
    height: 70.00 cm, width: 50.00 cm
    Acquisition
    Purchased from Vicars Bros, July 1957
    GAC number
    3557