The surname of SINCLAIR is a Caithness surname of territorial origin from St. Clare in the Arrondissement of Pont d'Eveque, Normandy. The first Sinclairs in Scotland appear to have been vassals of the great territorial magnates, de Morville. Their first possession in Scotland was the barony of Rolsin, near Edinburgh, which they held in the reign of David I (1124-1153). An early offshoot of the family became all powerful in Caithness and held the earldom there from 1379 to 1542. The Sinclairs were a powerful territorial family whose relationships to their dependants was entirely feudal. The earliest bearers of the name appear in charters connected with the abbeys of Dryburgh and Newbattle, the Hospital of Soltre, and the church of Glasgow. John Singular held land in Aberdeen, circa 1450 and Lasae Saengkaer was the burgomaster of Oddevald in 1504. An old rhyme referring to the bickerings between the Sinclairs and their neighbours says:
'Sinclair, Sutherland, Keith and Clan Gunn
There never was peace when Thae four were in'
At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face, and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield and embroidered on his surcoat, the draped and flowing garment worn over the armour.
Leading figures of the name include Henry Sinclair, the first Sinclair male heir of Orkney and Caithness, later recognised as Jarl of Orkney in 1379 by the King of Norway. Sir John Sinclair of Ulster (1754-1835) was an enterprising Politician and Agriculturist, who founded the Board of Agriculture in 1793.
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