Norman was born at Inverness on 29th July 1705 and became Chief at the age of one. He was known during his lifetime as ‘the Wicked Man’ but was later ‘re-branded’ by Dame Flora as ‘the Red Man’. Norman lived with his mother Anne at Huntingtower Castle, outside Perth, a castle belonging to Anne’s uncle, the Duke of Atholl.
In London, Queen Anne (the last of the Stuart monarchs) had succeeded her brother-in-law William in 1702 and was to have no surviving children. The Act of Union, in 1707, adjourned the Scottish Parliament, and sent all Scottish members to Westminster, now the new British Parliament. The Act of Settlement ensured a Protestant heir to Queen Anne, who was succeeded by George, Elector of Hanover as George I.
In 1707 Norman’s mother, Anne Fraser, married Patrick Fotheringham of Powrie, and after his death in 1717, she married, as his third wife, John Mackenzie, 3rd Earl of Cromartie. Norman had several Powrie and Mackenzie half siblings.
John MacLeod of Contullich kept the young Chief and the Clan out of politics. The Clan was not involved in the Jacobite Rising in 1715 nor at the Battle of Glenshiel, on the mainland close to Glenelg, in 1719. The debts on the MacLeod estates were due in part to the jointures (lifetime allowances) paid to the widows of the young 19th and 20th Chiefs. Contullich steadily reduced the debts by careful management.
In 1722 a military barracks was built at Glenelg on the best of the MacLeod lands, though it was to be 50 years before the Chief gained any recompense.
Norman had a tutor from Kintail but was educated in Edinburgh and was little in Skye.
In 1724 young Norman MacLeod, 22nd Chief, took control of his estates in Glenelg, Skye and Harris. He immediately sued Contullich for mismanagement causing enmity between the MacLeods of Berneray and Dunvegan.
In December 1724 Norman married Janet, six years his senior, the daughter of the forfeited Sir Donald MacDonald, 4th Baronet of Sleat. Instead of going to live at Dunvegan castle, Norman and Janet went to live with Norman’s mother and step-father, the crotchety old Earl of Cromartie at Castle Leod, north of Inverness, now the seat of the Clan MacKenzie. Their marriage was never to be a happy one and they separated in 1733, though they were reconciled in 1740.
The following year Norman was elected to Parliament and went to London. Janet died in 1743, and her father Donald MacDonald put about that she had been starved to death in a dungeon!
In 1739, with his neighbour, Sir Alexander MacDonald of Sleat, Norman devised a scheme to kidnap folk from Harris and ship them to North Carolina for sale as indentured servants. The scheme failed, for the ship put in to Ireland for repairs and the Harris folk escaped. Norman and Sir Alexander only escaped trial through the efforts of their friend, Duncan Forbes of Culloden, Lord President of the Court of Session in Edinburgh. It was thus that Norman gained the nickname ‘The Wicked Man’.
In 1745 Norman and Sir Alexander MacDonald refused to support Prince Charles Edward Stuart when he landed in the Highlands. Norman raised more than 500 soldiers for the Government, though he, and some of his men, were surprised and driven out of Inverurie by the Jacobites in December 1745. Norman’s son, John, was appointed Captain in Lord Loudoun’s newly raised Regiment of Highlanders and was ‘with the baggage’, in a support role on the Hanoverian Government’s side, at the Battle of Culloden.
A few MacLeods followed the Prince, led by Donald MacLeod of Berneray, the Old Trojan, who had vanquished a dragoon, hand to hand, at the Battle of Falkirk in January
At least the MacLeod lands were spared the savage reprisals that were meted out to Raasay, and the MacDonald and Cameron lands on the mainland, after the failure of the Rebellion.
One of Captain John MacLeod’s subalterns was John Martin. During the summer of 1746 Norman met John Martin’s sister Anne and in December they were married in London, though the marriage contract was not signed until 1748. Norman had a pair of portraits painted by Alan Ramsay of himself and his new bride. Despite the ban on wearing tartan, Norman wears a red and black checked suit and red tartan in a prominent painting that now hangs at Dunvegan Castle. When Dame Flora was later to declare ‘none of my ancestors were wicked’, she used this image to name him the Red Man.
Norman built a kitchen block, inside the enclosure at Dunvegan Castle, and made the first entrance from the landward side. He also built a house by the pier, now called Laundry Cottage.
Norman and his new bride did not come to live at Dunvegan and took a mansion, Whitehouse, in Edinburgh and then Park House at St Andrews, moving the best of the portraits and furniture with them. The Chief was in debt and was less and less at Dunvegan, though it was said that he was still beloved by his tacksmen and clansmen in Skye.
Norman was to increase rents by more than 300% in the years up to his death. His relations and friends, who held the farms, called tacks, in Glenelg, Skye and Harris could bear it no longer and many emigrated to North Carolina. The way of life of Norman’s grandfather and 18th Chief, Iain Breac, who had lived in mediaeval splendour at Dunvegan Castle, surrounded by his clansmen, was now a distant memory.
Norman’s only legitimate son, John, born around 1725/6, entered the army and died at Beverley in Yorkshire in 1767 leaving one son Norman (who succeeded his grandfather) and six daughters by his wife Emilia, daughter of Alexander Brodie of Brodie. John’s father Norman also had five daughters from his two marriages, all of whom had to be found dowries. Additionally there were three illegitimate sons: Alexander, known as MacLeod of Glendale, who served with the Royal Marines, and who was to marry Ann, daughter of Flora MacDonald and emigrate to North Carolina, Norman who entered the Army and served in North America, and Duncan, was an apprentice goldsmith in Edinburgh.
Norman the 22nd Chief died suddenly at St Andrews in 1772, leaving huge debts. He was buried in St Andrews Cathedral kirkyard.