Lord Macdonald was born on 28th November 1947, the same year that the Lord Lyon, King of Arms granted the undifferenced arms of Macdonald of Macdonald to his father, Alexander Godfrey, making his father the first High Chief of Clan Donald.
Clan Donald is the largest and oldest of all the Highland clans, and the only one to have a High Chief and subsidiary Chiefs in their own right. Previously, based on an agreement made in 1911 between the Chiefs of Clan Donald, precedence at a Clan Donald function was based, for each occasion, on a toss of a coin, for the much-contested role of presiding Chief. However, today as High Chief, Lord Macdonald chairs the High Council of Clan Donald Chiefs, composed of the Chiefs of Clanranald, Glengarry, Sleat, and Antrim.
Lord Macdonald, like his father before him, was educated at Eton, where he was a contemporary of Sir Ian Macdonald of Sleat. In 1970, his father, who was born in 1909, died suddenly. This caused Lord Macdonald to cut short his developing career as an accountant in Edinburgh and return to Skye to take charge of his enormous inheritance of a 45,000 acre estate and four hotels. Unfortunately, the situation was under colossal pressure from anciently engaged debt, so a major reconstruction had to be entered into with the cooperation of his trustees.
To formally unite Clan Donald, the High Council of Clan Donald Chiefs was formed in 1971, with Sir Iain Moncrieffe of that Ilk, Albany Herald and an advocate, as the Council's adviser. The first act of the new Council was to form the Clan Donald Lands Trust, into which Lord Macdonald's inheritance of land was transferred, with the intention that the sum of £210,000 would be raised from within the Clan and paid at a later date to Lord Macdonald's trustees in settlement for the land. Although the fund-raising drive received much sympathetic encouragement, little actual money was raised. Fortunately, however, land values on Skye grew dramatically at the same time, enabling half the estate to be sold for a sufficient sum to retire the entire debt, with the result that the Clan Donald Lands Trust has the current 20,000 acres on Skye free of debt; land which is still held in trust for all clansfolk.
Lord Macdonald is married to the internationally known writer, journalist, cook, and cookery demonstrator, Claire Macdonald (nèe Catlow). Lord and Lady Macdonald reside at Kinloch Lodge, one of his family's ancestral homes, which for over three decades Lord and Lady Macdonald have run as a small, internationally acclaimed hotel.
Lord and Lady Macdonald have four children. Alexandra, the eldest, is married to Baron Guttenberg and lives in Austria with their son Jo. Isabella, the second born, is married to Mr Tom Eveling. Isabella and Tom live on Skye with their son Billy and assist in the management of Kinloch Lodge. Meriel, the youngest daughter is currently living in London.
Hugo, Lord and Lady Macdonald's youngest child and the heir to the High Chiefship, attended Eton and has recently graduated from Trinity College, Cambridge with a first class degree in Middle Eastern History. He spent the traditional "gap year" in India, and plans a career in Journalism.
Lord and Lady Macdonald play an active part in the life of their local community. Lord Macdonald was for many years involved in all aspects of local government. He is a Justice of the Peace and a Deputy Lieutenant for the County of Inverness-shire.
Lord Macdonald also has a sister, The Hon. Janet Ann Macdonald of Macdonald, and a brother, The Hon. Alexander Donald Archibald Macdonald of Macdonald.
The Arms of Lord Macdonald of Macdonald are defined by the Lyon Court as follows:
"Quarterly, 1st, Argent, a lion rampant Gules, armed and langued Azure; 2nd; Or, a hand in armour fessways holding a cross-crosslet fitchee Gules; 3rd, Or, a lymphad sails furled and oars in action Sable, Flagged Gules; 4th, Vert, a salmon naiant in fess proper, over all on an escutcheon en surtout, Or, an eagle displayed Gules surmounted of a lymphad sails furled, oars in action Sable (as Chief of the Name and Arms of Macdonald). Above the Shield is placed His Lordship’s coronet, thereon an Helmet befitting his degree with a Mantling Gules doubled Ermine, and on a crest coronet Or is set for Crest a hand in armour fessways couped at the elbow proper holding a cross-crosslet fitchee Gules, and in an Escrol over the same this Motto PER MARE PER TERRAS, and on a Compartment of rocks and heather proper issuant from the waves undy along with this Motto FRAOCH EILEAN, are set for Supporters two leopards proper."
Lyon Register (Volume 36, Folio 44)