The Earl of Caithness
Minister of State for Railways and Roads
In office
14 April 1992 – 11 January 1994
Prime MinisterJohn Major
Preceded byThe Lord Brabazon of Tara
Succeeded byJohn Watts
Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
In office
14 July 1990 – 14 April 1992
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
John Major
Preceded byThe Lord Brabazon of Tara
Succeeded byAlastair Goodlad
Paymaster General
In office
25 July 1989 – 14 July 1990
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byPeter Brooke
Succeeded byRichard Ryder
Minister of State for Housing
In office
25 July 1988 – 25 July 1989
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byWilliam Waldegrave
Succeeded byMichael Howard
Minister of State for Environment
In office
10 January 1988 – 25 July 1988
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byThe Lord Belstead
Succeeded byMichael Howard
Minister of State for Home Affairs
In office
10 September 1986 – 10 January 1988
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byGiles Shaw
Succeeded byThe Earl Ferrers
Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport
In office
2 September 1985 – 10 September 1986
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byDavid Mitchell
Succeeded byThe Lord Brabazon of Tara
Government Whip
In office
8 May 1984 – 2 September 1985
Prime MinisterMargaret Thatcher
Preceded byThe Lord Lyell
Succeeded byThe Viscount Davidson
Member of the House of Lords
as a hereditary peer
2 December 1969 – 11 November 1999
Preceded byThe 19th Earl of Caithness
Succeeded bySeat abolished
as an elected hereditary peer
11 November 1999
Preceded bySeat established
Personal details
Born (1948-11-03) 3 November 1948 (age 75)
Political partyConservative
Alma materMarlborough College
Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester

Malcolm Ian Sinclair, 20th Earl of Caithness, PC (born 3 November 1948), is a Scottish Conservative politician and member of the House of Lords as one of the remaining hereditary peers. He is also 20th Lord Berriedale, 15th Baronet, of Canisbay, Co. Caithness, and chief of Clan Sinclair. He is the Chief Executive of the Clan Sinclair Trust.


Sinclair was educated at Blairmore School, Aberdeenshire (then Marlborough College), and the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester.

House of Lords and political offices

Malcolm Caithness served as a House of Lords government-whip under Margaret Thatcher from 1984 to 1985. He then moved to the Department of Transport as a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, serving until 1986, the year when he became Minister of State at the Home Office. In 1988, he was once appointed Minister of State at the Department of Environment. In 1989, he became Paymaster General and a Minister of State in the Treasury.[1]

In 1990, Caithness was appointed Minister of State at the Foreign Office, and then, in 1992, back to the Department of Transport. He married Diana Caroline Coke (1953–1994) in 1975. He was made a privy counsellor in 1990.

With the passage of the House of Lords Act 1999, Caithness, along with most other hereditary peers, lost his automatic right to sit in the House of Lords. He was, however, elected as one of the 90 representative peers designed under the provisions of the act to remain in the House of Lords. According to the Electoral Reform Society, he has since blocked further reform of the Lords, tabling 'wrecking' amendments to a draft Bill to abolish by-elections for hereditary peers, proposed by Lord Grocott in 2018.[2]

Caithness is an opponent of fractional-reserve banking.[3]

Caithness was a trustee of Queen Elizabeth Castle of Mey Trust, from its inception in 1996 until 2016. In 1999, he helped found a heritage charity, the Clan Sinclair Trust, the aim of which is the preservation and conservation of Castle Sinclair Girnigoe, near Wick in Caithness. He serves as chief executive and has been responsible for getting the castle listed by the World Monuments Fund in its Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the World in 2002, the fundraising and overseeing the remedial works which has allowed the castle to be accessible and open to the public.

Personal life

Sinclair's mother was Madeleine de Pury, possibly descended from the de Pury family of Neuchâtel, Switzerland, who were members of the Prussian nobility.

In January 1994, Caithness resigned from his post at the Ministry of Transport, following the suicide of his wife, Diana Caroline Coke.[4] In 2004 he married Leila C. Jenkins, whom he had met at Ascot, in Rosslyn Chapel.[5] He filed for divorce a year later.[4]

His children are Lady Iona Alexandra Sinclair (born 1978), and Alexander James Richard Sinclair, Lord Berriedale (born 1981).

Clan Sinclair

There are Clan Sinclair associations in the UK, Australia, Canada, Italy, and the USA.

Malcolm Sinclair has organized the first Clan Sinclair International Gathering in Caithness in 2000, and then again in 2002, 2005, 2008, 2010, 2012 (in Norway), and 2015.[6]

In 2009, Sinclair, referring to the role of Clan Chiefs, said "I do not believe there is an obligation towards the clan in any formal sense. For many years I took no interest in the Clan because I was too busy earning a living and bringing up the family...If a chief can give the time, particularly to the Diaspora, then there are huge rewards for everyone and I would hope that most chiefs can do that".[7]


  1. ^ Mosley, Charles (ed.) Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, volume 1 (Wilmington, DE: Burke's Peerage, 2003) page 641.
  2. ^ Garland, Jessica. "A handful of hereditary peers are trying to stifle reform – they are on the wrong side of history". Electoral Reform Society.
  3. ^ House of Lords record, February 2009, Hansard archives
  4. ^ a b Sinclair, Robert (2013) The Sinclairs of Scotland, AuthorHouse, 12 June 2013, ISBN 978-1481795708
  5. ^ Ward, Louise (15 November 2004). "Earl of Caithness marries American businesswoman". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Retrieved 22 August 2010.
  6. ^ "International Gatherings – Clan Sinclair Australia". Retrieved 7 July 2021.
  7. ^ Chief to Chief – Malcolm Sinclair, The Earl of Caithness, Jamie Sempill, 15 July 2009 Archived 10 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
Political offices Preceded byPeter Brooke Paymaster General 1989–1990 Succeeded byRichard Ryder Peerage of Scotland Preceded byJames Sinclair Earl of Caithness 1965–present Member of the House of Lords(1969–1999) Incumbent Parliament of the United Kingdom New officecreated by the House of Lords Act 1999 Elected hereditary peer to the House of Lordsunder the House of Lords Act 1999 1999–present Incumbent