And the men of the Mearns [i.e. Kincardineshire] slew Malcolm in Fetteresso [near Stonehaven]; that is, in Claideom.
Following the murder, for unknown reasons, of Malcolm son of Donald, i.e. Malcolm I, the throne of Alba passed to Indulf, the son of Malcolm’s predecessor, Constantine II. The Scottish Chronicle, reports that:
Indulf [Idulfus] held the kingdom for 8 years. In his time the fortress [oppidum] of Eden was evacuated, and abandoned to the Scots right until the present day. A fleet of Vikings were slain in Buchan.[*]
It would appear that the Northumbrian English had been compelled to vacate “the fortress of Eden”, i.e. Edinburgh, which they had held for the previous three centuries. Henceforth, Edinburgh was a Scottish possession.[*] There is no mention of Indulf’s death in the Scottish Chronicle,[*] but a later Latin king-list, List D, says:
Indulf [Indolf ] son of Constantine reigned for 9 years; and he was killed by the Norwegians in Invercullen [Seatown, at the mouth of Cullen Burn, Banffshire], and was buried in the island of lona.[*]
However, according to the Prophecy of Berchán (Stanza 163), which records past events as if they were yet to happen:
… he dies in the house of the same holy apostle where his father will die.
Indulf’s father, Constantine II, died in the monastery of St Andrews. Indulf’s death is not recorded in the, normally chronologically reliable, Annals of Ulster, but his obit does appear in the Chronicon Scotorum:
Illulbh, king of Alba, died.
And a similarly brief notice is found in the Annals of Clonmacnoise, s.a. 956, where Indulf’s name is rendered Iwulfe. Other entries, that are common to these three sets of Irish annals, allow the Annals of Ulster to fix the date of Indulf’s demise: 962. Interestingly, the Irish obit does not specifically say that Indulf was killed, only that he “died”.
As recorded by the Verse Chronicle, after Indulf’s death:
King Dub [Duf] reigned for four summers and a half; a son of Malcolm [Malcolm I], wielding royal authority.
Dub means ‘black’ in Gaelic. The Scottish Chronicle:
Niger [Latin for ‘black’] son of Malcolm ruled for 5 years.[*]
In 965 the Annals of Ulster reports that there took place:
A battle between the men of Alba themselves, in which many were killed, including Donnchad, i.e. the abbot of Dunkeld.
The Scottish Chronicle says that the battle was fought:
… between Niger [i.e. Dub] and Caniculus [Latin for ‘little dog’] upon the Ridge of Crup [Duncrub, Perthshire?]; and in it Niger had the victory. And there fell Duncan, abbot of Dunkeld, and Dubdon, lord [satrap] of Atholl.
Caniculus is Culen (Irish Cuilén = ‘little dog’), a son of Indulf, and he was evidently intent on wresting the throne from Dub. Although Dub had defeated Culen in battle, the next comment in the Scottish Chronicle states that Dub (Niger):
… was driven from the kingdom, and Caniculus [i.e. Culen] held it for a short time.
The Annals of Ulster report, s.a. 967:
Dub son of Malcolm [Dub mac Mael Coluim], king of Alba, was killed by the men of Alba themselves.
The Scottish Chronicle doesn’t mention Dub’s death, but List D says:
… he was killed in Forres, and hidden away under the bridge of Kinloss. But the sun did not appear so long as he was concealed there; and he was found, and buried in the island of lona.
And the Verse Chronicle:
Him the treacherous nation of Moray slew; he was slain by their swords in the town of Forres. The sun hid his rays while [Dub] lay hidden under a bridge, where he was concealed, and where he was found.
Although the Annals of Ulster place Dub’s death in 967 (the first entry for that year), it is widely supposed that the above accounts of Dub’s demise refer to an eclipse that occurred on 20th July 966.
Culen son of Indulf reigned for 4 years and six months …
Having recorded nothing of any consequence (obits etc.), the Scottish Chronicle entry for Culen’s reign concludes:
Culen and his brother, Eochaid, were slain by the Britons [of Strathclyde].
The Annals of Ulster place Culen’s death in 971 (no mention of Eochaid), and state he:
… was killed by the Britons in a battle-rout.
Whilst the Chronicon Scotorum says he:
… was killed by Britons, in a house on fire.
According to List D, Culen:
… was killed by Amdarch, Donald’s son, for the sake of his daughter, in Ybandonia.
And the Verse Chronicle reports that:
… he [Culen] was a foolish man. It is said that Radhard slaughtered him in the Lothians, because of the rape of his daughter, whom the king had carried off for himself.
The name Donald, father of Amdarch/Radhard, equates to the British name Dyfnwal. He is likely Dyfnwal ab Owain, king of Strathclyde.
Culen’s successor, in 971, was Kenneth (Kenneth II), the brother of, Culen’s predecessor, Dub. He is the last king listed by the Scottish Chronicle preserved in the Poppleton Manuscript:
Kenneth son of Malcolm reigned years. —
— He immediately plundered Britain in part. Kenneth’s foot-soldiers were slain with very great slaughter, in Moin Uacoruar. —
— The Scots plundered Saxonia [i.e. English Northumbria] to Stainmore, and to Cluiam, and to the lakes of Deranni. And Kenneth walled the banks of the fords of Forthin. After a year, Kenneth went and plundered Saxonia, and carried off the son of the king of the Saxons. It is he who consigned the great city of Brechin to the Lord.
At Stainmore (Stanmoir in the text), situated about the junction of the modern counties of Cumbria, County Durham and North Yorkshire, there is a broad break in the Pennines, known as the Stainmore Gap, which has been used to facilitate east-west travel since time immemorial. Cluiam and the lakes of Deranni have not been conclusively identified,[*] though, presumably, they are to be located to the north of Yorkshire. The “king of the Saxons”, that is, the king of the English, at this time was Edgar, and it is most unlikely that it was his son that Kenneth “carried off”. It seems much more likely that it was the son of one Eadwulf Evil-child who ruled Northumbria north of the Tees under Edgar.[*]
Florence of Worcester records a meeting at Chester, in 973, at which “8 petty kings … swore that they would be faithful to him [Edgar], and assist him by land and by sea”. Two of the “petty kings [subreguli]” are clearly identified: “Kenneth [Kynath], king of the Scots” and “Malcolm, king of the Cumbrians [i.e. of Strathclyde]”.[*] Florence proceeds to describe how Edgar took the helm whilst these eight rowed him on the river Dee. Although Florence’s report of the Chester meeting is couched in terms of submission to Edgar, modern scholars tend to present it as a ‘summit conference’ – an assembly of leaders where treaties were negotiated.[*]
According to an early-12th century Durham text, De Primo Saxonum Adventu, Eadwulf Evil-child, his colleague, Oslac, who governed “York and the districts pertaining to it” on behalf of Edgar, and Ælfsige, “who was bishop beside St Cuthbert”[*]:
… conducted Kenneth king of Scots to King Edgar. And when [Kenneth] had done him homage, King Edgar gave him Lothian; and with great honour sent him back to his own.
Roger of Wendover places his elaborated version of this event s.a. 975.[*] The context, however, is a look-back at Edgar’s career (975 being the year of his death), and most scholars link it to the meeting at Chester in 973:
… [Edgar] made him [Kenneth] many presents of his royal bounty; among the rest a hundred ounces of the purest gold, many ornaments of silk, rings, and precious stones. He gave him, moreover, the whole of the district called Lothian in the native tongue, on this condition, that every year, on particular festivals, when the king and his successors wore the crown, he should come to court and celebrate the festival with the other princes of the realm. The king gave him besides many mansions on the road, that he and his successors might find entertainment in going to the feast, and returning; and these houses continued to belong to the kings of the Scots until the times of King Henry the Second [r.1154–89].
Roger’s elaborations could simply be conjecture, but, be that as it may, the gift of Lothian – the land between the Forth and the Tweed – to Kenneth would, on the face of it, seem to be an extremely generous gesture on the part of Edgar. However, the indications are that the Scots had already taken control of the area, so it is perhaps more likely that Edgar was obliged to recognize the fact as part of a negotiated treaty.
In 977 (Annals of Ulster), Kenneth (Irish Cinaed) killed Olaf (Irish Amlaíb), the brother of Kenneth’s predecessor, Culen.[*] Irish annals, however, title Olaf, not Kenneth, ‘king of Alba’. Olaf, though, does not feature in any Scottish king-list. Clearly, he was Kenneth’s rival, and it is conceivable that he had, unrecorded, been ruling in part of Alba until this time.[*]
There follows seventeen years of silence regarding Kenneth, and then, s.a. 995, the Annals of Ulster report:
Kenneth son of Malcolm [Cinaed mac Mael Coluim], king of Alba, was deceitfully killed.
Scottish king-lists provide more detail:
And he [Kenneth] was killed by his own men in Fettercairn, through the treachery of Finuele, the daughter of Cunchar, mormaer of Angus. This Finuele’s only son had been killed by the aforesaid Kenneth at Dunsinnan.[*]
In 995, Kenneth II was succeeded by Constantine III, the son of his predecessor, Culen. Constantine ruled for only a year-and-a-half before he was killed in battle against a rival faction. The Annals of Tigernach simply say he “and many others” were slain.
List D provides a little more detail:
Costantine son of Culen reigned for 1 year and 6 months. And he was killed by Kenneth son of Malcolm, in Rathinveramon; and was buried in the island of Iona.
The purported agent of Constantine’s death, Kenneth son of Malcolm, is quite possibly the result of a scribal error. Kenneth son of Malcolm was, of course, the name of Constantine’s predecessor, Kenneth II, and whilst it is possible that Constantine just happened to be killed by someone else of the same name,[*] it seems more likely that the person responsible for his overthrow and death was the person who actually succeeded him, Kenneth II’s nephew, Kenneth son of Dub (Kenneth III).
In fact, the king lists fall into two camps: those that name Constantine’s successor Kenneth son of Dub, and those that name him Giric son of Kenneth son of Dub.[*] It is, however, odd for a king-list to give a name three generations long, and although Kenneth son of Dub features in Irish annals, the same is not true of, his supposed son, Giric. It would appear that the name of Giric, who ruled a century previously, has, in a common ancestor of the affected lists, been inadvertently attached to Kenneth son of Dub.[*] List F:
Giric son of Kenneth son of Dub [reigned] for 8 years. He was killed by the son of Kenneth [i.e. the son of Kenneth II ] in Monzievaird.[*] —
— and was buried in Iona.
The Annals of Ulster, s.a. 1005:
A battle between the men of Alba themselves, in which fell the king of Alba, i.e. Kenneth son of Dub [Cinaed mac Dub].
Nothing else is known about the eight year reign (997–1005) of Kenneth III.
Having killed Kenneth III, in 1005, Malcolm (Malcolm II), the son of Kenneth II, took the throne of Alba. List D:
Malcolm son of Kenneth, a most victorious king, reigned for 30 years.
The cryptic Irish poem known as the Prophecy of Berchán (apparently composed in the late-11th century) says of Malcolm:
Son of a Leinster woman, leap through battle, the blood-stained, the violent; enemy of Britons, destroying Foreigners [i.e. Vikings] …
He will conquer ten battles …
Stanzas 183 & 185
Though Malcolm was clearly remembered for his military prowess, there is little evidence of it in the surviving record of his reign.
The first reliable report relating to Malcolm is found in the Annals of Ulsters.a. 1006 – the year after he had usurped the throne. Perhaps eager to prove his worth, Malcolm led a large army into Northumbria. Unfortunately for him, however, the expedition did not go as planned, and the Scots were soundly defeated: The Siege of Durham.
In 1016, Cnut, the son of Swein Forkbeard, became king of England. In 1018, Malcolm, in cahoots with Owain the Bald, king of Strathclyde, fought a battle against the English on the Tweed.[*] This time, Malcolm was victorious: The Battle of Carham.
The Verse Chronicle in the Chronicle of Melrose notes that Malcolm had a daughter called Bethoc, who “was the wife of Abbot Crin”. Crin is Crinan, and he was abbot of Dunkeld. He and Bethoc had a son, Duncan.[*]
It would appear that Bethoc was not Malcolm’s only daughter. The Orkneyinga Saga (§13) – written c.1200, by an anonymous Icelandic author – maintains that Sigurd the Stout, earl (jarl) of Orkney:
… took to wife the daughter of Malcolm the Scot-king, and their son was Earl Thorfinn.
According to the Orkneyinga Saga (§11), Sigurd: “was a great chief and wide of lands. He held by main force Caithness against the Scots, and had a host out every summer. He harried in the Southern Isles [i.e. the Hebrides], in Scotland and Ireland.” Sigurd’s death, at the battle of Clontarf (near Dublin) in 1014, is recorded by the Annals of Ulster. At the time, says the Orkneyinga Saga, five-year-old Thorfinn was in the care of Malcolm. Sigurd had three older sons (not by Malcolm’s daughter) – Sumarlidi, Brusi, and Einar Wry-mouth – and they divided his “realm” (which, it is clear, included Shetland) amongst themselves.
“Then the Scot-king gave Thorfinn, his daughter’s son, Caithness and Sutherland and the title of earl, and set up men to rule the land with him. Earl Thorfinn was early in coming to his full growth, the tallest and strongest of men; his hair was black, his features sharp, and his brows scowling, and as soon as he grew up it was easy to see that he was forward and grasping.” (§14).
Sumarlidi soon dies. “After his death Earl Thorfinn claimed a share of the realm in the Orkneys. Einar said that Thorfinn had Caithness and Sutherland, that realm which their father had owned, and called it more than a trithing [i.e. a third-part] of the isles, and would not grant Thorfinn a share” (§14).
Brusi, an easy-going fellow, says he is happy with the third he already has, so Einar takes all of Sumarlidi’s third. When he is “grown up”, Thorfinn asks Einar to relinquish the third-part of the islands that is rightfully his. Einar does not respond, so Thorfinn sets off from Caithness to meet him in battle. Brusi negotiates a settlement, whereby Thorfinn gets the third he is due, but Einar and Brusi combine their thirds: “Einar was to have the leadership over them, and the wardship of the land. But if either of them died before the other, then that one of them who lived longer should take the lands after the other.” (§16).
According to the, Icelandic, Annales Reseniani (early-14th century), Einar was killed in 1020. The Orkneyinga Saga says that Thorfinn then demanded more of the isles, so that he and Brusi should each have half shares. Not surprisingly, Brusi is not happy at this prospect, but realizing he isn’t strong enough to resist Thorfinn, he turns to Olaf, king of Norway (Olaf II, St Olaf, r.1015–1028), for assistance. Thorfinn follows, to put his own case to the king. Olaf, however, reckons that the Orkneys are actually his property anyway. Thorfinn and Brusi end-up agreeing to recognize Olaf’s ownership of the Orkneys and Shetland, but they continue to rule their existing shares of the islands under Olaf’s overlordship.
“When those brothers came west to the Orkneys, Thorfinn and Brusi, then Brusi took two lots of the lands under his lordship, but Thorfinn a trithing. He was ever in Caithness and Scotland, but set up his men over the isles. At that time Brusi alone kept watch and ward over the isles. But in that time they were much warred on, for Northmen and Danes harried much in the west, sea-roving, and came often to the isles when they fared west, or from the west, and seized this or that ness. Brusi complained that Thorfinn had no force out to guard the Orkneys or Shetland, but kept the scatts [taxes] and dues all to his share. Then Thorfinn made him that offer, that Brusi should have a trithing of the lands, but Thorfinn two lots, and alone keep watch and ward over the land. But though this arrangement was not made all at once, yet at last this settlement came about, that Brusi had a trithing and Thorfinn two lots. This was when Cnut had rule in Norway, but Olaf had been forced to fly out of the land [1028–1030].… Earl Thorfinn had much strength from his kinsman the Scot-king; it was a great help to his power in the Orkneys that that strength was so near.” (§§21–22).
In 1017, Cnut had married Emma, King Æthelred’s widow and sister of Duke Richard II of Normandy. Rodulfus Glaber maintains that:
After this [i.e. his marriage to Emma] also the same Cnut set out with a very great army to subdue to himself the nation of the Scots; whose king was called Malcolm, powerful in resources and arms, and (what was most efficacious) very Christian in faith and deed. And when [Malcolm] knew that Cnut audaciously sought to invade his kingdom, he collected his nation’s whole army, and resisted him strongly, so that he should not succeed. And Cnut shamelessly prosecuted these claims for a long time, and vigorously; but at last, by persuasion of the aforesaid Richard, the duke of Rouen, and of [Richard’s] sister, he entirely laid aside all ferocity, for the love of God; became gentle, and lived in peace. Moreover also for friendship’s sake, having affection for the king of the Scots, he received [Malcolm’s] son from the holy font of baptism.
Historiarum Libri Quinque II, 3
If Rodulfus’ story is right, these events should be set between 1017 and 1026, when Duke Richard died. The only recorded encounter between English and Scottish forces during that period was at Carham in 1018, though it doesn’t seem unlikely that there were others unrecorded. If, as Rodulfus claims, Cnut stood as godfather to Malcolm’s son, the boy must have died before Malcolm.
Findlaech mac Ruaidri, mormaer of Moray, was killed by the sons of his brother Mael Brigte.
The Annals of Ulster simply say that Findlaech was “killed by his own people”, but, rather than “mormaer of Moray”, he is titled “king of Alba”. Findlaech wasn’t, of course, king of Alba, but he may well have been considered to be king in Moray. At any rate, he was evidently succeeded by one of his killers, his nephew, another Malcolm. The Annals of Ulster don’t give this Malcolm a title in his obit – he died, apparently peacefully, in 1029 – but the Annals of Tigernach call him “king of Alba”.[*] He was succeeded by his brother, Gilla Comgain. There is no notice of Gilla Comgain’s death in the Annals of Tigernach, but the Annals of Ulster place it s.a. 1032:
Gilla Comgain mac Mael Brigte, mormaer of Moray, was burned together with fifty people.
It doesn’t seem unreasonable to suppose that the agent of Gilla Comgain’s death was his successor, Findlaech’s son, Macbeth – who now submitted to Cnut, at which time he was accorded the title ‘king’ by the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.
According to the Chronicle of Huntingdon, Macbeth was a nephew or a grandson (the Latin nepos can mean either) of King Malcolm II. It is possible that Malcolm sheltered Macbeth after the sons of Mael Brigte killed his father. Malcolm may have seen the ambitious sons of Mael Brigte as a threat to his own position. The Annals of Ulster mention, s.a. 1027, that Dunkeld (where Malcolm’s son-in-law, Crinan, was abbot) “was totally burned”. Nothing else is said, and, of course, it could simply have been accidental, but it could also have been the result of warfare between Malcolm II and Malcolm of Moray.
The Annals of Ulster report that, in 1033, “the son of the son of”, i.e. the grandson of, a certain Boite son of Kenneth (Boite mac Cinaed) was killed by Malcolm son of Kenneth (Mael Coluim mac Cinaed).[*] Malcolm son of Kenneth, is King Malcolm II, but Boite could be either Malcolm’s own brother or a son of Kenneth III (whom Malcolm had killed to secure the throne for himself in 1005). Either way, this grandson of Boite was clearly posing a threat to Malcolm. Gilla Comgain of Moray had apparently made an alliance with Boite, by marrying his daughter, whose name was Gruoch. After Gilla Comgain’s death, Macbeth married Gruoch.[*]
The Annals of Ulster, s.a. 1034, simply state:
Mael Coluim mac Cinaed, king of Alba, died.
The Annals of Tigernach, however, grandiloquently announce:
Mael Coluim mac Cinaed, king of Alba, glory of the whole west of Europe, died.
Marianus Scotus says that Malcolm, whom he titles “king of Scotia” (an early use of the term Scotia for Alba), died on the 25th of November.[*] List D maintains that Malcolm:
… died in Glamis, and was buried in Iona.
Whilst the Verse Chronicle in the Chronicle of Montrose suggests Malcolm met a violent end:
… in the village of Glamis; he perished under foot, after laying low the enemy.
And a similar impression is given by the Prophecy of Berchán (Stanza 186):
[He will rule] Until the day he goes to battle in meeting with the kin-slayers; to a swift leap in the morning at the mountain …
Malcolm was succeeded by his grandson, Duncan. There are no indications that Duncan’s succession was opposed, and it is widely suggested that Malcolm’s motive for killing the grandson of Boite was to ensure Duncan’s smooth succession.
Identified as an Irish word meaning ‘Swordland’. Alistair Moffat (Britain’s Last Frontier, 2012, Chapter 7) writes: “Swordland, or Claideom … appears to have been attached to the narrow neck of land between the foothills of the Grampian ranges and the sea at Stonehaven. The name must have denoted, as it did in Ireland, an area of regular dispute, a place of conflict.”
Identified as Blervie, near Forres, by James B. Brichan: “It is the place at which Fordun and other chroniclers affirm that King Malcolm I was slain by the men of Moray, and whose name they variously spell Ulum, Ulurn, Ulrim, Ulroun, Ulerin, and Uleryn.” (Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Vol. 2, 1859.)
Note: the notion, propagated by the Scottish chronicler John of Fordun, that Strathclyde was by this time a sub-kingdom of Alba, ruled by the heir to the throne of Alba, has been rejected (see Constantine II).
In the Latin text, the title is comes. Comes (from which the English ‘count’) is often employed by Latin-writers to represent the vernacular titles used for the rank immediately below king. At this time, the English rank was ‘ealdorman’, the Scandinavian ‘earl’ (Old Norse jarl), and the Scottish ‘mormaer’.
In the Latin text, the highlighted phrase is Classi[s] somarlidiorum. Latin classis = ‘a fleet’. Old Norse sumarliði = ‘summer-farer’, i.e. a man of Scandinavian descent who indulges in Viking activity during the summer months. So classis somarlidiorum = ‘a fleet of Vikings’.
Presumably it is to Indulf’s annexation of Edinburgh that the Prophecy of Berchán is referring (Stanza 162): “it is an addition to her [Alba’s] territory she will receive, from a foreign land, by might.” It would appear from the same source (Stanza 161) that it was not only the English whom Indulf bested: “Woe to Britons [of Strathclyde] and Saxons during his time, during the reign of the champion of fine weapons”.
Unless Alex Woolf is correct. He suggests that the notice of the Scots’ take-over of Edinburgh was later inserted into an original statement that read: “Indulf held the kingdom for 8 years and was slain by a fleet of Vikings in Buchan.” The mangled grammar produced by the insertion being wrongly sorted-out by a later copyist, to produce the record that now exists.
Indulf, as it is traditionally written, is an unusual name. It appears in the Scottish Chronicle as Idulfus, which is a Latinized rendering of the Gaelic Idulb. Benjamin T. Hudson proposes that Idulb is a Gaelic variant of the Anglo-Saxon name Eadulf (i.e. Eadwulf), and suggests that Idulb’s maternal grandfather may have been the Eadwulf who ruled English northern Northumbria from Bamburgh, and died in 913 (see Grandsons of Ivar). The most widely held view, however, seems to echo A.O. Anderson, who notes that Indulf: “seems to have borne a Scandinavian name (Indulf: probably = Danish Hildulf).” Alex Woolf, though, suggests that Ildulb (as Dr Woolf prefers to render the name) was the son of Constantine II who was baptized when the latter met with Athelstan, the English king, at Eamont – precisely dated 12th July 927 (see King of All Britain) – and that he was named after a certain St Hildulf (also known as St Hidulf; d.c.707), the Bavarian founder of a monastery at Moyenmoutier, Lorraine, whose feast-day is 11th July.
The Verse Chronicle says: “After him [i.e. Malcolm I], Indulf [Indulfus] reigned for the same number of years [i.e. nine*]; he was the son of Constantine, Aed’s son. Fighting in battle at the mouth of the river Cullen, he perished immediately by the swords of the Danes.”
* The Verse Chronicle allots Malcolm I a reign of nine years, as does List D (ix = 9). The Scottish Chronicle, however, assigns eleven years, and this latter figure appears to be correct (xi = 11).
A satrap was the governor of a province in ancient Persia.
The highlighted phrase appears in Lists F and I only. The rest of the material is in Lists D, F, G and I.
The names Finuele and Cunchar are rendered in various spellings.
The section dealing with Dub’s rule is written in rather playful Latin.
In the text this sentence looks something like:
Culenrı-g. v. a-.r-g-
The bars above some letters indicate abbreviations. The sentence expands as: Culenring v anni regnavit = ‘Culenring reigned for 5 years’
It may be recalled that A.O. Anderson suggested that the name of Culen’s father, Indulf, was Scandinavian, and he also writes: “This form of Culen’s name [i.e. Culenring] is probably corrupt. Nevertheless it is possible that -ring was a Scandinavian epithet (hringr)”. This latter notion seems to have gained some traction amongst modern writers, but it receives no substantiation from any other source, and, indeed, just a few words later in the Scottish Chronicle the name appears as simply Culen. Alex Woolf comments: “A number of explanations are possible and none certain, but we should be very cautious of following the crowd and presuming the rather imaginative Hringr.”
Rendered Laudonia in List F (Innes), but Laodana in List F (Harl.), Laodonia in List G, and Laddonia in List I.
Moin Uacoruar is how Marjorie O. Anderson reads this name. A moin is a ‘moss’, i.e. bog or swamp. Benjamin T. Hudson reads moin ua Cornari, and he, like William F. Skene a century earlier, reckons this particular moss to be adjacent to the river Cornie, which enters the Forth at Abercorn (in modern-day West Lothian). Most scholars, however, leave the place unidentified.
Both Benjamin T. Hudson and Alex Woolf identify the lakes of Deranni as Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite Lake, however, such evidence as there is tends to place these, at this time, in the territory of the Strathclyde Britons.
It is popularly supposed that these are the Fords of Frew, that cross the Forth about half-a-dozen, crow flying, miles upstream of Stirling.
It is evident that, by 927, the Strathclyde Britons had extended their territories south of the Solway Firth, to the river Eamont (just below Penrith), which is on the border of the traditional English counties of Cumberland (to the north) and Westmorland. In 1974, Cumberland and Westmorland (with a part of Lancashire) were merged to form the new county of Cumbria. Originally, though, ‘Cumbria’ was synonymous with ‘the kingdom of Strathclyde’. Whilst the name Strathclyde, i.e. ‘Valley of the Clyde’, is geographically derived, the names Cumbria (Latinized) and Cumberland (English) are derived from the ethnicity of its people. They come from the Britons’ own name for themselves – in modern Welsh, Wales is Cymru (pronounced: Cum-ri), and the Welsh are Cymry (also pronounced: Cum-ri) – and simply mean ‘Land of the Britons’.
Ann Williams asserts: “twelfth-century writers had their own agenda. Their accounts of the meeting at Chester must be linked with the attempts of the Norman kings to impose their suzerainty on the other rulers of Britain, especially the Scottish kings … Stripped of its twelfth-century accretions, the meeting of 973 begins to look less like an imperial durbar and more like a conference of the ‘Great Powers’ to sort out their numerous interlocking disagreements.”
The Annals of Ulster, s.a. 975, state: “Domnall mac Eógan, king of the Britons, died on pilgrimage”. The vernacular Welsh annals, the Brut y Tywysogion, do not mention his death, but do report his pilgrimage: “Dunwallon, king of Strathclyde, went to Rome.”
Benjamin T. Hudson suggests that the Scottish Chronicle could be referring to: “the giving of a hostage prior to the meeting [at Chester in 973] of Kenneth with the English monarch Edgar”.
Oslac is absent from Roger’s story.
Whilst Marjorie O. Anderson suggests that a scribe had, “no doubt by attraction” to Giric son of Dungal, earlier in the list, erroneously attached the name Giric to Kenneth son of Dub, A.A.M. Duncan offers another explanation.[*] He draws attention to the absence of a personal name given to the son of Kenneth II said to have killed Giric son of Kenneth son of Dub, and suggests that Giric son of Kenneth II may have “delivered the fatal blow” to Kenneth son of Dub (Kenneth III), but the common element ‘son of Kenneth’ has caused a scribe to erroneously transfer the name Giric from the killer to his victim. Professor Duncan identifies this hypothetical Giric son of Kenneth as the brother of Malcolm son of Kenneth (Malcolm II), who succeeded Kenneth III, and supposes he was acting on his brother’s behalf, hence it is Malcolm who is named as Kenneth III’s killer not only in the Verse Chronicle and List K but also by the Chronicon Scotorum.
The idea floated by Alex Woolf, that Olaf was Kenneth’s “predecessor in the kingship, who was later airbrushed out of official histories” is, surely(?), too far-fetched. However, since it is Olaf who is called ‘king’ by the Annals of Ulster, Annals of Tigernach, Chronicon Scotorum and Annals of Clonmacnoise, any scribal error would have to be in an ancestor chronicle.
Olaf is a Norse name, and one supposes his mother was of Viking stock.
John says that the kings “had hitherto reigned in entangled disorder”, but, in fact, since c.889 the succession had alternated between the descendants of two sons of Kenneth MacAlpin: Constantine and Aed.
Up to 975, Vikings might also be called ‘gentiles’ (i.e. heathens) by the Annals of Ulster. After 975, the term ‘gentiles’ is no longer used.
Maccus’ death is not recorded. He was apparently alive in 984 – the Annals of Inisfallen (written by a single hand up to 1092) refer to “sons” (plural) of Harald. Since Maccus evidently ruled the Islands before Guthfrith, his death was before 989. Modern writers often list Maccus and Guthfrith as rulers of the Isle of Man, but there is no link between a son of Harald and Man before the battle fought there in 987 (two years before Guthfrith’s death). In Njál’s Saga (13th century, Icelandic, anonymous), Guthfrith is portrayed as the “king of Man”. Two of Njáls sons take part in two summer raiding expeditions, two years apart, mounted from Orkney (Chapters 86 & 89). On both occasions their Viking band defeats Guthfrith, and on the second occasion a son of Guthfrith is killed.
There is a river in Lothian also called the Almond (it joins the Firth of Forth at Crammond, to the west of Edinburgh), which also has a Roman fort adjacent to its mouth. John of Fordun (IV, 34) places Constantine’s death on this river Almond. The cryptic Irish poem known as the Prophecy of Berchán (apparently composed in the late-11th century), however, indicates that it was the Almond that flows into the Tay: “He will fight a great battle in Alba, at an insult to his face he will change colour; his cattle-pound of battle will be his, at the stream called the Tay.” (Stanza 176).
Constantine’s immediate successor has been omitted from Lists D and N, but the other king-lists that include historical notes – Lists F, G, I, K and the Verse Chronicle copied into the Chronicle of Melrose – name him Giric son of Kenneth son of Dub. In Lists G and I, the name Giric is rendered Grig; in F (Innes) Girgh, F (Harl.) Girus; K Grige. In the Verse Chronicle, however, it appears as Grim, and this form is taken up by John of Fordun (who evidently had access to the Chronicle of Melrose), though he mainly spells it Gryme. In John’s scheme of things, it was Constantine and Gryme who were the principal instigators of the plot against Kenneth II, which resulted in the latter’s murder by Finele.
Excluding Lists L and M, which are somewhat confused at this time, the other king-lists that have no historical notes – Lists B, C, E and H – name Constantine’s successor Kenneth son of Dub.[*]
In the Duan Albanach, an Irish versified Scottish king-list, Constantine’s successor is simply “the son of Dub”.
John of Fordun alleges (IV, 34) that this Kenneth son of Malcolm, “a soldier of known prowess”, was the illegitimate brother of Kenneth II.
It is sometimes suggested that Kenneth may have shared the kingdom with his son. This idea, though, which is not supported by any source, seems unnecessarily contrived.
Kenneth is actually one of the few kings that List D does not claim was buried on Iona – his burial place is not mentioned at all. List N, however, which includes abridged versions of the historical notes in List D, states: “And he [Kenneth] is buried in the island of Iona.”
Monzievaird (near Crieff) is the modern name of the place where Kenneth III was killed. In List F (Innes) the name appears as Moeghanard – small spelling variations from that in List F (Harl.), List G and List I – which, the Verse Chronicle suggests (Latin bardorum campus), stands for magh mbard = ‘plain of the bards’. That this place is now Monzievaird is made clear by the Prophecy of Berchán: “his bloody grave between two valleys, not far from the banks of the Earn.”
At Jelling, on the Jutland peninsula in Denmark, are runestones erected by Harald Bluetooth and his father, Gorm. The smaller stone reads: “King Gorm made this monument in memory of Thyra, his wife, Denmark’s adornment.” The larger stone reads: “King Harald ordered this monument made in memory of Gorm, his father, and in memory of Thyra, his mother; that Harald who won for himself all of Denmark and Norway and made the Danes Christian.”
It does not seem credible that Duncan, a king of Alba who had been dead for fourteen years, would be referred to, somewhat cryptically, as “the king of the Cumbrians”. Alex Woolf writes: “Were we not influenced by William’s reading and the subsequent elaboration of it we should probably infer two things. One, that the king of the Cumbrians alluded to was still alive and reigning [in 1054], and two, that Mael Coluim [i.e. Malcolm], his son, had some claim to Albanian royal blood, probably, like Donnchad [i.e. Duncan], through his mother. The most likely scenario is that Mael Coluim’s mother was another daughter of Mael Coluim II. Possibly his father was that Owain the Bald who had fought at Carham in 1018, or his immediate successor.”
It is widely suggested that Owain the Bald and Owain ap Dyfnwal are one and the same, and that the report of the latter’s death in Welsh annals is a misplaced reference to his death in the battle of 1018. The sources (such as they are), however, give no indication that Owain the Bald was killed in the battle, though it is true that his death is otherwise unrecorded.
The, anonymous, late-11th or early-12th century tract De Obsessione Dunelmi (On the Siege of Durham) mentions that Uhtred, earl of Northumbria (Malcolm’s opponent at the siege of Durham and the battle of Carham), gave his daughter, Ealdgyth, in marriage to “Maldred son of Crinan tien”, where tien is believed to mean ‘thegn’. In his Celtic Scotland: A History of Ancient Alban Vol. 1 (1876), Chapter 8, footnote 18, William F. Skene states: “There seems no reason to doubt that Maldred was a son of this same Crinan who was the father of Duncan”. Many scholars have followed Skene in supposing that Duncan and Maldred were brothers or half-brothers, and it is possible that they were, but it is, at least, equally possible that they were not.
In reality, Malcolm ap Dyfnwal, king of Strathclyde (titled “king of the northern Britons” by the Annals of Ulster) died in 997. John of Fordun, though, says (IV, 33) that “about the twentieth year” of Kenneth II, which would be c.989 by John’s reckoning, Malcolm son of Dub (Dub being Kenneth’s older brother), who was ruling Strathclyde, died and was replaced by Kenneth’s own son, Malcolm.
The title ‘mormaer’ is the Scottish equivalent of the English ‘ealdorman’ and the Scandinavian ‘earl’.
Findlaech is “Finnleik, the Scot-earl”, whose defeat in Caithness by Sigurd the Stout, earl of Orkney, features in the Orkneyinga Saga (§11).
A.A.M. Duncan – in Scotland: The Making of the Kingdom (1975), Chapter 5, footnote 25 – suspects that scribal error has added an extra ‘the son of’ (in the manuscript this is represented by the abbreviation m– ), which has turned ‘the son of Boite son of Kenneth’ into ‘the grandson of Boite son of Kenneth’.
In the Register of the Priory of St Andrews (as it survives in British Library, Harleian MS 4628, 18th century), Macbeth’s wife is called “Gruoch daughter of Boite”. Lulach (of whom more later) is described in the Annals of Ulster (s.a. 1058) as “son of Gilla Comgain”, and in the Poppleton Manuscript list of Scottish kings (List E) as “nepos of the son of Boite”. Reading nepos as ‘nephew’, can make Gruoch the mother of Lulach. (If Macbeth, Gilla Comgain, Gruoch and her mysterious brother, “the son of Boite”, are all the same generation, then it seems less likely that a son of Gilla Comgain would be a grandson, rather than a nephew, of Gruoch’s brother.) Taking account of this, seemingly rather nebulous, evidence and later events, it is generally accepted that Macbeth’s wife, Gruoch daughter of Boite, was first married to Gilla Comgain, by whom she had a son, Lulach.
The ‘Saga of Olaf Haraldsson’ extracts are translated by Alison Finlay and Anthony Faulkes (Heimskringla Vol. 2). The prose rendition of Sighvat’s verse is by Dorothy Whitelock (English Historical Documents).
Marianus Scotus believed the conventionally accepted date of the Incarnation to be twenty-two years too late, so Malcolm’s death, in 1034, is dated 1056 by Marianus.
Some scholars* have argued that this Malcolm son of Mael Brigte is a more likely candidate than Malcolm II for “Malcolm the Scot-king” in the Orkneyinga Saga. A fundamental problem with this identification, however, is that Sigurd the Stout must have married the daughter of “Malcolm the Scot-king” by 1008 at the latest, but Malcolm son of Mael Brigte did not seize power in Moray until 1020.
* For instance, Timothy Bolton The Empire of Cnut the Great (2009), Chapter 5.
The body of St Cuthbert (bishop of Lindisfarne, d.687) would eventually end up at Durham. According to the traditionally accepted church of Durham origin-story, the body was at Chester-le-Street from 883 until 995, but there is evidence to suggest this may not have been the case. See St Cuthbert’s Journey to Durham.
s.a. = sub anno = ‘under the year’.
John of Fordun’s Chronica Gentis Scotorum (Chronicle of the Scottish Nation) is the earliest full-scale history of Scotland – from legendary origins to the year 1153 in five books. John would appear to have composed his chronicle in the mid-1380s – in the concluding passages of Book V, there is reproduced a genealogy of King David I (r.1124–1153) that the writer says he got from Walter Wardlow, bishop of Glasgow, to whom he gives the title Lord Cardinal of Scotland, which would only be appropriate for the period 1384–1387.
The main manuscript of the Prophecy of Berchán (Royal Irish Academy MS 23 G 4) was copied in 1722 from a copy that had been produced in 1627. As a rule, the kings featured in the poem are not actually named, but in most instances there are sufficient clues to identify who is being written about.
Most king-lists pertaining to Scotland are referred to by a letter of the alphabet (from A to N, the letter J is not used). List A is actually the Scottish Chronicle, plus the list of Pictish kings that leads up to it, in the Poppleton Manuscript. List D was, its prologue indicates, composed around 1180 (though it stops at 1058), but it survives in a manuscript of c.1500 (National Library of Scotland MS Advocates’ 34.7.3). List D is the earliest of a group of Latin lists (the others being F, G and I) that, from the unification of the kingdoms of the Picts and the Scots by Kenneth MacAlpin, include brief notes concerning the manner of the kings’ deaths. For the remainder of this webpage, it can be assumed that the information conveyed by Lists F, G and I corresponds with List D, unless otherwise indicated.[*]
Other lists related to List D, that will not be mentioned unless they have something particular to offer, are List K and List N. List N includes abridged versions of the historical notes found in List D. In List K, notes similar to those in List D are rendered in 14th century French.[*]
From Pictland to Alba, 789–1070 (2007), Chapter 5.
A set of annals related to the Annals of Tigernach, surviving in a 17th century copy.
Note 56 to his translation of the Scottish Chronicle, published in The Scottish Historical Review Vol. 77.2 (1998).
Early Sources of Scottish History A.D. 500 to 1286, Vol. 1 (1922), Page 475, Note 6.
In his edition and translation of the Scottish Chronicle, published in The Scottish Historical Review Vol. 77.2 (1998).
Celtic Scotland: A History of Ancient Alban Vol. 1 (1876), Chapter 7.
In her edition of the Scottish Chronicle published in ‘Kings and Kingship in Early Scotland’ (Revised Edition, 1980).
‘An Outing on the Dee: King Edgar at Chester, AD 973’, in Mediaeval Scandinavia Vol. 14 (2004).
Note 78 to his translation of the Scottish Chronicle, published in ‘Scottish Historical Review’ Vol. 77.2 (1998).
Gesta Regum Anglorum (Deeds of the Kings of England).
List F extends to 1251. It survives in two 18th century copies – one printed in Thomas Innes’ Critical Essay on the Ancient Inhabitants of the Northern Parts of Britain (1729), and one in manuscript form (British Library, Harleian MS 4628). List G extends to 1286. It is in a 14th century manuscript (British Library MS Cotton Vitellius A xx). List I was composed c.1290. The manuscript (in Bodleian Library MS Latin Misc. C. 75) seems to be 14th century.
List K, which concludes with mention of an event of 1292, appears in the Scalacronica (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 133), a chronicle that a Northumbrian gent, Sir Thomas Gray, undertook to compose whilst a prisoner in Edinburgh Castle. Sir Thomas had been captured by the Scots after the battle of Nesbit Moor in 1355. List N (in British Library, Harleian MS 1808) concludes with mention of an event of 1306.
List B and List C (in two versions) are of Irish provenance. They conclude with Malcolm III, who is given no reign-length, which suggests that their source was composed before 1093.
List E is the king-list that follows the Scottish Chronicle in the Poppleton Manuscript.
List H, which was evidently originally compiled between 1281 and 1286, is found in an early-14th century Peterborough copy of a chronicle once attributed to John of Eversden (Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 92).
In about 1650, Irish scholar/scribe Dubhaltach Mac Fir Bhisigh included the Duan Albanach (Scottish Poem) – which was evidently composed during the reign of Malcolm III (1058–1093) – in his Leabhar Genealach (Book of Genealogies). This is the earliest surviving, and best, copy of the Duan Albanach.
Marjorie O. Anderson, Kings and Kingship in Early Scotland, Revised Edition (1980), Chapter 2.
A.A.M. Duncan, The Kingship of the Scots, 842-1292: Succession and Independence (2002), Chapter 2.
The Gesta Hammaburgensis Ecclesiae Pontificum (Deeds of Bishops of the Hamburg Church) was written between 1072 and 1076, though Adam continued to revise it until his death c.1081.
Most king-lists pertaining to Scotland are referred to by a letter of the alphabet (from A to N, the letter J is not used). List D was, its prologue indicates, composed around 1180 (though it stops at 1058), but it survives in a manuscript of c.1500 (National Library of Scotland MS Advocates’ 34.7.3). List D is the earliest of a group of Latin lists (the others being F, G and I) that, from the unification of the kingdoms of the Picts and the Scots by Kenneth MacAlpin, include brief notes concerning the manner of the kings’ deaths.
From Pictland to Alba, 789–1070 (2007), Chapter 6.
‘Early Sources of Scottish History A.D. 500 to 1286’, Vol. I (1922).
A collection of sagas chronicling the kings of Norway, written in Old Norse, by Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson, c.1230.
The, so-called, Chronicle of Huntingdon was produced in 1291, by the canons of St Mary’s, Huntingdon, in response to a demand made by Edward I of England, for historical information about the relations between English and Scottish kings. The original manuscript is in The National Archives, Kew (E 39/100/170), but is not completely legible.
The Irish monk and hermit Mael Brigte, known as Marianus Scotus, according to his own testimony, was born in 1028 and left Ireland in 1056. He lived on the Continent until his death in 1082/3, at Mainz. He compiled a chronicle, encompassing the whole known world, from the Creation to the end of his own days.
Burgundian monk Rodulfus Glaber (the Bald) wrote his Historiarum Libri Quinque (Five Books of Histories) during the period c.1030–c.1046.