The main part of the Chronicle of Melrose, which survives in British Library MS Cotton Faustina B ix, begins in 731 (picking up where Bede, in his ‘Ecclesiastical History’, left off), and ends, mid sentence at the end of a leaf, during an entry dated 1270. In fact, it had long been thought that this was the full surviving extent of the Chronicle, but in 2002 another part, including entries covering the years from 1 to 249, was discovered in British Library MS Cotton Julius B xiii.
Melrose Abbey was founded by Cistercian monks from Rievaulx Abbey, Yorkshire, at the behest of King David I of Scotland, in 1136.[*] The Chronicle of Melrose was created in 1173/4 (compiled mainly from English sources, and concluding with the murder of Thomas Becket at the end of 1170). Subsequently, until c.1290, it was intermittently updated and modified – more than 40 of Melrose’s scribes making additional contributions to the compilation.[*] Round-about the 1250s, one of those scribes copied the so-called Verse Chronicle – a list of Scottish kings accompanied by chronicle notes, starting with Kenneth MacAlpin, rendered in Latin elegiac couplets – into margins and spaces at appropriate places in the existing chronicle. In terms of manuscript date, the Verse Chronicle is the earliest surviving Scottish king-list.