Poppleton Manuscript

The Poppleton Manuscript is a 14th century codex (Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale MS Latin 4126) named from one Robert of Poppleton, on whose orders it was compiled at York. It contains, amongst other items, seven consecutive short texts relating to early Scotland:

  1. De Situ Albanie – a geographical tract. The writer cites Andrew, bishop of Caithness, as a source. The bishop died in 1184, but his death isn’t indicated by the text, which might tend to suggest it was composed during his lifetime.
  2. Cronica de origine antiquorum Pictorum – a confused, rambling, treatise purporting to explain the origins of the Picts (and, indeed, the Scots), which is mainly recycled from the Etymologiae of Isidore of Seville (d.636).
  3. A list of kings of the Picts – beginning with the, supposed, founding father of the nation, and continuing until the Scots of Dál Riata, in the person of Kenneth MacAlpin, gained control in the 9th Century.
  4. The, so-called, Scottish Chronicle (also known as the Chronicle of the Kings of Alba) – a list of kings of the combined kingdom of Picts and Scots, i.e. Alba (that would become known, in English, as Scotland), accompanied by a brief chronicle of their rule, beginning with Kenneth MacAlpin (Kenneth I) and ending with Kenneth II (r.971–995). A blank, left for the later insertion of Kenneth II’s reign-length, would seem to suggest that the Chronicle was originally compiled during his reign.
    (Items 2, 3 and 4 are sometimes grouped together as the Pictish Chronicle.)
  5. A list of Scottish kings – beginning with Fergus son of Erc, who allegedly founded the Scottish (i.e. Irish) kingdom of Dál Riata in Britain c.500, and continuing up to King William I of Scotland (r. 1165–1214), whose entry has a blank for his reign-length. This leads into:
  6. Genealogy of King William I. William is remembered as William the Lion (apparently because he chose to use a lion rampant as his coat of arms), however, the Poppleton Manuscript, in both his genealogy and De Situ Albanie, calls him William Rufus.
  7. A version of the St Andrews foundation legend.

It would appear that this collection of Scottish material (items 1–6 anyway) was gathered together during the reign of King William I, probably by the author of De Situ Albanie, and perhaps before the death of Bishop Andrew in 1184. Minor scribal errors suggest the collection was transcribed at least once before being copied into the Poppleton Manuscript.

In fact the Chronicle calls the combined kingdom of Picts and Scots Pictavia, i.e. Pictland, until the 7th king, Constantine II (r.900–943, d.952), when the term Albania, i.e. Alba, comes into use.