FROM DOT TO DOMESDAY Early Medieval The Birth of Nations: Wales The Birth of Nations: England
The Birth of Nations: SCOTLAND pt.2 *
the 8th Century
Nechtan son of Derelei had apparently been king of the Picts since 706. The Pictish king-list in the Poppleton Manuscript presents an orderly line of succession: Nechtan son of Derelei is granted a 15 year reign; then “Drest and Elpin reigned together 5 years”; which is followed by the 30 year reign of Onuist son of Uurguist – who is generally known by the Irish version of his name, Oengus son of Fergus. Entries in Irish annals, however, present a much more complicated sequence of events. The ‘Annals of Tigernach’ (‘AT’), in an entry corresponding to the year 724, report that Nechtan was “made a cleric”, i.e. he retired into religion. Later events suggest this may not have been his own idea! He was superseded as king by Drest. In 725, Drest's son was imprisoned – perhaps by Nechtan's supporters, since the next year Nechtan himself was imprisoned by Drest. In that same year (i.e. in 726), Drest was expelled from the kingship, and replaced by Elpin. In 728, in a battle “between the Picts themselves”, at a site called Monid Croib (identified as Moncreiffe Hill, near Perth), Elpin suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Oengus (i.e. Onuist). Later the same year, in a “lamentable battle between the Picts”, at an unidentified site called Caislen Credi (Castle of Credi), ‘AT’ reports that: “Elpin was routed, and deprived of all his territories and people”.  What isn't quite so clear, however, is who defeated him. The phraseology used by the ‘Annals of Ulster’ (‘AU’) in its equivalent entry – the battle “was fought between the same parties” – suggests it might have been Oengus, but, whoever it was, ‘AT’ concludes its entry: “and Nechtan son of Derelei, took the kingship of the Picts.”  It is possible that, at this stage, Oengus was acting on behalf of Nechtan. However, two decisive encounters, in 729, would apparently see Oengus emerge as winner of this five-year Pictish power struggle. ‘AT’, which has preserved the most detail of these events, surprisingly, has no reference to the first encounter, but ‘AU’ records: “The battle of Monid Carno [unidentified] near Loch Loogdae [probably Loch Lochy] between the hosts of Nechtan and the army of Oengus, and Nechtan's exactors fell ... [three individuals are named] ... and many others; and the adherents of Oengus were triumphant.”  In the second encounter, at the battle of Druim Derg Blathuug [unidentified], Drest was defeated and killed by Oengus – on the twelfth of August says ‘AT’. The conventional understanding, then, is that, having defeated the forces of Nechtan and Drest, Oengus became king of the Picts in 729. Nechtan, however, did not die until 732 (‘AT’), and the notice of the battle of Monid Carno given by ‘AU’ could be interpreted as indicating that, here too, Oengus was fighting on behalf of Nechtan, rather than against him.*
Meanwhile, unnoticed by chroniclers, what is now Dumfries & Galloway, in south-western Scotland, had been taken from the Britons by the Northumbian English. Bede mentions that at the time he was completing the ‘Ecclesiastical History’, i.e. in 731, Whithorn had only recently become the seat of a Northumbrian bishop. In his summary of “the state of all Britain”, with which he concludes his narrative, Bede writes: “The Pictish people also at this time are at peace with the English nation, and rejoice in having their part in Catholic peace and truth with the universal Church. The Scots that inhabit Britain, content with their own territories, devise no plots nor hostilities against the English nation. The Britons, though they, for the most part, as a nation hate and oppose the English nation, and wrongfully, and from wicked lewdness, set themselves against the appointed Easter of the whole Catholic Church; yet, inasmuch as both Divine and human power withstand them, they can in neither purpose prevail as they desire; for though in part they are their own masters, yet part of them are brought under subjection to the English.” (‘HE’ V, 23)
When the Britons of Strathclyde adopted the Catholic Easter is nowhere recorded, but it was not adopted by the Britons of Wales until 768.
Oengus son of Fergus was evidently not a young man when he rose to power – he had a son, Bridei, old enough to lead an army against a certain Talorc son of Congus, “who was put to flight” in 731. Perhaps Talorc found refuge with, and gained the support of, Dúngal son of Selbach, chief of the Cenél Loairn (the ‘tribe’ of Dál Riata after whom the district of Lorn, in Argyll, is named), who had been ejected from the kingship of Dál Riata in 726. In 733, Dúngal violated the sanctuary of Tory Island (off Donegal) to capture a Bridei – presumably Oengus' son. Later the same year, Dúngal was superseded as chief of his ‘tribe’ (in fact, ‘AU’ and ‘AT’ use the phrase: “kingship of Cenél Loairn”) by Muiredach son of Ainbcellach. Muiredach would appear to have become king of Dál Riata before the year was over. The next year, ‘AU’ s.a. 734: “Talorc son of Congus was held captive by his brother, handed over to the Picts, and drowned by them... Dún Leithfinn [an unidentified fortress] is destroyed after the wounding of Dúngal, and he fled to Ireland from the power of Oengus.”
Not featured at all in the ‘Annals’, but indicated by king-lists to have ruled about this time, is a king of Dál Riata called Alpin. Marjorie O. Anderson suggests that this Alpin is the same as the Elpin, king of the Picts, who was put to flight in 728. Dr Anderson proposes that, whilst Muiredach son of Ainbcellach, of the Cenél Loairn, was recognized as king by part of the Dál Riata, Alpin was “a representative of the Cenél nGabráin” (his claim to the Pictish throne being via his mother) and “he was acknowledged king by some part of the Dál Riata.”  Dr Anderson also wonders whether Alpin and Talorc had the same Pictish mother (she suggests a sister of Nechtan son of Derelei), and if Alpin was the (half)brother who turned Talorc over to the Picts.
It seems that drowning was a method of execution favoured by the Picts. In 734 a Talorcan son of Drostan, evidently another rival/enemy of Oengus, was captured near Dún Ollaig (Dunolly), in Lorn. ‘AU’ s.a. 739: “Talorcan son of Drostan, rex Athfoitle [king of, the Pictish region of, Atholl], was drowned, that is, by Oengus.”
‘AU’ reports, s.a. 736: “Oengus son of Fergus, king of the Picts, laid waste the territory of Dál Riata and seized Dún At [Dunadd] and burned Creic [unidentified] and bound in chains two sons of Selbach, that is Donngal [presumably Dúngal is meant] and Feradach”.
Seemingly, Oengus' son, Bridei, had previously been released from his captivity, since the ‘Annals’ note that “shortly afterwards” Bridei “died” (so presumably of natural causes).
And in the same year (736) there took place the “battle of Cnoc Cairpri in Calathros at Etarlinde [an unidentified site] between Dál Riata and Fortriu” – Fortriu being the region of Pictland traditionally, though not certainly, equated to Strathearn with Menteith (see previously) – in which the Picts, commanded by Oengus' brother, Talorcan, routed “the son of Ainbcellach”, i.e. Muiredach, king of Dál Riata, and his army: “many nobles falling in this encounter”.  Five years later, i.e. s.a. 741, ‘AU’ records: “The smiting of the Dál Riata by Oengus son of Fergus.”  The indications are that Oengus took control of Dál Riata.* He also seems to have set his sights on the Strathclyde Britons. Symeon of Durham notes (‘HR’) that, in 744: “A battle was fought between the Picts and the Britons.”  No further detail is given. However, s.a. 750, ‘AU’ reports: “The battle of Catohic between Picts and Britons, in which Talorcan, son of Fergus and brother of Oengus, fell.”  This same battle is also reported by the ‘Annales Cambriae’, which grants Talorcan the title ‘king’. The A-text names the battle-site Mocetauc, which is identified as Mugdock, to the north of Glasgow.
The defeat of his brother in 750 appears to mark the turning point in Oengus' fortunes. A later, brief, entry for that year in ‘AU’ is variously translated: “Ebbing of the sovereignty of Oengus.”  Or: “End of the reign of Oengus.”*  Since he was still king of the Picts six years later, this comment may well signify that Oengus had lost his grip on Dál Riata.
The ‘Continuation of Bede’ (a set of annals covering the period 732–766 found in a number of manuscripts of the ‘Ecclesiastical History’) reports that Æthelbald, king of Mercia – Mercia being Northumbria's southern neighbour – had, in 740: “wrongfully wasted part of Northumbria, their king, Eadberht, with his army, being employed against the Picts.”*  The same source records that, a decade later (in 750), Eadberht, king of Northumbria, captured territory from the Strathclyde Britons: “Eadberht added the plain of Kyle [in modern-day Ayrshire] and other places to his dominions.”*  A few years later, in 756, Eadberht and Oengus (called Unust by Symeon of Durham), as allies, marched on Alt Clut, i.e. Dumbarton Rock, stronghold of the kings of the Strathclyde Britons. The Britons capitulated on 1st August. However, Symeon seems to say that most of Eadberht's army were killed, on the 10th August, whilst on their march home. Presumably they had been ambushed – but, if so, by whom? The Strathclyde Britons would seem the obvious candidates, but the ‘Continuation of Bede’, recording the death of Oengus, in 761, observes that: “from the beginning to the end of his reign, [Oengus] continued to be a blood-stained and tyrannical butcher”.  Possibly Oengus had double-crossed Eadberht.
Scotland's association with St Andrew probably dates from the reign of Oengus son of Fergus (c.729–761).
The St Andrews foundation legend exists in several variants, the earliest of which (known as Version A) seems to have been produced c.1100. Although the details vary, the nub of the gist is that one Regulus (St Regulus, also known as St Rule) brought certain relics of St Andrew – specified as three fingers of the right hand, a humerus, a tooth, and a knee-cap in Version B of the legend (which seems to have been produced in the mid-12th century) – to the land of the Picts. (Version B says that Regulus harvested St Andrew's relics, on the instructions of an angel of course, at Petras, in Greece, in the year 345. The story is seemingly set about a century later in Version A, and Regulus hails from Constantinople.) Previously, St Andrew, in spirit, had struck a deal with the king of the Picts, who was away on campaign (against a “king of the Saxons” called Athelstan in Version B, but the Britons in the earlier, shorter, less elaborate, Version A). The saint secured victory for the king of the Picts (Version B's Saxon king, Athelstan, gets beheaded). The king of the Picts met with Regulus, and fulfilled his side of the bargain, founding a large estate dedicated to St Andrew, centered on a place originally called Muckross, but Kilrimont in the 12th century (later, St Andrews), which was to be the site of the premier church in the kingdom.
The king of the Picts in the legend is called Oengus son of Fergus (rendered Ungus son of Urguist in Version A; Hungus son of Ferlon in Version B). Scholars generally accept that beneath the fictional embroidery lurks the kernel of truth that St Andrews was, indeed, founded by Oengus son of Fergus. There are, however, two Pictish kings of that name: Oengus I, who died in 761, and Oengus II, who died in 834 (the date of neither historical Oengus being compatible with the legendary Oengus). Oengus II is identified as the founder of Kilrimont (St Andrews) in some Pictish king-lists, but ‘AU’, s.a. 747 announces: “Death of Tuathalán, abbot of Cenrigmonaid [Kilrimont].”  Plainly, then, there was a monastery at, what would become, St Andrews in the middle of the reign of Oengus I.*
A magnificent church, dedicated to St Andrew, had been built at Hexham, in Northumbria, in the 670s. In 731, Acca, bishop of Hexham, was, for unknown reasons, expelled from his see. He was never reinstated, but when he died, in 740, his body was buried at Hexham. Writing just before the bishop's expulsion, Bede notes (‘HE’ V, 20) that Acca: “enriched the structure of his church, which is dedicated in honour of the blessed Apostle Andrew with manifold adornments and marvellous workmanship. For he gave all diligence, as he does to this day, to procure relics of the blessed Apostles and martyrs of Christ from all parts, and to raise altars in their honour in separate side-chapels built for the purpose within the walls of the same church.”  It seems reasonable to propose that it was Bishop Acca, the noted relic collector, who took the supposed bones of St Andrew to Pictland, during the period 731–740, and that he was, in effect, responsible for the foundation of Kilrimont.
According to tradition, St Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross. Hector Boece (‘Scotorum Historia’ Book X, first published in 1527), in his highly elaborated telling of the supposed confrontation between Hungus (who equates to Oengus II here) and Athelstan, states: “They write that a wonderful thing then occurred above the Pictish camp: a bright cross appeared, resembling that cross on which the apostle Andrew once suffered punishment for the name of Christ, and that the apostle showed this to Hungus and told him that this vision would not disappear from the sky until he had gained the day.”(§20).  The battle was fought and Athelstan was killed – Boece says the battle-site was subsequently called Athelstaneford. Athelstaneford is a real place, about 20 miles east of Edinburgh, and its name is no doubt the reason the battle is placed there in Boece's yarn, but in Version B of the legend the action takes place near the mouth of the Tyne. Anyway, after the Picts' victory: “at Hungus’ urging, they promised that henceforth they and their posterity would use the cross of St Andrew as their emblem whenever they had to go forth to battle, to attest their gratitude for this noble victory, won by divine aid. This remained the constant custom of the Picts and, after their extermination, of the Scots.”(§22).
Oengus, king of the Picts, was succeeded on his death, in 761, by his brother, Bridei (Bruide in Irish). Bridei died in 763 – he is titled ‘king of Fortriu’ by ‘AU’ and ‘AT’.* Bridei was succeeded by Ciniod (Cinaed in Irish) son of Uuredech. ‘AU’ reports, s.a. 768: “A battle in Fortriu between Aed and Cinaed.”  Since the battle was fought in Fortriu, the implication is that it was the Scots – the Aed in question being Aed son of Eochaid, also known as Aed Find (‘the Fair’ or ‘the White’), king of Dál Riata – who attacked the Picts, but the outcome of the engagement is not recorded. ‘AU’ calls Ciniod “king of the Picts” in his obit, s.a. 775. It would seem that Aed was remembered for his sound government – the ‘Scottish Chronicle’ in the Poppleton Manuscript says that “the rights and laws of the kingdom of Aed son of Eochaid” were adopted, almost a century later, in the united kingdom of Picts and Scots (during the reign of Donald son of Alpin, 858–862). Aed died in 778. He was succeeded by his brother, Fergus, who died in 781. From this point onwards the sequence of kings of Dál Riata becomes very uncertain. Scottish king-lists (i.e. lists of kings of Dál Riata) for the period are found in two Irish texts: a late-11th century versified king-list, the ‘Duan Albanach’, and the ‘Synchronisms’ attributed to the Irish scholar Flann Mainistrech, who died in 1056 (but no manuscript of the ‘Synchronisms’ is earlier than the 14th century). The ‘Duan Albanach’ provides reign lengths but no patronymics; the ‘Synchronisms’ patronymics but no reign lengths. Straight away there is a difficulty. The ‘Duan Albanach’ allots a twenty-four year reign to a Domnall – he was “son of Constantine” say the ‘Synchronisms’. Domnall does not appear in ‘AU’, and his supposed reign length is not compatible with entries that are in ‘AU’. Further, as will become apparent, if he really was the son of Constantine, it is not credible that he could have ruled so early.
According to the Pictish king-list in the Poppleton Manuscript three kings ruled between Ciniod son of Uuredech and one Canaul son of Tarl'a.* ‘AU’ reports that, in 789, there occurred: “A battle between the Picts, in which Conall son of Tadg was defeated and escaped; and Constantíne was victor.”  An entry for the next year notes: “The battle of Conall and Constantine is entered here in other books.”  Conall son of Tadg, presumably, equates to Canaul son of Tarl'a. Constantine son of Uurguist (Uurguist = Fergus in Irish) is the next king in the Poppleton's Pictish list.*
The death of “Donncoirce, king of Dál Riata” is placed in 792 by ‘AU’. He is the last individual to be titled ‘king of Dál Riata’ in ‘AU’, but he is not listed by either the ‘Duan Albanach’ or the ‘Synchronisms’.
‘AU’ makes a brief but ominous announcement s.a. 794: “Devastation of all the islands of Britain by gentiles.”  The Vikings had arrived on the scene.
‘AU’ does not use the term Vikings – usually these Scandinavian pirates are termed ‘gentiles’ (i.e. heathens) or ‘foreigners’. Evidently it was, predominantly, Vikings from Norway who, en route for Ireland, established settlements in the Orkney and Shetland Islands, Caithness and Sutherland, and the Western Isles.* The Orkney and Shetland Islands were Norwegian dependencies until 1472.
Church settlements provided rich and easy pickings. Vikings are said to have burned St Columba's monastery on Iona in 802, and in 806: “The community of Iona, to the number of 68, was killed by the gentiles.”  And in 825 there occurred: “The violent death of Blathmac son of Flann at the hands of the gentiles in Iona of Colum Cille [St Columba].”  A ‘Life’ of Blathmac, an Irish warrior turned monk, was written, in Latin verse, by Walafrid Strabo (d.849), abbot of Reichenau (an island in the western arm of Lake Constance, south-western Germany). The Vikings are said to have slaughtered Blathmac's companions “with mad savagery”. They attempted to force Blathmac to “give up the precious metals wherein lie the holy bones of St Columba” – the monks having previously buried Columba's shrine to hide it from them – but Blathmac said he didn't know where the gold they were seeking was concealed, and if he did he wouldn't tell them, as a result of which he “was torn limb from limb”.
the 9th Century: the Emergence of the Kingdom of Alba
‘AU’ reports, s.a. 807, that Conall son of Tadg was killed in Kintyre (in Dál Riata) by Conall son of Aedán. The ‘Duan Albanach’ and the ‘Synchronisms’ list two adjacent Conalls – the first called Conall Caemh and the second “another Conall, his brother” in the ‘Synchronisms’ – the first given a reign length of two years, the second four years, in the ‘Duan Albanach’. Conall son of Tadg and Conall son of Aedán are generally equated to the two listed Conalls, by which token it would appear that, having been ousted as king of the Picts in 789/90, Conall son of Tadg became king of the Scots of Dál Riata c.805–807.
The death of Constantine son of Fergus, king of the Picts (his obit titles him ‘king of Fortriu’), is placed s.a. 820 in ‘AU’. Constantine's successor in the Poppleton king-list (evidently his brother) is Onuist son of Uurguist – Oengus son of Fergus, in Irish nomenclature. ‘AU’ places the death of Oengus son of Fergus s.a. 834 (he too is titled ‘king of Fortriu’). Following Onuist (Oengus) in the Poppleton list is the joint rule, for 3 years, of a son of Constantine, called Drest, and one Talorcan son of Uuthoil (neither of whom feature in ‘AU’). The next listed king is Uuen son of Onuist – Eoganán son of Oengus in Irish. ‘AU’ reports that, in 839, Vikings (“gentiles”) defeated the Picts (“the men of Fortriu”) in battle: “and Eoganán son of Oengus, Bran son of Oengus, Aed son of Boanta, and others almost innumerable fell there.”
In fact, Constantine son of Fergus, Oengus son of Fergus and Eoganán son of Oengus, all kings in the Pictish list, also feature as kings in the Scottish lists of the ‘Synchronisms’ and, without patronymics, the ‘Duan Albanach’ – as, indeed, does Aed son of Boanta:
The nine years of Constantine [son of Fergus] the fair;
The nine of Oengus [son of Fergus] over Alba;
The four years of Aed [son of Boanta] the noble;
And the thirteen of Eoganán [son of Oengus].
‘Duan Albanach’ Verse 19 (of 27)
Clearly, this chronological scheme is difficult to reconcile with the evidence of ‘AU’.
Some scholars accept that Constantine, Oengus and Eoganán, kings of the Picts, were also kings of Dál Riata.* Others, however, reckon that those three Pictish kings have been wrongly intruded into the Scottish lists.* Either way, it would appear that both the Picts and the Scots of Dál Riata lost their king, in the same battle against Vikings, in 839.
The Pictish king-list in the Poppleton Manuscript records the reigns of two kings, totaling four years, after the reign of Uuen son of Onuist – Eoganán son of Oengus in Irish nomenclature, whose death, at the hands of Vikings, the ‘Annals of Ulster’ (‘AU’) place s.a. 839 – at which point the king-list as such ends and a new text, designated the ‘Scottish Chronicle’ (‘SC’), begins: “So Kenneth [Kinadius] son of Alpin, first of the Scots, ruled this Pictland [Pictavia] prosperously for 16 years. Pictland was named after the Picts, whom, as we have said, Kenneth destroyed. For God deigned to make them alien from, and void of, their heritage, by reason of their wickedness; because they not only spurned the Lord's mass and precept, but also refused to be held equal to others in the law of justice.+ Two years before he came to Pictland, he had received the kingdom of Dál Riata. In the seventh year of his reign, he transported the relics of Saint Columba to a church that he had built [probably at Dunkeld].* And he invaded England [Saxonia] six times; and he burned Dunbar and seized Melrose [both of which were in Northumbria]. But the Britons [of Strathclyde] burned Dunblane, and the Danes wasted Pictland as far as Clunie and Dunkeld. He finally died of a tumour, before the Ides of February on the third day of the week, in the palace of Forteviot.“  The death of Kenneth (Cinaed in Irish) son of Alpin – he is commonly called Kenneth MacAlpin – is placed in 858 by ‘AU’ (the Tuesday before the Ides of February in 858 was the 8th of February). According to ‘SC’, then, he would have become king of the Picts in 842.
Whilst the Poppleton Manuscript lists two kings – the first reigning three years, the second one year – between Eoganán son of Oengus and Kenneth MacAlpin, some other Pictish king-lists, for instance the one quoted by John of Fordun, allot one month, rather than one year, to the second king in the Poppleton's list (which would place his reign in 842), but then record a further three kings, reigning for a combined six years, in that period. This might suggest that Kenneth, in fact, faced stiff opposition and did not secure control of all the Picts until about 848. ‘SC’ seems to add substance to this notion, since his first recorded deed is in the seventh year of his kingship of the Picts.
‘SC’ implies that Kenneth became king of the Scots of Dál Riata in 840. Surviving Scottish king-lists are in a state of disarray immediately prior to Kenneth assuming the throne. According to a late-11th century versified (in Irish) Scottish king-list, the ‘Duan Albanach’, Kenneth succeeded Eoganán son of Oengus in Dál Riata (which is tolerably possible, since Eoganán's obit is placed s.a. 839 by ‘AU’), and he reigned for thirty years (not compatible with ‘AU’). Another Irish source (which does not provide reign lengths), the ‘Synchronisms’ attributed to the scholar Flann Mainistrech, who died in 1056 (but no manuscript of the ‘Synchronisms’ is earlier than the 14th century), places Kenneth's father, Alpin son of Eochaid, after Eoganán son of Oengus, then another, unidentified, Eoganán after Alpin, and then Kenneth (which is possible if Alpin and the unknown Eoganán had brief reigns).* Other, Latin, Scottish king-lists, for instance that in the Poppleton Manuscript, seem to grant Kenneth's father, Alpin son of Eochaid, a three year reign immediately before Kenneth (who is given a sixteen year reign). However, this is a false impression created by a textual corruption, in the document from which the lists in question are descended, whereby some kings' reigns have been reordered and others dropped entirely, so that the Alpin who ruled in Dál Riata a century earlier (according to the ‘Synchronisms’, also “son of Eochaid”), appears as Kenneth's immediate predecessor. The reconstituted list, presents Kenneth's father, Alpin son of Eochaid, as the grandson of Aed Find, the king of Dál Riata whose obit ‘AU’ places in 778. (In fact, Alpin and this Eochaid are in a block of four kings who have been moved so that they appear after, rather than before, Aed Find.) Aed Find's father, another Eochaid, is presented as the “son of Domangart [d.673], son of Domnall Brecc [d.642]”. This Eochaid's death is s.a. 697 in ‘AU’. The same sequence – Alpin son of Eochaid, son of Aed Find, son of Eochaid, son of Domangart, son of Domnall Brecc – appears in the pedigree of Kenneth MacAlpin's great-great-great-grandson, Constantine son of Culén, king of Alba (often called Constantine III of Scotland) 995–997. It doesn't seem unreasonable to suspect that the king-list has been purposely manipulated to manufacture a suitable royal pedigree for Kenneth.*
Some versions of the corrupt Latin list (e.g. List D) have a note that says Alpin: “was killed in Galloway, after he had entirely destroyed and devastated it.”  A particular version of the corrupt list, that has been translated into 14th century French, amplifies this story, saying: “He [Alpin] was killed in Galloway, after he had destroyed it, by a single man who lay in wait for him in a thick wood overhanging the entrance of the ford of a river, as he rode among his people.”*  A different account of Alpin's demise is found in the, late-13th century, ‘Chronicle of Huntingdon’: “In the year from the Lord's Incarnation eight hundred and thirty-four, the Scots fought with the Picts on the festival of Easter. And many of the noblest of the Picts fell. And thus Alpin, king of the Scots, was the conqueror; and he was so exalted with pride because of it that [another] battle was [fought] by [them] on the thirteenth of the Kalends of August [i.e. on the 20th of July] in the same year; and he was conquered by the Picts, and killed. His son Kenneth [succeeded to his father's kingdom].”*
‘AU’ preserves records made at the time the events were happening, and of Alpin there is no mention at all (apart from Kenneth and his brother, Donald, being called “son of Alpin”). Marjorie O. Anderson reckons that Alpin's appearance in the ‘Synchronisms’ is sufficient evidence that Kenneth's father was, indeed, a king of Dál Riata. Dr Anderson suggests the year 834 in the ‘Chronicle of Huntingdon’ account (and the reign-length it proceeds to allot Kenneth), was “most probably deduced by the use of faulty regnal lists”, but argues that: “The succinct and exactly dated statement of Alpin's death, on the other hand, reads like an entry from annals or a regnal chronicle. Month-and-day dates are used occasionally in Irish annals of the ninth century, especially for obits of kings and ecclesiastics as well as for natural phenomena... We may probably accept that there was an early written account of Alpin's death at the hands of the Picts.”  Not all scholars, however, are inclined to give the story in the king-lists or in the ‘Chronicle of Huntingdon’ the benefit of the doubt – Alfred P. Smyth, for instance: “these sources say little to reassure us. Alpín's reign was probably invented to lend respectability to Kenneth.”
The ‘Chronicle of Huntingdon’ continues with an outline Kenneth MacAlpin's career: “And in the 7th year of his reign [840/41] – when Danish pirates had occupied the shores, and with the greatest slaughter had destroyed the Picts who defended their land – Kenneth passed over into, and turned his arms against, the remaining territories of the Picts; and after slaying many, drove [the rest] into flight. And so he was the first of the Scots to obtain the monarchy of the whole of Albania [i.e. Alba], which is now called Scotia [Scotland]; and he first reigned in it over the Scots. In the 12th year of his reign [845/46] he fought seven times in one day with the Picts, destroyed many, and confirmed the kingdom to himself; and he reigned for 28 years.”*  Presumably(?), the “Danish pirates” who “had destroyed the Picts” equate to the “gentiles” who inflicted a heavy defeat on “the men of Fortriu”, dated 839 by ‘AU’. The ‘Chronicle of Huntingdon’, though, seems to imply that Kenneth was in collusion with the Vikings, or, at least, took advantage of their attack. The ‘Huntingdon’ story also adds further substance to the idea, hinted at by ‘SC’ and Pictish king-lists, that it took Kenneth a number of years to overcome all the regions of Pictland.*
In fact, the ‘Chronicle of Huntingdon’ is not alone in placing Kenneth MacAlpin in a position of power in Dál Riata during the mid-830s. A late Irish source, the ‘Annals of the Four Masters’ (compiled in the 1630s) has an entry s.a. 835 (though other entries in that annal belong to 836) which states that: “Gofraid son of Fergus, chief of Oirghialla [in northern Ireland], went to Alba, to strengthen Dál Riata, at the request of Cinaed son of Alpin.”  Gofraid is an Irish rendition of the Norse name Guthfrith. His father has an Irish name, so Guthfrith appears to be of mixed Norse/Irish blood. The ‘Four Masters’ place Guthfrith's death s.a. 851, but this time call him “chief of the Innsi Gall [‘Islands of Foreigners’ – Foreigners being Vikings – i.e. the Hebrides]”.*
Some scholars apparently accept the ‘Four Masters’ at face value – for instance, Peter E. Busse states: “Cinaed mac Ailpín began his rise to power with the assistance of Norse allies in AD 836... and he took advantage of a Viking massacre of Dál Riata in 839 to seize their kingship in 840.”  Alex Woolf, on the other hand, persuasively argues that the entries concerning Guthfrith are spurious: “The pedigrees created for Clann Donald in the later middle ages, like many Gaelic genealogical tracts stretch far back into prehistoric times. The earliest figure in these pedigrees for whom there is secure historical evidence is Somerled son of Gillebrigte who was killed near Renfrew in 1164. One other figure in the pedigree has been possibly identified as an historical figure however.This is Gofraid son of Fergus who appears at six, seven or eight places above Somerled in different versions of the pedigree. The seventeenth-century compilation of Irish chronicles known as the Annals of the Four Masters contains two references to this man who is otherwise absent from the chronicles... These entries are problematic on a number of counts. First, Gofraid is a Norse name and Fergus a Gaelic name. This would seem to suggest a man of mixed descent with some authority in a landlocked territory Oirghialla (roughly Fermanagh, Tyrone and Monaghan) already in the early ninth century. This seems remarkably early for such close Norse–Irish relations. It is also rather earlier than we should expect Cinaed [son of Alpin] to be active since the first entry predates the battle of 839 in which Áed son of Boanta, king of Dál Riata was slain. It should also be noted that the second entry contains the term ‘Innsi Gall’, not otherwise attested before 989 and almost certainly anachronistic at this period.  The rest of the pedigree makes it clear that Gofraid’s father Fergus was the son of one ‘Erc’, which makes it likely that he was imagined as Fergus mór mac Erc, the legendary fifth-century founder of Dál Riata. In sum the pedigrees look very much like the product of fourteenth-century propagandists from Clann Donald who sought to make the Lords of the Isles kinsmen of the kings of Scots and the annalistic entries later concoctions produced with the same aim.”
According to a cryptic Irish poem known as the ‘Prophecy of Berchán’ (apparently composed in the late-11th century):
He [Kenneth MacAlpin] is the first king from the men of Ireland in Alba who will take kingship in the east; it will be after strength of spear and sword, after sudden death, after sudden slaughter.
The fools in the east [i.e. the Picts] are deceived by him, they [the Scots] dig the earth, mighty the occupation; a deadly goad-pit, death by wounding, on the floor of noble-shielded Scone.
Stanzas 122–123
Norman-Welsh cleric and scholar Giraldus Cambrensis, in his ‘De Principis Instructione’ (On the Instruction of a Prince), written close-12th/opening-13th century, evidently shines further illumination on the alleged incident to which the ‘Prophecy’ is alluding: “They [the Scots] brought together as to a banquet all the nobles of the Picts, and taking advantage of their perhaps excessive potation and gluttony of both drink and food, they noted their opportunity and drew out the bolts which held up the boards; and [the Picts] fell into the hollows of the benches on which they were sitting, [caught] in a strange trap up to the knees, so that they could never get up; and [the Scots] immediately slaughtered them all, tumbled together everywhere and taken suddenly and unexpectedly, and fearing nothing of the sort from allies and confederates, men bound to them by benefits, and companions in their wars. And thus the more warlike and powerful nation of the two peoples wholly disappeared; and the other, by far inferior in every way, as a reward obtained in the time of so great treachery, have held to this day the whole land from sea to sea, and called it Scotland after their name.” (I, 18).
The ‘Synchronisms’ note that Kenneth MacAlpin was: “the first king from among the Gaels [i.e. Scots] that assumed the kingdom of Scone.”  This seems to imply that Scone (about 2 miles to the north of Perth) was the Pictish ‘capital’. Certainly, Scone became an important royal centre – the place where kings of Alba (Scotland) were inaugurated, sitting on the famous Stone of Scone – but the main royal residence of the kings of the Picts at the time that Kenneth MacAlpin secured the throne would appear to have been at Forteviot (some 5½ miles south-west of Perth).
The Stone of Scone in place beneath the Coronation Chair, in Westminster Abbey.
The Stone of Scone, also known as the Stone of Destiny, is the subject of many legends, both ancient (it is purported to have been Jacob's pillow – as mentioned in Genesis) and modern (it disappeared for four months after it was taken from the Coronation Chair, by nationalist students from Glasgow University, on Christmas Day 1950 – some say that the stone which was returned is a fake). The sandstone block is supposed to have been brought to Britain, from Ireland, by Fergus son of Erc, purported founder of Dál Riata in Britain, for his coronation, and then moved to Scone by Kenneth MacAlpin for his own coronation. The Stone, famously ‘stolen’ by Edward I of England in 1296 (or was it? another yarn says the stone that Edward took was actually one used to secure a cesspit cover), was returned to Scotland in 1996. It is displayed at Edinburgh Castle.
In fact, it was the Scots' kingdom of Dál Riata that disappeared in the first instance. Kenneth is titled ‘king of the Picts’ in his ‘Annals of Ulster’ (‘AU’) obit, as are his three successors in the combined kingdom of Scots and Picts. It is not until the year 900 that the title ‘king of Alba’ – originally, Alba was the Irish name for the whole island of Britain – makes its first appearance in ‘AU’ as a replacement for the designation ‘king of the Picts’. Similarly, the ‘Scottish Chronicle’ in the Poppleton Manuscript (‘SC’) uses the term Pictavia (Pictland) until 900, and then the term Albania (Alba) appears. Inexorably, however, the language and customs of the Scots superseded those of the Picts. The Picts, that is to say ‘Pictish identity’, eventually faded into history – the Picts, in effect, became Scots. The mid-12 century English chronicler Henry of Huntingdon comments: “The Picts, however, have entirely disappeared, and their language is extinct, so that the accounts given of this people by ancient writers seem almost fabulous. Who will not mark the difference between the devotion to heavenly and the pursuit of earthly things, when he reflects that not only the kings and chiefs, but the whole race of this heathen people have utterly perished; and that all memory of them, and, what is more wonderful, their very language, the gift of God in the origin of their nation, is quite lost.” (‘HA’ I, 8).
Kenneth MacAlpin (Kenneth I) died at “the palace of Forteviot” (‘SC’) in 858 (‘AU’), and “was buried in the island of Iona, where the three sons of Erc, to wit, Fergus, Loarn and Oengus, were buried” (List D).
“Cinaed son of Alpin, king of the Picts, died. It was of him that the quatrain was said:
Because Cinaed with many troops lives no longer
there is weeping in every house;
there is no king of his worth under heaven
as far as the borders of Rome.”
Kenneth's obit in the, so-called, ‘Three Fragments’ (or ‘Fragmentary Annals of Ireland’).
Kenneth was succeeded by his brother Donald (Donald I, Domnall in Irish), who ruled for four years. Donald may have been Kenneth's half-brother – the ‘Prophecy of Berchán’ calls Donald (though, as usual, he is not actually named): “the rash son of the foreign wife.”  Had Donald's father, Alpin, taken a Norse wife to cement an alliance with a Viking leader?  ‘SC’ mentions that: “In his [Donald's] time, the Gaels [i.e Scots] with their king made the rights and laws of the kingdom of Aed son of Eochaid, at Forteviot.”  Aed, son of Eochaid (also known as Aed Find), king of Dál Riata, died in 778. ‘SC’ seems to be saying that the laws of Dál Riata, as defined during Aed's rule, were imposed in the newly integrated kingdom of Picts and Scots. The ‘SC’ entry concludes with the remark: “He [Donald] died in the palace of Cinnbelathoir on the Ides of April [i.e. the 13th of April].”  According to the, so-called, ‘Verse Chronicle’, as copied into the ‘Chronicle of Melrose’, Donald died, was perhaps murdered, at Scone, whilst ‘Berchán’ says he died: “of a single attack of a disease.”*
Donald “king of the Picts” died in 862. He was succeeded by his nephew, Kenneth's son, Constantine (Constantine I). ‘AU’ reports that, in 866: “Amlaíb and Auisle went with the foreigners [i.e. Vikings] of Ireland and Alba to Fortriu, plundered the entire Pictish country and took away hostages from them.”  The ‘Three Fragments’ version of this entry reads: “The Norwegians laid waste and plundered Fortriu, and they took many hostages with them as pledges for tribute; for a long time afterwards they continued to pay them tribute.”  ‘SC’ reports the same event: “Amlaíb, with his gentiles [i.e. heathens], wasted Pictland, and dwelt in it, from the Kalends of January to the feast of Saint Patrick [i.e. from the 1st of January to the 17th of March].”*
Around this time there were three Viking kings operating from Ireland: Olaf (Amlaíb in Irish), Ivar (Ímar in Irish) and Auisle (which is the Irish form of this individual's name – it probably equates to the name rendered Eowils in Old English).
Amlaíb would appear to have been the senior figure. He first arrived on the scene in 853 – ‘AU’ reports: “and the foreigners [i.e. Vikings] of Ireland submitted to him, and he took tribute from the Irish.” Amlaíb is frequently equated with Olaf the White, of Scandinavian tradition. The Icelandic ‘Landnámabók’ (Book of Settlements), probably originally compiled in the early-12th century, states (II, 15): “Olaf the White harried in the West-viking [i.e. the British Isles], and conquered Dublin in Ireland, and Dublinshire, and was made King over it.”  The, mid-13th century Icelandic, ‘Eyrbyggja Saga’ says (Chapter 1): “Ketill Flatnose [Norse ruler of the Hebrides] gave his daughter Aud [Aud the Deep-minded] to Olaf the White, who at that time was the greatest war-king West-over-the-sea”.
Ímar is possibly the Ivar who was a leader of the “great heathen army” that invaded England in the autumn of 865 – in Scandinavian tradition, he is Ivar the Boneless, a son of Ragnar Lothbroc (Hairy-breeches). There are no annalistic clashes that would prevent the Ímar in Ireland and the Ivar in England from being one and the same, but the record is so inconclusive that such identifications must necessarily be exercises in speculation.
The ‘Three Fragments’ (a source noted for its fancifully elaborated narratives) say that Amlaíb, Ímar and Auisle were brothers: “Auisle was the least of them in age, but he was the greatest in valor, for he outshone the Irish in casting javelins and in strength with spears. He outshone the Norwegians in strength with swords and in shooting arrows. His brothers loathed him greatly, and Amlaíb the most; the causes of the hatred are not told because of their length.”
A group of warriors called the Gall-Gaedhil (‘Foreign-Gaels’) make a fleeting appearance in Irish annals – in ‘AU’ only s.a. 856 and s.a. 857 (and also the following year in the ‘Chronicon Scotorum’). The ‘Three Fragments’ asserts that they were native “Scots”, i.e. Gaels – Irish-speakers: “who had forsaken their baptism, and they used to be called Northmen, for they had the customs of the Northmen, and had been fostered by them, and though the original Northmen were evil to the churches, these were much worse, these people, wherever in Ireland they were.”  Modern scholars, however, are inclined to doubt the word of such a late and fancy-prone source. Rather than apostate natives, it is widely supposed that the term Gall-Gaedhil refers to people of mixed Scandinavian/Gael blood.* ‘AU’ reports that, in 857: “Ímar and Amlaíb inflicted a rout on Caittil Find and his Gall-Gaedhil in the lands of Munster.”  Caittil Find is a hybrid name – Caittil being an Irish rendition of the Norse name Ketill, and Find being Irish for ‘the Fair’ or ‘the White’. Some writers have equated Caittil Find with Ketill Flatnose of saga tradition.* It is widely believed that the name of Galloway, in south-west Scotland, is derived from the term Gall-Gaedhil – but there is no reason to suppose it was the warriors featured in Irish annals who, having flitted across the entries of only three years in the 850s, then settled in the area and gave it its name.*
‘AU’ states, s.a. 867: “Auisle, one of three kings of the gentiles, was killed by his kinsmen in guile and parricide.”
According to the ‘Three Fragments’, Auisle had visited Amlaíb: “This is what he said: “Brother,” he said, “if your wife, i.e. the daughter of Cinaed [Kenneth], does not love you, why not give her to me, and whatever you have lost by her, I shall give to you.”  When Amlaíb heard that, he was seized with great jealousy, and he drew his sword, and struck it into the head of Auisle, his brother, so that he killed him.”  If the Cinaed mentioned, whose daughter was married to Amlaíb, is Kenneth MacAlpin, then Amlaíb and Constantine were brothers-in-law. However, as has been already noted, Scandinavian tradition has it that Olaf the White was married to Aud the Deep-minded.
Dumbarton Rock.
‘AU’, s.a. 870, records: “The siege of Ail Cluaithe [Dumbarton Rock, stronghold of the kings of the Strathclyde Britons] by the Northmen; that is, Amlaíb and Ímar, two kings of the Northmen, laid siege to the fortress and at the end of 4 months they destroyed and plundered it.”  According to the ‘Three Fragments’: “the Norwegian kings besieged Srathclyde in Britain, camping against them for four months; finally, having subdued the people inside by hunger and thirst – the well that they had inside having dried up in a remarkable way – they attacked them. First they took all the goods that were inside. A great host was taken out into captivity.”  The following year, ‘AU’ s.a. 871: “Amlaíb and Ímar returned to Áth Cliath [Dublin] from Alba with two hundred ships, bringing away with them in captivity to Ireland a great prey of English and Britons and Picts.”  Amlaíb disappears from ‘AU’ at this point. ‘SC’ has it that he was killed by Constantine in the third year of the latter's reign (864/5), which is plainly impossibly early. The meaning of the text is not certain either, but it may be that ‘SC’ says Amlaíb was slain whilst “drawing tribute”.* If Amlaíb had, indeed, been killed in the British Isles it is, perhaps, remarkable that no Irish source recorded the event. In fact, the ‘Three Fragments’, indicating the year 871, say: "Amlaíb went from Ireland to Norway to fight the Norwegians and help his father, Gofraid [Guthfrith], for the Norwegians were warring against him, his father having sent for him."
In Scandinavian tradition, however, Olaf the White is not synonymous with Olaf son of Guthfrith. Alfred P. Smyth suggests that in historical reality they were one and the same man, but the story of the Norwegian and the Irish phases of his career developed separately: “so that eventually Icelandic historians concluded there had been two different Olafs in question.”  According to the ‘Landnámabók’ (II, 15): “He [Olaf the White] married Aud the Deep-minded, the daughter of Ketill Flatnose. Thorstein the Red was their son. Olaf fell in battle in Ireland [“but that was a guess inspired by the known fact that he ruled from Dublin”, asserts Alfred P. Smyth], and Aud and Thorstein went thence to the Hebrides; there Thorstein married Thurid, the daughter of Eyvind the Easterner, and sister of Helgi the Lean; they had many children ... Thorstein became a war-lord [of which more shortly]”.
In 872, two years after his fortress on Dumbarton Rock had been destroyed by Amlaíb and Ímar, ‘AU’ reports that: “Artgal, king of the Britons of Strathclyde,+ was killed at the instigation of Constantine son of Cinaed.”  ‘AU’ doesn't say where Artgal was at the time he was slain. He may have been captive in Dublin, and it may be that Constantine bought his slaughter to prevent any possibility of him returning and thwarting his own plans for Strathclyde. Artgal was evidently succeeded by his son Rhun, whose wife (name unknown) was Constantine's sister. It seems reasonable to suppose that Rhun ruled Strathclyde as Constantine's subordinate.
‘AU’ states, s.a. 873: “Ímar, king of the Northmen of all Ireland and Britain, ended his life.”
By 874, Viking forces had methodically conquered all but one of the English kingdoms – only Wessex, ruled by Alfred the Great, remained independent. Late in 874, a section of the Viking army, led by Ivar's brother, Halfdan, established winter quarters on the Tyne. The ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ (s.a. 875) notes that they: “subdued the land, and often harried on the Picts and on the Strathclyde Welsh [i.e. Britons]”.*  ‘AU’, s.a. 875: “The Picts encountered the dark foreigners [in battle], and a great slaughter of the Picts resulted.”  Presumably, the “dark foreigners” were Halfdan's forces. What is clearly the same battle is dated to the 14th year of Constantine's reign (875/6) by ‘SC’: “a battle was fought by him at Dollar between the Danes and the Scots; the Scots were slain at/to Achcochlam.+
In ‘AU’ s.a. 875, the entry immediately after its report of the slaughter of Picts by “dark foreigners” states: “Oistín [Eystein] son of Amlaíb [Olaf], king of the Northmen, was deceitfully killed by Albann.”  It is generally believed that Albann is an Irish rendition of the name Halfdan.
‘AU’ begins its entries for 876 with Constantine's obit – he is called “king of the Picts” – but no details are provided. ‘SC’ makes no mention of Constantine's demise at all,* but some Latin king-lists (e.g. List D) do: “he was slain by the Norwegians in the battle of Inverdovat [or variations thereof *], and he was buried in the island of Iona.”  Whilst the ‘Verse Chronicle’ in the ‘Chronicle of Melrose’ says:
In active service, he fell before the weapon of the Danes;
The place they call the Black Grotto was where he fought.
The notice of Constantine's reign in ‘SC’ ends with the comment: “The Northmen spent a whole year in Pictland.”
Halfdan was in Northumbria during 876. He parcelled out land in the south of the country amongst his army, founding a kingdom centered on York. The territory beyond the Tyne was left to English rule. According to Symeon of Durham (‘LDE’ II, 13): “He [Halfdan] was attacked at the same time by mental insanity and the severest bodily suffering; the intolerable stench exhaling from which made him an object of abomination towards the whole army. Thus despised and rejected by all persons, he fled away in three ships from the Tyne, and shortly afterwards he and all his followers perished.”  ‘AU’, s.a. 877: “A skirmish at Loch Cuan [Strangford Lough] between the fair gentiles and the dark gentiles, in which Albann, chief of the dark gentiles, fell.”  The earliest manuscript (in the Book of Leinster, late-12th century) of an apparently early-12th century Irish text, ‘Cogad Gáedel re Gallaib’ (The War of the Irish with the Foreigners), says (§25) that: “there was a battle fought between themselves, viz., the white gentiles and the black gentiles, i.e. Barith and Ragnall's son [Albann, presumably], in which fell Ragnall's son, and a multitude with him. Barith was wounded there, and he was lame ever after. The black gentiles after this were driven out of Ireland and went to Alba, where they gained a battle over the men of Alba, in which were slain Constantine son of Cinaed, chief king of Alba, and a great multitude with him. It was then the earth burst open under the men of Alba.”  Assuming this account of the circumstances of Constantine's death is not a 12th century fantasy,* then it would appear he was actually killed in 877, the year after his obit appears in ‘AU’.*
Constantine was succeeded by his brother, Aed. The ‘Scottish Chronicle’ in the Poppleton Manuscript (‘SC’), simply states: “Aed held the same [kingdom] for 1 year. Also the shortness of his reign has bequeathed nothing memorable to history; but he was slain in the civitas of Nrurim.”  The ‘civitas of Nrurim’ is not certainly identified, but elsewhere (e.g. List D) Aed's death is placed in the area of Strathallan, to the north of Stirling, and it is dated 878 by the ‘Annals of Ulster’ (‘AU’): “Aed son of Cinaed, king of the Picts, was killed by his own associates.”  Other sources are more specific – for instance, List D: “he was killed in the battle of Strathallan, by Giric son of Dungal; and was buried in the island of lona.”
‘AU’ closes its account of 878 with the entry: “The shrine of Colum Cille [St Columba] and his other relics arrived in Ireland, having been taken in flight to escape the foreigners.”  Presumably(?) these items were moved to safety from Iona, and were not the “relics of Saint Columba” that ‘SC’ says Kenneth MacAlpin had previously transferred “to the church which he built [probably at Dunkeld]”.
So, having killed Aed, Giric took the throne: “Giric son of Dungal reigned for 12 years; and he died in Dundurn, and was buried in the island of lona.” (List D).  Well, according to ‘SC’ that wasn't exactly the case: “Eochaid son of Rhun king of the Britons [of Strathclyde], grandson of Kenneth by his daughter, reigned for 11 years; although others say that Giric son of [ ? name apparently omitted] reigned at this time, because he became Eochaid's foster-father [alumnus] and governor [ordinator].”  The genealogy corresponding to Strathclyde in Harleian MS 3859 (§5) terminates with Rhun son of Artgal (Run map Arthgal). It appears, then, that Eochaid's maternal grandfather was Kenneth MacAlpin and his paternal grandfather was Artgal, the king of Strathclyde who had been killed at the instigation of Constantine, Aed's brother (and Eochaid's uncle).
List D, along with most other king-lists, calls Giric's father Dungal. The ‘Verse Chronicle’ in the ‘Chronicle of Melrose’, however, calls him Donald.*  Alfred P. Smyth assumes that Giric's father was Kenneth MacAlpin's brother Donald: “the son of Kenneth's brother (Donald I) intervened violently to stake a claim to the kingship in opposition to Kenneth's sons. Giric may have won Eochaid's support with the promise of preserving the remnants of the Strathclyde dynasty against the encroachments of the sons of Kenneth.”  However, Donald equates to the Irish name Domnall, not Dungal. In §5 of the Harleian Genealogies, Artgal's father is given as Dumnagual (Modern Welsh: Dyfnwal), which, as written, does bear a resemblance to Dungal. Kenneth Jackson writes: “If Giric was son of this Dumnagual he would be Eochaid's maternal great-uncle, and it would be natural that he should act as regent for him if he was a boy, as seems to have been the case.”  Alan Bruford also suspects that Dungal should be identified with Dumnagual: “Giric who killed Constantine's brother Aed in 878 could well have been Artgal's avenging brother, who added old-style legitimacy to his reign in Pictland by nominally sharing it with his great-nephew, the small son of Aed's sister.”
Whilst Eochaid was forgotten, extravagant claims were made for Giric. List D: “He subdued to himself all Ireland, and nearly [all] England;+ and he was the first to give liberty to the Scottish church, which was in servitude up to that time, after the custom and fashion of the Picts.+”  John of Fordun – who refers (‘CGS’ IV, 18) to Giric as “this glorious King Gregory” – repeats these claims, and asserts (‘CGS’ IV, 17) that: “though Ireland belonged to him by right of succession, he did not get possession of it without war on the part of some who withstood him.”  As far as England is concerned, John says: “King Gregory himself, also, subdued the upper and western districts ... The natives of some provinces, however, before he had reached their borders, gave themselves of their own accord, with their lands and property, into his power, after having sworn fealty and homage. For they deemed it a more blissful lot, and more advantageous, willingly to be subject to the Scots, who held the Catholic faith, though they were their enemies, than unwillingly to unbelieving heathens.“  In fact, there is no evidence of Giric in Ireland at all, indeed, neither he nor Eochaid gets so much as a mention in ‘AU’. It is, though, likely that, in the wake of the rupture of Northumbria caused by the establishment of a Viking kingdom based at York, both the Scottish kingdom and Strathclyde made territorial gains, and it is plausible that Giric was able to secure the submission of English-ruled Northumbria, i.e. north and west of the Tyne.
After Halfdan's disappearance from English history, the next known Scandinavian king at York was one Guthred son of Harthacnut, whom, dates provided by Symeon of Durham indicate, ruled from 883 to 894. Guthred would seem to have been a Christian – he is said to have owed his position to the intervention, in spirit, of St Cuthbert (bishop of Lindisfarne, died in 687), and he was buried in York Minster. According to a yarn précised by Symeon (‘LDE’ II, 13), at some point during Guthred's reign: “the nation of the Scots collected a numerous army, and among their other deeds of cruelty, they invaded and plundered the monastery of Lindisfarne. Whilst King Guthred, supported by St Cuthbert, was about to engage in battle with them, immediately the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them all up alive”.  Actually, at the time this story is set, the monastery on Lindisfarne was abandoned – it is said (‘LDE’ II, 6) to have been vacated in 875, at the time Halfdan was based on the Tyne, to prevent the Vikings getting their hands on Cuthbert's relics. Some scholars have equated the story's apparently seismic happening with the seemingly similar event reported to have occurred when Constantine was killed.*
According to ‘SC’, Eochaid and Giric were “expelled from the kingdom” in the implied year of 889, and replaced by Donald [Donald II], the son of Constantine, who: “held the kingdom for 11 years. The Northmen wasted Pictland [the last mention of Pictland in ‘SC’] at that time. In his reign a battle was fought [at] inuisibsolian [possibly the island of Seil and its neighbours, off the Argyll coast], between Danes and Scots; the Scots had the victory.”
Thorstein the Red was the son of Olaf the White and Aud the Deep-minded (daughter of Ketill Flatnose). The ‘Landnámabók’ says (II, 15) that: “Thorstein became a war-lord; he entered partnership with Sigurd the Mighty [earl of Orkney], the son of Eystein the Clatterer;* they conquered Caithness, Sutherland, Ross and Moray, and more than half Scotland, and Thorstein became King thereover, until the Scots betrayed him, and he fell there in battle. Aud was then in Caithness, when she heard of the fall of Thorstein; she caused a merchant ship to be made in a wood, in secret, and when it was ready she held out to the Orkneys; there she gave in marriage Gro, the daughter of Thorstein the Red. She was the mother of Grelad, whom Thorfinn Skullcleaver had in marriage. After that Aud went to seek Iceland; she had with her in the ships twenty free men.”  In his translation of the ‘SC’ section quoted above, A.O. Anderson attaches a note to the statement: “The Northmen wasted Pictland at that time”, in which he opines: “This was probably the invasion of Sigurd and Thorstein.”
‘SC’ concludes its report of Donald's career with a sentence that apparently divides scholarly opinion. Some favour: “Dunnottar was destroyed by the gentiles.”  Whilst others prefer: “[At] Dunnottar he was slain by the gentiles.”*  However, a selection of Latin king-lists, List D for instance, place Donald's death elsewhere: “he died in Forres, and was buried in the island of lona.”
Whilst ‘AU’ had referred to Kenneth MacAlpin and his successors – Donald I, Constantine I and Aed – as “king of the Picts” in their obits, in his obit, s.a. 900, Donald II is titled “king of Alba”.
In the year 900, Donald II was succeeded by his cousin, Constantine son of Aed (Constantine II). Remarkably, Constantine ruled for more than forty years, before retiring into religion. At some stage during Constantine's long reign: “died Donald, king of the Britons”, notes ‘SC’. Donald, i.e. Dyfnwal, must have been king of Strathclyde – this is his only appearance in the historical record. Until recently, it has been thought that ‘SC’ proceeds to say that Dyfnwal was succeeded in Strathclyde by “Donald son of Aed” – the presumption being that this Donald, i.e. Domnall, was an otherwise unknown brother of Constantine. It is now, however, widely accepted that ‘SC’ makes no such claim – that this notion is based on a misunderstanding of the manuscript.*
According to John of Fordun (‘CGS’ IV, 21): “Constantine, in the 16th year of his reign, gave Eugenius [i.e. Owain], the son of Donald [Donald II], his expected next heir, the lordship of the region of Cumbria [i.e. Strathclyde] to rule over, until he should, on Constantine’s death, obtain the diadem of the kingdom; and, on his being crowned king, his next heir was to succeed to that lordship; and thus the lordship was in future, by this rule of succession, always to be transferred from the heir, immediately on his being crowned king, to his next successor.”  John's nationalistic claim, that Strathclyde became a sub-kingdom of Alba to be ruled by the chosen successor of the incumbent king of Alba, seemed to be given substance by ‘SC’, but if it is accepted that the reading which apparently made another Donald, the otherwise unknown brother of Constantine, king of Strathclyde before Owain is erroneous, then this plank of support is removed. There now seems to be a developing scholarly consensus that Owain was not the son of Donald II, but was, as his name suggests, a Briton (probably the son of Dyfnwal), and that the kingdom of Strathclyde continued to be ruled by Britons into the 11th century.
Archaeological evidence suggests that, after the fall of their fortress on Dumbarton Rock in 870, the Strathclyde Britons transferred their ‘capital’ some 11 miles upriver – to Govan (about 2½ miles west of the centre of Glasgow). It seems that by 927 the Britons had advanced their southern border 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 name Cumbria (and Cumberland) is derived from the ethnicity of the inhabitants. Indeed, it derives 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).
W. Wynne, in ‘The History of Wales’, published in 1697, maintains that: “After the Death of Roderic the Great [Rhodri Mawr, d.878 *], the Northern Britains of Stratclwyd and Cumberland were mightily infested and weakened thro' the daily incursions of the Danes, Saxons and Scots, insomuch that as many of them as would not submit their Necks to the Yoke were forced to quit their Countrey, and to seek for more quiet Habitations. Therefore towards the beginning of Anarawd's reign, several of them came to Gwyneth, under the Conduct of one Hobert, whose distressed Condition the Prince commiserating, granted them all the Countrey betwixt Chester and Conwey to seat themselves in, in case they could drive out the Saxons who had lately possessed themselves of it. The Britains having returned their thanks to Anarawd, presently fell to work, and Necessity giving edge to their Valour, they easily dispossessed the Saxons who were not yet warm in their Seats.”  John Rhys comments: “How much truth there may be in this story is not evident, but it is open to suspicion of being based to some extent on the false etymology which identifies the name of Clwyd with that of the Clyde.”  The notion of a migration of Northern Britons to Wales seems to have originated with the imaginative Hector Boece (‘Scotorum Historia’, first published in 1527). He says that, having been decisively defeated by King Gregory (i.e. Giric), the Britons and their supposed king, Hebert, were obliged to accept Gregory's terms: “When a new pact had been agreed, hostages were given to Gregory, the Britons quit Cumberland [Cumbria] and Westmorland [Vestmaria] and their entire people removed to their ancient home in Wales” (X, 86).
‘SC’ reports: “And in his [Constantine II's] third year the Northmen plundered Dunkeld, and all Alba. In the following year, the Northmen were slain in Strathearn.”  Presumably the battle at Strathearn is the event mentioned by ‘AU’ s.a. 904: “Ímar grandson of Ímar was killed by the men of Fortriu, and there was a great slaughter around him.”  The elder Ímar, i.e. Ivar, is assumed to be the famous “king of the Northmen of all Ireland and Britain” who had died in 873. ‘SC’ continues: “And in his sixth year King Constantine and Bishop Cellach upon the Hill of Credulity near the royal city of Scone, pledged themselves that the laws and disciplines of the faith, and the rights in churches and gospels, should be kept in conformity with [the customs of] the Scots. From that day the hill has deserved this name – that is, the Hill of Credulity.”
Alba appears to have enjoyed a decade of peace following the defeat of Ivar grandson of Ivar in 904 – at least there are no chronicled incidents – but all things come to an end ...
Northumbrian Struggles    
Translations:
‘List D’ by A.O. Anderson
‘Landnámabók’ by T. Ellwood
‘Verse Chronicle’ by Jim Waddell
‘Chronicle of Huntingdon’ by A.O. Anderson
‘Prophecy of Berchán’ by Benjamin T. Hudson
‘Annals of Ulster’ by S. Mac Airt & G. Mac Niocaill
‘Cogad Gáedel re Gallaib’ by James Henthorn Todd
Hector Boece ‘Scotorum Historia’ by Dana F. Sutton
‘Eyrbyggja Saga’ by William Morris & Eiríkr Magnússon
‘Fragmentary Annals of Ireland’ by Joan Newlon Radner
‘Scottish Chronicle’ adapted from A.O. Anderson's of 1922
Bede ‘Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum’ by A.M. Sellar
Symeon of Durham ‘Libellus de Exordio’ by Joseph Stevenson
John of Fordun ‘Chronica Gentis Scotorum’ by Felix J.H. Skene
Henry of Huntingdon ‘Historia Anglorum’ by Thomas Forester
Giraldus Cambrensis ‘De Principis Instructione’ by A.O. Anderson
Snorri Sturluson ‘Heimskringla’ by Alison Finlay & Anthony Faulkes
Back to: part one.
In an article titled ‘Elech and the Scots in Strathclyde’ (‘Scottish Gaelic Studies’ Vol.15, 1988), Benjamin T. Hudson convincingly argued that what had previously been thought to be a contraction of the word eligitur, i.e. ‘was elected’, is actually a form of the Irish place name ‘Ailech’. As a result, the somewhat clumsy statement: “in this time died Donald, king of the Britons, and Donald son of Aed was elected king, and Flann son of son of Maelsechnaill, and Niall son of Aed, who reigned three years after Flann”, is transformed into: “in this time died Donald, king of the Britons, and Donald son of Aed, king of Ailech, and Flann son of Maelsechnaill, and Niall son of Aed, who reigned three years after Flann”.  ‘AU’ pretty much settles the matter, placing the death of “Domnall son of Aed, king of Ailech” in 915, the death of “Flann son of Mael Sechnaill ... king of Tara” in 916, and the death of Flann's successor, Niall son of Aed, in 919.
For instance, Donnchadh Ó Corráin opines: “It is likely that they [the Gall-Gaedhil] originated in Viking Scotland, and were war bands aristocratically led by men of mixed Scottish and Viking descent, operating independently of the dynasty and adventuring on their own account in Ireland. By the middle of the ninth century, a generation (and perhaps a second generation) of such aristocrats would have come to military age in Scotland.”
And Clare Downham writes: “They [the Gall-Gaedhil] have been identified as vikings of mixed Gaelic and Scandinavian culture. This group is only recorded in Irish chronicles within the years 856, 857 and 858 (it may be that after that time vikings of mixed ethnicity were not sufficiently novel or distinct in the Irish political scene to warrant special appellation).”
For Instance, Andrew Jennings: “Caittil Find can be identified with Ketill ‘Flatnose’, whom Icelandic tradition names as ruler of the Hebrides in the generation prior to the settlement of Iceland c.875.”
On the other hand, Clare Downham, in a footnote, comments: “there is no reason to assume that a Ketill named in thirteenth-century sagas was the same as a man of a similar name active in Southern Ireland in 857. It is just conceivable that Caitill Find may have been active in Wales before pursuing a career in Ireland”.  This is a reference to an entry in the ‘Annales Cambriae’, which, indicating a date of 844, simply states: “The battle of Cetill.”
Barbara Crawford: “By the middle of the [9th] century a recognizable group of warriors of mixed blood appear in the records as the Gall-Gaedhil, or the ‘foreign Gael’, the foreign element almost certainly being Norse. There is some doubt as to who exactly made up the Gaelic element, and the term may have varied in its meaning over the centuries, eventually perhaps acquiring a territorial connotation, if indeed it is the origin of the name Galloway in south-west Scotland.”
Donnchadh Ó Corráin: “The connection between Galloway and the Gall-Goídil (Old-Norse Gaddgeðlar) is uncertain: the word is the same, the people need not be.”
See: Wales, Altered States.
‘The Vikings in Scotland and Ireland in the Ninth Century’ (‘Chronicon’ Vol.2, 1998).
‘Viking Kings of Britain and Ireland: The Dynasty of Ívarr to A.D. 1014” (2007), Chapter 2.
The entry ‘Galloway, origins of’ in ‘The Oxford Companion to Scottish History’, 2001.
‘Scandinavian Scotland’ (1987), Chapter 2.
‘Celtic Britain’ (Third Edition Revised, 1904), Chapter 4.
As will become apparent, the seventh year of Kenneth's rule in Pictland would be in the vicinity of 849. ‘AU’ has an entry s.a. 849 which says: “Indrechtach, abbot of Iona, came to Ireland with the relics of Colum Cille [St Columba].”  It is generally supposed that there was a division of Columba's relics – Kenneth moving some to “the church which he built”, thought to be at Dunkeld, Perthshire, others being taken to Ireland. There were apparently, though, relics on Iona in 878, at which time ‘AU’ notes they were taken to Ireland: “to escape the foreigners [i.e. Vikings].”
Marjorie O. Anderson, in footnote 226 of ‘Kings and Kingship in Early Scotland’ (Revised Edition, 1980), writes: “It is fair to point out the ambiguities in AU. Hostis [translated as “hosts” by Mac Airt & Mac Niocaill] could be “enemy” (though inimicus is the word we should expected) and exactores [usually understood to mean ‘tax-gatherers’] could be “expellers”. These interpretations would produce a totally different story.”  In a brief article (‘AU 729.2 and the last years of Nechtan mac Der-Ilei’) published in ‘Scottish Historical Review’, Vol.85.1 (2006), Alex Woolf comments that Marjorie Anderson's footnote “has had surprisingly little impact on the scholarship”, and argues that her: “alternative interpretations are the more credible.”  At any rate, the amended ‘AU’ entry would read: “The battle of Monid Carno near Loch Loogdae between the enemy of Nechtan and the army of Oengus, and Nechtan's oppressors fell ... [three individuals are named] ... and many others; and the adherents of Oengus were triumphant.”
The king-lists for Dál Riata at this time are in disarray. The most coherent (though not necessarily accurate) picture is presented by a late-11th century versified (in Irish) list, the ‘Duan Albanach’. The seventeenth verse (of twenty-seven) runs:
The seven years of Dúngal the impetuous,
And four to Alpin,
The three years of Muiredach the good,
30 to Aed, as supreme king.
Judging by the ‘Annals’, Muiredach's reign was 733–736. Other (Latin) king-lists indicate that Muirdach's reign was followed by that of his son, Eogan (not mentioned in the ‘Annals’), for two or three years. ‘AU’ places the death of Aed, who is assigned a (suspiciously round?) thirty year reign, s.a. 778. By these tokens, there was a gap of about a decade prior to Aed's accession when there was no recognized king of Dál Riata – a void, it is suggested, that represents Oengus' rule of Dál Riata.
The original statement is in Irish: Aithbe flatho Oengussa.  “End of the reign of Oengus” is the translation of S. Mac Airt & G. Mac Niocaill, in their edition of the ‘Annals of Ulster’ (1983), which is generally used on this website.  “Ebbing of the sovereignty of Oengus” is the translation of A.O. Anderson.
‘AT’ has an entry (it does not appear in ‘AU’) in the year equating to 752, which says: “The battle of Asreth [unidentified] in the land of Circinn between Picts on both sides, and in it Bridei [Bruide in Irish] son of Maelchon fell.”  Dr Anderson suggests that Bridei son of Maelchon was a rival claimant who succeeded in driving Oengus from the Pictish throne in 750, and that Oengus later recovered his position at the battle “in the land of Circinn” (Circinn being the region of Pictland traditionally, though not certainly, equated to Angus with Mearns), in which Bridei was killed. Plainly, such a scenario is not beyond the realms of possibility, but there is only one known Bridei son of Maelchon, and he was active some two centuries earlier. His death is placed s.a. 584 by ‘AU’, but there are no circumstances recorded. Thomas F. O'Rahilly's idea (in ‘Early Irish History and Mythology’, 1946) that he died at the battle of Asreth, the record of which is misplaced in ‘AT’ by two 84-year Easter cycles (752 - 584 = 2 x 84), is widely thought to be likely.
In fact, the ‘Continuation’ annal for 750 begins: “Cuthred the king of the West Saxons rose up against Æthelbald the king and Oengus”.  Symeon of Durham (‘HR’ s.a. 750) has exactly the same statement as the ‘Continuation’, about Cuthred rising against Æthelbald, but completes Æthelbald's designation, “of the Mercians”, and omits the words “and Oengus”. It is hard to imagine how Cuthred, king of the West Saxons (i.e. of Wessex), could be connected to Oengus, king of the Picts, and, for the most part, scholars have tended to the view that Symeon's statement represents the original annal, and that the reference to Oengus in the ‘Continuation’ is the result of a scribal error. Dorothy Whitelock (‘English Historical Documents, 500–1042’, Second Edition, 1979), however, in a footnote, comments: “If not [a textual corruption], it may mean that Angus [Oengus] had become an ally of the Mercian king for fear of their common enemy, Eadberht of Northumbria.”  In ‘Wales and the Britons, 350–1064’ (Part III 13.6, 2013), T. M. Charles-Edwards develops this notion much further: “That Cuthred rebelled against both Æthelbald and Óengus can best be explained on the supposition that Óengus and Æthelbald were not simply in alliance but had agreed to divide the overlordship of Britain between them: Æthelbald was overlord of the provinces south of the Humber, Óengus overlord of those to the north of the river, including Northumbria and the northern Britons. The allied kings, Óengus and Æthelbald, were attacked in the one year by the West Saxons in the south and the Britons in the north. The conquest of Kyle by Eadberht needs to be set in this context rather than being seen as a further extension of Northumbrian power.”  The final word is given to Charles Plummer (in his ‘Notes to the Ecclesiastical History’, 1896) : “I am inclined to think that the text is corrupt”.
One Eadwulf, having ruled Northumbria for two months in the winter of 705/6, had been overthrown and expelled. Eadwulf's obit seems to be recorded by ‘AU’ s.a. 717: “Etulb mac Ecuilb [Eadwulf son of Ecgwulf?] died.”  In 740 Eadwulf's son, Earnwine, was killed. Alex Woolf suggests that Eadwulf had found refuge with the Picts: “The conflict between the Picts and Northumbrians in 740 may thus have involved an attempt to insert Eadwulf's son, Earnwine, into the kingship. If so it failed, and with fatal consequences for Earnwine.”
John of Fordun, who employed a copy of the Pictish king-list that names Oengus II as the founder of Kilrimont, incorporated the essence of Version B into his chronicle. In an attempt to reconcile the legend's chronology, he splits it into two episodes.
The first episode (‘CGS’ II, 46–48) places Regulus' arrival in the 4th century, during the rule of a Pictish king, created by John for the purpose and inserted in his rendition of the king-list (‘CGS’ IV, 10), called Hurgust son of Forgso.
The second episode (‘CGS’ IV, 13–14) features the confrontation between Oengus II (called Hungus son of Fergus by John) and King Athelstan, which results in the decapitation of the latter. John equates this Athelstan with the son of Æthelwulf, king of Wessex (r.839–858). According to the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, however, Æthelwulf's son was alive and well in 851 – almost twenty years after Oengus II had died.
Some other Pictish king-lists (e.g. John of Fordun's) are at considerable variance with the Poppleton's between Nechtan son of Derelei (who abdicated in 724) and Constantine son of Fergus (who assumed power in 789/90). The Poppleton's list, however, is a decent match with entries in the Irish annals and seems to be, therefore, substantially correct.
The immediate predecessor of Canaul filius Tarl'a in the Poppleton's list is Talorgen filius Onuist, i.e. Talorcan son of Oengus. If Oengus, Talorcan's father, was Oengus son of Fergus (according to the list's figures, Talorcan became king 21½ or 22½ years after the death of Oengus son of Fergus), it would be the first time that the father of a king of the Picts had also been a king.
See: Black Vikings and White Vikings.
The first fragment of ‘AT’ runs-out during the entries for 766. The second fragment does not begin until 974.
Marjorie O. Anderson identifies Fergus, the father of Constantine and Oengus, as Fergus, the king of Dál Riata, who died in 781. By this token, they had a legitimate claim to the throne of Dál Riata via Fergus, and a (presumed) legitimate claim to the Pictish throne via their Pictish mother: “In Constantine and Oengus II, sons of Fergus, we have, so far as we can tell, the first instances of one man holding both kingships simultaneously, by hereditary right in both kingdoms according to their different systems.”
Alex Woolf: “The appearance of the Pictish kings in the ‘Synchronisms’ and in Duan Albanach, may simply have resulted from the fact that by the eleventh century rulers of both Pictavia and Dál Riata were being described, anachronistically, as kings of Alba in Gaelic literary texts.”
Oh no we haven't!
The ‘Synchronisms’ survive in two forms, catchily known as the ‘shorter version’ (Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland MS Advocates' 72.1.28), which evidently represents the original composition, and the ‘longer version’ (Dublin, Royal Irish Academy MS 23 P 2, known as the Book of Lecan; Oxford, Bodleian MS Rawlinson B 512), which was apparently updated in about 1119. In the shorter version the sequence of kings is shown as: “Aed [son of Boanta]; Eoganán [son of Oengus]; Alpin son of Eochaid; Eoganán; Kenneth son of Alpin”.  But in the longer version the sequence is given as: “Aed son of Boanta; Eoganán son of Oengus; Alpin”.  It would appear that a copyist has inadvertently omitted the reign of the second Eoganán and conflated the reigns of Alpin son of Eochaid and Kenneth son of Alpin, by jumping from the first occurrence of the name Alpin to the second (a type of error called ‘homoioteleuton’).
Alex Woolf argues that the highlighted section was inserted into the original chronicle entry when the collection of Scottish material that now survives in the Poppleton Manuscript was compiled c.1200.
Constantine III is the first king of Alba for whom there is a surviving pedigree. The earliest version of the pedigree is apparently that appended to an Irish text called ‘Senchus fer nAlban’ (History of the Men of Alba) or ‘Míniugud Senchusa fher nAlban’ (Explanation of the History of the Men of Alba), as it appears in Trinity College Dublin MS H.2.7 (14th century). Constantine was, in fact, the end of his particular line of descent from Kenneth MacAlpin, and his pedigree is accompanied by a short additional section showing, his kinsman, Malcolm II's descent from Kenneth MacAlpin. Malcolm II reigned 1005–1034. Since other ‘Senchus’ manuscripts extend to David I, r.1124–1153, this tends to indicate that the Trinity College manuscript represents the earliest version – and it is this version that features the sequence: Alpin son of Eochaid, son of Aed Find, son of Eochaid, son of Domangart, son of Domnall Brecc.
However, such pedigrees, essentially strings of, sometimes obscure, names, are prone to scribal errors – omissions, repetitions and corruptions. For instance, in the version of Constantine's pedigree appended to the ‘Senchus’ as it appears in the Book of Ballymote (c.1400), Domangart son of Domnall Brecc and his purported great-great-great grandfather, also called Domangart, have been merged, with the result that five generations are omitted.
The gap between the death of Aed Find (778) and the death of, his purported father, Eochaid (697), at eighty-one years, seems unnaturally long. The pedigree of William I, r.1165–1214, in the Poppleton Manuscript (which traces William's descent back to “Adam, son of the living God”), features an extra Eochaid in that gap.
In his twist on the ‘Huntingdon’ story, John of Fordun says: “the Picts, being somewhat reinforced by the help of the English, kept harassing Kenneth for four years. Weakening them subsequently, however, by unforeseen inroads and various massacres, at length, in the twelfth year of his reign, he engaged them seven times in one day, and swept down countless multitudes of the Pictish people. So he established and strengthened his authority thenceforth over the whole country” (‘CGS’ IV, 4).
A. O. Anderson translates the ‘Verse Chronicle’ line Qui Scone fertur subditus esse neci as “he [i.e. Donald] is said to have been assassinated at Scone”.  John of Fordun evidently had access to the ‘Verse Chronicle’, but he seemingly discounts foul play: “King Donald, however, went the way of all flesh at Scone, the seat of royalty; and was buried in Iona, beside his brother.” (‘CGS’ IV, 15).
According to the ‘Prophecy of Berchán’: “above Loch Adhbha will be his [Donald's] gravestone”.  List D says Donald: “died in Rathinveramon, and was buried in the island of Iona.”  W.F. Skene, in an essay entitled ‘The Coronation Stone’ (1869), argued that “the palace of Cinnbelathoir”, “above Loch Adhbha” and “in Rathinveramon” are, in effect, different ways of referring to the same place near Scone.
John of Fordun clearly had access to a copy of the ‘Chronicle of Huntingdon’. He quotes its account of Alpin's last two battles against the Picts virtually word for word – indeed, John's text is used to supply words that are illegible in the ‘Chronicle of Huntingdon’ manuscript (shown in italics within brackets). It is also evident that John utilized a king-list of the type that places Alpin's death in Galloway, but he makes no mention of it. Anyway, John extends the ‘Huntingdon’ story. He says that Alpin, following his defeat by the Picts, was “taken, and, all ransom being refused, beheaded” (‘CGS’ IV, 2).  The Scots' chiefs were reluctant to pursue a war of revenge against the Picts, so Kenneth hatched a plan whereby an accomplice wrapped himself in a cloak adorned with “scaly fish skins ... so that it flashed as with the flaming wings of an angel” (‘CGS’ IV, 3). The ‘angel’ visited the chiefs' bedchambers and persuaded them to obey Kenneth “in all things ... and particularly that they should in nowise be afraid to destroy the Pictish kingdom” (‘CGS’ IV, 3).
John of Fordun follows the ‘Chronicle of Huntingdon’ in placing Kenneth's succession to Dál Riata (“his father's kingdom”) in 834. In an attempt to reconcile the ‘Huntingdon’ story with his king-lists, John says that Kenneth won the Pictish throne in 839 – converting “the 7th year of his reign” in the ‘Huntingdon’ story to “the sixth year of his reign” (‘CGS’ IV, 4) to suit – and that he “reigned nearly 16 years as sole monarch of these kingdoms” (‘CGS’ IV, 3). John places the death of “King Kenneth the Great” in 854 (‘CGS’ IV, 15). The ‘Chronicle of Huntingdon’, on the other hand, having given Kenneth a reign of 28 years, implies he died in 862. According to ‘AU’, Kenneth's death was in 858.
Fortriu being the region of Pictland traditionally, though not certainly, equated to Strathearn with Menteith (see previously).
The French list, known as ‘List K’, 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.
H. M. Chadwick, in ‘Early Scotland: The Picts, the Scots and the Welsh of Southern Scotland’ (1949), Chapter 9, assumes that it was the 8th century Alpin, not Kenneth's father, who was meant to have died in Galloway.
In ‘The Vikings: A Very Short Introduction’ (2005), Chapter 9, Julian D. Richards writes: “Interpretations of the character of Norse settlement in the Northern and Western Isles embrace the full spectrum of possible relationships between the Norse and the native Picts – from wholesale genocide to peaceful assimilation. Modern genetic evidence is consistent with large folk migration to the Northern Isles, and smaller scale settlement in the Western Isles, but both genetics and place names lack chronological resolution. The Hebrides may have been repopulated by Celtic peoples during the Middle Ages and the high proportion of Scandinavian ancestry in Orkney and Shetland may relate to the long period of close political, economic, and social ties with Norway, maybe commencing before the Viking Age. On balance, the archaeological evidence implies large-scale migration, followed by Norse political, linguistic, and cultural domination, but with some coexistence of indigenous and immigrant identities, expressed differently in each area.”
In the original, the highlighted phrase is rex Britanorum Sratha Cluade. This is, in fact, the earliest use of the name Strathclyde (see: the Lie of the Land).
Though clearly recording the same Viking invasion that ‘AU’ dates 866, ‘SC’ implies that it was in 865 that the Vikings occupied Pictland (from January to March in the third year of Constantine's reign).
The phrase is trahens centum, literally ‘drawing a hundred’, which, as it stands, does not make sense. A.O. Anderson notes: “The text is perhaps corrupt. Read possibly censum: ‘drawing tribute’?”
Wealas or Walas, which translates into modern English as ‘Welsh’, is an Old English word, meaning ‘foreigners’, that applied to all Britons.
Viking factions distinguished by the prefixes dub, i.e. ‘black’ or ‘dark’, and finn, i.e. ‘white’ or ‘fair’, first appear in the ‘Annals of Ulster’ s.a. 851. Another Irish source, sometimes called the ‘Three Fragments’, equates the black/dark faction to Danes and the white/fair faction to Norwegians. Some modern scholars, however, dispute this identification.
See: Black Vikings and White Vikings.
The highlighted phrase appears as occisi sunt Scoti co Achcochlam.  A.O. Anderson translates it: “the Scots were slain, [and driven] to Achcochlam.”  It is generally supposed that Achcochlam should read Athfothlam, i.e. Atholl, a region which begins about thirty miles north of Dollar (Clackmannanshire). Benjamin T. Hudson interprets the phrase: “the Scots were slaughtered as far as Atholl.”  Alex Woolf, however, points out that there is no mention of Constantine's death in ‘SC’, and suggests that scribal misunderstanding has linked the killing in Atholl with the battle at Dollar, when it was, in fact, Constantine who was killed in Atholl.
Dr Woolf notes that the contemporary records preserved by ‘AU’ and the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’ refer to ‘Picts’, whilst ‘SC’ refers to Scotti, i.e. ‘Scots’. He writes: “Just as the term Danair [Danes] looks like a form that could not have come into use before the late tenth century, we might suggest the same for Scotti. The phrase “between the Danair and the Scotti” may have originated as a parenthetic gloss, explaining a more laconic statement at a relatively late stage in the chronicle’s composition.”
Unless, of course, Alex Woolf is correct, and, as previously noted, a scribal misunderstanding has linked the killing at Atholl with the battle at Dollar, when it was, in fact, Constantine who was killed in Atholl.
In List D, for instance, the place of Constantine's death is rendered Merdo fatha. In any case, the site is unidentified.
Alfred P. Smyth opines: “It is unlikely that this unusual information was invented by a twelfth-century Munster compiler, and it almost certainly derives from the earlier annalistic material used by him. The incident must have once formed an episode in its own right in the tradition of the Viking wars, as is shown by the brief Irish comment: ‘It was on that occasion that the earth burst open under the men of Scotland’.”
There is some variation, but most king-lists, including ‘SC’, assign a 16 year reign to Constantine, by which token his death would be in 878. (‘AU’ implies a 14 year reign, 862–876.)
... White-foot Aed,
Who perished by the sword of Giric son of Donald,
After he had completed his first year of kingship,
In Strathallan he ended his life with wounds.
The ‘Verse Chronicle’ refers to Aed as albipes i.e. White-foot. John of Fordun (who evidently had access to a copy of the ‘Verse Chronicle’), however, says (‘CGS’ IV, 16) that Aed was known as alipes i.e. Wing-foot: “for he had earned a name for swiftness above all others of his day.”
List D is but one of a group of related Latin king-lists. Another member of the group, List I (Oxford, Bodleian MS Lat. Misc. C.75, 14th century), renders the highlighted phrase: “all Bernicia, and nearly [all] England” (Bernicia being the northern component of Northumbria).
Marjorie O. Anderson writes: “Berniciam [Bernicia] was an intelligent attempt at emendation, but there is no doubt that Hiberniam [Ireland], however absurd historically, was the original reading, since it is shared by [Lists] F, G, and N, and was in the common source of D and K.”
Heimskringla’, ‘Saga of Olaf Haraldsson’ Chapter 96: “So it is said, that in the days of King Harald Fairhair of Norway, Orkney was settled, but previously it had been a haunt of vikings there. The first earl [ jarl] in Orkney was called Sigurd – he was son of Eystein the Clatterer”.  According to saga tradition, Harald Fairhair, by force of arms, became, round-about 890, the first king of Norway.
Oppidum Fother occisum est a gentibus.  Dunnottar (Oppidum Fother) is a fortress sited on an outcrop of rock, to the south of Stonehaven, on the east coast of Scotland. As pointed out by W.F. Skene, it hardly seems appropriate to use the word occisum, i.e. ‘slain’, to refer to the destruction to a fortress. Skene suggests: “occisum ... is probably a mistake for occisus est, viz., that Donald was slain at “oppidum Fother.” ”
A.O. Anderson acknowledges Skene's opinion, but since Donald's death is placed elsewhere in other sources, he translates the sentence: “Dunnottar was destroyed by the gentiles.”
Benjamin T. Hudson adopts the amendment suggested by Skene: “He was killed at Dunnottar by the heathen.”
Both Skene and Hudson cite the (apparently late-11th century) cryptic Irish poem known as the ‘Prophecy of Berchán’ (Stanza 147) in substantiation of their interpretation: “The Gaels [i.e. Scots] will turn against him secretly on the path above Dunnottar; he will be over the brow of a mighty wave, in the east in his broad gory bed.”  The ‘Prophecy’ would, though, seem to be putting the blame for the killing of Donald on his own people (the Gaels).
Alex Woolf also adopts Skene's suggestion, making his own suggestion that the basis for the entry in ‘SC’ was the statement ‘Donald the son of Constantine held the kingdom 11 years, he was slain by the gentiles at Dunnottar’, the remainder of the entry being inserted within this at later stages in the text's development.
The story is told at greater length in the ‘Historia de Sancto Cuthberto’ (History of St Cuthbert), an anonymous mid-11th century compilation. The work survives in three manuscripts, none of which is the original. The scribe of the copy thought to be the earliest (now incomplete, in: Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Bodley 596) is believed to have been Symeon of Durham.
For instance, Allen Mawer ‘The Scandinavian Kingdom of Northumbria’, in ‘Saga Book of the Viking Society’ Vol. VII, 1911–12: “The chief incident of his [Guthred's] reign was a campaign against the Scots, in which their army was swallowed up, apparently by an earthquake. This earthquake is probably mentioned in the “War of the Gaedhil and the Gael,” where we are told that just after the death of Healfdene [Halfdan] in Ireland, the foreigners went to Scotland and won a victory over the men of Alba, in which Constantine, King of Alba, fell.”
The meaning of the highlighted phrase is not clear. It is generally supposed that Giric, perhaps to secure the backing of the clergy, excused the Church from certain secular duties or payments.
‘Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum’ (Ecclesiastical History of the English People).
s.a. = sub anno = ‘under the year’.
In about 1650, Irish scholar/scribe Dubhaltach Mac Fir Bhisigh included the ‘Duan Albanach’ (Scottish Poem) in his ‘Leabhar Genealach’ (Book of Genealogies). This is the earliest surviving, and best, copy of the ‘Duan Albanach’.
A paper entitled ‘Onuist son of Uurguist: tyrannus carnifex or a David for the Picts?’, published in ‘Æthelbald and Offa: Two Eighth-Century Kings of Mercia’, 2005.
‘From Pictland to Alba, 789–1070’ (2007), Chapter 1.
‘Dalriada and the Creation of the kingdom of the Scots’ in ‘Ireland in Early Medieval Europe: Studies in Memory of Kathleen Hughes’ (1982).
‘Warlords and Holy Men: Scotland AD80-1000’ (1984), Chapter 6.
Henry of Huntingdon first produced his ‘Historia Anglorum’ (History of the English) around 1130. He then revisited the work – revising and extending – several times before his death. The final version concludes with the accession of Henry II in 1154.
‘Chronica Gentis Scotorum’ (Chronicle of the Scottish Nation).
In a paper titled: ‘Oswald, “Most Holy and Most Victorious King of the Northumbrians”’, published in ‘Oswald, Northumbrian King to European Saint’ (1995).
‘Kings and Kingship in Early Scotland’ (Revised Edition, 1980), Chapter 4.
‘Early Sources of Scottish History A.D. 500 to 1286’, Vol.I (1922).
‘From Pictland to Alba, 789–1070’ (2007), Chapter 7.
‘Historia Regum’ (History of the Kings).
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, 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 main manuscript (Royal Irish Academy MS 23 G 4) of the ‘Prophecy of Berchán’ 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.
The entry ‘Cinaed mac Ailpín’ in ‘Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia’ (2006).
‘Warlords and Holy Men: Scotland AD80-1000’ (1984), Chapter 5.
‘From Pictland to Alba, 789–1070’ (2007), Chapter 3.
‘Libellus de Exordio atque Procursu istius hoc est Dunhelmensis Ecclesie’ (Tract on the Origins and Progress of this the Church of Durham).
The king-list known as ‘List D’ was, its prologue indicates, compiled 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).
‘Warlords and Holy Men: Scotland AD80-1000’ (1984), Chapter 7.
The earliest Welsh collection of royal genealogies is found in Harleian MS 3859. Although the manuscript itself dates from c.1100, the genealogies were probably collected in the late-10th century.
‘The Gaelic Notes in the Book of Deer’, 1972.
‘What Happened to the Caledonians?’, in ‘Alba: Celtic Scotland in the Middle Ages’, 2000.
‘Kings and Kingship in Early Scotland’ (Revised Edition, 1980), Footnote 111.
A collection of sagas chronicling the kings of Norway, written in Old Norse, by Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson, c.1230.
‘From Pictland to Alba, 789–1070’ (2007), Chapter 4.
‘Chronicles of the Picts, Chronicles of the Scots, and Other Early Memorials of Scottish History’ (1867), Preface.
‘The Scottish Chronicle’, ‘Scottish Historical Review’ Vol.77.2, 1998.
A set of annals related to the ‘Annals of Tigernach’, surviving in a 17th century copy.
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