‘Treachery in the Remotest Territories of Scotland’: Northern Resistance to the Canmore Dynasty, 1130-1230

David I and Malcolm IV - Canmore Dynasty Scotland‘Treachery in the Remotest Territories of Scotland’: Northern Resistance to the Canmore Dynasty, 1130-1230

R. Andrew McDonald (University College of Cape Breton)

Canadian Journal of History: vol. 33 (August 1999), pp. 161-192

The Annals of Ulster, a rich source of information for events in medieval Scotland, note in laconic style tinder the year 1130, “a battle between the men of Scotland and the men of Moray, and in it four thousand of the men of Moray fell, including their king, Angus . . . .”(2)   One hundred years later, a gruesome scene was played out at Forfar, where an infant girl, the last member of a family that had opposed the Scottish kings for over fifty years, was killed by having her head smashed on the market cross.(3) These events frame a century during which the kings of Scots descended from Malcolm III “Canmore” and his second wife, Queen Margaret (both d. 1093), faced persistent opposition from the remote and unassimilated northern fringes of their kingdom, especially the regions of Moray (a large and ill-defined area encompassing the lands around the Moray Firth, stretching from the Grampians to the western seaboard) and Ross (the province north of Moray, bounded by the River Oykel and the Dornoch Firth to the north and the shore of the Cromarty Firth to the south).(4)  This paper deals with a hitherto largely neglected facet of medieval Scottish history: resistance to the so-called “Canmore dynasty” (Malcolm III and his descendants) from Moray and Ross between the early twelfth century and 1230. It begins by outlining the incidents of insurrection faced by the Scottish kings in this period, and then proceeds to analyze this resistance, paying particular attention to the leaders, timing, military aspects, and geographical context of opposition. The paper concludes by examining questions of regional identity in twelfth-century Scotland and reflects upon whether a strong sense of Moravian identity might have contributed to the tenacity of resistance.

            Given the frequency, tenacity, and often bloody nature of the twelfth- and thirteenth-century insurrections, serious consideration of them remains surprisingly limited in recent scholarly work. The reasons for this are not far to seek. First, the evidence itself is scattered among a variety of English, Scottish, and Irish sources, which are often difficult to interpret and provide little in the way of either context or explanation. Second, the focus of modem scholarship on themes of medieval kingdom-building, the Europeanization of Scotland in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and the relatively early emergence of Scotland as a unified kingdom under the Canmore kings, have tended to overshadow or obscure questions of resistance, alienation, and dissent.(5)  To take but one example from a work concerned specifically with the regions under consideration here: the 1976 Moray Book devoted only a dozen lines to the various uprisings associated with the far north before brushing them aside to concentrate on the coming of the “new order” with its glittering symbols of castles, monasteries, burghs and feudalism.(6)  In a similar, and uncharacteristically judgmental tone, Professor Barrow contrasted the “harsh, brutally Iron Age quality” of tenth- and eleventh-century Moray with the new sense of “liberation and relief’ felt when the region was annexed by David I in 1130.(7)  Views such as these (in fairness, later treatments by Professor Barrow were much more even-handed), born of a focus, imposed by the sources, on the centre of the Scottish kingdom and its monarchs, nonetheless leave the impression that the insurrections of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were merely a series of sporadic, haphazard, piratical raids that were easily crushed. This paper argues that not only were many of the uprisings carefully timed and orchestrated predatory strikes against the Scottish kings in their weakest moments, but also that careful reexamination of these insurrections is crucial to our understanding of key issues in the history of twelfth-century Scotland.


            The long and eventful reign of Malcolm III “Canmore” [“Great Chief”] (1058-93), which established the so-called “Canmore dynasty” that would rule Scotland until the death of Alexander III in 1286, brooked little opposition. This was due, in large measure, to the fact that Malcolm’s path to the kingship had been a bloody one, during which he had taken care to eliminate any potential rivals. Within eight months of killing his predecessor, Macbeth (1040-57), at Lumphanan in August of 1057, Malcolm eliminated Macbeth’s stepson and successor, Lulach (1057-58), in March of 1058.(8)  Nonetheless, there are hints in Irish sources of unrest in Moray during the reign of Malcolm III. In 1085, “Donald, Malcolm’s son, king of Scotland . . . ended his life unhappily.”(9)  Both the identity and status of this individual are open to question, but it is possible that he was an otherwise unknown son of Malcolm III by his first wife, Ingibjorg of Orkney, or else a member of Malcolm’s kin who may have had some role in governing or administering the north.(10)   Similarly, the circumstances of his death are not clear, but mishap or violence seem to have played a role. This makes it tempting to link the death of this Donald with another event of 1085: a raid of Malcolm III in which Lulach’s widow and large amounts of booty were taken, and from which Lulach’s son, Mael Snechta, narrowly escaped. Mael Snechta himself lived until 1085, when his obit appeared in the Irish Annals along with other churchmen who ended their lives “happily” [i.e. in religion].(11)  What cannot be ascertained is whether the death of Donald precipitated Malcolm’s raid or vice versa, or, indeed, whether the two events are related at all, but it might well be that one represented vengeance for the other.

Although there was internal strife and political instability in Scotland for several years following the death of Malcolm III in 1093, it was not, apparently, until the second decade of the twelfth century that the descendants of Malcolm III were again faced with resistance from the north.(12)  In 1116, Irish annals note that “Lodmund, Donald’s son, the king of Scotland’s grandson, was killed by the men of Moray.”(13)  It has been suggested that this Lodmund was a son of the Donald who perished in 1085; this is not beyond doubt but is convincing.(14)  Unfortunately, this brief and isolated mention in an Irish source leaves many questions unanswered, although it certainly points to a feud – possibly an ongoing one if the events of 1085 are related to it – between the family of Malcohn III and tile “men of Moray,” who, it is worth noting, had been defeated three times by King Malcolm between 1057 and 1085.

In the context of the events of 1116, it is also interesting to note that the late medieval chroniclers Walter Bower and Andrew Wyntoun recorded an attack on King Alexander I (1107-24), a son of Malcolm III and a brother of his predecessor, King Edgar (1097-1107). These chroniclers give slightly differing accounts of what seems to be the same event, where King Alexander was attacked at Invergowrie by what Bower calls “ruffians of the Mearns and Moray.” In Bower’s account, Alexander escaped, gathered a large army in southern Scotland, and campaigned against his opponents; Wyntoun has Alexander chase his foes “owre the Stokfttrd into Ros” (perhaps a ford of the Beauly river) with cavalry, where they were overtaken and slain. In both accounts the defeat of his opponents is used to explain the epithet of “the Fers” [Fierce] accorded to Alexander, and Scone priory is said to have been founded in thanksgiving for the victory.(15)  It is the link between the victory over the rebels and the foundation of the priory at Scone in the later chroniclers that opens up the prospect that the event they describe might be somehow connected with the killing of Lodmund in 1116: Scone was founded by Alexander I between 1114 and 1120.(16)  As with the events of 1085, we can do no more than speculate; it is not at all clear who Lodmund was, or how he might fit into the scenario described by Wyntoun and Bower. Taken altogether, though, the evidence hints at a strong undercurrent of animosity toward Malcolm III and his sons on the part of the inhabitants of Moray and Ross. Nonetheless, it hardly seems possible to speak of much tangible or persistent opposition to the Canmore dynasty before the long and eventful reign of David I (1124-53), the youngest son of Malcolm III and Queen Margaret.

Shortly after the death of Alexander and the accession of David I in 1124, the Norman chronicler Orderic Vitalis (whose reliability for Scottish affairs is uneven), recorded that “Malcolm, a bastard son of Alexander, made a bid for his father’s kingdom, and instigated two bitter wars against him.”(17)  This Malcolm is usually identified as Malcolm “MacHeth,” and his identity is considered at length below.  Orderic relates how David’s forces successfully defeated Malcolm and his supporters, but the timing of the insurrection, following as it did so closely upon David’s succession to the kingship, is surely significant. Only six years later, David faced another uprising, this time from the combined forces of Angus, styled comes Morafiae [earl of Moray], and Malcolm, numbering five thousand men if Orderic’s numbers can be trusted.(18)  The king was absent in England and the task of meeting the invasion fell upon the shoulders of Edward, the son of Siward (possibly tile constable of Kings Alexander and David), who killed Angus and routed his army. The fugitives were pursued into Moray, which was then conquered and annexed to the Crown.(19)  The death of Angus and the defeat of the Moravians were, as we have seen, noticed by Irish sources, with the Annals of lnisfallen noting the “slaughter of the men of Moray in Alba.”(20) These entries make it clear that the defeat and slaughter of the Moray forces was an event which was considered of more than local importance, and impressed itself firmly upon the minds of contemporaries from Ireland to the continent. In fact, the words of these chronicles foreshadow a recurrent theme in the history of northern Scotland in the twelfth century.

In 1134 Malcolm MacHeth, who had been associated with Angus in the 1130 rising but had escaped the carnage at Stracathro, was captured and imprisoned at Roxburgh after what seems to have been a major campaign against him.(21)  But, despite his incarceration, and although the decades between 1130 and about 1160 appear devoid of northern opposition, there was no shortage of challenges to the Scottish kings from other peripheral regions.  Thus, near the end of his reign, David I was beset by the enigmatic Wimund, bishop of the Isles, who claimed to be the son of the earl of Moray, and who caused considerable disruption in Cumbria. The 1150s were also turbulent; after the death of David I in 1153, the mighty Somerled of Argyll (d. 1164) joined forces with the sons of the imprisoned Malcolm MacHeth, and their uprising dragged on until 1157. Then, in 1160, there was the so-called “revolt of the earls” against David’s successor, his grandson Malcolm IV (1153-65), at Perth, in which Fergus, Lord of Galloway (d. 1161), may or may not have played a role.(22)  These uprisings are important events in the history of twelfth century Scotland and, as will be demonstrated later, are not always easy to disentangle from tile uprisings in tile north under consideration here.

In 1163 the Moravians again appear in the record. In that year, the Holyrood chronicle cryptically recorded that rex Malcolmus Murevienses transtulit  [“King Malcolm moved the men of Moray”].(23)   This statement was expanded upon by the fourteenth-century chronicler John of Fordun, who described at length how Malcolm raised an army and removed the inhabitants of Moray from that province, “so that not even one native of that land abode there; and he installed therein his own peaceful people.”(24)  This episode remains enigmatic, and scholars have long searched for the means to explain it. It has been argued that Fordun was merely embellishing the account which he found in the Chronicle of Holyrood, as he did on other occasions;(25) if so, Fordun’s words can only be taken as an expansion upon the earlier source, not independent corroboration of it. The vagueness of the terminology also raises problems, since it is not entirely clear who was being moved: the passage might refer to a transferal of the bishopric of Moray, a translation of martyrs’ relics, or else (more likely) a relocation of the natives of the region.(26)  Although it need not be agreed that the passage necessarily describes a twelfth-century highland clearance,(27)Fordun’s statement should not be dismissed out of hand, either. Indeed, the episode may well be related to the ongoing colonization of Moray by King Malcolm IV, in which case opposition remains a possibility. It may be no coincidence that the king gifted Innes and Nether Urquhart (near Elgin in Moray) to Berowald, a Fleming colonist, around Christmas 1160, part of the long and drawn-out process whereby royal authority was consolidated in the north, and it may well be significant that John of Fordun also mentioned an otherwise unrecorded ravaging of the land by the Moravians in 1161.(28)  Whether these two events from 1160 and 1161 have any connection with the mysterious episode of 1163 cannot be determined with certainty, but taken altogether the indications are that the far north remained unsettled and turbulent in the middle of the twelfth century.

King Malcolm IV died in 1165 and was succeeded by his brother, William I (1165-1214). Yet, paradoxically, the more established the dynasty became, the greater the resistance to it also became, and the reign of William saw a welter of new uprisings centred in the north. Indeed, the extension of royal authority in the north has been regarded as “the major domestic concern” of William’s administration.(29)  In 1179, King William and his brother, Earl David (d. 1219), took a large army into Ross, presumably as a response to some threat. In conjunction with this campaign, the king built two new castles, at Redcastle, on the north shore of the Beauly Firth, and at Dunskeath, at the mouth of the Cromarty Firth.(30)  In 1181, a well-informed English chronicle recorded the arrival of Donald MacWilliam, “with a numerous armed host,” adding that he “had many a time made insidious incursions into that kingdom.”(31)  While it is unclear whether the events of 1179 and 1181 should be regarded as separate incidents, the chronicler’s comment that MacWilliam had made many incursions into Scotland is a strong indicator that the 1181 uprising was not the first, and that there had been trouble from this quarter for some time. The second insurrection was serious enough that King William, who was absent in England, was forced to return to Scotland in order to deal with it. Yet it is clear that tile royal expeditions off 1179 and/or 1181 had done little to eliminate disaffection in the north, and MacWilliam remained at large.

It was not until 1187 that Donald MacWilliam was finally hunted down and killed. A royal army, led by some of the earls and utilizing Inverness as a base, set off in search of MacWilliam.(32)  The chronicle once attributed to “Benedict of Peterborough” (now known to be the work of Roger of Howden),(33) which gave a detailed account of the expedition, related how, following some bickering among the earls, a large contingent of the army fell upon MacWilliam on a moor at the unknown site called Mam Garvia (possibly Strath Garve, west of Dingwall), where Roland, Lord of Galloway (d.1200), with a force of three thousand warriors, slew Donald and brought his head to the king.(34)  Earlier, in December 1186, but possibly connected with the events of 1187, a band of some sixty men, led by Adam, son of Donald – possibly one of Donald MacWilliam’s sons called uthlagus regis, the king’s outlaw, was pursued by Earl Malcolm of Atholl into Coupar Angus abbey and slain there despite having apparently claimed sanctuary.(35)  The massacre at Coupar Angus and the battle at Mam Garvia combined to reduce the threat from the north for nearly twenty-five years. During that time, an intensive process of internal colonization was undertaken in Moray through the settlement of new families, the growth of existing and new urban communities, the advance of ecclesiastical and secular administrative structures, and the development of forest and wasteland.(36)  But, despite the vigorous extension of royal authority in the north, the descendants of Donald Mac William and Malcolm MacHeth, as well as Earl Harald Maddadson of Orkney (1139-1206), proved intransigent into the first third of the thirteenth century.(37)

One of the best-documented, though not best-known, incidents of opposition to the Canmore kings took place in 1211-12, when Guthred (Godfrey), the son of Donald MacWilliam, came from Ireland, landed in the far north, and caused considerable devastation: “he trod underfoot everything he encountered and plagued many parts of the kingdom of Scotland.”(38)  The invasion and the measures to suppress it are recorded by the fifteenth-century chronicler Walter Bower (who was relying, for these passages, on a now lost thirteenth-century account), and also in contemporary English annals.(39)  Bower details the royal campaigns against Guthred, which scattered his army in 1211 but failed to apprehend Guthred himself until he was betrayed by his own men a year later. English sources add the important information that King John of England (1199-1216) provided military assistance in the form of Brabantine mercenaries, and also that King William’s son, the future King Alexander II (1214-49), was in charge of the 1211 campaign.(40) Following Guthred’s betrayal he was taken into custody by Walter Comyn, the earl of Buchan and the king’s representative in the north, who set out with his captive to meet the king; but when Comyn “learned the king’s will, which was that he did not want to see him [Guthred] alive, they beheaded Guthred, dragged him along by the feet and hung him up.”(41)Guthred’s invasion was not quite the last incident of northern resistance, but it was probably the last really serious threat to the Scottish kings; subsequent MacHeth and MacWilliam invasions and uprisings have an air of desperation and futility about them.

            Despite the messy ends of both Donald MacWilliam and Guthred, undercurrents of dissent clearly remained strong. In 1215 Donald Ban, the son of Mac William (Donald or Guthred is not clear), and Kenneth MacHeth (a descendant of Malcolm MacHeth), as well as the son of an Irish prince, joined forces and invaded Moray. Perhaps the most significant aspect to this uprising was that, for the first time, the MacHeths and MacWilliams seem to have united in their opposition to the kings of Scots. Nevertheless, they were met and single-handedly defeated, apparently without assistance from a royal army, by a native dignitary of Ross named Farquhar MacTaggart. He cut off their heads, presented them as gifts to the new king (Alexander II, 1214-49), and was rewarded with knighthood and later an earldom.(42)  This episode is interesting on a number of levels. First and foremost, “it shows a Celtic leader in the north now on the side of the royal house descended from Malcolm and Margaret; and, because of his services, the Celtic leader is made a feudal knight.”(43) This incident also reveals just how hopeless opposition to the Canmore kings had become by the early thirteenth century: when northern magnates like Farquhar were supporting the royal house instead of resisting it, it could only be a matter of time before the resistance faltered completely. By the early decades of the thirteenth century, twilight was slowly falling on the MacHeth and MacWilliarn resistance as a new order, loyal to the Scottish kings, took root in the north.

The closing scenes of the MacWilliam drama were played out in the 1220s, although ail exact sequence of events proves difficult to reconstruct because of the nature of the evidence. Bower says that “some wicked men of the race of MacWilliam, namely Gillescop and his sons and Roderick, appeared in the furthest limits of Scotland” in 1223 and were subsequently brought to justice.(44)  This passage sounds remarkably similar to what the contemporary Chronicle of Lanercost says happened in 1230,(45) and it is possible that either Bower has misplaced tile event by several years or else the chronicler has compressed the events of the earlier 1220s into its entry for that one year.  Bower later records that, in 1228, Thomas of Thirlestane, lord of Abertarff (a northern landholder), was attacked in his castle and killed, part of Inverness burnt, and some of the king’s lands plundered, by Gillescop.(46)  After journeying to the north himself, the king allotted a force of footmen to William Comyn, earl of Buchan, to deal with the situation, suggesting, perhaps, a lack of confidence in the feudal magnates already established in Moray.(47)  Since Comyn’s son Walter appears shortly thereafter as lord of Badenoch, this may represent the victory of the Comyns and the defeat of Gillescop, who perished in 1229.(48)  It is no doubt against the backdrop of these disturbances in the late 1220s that we must set the events of 1230, which saw the end of the MacWilliams and were recorded by the Chronicle of Lanercost:

the same MacWilliam’s daughter, who had not long left her mother’s womb,
innocent as she was, was put to death, in the burgh of Forfar, in view of the
market-place, after a proclamation by the public crier: her head was struck
against the column of the [market] cross, and her brains dashed out.(49)

And so, with the death of an infant girl at Forfar exactly a century after the demise of Angus of Moray at Stracathro, what Professor Duncan called the “pacification of the north” was completed.(50)

Resistance to the Scottish kings descended from King Malcolm III and Queen Margaret runs like a strong but deep undercurrent through the history of the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries: it is almost always present, though often hard to pick out of the various sources from which it has to be reconstructed. Without doubt, the most pressing questions surrounding this resistance focus upon its leaders and their motivations for hostility toward the Canmore kings. Various chroniclers, as we have seen, consistently associated the northern opposition with Malcolm MacHeth, Donald MacWilliam, and their respective kindreds. The origins and ancestry of these families have long puzzled historians and the basis for their opposition has also proven elusive. Given the fractured nature of the evidence and the major problems that exist in interpreting it, this is hardly surprising. Yet there remain many unanswered questions about these two enigmatic kindreds, not the least of which revolves around the identities of Malcolm MacHeth and Donald MacWilliam, the nature of their claims, and the basis for the considerable support that they garnered in the north.

The identity of Malcolm MacHeth has been called “one of the important unsolved problems of early Scottish history.”(51)  Orderic Vitalis referred to Malcolm as an illegitimate son of King Alexander I, who made a bid for the kingdom in 1124 and who joined Angus in the 1130 insurrection, but did not call him “MacHeth.”(52)  In fact, it was the Holyrood chronicler who first gave Malcolm the (apparent) patronymic “MacHeth” when it described his reconciliation with the king in 1157; the same designation was used (in different forms) in several charters as well.(53)  The name “MacHeth” represents the Gaelic “son of Aed,” mace Aeda, and it is the best evidence with which to refute Orderic’s identification of him as an illegitimate son of Alexander I.(54)  Several attempts have been made to explain this patronymic (which seems to have been used as a surname by 1215), and they may be divided into two main groups: those which would trace MacHeth’s descent from a member of the Cenel Loairn dynasty of Moray, and those which would associate him with an important family from Ross. While the former is more commonly expressed than tile latter, it is perhaps less accepted in recent scholarly circles. Its explanation would run something along these lines: when Lulach, Macbeth’s stepson, was killed by Malcolm Canmore in 1058, the royal line of Moray did not die out but was represented by Lulach’s son, Mael Snechta. He died in 1085, and since he left no children his heir was his sister, Lulach’s daughter. In the 1130 record of the death of Angus in the Annals of Ulster, he was styled “the son of Lulach’s daughter,”(55) making him a nephew of Mael Snechta and a grandson of King Lulach. Neither Lulach’s daughter (Mael Snechta’s sister) nor her husband is anywhere named, but a reasonable conjecture would be that her husband’s name was Aed (Aodh), and indeed a “Beth” comes and a “Head” comite appeared in several early charters of Alexander I and David I;(56) these names probably represent scribal errors or Latinizations of Aed. Malcolm MacHeth would then have been either a son or a brother of Angus, obtaining his claims in direct descent from the Cenel Loairn Moray dynasty.(57)  W.F. Skene, a pioneer in the study of Celtic Scotland, postulated that Aed (Meth) may himself have been of a family closely associated with the dynasty of Moray.  He argued that Heth should be identified with Teadh, a grandson of Gillechattan, founder of the clan Chattan, who was descended from the rulers of Moray.(58)  Unfortunately, however, Aed cannot be definitely identified on the basis of the present evidence. No positive connection between the Aed of the charters and the Teadh of the Clan Chattan genealogy can be proven; and as Aed was given no title in the three charters he witnessed, the matter cannot satisfactorily be resolved. Nevertheless, the suggestion that Malcolm MacHeth was descended from the line of Moray is an attractive one.(59)

            Another argument would follow some aspects of this pedigree while rejecting others. The meaning of the patronymic MacHeth as “son of Aed” is accepted, and consequently the relationship of Malcolm to tile earl Aed of the charters is also accepted.  It is at this point, however, that the two arguments diverge. By a second line of thought, Aed would not be identified as the earl of Moray but rather as an otherwise unknown earl of Ross. This argument would thus separate the MacHeth claims from descent from the Moray dynasty, but would regard them instead as agitating for the restoration of the earldom of Ross.(60) Whichever view is correct, one thing seems certain: MacHeth enjoyed a high status in contemporary society. This is most evident from the matrimonial alliance he forged: he married a sister of Somerled, the king of Argyll and the Isles, probably before 1130, proving his standing in society.(61)

Much obviously hinges on the date at which the earldom of Ross was created.(62)  Since there is no earl of Ross on the record until Malcolm MacHeth himself, and since the earl Aed of the early charters cannot firmly be linked with any particular earldom, it seems most unlikely that the province of Ross was in existence in the early twelfth century. This would raise the problem of when and under what circumstances it emerged. The Holyrood chronicler recorded that Malcolm MacHeth, whose sons had been locked in conflict with Malcolm IV since 1153, was reconciled with the king of Scots in 1157.(63)  This brief mention must, in fact, represent an oversimplification of a very important matter, which can only be glimpsed imperfectly. Since he was styled earl of Ross at his death in 1168,(64) it does not require a great leap of the imagination to conclude that Malcolm MacHeth was, in fact, granted the earldom of Ross in 1157 as part of his reconciliation, perhaps in exchange for an agreement to terminate his opposition to the Scottish kings. However, it may also be that MacHeth was not merely installed in an existing office, but that this action represented the creation of the earldom of Ross, which was in effect severed from the larger region of Moray, thus truncating that province. But would such an arrangement have proved advantageous to both parties concerned, and would it not appear odd that the king would allow an erstwhile rival to hold a newly created earldom?

From the perspective of the king of Scots, the erection of Ross into an earldom would be tantamount to the creation of a frontier zone. Not only would a buffer-zone be created between the province of Moray and the expansionist earl of Orkney, Harald Maddadson, who was often hostile to Scottish authority, but the fact that its holder was of native stock and presumably well-known in the region would enhance his authority and might also have facilitated administration of an otherwise ungovernable and troublesome province (not unlike Farquhar MacTaggart half a century later). While the nature of the grant is unknown, it must have been similar in nature to that bestowing Fife upon the native earls of that province c. 1140, and was no doubt based upon dependent tenure. If this were the case, then the king would also have succeeded in binding a potentially troublesome magnate to his cause and, not unlike the earls of the east, entrapping him in obligations. If the king’s aim was to reduce trouble in the north by binding MacHeth to his cause, then subsequent events must suggest that lie was successful. It is a curious and overlooked fact that there was no further resistance from the MacHeths until 1186 (possibly) and 1215 (certainly), and it must be significant that nothing more is heard of MacHeth’s descendants for at least thirty years after his accommodation. From the MacHeth perspective such a settlement also had much to commend it. While it might seem odd, at first glance, that a rival to the throne would come to terms with the king, the earldom of Ross and the title that accompanied it was perhaps as reasonable a reward as MacHeth could expect under the circumstances.(65) With the kingship monopolized by a dynasty that had proven its ability to protect itself against rival claimants, the move by MacHeth must be regarded as extremely adroit: Ire may well have sensed which way the winds of change were blowing and decided to trim his sails accordingly. Such a situation is not without parallel in the Scottish kingdom: the earls of Fife, the premier native magnates, were likely descended from King Dub (d. 966), and may have obtained their status as inaugural officials by abandoning the claims of their kin to the kingship.(66)

If little is known of Malcolm MacHeth, his descendants are cloaked in even deeper veils of mystery. Of his sons who joined forces with Somerled in 1153, Donald was imprisoned with his father in 1156. From this point on, his fate is unknown: was he, too, released in 1157, or did he remain in confinement?  A reasonable suggestion which would accord well with what we know in such circumstances would be that he was held as a hostage for his father’s good behaviour. The fate of Malcolm’s other son, or even his name, is unknown; it is a point of some contention whether the Adam son of Donald who was killed at Coupar Angus in 1186 was a son of Donald MacHeth.(67)  From 1186 to 1215 there are no more references to the MacHeths. In 1215, however, Kenneth MacHeth appeared upon the stage, apparently allied with a son of Donald MacWilliam. His parentage is uncertain, although it seems likely he was a son of Donald: if he had been horn in the year of his father’s death (1187), lie would have been in the prime of life in 1215; other historians have regarded him as a son of the Adam mentioned above, although this naturally hinges upon an acceptance of Adam as a son of Donald MacHeth.(68)  With the death of Kenneth in 1215, it seems that tile last of the MacHeths had played their final hour upon the stage, and the remainder of the northern uprisings were associated with tile MacWilliams.

Donald MacWilliam was first mentioned by name in 1181, although it is quite possible that lie was the target of a campaign launched by King William and his brother, Earl David, in 1179. Roger of Howden, an important source for the MacWilliam uprisings, who possessed first-hand knowledge, gave his descent as Duvenaldus filius Willelmi filii Dunecan,(69) and an annalist at St. Edmund’s described one of Donald’s descendants as a “certain relative of the king of Scots,” (quidam cognalus regis Scoliae).(70)  Donald’s identity as a son of William, the son of King Duncan II (reigned briefly in 1094), the son of Malcolm Canmore and his first wife, Ingibjorg, is therefore fairly well established and not seriously in doubt.(71)  It is known that William fitz Duncan was a close companion of King David I, whose charters he frequently witnessed and who was addressed as Willelmus nepos Regis or simply Willelmus filius Duncani.(72) His Norman affiliations are clearly evident in the form of his name, although it should also be noted that the form of his son’s name, Donald MacWilliam, is a Gaelic one, betraying, perhaps, an upbringing in a foster-home.(73)  William had married Alice de Rumilly, the daughter of William Meschin, a prominent landholder in Cumbria.(74)  Although the couple had one son, William (commonly known as the Boy of Egremont) and three daughters, Donald was not a son of William by Alice de Rumilly, but rather, if he was not simply illegitimate, perhaps the result of an earlier marriage.(75)

The issue is complicated by a reference in a thirteenth-century Cumbrian genealogy to William fitz Duncan as comes de Murray (earl of Moray), a title which, as we have seen, is not used in any of the charters.(76)  Professor Barrow has used this reference to construct an explanation for not only the MacWilliam claims to the Scottish kingship, but also the close association of the kindred with the northern regions of Moray and Ross:

If William had made a previous marriage with a cousin or sister of Angus earl of Moray,
a claimant to the Scots throne in 1130, this would give Donald MacWilliam a mother from
whom he would inherit a claim to the throne probably more cogent than that derived from
his father. Moreover, Donald would have had an obvious claim to the earldom of Moray,
which was held by the Crown in the time of Malcolm IV and William I and was not granted
out again until the fourteenth century.(77)

            It has to be admitted that the reference to William fitz Duncan as “earl of Moray” in the Cumbrian genealogy is indeed difficult to explain. While this document was apparently intended to provide claims to stand up to an inquiry in a court of law in the period 1275-1316,(78) not all historians have shared Barrow’s confidence in the genealogy as a source. Some have proven sceptical of the significance of the genealogies and placed little value upon their reliability without external corroboration.(79)  Unfortunately, such documentation is not to be found. In all of his charter attestations William was styled simply Willelmus nepos Regis or Willelmuss filius Duncani, and it is surely odd that he would not have been styled “earl of Moray” in the charters if there had been cause to so designate him.

Yet despite this puzzling reference, and the persuasive explanation of MacWilliam claims set out by Professor Barrow, it remains difficult to discard the notion that Donald MacWilliam’s claims to the kingship must have conic from his royal grandfather, Duncan II, who ruled briefly in 1094. The vexing question here is, as Professor Barrow has rightly pointed out, explaining why Donald MacWilliam, in the 1180s, “pressed a claim to the Scots throne which . . . had lain dormant for over sixty years.”(80)  Indeed, there is no evidence that either William Fitz Duncan or William of Egremont ever put forward a claim to the kingship,(81) so the emergence of MacWilliarn opposition to the Canmore kings in the 1180s proves even more baffling. We can perhaps best begin with the nature of the claim: the first wife of Malcolm Canmore was Ingibjorg, a widow or daughter of Thorfinn, earl of Orkney: his second wife was Margaret, a Saxon princess, the sister of Edgar Ætheling who had fled north following the Norman conquest of England in 1066. By his first marriage Malcolm had at least one son, Duncan (the Donald who died in 1085 might have been another), and by his second marriage six sons: Edward, Edmund, Æthelred, Edgar, Alexander, and David. Following the deaths of Malcolm, Edward, and Margaret within a few days of one another in 1093, Malcolm’s brother, Donald Ban, seized the kingship in what looks like a reaction against the increased southern influence promoted by Malcolm’s marriage to the Anglo-Saxon princess Margaret. Donald Ban’s reign was short-lived, however, with the end result that, in 1097, he was ousted by Malcolm and Margaret’s son, Edgar. From then until the death of David I in 1153 Malcolm and Margaret’s three sons, Edgar, Alexander, and David, ruled in uninterrupted succession, consolidating the kingship in this line.

At this point the difficult subject of Scottish succession practices must be raised. From the ninth to the eleventh century there operated in Scotland a system of alternating succession. By such a system, two rival but related segments took turns in the kingship so that each held power in alternating reigns. In the later tenth century this largely inclusive system broke down as Kenneth II (971-95) and Malcolm II (1005-34) attempted to restrict the kingship to their nearer descendants. This led in turn to the accession of Macbeth, a representative of the Cenel Loairn line of Moray – proving that exclusion from the succession was worthy of a fight.(82)  But the restoration of a rival segment was short lived, and the descendants of Malcolm III and Margaret were responsible for transforming the structures of the royal kin so that the dynasty acquired the attributes of a lineage: from 1097 to 1286 the kingship passed smoothly through this line, and Scottish kingship “parted company with one aspect of its Gaelic past.”(83)  It is true, of course, that this happened, in the beginning, as much through accident as through careful planning, but by the mid-1140s David I seems to have intended that his son should succeed him directly.(84)  The claims of rival segments, including the descendants of Duncan II, had been pushed aside – thus setting the stage for segmentary strife and resistance to the descendants of Malcolm III and Margaret into the early thirteenth century. As D. O Corrain has noted in the Irish context, “The passing of tile kingship from one segment to another, from one dynastic power base to another, upset as many as it satisfied.”(85)  In assessing the northern opposition to the Canmore dynasty, then, we cannot overlook the profound transformation of Scottish kingship taking place in the twelfth century.

If it is hard to deny that MacWilliam claims seem to have been genuine, it is more difficult to say why Donald’s father, William fitz Duncan, apparently made no effort to wrest the throne from the MacMalcolms, when, tinder a system of primogeniture, he had the better claim.(86)  In this matter, however, several often overlooked facts are crucial. First, William must have been very young, if indeed he had even been born, when his father was killed in 1094, and he was also probably in England.(87)  This, combined with the ensuing environment of claimants taking the Scottish kingship with military assistance from the Anglo-Norman kings of England, makes it highly unlikely that William would have been able to set forth his own claim. Second, there remains the clouded issue of legitimacy. It is tempting to suppose that the various opinions voiced by contemporaries about the illegitimacy of William’s father, Duncan II, were part of a propaganda campaign by the sons of Malcolm and Margaret to deliberately discredit any claims to the throne from that quarter.(88)  This would also have had the effect of casting aspersions on any claim of William to the throne. However, “irregular” marriages – irregular from the perspective of members of the contemporary reform movement taking place in the church did not debar a candidate from seeking the kingship in Ireland and Wales.(89)  Indeed, they often led to exactly the sort of process that I am suggesting was taking place in Scotland in the twelfth century. Third, it also appears that William achieved an honourable and prominent position within the new order of Scottish society. He married a wealthy heiress, acquired significant landholdings in Cumbria, and was a frequent companion of the king. Given the entrenchment of the sons of Malcolm and Margaret by the time of David I, he may have been quite comfortable with these honours and happy to let his claim lapse. Indeed, when the Norman form of his name, as well as what is known about his later career, when he was one of David’s foremost military leaders, are considered, it would appear that William fitz Duncan achieved accommodation within the new type of society being introduced to Scotland, not unlike that of the contemporary earls of Fife.(90)  If his son, Donald, as his name suggests (“MacWilliam” rather than “fitz William”), had grown up in a Gaelic environment, possibly a foster-home, then his assimilation becomes less likely. The most plausible explanation for the various uprisings against the Canmore dynasty by the MacWilliams, then, is that they were based upon the descent of William Fitz Duncan from King Duncan II, and there are also some compelling reasons why the claim to the throne put forth by Donald MacWilliarn in the second half of the twelfth century may have lain dormant in the person of his father.

While much is known or can be deduced about Donald MacWilliam himself, little is known of his descendants. In 1211 or 1212 his son Guthred, stated to have been “of the ancient line of Scottish kings,” crossed from Ireland and ravaged the north of Scotland, only to be captured and killed.(91)  In 1215 another son, Donald Ban, accompanied by Kenneth MacHeth and the son of an Irish king, met the same fate. Finally, in the 1220s, Gillescop, stated to have been of the “race of MacWilliarn” by Bower, caused trouble in the north. Little is known of him, although he seems to have been active in at least 1228-29. As for the daughter of MacWilliam who had her head smashed at Forfar, since she is described as having been out of her mother’s womb for but a short time, it seems unlikely, if not impossible, that she was the daughter of Donald Ban, killed in 1215. Could she have been Gillescop’s daughter instead? In short, while MacWilliam’s descendants remain obscure, there can be no question that Duncan II’s descendants were even less successful than their forbear in pressing their claims to the Scottish kingship.(92)

Thus far, it has been argued that when viewing the uprisings centred predominantly in the north of Scotland, two distinct claims to the kingship must be recognized: those of MacHeth, likely transmitted from the house of Moray, and MacWilliam claims, based upon descent from King Duncan II. In this respect the uprisings display a strongly dynastic element. Further, these claims must be taken seriously. Whoever they were, and however they are regarded by modern historians, both MacHeth and MacWilliam had some justice on their side. If their claims did not rest upon a sound genealogical basis, men of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries would scarcely have paid them any heed.(93)  It is also significant to note the treatment accorded to Malcolm MacHeth after his capture in 1134: he was neither executed nor mutilated, but was imprisoned. Surely if MacHeth’s cause lacked a sound basis, David I would have taken steps to ensure that his rival would cause no more trouble. This is what apparently happened with the enigmatic Wimund in the late 1140s: he was blinded and castrated, and sent to Byland abbey to live out his last days as a monk there.(94)  That David did not follow this route strongly suggests that MacHeth had some justice on his side, as does the 1157 accommodation and the grant of the earldom of Ross. In this context it is interesting to note that Donald MacWilliam and his descendants received much harsher treatment at the hands of the royal line they opposed. This could mean that, in the eyes of the Scottish kings, their claims were invalidated based upon the supposed illegitimacy of Duncan II.

In assessing the problem of the northern resistance to the Canmore dynasty, it may also be of some significance to return to the question of the name MacHeth. It has already been noted that this probably means macc Aeda, “son of Aed.” Aed or Aodh, meaning “fire,” was a fairly common name,(95) but it also appears to have carried very strong prophetic connotations in the context of contemporary Gaeldom. One version of Berchan’s Prophecy, for instance, alluded to an “Aodh Eanghach” from Cruachan who would win victories and inflict slaughter on both Irish and foreigners, while the Annals of Loch Ce preserve an enigmatic entry under the year 1214 about the appearance of a “false Aedh, who was called ‘the Aider’.”(96)  In the Irish context, then, there was a “popular expectation of a messianic king called Aodh, who would deliver his country from the Norman invaders . . . .”(97)  Other prophecies also circulated in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries which promised the expulsion of the Anglo-Normans from Ireland and Wales. Gerald of Wales recorded a tradition that “almost all the English will be dislodged from Ireland by a king who will come from the lonely mountains of Patrick, and on the night of Our Lord’s day will overrun a castle in the wooded region of Ui Fhaelain.”(98)  In Wales, prophecies of Myrddin were also circulated which foretold that the Welsh would be rid of the Normans and English.(99)  There seems no reason why prophecies like these, obviously widely known in the twelfth century, could not have become current in Scotland, especially given the close contacts that existed between northern and western Scotland and Gaelic Ireland in this period. In fact, it is interesting to note that lines from Berchan and attributed to him by name survive in a Scottish manuscript of fifteenth/sixteenth-century date.(100)  Traditions like these could well have added strength and support to the MacHeth cause against the Canmore monarchs, closely allied as these kings were with European trends.

Implicit in the foregoing discussion is the thesis that the northern resistance to the Canmores was essentially dynastically driven; that is to say, MacHeths and MacWilliams were excluded from competing for the kingship, succession to which had traditionally operated through an alternating system, by the descendants of Malcolm III and Margaret as they organized themselves into a lineage which monopolized the royal office. But underlying these changes in the succession was an increased southern influence, first English and then Anglo-Norman, promoted by the union of Malcolm Canmore and Margaret in c. 1070. Although superficially dynastic in nature, at a deeper level the northern opposition must also be regarded as directed against fundamental cultural changes which affected succession practices. It is significant in this context that a contemporary English chronicle, recording the MacWilliam rising of 1211-12, went on to say that, “more recent kings of Scots profess themselves to be rather Frenchmen, both in race and in manners, language, and culture: and after reducing the Scots to utter servitude, they admit only Frenchmen to their friendship and service.”(101)  This link between the Europeanizing policies of the kings of Scots and the MacWilliam rising must therefore be regarded as more than just coincidence, and is, in fact, indicative of resentment and reaction against such policies. These uprisings, then, may be seen not only as attempting to restore the form of succession which gave collateral branches of the royal line access to the kingship, but also as resisting the Anglo-Norman penetration of Scotland from within. Perhaps, then, if the Norman infiltration of Scotland is often regarded as a “peaceful Norman conquest” it can no longer be held to have been exclusively so, as demonstrated by the military actions of the Scottish kings against their northern foes. Moreover, one of the valuable lessons to be learned from closer study of this northern resistance is that, despite the current characterization of the twelfth- and thirteenth-century kingdom as a balance of “old” and “new,”(102) the incidents of resistance to the Canmore kings show that there existed within this kingdom elements that were clearly alienated and disaffected.

If MacHeth and MacWilliam are seen as agitating for the same prize, namely, the kingship of Scotland, then the problem does arise of the apparent cooperation of the counter-claimants in seeking the same objective. In some interpretations this provides an important stumbling block for the acceptance of the genealogies outlined above.(103)  A careful reading of the evidence, however, will not allow the conclusion that MacHeths and MacWilliams were cooperating continuously throughout the twelfth century. It is striking that for nearly thirty years, from the time of Malcolm MacHeth’s reconciliation in 1157 to the events of 1186, there is no mention of the sons of Malcolm MacHeth being involved in any insurrections – and the identification of Adam, son of Donald, who was killed in 1186, with a son of Malcolm MacHeth is contentious. Indeed, it is not until the uprising of 1215 – and apparently only then – that there is any hint of collaboration between MacHeths and MacWilliams, this might well be the first cooperative effort, perhaps born of desperation. Fordun recorded how “the king of Scotland’s enemies namely, Donald Ban, son of MacWilliam, Kenneth MacHeth, and the son of a certain king of Ireland –entered Moray with a numerous crowd of miscreants.”(104)  This does seem to suggest a common cause, but can hardly be taken to indicate collaboration and cooperation over the previous eighty years. In fact, the issue of counter-claimants competing for the same prize can be better understood by turning to contemporary Irish and Welsh society, where it was by no means unusual to find two or more segments of the royal lineage competing for the kingship; indeed, in Ireland, the dispossessed segments might unite in common opposition to that in possession of the kingship.(105)

Much of the foregoing discussion has been, of necessity, speculative; the identities and motivations of Malcolm MacHeth and Donald MacWilliam remain murky and contentious. Fortunately, however, other aspects of the northern opposition to the Canmore kings can be elucidated with much greater certainty, and firmer conclusions can be drawn. In the first instance, there is the chronological framework. While it would be easy to dismiss individual uprisings as isolated occurrences, taken cumulatively the frequency and persistence with which they unfolded is truly staggering: nearly every decade of the twelfth century, as well as the first third of the thirteenth, witnessed uprisings of some sort against the kings of Scots, with many of these challenges originating in the northern regions of Moray and Ross. Moreover, it is pertinent to note that the timing of many, if not most, of these insurrections coincided with moments of weakness in the kingdom and monarchy. Several uprisings, including those of 1124, 1153-57, and 1215, occurred on the death of a monarch, while others unfolded at times when the king was absent from the kingdom, as in 1130 and 1181, or else was ageing and feeble, as in 1211-12. Indeed, one English chronicler made a direct link between William’s age and his inability to pacify “the interior districts of his kingdom, disturbed by revolt” in 1212.(106)  Here, then, were no random events, but carefully timed, and presumably orchestrated, predatory strikes against the Canmore kings in their weakest moments. Further, the serious nature of the threat was recognized and underlined by contemporaries. The Holyrood chronicler, for instance, wrote in the wake of the death of Donald MacWilliam in 1187 that “peace long disturbed was given again to the king and the kingdom through God’s mercy and strength,” while Walter Bower, after describing the demise of Gillescop and his followers, remarked that “the land was no longer troubled by their wickedness.”(107)  Internal stability, long regarded as one of the characteristics of the twelfth century kingdom of Scots, should not, perhaps, be overestimated; it might even be concluded from the tenacity and timing of the uprisings against the kings of Scots that there was a deeply rooted “resistance movement” afoot in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

It could, of course, be argued that the comments made by various chroniclers about the restoration of internal peace following the suppression of these insurrections are simply hyperbole. This raises the important question of just how much of a threat the MacWilliam and MacHeth uprisings actually posed to the Scottish kings. Here, several points stand out. The first is that the chroniclers repeatedly emphasized the destructive nature of the MacHeth and MacWilliam insurrections; the descriptions of Roger of Howden for the events of 1181 and Walter Bower for those of 1211-1212 are particularly vivid.  Howden described how MacWilliam landed in Scotland “with a numerous armed host, wasting and burning as much of the land as he reached; and he put the folk to flight, and slew all of those whom he could take.”(108)  Bower, describing Guthred’s incursion in 1211, relates how MacWilliarn avoided battle with the royal army, “meanwhile laying ambushes for it wherever he could by night or day, and driving off booty from the lord king’s land;” by avoiding direct confrontation with what must have been vastly superior royal forces and opting instead for guerilla-style warfare, Guthred foreshadowed a strategy that Robert Bruce would find particularly successful against the English a century later!

It is hard to say much about the composition or nature of the armies led by MacHeths and MacWilliams. If the chroniclers can be believed, they were both large and, as we have seen, destructive. But several other facets also stand out. The first is that they could be well-equipped. Walter Bower, describing Guthred’s invasion in 1211, makes specific reference to the fact that his army possessed siege machines with which a royal stronghold was successfully reduced.(109)  The second is that Irish involvement is particularly noticeable. As Sean Duffy has pointed out, “there were always men in Ireland willing to throw their muscle about in Scotland and in the islands . . . The underdog, the pretender, and the malcontent in Scotland all found Irish support.”(110)  Thus, Donald MacWilliam is said to have landed in Scotland with an armed host in 1181; he must have launched his invasion from outside the kingdom and recruited at least part of his forces from the Irish Sea region. In 1211-12 it is explicitly stated that Godfrey, MacWilliam’s son, arrived in Scotland from Ireland, while the 1215 uprising involved an unnamed Irish prince and presumably Irish and Hebridean forces as well. Finally, the insurgents of the 1220s are also said to have arrived in the furthest limits of Scotland and, given the precedents of at least 1211 and 1215, it is likely that they too launched their invasion from a staging point beyond the kingdom. Considering the connections to Gaelic Ireland possessed by the MacHeths and MacWilliams, it is hardly surprising that one avenue pursued by the Scottish kings to shut down their insurrections was to campaign against their Irish bases. Keith Stringer has argued that a series of combined Anglo-Scottish campaigns in northern Ireland in 1212 look like “determined efforts to strike out bases of MacWilliam support” in the aftermath of Guthred’s uprising.(111)  Their success may be adjudged by the fact that Farquhar MacTaggart was able to single-handedly suppress the insurrection of 1215, and subsequent uprisings seem much less threatening than those between 1181 and 1212.

Apart from the connection with Gaelic Ireland, the links of the MacWilliams and MacHeths to the Hebrides should also be noted; indeed, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that mercenary troops from Argyll and the Isles, the infamous galloclaig or galloglasses, made up at least part of the northern armies that faced the royal forces. Although the galloglasses do not appear on the record until the middle of the thirteenth century,(112) given the close connections of the MacHeths and MacWilliams with the Hebrides, it would have been natural for them to use these areas as recruiting grounds. Indeed, the “Roderic” mentioned in relation to the insurrections of the 1220s is usually identified with Ruairi, the son of Ranald, one of the Hebridean chieftains descended from Somerled (d.1164).(113)  The connection between the north of Scotland, the Hebrides, and Gaelic Ireland would seem to bear out Keith Stringer’s assertion that, “ambitious leaders could maximize their strength by drawing warriors from one part of the closely- knit Gaelic-Norse world to fight in another.”(114)  In this context, one of the more significant aspects of the creation of Farquhar MacTaggart as earl of Ross (by 1226) was that it placed a loyal supporter of the Scots king in direct control of a strategic block of territory that included Easter Ross, while his sphere of influence stretched all the way to the western seaboard (“North Argyll” or Wester Ross was a later thirteenth-century acquisition of the earls of Ross). Along with other recent grants of Badenoch to the Comyns, this effectively choked off the MacHeth-MacWilliam lifeline to Ireland, and must have driven the final nail into the coffin of northern resistance.(115)

Additionally, there is the question of who supported the MacHeths and MacWilliams in their endeavours against the Scottish kings. It is not an easy one to answer, though there are some tantalizing hints in the sources that these individuals enjoyed considerable support. Roger of Howden alleged that Donald MacWilliarn had made his incursion in 1181 with the “mandate of certain powerful men of the kingdom”; he also stated in his discussion of the events of 1187 that Mac William’s actions had been undertaken “through the consent and council of the earls and barons of the kingdom.”(116)  This last remark is particularly interesting, because Howden, who described the campaign against Mac William, noted how the royal army sent against him was divided within its own ranks: “and when they set out, treason arose among the chiefs; for certain of them loved the king not at all, and certain of them loved him.”(117) It would certainly be instructive to have further details, which are known to have existed: there was once a roll which contained “recognitions and old charters of the time of King William and King Alexander his son [concerning] those to whom the said kings formerly gave their peace, and those who stood with MacWilliam.”(118) Frustratingly, it was lost in England after 1296 along with the rest of the Scottish muniments which Edward I sent south to London in the aftermath of his conquest of Scotland.(119)

Notwithstanding the loss of these tantalizing records, it seems probable that one of those whose name might have been included among MacWilliam’s supporters was Harald Maddadson, the powerful and expansionist earl of Orkney and Caithness, who has already made a brief appearance in this narrative as an antagonist of the Scottish kings in the late twelfth century. Although Earl Harald had his own axe to grind with the Scottish monarchs, his military activities against them cannot be entirely dissociated from the resistance offered by the MacHeths and MacWilliams. Earl Harald was locked in conflict with King William I in 1196, 1197, and again in 1201-2, and although these uprisings are well-known,(120) the Orkney earl’s potential role in the MacHeth and MacWilliam opposition remains unexplored. It is well-known that Earl Harald was related by blood to the MacHeths: sometime after 1168, Earl Harald put away his wife, the daughter of Earl Duncan of Fife, and married instead the daughter of Malcolm MacHeth.(121)  This act probably represents a conscious association on his part with the faction represented by MacHeth, and it may have motivated his disturbances in the north in the 1190s since Fordun related that he had been “until then a good and trusty man – but at that time, goaded on by his wife . . . he had risen against [the king].”(122)  This contention would be strengthened by the fact that a condition of peace with the king in 1196 was that Earl Harald should dismiss MacHeth’s daughter as his wife; this he refused to do.(123)  It is thus possible that Maddadsson’s invasion of Moray in 1196 originated in this marriage alliance, and that the powerful Orkney earl was staking a claim to the earldom of Ross. It has also been suggested, however, that Maddadson’s involvement in these northern disturbances stemmed less from his wife’s association with Ross than from an aversion to the extensive expansion, particularly that of the de Moravia family, taking place in Moray following the defeat of MacWilliam in 1187.(124)  This would make his uprisings akin to those of Fergus and Somerled in the 1160s, in that he was “not very enthusiastic about the policy of spreading Scottish influence in Caithness.”(125)  Whatever the case may have been, the importance of the involvement of the earl of Orkney and Caithness in northern affairs in this period cannot denied, just as it cannot be denied that his position in Caithness would have been strengthened by attacks which undermined the power and authority of the kings of Scots.(126)  It is not inconceivable, therefore, that Maddadson provided covert assistance for several northern uprisings, and he may have been one of those anonymous but “powerful men” who are said to have supported the MacHeth and MacWilliam causes.

Finally, it remains to consider the specific geographical context of this opposition. The 1130 uprising was orchestrated by Angus, the ruler of Moray, and the sources speak of a slaughter of the Moraymen, although the battle which brought about its conclusion was fought at Stracathro, in Angus. In 1153, Malcolm Maclleth’s sons made common cause with Somerled against Malcolm IV, presumably drawing support from the Western Isles, and a Hebridean connection is again apparent in tile uprisings of the 1220s. By 1179 there was enough dissent, or at least threatened dissent, to warrant the construction of two castles at strategic northern locations. In the expedition of 1187 which hunted down Donald MacWilliam was centred on Inverness, with Donald’s death occurring, in all probability, at a site near Dingwall in Ross. In 1215, when both the MacHeths and MacWilliams rose again, they entered Moray, according to Bower, the rising of 1223 was centred “in the furthest limits of Scotland.” The rising of c.1228-30 saw the killing of a northern magnate in his castle and the burning of Inverness, while the Lanercost chronicler recorded that the “remotest territories of Scotland” were involved in the last MacWilliam disturbance. From Stracathro to Inverness to the “remotest territories of Scotland:” we can almost see the nexus of resistance being thrust further and further back into the rugged, mountainous territory beyond the Great Glen and into Wester Ross, no doubt the result of the settlement of newcomers and the consolidation of royal authority that had progressed hand in hand in the north in tile last quarter of the twelfth and first third of the thirteenth centuries.

Geographically, this makes sense. The northern highlands of Scotland, with their steep, tugged mountains, heavy forest, and peat bogs, were probably the least accessible part of the country throughout the entire medieval period:

In the absence of roads and hostelries the great extent of these
areas was sufficient to sever the daily lives of their inhabitants
from contact with the Lowland peoples and . . . mountain ridges
often prevented regular contact between groups in neighbouring

These physical characteristics made the highland regions an ideal base from which dissenting factions could operate, giving them the ability to disappear into the wilderness – or even, via the Great Glen, to the Isles or Ireland – in the event of pursuit. Moreover, the landscape of northern Scotland, like that of Ireland and Wales, had the added advantage of making it difficult for large groups of mounted horsemen to operate in preferred Norman or Anglo-French style, which had devastated the Moravians at Stracathro in 1130.(128)  A corollary to the physical environment which set these regions apart was their distance from the centres of royal authority. Under David I and Malcolm IV, in the middle of the twelfth century, the king’s control was limited, with most of the headway being made south of the Forth. It was not until the reign of William I, in the later twelfth and early thirteenth century, that royal authority began to extend steadily northwards, as grants were made to newcomers, royal burghs established, and sheriffdoms created.  But even so, as late as the middle of the thirteenth century Scottish royal authority can be regarded as of very uneven quality depending upon which part of the kingdom is considered, and in the margins it consisted of a loose overlordship over local rulers whose powers and status varied.(129)  For the inhabitants of Moray and Ross, not to mention the Hebrides, Argyll, and Galloway, the king of Scots must have seemed a distant figure whose authority was more illusory than real before the thirteenth century.

Analysis of the resistance faced by the Canmore kings in the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries leads continually back to the large and remote northern territories of Moray and Ross. Recent work on questions of identity in medieval Scotland has demonstrated that regional identities persisted into the twelfth century and beyond. The term Scotia, for instance, long referred only to the region north of the Firth of Forth and east of the River Spey, and even thirteenth-century writers differed as to the geographical area encompassed by the term. One of the regions which seems to have possessed a distinct identity was Moray, regarded as separate from Scotia by eleventh and twelfth-century sources. This is obvious from the Irish Annals cited above, which referred to the 1130 conflict between the “men of Moray” and the “men of Scotia.” But we need not rely solely on outside sources for this Moravian identity: in c.1136, King David I addressed a charter to omnibus probis hominihus totius Muref et Scoliae; that is, to all the “worthy men of Moray and Scotia.”(130) That situation would change, of course, as the century progressed, but there is good evidence that from at least the tenth to the twelfth century Moray ought to be regarded as “a distinct identity, on a par with and opposed to Scotland.”(131)  Moreover, recent inquiries into early Scottish kingship have shown that Moray possessed a history and a royal dynasty stretching back to the kingdom of Dalriada. It has been suggested that the Cenel Loairn, one of the three major kindreds of Scottish Dalriada (founded c. 500), migrated up the Great Glen and established themselves in Moray, perhaps in the face of Viking incursion into Dalriada, in the ninth century. Macbeth’s genealogy, the earliest extant version of which, significantly, dates from the 1130s, traces his pedigree back patrilineally to Ferchar Foda, a Dalriadic king of the Cenel Loairn who died c.696 or 697.(132)  The Cenel Loairn thus probably took over the northern Pictish province or provinces which were referred to by Bede as being separated from the southern ones by a line of “steep and desolate” mountains, the Grampians.(133)  It was, perhaps, this division between northern and southern Pictish provinces or kingdoms which endured long after the union of Picts and Scots by Kenneth MacAlpin in c.848, and which in turn led to the emergence of two “important and opposing kingdoms” among the Scots: Moray and Scotia.(134)  Evidence for this bipartite kingship may be adduced from a number of places. It is not just that Irish sources more or less consistently styled the rulers of Moray as “kings,” especially in the period between about 1020 and 1130; Angus was so identified on his death at Stracathro, and the terminology represents more than just the Irish nature of the source.(135)  The activities and itineraries of the MacAlpin kings are also persuasive: they were confined to the region south of the Dee, and were unable to make any headway against their northern neighbours until the second half of the eleventh century. Moreover, several kings of the line of Kenneth MacAlpin were slain in Moray, and these ongoing struggles should perhaps be viewed as reflecting not only the animosity between the house of MacAlpin and the house of Moray, but also traditional animosity between the descendants of Loairn and Gabrain and the perpetuation of the divisions between northern and southern Pictland.(136)  As Benjamin Hudson has suggested, the death of Angus at Stracathro in 1130 was especially significant because it marked the effective end of a bipartite kingship within North Britain, and meant that henceforth there would be only one king among the Scots.(137)  But old memories died slowly, and Moray seems to have preserved both its own identity and a distinct hostility towards the kings of Scots well into the twelfth century.

The nature of the Moray-Scotia polarity in the tenth and eleventh centuries has great ramifications for a study of the insurrections originating in Moray and Ross in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. More than anything else, the nature of the source material means that the MacHeth and MacWilliam uprisings can only be viewed through the eyes of those who opposed them, and who espoused the cause of tile Canmore kings of Scots. Sources like the chronicles of Holyrood and Melrose, as well as English writers like Roger of Howden and later authors like Bower, all of whom clearly admired the Canmore kings (especially David I), betrayed their affinities both blatantly, with phraseology describing the “wicked men of the race of MacWilliam,” and more subtly, by downgrading tile kings of Moray to the status of earls.(138)  This is hardly surprising: the Holyrood and the Melrose chronicles, our only “indigenous” Scottish chronicles for the period in question, were composed in monasteries founded and patronized by the kings descended from Malcolm Canmore and Margaret, and English and later Scottish writers relied heavily upon these chronicles for their knowledge of events in Scotland in this period.(139)  Yet the view of Moray and its rulers, as well as other native princes like Fergus and Somerled, presented in these sources is plainly one sided, since the chroniclers were, as one historian has put it, “the devoted partisans of the kings of Scotland.”(140)  Since these kings were the descendants of Malcolm Canmore’s second marriage to Margaret, nothing could better illustrate the maxim that “history is written by the victors,” and in the case of twelfth-century Scotland, the victors were without question the Canmore kings. In support of the observation that twelfth-century Scottish history displays a decidedly pro-Canmorian bias, it could be noted that the contemporary estimation of Macbeth in the Prophecy of Berchan – written before the reign of Malcolm III – was very favourable indeed.(141)  Precedents for such re-writing of history by the victors are close at hand: within five years of the Norman conquest of England, the Norman chroniclers had created their story of King Harold’s treachery, and his nine months’ rule was effectively nullified.(142)

While the Irish sources and Macbeth’s pedigree help to redress this imbalance by noting the royal status of the rulers of Moray and their descendants, they provide little indication of how these uprisings and the resistance movement of which they were part and parcel were perceived by the inhabitants (or at least the elite) of the north. Some hint may be provided by the Annals of Inisfallen, which described the “slaughter” of the Moravians at Stracathro and clearly regarded Moray as distinct from Scotia.(143)  In a similar vein, it has recently been suggested that the epithet Canmore (ceann mor), commonly applied to Malcolm III, is better rendered as “Great Chief’ rather than “Big Head” – and constituted part of an attempt at inventing a pseudo-Gaelic praise name for a king not held in the highest regard by the Gael!(144)  On a more speculative note, it is worthwhile reflecting upon how an hypothetical “Moray Chronicle” might have regarded the events of the late eleventh to early thirteenth centuries. The kings of Moray might be portrayed as defending their rightful inheritance against the “wicked men of the race of Canmore.” And Malcolm Canmore, his sons, and grandsons, might well be the ones regarded as treacherous and deceitful: Malcolm’s path to the throne was, after all, bloodier than Macbeth’s. Even the verse addition to the Melrose chronicle had to admit that Lulach, killed in 1058 by Malcolm III, was “unfortunate” and a “hapless king,” while Irish sources were more impartial: Tigernach says laconically that Lulach was slain “by treachery.”(145)

            On a less speculative basis, it must also be significant in this context that the first extant genealogy of Macbeth dates from precisely the time when the claims of the house of Moray had reached their low ebb, in c.1130. This cannot be coincidence, and should be regarded as a political statement of the greatest importance, made to counter the ascendancy of the Canmore dynasty. It shows that, contrary to the common assertion that with the overthrow of Lulach his line’s regal claims disappeared, the house of Loairn and its kings were not forgotten in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and “there was political advantage to be gained in claiming descent from them.”(146)  While this document may be as close as it is possible to come to the views of the resistance movement in the twelfth century, it must be agreed that “it is one of the misfortunes of early Scottish history that much less is known about the kings of Moray than about the MacAlpin kings of the south.”(147) Although this is not due entirely to accident – indeed, it is due to a deliberate re-shaping of the past by the kings descended from Malcolm III and Margaret, a process that is seldom acknowledged and certainly not well understood – a better understanding of the relationship between the large northern region of Moray and the centre of the Scottish kingdom could fundamentally alter our conception of both Scottish kingship and political culture in the twelfth century.

Chronicles and annals, contemporary and otherwise, of Norman, English, Scottish, and Irish provenance, hint at a persistent and tenacious opposition to the Canmore kings of Scots from the death of Angus of Moray at Stracathro in 1130 (if not earlier) until the murder of an infant MacWilliam at Forfar a century later. It seems clear that there existed in twelfth- and early thirteenth-century Scotland a resistance movement, rooted in the forces of reaction,(148) based in the rugged and remote far north and west, and led at various times by either or both Maclleths and MacWilliams. Resistance against what? One of the most profound changes taking place within twelfth-century Scottish society was the gradual organization (partly accidental, partly through design) of the descendants of Malcolm Ill and Margaret into a lineage through which the kingship descended in an orderly fashion. The flip side of this development, however, is seldom appreciated: the squeezing out and eventual extinction of other royal dynasties on the periphery of the kingdom, in Galloway, Argyll and the Isles, and especially Moray. Although usually weaker than the Canmore kings, the rulers in these regions were semi-autonomous, and, in the case of Moray, had attained the zenith of power only recently, in the middle of the eleventh century, under Macbeth and Lulach. Despite the best efforts of the Canmore kings to obliterate them, memory of some, at least, of these dynasties remained strong through the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, which goes a long way toward explaining why the MacWilliams and MacHeths found so much support in the north. So perhaps, for some segments of Scottish society, the consolidation of the Canmore dynasty, going hand-in-hand as it did with the Europeanization of Scottish society, was a much more disruptive and potentially destructive experience than is usually allowed.

Professor Barrow, with the MacWilliams firmly in mind, has contended that the Canmore dynasty can hardly be regarded as firmly established much before the 1180s.(149)Herein lies one facet of the significance of the resistance movement: it acts as a convenient gauge for the limits of the consolidation of the Canmore dynasty and its accompanying phenomenon, Scottish regnal solidarity. The survival of the Canmore kings, their monopoly on the kingship, Scottish unity under these kings, and even the inclusion of Moray within the emerging community of the realm – these were all more closely-run things than is often admitted, and certainly should not be regarded as foregone conclusions much before the death of William I in 1214. In the final analysis, consideration of the MacHeths and MacWilliams and their resistance movement is a potent reminder, if one is needed, that in dealing with the Canmore dynasty we are, in one respect, dealing with “winners” in history. Or, the other hand, the recurrent uprisings launched by the MacHeths and MacWilliams might also be viewed as the ultimate tribute to the power and endurance of the Canmore kings: the ending of the crises in the north, the defeat of the MacHeths and MacWilliams, and the suppression of Moravian identity mark the triumph of these rulers once and for all. As Professor Robin Frame so aptly summed it up, “The weight of the house of Canmore was irresistible, and its brand of kingship inimitable.”(150)

 End Notes

  1. The author would like to thank Professor Benjamin T Hudson, of Pennsylvania State University, who commented on an early draft of this paper, as well as the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for funding this research. Thanks arc also due to Barry Gabriel at UCCB for producing the map. The quotation in the title is taken from the Chronicle of  Lanercost: see note 3.
  2. A.O. Anderson, Early Sources of Scottish History A.D. 500 to 1286 [ES], (Edinburgh. 1922; repr. Stamford. 1990), II, 173.
  3. ES, II, 471.
  4. See B. Webster, Mecieval Scotland: The Making ofAn Identity (Basingstoke, I 997), p. 21, and A. Grant, “The Province of Ross and the Kingdom of Alba,” in E.J. Cowan and R.A. McDonald (eds.), Alba. Celtic Scotland in the Middle Ages (East Lothian, Scotland, in press), pp. 88-90, for these territorial definitions. It is important to emphasize that, for the period in question, the boundaries are approximate and that they were not static: Ross, for instance, expanded considerably in the early fourteenth century.
  5. A good example of the trend is D. Walker, The Normans in Britain (Oxford, 1995). ch. 4, which has virtually nothing to say about any opposition. Some resistance is discussed by A.A.M. Duncan, Scotland: The Making of the Kingdom (Edinburgh, 1975); G. W.S. Barrow, Kingship and Unity: Scotland 1000-1306 (London, 1981; repr. Edinburgh, 1989); R. Frame, The Political Development of the British Isles 1100-1400 (Oxford, 1990), pp. 40-44, 104-5. There is more in J. Roberts, Lost Kingdoms: Celtic Scotland and the Middle Ages (Edinburgh, 1997), ch. 4, and Webster, Medieval Scotland, passim. See also R.A. McDonald and S.A. McLean, “Somerled of Argyll: A new look at old problems;” Scottish Historical Review [SHR] 71 (1992), 3-22 for discussion of the historiography. A. Grant’s forthcoming paper on “The Province of Ross and the Kingdom of Alba” offers extended comment on northern resistance, a hopeful sign that a shift in the historiography is underway.
  6. R.G. Cant, “The Middle Ages;” in D. Ormand (ed.), The Moray Book, (Edinburgh, 1976), pp. 130-31; idem, Moray in Scottish History (Elgin, 1952).
  7. ‘G.W.S. Barrow, “Macbeth and Other Mormaers of Moray;” in L. MacLean (ed.), The Hub of the Highlands: The Book of Inverness and District. The Centenary Volume of the Inverness Field Club, (Edinburgh 1975), p. 113.
  8. ES, I, 600-4.
  9. ES, II, 47.
  10. See Grant, ” Province of Ross”, pp. 104-105.
  11. “D” s.n. 1078 (trans. GN. Garmonsway), The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (new ed., London, 1972); ES. II, 46.
  12. Although it is probably worth noting that Alexander Grant thinks that Donald Ban might have acted to some capacity as a governor of Ross under his brother: “Province of Ross:” pp. 104-5.
  13. ES. II, 160.
  14. Grant, “Province of Ross, ” pp. 104-5.
  15. Andrew of Wyntoun (ed. D. Laing), Orgynale Cronykle of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1872), III, 174-75; W. Bower (gen. ed., D.E.R. Watt), Scotichroniron. (Aberdeen, 1987-1998), III, 104-7. For the site of “Stokfurd” see B. Crawford, Earl & Mormaer: Norse-Pictish relationships in Northern Scotland (Groam House Museum Lecture 1994; Rosemarkie, 1996), p. 26 and map on p. 10; Crawford also notes that another Stokfurd at the head of the Domoch Firth is shown in a (?) seventeenth-century map.
  16. I.B. Cowan and D.E. Easson, Medieval Religious Houses Scotland (2 ed., London, 1976), p. 97; G. W.S. Barrow, The Kingdom of the Scots (London, 1973), p. 171.
  17. M. Chibnall (ed. and trans.) The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, (Oxford, 1968-80),IV,276‑77.
  18. Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, IV, 276.
  19. Ibid.; Robert of Torigni, Chronica Roberti de Torigneio, in R. Howlett ed. Chronicles of the Reigns of Stephen, Henry I and Richard I [Chron. Stephen] (Rolls Series, London, 1884-89), IV, 118; (Trans. J. Stevenson). Church Historians of England, (London, 1856), IV part 2. see p. 703 and n 1. On Edward “son of Siward.” see Sir A.C. Lawrie, Early Scottish Charters prior to A.D.1153 [ESC] Glasgow, 1905), nos. 36, 49, 91, 94, 105, 128, 1 34, 163, 230, 250, and 285: and R.I.G. Ritchie, The Normans in Scotland (Edinburgh, 1954), p 161 and n. 2.
  20. S. MacAirt (ed. and trans.), Annals of Inisfallen (MS. Rawlinson B. 503), (Dublin, 1951), pp. 292-93; ES, II, 173.
  21. Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, IV, 276; ES, II, 183.
  22. See: R.A. McDonald, “Monk, Bishop Imposter, Pretender: The Place of Wimund in Twelfth-Century Scotland,” Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness 58 (1992-94), 247-70; R.A. McDonald, The Kingdom of the Isles: Scotland’s Western Seaboard c.1100-c.1336 (East Linton. 1997), ch. 2; D. Brooke, Wild Men and Holy Places: St. Ninian, Whithorn, and the Medieval Realm of Galloway (Edinburgh, 1994), ch. 4.
  23. M.O. Anderson (ed. and trans.), A Scottish Chronicle known as the Chronicle of Holyrood [Chron. Holyrood], (Edinburgh, 1938), p. 142.
  24. John of Fordun (ed. W.F. Skene), Johnnnis de Fordun Chronica Gentis Scotorum [Chron. Fordun], (Edinburgh, 1871-72), 1, 256-57 (Latin text); Il, 251-52 (English translation).
  25. Chron. Holyrood, pp. 142-43 n. 2.
  26. Chron. Holyrood, pp. 142-43 n. 2; Duncan, Scotland, p. 191.
  27. R.L. MacKay, The Clan Mackay (Wolverhampton, 1977), p. 6; see also Webster, Medieval Scotland, p. 39, where the reference is thought to be to an early example of “ethnic cleansing.”
  28. G. W.S. Barrow (ed.), The Acts of Malcolm IV King of Scots 1153-65, (Regesta Regum Scottorum I, Edinburgh, 1960), no. 175; Chron Fordun, i, p. 256; ii, p. 251. See also D.P. Kirby, “Moray in the Twelfth Century,” in P. McNeill and R. Nicholson (eds.), An Historical Atlas of Scotland c.400-c.1600 [Atlas] (St. Andrews, 1975), p. 49.
  29. K.J. Stringer. Earl David of Huntingdon: A study in Anglo-Scottish History (Edinburgh, 1985), p. 30.
  30. ES, 11, 301-2 and n. 6.
  31. W. Stubbs (ed.), Gesta Regis Henrici Secundi Benedicti.Abbatis [Gesta Henrici Secundi]. (Rolls Series, London, 18(7), I, 277-78; trans. in A.O. Anderson, Scottish Annals fore English Chroniclers AD 500 to 1286 [SAEC] (London. 1908), p. 278. Seen 33 for more on the identity of the author. John of Fordam stated that the I 179 expedition was aimed at subduing Donald MacWilliam, but he made no mention of a campaign in 1181: Chron. Fordun, I, 268; II, 263
  32. ES, II, 312-13.
  33. See D.M. Stenton,”Roger Howden and Benedict of Peterborough” English Historical Review 68 (1953), pp. 574-82; D. Comer. “The Gcsta Regis Henrici Secundi and Chronica of Roger, Parson of Howden,” Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 56 no. 134 (November 1983), pp. 126-44; and also J. Gillingham, “The Travels of Roger of Howden and his views of the Irish, Scots and Welsh,” Anglo-Norman Studies 20 (1997), pp 151-69. Howden was well-informed, through personal experience, with Scottish events.
  34. Gesta Henrici, Secundi. II, 7 9, SAEC, p. 278; ES, 11, 312-13; on the site of the battle see G W S Barrow, “The reign of William the Lion, King of Scotland,” in Scotland and Its Neighbours in the Middle Ages (London, 1992), p. 77
  35. ES, II, 311; see also G.W.S. Barrow (ed.), The Acts of William I King of Scots 1165-1214, (Regesta Regurn Scottorum II, Edinburgh, 1971), pp 11-12.
  36. Harrow, Acts of William I, p. 12; Roberts, Lost Kingdoms, ch. 4.
  37. See below pp 185-86.
  38. Scotichronicon, IV, 467.
  39. Scotichronicon, IV, 631.
  40. SAEC, p. 330 and n. 6.
  41. Scotichronicon, IV, 467.
  42. ES, II, 403-4.
  43. W.C. Dickinson (A.A.M. Duncan. edited and revised). Scotland from the Earliest Times to 1603 (3rd ed , Oxford. 1977). p. 74. see also R.A. McDonald, “Old and New in the Far North. Farquhar MacFaggart and the early earls of Ross, c. 1200-1274,” in S Boardman (ed.), Native Kindreds, (East Lothian, Scotland, in press)
  44. Scotichronicon. V. 117, see also notes on p. 245.
  45. ES, II, 471: “. . .certain wicked men of the race of MacWilliam: and his son, and one Roderic … raised up treachery in the remotest territories of Scotland.”
  46. Scotichronicon, V. 143.
  47. Scotichronicon, V, 143 and notes on p. 256; see also G.W.S. Barrow, “Badenoch and Strathspey, 1130-1312. 1: Secular and Political,” Northern Scotland 8 (1988), p 6.
  48. Scotichronicon. V, 145, see also Duncan. Scotland, p 529, Barrow, “Badenoch and Strathspey.” p. 6.
  49. ES, II, 471.
  50. Duncan, Scotland, p. 529.
  51. Duncan, Scotland, p. 166.
  52. It is just conceivable, though not perhaps very likely, that the Malcolm described by Orderic Vitalis in 1124 and 1130 was not identical with the Malcolm who was reconciled with the king in 1157 and who died as earl of Ross in 1168; such a view is based chiefly on the fact that the 1157 reference to Malcolm as “MacHeth” was the first time he was identified with such a patronymic. I am grateful to Drs. Alex Woolf and Simon Taylor for discussing this interesting problem with me at the Leeds International Medieval Congress in July of 1999.
  53. See Chron. Holyrood, p. 129 (and notes), p. 151; Acts of Malcolm IV, no. 1 57; see also ES ii, p. 232, n. 3 for the various forms of the name.
  54. Chron. Holyrood, p. 129 n. 1. Also to be taken into consideration is the remark of Ailred of Rievaulx, a contemporary Cistercian chronicler, to the effect that Malcolm was the “heir of paternal hatred and persecution:” Chron. Stephen, III, 193. It is hard to know what to make of this, but Grant has proposed that Aed might have supported Alexander 1 in the north, only to have relations sour with David I; certainly there is evidence of some tension between Alexander I and David: “Province of Ross,” p. 109.
  55. ES, II, 173.
  56. See Lawrie. ESC, nos. 36, 49, 94, and notes on pp. 283-84.
  57. For example, see E.W. Robertson, Scotland under Her Early Kings (Edinburgh, 1862). 1, 184-90 [Malcolm a brother of Angusl; A. Mackay, The Book of Mackay (Edinburgh, 1906), pp. 21-23 [Malcolm a son of Angus], I. Grimble, Highland Man (Inverness, 1980). p. 97 and genealogy on p. 93; more cautiously. Duncan, Scotland. p 166 “It is likely that he was related to the line of mormaers and earls of Moray represented by Angus . . .”
  58. W.F. Skene (ed. A. MacBain), The Highlanders of Scotland, (2ed. Stirling. 1902). pp 279-80, 285. The Clan Chattan genealogy is printed in W.F. Skene. Celtic Scotland (Edinburgh, 1876-80), III, 478-79, where “Teadh,” grandson of Gillechattan, does look like another attempt at rendering Aed.
  59. Orderic Vitalis and Robert of Torigni regarded Malcolm MacHeth as an illegitimate son of King Alexander I, for which there is no support in the sources previously discussed Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis. IV. 276. Chron. Stephen, IV, 118.
  60. Acts of William I, p. 13 and genealogical table facing p. 12: Barrow, “Mormaers of Moray;” p. 118.
  61. ES, II, 223-24; see Duncan, Scotland, p. 166.
  62. It must be said that the issue remains contentious, and Alexander Grant, “Province of Ross;” has argued for an earlier date for the emergence of Ross as a province than I suggest here.
  63. ES, II, 232.
  64. ES, II, 265-66.
  65. Acts of Malcolm, IV, p. 9.
  66. J. Bannerman,”MacDuff of Fife,” in A. Grant and K.J. Stringer (eds ). Medieval Scotland: Crown, Lordship and Community (Edinburgh, 1993), pp. 20-38.
  67. See Acts of William I, pp. 11-12, and esp. n. 47.
  68. Acts of William I, pp 12-13 and genealogy.
  69. W. Stubbs (ed.), Chronica Rogeri de Houedene [Chronica], (Rolls Series, London, 1868-71), II, 263.
  70. Annales Sancti Edmundi, in T. Arnold (ed.), Memorials of St. Edmund’s Abbey, (Rolls Series, London, 1890-96), II, 20.
  71. See Ritchie, Normans in Scotland, pp. 400-401; Lawrie, ESC, pp. 271-72; Sir A.H. Dunbar, Scottish Kings 2nd ed. (Edinburgh, 1906), pp. 37-40. It is worth noting that Professor Barrow’s new edition of the acts of David I was just published: The Charters of David I (Woodbridge. 1999).
  72. See ESC nos. 32, 35, 50, 57, 82, 83, 99, 100, 109, 117, 121, 141, 142, 153, 163, 172, 176, and notes at pp. 271-72; also Acts of Malcolm IV, nos. 2, 22, 29, 35, 41.
  73. Barrow, “Mormaers of Moray;” p. 119; most of the chronicles describe the members of the family simply as “MacWilliam.”
  74. Ritchie, Normans in Scotland, pp. 400-1; Lawrie, ESC, pp. 271-72.
  75. Duncan, .Scotland, p. 193; Barrow, Acts of William I, pp. 12-13; Ritchie, Normans in Scotland, pp. 400-1; and ESC, pp. 271-72.
  76. J. Wilson (ed.), The Register of the Prior, of St. Bees, (Surtees Society, Durham and London, 1915), no. 498.
  77. Acts of William I, pp. 12-13; compare Duncan, Scotland, p. 119.
  78. Reg. St. Brees, xviii-xix; H.A. Doubleday (ed.), Victoria History of the Counties of England: Cumberland (London, 1901, repr. 1968), I, 297-98.
  79. Victoria History of . . . Cumberland, I, 297 n.3; Lawrie, ESC, p. 271.
  80. Acts of William I, p. 12.
  81. Acts of William I. p. 13; see also G.W.S. Barrow, “Some Problems in 12th and 13th Century Scottish History: A Genealogical Approach,” Scottish Genealogist, 25 (1978), 99-100.
  82. A.P. Smyth, Warlords and Holy Men: Scotland A.D. 80-1000 (London, 1984; repr. Edinburgh, 1989), pp. 218‑27; Barrow, Kingship and Unity, pp. 24-26.
  83. Frame, Political Development, p. 106.
  84. David’s son, Earl Henry, is styled rex designatus or “king-designate” in two St Andrews charters of c. 1144: ESC, nos. 163 and 164.
  85. D. O Corrain, “Irish Regnal Succession: A Reappraisal,” Studio Hibernica, 11 (1971), 8.
  86. Dickinson and Duncan, Earliest Times to 1603, p. 60.
  87. Lawrie, ESC, p. 271; Dickinson and Duncan, Earliest Times to 1603, p. 64 n. 12.
  88. The Chronicle of Melrose regarded him as illegitimate, as did William of Malmesbury, who was a great admirer of the sons of Malcolm and Margaret: ES, 11, 89; SAEC, p. 119. While it is possible that Malcolm III and Ingibjorg were within the forbidden degrees of consanguinity (Dickinson and Duncan, Earlist Times to 1603, p. 64 n. 12), most historians accept Duncan’s legitimacy.  In one of his charters. Duncan styled himself constans hereditarie rex Scotie, “hereditarily undoubted king of Scotland”: see A.A.M. Duncan, “The Earliest Scottish Charters” SHR 37 (1958), 119-20.
  89. See Frame, Political Development, pp. 108-25.
  90. For whom see Bannerman, “MacDuff of Fife,” in Grant and Stringer (eds.), Medieval Scotland, pp. 20-38.
  91. SAEC, p. 330 n.6
  92. S. Ross, Monarchs of Scotland (New York, 1991), p 48.
  93. “Genealogical Approach,” 99; see also W.D.H. Sellar, “Highland Family Origins Pedigree Making and Pedigree Faking;” in L. Maclean (ed.), The Middle Ages in the Highlands (Inverness, 1981), pp. 103-116.
  94. William of Newburgh, Historic Rearm Anglicanun, in Chron. Stephen, I, 72-76; discussed by McDonald, “Monk, Bishop, Imposter, Pretender: The Place of Wimund in Twelfth-Century Scotland.”
  95. See Highlanders, notes on pp. 404-5.
  96. A.O. Anderson (ed.), “The Prophecy of Berchan;” in Zeitschrijt fur Celtische Philologie (1930), p. 19, cap. 72. This enigmatic document has been described by its most recent editor and commentator as “a compilation of pieces of varying date:” B.T. Hudson, Prophecy of Berchan. Irish and Scottish High Kings of the Early Middle Ages (Westport, Conn. and London, 1996), p.14. The relevant section was composed during the reign of Malcolm III, before his marriage to Margaret in c. 1070. See W.M. Hennessy (ed. and trans.), Annals of Loch Ce, (Rolls Series, London, 1871), I, 253.
  97. K. Simms. From Kings to Warlords: The Changing Political Structure of Gaelic Ireland in the Later Middle Ages (Woodbridge, 1987), p. 27.
  98. G. Cambrensis (eds. and trans. A.B. Scott and F.X. Martin). Expugnatio Hibernica: The Conquest of Ireland, eds. and trans. A.B. Scott and F.X. Martin (A New History Of Ireland Ancillary Publications Vol. 3. Dublin, 1978), p. 233; see also notes on p. 351.
  99. ‘M. Pennar (trans.), The Black Book of Carmarthen (Lampeter, 1989). p. 71; see also p. 76. The better-known but even more indecipherable “Prophecies of Merlin,” contained to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s (trans. I. Thorpe). History of the Kings of Britain (Harmondsworth, 1966), could also be cited as an indication of the popularity of such prophecies in this period.
  100. Hudson, Prophecy of Berchan, 9 and note 18; I am grateful to Professor Hudson for pointing this out to me.
  101. SAEC, p 330 n.6, sec also D.D.K Owen, William the Lion 1143-1214: Kingship and Culture (East Linton, 1997), esp. ch. 2.
  102. For example, G.W.S. Barrow, David I of Scotland (1124-1153): The Balance of New and Old (Reading, 1985); repr. in G.W.S. Barrow, Scotland and Its Neighbours in the Middle Ages (London, 1992).
  103. Acts of Williarn I, p. 13.
  104. Chron. Fordun, I, 282; I1, 278.
  105. Frame, Political Development, pp. 108-25; 0 Corrain, “Irish Regnal Succession.” p. 8.
  106. SAEC, p. 330 n. 6.
  107. ES, II, 313; Scotichronicon, V, 117; I am currently preparing a paper on “The Defamation of the Enemies of the Scottish Kings” which deals with the perception and portrayal of these and other figures in much greater detail.
  108. Gesta Henrici Secundi, I, 277-78, trans SAEC; p.278.
  109. Scotichronicon, IV, 467.
  110. S. Duffy, “The Bruce Brothers and the Irish Sea World, I 306-29;” Camhridqe Medieval Celtic Studies, 21 (1991), 63.
  111. K.J. Stringer, “Periphery and Core in Thirteenth-Century Scotland: Alan son of Roland, Lord of Galloway and Constable of Scotland;” in Grant and Stringer (eds.), Medieval Scotland, p. 88.
  112. See McDonald, Kingdom of the Isles, pp. 154-56.
  113. McDonald, Kingdom of the Isles, p. 82.
  114. K.J. Stringer, “Periphery and Core in Fourteenth-Century Scotland,” in Grant and Stringer (eds.), Medieval Scotland, p. 87.
  115. See McDonald, “Old and New in the Far North:” in Boardman (ed ), Native Kindreds, (East Lothian, Scotland, in press); it is not known whether Farquhar played a role m suppressing the later MacWilliam insurrections.
  116. Gesta Henrici Secundi, I, 277-78, II, 7-9, trans, SAEC, pp. 278, 294-95.
  117. Gesta Henrici Secundi, II, 7-9; trans SAEC, pp. 294-95.
  118. T. Thomson and C. Innes (eds.), The Acts of the Parliaments of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1814-75), I, 114.
  119. For which see B. Webster, Scotland from the eleventh century to 1603 (Ithaca, 1975), pp 122-25.
  120. On Earl Harald see, P. Topping, “Harald Maddadson, Earl of Orkney and Caithness, 1139-1206,” SHR 62 (1983 ), 116-19; B. Crawford, “The earldom of Caithness and the kingdom of Scotland. 1150-1266,” Northern Scotland 2 (1976-77), 101-6.
  121. Roger of Howden, Chronica, IV, 12.
  122. Chron. Fordun, I, 274-75; II, 270.
  123. Roger of Howden, Chronica. IV, 12.
  124. See Topping, “Harald Maddadson;” pp. 114-15; Crawford, “Earldom of Caithness,” pp. 105-6; B. Crawford, “The Making of a Frontier: the Firthlands from the ninth to twelfth centuries;” in J. Baldwin (ed.), Firthlands of Ross and Sutherland (Edinburgh, 1986).
  125. Crawford, “Earldom of Caithness:” p. 101.
  126. ‘Topping, “Harald Maddadson;” p. 114.
  127. A.H. Dawson, The Geographical Setting,” in Atlas, p. 1.
  128. See D.P. Kirby. “Moray in the Twelfth Century:” in Atlas, p 49. Gerald of Wales remarked that “the tactics of French tromps are no good at all in Ireland or Wales. They are used to fighting on the level, whereas here the terrain is rough; their battles take place in the open fields, but here the country is heavily wooded ” see I. Thorpe (trans.), The Description of Wales in The Journey Through Wales (Marmondsworth, 1978, repr. 1988), p. 269.
  129. A good discussion is in Frame, Political Development, pp. 40-44.
  130. See D. Broun, “Defining Scotland and the Scots Before the Wars of Independence;” in D. Broun, R. Finlay and M. Lynch (eds.), Image and Identity: The Making and Re-making of Scotland Through the Ages (Edinburgh, 1998), p. 4-17; and Webster, Medieval Scotland, pp. 37-39 on Moray. David I’s charter is in Lawrie, ESC, no. p. 110.
  131. Webster, Medieval Scotland, p. 38.
  132. The genealogy is printed in Skene, Celtic Scotland, 111, 476-77; see Sellar, “Highland Family Origins,” p. 104; and M.O. Anderson, Kings and Kingship in Earl, Scotland (Edinburgh, 1973), 9, pp. 111-12, 179, on Ferchar.
  133. Bede (ed. and trans. LE. King), Opera Historica, (Loeb Classical Library: Cambridge, Mass., 1930 repr. 1979), I. 338-40. See also Smyth, Warlords, pp. 219-20.
  134. Moray prior to c. 1100,” in Atlas, pp. 20-21; B.T. Hudson, Kings of Celtic Scotland (Westport, Conn. and London, 1994), esp Ch, 6.
  135. ES I, 551 and n.4; 11, 46; see also Duncan, Scotland, p. 100.
  136. Kirby, “Moray prior to c. 1100,” and “The Evolution of the Frontier c 400-1018.” In Arles. pp 20-21, 24-25. Hudson, Kings of Celtic Scotland, explores the animosity between the kings of the Cenel Gabrain and those of the Cenel Loairn, which seems to have begun when Malcolm I undertook a raid on Moray in c. 949 pp 87-88. Malcolm’s son Dub was slain by the men of Moray at Forres in p. 966, and Sueno’s Stone may have been erected to commemorate this battle. see ES, I, 473-74, and W D.H. Sellar, “Sueno’s Stone and its interpreters,” in Sellar (ed.), Moray: province and People (Edinburgh, 1993), pp. 97-116.
  137. Hudson, Kings of Celtic Scotland, p. 146.
  138. Scotichronicon, V, 117, ES, II, 183.
  139. See Webster, Scotland from the Eleventh Century to 1603, p. 38.
  140. I.F. Grant, The Lordship of the Isles (Edinburgh, 1935: repr. 1982), p. 167.
  141. Hudson, Prophecy of Berchan, p. 91, pp. 224-26.
  142. M. Chibnall, Anglo-Norman England 1066-1166 (Oxford, 1986), p. 21.
  143. See above, n.20.
  144. M. Lynch, Scotland. A New History (revised ed., London, 1992), p. 74.
  145. ES, I, 604.
  146. Sellar, “Highiancd Family Origins,” p 104; compare P.B. Ellis, MacBeth High King of Scotland 1040-1057 (Belfast. 1990, repr. 1990), p. 99.
  147. Kirby, “Moray prior to c 1100,” in Atlas, p 21.
  148. see E.J. Cowan, “The Historical MacBeth”, in Sellar (ed.) Moray: Province and People, p.131, where an “anti-feudal faction” is postulated; in light of the present discussion as “anti-Canmore faction” seems more appropriate.

149.   “Genealogical Approach,” p. 100.

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