Malcolm II of Scotland


December 8, 2021

Malcolm (Scottish Gaelic: Máel Coluim; born about 954, died 25 November 1034) was King of Scotland from 1005 until his death. He was the son of Kenneth II; Berchán's prophecy states that his mother was a woman from Leinster, referring to him as Forranach, the "destroyer". Just as Brian Boru, King of Ireland, was not the only king of Ireland, Malcolm was one of several kings within the geographical boundaries of modern Scotland: the other kings were the king of Strathclyde, who ruled large areas of present-day south-west Scotland, various Norse-Gaelic kings on the west coast and the Hebrides, and the nearest and most dangerous rivals, the kings or grandmothers of Moray. In the south, in the Kingdom of England, the earls of Bernicia and Northumbria (their predecessors were kings of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria and once ruled most of southern Scotland) still controlled large parts of south-eastern Scotland.

Life and work

Early years

Malcolm II was the son of Kenneth II. He was the grandson of Malcolm I. The one who killed Constantine III in 997 is claimed to have been Kenneth, the son of Malcolm. Since there is no other known and relevant Kenneth alive at this time (King Kenneth II died in 995), it is considered a mistake for either Kenneth III, who succeeded Constantine, or possibly Malcolm himself, son of Kenneth II. Whether Malcolm killed Constantine or not, there is no doubt that in 1005 he killed Constantine's successor Kenneth III in battle at Monzievaird in Strathearn. John of Fordun has written that Malcolm defeated a Norwegian army "in almost the first days after his coronation", but this eventual event is not confirmed in any other source. Fordun writes that the diocese of Mortlach (later moved to Aberdeen) was founded thanks to this victory over the Norwegians.


Malcolm demonstrated a rare ability for the oldest Scottish kings by surviving and ruling for a full 29 years. He was a skilled and ambitious man. Early Irish law, or the Brehon tradition, required that a successor of Malcolm be chosen by him from among the descendants of King Aedh with the approval of Malcolm's ministers and from the church. Apparently an attempt to end the devastating feuds in northern Scotland, but obviously influenced by the Norman feudal model. Malcolm ignored the tradition and decided to secure succession within his own lineage, but since he did not have a son of his own, he began negotiating a series of dynastic marriages for his three daughters to men who would otherwise have been his rivals, while securing loyalty. to the chiefs, their relatives. He first married his daughter Bethoc to Crínán, grandmothers of the outer islands, chief of the family of Atholl, and secular abbot of Dunkeld; then his youngest daughter Olith to Sigurd Lodvesson, Earl of the Orkney Islands. His middle daughter, Donada, married Finlay, grandmothers of Moray, Ross and Cromarty, and a descendant, it was said, of Loarn mac Eirc of Dalriada. This was risky under the rules of Gaelic pursuit, but he also secured his back and at the same time took advantage of a new wave of Viking attacks to march south to attack English territories. He defeated the Anglo-Saxons at the Battle of Carham in 1018, and installed his grandson Duncan, son of the secular abbot of Dunkeld, and his election as a tennis player, in Carlisle as king of Cumbria the same year.


The first reliable report on the reign of Malcolm II is about an invasion of Bernicia in 1006, perhaps the usual crech ríg (literally "royal looting", a looting attack by a new king to demonstrate boldness in war), which involved a siege of Durham . This seems to have ended in a hard defeat by the men from Northumbria, led by Uhtred of Bamburgh, later Earl of Bernicia, as reported

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